A Kitchen Revolt - Recycled Appliances To The Rescue

My kitchen was out of sink. A while back, I was convinced my appliances had gathered around the triangle conjuring up ways to drive my family crazy. The collapse of the appliances ran the gamut from deranged to deceased...all in one agonizing week.

Here are the sorted story highlights and how it led me on a path to find a sustainable option for a major appliance purchase.

The Kitchen Conspiracy

The nozzle on the faucet sprayed me down every time it was time to clean the pots and pans, depositing water and grease all over. The refrigerator was particularly frisky and wouldn't shut, leaking precious energy and melting down the freezer in its wake. There were two broken wine glasses in the dishwasher, making emptying a treacherous landmine.

You get the drift, my appliances were as unruly as inanimate objects can get...all but the gas stove, that just up and died at the ripe age of 22.

The Lifespan Of Kitchen Appliances

How long should a kitchen appliance last?

"The life expectancy of a typical appliance depends to a great extent on the use it receives. Moreover, appliances are often replaced long before they are worn out because changes in styling, technology and consumer preferences make newer products more desirable. Of the major appliances in a home, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy: 15 years. Dryers and refrigerators last about 13 years. Some of the appliances with the shortest lifespan are: compactors (6 years), dishwashers (9 years) and microwave ovens (9 years)." ~ Do It Yourself

The Attempted Fixes

The fridge, faucet and dishwasher had their requisite repairs. But, the stove was truly deceased. After cooking on my woodstove for about a minute, I realized we were faced with a major, major appliance purchase. I had been coveting a professional gas stove for a long time. Have you seen the price tags of one of those beauties? Astronomical. So, I searched EBAY and Craigslist for a gently used professional stove and got nowhere - shipping costs would have been prohibitive anyway. I had read about an organization called Green Demolitions. I knew they sold used salvaged kitchens and baths, and I knew they were connected to a charity. But I had no idea they would save my kitchen from imminent demise.

Green Demolitions To The Rescue

Green Demolitions Recycling Luxury for Recovery is a non-profit organization that provides recycled luxury kitchens and baths at 50%-70% off new retail prices. The appliances and fixtures are donated from estates that are demolished or renovated.

To sweeten the pot, the proceeds of the sale go directly to their "entrepreneurial charitable enterprise" which supports outreach programs for AAA (All Addicts Anonymous). The obvious benefit for the buyer is clear; recycled quality appliances for a fraction of the cost. Green Demolitions connects people who want to give, with people who need something, for people in need. The donor gets a tax savings, reduced labor and/or disposal, while the reduction of landfill waste from all those otherwise tossed appliances is a win for the environment.

The knowledge that a charitable contribution goes to self-sustaining funds for a highly effective addiction recovery program was the icing on the cake for me.

Back to the battlefield of my kitchen...

A New Old Stove

From my new hero, Green Demolitions, we purchased a shiny, 2 year old 30" professional stove that looks just like this. We got it for a song (much less than a lesser new model). It is the focal point of my kitchen, and the object of my foodie family's affection. And now, thanks to Green Demolitions, the rest of the revolutionaries in the kitchen triangle are on high alert.


Old King Coal Is A Dirty Old Soul

Coal is filthy. It pollutes our air, generic water and land. If we shut down, abandon or upgrade the most destructive mercury-spewing coal plants, will Dirty Coal CEO’s and their Chicken Little political lobbyists come out in flocks screaming?

“The sky is falling!!“

Sure. They already have.

But as writer, David Roberts from Grist points out:

“It’s helpful to have some historical perspective. Dirty utilities have forecast economic doom and blackouts every time the EPA has ever issued an air or water regulation. Every time! And every single time, they’ve been wrong. As EPA chief Lisa Jackson is fond of pointing out, in its 40-year history, the Clean Air Act has never yet caused an electric reliability problem…The fact is, defenders of clean air have analysis and history on their side…We can stop poisoning people with ancient, filthy coal plants without shivering in the dark.”

Why is it so important at this very moment to talk rationally about coal in a non-partisan, pro-save our children from mercury poisoning kind of way?

Because the new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards are due to be posted at the end of this week. Mercury is a terrible neurotoxin. Fetuses, infants, toddlers and even our pets are especially vulnerable to mercury poisoning, which harms hearts, lungs, and brains. The rule to eliminate this poison has been in the making for 21 years.

You say, “OK, Mother Goose, if Moms are so smart how will I power my world?

Invest in real clean and endless energy—renewable energy. It’s clean, it’s local and it’s inexhaustible. Think this an impossible task to do in our children’s lifetime? It’s not. This infographic from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows us how to light the way with solar, wind and other renewables. Meantime, let’s clean up the coal we are using–and make sure natural gas doesn’t turn into another big polluter.

So, will the sky fall with the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards?

No. Now is the time to send Old King Coal and his no-soul political cronies packing.

Please join me in telling President Obama that you support the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Let’s put that merry but cynical Old King Coal where he belongs…up on the wall with Humpty Dumpty.

Illustration: Steve Morrison

This post was cross-posted on Moms Clean Air Force.

The US Open of Renovation

For the gazillionth time, we’re renovating. It’s like a sport for us…one that’s yet to be fully mastered.

This time the kitchen is ripped apart. The windows over the sink rotted. Mosquitoes have begun to congregate around gaping peepholes eyeing their prey -- us. I'm sure I know what they're buzzing about -- my dated cabinets and countertops.

The living room has been in a constant state of redo. Currently, it is striped with paint samples just waiting for Ben Moore to prance in on his off-white horse with his eco-supreme Aura. He’ll just point his magic fan-thingy at the not-too-white wall colors and pick one that won’t send us into a toxic stupor.

Why can't I decide which color? I'm too busy swooning over the luscious names on the cute sample cans of color goodness - Baby Fawn, White Dove, Sea Pearl, Lambskin, French Canvas, Nirvana...Sigh.

This is not the first time I’ve pondered the power of paint, but this is the first time I'm stymied by all the choices. I may decide which paint color solely because I'm feeling the name. Hands down, it will be Nirvana.

We’ve renovated this house so many times its already won trophies for skinless facelifts. But, the wins have been few and far between since all renovations were put on hold when the kids went to college. How could we pay tuitions and feed a revamping addiction? When the kids packed their bags - lock stock and skateboard, I seriously considered moving. Maybe I secretly wanted to adopt a clean slate to take the place of the kids?

I got another dog instead.

Anyway, that's old news, and moving was not an option. We are invested in our not too big house in the woods. Not just in the money-pit kind of way, but in a way that says we’re going to get this house whipped into shape if it’s the last thing we do.

With the kids out of college, renovation bets are off. We’ve kicked into high gear again - our sights fixed on the prize. Only this time we have no choice – the kitchen windows are falling off the house.

3 discoveries about the latest renovation…

1. I used to love combing the books and shelter mags discovering the perfect mix of style and sustainability.

2. He used to love strapping on his toolbelt to slay home improvement projects that most of my friends thought only super contractors could do.

3. We’re tired.

He tells me these projects are killing his back. I can tell, he still loves the challenge, but he’s thinking maybe some young stud could come in and bang away at the mess. It might even save on prolotherapy bills (look it up, it seems to work for him). I don’t feel like spending the time it takes to find exactly what it is I want. Yet, I won’t be happy with anything less.

I’m pining for that decorator who told me my house had "good bones" (yes, that's me and interior designer, Jayne Christie - thank you, Danny).

Since we’re still paying many of those college loans off, the decorator idea is a pipe dream. So, I’ve unearthed the ‘ol tried and true renovation books in hopes that one will tell me that it is ok to just expand and replace the kitchen windows and close my eyes to all the other sagging and dated details crying out for attention.

Did I mention the cabinets are in pretty bad shape and the countertops are ugly?

We could replace the 30-yr old kitchen cabinets with slick glass doors, or totally ditch the cabinets - a look I absolutely love, but where’s the stuff stashed? Oh, one book says the cabinets can be painted. Hmm, then I could spend the savings on the countertops.

Tell me…has anyone ever painted solid wood cabinets and made them actually look good?

When we bought this house 26 years ago, we loved the kitchen. But, I seem to remember we solemnly pledged on our infant daughter to dump the counters as soon as we had enough dough. We soon found the kitchen was functional, and…really, at the time, the most important items in the kitchen were child-safety locks that didn’t pinch fingers.

A lifetime later, the kitchen hosts a professional stove, a slick bottom freezer/fridge, a slew of restaurant quality pots and pans (he would go for nothing less), and enough wine and wine glasses to inebriate a village.

The countertops?

Life got in the way. The counters got put on the back burner. And now that the windows are in disintegration-mode, the counters are rearing their ugly heads.

Last month, at the US Open of Renovation, I swear I read a ruling stating:

“New cabinets and counters can be grandfathered in with new windows – especially if you have important company coming over soon.”

No, Serena, he says. You can not make up rules. The rulebook clearly says:

“Do not spend beyond our means.”

Oh, pleeeze. This is not a spectator sport.

I’m changing that rule.

Credits: dog - Jen Kiaba, cartoon - Danny Shanahan

Sliding Commute

I’ve mentioned before my husband Ted is a planner. Urban planners are constantly searching for ways to improve transportation in and out of cities. Ted emailed me this video (yes, cure we work in the same house and still email each other) of a slide installed next to a stairway at a railway station in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The slide is called a “transfer accelerator”. It offers commuters in a hurry an expedited trip to the tracks.

I love how designers and planners created such a playful idea to lighten up the drudgery of commuting by train.

Check out the slide in action:

Source: Planetizne

Backyard Bear

YES, that is a bear in my backyard.

YES, YES, that is a bear in front of the studio/office.

YES, YES, YES, that is a bear eyeing the one remaining birdfeeder we left up.

YES, YES, YES, YES, that is a bear hugging a tree because my dogs caught the vibe and were barking like crazy.

I could not bring myself to write about this right away, as it scared the living daylights out of me. All four of us, and my son’s girlfriend were home when the visitor appeared in my backyard. They were totally smitten by the uninvited guest. I freaked.

My husband and daughter sprang into paparazzi mode, and my son eventually ran out (which made me totally nuts) and scared it away.

I showed these photographs to a few friends. From their gaping expressions, they will probably never visit my home again. In fact, I showed the images to my friend's Janet and Danny, and when Janet visited this week, I could tell that her bear antennae was working overtime as she tip-toed (in her high heels) out of her car. Her husband, New Yorker cartoonist, Danny Shanahan then published this cartoon:

Check out the whole bizarre bear story here and find out what to do if you have a bear in your backyard.

Have you had any experiences with bears in your yard? If so, please tell me before I visit.

Photo Credit: Ted Fink Cartoon: Danny Shanahan for the New Yorker