Friday, August 12, 2011

Eco-Friendly Non-Toxic Deck Stain: TimberSoy Review

When we first moved into our new house a few months ago, we weren't very happy with the deck.  It was weathered, gray, and dingy, and the wood was warped.  I would've preferred to just get rid of it and plant more grass!  

I could see that gray ugly thing out the window every time I did the dishes.  Not a pretty view!  So I decided to just buckle down and stain it.

But then I took a look at the Material Safety Data Sheet for several different exterior stains.  

Let me just tell you what I saw on the MSDS for Olympic Semi-Transparent Deck Stain (here):

"Materials such as cleaning rags, paper wipes and protective clothing, which are
contaminated with the product may spontaneously self-ignite."

"Contains material which may cause cancer..."

"Contains material which causes damage to the following organs: brain."

Okay HONESTLY?!  How stupid!  My husband and I looked at each other, and looked at the deck, and decided that it was better to leave it ugly than to risk working with a deck stain that can spontaneously combust, cause cancer and/or brain damage.

Doesn't it make you mad that companies make products that have all these horrible effects, and you can just walk right into Lowe's or Home Depot and pick up a can of it and unless you take the time to read the size 5 font on the back, you'd have no idea.  Why are companies allowed to market this stuff?  

Okay anyways getting off the bandwagon, I searched and searched online for non-toxic deck stain.  I was able to find a few, but I could find hardly any reviews.  Even though this isn't kitchen related, I wanted to post a review of the non-toxic deck stain I found so that hopefully others who are in the same boat can find this review and see how the stain looks on a real deck.

I decided to just pick one and go for it, figuring that anything would look better than that gray, weathered, warped wood.  I chose one called TimberSoy, which is made by a company called EcoProcote and can be purchased at

Here is a chart from EcoProcote's website:

Bio-Based Technology
Rapidly Renewable Resource
Ultra-Low VOC <25 g/l
Virtua:lly Odorless
Will Not Chip
Will Not Flake
Will Not Peel
100% Solids Pigment-Zero VOC
Does Not Alter Surface Friction
Natural Oils Replenish Wood
Beautiful Natural Colorization
Mildew Resistant
Water Resistant
UV Resistant
Stain Resistant
Smooth & Easy Application
Excellent Wood Protection
Extends Wood Life
Lap Mark Free Installation
Unlimited Applications
Custom Color Palette
Drastic Reduction in Install Time
True Penetrating Stain
Easily Repairable
Easy Soap & Water Cleanup


Plus, when I looked at TimberSoy's MSDS, the WORST thing I could find was that if you swallowed too much of it, it would cause "gastric distress."  :)  Well, that sure is a lot better than Olympic's worst-case scenarios.  In fact, it's probably no worse than the gastric distress that some of my failed cooking has caused my poor husband.

TimberSoy doesn't come in a huge range of colors, but who cares.  You can find a lovely little color chart here.  And, you can order 2-ounce samples for $2.75, which I highly recommend doing so that you can see how the colors actually look in real life.

I ordered 5 samples and tried them out on a spare piece of wood we had.  You can see in this picture how weathered the deck was compared to that newer piece of wood.  I couldn't find an inconspicuous-enough spot on the actual deck to try out the colors so I used that spare piece of wood even though it was a different color than our deck.

From left to right: Cedar, Cherry, Maple, Natural, Redwood.

We chose the Maple.  The Cedar wouldn've looked nice too, but the Natural didn't look dark enough to cover the gray.  The Cherry and the Redwood honestly looked kind of fake.  

Now, one gallon should be able to cover 400-600 square feet.  Our deck is only about 200 square feet so I figured that one gallon should be plenty.  I ordered a gallon of the stain, and a gallon of their Acri-Soy Sealer.

I sanded the deck by hand (what a pain!), which I don't think even made much difference.  I don't know if the previous owners had ever stained or treated the deck at all so thankfully I didn't have to do any stripping. 

When I applied the stain, the wood absolutely SOAKED it up because it was VERY porous.  I had to order another gallon!  And with the second gallon, I was able to finish the rest of the deck and even go over some of the boards that came out lighter the first time.  Except, when I got to the bottom of the can, the stain started getting darker and darker and the boards I was staining were looking much darker than the earlier boards I'd stained.  And then I realized that I had forgotten to follow the directions:

STINK!  The colored part of the stain had sunk down to the bottom, so the first 3/4 of the can had been so watery that it didn't really add a lot of color.  ARGH!  How did I not notice that at first?!  I could have just left it the way it was, but it was pretty noticeable that some boards were darker than others:

Do you see how the boards on the perimeter are lighter than the inside boards?  

I placed one more order: a quart and several samples sizes of the Maple.  Those were just enough to go over all of the lighter boards.  In the end, most of the boards got about three coats.  After I waited a few days for that to dry completely, I put on two coats of the Acri-Soy Sealer.  

I LOVE the result.  I LOVE that I didn't have to worry about negative health effects while working with the stain and the sealer, and every time we sit on the deck, I don't have to worry about inhaling toxic vapors.  There was slight smell to the stain, I won't lie, but it wasn't heavy and chemically and it did go away after a week or so.  

One gallon of the stain is $39.95, and one gallon of the sealer is $34.95.  The shipping was definitely not cheap.  Especially since I had to place three orders and pay that hefty shipping charge each time! (Not counting when I ordered the samples; they were very light so the shipping wasn't bad.)  However, it only took a couple of days to get my orders in each time.

So this project was a lot more expensive than I'd planned, because I made the mistake of not mixing the 2nd gallon, and because I didn't know how much stain the wood was going to soak up.  I do think that three coats of stain looks a lot nicer than just one coat would've, because the color is much darker and richer.  And it was more expensive than just picking up a gallon of Olympic at Lowe's.  But to us, it's worth it to avoid those possible negative health effects.

I highly recommend the TimberSoy wood stain!  Read the installation guide and the FAQs on the website if you plan to use it.  It's so nice to have been able to find a non-toxic, eco-friendly deck stain that won't kill us and that made our deck look amazingly better than it was to begin with.

One more time, the before and after, because I'm so proud of how it turned out!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wicked Good Blueberry Custard Crumble

Last summer about this time, my husband and I were in Maine for a trip together before he had to leave for almost half a year of training.

The drive to get there took forever, but as soon as we entered the state, we pulled over at a roadside stand for fresh blueberries and we ate them all week long.  

So the first bite I took of this dessert instantly made me think of Maine.

We went sailing, kayaking, hiking, was beautiful and the weather was perfect.  The towns were small and quaint, and the people used "wicked good" as an adjective for everything.  I highly recommend it for a summer trip!  (Especially since the hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are much cheaper than they will be in the fall.)

On to the dessert:

Wicked Good Blueberry Custard Crumble

Preheat oven to 400.

For the custard, mix together:
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sucanat (or sugar)
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Pour into a baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the topping:
6 tablespoons butter 
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons sucanat
4 dashes cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans 
(You can either melt the butter and then add the other ingredients, or just chop the butter into small pieces and then mix.)

After the custard has baked for 25 minutes, sprinkle on the topping and bake for 15 minutes more.

Adapted from here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Salmon Pesto Pasta

I don't think you can ever have enough pesto.  It is SO delicious.  And it makes EVERYTHING taste better, like turkey burgers and hamburgers and plain old pasta.  So, of course I was willing to try the Salmon Pesto Pasta recipe from Annie's Eats in the hopes that  it would make one of my arch-enemies, fish, taste better.  (Not only that, but my pesto recipe even makes another arch-enemy of mine, spinach, taste fantastic, too!)

It's pretty simple:

Step 1:  Make spinach basil pesto.  We usually always have some in the fridge already because we eat it probably once or twice a week!

Step 2:  Make some salmon.  You already know how good salmon is for you (omega-3s and all that).  Annie recommends broiling it for about 10 minutes after coating it with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  But maybe some of you like to put it on the grill or bake it.

Step 3:  Make some pasta. I used some bow-tie pasta because I thought it was cute, which would help the fish taste better.

Step 4:  Flake the salmon into little bits.  Stir in about 1/2 cup (or more!) of the pesto into the pasta as well as the salmon.  Top with shredded Parmesan cheese if you like! (p.s. Annie first heats up 5 ounces of evaporated milk, then adds the pasta, and then the salmon and pesto.  I don't think it's really necessary but you can try it that way if you want!)

You can see from my picture that I didn't make very much salmon, so if you love salmon, you'll probably want to include more than I did.  And if you're like me and you don't like fish but you're trying to eat more of it because it's healthy, then I would definitely try this dish because the pesto covers up a lot of the fishy-taste.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black and White Gallery Wall

I know this blog is called "Lady Kay's Kitchen," but since I can see this wall from the kitchen, I think this post is justified being here! ;)

Anyway, I have been wanting to put up some pictures since we moved into our house.  I used to just hang a few pictures up haphazardly on the wall wherever I felt like putting them, but then I started looking at house decorating blogs whenever we found out we'd be buying our own house.  I saw a lot of people putting up gallery walls.  The first time I saw them, I thought I would never want to make one because they all looked very cluttered!  Then, I starting seeing gallery walls with all black frames, or all white frames, which looked a little more unified.  I still wasn't sure about the whole gallery thing but then I saw this particular one on the blog Being Brook:

That's when I really, really, really wanted to make my own.  She had arranged her frames so carefully and everything looked very neat and organized with the black frames and the black-and-white photos.  And besides, we had a whole big blank wall right in our living room that we didn't know what to do with:

Do you see the wall just left of that art niche?  That is where I decided to put up a gallery of black and white photos.  We already happened to have a bunch of black frames, and I bought some more at Ross.  They have great prices on frames if you are willing to spend 5 years taking off the gummy residue left from the price stickers which are so thoughtfully stuck right on the glass.

I searched through all our pictures on the computer and made a folder of our favorites.  We already had a lot that were in black and white; any that were in color, I changed to b&w using (a free online photo editing program).

Here are some of my favorites:

We took this picture of the bridge over the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast, Maine.  How do you like that name for a river?  I guess we are immature but we shortened the name to Passagassa River and we laughed and laughed every time we walked over the bridge.  

This is from a botanical garden we went to on our honeymoon.  I love how we were able to capture the drops of water on the petals.

From the same garden.  This lamppost reminds me of Narnia.

These stepping stones are from the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.

Choosing the photos to put on the wall definitely took forever and a day!  I ordered the prints from, because they have great prices and fast shipping.

Next I laid out all the frames on the floor to figure out the arrangement, using the picture of the gallery wall I printed out from "Being Brook" as a guide.  

I took an idea from Young House Love and cut out pieces of paper the size of each frame.  I numbered each piece of paper and put a sticky note with the number on the corresponding frame.  Then, I taped all the pieces of paper on to the wall.  I measured to figure out where to put each nail and then nailed right through the paper.

Then, it was easy to just pull off the paper and hang the frame.  Here it is halfway finished:

And here it is, finished:

It took a lot of time and planning to make this gallery wall, but I think it's so worth it!  I just love how it turned out!  I was worried that having all black and white photos would end up too cold and stark, but it's not cold at all (rather elegant, actually), especially because we have a lot of other color in the room (such as blue couches).  It warms up the room a lot more than having a plain blank wall.
  What do you think?
  Do you have a gallery wall?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pesto Turkey Sliders

Are you ready for a brilliant dinner idea?
Pesto and feta-cheese turkey sliders!

These are so scrumptious, I can't even describe it.  Not to mention they are really little and CUTE which makes them even more addicting.  They are little tiny turkey-pesto-feta cheese burgers!  

First, I made Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns from Annie's Eats, except I made them smaller.  Other than that, I made no changes.
Ready for baking

Ready for a burger
You can definitely use store-bought sandwich rolls, but making these sliders with homemade buns made them exponentially delicious.

Next I followed this recipe from to make pesto turkey burgers, except I made the burgers tiny.

It's really easy:

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
2 tablespoons pesto
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Just mix all that up and form into small patties.  Cook on the grill about 5 minutes each side.

Split the honey-wheat-sandwich-buns in half and place each half face-down on the grill for a few moments, and then fill each one with a pesto-turkey-burger. 

These were so tasty that we didn't even need ketchup!  Of course, you can add toppings like onions, lettuce, or tomatoes... but I think they are perfect without anything added.  I have had turkey burgers before and I wasn't impressed, but adding the pesto and the feta cheese (and making them small and cute, of course) is what makes these phenomenal. 

This post is liked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesdays.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Bites

If you like LaraBars, you'll love these!  I picked up a LaraBar on that disastrous shopping trip and noticed that it only had 5 ingredients: dates, almonds, walnuts, unsweetened cocoa, and coconuts.  As I read the ingredient list and thought, Why am I spending $1-something on this one bar when it looks like I could easily make this at home? as well as What do dates look like and where would I find them in this store?, I glanced down and happened to notice a bulk bin labeled, "Dates."  

Then I faltered in my decision to make these homemade LaraBars, because those dates looked to me like cockroaches.  Anyhow I gulped and bought some, anyway.

When we got home, I googled "homemade LaraBars" and found this page: Fudge Babies.  I changed that recipe just a little bit by adding walnuts and rolling the "babies" in coconut as the final step.

-1 cup chopped walnuts and/or almonds (I used about 1/2 and 1/2)
-1 1/3 cup pitted dates
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
-Shredded coconut to taste

The most difficult step is taking the pits out of the dates.

After that, just put everything into a food processor and process away.

It may seem a little too dry, but it's actually just right for forming into balls and then rolling in coconut.

You really won't believe how delicious they are even without any sugar!

They are full of nutrition, too: omega-3 fatty acids in the walnuts, heart-disease-lowering power in the almonds, and antioxidants in the cocoa.

Tempting + healthy = perfect :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread

 Do you make a grocery list before you go shopping?  I always do.  But I got home from a week-long trip not long ago, and although I had left enough meals for my hubs for the time I was gone, of course there was no food left at the end of the week.  So we had to make a late-night grocery store run without a list. Ack!  When my husband goes shopping, he goes around the store, finds what he likes, and then buys a TON.  For example, 5 pounds of peanuts.  (?!)  And so many bananas that we couldn't possibly eat them all before half of them went bad.  You don't even want to know how much we (he) spent grocery shopping that night, yet, the next day I realized we had nothing for dinner!  Unless we wanted to eat several pounds of oatmeal, peanuts, or bananas. So of course I had to go grocery shopping again, this time with a list after I'd planned out our dinners.  Oh well.  

So anyways, you know what to do when you see a bunch of bad bananas on your counter, right?

That's right, make banana bread!  With nuts, of course. Because banana bread without nuts is lacking a lot of goodness.

I tried out TWO recipes (because we had a LOT of bad bananas...).  I added one cup of chopped walnuts to both.

The first one is from Carrie Vitt's blog, Deliciously Organic.  I just love her site.  Her photographs are amazing and her recipes are, too.  Plus, all her recipes use unprocessed ingredients.

Her banana bread recipes uses:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular wheat flour)
1 cup whole cane sugar or sucanat
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla exract

(Bake at 3:50 for 50-55 min.)

The second recipe is from 100 Days of Real Food.  I just found this blog recently; it's about  a family who made a pledge to eat only real food for 100 days, and it worked out so well that they have continued eating that way.

Their recipe calls for:

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 teapsoon vanilla
(Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes).

You can see that both recipes are very similar.  The main difference is that the first recipe uses 1 cup of sugar, while the second uses only 1/4 cup honey. 

The first recipe (with sugar) is on the left; the second (with honey) is on the right.
My husband and I taste-tested both loaves.  It did take a few bites and some thinking to figure out which one we liked better!

The second recipe, which uses just 1/4 cup of honey, relies on the sweetness of the banana.  It wasn't bad at all, in fact, it was quite acceptable and we definitely will enjoy eating it.  The first recipe, though, is more like a dessert bread, the kind you have to stop yourself from gobbling up!  The second recipe is more like just bread, not very sweet but definitely a yummy snack.

So if you are trying to make something that is more like a treat, I would use the first recipe.  If you are trying to cut down on sugar, I would use the second.

Here's what happens if you make both loaves and leave them out: