Condo Blues

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Ways Kids Can Go Green for Earth Day

I did one of my informal polls of the neighborhood kids. I asked them for ideas on kids how kids can go green for Earth Day. I got some interesting answers.

“You should get solar panels!”

Um, no. I’ll stick to my solar garden lights. Solar panels aren’t a good year round return on investment in central Ohio.

“You should get a hybrid car!”

Why is it that all of these suggestions are things I can do that would benefit a kid living in my house?


Well that’s a little closer to what I was looking for but recycling still depends upon an adult setting up or overseeing the program at home.

“Those are good ideas,” I said, “But what can YOU do as a kid, without a grown up’s help, do to go green?”


Blank stare


After a little prodding, we started brainstorming. We came up with a list of green things kids can do to go green for Earth Day without a grownup’s help.

  1. Clean your plate - It takes a lot of energy to grow and cook food. Eating all you take reduces waste. Don’t worry about leaving stuff behind to feed your home compost bin, I’m sure Mom or Dad will have more than enough food scraps from peeling and preparing vegetables for dinner to take care of that. 
  2. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth - Not wasting water is really important, especially if you live in an area that has a drought. By the way, forgoing brushing your teeth or bathing is not a good way to save water – don’t even think about it. 
  3. Turn off the lights when you leave a room – It takes a lot of energy to make electricity. Turning off the lights when you leave the room saves electricity and helps lower your parents’ electric bills. Don’t believe me? Turning off the lights to unused rooms helped me lower my electric use by 32%.
  4. Take care of your toys, clothes, and belongings – When you throwing a broken toy away it go right into the landfill. That’s not cool. If you take care of your toys, clothes, and other belongings you can give them to kids who don’t have any and nothing is thrown away.
  5. Take off your shoes when you enter the house – Shoes protect your feet from stepping in yucky stuff. If you take off your shoes at the door of your house, you’re not tracking that yucky stuff all over the house. Your parents may be able to vacuum less often and trust me, for that your parents will thank you. 
  6. Dress for the weather. Shorts in the summer, sweaters during the winter. That way mom and dad can set the thermostat a few degrees lower in winter and higher during the summer and save energy. 
  7. Use a cloth napkin at dinner and lunch. Instead of using disposable paper napkins try asking your parents to switch to cloth napkins for dinner or ask them to put a cloth napkin in your lunch box. Don’t have any? Try winning a set of Fabkins children’s cloth napkins
  8. Bring home your reusable containers, lunch box, water bottle home from school or activities – There’s a reason your parents harp on you to bring your lunchbox, water bottle, and stuff home from school each day - so you can reuse them! Step it up, take responsibility and keep track of your stuff. 
  9. Unplug the video game console after you save and shut down your game – See that little that stays on the video game console after you’ve closed the game and turned off the machine? That little light means the box is sucking a little bit of electricity from the socket just to light that little light. We call that vampire power and it’s wasteful. By unplugging my Wii when I’m done playing was another way we reduced our electricity use by 32%.
  10. Join The Great TV Rebellion -  Sign the pledge to turn off your television and turn on nature during Earth Week.
 What do you think kids can do to go green?

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    5 Sugar Free Ways to Sweeten Coffee and Tea

    I was a confirmed tea drinker during college. I always studied with a giant mug of tea in front of me. I drank so much tea that my roommate joked that I’d fail all of my classes if my hot water maker broke.

    I didn’t learn about the joys of drinking coffee until I moved to Miami for an internship with a TV production company. Long days, early morning calls, and late nights led me to try the dark luscious liquid that is Café Cubano - an espresso shot sweetened with white sugar as it is being brewed. I preferred and usually drank Cafe con Leche (Cuban Coffee with Milk) at 10 and at 2, as is the Cuban custom.

    I soon realized that I didn’t hate coffee – I just didn’t like cheap beans or weak coffee. Fortunately the stuff I feel for more often than not is Fair Trade coffee (even with its problems and issues I try to drink Fair Trade coffee when I can.) For me a great cup of coffee soon became an essential. It was all about the beans - the darker roast the better. Whenever I drank regular coffee I drank it with sugar and milk.

    Unfortunately, there were times particularly in the morning when I drank coffee and it didn’t sit the right way. I got an upset stomach and made me feel sluggish and blah all day long.

    My dad’s gynecologist* had the answer – drink my coffee black.

    Once I stopped putting refined white sugar in my coffee my stomach problems, which were later diagnosed as heart burn, disappeared and I didn’t need medication for my stomach issues. Hurray!

    That’s not to say that I don’t have sweet or flavored coffee or tea now and again. I learned how to sweeten my coffee and tea without white refined sugar. Husband and I use a combination of the following:

    • Honey – Mostly for tea and especially when I’m sick. Hot tea with honey and a dash of lemon juice feels great going down a sore throat. 
    • Molasses – This is Husband’s coffee sweetener of choice. In fact, we have almost come to blows when I want to use what little bit of molasses we have left for baking 
    • Stevia – I have this on hand for diabetic guests. I’d rather keep stevia on hand for them than an artificial sweetener. I honestly haven’t used it much if at all. I plan on experimenting with it in baking in the future. If you have any tips or favorite recipes let me know! 
    • Raw sugar — is unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. Sugar in the Raw is one brand you often see in coffee shops. This one still give me stomach issues. Husband will use it when we're in a coffee shop.
    • Brown sugar - is typically white refined sugar with molasses added to it so it’s not much different nutritionally than refined white sugar. Oh, and it has a few more calories in it than refined white sugar too. I avoid it in my coffee due to my stomach woes. Husband will use it in a pinch if we’re out of molasses. For the most part, he sticks to molasses at home.
    The sugary flavored coffee syrups added to my stomach woes. Now if I want to flavor my coffee, I sprinkle spices on the coffee grounds before I brew the coffee. I’d had luck with:

    • Cinnamon 
    • Pumpkin spices 
    • Nutmeg 
    • Cardamom – expensive but worth it!
    Once I gave up refined white sugar in my morning coffee my stomach aches and heart burn went away. So did the 3 O’clock Slump. Bonus!

    Refined white sugar – yeah or neigh? How do you avoid sugar overload in your diet?

    * OK, really he’s a friend of my dad’s who happens to be a gynecologist. My dad refers to him as his gynecologist just to get a reaction. I couldn’t resist doing the same because my Dad and I share the same warped sense of humor because we're related.

    This post is part of the Spring Clean Get The Junk Out Carnival hosted by Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up where the topic is refined sugar.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Telephone Book Wreath

    I have a bunch of telephone books lying around the house. I don’t know how this happens - we don’t have a land line! We’re a cell phone as home phone family.

    I figure I could do one of two things with those phone books.

    1. Complain about them – which isn’t very productive and not really worth the energy.
    2. Find a way to use them - beyond the obvious because that's why Al Gore invented Internet - so we could use it to look up telephone numbers :)
    I wanted a new wreath for the door to celebrate spring. I had a wreath form from a failed project. "What if I married my telephone books and my wreath form it would be the perfect project to enter in Dollar Store Crafts April Stash Bust Challenge?" says I. Not to mention it's an ultra cheap - and green! - way to get a new door decoration because I’m using what I already have on hand.

    *Enter the Condo Blues Whammy*

    I opened the wreath storage bag and found this.

    Once upon a time this was all in one piece.


    Looks like I lost of the Stash Bust Challenge even before I started. *Sad face*

    I decided to try to piece the form back together. If I got something workable I’d move on from there. If not, I’d ditch it and hop on down to the store and buy a new wreath form.

    I removed the Christmas balls with a pair of needle nose pliers and put them aside for another day.

    Can this wreath be saved?

    I snapped the tops off of some plastic forks that have been wallowing in the utility closet so long they are practically family heirlooms. I used them as supports to hot glue the form back together.

    Trash or treasure to be?

    I cut a piece of leftover cardboard from I don’t-know-what to the size of the frame to stabilize it. I attached the cardboard to the chewed up side of the Styrofoam with hot glue and floral tape. I think the floral tape might be from when I did the flowers for Christina from A Mommy’s Story’s wedding. I hot glued the floral tape into place because it wasn’t sticky anymore. I also made a note to use more of this stuff up because the floral tape has to be a least 6 years old – older than Christina’s kids.

    I ripped the white pages from the telephone book into approximately one inch strips. I used the business white pages because I wanted black and white paper. I tried to rip down the telephone number columns of the page for privacy’s sake.

     I shredded the leftover paper scraps and put them in my compost bin.

    I used by very good friend Modge Podge to attach the paper strips to the wreath form and let it dry over night. The Modge Podge will also protect the paper from the elements. The Modge Podge is leftover from my books as wallpaper bathroom remodel. Is it just me or is this post playing out like an episode of Horders? Yipe!

    Modge Podge rules!

    I painted an empty toilet paper tube orange as an homage to How about orange… and let it dry overnight too.

    Orange you going to say it's pretty?

    The next morning, I smashed the toilet paper roll tube flat and cut it with scissors.

     I eyeballed the cuts 'cuz I'm a rebel.

    I hot glued the leaf shaped rings to the wreath form and added some scrap ribbon to the back as a hanger upper thingie.

    The finished wreath!

    TA DA! My telephone book and paper tube wreath idea actually worked! Yay me!

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    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?