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Cruelty-Free Equals Toxic-Free

DISCLAIMER: I borrowed the bulk of this post from Victoria Elizabeth Barnes.com.

I've made a concentrated effort over the last two years to eliminate as many processed, toxic, and harmful products from my home and diet as I possibly can. For instance, I refuse to use anything with laurel sulfates (soap, detergent, shampoo, toothpaste--yes, even your commercial toothpaste has it in there), I've transitioned to all-glass containers in my kitchen, I use cruelty-free cleaning products and cosmetics, and I no longer buy processed, ready-made foods, preferring to make my own from ingredients I can control, grow, or buy from reputable organic sources. I have always been a gardener and have NEVER used chemical fertilizers or pesticides on any of my plants (even before it was trendy) because I believe we only have one Earth.

Aside from the environmental benefits, once you switch your diet to homemade breads, broths, soups, pastas, etc. made from responsibly-grown meats, vegetables, and grains, eating processed, frozen, or canned foods tastes like...well, crap.

But what we're concerned about here today are non-consumables, and the thing to keep in mind is, along with sparing the lives of the innocent animals used to test these products, eliminating toxic chemicals from your life is better for everyone.

Did you know:

Just one example is the Washington University analysis of leading laundry products (detergents, dryer sheets, fabric softeners) which found more than 25 volatile compounds, including acetaldehyde and benzene; which are classified by the EPA as carcinogens with no safe level of exposure.
If a product causes cancer, why would you want it in your home, worn on your body, or rubbed into your skin? Of course, the simple answer is, because the majority of people either don't know this or don't care. What they should know, however, is how those products gain approval to hit the store shelves in this country. 

Most products in the United States are still tested on animals.

“Consumers are largely unaware that sentient creatures are still poisoned for the sake of new shampoo and lipstick.”– The Humane Society of the United States
These companies should be boycotted if you are opposed to animal testing.


Every country in the European Union outlaws cosmetic and household-product testing on animals as cruel and unnecessary, and yet the United States continues to allow corporations to dictate our values.
  • Animals in US laboratories are exempt from animal cruelty laws.
  • Legal tests include burning, poisoning, starving, forced inhalation, mutilating, blinding, electrocuting, drowning, and dissecting/amputation/surgery without painkillers.
  • There are over 80,000 ingredients that companies can choose from to formulate their products– ingredients that don’t need to be tested on animals, because they’ve already been proven safe.
  • Animal testing is funded with tax dollars, and it is a very lucrative business: delivering grants to universities, huge profits to pharmaceutical and chemical corporations, and funding for government agencies.

Beagles are the most popular breed for lab use because of their friendly, docile nature. If you are an animal lover, you should be aware of this and encourage your fellow animal lovers to boycott the companies that use animal testing.

You can make a difference:
  1. VOTE WITH YOUR PURCHASES. Even though your current shampoo/laundry soap/bodywash is past the animal-testing phase, it still contains toxins and you’re still supporting a company that is in the business of testing new products on animals. Instead, choose to support companies whose values align with yours.
  2. TELL OTHER PEOPLE. Educate your family and friends on the cruelty of animal-testing and the lunacy of buying products that are toxic.
  3. SIGN PETITIONS: Support the Humane Society’s efforts to pass the Federal Bill to End Cosmetics Testing on Animals. This is incredibly important, and your voice matters. The Humane Society International was responsible for creating the change that resulted in an EU-wide ban. Calling and writing to your representatives will make a difference.
How to know who to buy from? The Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide can help. Companies that are owned by parent companies that are NOT cruelty-free are annotated with a colored square. You can also download their app here. 
Almost every brand sold in America is owned by one of a few BIG corporations
They all test on animals. They all sell products full of toxins. Some of the biggest offenders include: Johnson & Johnson, S.C. Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Unilever, and Dial/Henkel.
Educate yourself. Big corporations are in the business of selling you products by convincing you that you need them. They have great marketing, huge budgets for lobbying, and a core interest in profit. They have also figured out that a shampoo named Herbal Essence will sell much better than a shampoo named Chemical Solvent Also In Pesticides.
This is called greenwashing and it works. Don't be fooled by it.
  1. Greenwashing is the appropriation of environmental virtue by a company or industry to create a pro-environmental image in order to sell a product.
  2. It is the phenomena of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets or power by posing as friends of the environment.
So how do you know which companies are safe? You can look for the leaping bunny certification (the one on the left is the most common). Among some of the safer ones are Seventh Generation, Dr. Bronners, any of the Whole Foods brands, and many cosmetic and cleaning products sold by Trader Joe's. For instance, I use the Trader Joe's Nourish shampoos and conditioners (which run around $3.00 for a 16.9 oz bottle) and their all natural, fluoride-free antiplaque toothpaste made with fennel, propolis, and myrrh. And it's less than $3.00 a tube.

Transitioning your home to a cruelty-free place to reduce your exposure to toxins will take a little time and research, but the benefits are huge--for you, your family, the animals, and the environment.



Mediterranean Style Four Grain Risotto



I love experimenting with different ethnic foods and flavors, as well as new cooking techniques, spices, and herbs. Lately I’ve been playing around with different grains and methods of preparing them, which lead to my discovery of farro. 

So What is Farro?

Farro is an old variety of wheat from Italy that cooks up with a chewy, nutty flavor similar to barley. If you’ve never had it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.The trick with farro is determining what kind you have, since it comes three ways, depending on how it’s cleaned and abraded–hulled, semi-pearled (semiperlato), and pearled. The hulled type is the most flavorful and nutritious, but it requires soaking and a much longer cooking time. Semi-pearled is somewhere in between, and pearled cooks in about the same amount of time as rice, which makes it perfect for this dish.


As a side note, be sure what you have is actually farro, as it is often confused with or mislabeled as spelt.

The first time I tried farro, my mind started picturing all the ways I could combine this nutty little grain with other items already available on my pantry shelf, like red lentils and rice. My inspiration for this recipe came from a Lebanese dish, mujadara, made with rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. Feel free to substitute other grains according to your tastes and what you have on hand, as long as they have similar cooking requirements. Just let your imagination run wild. After all, cooking is just chemistry that tastes good, so have fun with your food.

Cooking Risotto

I call this a risotto because of the way it’s cooked. If you’ve never prepared risotto, don’t let the name scare you. Instead of adding all the liquid at once, covering the rice, and letting it do its thing, you stand over the pot and stir, adding the liquid a little at a time. More hands on, but for people like me who can’t seem to stop futzing with my food while I’m cooking, it’s a form of cooking zen.

This isn’t a quick recipe–total cooking time is about 90 minutes–but it’s chock full of tasty nutrition and hearty enough to be a main dish. The amounts on the spices are a starting point; add more or less to your taste.

Mediterranean Style Four Grain Risotto

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow or white onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
¼ cup minced garlic (4 or 5 cloves, depending on how big they are)
½ cup chopped frozen carrots (they cook faster than fresh, and you want them kind of mushy for this)
¼ tsp minced ginger (optional)
Cooking oil (you can use olive oil, butter, bacon grease, or a combination of all three, as I did)
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp Ras el Hanout* or garam masala (you can use other spice blends or curries, if you prefer)
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1 small tuber fresh turmeric, peeled and minced (you can substitute turmeric powder, but the flavor will be slightly different)
½ tsp salt
½ cup long grain white rice, like basmati or jasmine
½ cup pearled farro
½ cup red lentils
¼ cup orzo
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
½ cup finely grated aged hard cheese, like Parmesan (I used Trader Joe’s Aged Cheddar with Caramelized Onions for this, but use whatever you have on hand)
1 cup good stock (beef or chicken)
2 cups water
½ cup white wine (you could substitute lemon juice or any other slightly acidic liquid)
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Plain yogurt or sour cream

*Ras el Hanout is an Arabic spice blend. The name translates as “head of shop,” as like with curries, each spice merchant has their own unique blend. Depending on the ingredients, some have more heat than others. I have two types on my spice shelf, one I bought at Trader Joe’s, which is hotter, and one I ordered from World Merchants Spice, Herb, and Teahouse in Seattle. The latter is the one I used here. It’s a more complex, fragrant blend with less heat.

Directions:

Preheat a deep, heavy skillet or small Dutch oven on medium-high and toast the pine nuts for 1 to 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly (careful, they burn easily). Remove the nuts and set aside.

Rinse the white rice several times and set aside to drain.

Add about ¼ cup butter or oil of choice to the pan. When it gets warm, add the onions and turn the heat down to medium-low. Saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add garlic, carrots, ginger, and fresh turmeric, stirring constantly. Add more oil or butter if, necessary. You want the veggies to slowly simmer, not stick or burn. Add all the spices except the salt and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cover, stirring occasionally and adding more oil or butter if needed, for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

In the meantime, heat a small saucepan on medium and add the stock, water, and wine, then turn the heat down to low to keep warm. Do not bring the liquid to a boil; you just want it to be warm.

Uncover the veggies and turn the heat up to medium. Add the rice and farro, stirring for two to three minutes to coat. Add the lentils and orzo, stir to combine. When all the grains are well-coated with the oil/spice mixture, add 1 cup of the warm stock mixture, stirring constantly.

At this point, it’s helpful to set your oven timer to 25 minutes so you’ll have a better idea of when the grains are done.

Continue stirring the grain mixture until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, then add another half cup and repeat, stirring and letting the liquid absorb before adding more. If it looks like you’re going to run out of liquid before the 25 minutes are up, add a little more water to the stock pan to heat. You don't want to add cold liquid to the grain mixture.

When your timer goes off, taste the mixture to see if it’s done. The farro should still be a little chewy, but the rice, orzo, and lentils should be fully cooked. If they’re still hard, add a little more liquid and stir until absorbed.

When everything is fully cooked, stir in the salt, pine nuts, and cheese, then serve.

Garnish with cilantro and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.


Livingroom Reveal (Long Overdue)

I don't even want to think about how long it's been since I posted here. One thing after another has kept me busy, but with the end of the year looming,  I thought it was high time I brought you up to date on the fruits of my rehab/redecorating labors. I did a post on the kitchen remodel a few months back. Now I'll show how the livingroom got to this:

Livingroom, - After

From this:

Livingroom - Before
Livingroom, in process. Everyone needs a folding chair when you're remodeling.

The "Red Wall of Pain"
I had decided to built out a false wall between the livingroom and guest bedroom so I could soundproof behind it, but because the original wall was warped, the drywall wouldn't line up. I suppose I could have torn down the original wall and rebuilt it like I did every other wall in the house, but by that point, I was firmly embracing the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought. After two fruitless days of skimming and sanding the seam, I gave up and covered it with textured wallpaper in an acanthus leaf design. The paint is Sherman Williams Cashmere in Positive Red (SW6871). The antique buffet was a ReStore find for $75.00.

Piecing the two corbels together to fit over the island separating the kitchen and livingroom. The six-foot long, inch-thick corbels were from an old porch and were a Brocante find for $75.00. I had to cut a foot off of each and glue them together
My original design concept has evolved as I live in the house and learn what works and what doesn't, as well as incorporating my latest finds into the mix. Like the huge copper plate I scored at a yard sale for $5.00. You can't tell from the picture, but it's thick, solid copper and very heavy. It had some ugly schmutz in the center where someone had tried to glue something and failed. When I couldn't clean it up, I picked up a six inch round mirror at Michael's and glued it over the mess, then trimmed it out with copper chain and glued little jewels along the rim (because everything is better with jewels, right?).

Copper plate yard sale find
After walking around the house with it for two days trying to figure out where to hang it, I settled on layering it over the large mirror above the bar. Now it looks like the mirror I glued on it is actually a hole in the plate revealing the lower mirror. I kind of like the effect.

Bar
The bar itself I bought at a scratch and dent sale at Macy's years ago. It was originally all black and quite banged up (hence the low price), but it's solid wood and after decoupaging the drawers, painting the top and adding a piece of glass and metal drawers, it's become a statement piece. When the mirror (from an antique dresser, a Goodwill score at $10.00) wouldn't fit on top of it, I removed the legs.


Bar top. I layered a pashmani shawl under the glass top after the paint got scratched during the move. I always feel it's the little details that come from adversity that make a house a home


I bought the couch at the Palma Ceia Salvation Army in Tampa last year. I made new back cushions for it, covering them with the fabric from pillow shams I found at Goodwill. The end table was another ReStore purchase for $10.00. I stripped and refinished it, then gold leafed the detail on the legs and trim. The urn lamp I bought at one of my favorite Tampa thrift stores, Sunshine Thrift, for $3.00. The shade ($5.00 at St. Vincent's) doesn't really fit it, but will work until I find something else. The side curtains I made, the ones over the sliding glass door my sister-in-law gave me when she redecorated. Who says things have to match? All my curtain rods are old pipes I dressed up with bronze and copper Rub n' Buff, then hung with assorted corbels I've found at yard sales and thrift stores.



The teak coffee table was one of my greatest yard sale steals ($10.00, can you believe it?). All my chotchkies are yard sale and thrift store finds. Treasures are so much more fun when you happen upon them by accident. Everything I own has a story--and a memory--behind it.

Looking towards the diningroom, which I'll cover in a future post


Can you tell I love trays? Copper, silver, wood--it doesn't matter. And footed trays are my favorite.


The vintage hanging lamp is one of a pair (the other is in my bedroom) that I scored a couple of years ago in a thrift store. After they didn't sell in my Etsy shop, I decided the universe agreed with me that they were too great to part with 
I made the dvd cabinet several years ago, one of my Yummies furniture creations. The framed posters were yard sale finds at $5.00 each.

I love little lamps. I have them all over the house

I turned a dead corner into a little gallery. The bookcase was an old storage shelf I found in the shed when I bought the house. It was falling apart, but I repaired and painted it for my reference library.

My maroon vignette. I love this little spindle table I got at a yard sale a couple of years ago. After draping it with a fringed shawl,  I added a sweet little beaded lamp and a few red glass pieces I've collected.
I guess you might have noticed I like color. I describe my taste as Eclectic Bohemian Gypsy Chic. I don't follow rules when it comes to decorating, I just go with what I like, fitting things in as they come into my possession. The way I see it, just because I choose to live in a mobile home, doesn't mean it has to look like one. Besides, it's the perfect home for a gypsy.

Next up, the diningroom




DayNa Decker scents

Dayna Decker Posy

I put this under Decorating because that's how important scent is to my home. It's a well-known fact that our sense of smell is the most memory-inducing of our senses. The mere whiff of a familiar scent can transport us back in time or remind us of a beloved person. Is it any wonder then, as a Pisces and self-proclaimed sensualist, I am enamored with all things aromatic, especially when it comes to my home?

I have spent small fortunes on oils, incense, candles, perfumes, and resins to scent my home. I nearly always have one or several of them burning, and am constantly searching for new, more exotic fragrances. That is how I came across the Dayna Decker line. To say it was a revelation would be an understatement.

Dayna Decker was a successful Ford model, spending several years traveling the world immersed in fashion, art, and culture. But there was more to her than a pretty face. Born into a family of entrepreneurs from the design and wellness industries, creative expression and business savvy came easily. She followed up her modeling career by mastering the art of perfumery in Grasse, France. Her scents, derived from the essential oils of rare and exotic botanicals sourced from all over the globe, are an alluring, hypnotic, sensual feast for the senses. The Dayna Decker line includes products for both the home and body, and if the quality of her home products are any indication, the body line must be unparalleled. I haven't tried them, but believe me they are on my wishlist.

I first came across the Dayna Decker Home line in Nieman Marcus about three years ago. It was just before Christmas and I was aimlessly wondering the mall, not really looking for anything in particular. It was the first holiday season after losing my mother, and I just felt the need to be around people. The frenzy of the shoppers was like a soothing balm to me, which, if you know me, is completely out of character since I normally hate crowds.

I had been on something of a candle buying kick at the time, experimenting with high end candles in the hopes of finding something that would actually scent my home with something other than a burning wax smell. Most of my buying had been online, and I was so far disappointed with both the quality of the candles I had ordered and the money I had spent for them. I spotted a candle display in Nieman Marcus and thought, "what the hell?"

The saleslady seemed actually glad to talk to someone who wanted information as opposed to yelling at her to hurry up. She told me about the different brands of candles then asked me what I was hoping to accomplish with them. When I told her I just wanted to make my house smell good, she asked, "Have you thought about a diffuser?"

"You mean those bottles of alcohol with sticks that lose their scent the minute you open them?"

Then she picked up a small green bottle with short brown reeds and held it under my nose.

Now let me just preface my reaction by saying I used to own a nursery where I grew rare and antique roses and herbs. Some of those were Damascus roses, which, if you know anything about aromatherapy, is the origin of rose attar. I've stood in the garden on a sunny spring morning and been enveloped with the heady scent of roses and herbs, so when I say I know that scent intimately, I'm not exaggerating.

What wafted to me from that little green bottle was the most amazingly sensual fragrance I have ever smelled outside the garden. Rich floral notes with an underlying vanilla-like muskiness that was almost mouth-watering. And there is no alcohol anywhere to be found--just the full bomb of quality essential oils.

When I asked if she had just opened the bottle, the saleslady informed me they had been using that sampler for three months. I didn't even balk at the $45 price for the 4 oz diffuser kit. This had to come home with me.

The scent I bought was Posy, a delicious melange of hydrangea, calla lily, heliotrope, jasmine, white woods, and clove. That little bottle sat in my bathroom all year until the last of the oil evaporated. Even then, the scent clung to the reeds, as fresh and penetrating as the day I bought it. I wrapped  them in paper and stuck them in my underwear drawer. The following year (at Christmas) I went back and bought the 8 oz diffuser of the same scent. That bottle now has less than an inch of oil in the bottom, and yet two years later, is still scenting my bathroom with the same strength it did when it was new.

I assure you, it's not an overwhelming, hit-you-over-the-head manufactured type of scent, more of a natural, understated, elegance that wafts across your senses at the most unexpected times. Sometimes I catch it when I walk past the bathroom and I have to stop and drink it in. There is really no other way to describe it.

I've since discovered the entire world of Dayna Decker scents, and am anxious to try some of her more exotic offerings like Oud Vetiver, Sandalrose, and Ashiki. If you are like me, and love surrounding yourself with the sensuality of scent, you owe it to yourself to check out Dayna Decker. You can buy a limited number of her home scents at fine retail stores or online at Candledelirium, or you can go straight to her website, DaynaDecker.com. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

A Complete Kitchen Remodel for $1113

Sorry I haven't been around much lately, but I've had my hands full between remodeling one house and packing up another. Flitting between two disaster areas is exhausting, and it doesn't help that there's a traffic-laden hour-long drive between them. By the time I get home from a 12-hour day of demo, construction, and unforeseen problems, I have all I can do to shower and pass out on the couch. Blogging is a distant dream. And so the Endless Summer continues.

But there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Gutting an entire house at once is daunting; putting it back together more so, especially when you're doing the majority of work yourself with limited resources. I set my original budget for the remodel at $3000, but the Unexpected kept rearing its ugly head--something a seasoned DIYer like myself has come to expect. Still, I'm currently sitting at just over $3600 for the whole house and still have a couple of little things to buy. Like trim. LOTS of trim--baseboards, molding, casings. That stuff is expensive, so I'm exploring alternatives and practicing patience at wabi-sabi. Today we're going to be concentrating on the kitchen. Here's a peek at its current state:

Kitchen island.

The budget tally for the kitchen remodel goes something like this:

Dresser for island - $40 (Goodwill)
Doors for island countertop - 2 at $20 each (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
Porcelain enamel double bowl sink - $30 (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
Oil-rubbed bronze bridge faucet - $220 (Overstock)
Butcher block countertop for sink cabinet - $130 (Ikea)
Cabinet doors for build-in buffet - 4 at $3 each (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
Door handles, latches, and hinges - $28 (Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Home Depot)
Paint - $120.00 (Home Depot and Sherwin Williams)
Polyurethane for island countertop - $8 (Home Depot)
Pantry door - $10 (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
Wood and drywall for sink base, island knee wall and columns, and built-in buffet - $198.00
Hardware (screws, nails, caulk, etc.) - $60
Beadboard, 3 sheets at $20 each - $60
Dowels for plate and baking sheet racks - $22
Shelf brackets 4 at $7 each - $28
Plumbing parts - $32
Plumber (to fix leak in the old copper pipes) - $75

Grand Total (so far) $1113

Part of my low cost success is recycling. The small cabinet I used in the island was the only cabinet I was able to salvage from the old kitchen. The shelves in the built-in buffet and new pantry were made from wood salvaged from the old pantry. The twin corbels above the island I picked up at Brocante last year and have been hanging on to them waiting for the perfect place to use them. I had to cut them down and glue them together, but they look like one piece now. The light above the island I scored at a thrift store last year for $3. The spice rack above the sink I built for my previous house. It was a 7-foot tall vertical shelf that I cut down and rebuilt to fit its current location. The metal shelf for the microwave was something the previous tenant left in the house where I'm currently living. I opted to lose the under cabinet microwave in favor of my old red countertop model because I just don't need a huge microwave. I also took out the dishwasher because frankly, I find them to be a waste of time, water, and energy. Hand washing dishes is kind of zen to me. Sort of like painting.

I still need to find some fabric for the sink base skirt and trim everything out. I've since hung the doors on the top of the built-in buffet and need to frame out and hang the door on the pantry and find a piece of wood for the shelf above the island, but the kitchen is functional.

How I got from where I started in April to here is a messy, sometimes frustrating process. If you recall my Closing Day Reveal, the kitchen looked something like this:

Kitchen before I took possession. I don't know what drove me crazier, the window to nowhere or the glass marbles glued to the wall. Both are thankfully history now.
For anyone who has never lived through a kitchen remodel, there is no way to describe how much fun it ISN'T. At least this time I wasn't forced to live in the house while I was doing it. Months of washing dishes in your only bathroom with three young boys is an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. And I did it four times in four different houses, all DIY jobs. Talk about a glutton for punishment. And so begins the demo...

Kitchen with the wall  and old pantry removed. It's already 100% better.

Cabinet doors gone, demo set to begin on sink wall

Ripping the wall down to the studs. FYI - exposure to 40-year old fiberglass insulation is a pleasure not to be missed.
And now the fun part begins. Construction. I was originally going to purchase unfinished cabinets, but budget constraints nixed that idea pretty quickly when I started running into problems in the rest of the house. My plans changed, and I opted for open shelving above the sink and building my own base cabinet out of 2x4s and plywood. Let me tell you, between the weight of the wood, the butcher block, and that bohemoth of a sink, that sucker isn't going anywhere. And yes, that is a wood backsplash. Remember my mantra - recycle, reuse, repurpose. (The crooked outlet above the sink is a problem from the kitchen's previous life - no support stud. I'm going to have to get creative there.)

DIY kitchen base cabinet
Constructing the island knee wall. It may be the best built wall in the house.

Adding the dresser for the island base. Love that disaster area mess in the background?

The doors are installed for the island's 10-foot countertop. I used one full and one half door, which left me enough for the countertop on the built-in buffet. I was going to trim the edges, but I kind of like seeing the origins of the wood. I even like the difference in grain between the two doors.

Drywall goes up

Countertops are stained and paint goes on. Yes, that's one of my light creations on the counter. An ugly shiny brass chandelier I salvaged, painted, antiqued, and strung with crystals. Can't wait for it to go up in the diningroom

Built-in buffet construction. The whole thing was built with salvaged wood. Not the prettiest thing, but tons of storage.
It's been a long three-month journey, but the kitchen is finally serviceable. Yes, there are little things to do--hang trim, doors, built a base for the wine fridge next to the stove so the countertop has something to rest on, but I could live there and cook as it stands right now. Is it perfect? No. But that's the way I like it. Perfection makes me nervous. Like I'm in a museum or a hotel. I love the quirky, crooked (there isn't a level wall in this house, though all my shelves are level, which makes them look crooked). Everything is cobbled together from salvaged materials, and it was all done without a budget that could feed a small country.

And now for some before and after shots:


Island wall - before

Island wall - after

Sink wall - before

Sink wall - after

Pantry wall - before

Pantry wall - after

The room is about 85% complete. I'll post pictures when it's all done, but considering I only get up to the house two to three days a week and do most of the work by myself, it's not a bad progression.


























WD-40 - Who Knew?

Sometimes you learn the most interesting stuff while tooling around the internet. Today I stumbled across a fascinating Facebook post by Ron English that I just had to share, especially since it involves something that nearly everyone has around the house. I'm talking about that blue and yellow can of WD-40 tucked under the kitchen sink or out in the garage. If you thought it was just for squeaky hinges or getting the rust off old screws, think again.



WD-40: The history

WD-40, or Water Displacement #40, began as a search for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile parts. It was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company. The name originated from the project that was tasked with finding a water displacement compound. The formulation was finally successful on its fortieth attempt, hence the name WD-40. The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their atlas missile parts. Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you. In fact, the main ingredient in WD-40 is simple fish oil.

40 uses you might not have known about for WD-40:

1. Protects silver from tarnishing.
2. Removes road tar, grime, and unwanted paint spray from cars without harming the finish.
3. Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.
4. Gives floors that just-waxed sheen without making them slippery.
5. Keeps flies off of cows, horses, and other farm animals.
6. Restores and cleans chalkboards.
7. Removes lipstick stains from clothing. Just saturate the stain with WD-40 and throw it in the wash.
8. Loosens stubborn zippers.
9. Untangles jewelry chains.
10. Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.
11. Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.
12. Keeps ceramic/terracotta garden pots from oxidizing.
13. Removes tomato stains from clothing.
14. Keeps glass or plastic shower doors free of water spots.
15. Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors.
16. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
17. Lubricates noisy door hinges on both home and vehicle doors.
18. Removes those nasty tar and scuff marks from the kitchen flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.
19. Removes bug guts that can eat away at the finish on your car, including love bugs.
20. Spray on children's playground slide for a super fast slide.
21. Lubricates gearshift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.
22. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and sliding doors and makes them easier to open.
23. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.
24. Restores and cleans vinyl and leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as vinyl bumpers and roof racks.
25. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
26. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.
27. Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running smoothly.
28. Keeps rust from forming on saws, saw blades, and other tools.
29. Removes grease splatters from stove-tops and leaves them shiny clean.
30. Prevents bathroom mirrors from fogging.
31. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
32. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).
33. Removes all traces of duct tape.
34. Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain.
35. Used to protect the Statue of Liberty from the elements.
36. WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a little on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time. Also, it's a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in mind though, using some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in some states.
37. Use it for fire ant bites. It takes the sting away immediately and stops the itch.
38. It's great for removing crayon from walls. Spray it on the marks and wipe with a clean rag.
39. If you spray it inside a wet distributor cap, it will displace the moisture, allowing the engine to start.
40. Use it as an ant deterrent. They don't like it.

Don't you just love it when a single, common household item can replace a multitude of products?

One Month and Counting

OK, I've been in possession of the new house for just over one month, and while it probably wouldn't be recognizable to the former owners, it's no where near ready for occupancy, nor am I satisfied with my progress. I told my sister-in-law Fran the other day that if this was 20 years ago, I'd be done with this by now. Oh well, we do what we can, right?

I had to stop work on the inside last week to address the outside, thanks to the friendly HOA that insisted I clean up the exterior. So my son Anthony and I pressure washed the house, then I spent the week painting. I couldn't match the yellow of the siding on the main house, so I decided to go brighter on the addition.  You can't really tell from the picture, but the color, Behr Ultra 400A-3 Pear, almost glows neon in the sun. I love it!

See the difference in the new color (brighter) vs the old, faded color?
I got most of the yellow done and repainted all the white trim around the doors and windows, plus the fascia, back steps, and shutters. The ceiling of the carport is peeling in spots, but it's just going to have to wait till fall because it's too bloody hot right now and I need to get back to work on the inside.

This is where I left off inside before I was so rudely interrupted by the HOA nasti-gram;

Drywall is up and mudded in master bedroom. Awaiting priming and paint, then on to the new floors.
Of course, just because I haven't been working on the inside, doesn't mean I've forgotten it. I've been haunting the ReStore, thrift stores, Goodwill, and eBay for the little extras I need (we won't go into how much time I've spent at Home Depot and Lowe's and how my studio space currently looks like a lumber yard). I've managed to score quite a few finds, including four rolls of vintage wallpaper for the guest bedroom I picked up for $45 on eBay, an antique sewing cabinet I found at the ReStore for $10, and a solid wood bed I got at Goodwill for $30. I love treasure hunting--so much more fun than buying retail.

The guest bedroom has been doubling as a furniture storage room. Check out my bed from Goodwill and the sewing cabinet. Can you just imagine how cute they'll be painted?

After taking a couple of days off to catch up on some Crystal Creation orders for Nancy Dunn's new garden shop in Raleigh (more on that later), I plan to put in a full day tomorrow, priming all the new drywall, hanging  the beadboard wallpaper for the wainscoting in the guest bedroom, and hopefully getting some paint on the walls. My plan is to be ready to lay the new wood floors this weekend. Then I can concentrate on finishing the kitchen.




Adventures in Renovating - Electric Avenue

Tuesday was electric day at the new house. It took all day, but Tom and Dave at Guarantee Electric finally got the main breaker box moved, relocated two bedroom outlets, and ran a new line for my refrigerator.

The job turned out to be more involved than they thought, which meant I got a bargain on the price. I've been on the underbidding side way too many times in my own business, so I guess the Universe was looking out for me yesterday because Tom confessed to me they should have charged me twice what they did for this job. Oh well, live and learn.
Everything torn out waiting for new box and wiring

Putting in a new box meant shutting off the power all day, which isn't fun in 90 degree heat. It also reminded me how much we depend on electricity to do the smallest tasks. I couldn't do much all day but watch them work, though I did manage to clean up a few small things I've been neglecting. Like removing the cabinet doors in the kitchen in preparation for demo.

Things are moving along in the kitchen
I also started attacking that huge stack of drywall I finally got moved inside thanks to my son Anthony's help on Mother's Day.

Drywall stacked in the livingroom waiting for me to get to work
Here's how the bedrooms look now.

Guest bedroom with wall framed out awaiting drywall

I started tearing out the weird hotel sink in the master bedroom. Love the bare wire hanging out of the wall with no junction box in sight.

Master bedroom side of the wall

Got one sheet of drywall up to cover the black hole in the wall.

I'm heading back over today to work on framing out that old pantry area and moving the fridge into its new home.