Condo Blues: August 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Put Away the White Shoes, It’s Labor Day!

Labor Day is here
should I keep wearing white shoes?
Serial Mom says no

Ah, Labor Day. Time to say good-bye to summer (my favorite season), hi to fall, and a big HELLO GORGEOUS to the Labor Day sales at the home improvement stores!

I also say a little sad good bye to kicky summer sandals, even the white ones. Now, I was taught that you shouldn’t wear white shoes after Labor Day. Apparently, arbiters of What Not to Wear fashion Staci and Clinton disagree. They say you can wear white shoes after Labor Day.

Fashion, like home decorating and design ebbs and flows. Things change. Over time what’s in goes out, what’s out is in, up is down, black is white. I get it. Therefore, I’d be willing to give the white shoes after Labor Day thing a chance if it weren’t for one thing. The movie Serial Mom.

The woman scares me to bits. Come on. You have to remember how John Water’s seemly sweet and perfect homemaker Beverly Sutphin (played by the amazing Kathleen Turner) was really a raging sociopath who humorously and violently offed her neighbors for such heinous offenses as not recycling. She bludgeoned a woman with a leg of lamb for not rewinding a rented videotape (hey, the movie was made in 1994 way before Netflix.) And then Beverly gets even with a juror who commits the sin of continually wearing white shoes after Labor Day during her trial.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Hem Pants Into Shorts

A recent closet clean out revealed that I had three, count them three pairs of khaki pants. What I am going to do with three pairs of khaki pants? After looking through some photos from last summer, I had a What Not to Wear moment that gave me the answer to the pant overpopulation problem.

I needed some new summer shorts. Bermuda shorts in fact. So, I made a pair of shorts out of a spare pair of khaki pants. I cut the legs of the pants to my knee and hemmed the pants into some much more fashionable summer shorts. (The demo plays twice in the following video.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Growing Miniature Sunflowers

I tried to grow miniature sunflowers on my back patio from seed this summer. For the longest time my flowers looked like this:

I wondered if they ever would bloom into sunflowers. Maybe they weren’t sunflowers after all. Maybe they were really some sort of mad man eating plant?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Growing Upside Down Tomatoes: Watering Schedule

I thought it was time for an upside down tomato plant update.


I’m happy to say that I have five green tomatoes growing on my plant and several flowers that I hope will turn into tomatoes. Keep your fingers crossed.

“What a minute”, you say, “You planted two tomato plants in your topsy turvey upside down tomato planter, not one. What happened to the other plant?”

Easy. I overwatered the planter and lost one of two tomato plants to root rot. Oops.

Upside Town Tomato Watering Schedule Old and New

Friday, August 22, 2008

4 Natural Ways to Kill Japanese Beetles

Last summer, after losing several bushes in my front yard to grubs I tried to plant a grub resistant garden. This summer, I thought that I had the grub problem licked. I was wrong. I still had grubs in my soil. The grubs grew up to become adult Japanese beetles. The Japanese beetles started to munch on my new plants.

I may have lost that battle but I am determined to win The War on Grubs and Japanese Beetles. In addition, for the sake of my dog Blitzkrieg and his habit of walking through my garden bed, I’m going to kill those grubs and Japanese beetles using natural and organic methods even if it kills me (which it just might.)

According to Gardens Alive
insect problems are always worse in non-organic gardens, where the balance of nature is out of whack. Chemical fertilizers cause lush, weak growth that brings in pests by the droves. And, as many listeners wrote when telling us about their beetle woes, toxic chemical pesticides like Sevin don’t work well to control
these (and other) pests, but are excellent at killing and driving off beneficial
insects, birds and other predators that DO—not to mention limiting your happy
and healthy lifespan on the planet

Four Methods for Killing Japanese Beetles in the Garden

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Allergy Free Apple and Banana Dog Treats

It was a fine day for agility class when tragedy struck The Condo.

We ran out of dog treats!

OK, honestly, if you’re a human, this is not a tragedy. However, if you’re a food motivated Pekingese that really looks forward to earning good treats during dog training sessions it is paws for concern. (Pause, paws. Punny heh, heh. I kill me.)

Buying dog treats for Blitzkrieg can be difficult. It’s not that Blitzkrieg is a fussy eater. Oh no. My dog will eat anything put in front of him, even if its human food that is poisonous to dogs. I’m sure that this is a carryover from the Bad Old Days when Blitzkrieg lived on the streets as a stray*.


Food allergies make it difficult to buy treats for Blitzkrieg. Wheat and corn make my dog itch and chew bald spots in his fur. As long as I keep Blitzkrieg from eating anything containing corn and wheat, he’s itch free and happy. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find dog food and treats that are corn and wheat free because most of the grocery store “junk food” brands as well as many of the healthier premium pet store brands use corn and wheat as fillers in their treats. This makes shopping difficult but not impossible. However, when you’re out of treats and you have a training session that day, running a crossed town to buy one bag of dog treats is a bit of a pain. But it’s not much of a pain if you decide to bake a batch of homemade allergy free apple and banana dog treats!

Allergy Free Apple and Banana Dog Treat Recipe

Monday, August 18, 2008

A City Girl's Guide to the Kitschy Ohio State Fair

Once upon a time, because that’s how stories start, Husband spent a summer singing in The Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. He lived in a dorm on the fairgrounds and sang with the choir everyday for the public’s enjoyment. Many years later Husband meets Lisa. They fall in love. They get married. Husband finds out that Lisa has never in her fabulous life been to the State Fair.

Husband drags my city girl butt against her will takes me on a date and allows me to experience the sights, sounds, and kitsch of the Ohio State Fair.

The Ohio State Fair had everything I blog about and more:

*Crazy kitschy crap to buy
*Crazy kitschy crap to see and experience
*Kitschy insane food guaranteed to melt your eyebrows
*Environmentally sensitive exhibits and waste disposal

  • We went on the last day of the fair so most of the animals were already home frolicing at their respective farms (this is what I want to believe, so don’t tell me any differently.) That means that this City Girl didn’t smell a lot of stinky animal poo in the hot sun and I was happy about that (even though there weren’t many animals there to pet except for the petting zoo.) However, the kitsch was a sight to behold!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Zero Waste Road Trip - Can It Be Done?

Its funny how receiving one little blog comment or email can create a huge new idea. I was all hopped up on caffeine and chocolate (the two great tastes that taste great together and fuel the Condo Blues creative writing machine) all set to draft my Haiku Friday post when I got a nice comment on from Almost Mrs. Average about my wine glass chandelier. I checked out her blogs The Rubbish Diet where she's trying to make her household zero waste and Bin 101 (a wonderful play on Room 101 from George Orwell's book 1984.) She describes Bin 101 as
Things that are too good to be condemned to landfill, but not good enough for
recycling... or silly things, annoying little things, frustrating big things
that shouldn't be thrust on us in the first place.

What was in Bin 101 at the time I peeked at it? Condiment packets. I have a few of these in my refrigerator. Not a lot because Husband and I try to be health conscious, cut out hydrogenated oils, transfats, and high fructose corn syrup from our diets - there's a lot of that in fast food. But I will not lie; sometimes I must heed the Syrian call of Taco Bell. I don't' know (and honestly, I don't' think I want to know from a health standpoint) what it is about their Fire Sauce or taco seasoning that sends my tummy into a happy tizzy but it just does. Therefore, I have a few condiment packets in my fridge. Maybe you do too. I keep them around because they're convenient when we take food with us on road trips. 

It's confession time gentle readers, I'm planning a road trip. Me, Husband, and the Blitzkrieg (but don't worry, I've thought of you and scheduled lots of wonderful, wacky, and helpful posts to appear on Condo Blues, while I'm officially MIA from my computer) are hitting the road. Since we've got the Blitzkrieg with us and Husband's training for a half marathon relay, it's easier to do picnics with healthy food at a rest stops than leave the pooch in a hot car and duck out for fast food on the road. (And suffer the very real possibility of having bad things happen to the dog in an empty car in the hot sun - a definite pet safety no no!) As such, I was going to take those soon to be trash condiment packets with me on the road. Then I stopped and thought, "What if I followed Mrs. Almost Average and Green Me's example and tried to do a Zero Waste Road trip?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twenty Percent Home Energy Reduction Challenge – Summer Update

I conducted a DIY Energy Audit using the using the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick to determine my home’s Energy Performance. My home energy performance grade was Below Average with a score of 3.7 out of 10. The Yardstick suggested I cut my electricity and natural gas consumption by 20%. I decided to do it.

I gave myself the additional goal to make the reductions as sustainable and inexpensively as I could, meaning that things like changing habits, light bulbs, and sealing air leaks with caulk and insulation were in. Replacing everything I own with the newest most expensive Energy Star equivalent or installing an array of solar panels on The Condo were out.

“It can’t be done!” many people cried, “You need to replace those three-year-old appliances with Energy Star equivalents! You need to install solar, wind, geothermal to get low green energy bills!” (Personally, I’d love to install such alternative technologies but it’s not going to do much good until I reduce our energy consumption first.)

So how am I doing? Pretty darn good. The Condo’s electrical use is down for January through July of this year, in some cases I cut our electrical use by 50%.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How to Dry Fresh Lavender the Lazy Way

I have fresh lavender growing in my yard. Every summer, I cut and dry it by wrapping ribbon or strings around a bunch of lavender stalks and hang it upside down in a closet to dry and to protect my clothes from months for the coming year. Lavender is a natural month deterrent.