Chic, Green and Won't Kill Me!

BPA is the plastic ingredient and endocrine disruptor that's been in the news lately. Present in everything from baby bottles to Nalgenes, basically any hard plastic bottles, cups, or other products. The New York Times indicates that in Canada BPA is about to be officially labeled as toxic. On top of this, the US Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program endorsing a claim that there is "some concern" that BPA might be harmful to human life, as it had caused precancer in mice. The National institute of Health ranks the risk from hard plastic bottles as a 3 on a scale of 1-5 on how much they are concerned.

So, beginning today, I am making a change. No more wasting the water bottles. Instead, I am buying a refillable drinking bottle made of aluminum. These bottles are 100% recyclable even at the end of their lives. This means no more wasted water or plastics for me.


Painting in Winter

One problem with the kitchen project is that painting when its still hovering around 0F outside means opening the windows and doors to vent the paint smell is a chilling experience. We ran out of primer half-way through so when I went to buy more I checked out the Freshaire line of paints at Home Depot for the following reasons:

-Fresh Aire paint has NO VOC'S, (Volatile Organic Compounds)
*VOC'S are a major contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer & poor indoor quality
-No harmful effects or chemical odors
-LIFETIME WARRANTY on performance and appearance
-Environmentally safe, not only the paint is good for the environment, but:
-the can
-the label and packaging
-the color chips

Only downside is the price $35-$38/gallon for paint, less for primer and the fact that no color matching is available due to the fact that the color comes in little packets which are then mixed into the base paint at Home Depot.

I'm curious to see how well it works. The Home Depot people also told me I could order 3 free color samples which come in the mail: http://freshairechoice.com/contact.html I called them and my samples are on the way. Looking forward to seeing how well it works and how well our regular Lowes paint goes over the other primer.


Can police search your text messages if you get caught for speeding?

No, I didn't get pulled over, I just found an interesting article by criminal law professor Adam Gershowitz about the frightening prospect of police searching your text messages if you get stopped for a traffic infraction. "Search incident to arrest" anyone? Wonder what my law school bloggers/techy friends would think of this one. I could find out way more on my friend's phones than what they had been texting, their browsing history, their e-mails, photos, the list goes on. I really wonder at the Fourth Amendment implications.

The HGTV/Bloglines Addicted DIYer's Dilemma

My bloglines have grown recently. Which results in my not getting any homework done at lunch due to the fact that my feedlist is full of inspiring home improvement sites. I've been obsessively checking the Apartment Therapy "Small Cool" competition submissions for ideas. It has me regretting my choice/purchase of taupe paint for the kitchen and wishing for a spring green next to my oak cabinets. Hubby is wishing he could pull the bloglines plug in the same way as he sometimes limits my HGTV consumption by watching guy shows (poor man can only watch so much paint dry). I've become fickle with all of my decisions, second guessing myself. Do I really want a tile backsplash or should I go with back painted glass or just semi-gloss paint. Should I really hold off on getting new counters or will people think the kitchen looks unfinished without Corian, Silestone, Ceasarstone or Granite?! I know I should care, but there are so many cool options out there I can't possibly try them all. I need to find my own style and stick with it and not follow these design show trends. They may look easy on a 30 minute program with two full-time carpenters and electrician and a designer on board, but they really take a lot of time to put together with two DIY'ers at home. Worst of all it's making me discontent with my house, which is really not that small 1,300 square feet and either wishing for something larger or much much smaller (like 600 sq.ft.). I must settle down, finish some projects and live with the results for awhile. So this weekend my goal is to finish painting the kitchen, put it back together and live with it for awhile before moving on to other projects.


Removing Wallpaper the Green Way

Once Monday hit home improvement came to an almost hault. After a long day at work we weren't up for intensive tasks. We spent most of the week removing the wallpaper. Like any Gen-Y person with limited home improvement experience, the first step was Googling "diy wallpaper removal." Next we made a visit to our friendly people at Lowes and asked for their advice. We came home armed with wallpaper removal spray, squirt bottles, a wallpaper scorer and putty knives. In the end we used a combined approach. We initially thought that we should follow the Lowes instructions to the letter:

"Before using any method to dissolve the glue holding the paper in place, you must score the paper. Vinyl or other non-porous paper will not absorb any removal product, so you must make tiny cuts in the paper to let the product soak in. Even porous paper will remove easier when it is scored.

Specialty scoring tools are available to make the process faster. Though it might be tempting to use a knife or saw, those tools are more likely to damage the wall underneath the paper. Score all over the paper to be removed, paying attention to the corners and edges of the wall."

So we scored one section of wall, put the remover on and tried to scrape. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and...we made a mess! I also had a huge allergic reaction to the wallpaper remover and glue gunk and had rash all up and down my arms. I also felt decidedly un-green.

So we developed our own method of green wallpaper removal that requires just as much work, but only requires hard work and water, no nasty chemicals. While this method might not work for every type of wallpaper, we at least recommend that you try this first before buying the nasty wallpaper remover. We actually had two different types of wallpaper in our kitchen which required slightly different approaches, and one was easier than the other.

Removing wallpaper the green way:
  1. Find a corner from which you can peel the paper, try removing a wallplate from an outlet as a good starting point if edges are hard to find. Turn power to the outlet off while working with a screwdriver to remove the plate.

  2. Begin peeling back the paper from this point. (On half of our kitchen the top shiny layer of wallpaper just peeled right off).

  3. If the wallpaper won't peel back at all then you'll have to use the scoring technique to get at the glue underneath.

  4. Once you have either scored the paper or removed the top layer off, you'll need to get out your spray bottles. Fill these with boiling hot water. Spray the walls to the point where they start to drip water. (Other options to water include 1 part water to 3 parts vinegar or a 50-50 mixture of water and fabric softener.)

  5. Get out your putty knifes and start scraping. Make sure to work in small enough sections that the water doesn't dry or else you'll have a sticky mess on your hands.

  6. Once the paper is off you'll still need to do some prep work before painting. Wash the walls thoroughly to remove any remaining glue, then sand and wash again, prime and paint.

This takes no chemicals, no remover and it worked. One of our walls we just peeled, sprayed and scraped, and the other we had to score, spray and scrape. If, after trying the water you still can't get the paper off, we'd recommend renting a steamer before going with the harsh chemicals. Even after removing the paper, we tried using the remover gel on the bare walls to get the little bits of glue off again and still did nothing but make me break out and gum up the walls.

All in all this was a messy project which consumed the better part of our evenings for a week and all day Saturday. It was nasty, messy and I wouldn't wish it on anyone else. I hope to never hang wallpaper. Paint is way easier, easily changeable and better looking in my opinion.

Now I've just got to decide whether or not to try and use putty to get rid of the orange peel texture (taking the chance that the walls won't look perfectly flat) or leave the orange peel and go ahead and paint.


How to get 10% off at Lowes/Home Depot

If you want to get 10% off without employing your mad negotiating skills there are a couple ways. If you have military I.D. you can wait until memorial day weekend. Every year for as long as I can remember Lowes has offered 10% off to those with military I.D. on purchases less than $5,000 dollars. Last year I bought all of my plants and gardening supplies. This year I plan on getting a few last things for the house, but I couldn't hold off purchasing everything. So I went in search of another way to get 10% off. If you go to the Lowes website you can get a coupon for 10% mailed to you simply by filling out a form at http://lowesmoving.com/. I filled mine out and got my coupon 2 days later. Best of all, if you print out two copies you can use one at Home Depot as well because they honor their competitors coupons.


New Appliances!

Friday came and the new appliances arrived. It was a bit of a juggle getting the Lowes people and the Freecycle people there at the same time, but in the end it worked out great. The Lowes people even hauled the old appliances out and put them in the Freecycle people's truck with their nice dolly so labor was saved all around. The new fridge is HUGE compared to the old one and oh so shiny. Now I just need to police the fingerprints on the new stainless front! The new range is a big improvement as well. No more cooking turkey for an extra 2 hours on Thanksgiving (we hope). And it has a convection option so we just press a button and knock a few minutes off the bake times for our baked goods, handy. The new appliances are making the rest of the kitchen look like a clash between country meets modern so we'll continue to make changes. Next up, removing the wallpaper and brick backsplash to replace with paint and beautiful tile.

Kitchen (Before)

Thursday afternoon I took pictures of our current kitchen. It's not bad with fairly new cabinets and lots of space. It's not quite the right size to use our existing kitchen table so it's not currently set up as an eat-in kitchen. Rather we have a small cafe table which we use as a breakfast space/mail collection point next to our huge china cabinet. The style is a little less modern than I like, with a country vibe which we hope to change. The brick backsplash is quite ugly and the lenolium isn't the best, but its not too bad, especially when compared to some of our olive and orange apartment kitchens. The light fixture over the dining area definitely fell into the ugly category. Before I got around to taking our before pictures we had already replaced its matching brother fixture over the cooking area with this much more modern track lighting.

So, without further ado, here are our "Before" photos: