Condo Blues

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to Grow Sprouts

Spring fever has kicked in. Husband and I want to grow something NOW. We don’t want to wait until after Mother’s Day, our traditional end of season frost date.

Husband suggested growing sprouts. Sprouts don’t like full sunlight because it can cause the seeds to overheat or dry out. This describes our kitchen window to a T. Perfect!

how to grow sprouts
Alfalfa spouty goodness

The equipment and directions were simple. The most difficult part was finding and buying alfalfa spout seeds. Which really wasn’t that hard, we bought our seeds at the Home and Garden show.

How to Grow Sprouts in a Mason Jar

Friday, April 2, 2010

Planters that Double as Garden Art

Husband and I went to the Central Ohio Home and Garden Show to get some ideas about what to do with our front yard. This year’s theme was Art in Bloom. Let’s take a look at what we found.


This garden took the theme quite literally and featured painter’s palettes and planted succulents in a variety of boots and shoes.


A very cute idea. Now where have I seen this before? Oh, yeah at my own house where I turned an old pair of Doc Martins boots into a planter.


I’m not the biggest fan of succulents because I think they are sparse. After seeing them planted in this bowl I could change my mind. It reminds me of a big salad.


Hand blown glass garden ornaments - so shiney! I want to buy the whole display and put it my yard as is.


One of the landscaping companies usually makes a water feature out of an old car or truck. While it works in this bee themed garden, I think my neighbors would say, “ Fountain? Yeah, right when pigs fly. It’s a truck up on blocks!”

Don't speak too soon, here’s a whole flock of flying pigs!

I love this pergola. It was in a Miami Beach Deco District themed garden. Lots of deep blue, turquoise and white in the structures. The corrugated tin roof and white billowy drapes reminds me of sipping Cuban coffee with friends at the News Café on Miami Beach.

The people who created the garden were too cool to talk to us - just like Miami Beach!

However if it were me I would have painted the coffee table and bench white and changed the color of the bench cushion from tan to turquoise to match the rest of the design. It’s too jarring as it is and looks like an afterthought.


These silver garden balls would go perfectly in the Miami Beach garden display. Again, I’d buy and display them as is. I like the sleek metal of the ball against the worn metal of the basket. It’s that perfect blend of modern and retro that I love.

ave you started planning your summer garden? Where do you get your ideas?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Use Cast Iron Griddle?

Husband and I had a Teflon coated griddle an old roommate left behind after moving out. Of course using what you have, especially if it is second hand, is green and saves money. However, neither of us were too crazy about the nonstick coating on the griddle. Especially now that the coating is starting to flake off.

April’s One Small Green Change is replacing the last of our Teflon coated pans with a round cast iron griddle. I’m pretty happy with the shape because it fits on the stove burners better than the old square griddle – no cold spots on the cooking surface anymore. My cast iron griddle came preseasoned and started life with nonstick qualities, cast iron retains heat more evenly, and even though it's Calaphon, it wasn’t very expensive at all. In fact, I bought our new cast iron griddle at Target. The more I use it, the more I fall in love with cast iron.

The only drawback is that I can’t put the cast iron griddle in the dishwasher. Since the rest of our pots and pans are stainless steel and can go in the dishwasher, I can live with cleaning cast iron by hand  even though I hate hand washing dishes.

The thing makes a darn fine pumpkin pancake too.

Why Not Use Teflon?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Modern with a Vintage Touch Bathroom Remodel

My half bathroom was white, builder bland and boring. I wanted to do something old timey to honor the porcelain pieces that my Grandmother painted and a place put some old family photographs but with a bit of a modern twist because I'm not completely an old fashioned girl. The trapeze mirror, shelf, toilet paper holder, and towel ring are all Umbra that I got on sale and each a different store. It’s like the universe wanted this bathroom design to come together!

My pretty privvy

The inspiration for the wallpaper came from a stack of books I was going to donate to charity. I flipped through the yellowed pages of a paperback reference book and thought it would be a great wall color. Being that the book was out of date, I doubted it would actually sell at the bookstore and thought, "Hey, why don't I use it as wallpaper instead?"

Even on bad hair days, I get a thumbs up whenever I look into the mirror

I went to the thrift store to get more books to use as wallpaper. I didn't want a story, just random interesting pages. I used watered down white glue as a DIY Modge Podge to paste the book pages to the wall. I used a combination of orphaned encyclopedia volume, a New York city travel guide, 2 almanacs (one from the year we were married, the other from the year we bought the house), a Portuguese soccer book, and a movie listings book, among others. After pasting the pages to the walls, I tea stained them with old tea bags and coffee grounds to age the pages from the newer books. A coat of clear glaze protects everything from moisture. It cost a grand total of $20 to do the walls because I had a gallon of white glue and glaze left over from another project.

Black fabric trim adds a little interest to the trimwork and might hide a few paint mishaps

The shelving is a wicker shelf from my old house painted black. The wall switches are the original white ones that came with the house and repainted black as well as the base boards. I got a deal on the paint because the can was dented and the put it on clearance.

I installed this myself! Black cording is used as molding where the wall meets the ceiling

There are CFLs in the new light fixture I installed. Husband admired a similar one in another store so when this little beauty was on sale at HomeGoods I snatched it up and installed it.

My first plumbing project!

I replaced the boring builder's sink and vanity with a vessel sink and black granite topped vanity. I did all of the work myself - this was my first plumbing project ever! I use a porcelain bowl my Grandmother painted as a soap dish. It holds a bar of homemade soap I bought at a craft show.

Stylish storage

All of my cleaning supplies are discretely tucked away in a trunk that held TV promotion information for a syndicated TV show. I got it when I worked in the promotion department of a local television station.

Method featured my bathroom on their blog and said “Lisa's a 2010 gal with a 1950’s soul.” I suppose it’s true. How did they know I’m pining for the next season of Mad Men to start?

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This is an entry for PartSelect’s $5000 GE Giveaway contest


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Cleaning Leads to Pampering on the Cheap!

I didn’t realize how many little bottles, tubes, and envelopes of travel and trial size shampoo, liquid soap, conditioner, and toothpaste, etc. I had until I pawed through the linen closet looking for the backup bottle of liquid castile soap for the shower. This was in addition to the stash of travel toiletries I keep with our suitcases for easy packing.

I grabbed most of this stuff from hotels when we travel. Some hotels donate unused toiletries or leave them in the room for the next guest. Other hotels toss out the unused stuff after guests leave so I make it a point to take it home with me. Check with the hotel if you are concerned.

In order to use up those toiletries during travel as I planned I’d have to take a multimonth transcontinental vacation. That doesn’t sound bad after the rough winter we’ve had but not very feasible due to that silly little thing called work. Do you realize that they actually want you to show up and work for weeks on end in order to get a paycheck? Wacky, no?

The unopened items I could easily donate to a women’s shelter but mine were mostly opened. The few items that weren’t open I wanted to try.

I had a crazy thought. What if I used these travel toiletries in my bathroom instead of letting them collect largely unused in my closet?

I can’t pamper myself with a multimonth vacation, but I can pamper myself by using a different shampoo or whatever every other day if I want at no extra cost. I can make every day spa day and I’m totally OK with that.

I’ll keep a few of the nicer bottles to refill with my own toiletries for our guest bathroom and for travel. The rest will go into my recycling bin. True, that in the short term I will have more items going my recycling bin than normal but it’s better than letting a bunch of clutter sit around unloved and unused. (Yes, I watch Horders. The show makes me so sad and a little grossed out that I’m on a clutter clearing rampage.)

I will turn in the hard plastic caps to Aveda for their plastic cap recycling program. If the store isn’t busy, they often give you a free cup of tea and a hand massage as a thank you for recycling your plastic bottle caps. I wish every recycling program gave free massages!

I’ll find a good reuse for any item with some not so friendly ingredients (or just make my hair go all wonky like those combination shampoo and conditioner products) I find in my stash. I’ll talk about those reuse ideas in a future post.

What about you? Do you pack rat sample and travel toiletries or do you use them up right away after you get them?

Updated 3/25/10 11:55 PM: I took Blitzkrieg outside for a potty and it's starting to hail. The weather guy said it's going to snow this weekend after having 60 degree days last week. I think I could use the pampering vacation after all. Somewhere warm. I'll bring my own toiletries. I promise.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Bleach Free Way to Kill Bathroom Mold and Mildew

My new house came with a brand new shower and bathroom exhaust fan. Pristine white without any sign of mold, mildew, or ick in sight. Even after dutifully running the bathroom exhaust fan before, during, and after using the shower, mold and mildew began to form. Ew! Ick! Ick!

I didn’t want to use chlorine bleach to kill the mold and mildew as some folks recommended. I’m really not a fan because chlorine bleaches are hazardous if they are ingested or inhaled. Not to mention I have a curious little doggie running around the house; I don’t want him to get into that stuff either.

Anything good in here?

Two Bleach Free Mold and Mildew Cleaners

I tried to kill bathroom mold and mildew by scrubbing the grout with:

1. A squirt of straight vinegar and giving it a scrub with an old toothbrush.
2. Covering the stains with a paste of water and oxygen bleach (much safer because oxygen bleach is made with hydrogen peroxide), let it sit for awhile, and rinsed it away with water.

Both methods removed the bathroom mold and mildew but it came back quickly. The final straw was the day I dried my hands on the fresh hand towel I put in the bathroom the day before during another daily heavy duty cleaning session. It already smelled like a locker room. I threw my head and hands up in frustration and screamed, “Whyyyyyyy!”

Then I found the culprit.

Please ignore the dust on the fan. Thank you.

My bathroom exhaust vent fan.

Building codes require every bathroom to have some form of ventilation, either a window or an exhaust vent fan. As long as you have either one or both it meets the building code.

What the building code doesn’t stipulate is how well that window or an exhaust fan works to ventilate the room. And that my friends is my problem. My bathroom exhaust fan was too small the remove all of the moisture from the bathroom. The excess moisture and warm air was the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew to grow in the bathroom.

How to Test a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

You can do a crude fan power test by turning on the bathroom exhaust fan, holding a tissue above your head, and letting go of the tissue. If the fan sucks the tissue to the fan – congratulations you have the correct size and strength fan exhaust vent fan for your bathroom! If not, it’s time to replace your fan with a more powerful model.

My fan didn’t suck.

Time to replace the ceiling fan.

How to Buy the Correct Size Bathroom Exhaust Vent Fan

To determine the size and power of the exhaust fan I needed for my master bathroom, I turned to my favorite DIY book. According to Home Improvement 1-2-3, I need to buy a bathroom exhaust vent fan that’s rated at least 5 CFM (cubic feet per minute ) higher than the square footage of my bathroom.

I also wanted a less noisy fan which is measured in SONEs.  The lower the SONE rating, on a scale of 1 to 7, the quieter the fan.

Husband and I hopped on down to store to buy a replacement bathroom exhaust fan. Being one who is obsessed with saving electricity, my first choice was to buy an Energy Star rated fan. I was more than disappointed because every Energy Star rated bathroom exhaust fan the store had came with a lot of extra bells and whistles I didn’t need like ceiling lights and heat lamps. I would have loved the heat lamp feature, I had one in an old apartment and it was heaven, but I didn’t want to run the extra circuit and switch it required (as I got into the project this turned out to be a very good thing because the wiring space I was working with was tiny!)

This makes me question whether that Energy Star rated fan would actually save me anything in electrical use. Sure, the exhaust vent fan might but the extra gizmos could encourage me to use as more electricity than the plain nonEnergy Star rated exhaust vent fan I eventually bought.

Prevent Mold and Mildew by Installing an Exhaust Vent Fan

On the way home from the store Husband quizzed me on whether I could install the new fan myself since his running injury prevented him from helping me like he wanted to. I said it should be pretty easy because I can climb into the attic and replace the old exhaust vent fan with the new fan from above the ceiling (the preferred one person method) instead of from underneath the ceiling (the doable but pain in the butt more than one person method)

When will I learn to never, EVER say “easy” “simple” “no problem” when talking about a home improvement project?

*Enter The Condo Blues Whammy*

I climbed up into the attic and realized that I couldn’t get to the area above the master bathroom because of roofline and pitched ceiling in the bedroom. *sigh* I had to install the fan from underneath the ceiling - the doable but pain in the butt more than one person method.

But on the bright side, I confirmed how much insulation we had in the attic – bonus!

I decided to call in reinforcements – Father in Law.

Everybody say hi to Father in Law!

And with Father in Law came his rotozip tool. It was so much easier to enlarge the hole in the ceiling with his electric rotozip than with my manual dry wall saw.

See all that drywall dust in the air? It was about this time when I realized that we should have worn dust masks.

Father in Law and I switched off tasks because my little hands came in handy when it came to reaching in from behind the fan and making some of the connections in the tight spaces. His big man hands came in handy when we had to coax (as in shove) the fan box into the hole in the ceiling. Thank goodness we both wore our glasses to help protect our eyes from tiny falling debris.

I got the honor of installing the fan cover after we made all of the connections.

Father in Law grabbed the camera and took a picture to commemorate the event. “You can put this on your blog!” he said excitedly.

So I did.

Husband and I donated the old bathroom exhaust fan to the Habitat Restore.

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This post is part of the Get the Junk Out! Carnival where the topic is antibacterial soap/bleach hosted by Kitchen Stewardship.