03 April 2009

Reader question: Can I paint tumbled marble?

Help! Is it possible to paint on tumbled marbled tiles with permanent pigment inks and seal it with a sealant? Can this then be used for a kitchen backsplash?  If yes, then what brand of permanent pigment inks are best to use and which sealant to use?

Hmmmmm. You aren't indicating to me whether or not these tumbled marble tiles are already on a wall or if they're in a box waiting to be placed on a wall. In either case, my advice remains the same. Sure you can paint tumbled marble tile, but just because you can doesn't mean you should. So stop right now and don't do it. Make some coasters out of that tile because that's about all it's good for.

Let me disclaim something here. I hate tumbled marble. I think it looks cheesy and cheap. There, I said it. Tumbled marble is made from marble and travertine that's not of sufficient quality to be used without the tumbled finish. In other words, it's made from the reject pile. It would be one thing if it were sold as a cheap material made from rejects, but it's not. People think of it as being some kind of classy addition to their homes but it's anything but. It's a spongy, soft material that sucks up whatever liquid gets near it. That's why it makes a good coaster but a really lousy back splash.

It's sort of like giving someone a fur coat only to admit later that it's a rabbit fur coat. It's a cheap imitation of luxury and it looks bad at the same time. Ugh. See these photos littering this post today? This is what bad kitchen renovations look like and what do all of them have in common? Cheesy, cheap tumbled marble, that's what. There are no shortcuts to character. Putting a rough finish on formerly rejected stone tile doesn't make it look interesting, it makes it look cheap.

So my advice to you is don't do it. Don't paint it, don't stain it and don't use it. If it's already on the wall, chip it off and start over. If you're itching to do something with your back splash and you don't have a whole lot of money to spend I can understand that. Frankly at this stage of the game I can relate to it too. 

A better idea if you're looking to tile a back splash is to just get plain, white 6" x 3" ceramic tiles and set them in a subway pattern. You can find those tiles for a quarter apiece if you're clever and setting tile is really easy. Install a white tile back splash and use white grout with it. It's a classic pattern and it's been around for more than 150 years. Don't get cute with it and it will look great forever. And by cute I mean by cutting in inserts and listellos. Just keep it basic and make your kitchen interesting with accessories, but just a few of them. Contrast the ceramic tile photo above with the festival 'o cheese above it. You know, the one with the red toaster. That kind of stuff makes my eyes bleed. Is that what you want? I hope not. Tumbled marble always ends up looking like that --cheesy. Don't do it. 

02 April 2009

Tempest fugit

That's time flies in Latin just in case you were out that day. Time has certainly flown by in the life of the Great Dream Kitchen Contest of 2009 and sadly, it's coming to an end. Yes, that's right. It's crunch time. All entries have to be in to me by the stroke of midnight tonight (Eastern Standard Time). Send anything you have pulled together to p.anater@gmail.com and I'll take it from there.

I'll be pouring over all of the entries tomorrow and painful though it will be, there can only be one one winner. I will announce that winner tomorrow at five. Good luck!

Easter's around the corner

Egads, it just hit me that Easter's next weekend. Not to fear though, check this out. I was reading the great blog Annechovie yesterday and she had a hot lead on some chocolate bunnies that has sent my mind reeling. Imagine a chocolate rabbit attuned to an adult's tastes rather than the wax-laden dreck meant for kids. Imagine an Easter candy that won't put someone over the age of 30 into a diabetic coma. Imagine a chocolately confection that's meant to be savored. Well, you can stop imagining because Vosges Haut-Chocolat has done that for you, and just in time for next weekend.

This is the Barcelona Bunny

This is a deep milk chocolate bunny, deep milk because it's milk chocolate punctuated with a touch of dark chocolate to deepen its flavor. Inside is a blend of hickory-smoked almonds and grey sea salt. Salt and chocolate belong together as anyone who's ever had a chocolate-covered pretzel can attest.

This is the Red Fire Bunny

This dark chocolate bunny is a custom blend of dark chocolate blended just so with just the right amount of warming spice—Mexican ancho & chipotle chili peppers and Ceylon cinnamon. Peppery heat and chocolate is another winning combination. The Maya would have approved. 

This is the Gianduja Bunny

Gianduja (gianduia in Italian) is a Northern Italian blend of milk chocolate and hazelnut paste, think of a less mass-produced Nutella. Vosges Haut-Chocolat makes their own gianduia and then spikes the centers of the Gianduja Bunny with bits of almond and caramelized hazelnuts. Simple, elegant and Italian --three words that belong together forever and always.

This is the Amalfi Bunny

This white chocolate bunny has had me swooning since yesterday and I don't even like white chocolate. Under usual circumstances that is. But the name of this one alone calls to me. I'm a pushover for anything that invokes the Amalfi Coast and this white rabbit does that in spades. Vosges Haut-Chocolat takes their own white chocolate and then wraps it around an interior of lemon zest and pink peppercorn laden white chocolate. Oh man, it's the spring-like sting of Limoncello with the floral heat of a pink peppercorn. The very thought of it makes me want to shout in Neapolitan.

Amazing stuff and hats off to Vosges Haut-Chocolat and Annechovie for pointing them out to me.

How to clean a new sink

I get asked about how to clean new sinks all the time and here are some pointers from our friends at Kohler.

For stainless steel
  • Clean stainless steel at least once a week.
  • Always apply stainless steel cleaner/polish with a nonabrasive cloth or sponge, working with, not across, the grain.
  • Do not use steel wool, wire brushes or abrasive sponge pads.
  • Cleaners containing chloride are not recommended. If used, rinse the surface immediately to prevent corrosion.
  • Most stainless steel products will scratch from everyday use. However, these scratches will blend over time to create a unique finish.
For vitreous china and fireclay
  • Rinse thoroughly and use a soft cloth to wipe the product dry after each use.
  • Soft abrasive cleaners may be used when necessary to clean KOHLER® vitreous china products. Strong abrasive cleaners will scratch and dull the surface.
For cast iron
  • Rinse thoroughly and use a soft cloth to wipe the product dry after each use.
  • In the rare occurrence of stubborn stains, use abrasive cleaners sparingly.
  • Do not use steel wool, wire brushes or abrasive sponge pads.
  • Be careful not to leave dirty dishes, coffee grounds, tea bags or other staining materials in contact with the enamel surface for extended periods of time.
  • Consider kitchen sink accessories such as bottom basin racks and rinse baskets to help protect the surface from scratches.
Good pointers, and I'll add that all you need to clean sinks or any plumbing fixture for that matter, is soap and water. No job's too dirty for Fels Naptha and that my friends, is how I roll.

01 April 2009

April Food Day: Bloggers Fighting Hunger

In December, 2008 the number of Food Stamp participants in the US numbered 31,784,453, the largest number on record. It's also the latest figure available, it that count of nearly 32 million was an increase of over 700,000 from the previous month. That's an enormous number of people.

Food stamps don't come close to feeding someone with anything resembling a balanced diet and food stamp recipients have to make some odd food choices. Check out this video from CNN. A reporter, Sean Callebs, lived on a food stamp budget for a month and in this video he talks about his experience.

Embedded video from CNN Video

Food stamp recipients, and needy people who can't get food stamps, depend on the nation's food banks in ways no one could have imagined a year ago. But the good news is that a dollar in the hands of Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) can turn into 10 pounds of food for the needy. The need's not unique to the US either. My Canadian readers can participate in April Food Day with a donation to Food Banks Canada. If you'd like to participate in April Food Day, all we're asking is that you donate a buck. That's it. A dollar in the hands of a food bank can turn into seven meals. If you're motivated to give more, know this: $25 will make 75 meals for your needy countrymen. It's not magic but it feels good to make a tangible difference.

You'll see this logo scattered around the Internet as a bunch of us are posting on the same topic today. Whether it's here or somewhere else or on your own in your own time, think about making a donation to the nation's hungry.

Many thanks to Meg Fairfax Fielding from Pigtown Design and Chris Cox from Easy and Elegant Life for putting all this together.

Now remember those links. It's Feeding America in the US, and Food Banks Canada for Canada, obviously. If you'd like to make a donation from or for somewhere else in the world, here's the link to Feed the Children.