Condo Blues

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Replace a Beeping Hardwired Smoke Detector

My how to fix a chirping smoke detector post has been one of my most popular posts on this blog since I wrote it two years ago. I am glad I am not alone with the whole fire alarm beeping and waking you with a false alarm in the middle of the night

Pin this tutorial for later! 

I tried three out of the four ways to repair a beeping or chirping smoke detector except one – replace it with a new model. Turns out my smoke alarm was broken and beeped, chirped and otherwise drove us crazy and Blitzkrieg in to false alarm barking spasms for far too long.
*Enter the Condo Blues Whammy*

Of course my broken smoke alarm was in my bedroom – the only room in the house with the cathedral ceiling.


However it was a very easy and cheap fix to replace my broken smoke alarm with one that no longer beeps and wakes us up in the middle of the night due to a false alarm once we bought a very tall ladder.

How to Fix a Broken Smoke Alarm

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

40 Ways to Organically Repel Japanese Beetles

The natural predictors that keep Japanese Beetles from ruining plants in their native Japan do not exist here in the United States. That’s what makes Japanese Beetles so difficult to control and kill.

One of the best organic and pesticide free ways to keep Japanese Beetles from eating and killing the plants in your yard is to simply remove the plants that attract Japanese beetles from your home and landscaping.

If you have a Japanese beetle problem in your garden, you might want to thing twice about keeping or planting the following flowers, shrubs, vines, plants, and trees in your yard.

Eighteen Flowers, Shrubs, and Vines That Attract Japanese Beetles

1. Gladiolus - bulb/flower - Annual
2. Coneflower - flower - Perennial
3. Dailah - flower - Annual
4. Daylilies - flower - Perennial
5. Shasta Daisies - flower - Annual
6. Hollyhock - flower - short lived Perennial/Biennial
7. Hibiscus - flower - Annual & Perennial
8. Evening Primrose - flower - Biennial
9. Clemantis - flower - Perennial
10. Sunflower - flower - Annual
11. Cardinal Flower - flower -Perennial
12. Peony - flower - Perennial
13. Zinnia - flower - Annual & Perennial
14. Pennsylvania Smartweed/Heart's Ease - flower/herb - Perennial
15. Rose - flowering shrub/vine - Perennial
16. Viburnums - flowering shrub - Perennial
17. Climbing Hydrangeas - flowering vine - Perennial
18. Morning-Glory - flowering vine - Perennial

Six Food and Fruit Plants That Attract Japanese Beetles

1. Soybean - food - Annual
2. Sweet Corn - food - Annual
3. Asparagus - food - Annual
4. Rhubarb - food - Annual
5. Grapes - fruit - Perennial
6. Red Raspberry - fruit -Perennial

Sixteen Plant, Tree, and Vines That Attract Japanese Beetles

1. Common Mallow - plant - Annual or Biennial
2. Birch - tree - Perennial
3. Cherry - tree - Perennial
4. Elms - tree - Perennial
5. Fruit (some types) - tree - Perennial
6. Horse Chestnut - tree - Perennial
7. Japanese and Norway Maple - tree - Perennial
8. Lindens - tree - Perennial
9. Mountain Ash - tree - Perennial
10. Ornamental Apple - tree - Perennial
11. Pin Oak - tree - Perennial
12. Plum - tree - Perennial
13. Sycamore - tree - Perennial
14. Willow - tree - Perennial
15. Porcelain Vine - vine - Perennial
16. Virginia Creeper - vine - Perennial

For more ways to kill Japanese Beetles in your garden check out the following ideas - and more! below!

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This post is an updated and reprinted version of  the post of the same title that appeared on 7/22/08.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

French Meadow Bakery: Yeast Free Bread That Actually Tastes Good

French Meadow Bakery has a wide range of breads, bagels, tortillas, cookies, and brownies that are various combinations of certified gluten-free, lactose free, casein free, lactose free, trans fat free, vegan, yeast free, certified USDA organic, and low gylcemic for diabetics. They contacted me about reviewing their products. I don’t have food sensitivities but I know some of you do and as a foodie, my curiosity was peaked.

However I was cautious about the taste. I’ve heard people with Celiac Disease  describe something as “not bad for gluten free” which in my very limited experience (a 3 ounce taste of gluten free craft beer to be exact) that roughly translates as “not completely wretched.”

Since I don’t have any food sensitivities, I think I can give you a straightforward review of this bread and if it tastes like real food. The best thing that could happen is I find a yummy new bread. The worst thing that could happen is…well, I do have a compost bin.

Husband I tried the French Meadow Bakery Hemp Bread (Low Glycemic, Vegan, Yeast Free), Healthseed Spelt Bread (Organic, Vegan, Yeast Free), and Flax and Sunflower Seed Bread (Organic, Vegan, Yeast Free.) We ate each flavor of the bread as toast with honey and again in a sandwich with turkey, sliced mozzarella cheese, and leftover homemade Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce. We taste tested multiple times because we have a habit of eating breakfast and lunch each day.

The French Meadow breads are much more flavorful and chewy than the whole wheat bread I regularly buy. I’m really surprised because I was lead to believe that most gluten free food tasted terrible. There is a nice mix of grains and I really enjoyed the dense flavor and grainy texture of all the breads I tried.

There were a few noticeable differences. The bread is sold frozen in the freezer case because it doesn’t have any preservatives in it. This isn’t an issue for me because I usually buy my bread four loaves at time and store them in the freezer until I’m ready to make a sandwich. As always, your mileage may vary.


  • The Hemp and the Spelt had a nice multigrain flavor which is what I like and look for in dark breads. 
  • The Flax and; Sunflower bread reminded me a lot of a rye or sourdough in taste. So much that I have to keep double checking the package to make sure it was neither rye nor sourdough bread. Good job French Meadow. 
  • The Hemp bread is made from industrial hemp. In other words, the THC levels are so low it’s impossible to get high from eating the bread. Or from smoking a slice if that’s your thing.


  • Since the bread is a little denser, it took a bit longer to defrost and toast. Not really a good or bad thing, just something to be aware of.


  • Husband didn’t like the Hemp bread. He said it had an after taste that he didn’t like. I couldn’t detect what he was talking about but then again I liked it (and not because I got a free loaf of bread. One loaf we got free for review. The other two we bought with our own money because they looked interesting.) 
  • This stuff is expensive - Up to $5.50 a loaf. Fortunately French Meadow Bakery has coupons
  • The slices of Spelt and Hemp loaves were significantly smaller than a traditional loaf of sliced bread. Makes sense since all of the breads we tried are yeast free.

The verdict? While a bit more expensive than regular sandwich bread, I’d buy it again on occasion because it tastes good, which other than being transfat and HFCS free, is what I want in bread. Based on my good experience with the breads, I’m going to be on the lookout for French Meadow Bakery’s other products in the future and give them a whirl if I find them for sale. If you have gluten, yeast, dairy, vegan, or sugar sensitivities French Meadow Bakery’s breads are a great option that doesn’t sacrifice on taste. Well done French Meadow Bakery!

Update 4/9/10 3:43 PM - I updated the types of bread with their designations. Turns out I didn't buy the gluten free varies of bread that I first thought I had but all are yeast free which is something I haven't tried either. Based on my experience with the breads I tried I will try to find the gluten free flavors of bread.

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Hey FTC in case you weren’t reading carefully: French Meadow Bakery gave me one free loaf of bread so I could conduct this review. I bought two more loaves with my own money for comparison. French Meadow Bakery didn’t pay me to say nice things about their product all opinions are my own and longtime readers know I can be very opinionated.

Further Disclosure: I feel like a jerk going into this review and thinking this bread might taste terrible based on my limited experience with a gluten free beverage. I am so happy I was wrong about that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Donated My Hair to Clean Up the Gulf Cost Oil Spill

When I grew my hair long I had every intention of cutting it off and donating my hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for kids who have lost their hair.

I never managed to meet all of requirements when it came time to cut my hair.  I didn’t want to just send it in anyway because children's wig charities have to throw away thousands of unusable donated ponytails each year.

Not enough hair for a child's wig, but enough hair to donate to clean up an oil spill

Instead, I decided to donate my hair to Matter of Trust for them to weave into hair mats that are used to mop up oil spills.


Hair attracts oil and repeals water. They weave it into hair mats or stuff it into old nylons to make boons that are used to clean up oil spills. The good thing about using hair is that they can rinse the mats or boons and reuse them. Makes sense once you see an otter’s fur covered in oil.

Donating my hair to clean up an oil spill might be the most crunchy hippie treehugger thing that I’ve ever done. However, I think it’s important given the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. And besides, what I am going to do with my hair once it’s off my head anyway? I could recycle my hair by putting it in compost bin or I could sprinkle my hair in my flower bed to deter deer from eating my plants. However Blitzkrieg keeps the compost bin filled with dirty fur and I don’t have a deer problem.

What I do have, along with all of my American readers, is a horrific oil spill problem in the Gulf of Mexico. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! They get to recycle my hair.

It’s kinda like my Gift of the Magi to the environment.

I imagine that even the most hardened not so hippie treehugger person watches the news about the oil spill and sees the thousands of people who depend upon the ocean for their livelihoods and wishes that they could do something to help. You can. Get a hair cut. Get your kids hair cut. Heck, take your dog to the groomer and get their fur cut and donate the clippings.

Here are the guidelines if you’d like to donate your hair or old nylons to be made into hair mats and boons to clean up oil spills. Obviously there is a great immediate need to help contain the Gulf Coast oil spill. Matter of Trust takes hair donations on an on-going basis, not just in times of emergency.

You can do a one time donation of your own hair or you can get a hair salon or dog groomer involved and make on going donations. The company that makes the hair mats also sells them to organic farmers to use to suppress weeds in their fields as an alternative to harmful chemical fertilizers.

Here are the hair donation guide lines.

  1. Your hair must be shampooed and dry. 
  2. Any length of hair and every type of head hair is fine (straight, curly, all colors, dyed, permed, straightened) 
  3. Every type of dog fur/waste wool is fine as long as it is clean. 
  4. Your donation does not have to be bundled in a ponytail or braid. Just sweep in all clippings, without other trash such as gum, metal clips, etc. and put it in a plastic bag inside a box for shipping. 
  5. They also accept washed, used/with runs nylon stocking donations to make the boons. You can put these donations in a separate bag in the same box with your hair donation. 
  6. They also accept other natural fibers such as horse hair, dog fur, feathers, and waste wool.
When I got my hair cut, I told my hairdresser that I wanted to save the clippings to donate to Matter of Trust. She didn’t think it was weird but I get my hair cut in one of the crunchier parts of the city. She only asked if she had to bundle my hair into a pony tail and cut it off – the answer is no. 

My hairdresser washed and cut my hair as usual. When she was finished she swept up the hair clippings and put them into the empty bread bag I brought with me for that purpose.

I signed up with Matter of Trust. They emailed me the address where I should mail my donated hair. Since there is an emergency oil spill clean up they are sending hair donations to be made into boons to multiple points along the Gulf Coast. If you donate now you will most likely get a different address than I did.

I trooped down to the Post Office and mailed my package. Easy!

In case you’re wondering, here’s the new ‘do.

Have you ever donated your hair to a worthy cause? Have you even considered it?

Update 5/5/10: I got an email from Matter of Trust (I'm on their mailing list now because of my donation) that said that Hanes is donating a bunch of nylons to be stuffed with donated hair and made into oil soaking bones to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Very cool. Neither organization is  paying me to mention this. I saw it and thought you might want to know.

This is my post for the Green Moms Carnival, which is all about transportation hosted by Big Green Purse  Monday, May 10, 2010.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to Recycle Plastic Makeup Tubes and Containers

I’ve been making one small environmentally friendly change each month from January to Earth Day as part of the One Small Green Change Challenge. So far I have:

All of the changes were easy to implement and have stuck, with the exception of the humidifier because we aren’t running the furnace anymore. That’s a seasonal change.

I have to admit, after doing my 20% Energy Reduction Challenge and tackling some of the more common green changes like switching to reusable shopping bags and resuable water bottles  (well not really switching, more like trying to use them more often), and using cloth table cloths and napkins. I didn’t think there were a lot of changes I could make other than the big, expensive ones like buying a hybrid car.

The One Small Green Change Challenge changed my thinking because I started to look at those little things that I knew I should switch out like that flaking Teflon griddle but didn’t because it’s easier to not use it and stick in back into the cupboard.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mom’s Mexican Vintage Tablecloth

In honor of Cinco de Mayo I wanted to use one of my favorite vintage tablecloths that my mom embroidered when I was wee little or even pre-me, I’m not sure which. Anyway, it’s square and didn’t fit her table so she gave it to me.

Kitschy, Free, and Festive! What's not to love?