Condo Blues: March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Do You Plan Landscaping When You Suck At Gardening?

After watching our “easy to care for landscaping” die a little less than two years after buying The Condo I replanted those seven little solders all standing in a row…

…with my first attempt at grub resistant gardening. This is what my front flower beds looked like early last summer.


Mother Nature pulled a nice big April Fools Day prank on me (clever how I worked April Fool’s Day into today's post, huh?) Japanese Beetles took out my replanted bushes and white leaf mold took out the rest of the plants in the beds. Now I’m stuck with this:

Last fall I took all of the plants out of the flower bed, treated it with Milky Spore, and let the whole thing go dormant. Oh yeah, I put in a garden border with reclaimed bricks while I was at it, but that’s another post.

Apparently Blitzkrieg has a little rule that I can’t take photos for the blog unless he’s in them. What can I say? My dog loves the camera.

Now it’s time for planning the landscaping for those flower beds. The problem is I suck at landscaping. I have no idea what plant or how to decide.
I know that The Condo is in Zone 5, the front yard gets partial morning sun. The soil is clay and we are going to spend a bucket load of our budget on soil amendments. I know I don’t want to plant plants that attract Japanese Beetles (I know I'll never fully rid my yard of Japanese Beetles. I just want to encourage them to fly by my yard and eat at the neighbors) but other than that I don’t know what I want to plant other than some more lavender (it grows well in my crappy soil), perennials that that look pretty and are food/pest deterrent, and possibly a tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) but I don’t know if that will grow in my area. Will it?

How do you decide what to plant and where to put it in your landscaping? What resources do you use? Once you decide what you want to plant where do you get your plants? At the nursery or mail order? Any help or resources where you can point me to would be greatly appreciated.

This post is part of Works for Me Wednesday.

In other Blog Business:
Are you going to BlogHer this year? If so, could you please login to BlogHer and vote for two Rooms of Our Own that I’m involved in and that aren’t getting a lot of votes? The Rooms of Our Own are causal meet up/networking opportunities held during lunch and are different than the panel discussions.

You don’t have to attend the sessions if you vote for them, but you’re welcome to!

Green Bloggers Room of Our Own (this is separate from the Green Blogger panel.)

When Your Family is Your Blogstalker/Troll Room of Our Own (fortunately I don’t have this issue, I’m promoting it for a blogger who obviously can’t mention it on her own blog.)


Monday, March 30, 2009

A Shopping Cart Made Into a CHAIR?

Now this is a creative reuse project that I love and totally want – a chair made out of an old discarded shopping cart!


I think one of the reasons I like reestore’s Annie chair is that it reminds me of a Bertoia chair. Again, which is something I want but don’t know where to put in my small living room so it stays at the store where I visit it often.


I wouldn’t mind having this once-was-a-washing-machine-drum-now-is-a-coffee- table either. Why didn’t I think of this before we had our old broken washing machine hauled off to be sold for scrap metal?


What I love about both of these reestore projects is that you don’t automatically realize what they are made out of just by looking at them. Especially the washing machine drum table. When I first looked at it I though it was a nice arty modern side table, something like the Bowhaus dog crate/coffee table combo.


It’s only until I read the description that says the Silvana is remade from a washing machine drum that I looked at it and said, “OH yeah, it does look like a washing machine drum.” Genuis!

Makes me want to check out a junkyard just to see what’s out there to remake.

What do you think? Would you consider buying either of these and putting them in your house? Yes? No? Maybe so?

Monday, March 23, 2009

What are Your Favorite Essential Oils?

I first got into essential oils back when I started performing at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. Many of the booths there sold (and still sell) essential oils straight up and in blends for any and all uses you can think of depending upon the vendor or the type of essential oil.

One of my favorite oils is lavender because it smells pretty and is very calming when I'm in Type A Stress Puppy mode. It's antibacterial, and it's also a natural pest deterrent, which is another reason I planted it in my garden. That makes it very easy to dry lavender and bring it into The Condo for all of my lavender needs.


But I'm getting a little tired of the lavender because I have a lot of stuff that's scented with it. My reed diffuser is out of essential oil and I need a change from the lavender. Give me some suggestions. What are your favorite essential oil scents?

Yes I realise that the lavender bucket photo is recycled from an earlier post. I could explain it away by saying that I'm all about recycling because well, I am. In reality, I built a new computer and I'm still working on loading software and files from the old build to my new build. Using photos I already have on my blog's server makes doing today's post a little bit easier while I'm in computer limbo. Thanks for understanding!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I’m on MSN Smart Money!

Thursday was a very, very good day. First off I spent the afternoon at the Columbus Auto Show courtesy of Ford. They invited seven local bloggers to the car show and showed us their new hybrid cars (I’ll blog about this later.) Oh and they took us out to lunch. Free lunch and car talk – cool. Included the local bloggerti – AWESOME! (Which only happened because I know Christina of A Mommy Story and she wrangled me an invite. She’s the big name local bloggerti. I just ride on her coattails.)

So I get home, thinking that’s a nice little perk and am feeling pretty happy. Then I open my email and find a message from MSN. They wanted to check some facts about my 20% Energy Savings Reduction Challenge because MSN Smart Money wrote an article about how I reduced my electricity use by 32% last year!


You, know it’s a good thing that I sit down when I use the computer because I think I would have fallen down otherwise.

This article couldn’t come at a better time. It’s a big reminder to keep up with the energy saving habits because American Electric Power (AEP) will be raising our electricity rates 8% in 2009, decreasing them to 7% in 2010 (how kind), and then jacking them back up to 8% in 2011.


Since it’s the first day of Spring – hurray! – it’s time to switch over from winter energy saving habits to summer energy saving habits. I’ve blogged about mine. Tell me, what are your energy saving habits?
Did you enjoy this post? Get more like it by subscribing to Condo Blues.

Monday, March 16, 2009

10 Green Decorating and Craft Projects

I’m searching around the Condo and the Internet for ideas on what to write about for St. Patrick’s Day. I have the Scotch-Irish bloomers that I made for a show. Not historically accurate by any means, but still fun way to hide my unmentionables in case my skirt flew up during a fast and vigorous Scottish Country Dance turn during the show.


I can’t believe I just showed my underwear to you people!

(Granted it’s underwear that goes over my underwear but it’s still underwear.)

But as the subject of a whole blog post - meh.

I think I’ll take it another way and
be lazy
do a recap of some the green (literal) and green (figurative) things we have around The Condo because I like to decorate with both types of green.

1. I made chew toys for Blitzkrieg’s dog cousin Chopper from scrap fabric. I’m also responsible for his festive t-shirt.


2. Blitzkrieg has he own green blanket I made from a cast off baby blanket and paw print scarves.


3. My first attempt at organic gardening! Sadly it doesn’t look this nice anymore. I replanted a couple of diseased plants and they spread pestilence throughout the garden bed . However, on the bright side, this year I get to completely redo the flower beds and make them 100% organic.


4. A green/green project. I repainted and recovered these old doctor’s office chairs that Husband had in his bachelor apartment. The chairs now sit on our front porch.


5. Organic gardening gone right. Once I figured out the nuances, I got a bunch of tomatoes from the plants growing in my upside down tomato planter .


6. Another double green project. The light fixture in my craft room I made from old stemware!


7. Don’t forget my green/green burlap rice bag turned shopping tote bag . I was so happy to find a good reuse for those old faded green curtains.


8. Something I see everyday – the green tissue paper wallpaper behind my desk in my computer room!


9. A row of green halogen desk lights on top of these bookshelves works as energy efficient overhead lighting in my computer room. Our builder didn’t install junction boxes in the ceiling of this room. This was a much easier fix. Cheaper too because I scored these sweet lights on sale at Target.


10. Lastly, Husband’s childhood Mego Hulk stands guard over the washer and dryer in the laundry room. He’s green/green too because I decorated the laundry room with what I already had. Yes, it looks like a dorm room but fun for visiting kids.


Now if only I could convince those visiting kids to do a load a laundry while they’re at it….

Did you enjoy this post? Get more like it by subscribing to the Condo Blues RSS Feed  or to Condo Blues by Email.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to Make Powdered High Efficiency Laundry Detergent

My old washing machine died beyond repair. I replaced it with a High Efficiency (HE) washing machine. HE washing machines use less water than conventional washing machines (and save more electricity and water in the process.) You have to use a low sudsing laundry detergent. If you don’t, the washing machine could overflow. I thought that since every green source is pimping HE washers (including myself I suppose), I thought that finding low sudsing powdered detergent would be easy. Not so much. After a long search I found only two and hated both.

  • HE Option #1 - Tide HE made me itch. Not surprising because according to family lore my mother used Tide to wash my cloth diapers when I was a baby. Tide gave baby me diaper rash so bad that the skin on my butt chapped and bled. Even thought I ‘m an adult, my mom says she still feels bad about it. Which just goes to show you Mom Guilt NEVER goes away (sorry Mommies.)
  • HE Option #2 - Trader Joes was a huge disappointment. It is a plant based laundry detergent– yay! It didn’t clean our clothes very well. Especially Husband’s muddy and sometimes toxically sweaty running clothes. Be thankful computers don't have Smellorama.
I tried using a smaller amount than usual of a regular liquid detergent. It cleaned our cloths but stank up the washing machine after every load - BAD.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Easier Way to Clean with Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar converts know that a 5% acidity solution of white vinegar will clean and disinfect a countertop (although you don’t want to use it to clean a marble countertop – trust me on this one), deter a kitchen ant invasion, and kill mold and mildew in the bathroom.

Once I had the big Ah ha! Moment, I filled up an old spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and got to cleaning. The Condo was clean but I wondered why it seemed that I needed to use twice as much of my vinegar and water solution to clean tough stuff like soap scum on my shower doors – my nemesis - than when I used other environmentally friendly cleaners.

The answer was right on the vinegar bottle. A regular bottle of white vinegar is already a 5% acidity solution.


By adding water to the vinegar, I was reducing how effective it was as a cleaner and disinfectant. That’s why I needed to use twice as much vinegar to get the job done.


I solved the problem by screwing the spray nozzle of my old cleaning bottle directly onto the bottle of white vinegar. Now I’m cleaning more effectively with my 5% white vinegar solution (of course I but the empty bottle in my recycling bin.)


And before you ask, no, The Condo doesn’t smell like pickles either.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Can You Wash a Plastic Bath Poof?

Not to be too TMI about it but normally I like to use a loofah in the shower/bath for all of my exfoliating needs.
Side note: Did you know that loofah is a type of squash that grows on a vine and not a sea sponge? Really! Well, you smart people out there probably already knew that but I didn’t until a few years ago when one of Husband’s uncles grew loofah and gave them out as parting gifts at a family reunion.

I now return you back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I got a plastic bath poof with an unsolicited free sample in the mail. Not being one to waste things, I figured I’d use the plastic poof until it got yucky and then I’d switch back to my loofah stash.

Eventually the bath poof got yucky. I wondered if I could extend its life by washing it in a lingerie bag in the washing machine.



Landfill = 1, Creative Reuse = 0

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How I Slashed my Electric Bills without Moving into a Yurt

Last March I started my own personal 20% Energy Reduction Challenge . My goal was to reduce the amount of electricity in my 1500 square foot free standing Condo used for the year by 20%.

Everything in The Condo runs on electricity except for the natural gas hot water, fireplace, and furnace.

 Pin these tips to your Pinterest boards! Share them with your friends!

I didn’t want to add solar panels or wind turbines to my home because they are a poor return on investment where I live. I also wanted keep all of my current non-Energy Star appliances. Everything I had still worked and it would be too costly and wasteful to replace. But most of all I wanted to see if I could meet my goals this way because a slew of Greenzillas insisted that I couldn’t do it without alternative energy and installing new energy efficient everything. I thought I could.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Using Cloth Handkerchiefs – a Good Thing or Just Gross?

Ah-ah-ah-choo! Even though the weather is cold and the ground is still frozen, my seasonal allergies have kicked in lately. I’m sneezing and my face is leaking like it’s the middle of July or something – but it’s still only March!

After two weeks of sniffling and blowing my nose, it should be red and tender. Not this time – I switched to using reusable cloth handkerchiefs and boy does my nose thank me. So does my wallet. And maybe the planet does too.

To be honest, I grew up using disposable tissues. As a kid the only hankies in my possession were from my Grandmother and they became elaborately draped dresses for my Barbie dolls (a skill that came in handy when I went to an actual toga party in college) or worn on my head because they were bandanas.

As I was going through my old renaissance festival performer prop boxes I came across some of those old handkerchiefs. I used to carry them with me because obviously they were a lot more period to use then a 21st century paper tissue. Since those performance days are long gone, I figured why not try using those hankies now? If I didn’t like them or found it kinda gross, I always have the backup box of disposable tissues in the bathroom.

Turns out I actually like using the hankies better. They are softer on my nose. Using a handkerchief once and putting it in my pocket or purse for another future use was just like doing the same with a paper tissue so didn’t find it disgusting. And if I did, I just tossed the handkerchief into the laundry hamper and grabbed a fresh one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How to Repop Popcorn Kernels

One of my favorite go to snacks is popcorn. I like to make my popcorn old school – in a pot on the stove. It’s less wasteful than microwave popcorn, inexpensive, and if you don’t slather it in butter (real or fake), it’s pretty darn healthy.

After enjoying a bowl of popcorn during a pay per view movie on cable (no, not that kind of pay per view movie - get your mind out of the gutter – we watched Momma Mia! ) there were quite a few unpopped kernels in the bottom of the bowl. Normally I’d chuck them in the trash bin because I don’t think the kernels would break down in the composter and the last thing I need is for The Condo to look like Green Acres with corn accidently growing all over my front flowerbeds!

I looked at the unpopped popcorn kernels and thought about Crunchy Chicken’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge. I’d actually have something to report if I them threw away unless…I repopped those unpopcorn kernels and ate them.

I remember my mom telling me that her Grandmother would repop popcorn kernels but my mom said that it never worked for her. I figured what the hey? The worse that could happen is that I burn the kernels and throw them out which I was about to do anyway. I tried it and guess what – it worked!

How to Pop Popcorn on the Stove