Condo Blues

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.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7 Budget Friendly Kitchen Cleaners

Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar. Clean your house with vinegar. The folks over at The Dollar Stretcher have been giving this advice out this nugget of advice for years as a cheap alternative to buying an array of expensive house cleaners. Honestly, I wasn’t convinced that vinegar cleaned and disinfected my house as well as any number of commercial cleaners that I could buy at a closeout or dollar store.

Then the environmentally friendly folks started touting the benefits of using vinegar. Again, I was skeptical (yes, I’m a skeptic. However, gentle readers you do benefit from my skepticism because I actually test stuff out before blinding blogging good thoughts about anything. If I like it, I tell you why I like it. If I don’t’ like it I’ll tell you why it didn’t work for me.) Because, again, there are a whole host of environmentally friendly (but not so cheap) commercial cleaners I could use to clean my house.

Then Blitzkrieg entered my life and that all changed. My vet told me that many commercial floor cleaners contain chemicals that are toxic to pets! In the United States, unlike food and health and beauty products, manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients on the labels of household cleaners. That makes it very difficult while standing in the store to determine whether a cleaner (environmentally friendly or no) is going harm my dog if he licks it off of his paws. As a last resort I tried cleaning my kitchen floor with vinegar and a squirt of dish soap in my automatic floor cleaner. It worked.

“Hello, my name is Lisa and I’m a reformed cleaning with baking soda and vinegar skeptic.”

“Hi, Lisa!” you say.

As part of Retro Housewife goes green What under your sink challenge I give you the Condo Blues Kitchen Cleaning Arsenal.

OK. I admit that the fire extinguisher isn’t a cleaner. However, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared in the case of an emergency, does it? If you don’t have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, I suggest you buy one. Or put it on your Christmas list. You never know when you might need it. Hopefully never!

Natural Kitchen Cleaners and How I Use Them

Dish washing 

1. Powdered phosphate free store brand dish washing detergent mixed with a box of baking soda (in the milk jug.) Mixing baking soda into powdered dish washing detergent gives it an extra oomph when cleaning the dishes in your dishwasher. It’s also an excellent way to reuse that expired box of baking soda you put in the freezer/refrigerator as a deodorizer.

2. Vinegar in the Jet Dry container of the dishwasher. Vinegar works to keep spots off the glasses just like Jet Dry, Cascade, or a store brand-sheeting agent. Actually, I think vinegar has better sheeting action and keeps water spots from forming on my glasses. Who knew?

3.Store brand phosphate free dish detergent. For those rare times I hand wash dishes. I also use a mixture of dish detergent, vinegar, and water as a floor cleaner.

Counter Cleaners

1. Store brand cleaning wipes. Husband is The Man Who Makes My Dinner. Husband doesn’t like the smell of most spray surface cleaners because most of them are heavily perfumed. And honestly, I don't want The Condo to smell like a fake flower factory after I clean it. We compromise and clean the counters with wipes. This isn't the most environmentally friendly cleaner because we can't compost the spent wipes.

2. Cellulose sponges. We use sponges to clean up quick spills instead of paper towels. To extend the life and reduce the grungy funk factor of the sponges, I run them through dishwasher. There are some sponges are made with recycled materials, however these aren’t those. I'd love to try the cellulose sponges made with recycled materials but I can't find them locally so I use what I have. When it’s time to replace the sponges, I use the dead sponges to make self-watering potting soil by cutting them up and burying them in the dirt of my potted plants.

3. Baking soda with a spot of vinegar. To clean baked on crud off of my stove I sprinkle vinegar on the crud and add a spot of vinegar. The mixture bubbles up, loosens the baked on gunk, and allows me to easily wipe up the mess better than any commercial cleaner I’ve tried.

Floor Cleaners

1.A solution of half vinegar, half water, and healthy squirt of dish washing soap for a little extra cleaning oomph. I use this in my automatic floor cleaner. I also used it in the Swiffer that preceded the automatic floor cleaner with excellent results.

There you have it. The Condo Blues kitchen cleaners. Some of these cleaners are considered green, some are not. Some are homemade cleaners, and some are not. Nevertheless, all of these cleaners are budget-friendly and will easily help you keep your house FlyLady clean.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Four Ways to Repair a Beeping Smoke Alarm

It is night. All of The Condo residents are nestled all snug in their beds, except for Blitzkrieg, the one-eyed wonder dog who is snoring like a buzz saw in my ear because he is sleeping under my side of the bed. Out of the darkness it comes.
"Bow-rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr!

Groggily Husband and I investigate the noise. There is no smoke. There is no fire. However, one of the hardwired smoke detectors is beeping and it will.not. stop.

How to Fix a Beeping Smoke Detector
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The first time this happened, I called 911 just as I learned to do in case of an emergency in Safety Town. The firefighters came. Fortunately, they confirmed that The Condo was not on fire. Nor did we have an electrical fire in the walls. The firefighters said that I’d know if an internal electrical fire was the culprit in the The Case of the Beeping Smoke Detector because the walls of The Condo would be hot to the touch (good to know.) That was a relief! They said that my smoke detector is chirping intermittently because either it needs a new battery or it needs repair.

Four Ways to Fix a Falsely Beeping Hard Wired Smoke Detector or Fire Alarm