Condo Blues

Friday, June 13, 2008

Six Strange Things You Can and Cannot Compost

We have a new kooky little game we play here now that we know that the covert  composter works. We call it Will It Compost?

Six Weird Things That Will Compost

1. Dog fur tumbleweeds from Blitzkrieg’s hairbrush.

2. Dryer lint.

3. Dirt from the Roomba.

4. A 100% white cotton sock.

5. Corn-based plastic coffee lid from a paper take out cup of coffee. Husband and I threw it into the compost bin just to see if it would compost - it did!

6. Wine Corks. Obviously, I'm talking about composting wine corks made from real cork instead of the fake corks that are made from plastic.

Six Weird Things I Will Not Compost

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Easy Tote Bag Revamp or, My Stab at Punch Needle Embroidery (Literally)

I like the mindless Zen of doing needlepoint. However, I’m not a counted cross-stitch kind of gal. Stitching, counting, and stitching never appealed to me. If you’re out and about in the craft world, most of the
not overly trite or Granny nicer needlepoint kits available are counted cross-stitch. When I came across this fun little punch needle embroidery kit, I thought it would make a nice gift for someone who is hard to by for. I hadn’t done punch needle embroidery but it looked easy to pick up (it was), so I thought I’d give it a stab.


I did. Several times, in fact.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Inherited Bathroom Décor That Works

One of the nice things about being the first buyer of our newly built Condo is that I didn’t inherit any wild and wacky or otherwise tacky decoration from the previous owner. ThatNanda of Craftster wasn’t so lucky. She writes:

When we bought our house, it had all the original decor from the late 50's -
awful shag carpeting, chandeliers, orange and brown appliances, the works. We
were able to fix all but one room - the horrible, pink, and black tile bathroom.
Since it's too expensive to redo at the moment, we decided that, rather than
fight it, we'd just go with it. So we painted the upper walls teal, a la retro
50's diner, and I made a pink, frou-frou poodle curtain.


I think going retro with her bathroom decoration is an excellent example of the Tim Gunn, “Make it work!” edict in action.

Personally, I’d be sorely tempted to keep the retro design as it since I’m going through a retro-modern-Bauhaus-contemporary-found and funkified-Da Da-Danish decorating phase of my own. What do you think?

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Friday, June 6, 2008

How to Grow Upside Down Tomato Plants

I wasn’t a big gardener. In my rental, I tried growing tomato plants in pots. I was too cheap and  lazy. I
didn’t buy tomato cages and tried using a wooden dowel rod and yarn as a plant stake.

 That experiment in cheapatoode didn’t work out as well as I planned because the plant grew taller than the dowel rod. Then big heavy tomato vine overloaded the stake and constantly flopped fruits of my labor over the side of the pot and onto the ground where it became bug lunch. I relied on Mother in Law for homegrown tomatoes after that fiasco.

At 4’11”, I’m still not a big gardener, but I’m coming around to the whole stick-a-plant-in-dirt-and-hope-it-lives thing. For now, I figure that any plant that I grow better do something more than just look pretty, like be food or insect-deterrent.

Given my limited food-growing space on my teeny tiny patio, and the fact that the former tomato plant pot now is chock full of basil plants, I thought that I’d give an upside down tomato planter a try. I got my planter as a gift.  


How to Plant an Upside Down Tomatoes


Power Drill (if you need to install a plant hanger)
Potting Soil
Tomato plant (duh)
Dirt (double duh)
Epsom salt
Small shovel/trowel
Gardening gloves (if you don’t want to get your hands dirty)

Do It

1. If needed, use the power drill to drill a pilot hole in a stud in your porch, overhang, etc. and install a hook/plant hanger so you can hang up your planter.

2. Dump a healthy dose of fertilizer/compost (do not use Quickie Compost for this project. Tomatoes don’t like nitrogen-based fertilizers.) into the bag of potting soil and mix it up with the small shovel/trowel. You can skip this step if you cheat like I did and buy potting soil that has a natural fertilizer already mixed into the potting soil.

3. Add a dash of Epsom salt into the potting soil and mix it up with the small shovel/trowel.* For some reason, tomatoes love, love, love Epsom salts in their soil and will grow like gangbusters. Maybe they like to soak their roots in a soothing Epsom salt bath after a tough day just like us humans. Come to think of it, how tough a day can a tomato have leisurely basking the sun and slowly growing?! I digress, on to Step 4.

4. Remove the tomato plant from the nursery’s plant pot and break up the root ball of the plant a bit with your fingers.

5. Put the tomato plant in the planter with the roots inside the planter.

6. Fill the planter with dirt using the small shovel/trowel/your hands.

7. Hang the planter up. Be careful, the planter will be heavy.

8. Water the planter daily because the upsides down planters tend to dry out more quickly than traditionally potted tomato plants.

9. Watch it grow!

*If you’ve already planted tomatoes and forgotten to add some Epsom salt to the soil, not to worry. Dissolve a dash of Epsom salt in the water and water your tomato plants with the Epsom salt water. Do not use table salt for this step of the project. However, feel free to sprinkle table salt on a slice of a fully-grown tomato if you wish. Hmmmm…good eating!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Save Water with Shorter Showers

I grew up in a house with three women and one tiny bathroom. I learned early on how to make good use of what little quality bathroom time I was allotted every morning by taking short showers. Of course, during that time in my teenage life I was more concerned about maximizing my allotted primping time in the bathroom mirror time than saving water, reducing the water bill (much to my mother’s dismay), or saving the planet.

However, now that I am an adult who now pays the water bill, I want to find ways that will reduce my water usage, reduce amount of money in the water bill, and save the planet (you're welcome.) The first thing most water-saving how-to type articles tell you to is save water by taking shorter showers. However, in the grand scheme of green things, I couldn’t find much information on how many minutes in the shower are considered water-saving short. Or, for that matter, I couldn’t find much information on how many minutes in the shower are water-wasting too long. Crunchy Domestic Goddess has some answers and a water saving challenge. She writes:

Did you know that the average shower length is 8 minutes*? By reducing that to 5
minutes, you can reduce the amount of water you use by nearly one-third, or
roughly 10 gallons per day. And that’s where this challenge comes in. I’m
challenging all of my readers to reduce their shower time to 5 minutes. If you
already take a 5 minute shower, perhaps you’ll consider cutting back a little
bit more? Reducing the length of your shower by just one minute could save you
up to 1,825 gallons** of water each year.

*GreenPrint Denver **
I like this challenge. It’s one of those simple sustainable ideas that won’t cost you anything but time (well, actually, it should save you time) and will help you save money in the process. Give it whirl for the summer. If you can’t stand short showers, try to find another way to save water, such as showering with a friend. What water-saving tips do you have?

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Monday, June 2, 2008

How to Make Quickie Compost

I wanted to add the natural green goodness of compost to my potted herb plants. I already spread the all of the winter batch of compost from the covert composter in my flowerbeds. The next batch of compost won’t be ready until the end of the summer. I didn’t want to use chemical fertilizers on plants I planned to eat. What to do? What to do?

Easy. I whipped up a batch of quickie compost for my potted plants. Quickie compost takes only a few minutes to make, unlike traditional compost that can take up to six months to break down.

You can make quickie compost by mixing coffee grounds and shredded paper together (shredded junk mail works well for this project.) Then add the quickie compost mixture to the soil. That’s it. As the coffee grounds and paper mixture naturally break downs in the soil, it adds beneficial nitrogen and composty goodness to the soil for your plants.


Do not try to make quickie compost by working raw fruit and vegetable scraps into planted soil. If you do, the raw material will remove nutrients from the soil around your plants as it breaks down and may attract nasty critters like rats or raccoons to your garden bed. The quickie compost method works well for apartment dwellers or anyone else who wants to use compost in their potted plants or small flower gardens but doesn’t have a large area available for a traditional compost bin.

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