Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Exciting World of...Cat Litter?

I loved my cat.  I hated my cat litter.  The dusty, smelly, half-clumping, chemical-laden grey "clay" that got in my old cat Tigger's nose, all over his paws, and tracked through the house.  A couple years ago, I started searching for a solution when my husband refused to let us buy an automatic scooping cat litter box.  I had to admit that they were expensive and didn't really solve most of the issues we had with the litter.

I found the Smart Cat Box.  It's a litter box with a grid to hold the litter in and let the urine flow straight through to a reservoir that you empty daily.  You never touch the urine!  It's also great for diabetic cats so you can test their blood sugar levels in their urine instead of multiple visits to the vet.  The solids stay in the litter and scoop out easily.  But wait, what kind of clay litter makes this possible?  Answer:  not a clay litter!  You use safflower seeds (not to be confused with sunflower).  Safflower seeds have a hard shell and aren't absorbent.  When scooping solids, a few seeds may stick to them.  You can find them sold anywhere; try Walmart or local Feed n' Seed stores.  They're so much cheaper than traditional litter and they last 2-3 months!  There's some basic maintenance, like rinsing the seeds off to keep them fresher for longer (as an alternative, you can spray them periodically with Clorox Anywhere spray)...but just think of it!  No more dust!  No more tracking!

You can tell I'm excited, but I wasn't excited about the price.  Just the starter kit was $46.95 and that's not even including shipping.  After reading this post about diy-ing a safflower seed litter box, I was convinced I could do something similar.  I already had this litter box (the Boots & Barkley Enclosed Cat Litter Pan) that we liked well enough because it kept the worst of the litter and smell inside.  I searched at Walmart and Target for either two large flat storage containers to use or one container to stack underneath my current litter box.  I was fairly unsuccessful.  I'm used to large cats but the storage containers seemed too big and finding a container to fit under my current litter box was impossible.  Well, impossible until I bought the exact same one.  It was about $13 at Target but for me the price was worth it.  I knew it would fit and I wouldn't have to mess around with two overly-large storage containers.

The two litter boxes, being identical, stacked a little too well.  As in, there would be no space left for urine to go.  I took a jigsaw and cut out the rim from the top of the old litter box and used the clips (you can barely see one in the link) to attach it to the bottom of the old litter box.  This created a lip for the new litter box to sit on top of.  There's about an inch, maybe an inch and a half of room at the bottom.  I used a 1/8" drill bit to create a grid of holes in the bottom of the new litter box.  I also cut out a section from the lip on the bottom (the reservoir) as a spout for pouring out the urine.  The end result is a little tall, but not as tall as too large storage containers would be.  I'll see how the new kitten handles it before diy-ing a little kitty stepstool, lol.

I actually had fun winging it with this project and I'm pretty darn satisfied with myself for mostly working with what I had and not ordering one online.

Cost Breakdown:
Old litter box:  $0 (already owned, but $13 new)
New litter box: $13
7lb bag of safflower seeds: $9 at Walmart

Total:  $22...less than HALF of the Smart Cat Box!

I will update with how well it works when we bring our new kitten home to test it out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shiny, happy, kitchen

Sorry for the long gap between posts, but there's a lot going on now so stay tuned! Well, there was a long going on before, but it was mostly baby-related and not so much craft/DIY/renovation-related. :)

So what happened to the Silhouette? Well I still love it, but in the abstract sense. I still haven't taken my new toy out for a test drive. It seemed like there were umpteen tutorials and frankly, I don't have that kind of time or patience. I'll probably end up just pointing, clicking, and cutting to get my feet wet and then read the tutorials, lol!

I generally don't like to juggle projects, but it's become necessary. While my husband works on the downstairs half-bath, there's nothing I can do...assuming there was even enough room in there for both of us, which there isn't. He just finished laying the tile floor yesterday and will be grouting this week. In the meantime, I've been pinning nonstop and wondering how to cheaply renovate the kitchen before it drives us both crazy. We have a 1987 two storey Colonial (yes I know it's "story" in the US but I grew up in England and it just doesn't look right). I don't think anyone has made any improvements to the house ever! Okay, except for the addition of a sunroom off the den, which is a lovely place to look at the water behind the house. The rest of the house is basically builder's grade, still painted that nondescript off-white, and the kitchen is showing its age. Blah brown cabinets with terribly tarnished brass pulls that the previous homeowner left spotted with grease...ewww. Plain beige Formica put on a couple sections of the wall as a backsplash and faux butcher's block laminate countertops.

But what could we do about it? A new kitchen with cabinets, floors, countertops, etc was completely out of our budget. And in case you're wondering, our budget is "Spend as little as possible." So as my husband Remi and I wandered around Lowe's/Home Depot a few weeks ago, I noticed something new: Rustoleum's Cabinet and Countertop Transformation Kits. (Note: I am not paid or sponsored by anyone, I just blog about what I use and whether it works.) I spent some time doing research on the internet to see if it worked as well as it claimed. Apartment Therapy was especially helpful, as they had the opportunity to try out the products. I was convinced and my husband was too! I told him that even if this didn't work, it couldn't possibly leave our cabinets looking worse than they do now! Lol, I guess the only direction we can go is up!

After a week or so of debating over the many cabinet colors, we narrowed the many choices down to Harvest (glazed), Paprika (glazed) or Rustic (glazed).
We eliminated Rustic as being too close to our current cabinet color and I used Rustoleum's Virtual Tool to get a better idea of the other two. Paprika won by a landslide, Harvest just didn't look the way we thought it would in the Virtual Tool.

In preparation for the big cabinet makeover, I took off all the cabinet and drawer pulls...the brassy, tarnished, greasy things that I've tried (and failed) to get properly clean in the whole year we've lived here. I don't know if you can really see how yucky they look in this before pic:

I was seriously considering putting them in an acid bath of CLR (Calcium-Lime-Rust, a type of caustic cleaner). Unfortunately, the back of the label said not to use on brass. I'd read about someone else online who dipped their brass in CLR and it came out reddish colored. I didn't particularly care about the color since I plan to spray paint them anyway, but I steered clear of the CLR just to be on the safe side.

I tried brushing on baking soda and then pouring on vinegar. No dice.

Boiling water. Nada.

The employee at Lowe's had suggested Brasso but I thought it'd be too much work. I've used Brasso before on a big urn and the amount of cleaner and elbow grease it took made the idea of doing 20 detailed cabinet pulls by hand seem pretty daunting. So I fished around under the sink for a new plan and found an oldie but goodie...Comet. Not wanting to play around with the kitchen sink again (the drain stopper can be a bit wonky), I used a clean disposable aluminum casserole dish. I put all the cabinet pulls in it, dumped a generous amount of Comet on top, and filled the whole thing with boiling water. I intended to only wait 15 minutes (per the label), but a fussy baby meant that I didn't get back to it for 3o minutes, maybe a little more.

The pulls came out covered in green Comet-y slime and I rinsed the first one off to see how it looked. I wasn't too impressed, but I tried scrubbing the next one before rinsing off the Comet-slime. Success!

Some look better than others and there are a couple where the brass completely eroded away (oops) but the difference was me at least.

My husband wasn't too sure about the whole "noticeable difference" bit. Apparently ugly cabinet pulls aren't on a man's radar. Not to be deterred, I pressed on with the spray paint. The weather is perfect today for spray-painting and I wanted to get it done before the temps hit the 90's. Remi showed me a neat trick for mounting the pulls on some cardboard before painting, which worked out really well.

And voila! Satin nickel cabinet pulls...aren't they great?

I love that we were able to work with what we had. Tomorrow I'll attempt another deep-clean of the greasy cabinet faces so I can start the transformation!

Update: After comparing the color of the "new" pulls to other finishes in the house (stainless steel, brushed nickel, etc), it seems that the pulls are actually silver colored. They're unmistakably silver when held next to the dishwasher. I'm still pretty happy with them, as they look much better than before. I must admit though that I'm kinda disappointed that the special "satin nickel" spray paint (also by Rustoleum) is just silver. Now I'm wondering if their stainless steel appliance paint that we bought to redo our white fridge is going to measure up.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Cut Above The Rest

I love my birthday. It's close enough to Christmas that I always know what to ask for and just far enough away from Christmas that people never combine the two into one gift. Unfortunately, that also means that if I see anything that I like in say, March or April, I have to wait the rest of the year to get it. Thank goodness for Amazon's wishlist feature! And sure, I'm an adult and maybe in some families adults don't do birthdays but in my family, they're a big deal.

So how perfect was it when my best friend Buns sent me this link?

It's the Silhouette SD, a digital craft cutting machine. The crazy thing is that I've been wanting a Cricut ever since seeing their infomercial over a year ago! The only reason I didn't get one is because I didn't like the idea of having to buy multiple cartridges to cut out what I wanted. Well this beauty changes all of that! It can work alone, but by connecting to your computer the Silhouette SD can cut out anything you can think of!

Never mind that my birthday isn't until later this month, I already ordered it and it should be here Friday! Barring any more Snowpocalipses or Snowmaggedons, that's hoping the early spring Phil promised gets here soon!