Oil Spill Raises Public Health Concerns


The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is now in its second month. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon experienced an explosion that not only killed 11 crew members, but sent the drilling rig 5,000 feet underwater, breaking pipes and causing the worst oil disaster in history. To date, the broken pipes are still leaking thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf with no guaranteed solution, no one to blame and no end in sight. Meanwhile, oil is washing ashore in Louisiana while Alabama, Florida and Mississippi await the inevitable. Already hundreds of miles of shoreline and coastal waters have been closed for fishing, calling into question the economic livelihood of many locals, not to mention the environmental impact on the area’s wetlands and wildlife. But aside from the economic and environmental consequences, there are also public health concerns to consider.
A crude oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico not only affects the water in which it takes place and the shoreline it touches, but also the air surrounding it. Tiny particles are released from the oil on the surface and become airborne, causing increased toxicity in the atmosphere above the spill. In addition, clean-up efforts have included heavy reliance on dispersants: 800,000 gallons of chemicals have been sprayed on the spill, intended to dilute the oil in the water. The combination of these fumes makes the air more toxic. Every time the wind blows, the public is more at risk.

Exposure to oil fumes can cause such minor ailments as skin damage, headaches, dizziness, nausea and coughing. Those most at susceptible are the ones most exposed, such as volunteers attempting to clean up the spill and workers trying to contain it. Gulf coast locals are also in danger, especially those suffering from respiratory problems, the elderly and children who may experience abnormal growth, brain damage or even cancer. Other serious exposure risks include liver and kidney disease, lung damage, infertility and nerve damage. Crude oil contains multiple carcinogens and is therefore dangerous at any level of exposure though the effects can be slightly thwarted with the use of respirators and other protective gear.

BP is required by law to provide workers with the proper safety gear, including gloves, respirators and full body suits. However, the LA Times reported on May 26th, 36 days after the accident, clean-up crews were still not receiving proper protective gear. The same problem was reported after the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989, when workers reported severe headaches, dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing.

Controversy still exists as to whether or not workers should be required to wear respirators and if allegations that workers arriving to work wearing respirators have been turned away are true or false. Whatever the case, EPA air quality tests have shown that the toxic fumes in the air above Louisiana is detrimental to the public health, causing locals to clamor for more testing and full disclosure. As of Friday, five offshore rigs were shut down after workers fell ill and several other workers have been hospitalized.


5 Memorial Day Party Ideas

We all know that Memorial Day is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and family. The three day weekend allows us that extra time to alleviate the guilt we all feel when we don’t spend enough time with the people we love. There is no better way to gather all our loved ones together than throwing a fabulous party to renew the bonds of friendship. Here are some easy-to-plan party ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

BBQ – Classic. The barbeque is the perfect summer kick-off party. Everyone gathers in the backyard, at the park, beach or pool, has some cocktails and some delicious food prepared right on site. All you need is some raw hamburger or hot dog meat, coleslaw, chips and whatever beverages you see fit. Outdoor barbeques also offer the space and resources for various outdoor activities including sports, games and swimming. Whether you organize a hot dog eating contest or simply watch as a game of pick-up football or volleyball inevitably ensues, the outdoor barbeque is a guaranteed success. Just make sure someone in attendance knows how to light the grill without committing arson and check your local park or beach laws if you’re planning on serving alcohol.

Mexican/Margarita – Throwing a Mexican themed bash fits the summer to a tee. Set the mood with some traditional mariachi music and decorate with some sombreros and colorful ponchos. You can even get creative with your centerpieces. For instance, the rim of a sombrero can double as a tortilla chip dish. To keep things easy, you can order food from a local restaurant and have many culinary options for your guests with minimal effort or you can do a make-your-own taco, burrito or fajita station. Pour some margaritas in the blender and top off your party by having each guest take a crack at the traditional piñata. With some simple preparation, your Mexican themed party is sure to be a success.

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up – If you’re into dress up parties, this is a fun twist for those still young at heart.  Invite your guests to dress up in the traditional attire of whomever they wanted to be when they grew up. No doubt you’ll have plenty of cops, firefighters and doctors lining up at your door.  Serve typical childhood favorites like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and goldfish. Spike the punch or soda and play games like pin the tail on the donkey, duck duck goose, tag or even have a three-legged race.  Decorate with primary colors and lots of balloons. Memorial Day Weekend is an opportune time to allow the kid in all of us a chance to play.

Red Light/Green Light Bathing Suit Party – This adult party idea blends a costume party with a traditional summer party. Have your guests color code their bathing suits for your outdoor pool or beach party – red for couples, yellow for guests who are dating and green for those who are single. Serve up some traditional summer drinks and watch the mingling begin. Margaritas, mojitos, tequila sunrises and hard lemonade will definitely get everyone geared up for sunny days and tropical nights. Volleyball and swimming are ideal summer activities but you could even organize a game of red light/green light to keep in the theme of this party. Fire up the BBQ from some sizzling summer food or broil some fish and shrimp. This party is simple to put together but is a guaranteed blast for your bathing suit clad and color-coded guests.

College Party – We all remember the glory days of college and no self-respecting college student would pass up a glorious three day weekend without throwing a party. Turn your house or apartment into a college dorm room by decorating with anything from your alma mater, hang posters of your favorite musicians and try to resuscitate your old lava lamp. If you’re brave, you can serve some throwback cheap drinks: bottom shelf vodka, boxed wine and the cheapest beer you can find with the most volume or you could even get a keg. Serve some chips and dip or candy as appetizers and play some loud party music from the period and get everyone dancing. Your guests will love the chance to reminisce about “the good ole days” and escape the doldrums of the 9-5.

Whatever type of party you decide to throw or attend this Memorial Day weekend, make sure to stay safe. Remember that this holiday exists because of our brave servicemen and women who are put their lives on the line for our country. Take a moment to remember and honor them amid your celebrations. Have fun, be safe and happy Memorial Day.

Bamboo and Tikis Gets a Shout Out for Being Green!

bamboo-and-tikisOne of the things we love most is hearing about others spreading the word and joining the movement in “Going Green”.

dkmommyspot.com, created by Diane Kidman, features articles, info and news on everything from natural remedies, healthy cooking to Eco-friendly living.  Recently dkmommyspot.com highlighted the benefits of bamboo, why it’s Eco friendly, and reviewed bambooandtikis.com‘s bamboo rugs.  With over 400 responses, comments and great feedback on our products, we wanted to Thank Diane for being a part of the “Green Revolution” and giving us a shout out.

You can visit the website for the article, responses and more info.

How to Build an Indoor Bamboo Privacy Screen

Our office before the bamboo privacy screenOur office with the bamboo privacy screen
We wanted to create a smaller version of an outdoor bamboo fence that was suitable for use indoors. The goal was to produce something with a bit more finish that could cover up some unsightly wires in our front office lobby. We started with a roll of mahogany stained bamboo fencing. We chose the mahogany bamboo finish because it had a darker color that we felt complimented our interior better. Natural or black bamboo could have easily been used by choosing a different stain color for the wood framing. One interesting thing to note is the mahogany bamboo fencing is actually darker than the black bamboo fence rolls.

The first step was to determine the approximate finished dimensions of our bamboo divider. After some measurements we settled on a finished size of 39 by 90 inches. This would allow maximum screening for the back of the desk we were trying to conceal while still maintaining line of sight between people on either side of the divider.

Cutting the bamboo fencing down to sizeOnce we had our target dimensions we determined the sizes for all the materials we were going to use to complete this project. First was the rolled bamboo fencing. For our purposes the 1 inch by 4 by 8 foot bamboo roll was best. The one inch bamboo size refers to the average diameter of the bamboo canes. Bamboo is a naturally created product, so the canes vary slightly in diameter. The good thing about the way we built this bamboo screen is that we only had to account for the largest of the cane diameters. More on that in a bit.

With the rolled bamboo fencing selected we set about determining the best material to create a frame for our screen. For the two side posts we found some 2 x 2 inch pine. For the top and bottom we used two pieces of 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pine. Finally we needed four pieces of 1 5/8 x 1/2 inch pine for our upper and lower retainers. We bought each piece of wood about 10% bigger than we planned on using it just in case we made some calculation errors. We also picked up some 4d 1 1/2 inch and 16d 3 1/2 inch fasteners to hold it all together.

Cutting the bamboo fencing down to sizeWith our bamboo and framing materials selected, we set about cutting everything to size. First up was the bamboo fencing. We carefully bent out the two wires that held the roll together on one side. Then we removed individual canes of bamboo until we got the proper length of 84 inches. We had to reorder some of the individual canes to get the best fit.

We then needed to cut the fencing down to 38 inches tall. We marked our cut line using a 2 x 4 and a sharpie and then cut the bamboo using a skill saw with a 2 x 4 underneath to make room for the blade. Looking at the bamboo fencing carefully, it was apparent which side to cut from. On one side, the bamboo canes were cut right at a joint creating a nice closed end. On the other end some of the canes were open and some were closed. This is the end that we cut from. Next time around we are going to try a different blade because the Skill saw definitely left chipped edges on the bamboo. This was not a huge problem because we were able to cover the chipping using our retaining pieces of framing wood.

With the bamboo fencing cut to size, we turned our attention to the framing materials. First we cut the end pieces. This was easy they needed to be exactly the same height as the bamboo, 38 inches. Next we cut the four pieces of retaining wood. These needed to be long enough to go across our bamboo roll and the side posts which came out to be 88 1/4 inches. Once the pieces were cut to the proper length we used a chop saw to cut the ends at a 45 degree angle. This created a more finished look for our screen.

The final bit of framing was the top and bottom pieces. Our design called for the top and bottom pieces to extend an inch on each side making these a total of 90 inches. We also notched the corners at a 45 degree angle.
Bamboo screen materials laid out before assembly.

Bamboo Screen Laid OutWith all the pieces cut, we laid everything out to see if it would fit. It looked good so we were ready to stain our framing pieces. We wanted a dark, antiqued color for the frame of the wood. We really didn’t like any of the stain colors on their own so we mixed equal parts of Minwax #209 Natural and #2716 Dark Walnut. This gave us a color that was dark with golden highlights. Using our custom mixture we stained our wood using a one inch brush and an old rag.

Once all the framing pieces were dry we were ready for final assembly! Our first task was to create a bottom trough with side posts to put our bamboo in. First we attached our two end posts to the bottom of the screen frame using our 16d 3 1/2 inch nails. Then we started two rows of 1 1/2 fasteners by hammering them about half way into our bottom piece of wood. Then we lined up our bottom retaining piece and carefully drove the nails the rest of the way in. Then we used some more of the small nails to attach the retaining pieces to the end posts.

Stained Frame BambooBuilding the bottom trough for our inside bamboo screen

With the frame bottom built we turned our attention to the top. Repeating the same process we created our top trough with the top of the frame and the two top retaining pieces. Now we were left with three pieces, the bottom of our frame, the roll of bamboo and the top of our frame. First we put the bamboo into the bottom of the frame then we simply slid the top piece of the frame from one end of the screen to the other. With everything lined up, we attached the top of the frame to the end posts with our large nails and the top retaining pieces to the end posts with our small nails.

Sliding the top trough through to complete the bamboo screenCounter sinking our nails to finish the bambo privacy screen

After carefully checking to make sure the screen was constructed exactly the way we wanted, we countersunk each of the nails and applied wood putty to cover the holes. After a little touch up stain to cover the wood putty our bamboo privacy screen was ready to move into location into our office lobby. We could have opted to fasten the screen to the wall but instead we chose to attach it to the front of a desk using black hemp twine and some wood screws in the desk.

Next time we might try to use some liquid nails to attach the top and bottom frame pieces to the bamboo roll. It might give it a little more rigidity but honestly we did not have a problem as there is not going to be much of a load applied on the screen.

Click here for our selection of bamboo products.

15 Unique Outdoor Accessories to Liven up your Backyard

Unique furniture and accent pieces can liven up your backyard and make it feel like a fresh new space, without any expensive remodeling or drastic permanent changes. Choosing an extraordinary piece can help not only set the tone and create a visual focal point for your backyard, but also give your landscape a new face lift.  Here are 15 outdoor furnishings that exhibit both function and contemporary art.


Designed by the French company Bleu Nature, this eco-friendly outdoor shelter is made completely out of organic materials and uses no glues or environmentally harmful varnishes. The wood comes from natural French forest oak trees. Because there is no finish applied to the wood, it naturally reacts to the environment it’s in and weathers over time to acquire a unique color.


Basalt Slab Benches

These basalt slab benches are some of the most unique pieces of outdoor furniture available. Each bench is hand carved from the original slabs of basalt, which is a volcanic rock that takes over a million years to oxidize. The sides of the benches retain their original rough texture, while the top is polished to a mirrored perfection.


The Tree Swing

An intricately designed tree swing, such as this one found in the Fuori Salone website, can be the perfect way to add a touch of playfulness to your backyard. The elegant leaf design for the seat of this particular swing is perfect to complement a nature themed back yard, or bring a touch of nature to any modern décor.


The Hammock

If you want to give an air of tranquility to your backyard, consider adding a simple and inviting hammock, like this one from Unique Simplicities Inc. It gives people in the house a reason to go out to the yard in the springtime and soak in the warm sun while reading a good book or sipping a cool drink.


Outdoor Wicker Furniture

Nothing says “laid back” like outdoor wicker furniture. These pieces by Merane come with Subrella cushions that provide even more comfort and relaxation. The addition of wicker furniture to your backyard is a great way to add texture to your landscape while also giving it a breezy and lively look.



Traditional Japanese Stone Basin

Stone Forest produces a variety of Japanese stone basins like the ones below. They are beautifully crafted and the sound of water flowing against the hard stone, combined with the basins’ serene aesthetic can create a soothing backyard atmosphere.


Granite Fire Pit

Stone Foresthas a granite fire pit which is made completely out of natural stone and compliments any backyard with its medieval aesthetic. The combination of rough surface textures and a polish edge is what makes this granite fire pit eye catching and decoratively sound.


Modern Outdoor Chairs

The Disk Armchair, made by Karim Rashid, looks especially perfect when placed poolside, but with its stylish modern look and feel, it can liven and streamline the look of any backyard. The Disk Chair’s strong fiberglass material keeps its shape, and also makes it possible for the chair to be manufactured in a wide variety of vibrant colors.


Rustic Fireplace

This rustic, outdoor fireplace created by Sly Designers is a modernist accessory that can complement the backyard of a country log home or any contemporary styled house. The design creates the illusion of a tree trunk, but the portable fireplace is actually made out of steel. This piece is perfect for outdoor camping, or providing a central location for guests to gather around and relax.


Granite Fountain

This granite fountain from Stone Forest is a perfect touch to polish or add the finishing touch to the look of your backyard or garden. Like their fire pits, their granite fountains are made of natural stone, and they are carved from a single block of granite. Placed as the centerpiece of a backyard, this fountain design is impressively elegant.


Patio Lamps

A unique patio lamp can make a backyard feel cozy and stylish at night. With the right lighting, a backyard can make for the perfect place to host an evening cocktail party or any other kind of celebration. Well placed lighting can also aid in highlighting your landscapes best features.  Look for water resistant properties when selecting a lighting system and a design that fits your desired theme.


Suspended Fire Pit

A suspended fire pit provides a new variation on the traditional backyard fire pit. This design from Stone Forest combines natural stone with iron, to give the fire pit a very modern look and feel. To create the pit, the stone block was cleaved in half to provide a base from which the iron vessel could be suspended. This accessory works with both wood and gas.


Contemporary Stone Bench

Benches, especially ones with gaudy or baroque designs, can sometimes make a smaller backyard feel cluttered. A sleek, minimalistic stone bench can provide an elegant solution to visually adding space. Stone Forest’s benches are cut from large travertine slabs, and built in a unique minimalist style design.


Slate Planter

These slate stone planters, from Stone Forest, are not your standard backyard flower pots. Each one is carved by hand, ensuring a unique product every time. Depending on the composition of each stone block, they obtain various effects over time such as color variations, veining and other aesthetic irregularities that set these slate planters apart from any others you could find.


The Spring Free Trampoline

Like the swing, the trampoline can add an immediate air of playfulness and fun to any backyard space. This Safe Trampoline from Springfree uses patented special technologies to make it the safest possible trampoline on the market. The risk to jumpers is virtually none. Great if you have young kids, or are entertaining guests.


Check out http://www.trendir.com for additional outdoor furniture ideas and unique architectual designs.

11 Hottest Celebrity Pools

The backyard swimming pool began its rise in popularity after World War II. Prior to this, Ancient Romans and Greeks constructed grand scale artificial pools for athletic training. Since then, celebrities have gone to lavish lengths to build some of the most luxurious and stunning swimming pools around. Here are what we think are the 11 hottest celeb pools.

1. Sylvester Stallone

Adorned with a grand bronze statue of “Rocky Balboa” at one end, marks that there is only one person this pool could belong to. The Greek motif gives the actor’s stunning Miami pool a historical Olympian feel.


2. Lance Armstrong

The exquisite landscape and swimming pool are definitely the highlights of Lance Armstrong’s home in Austin. With its cozy fireplace, stone cabana and Gothic-style lanterns, the pool area has a charming and resort feel that is stylish and relaxed.


3. Cher

Designed by Cher’s longtime friend Ron Wilson, Cher’s Renaissance inspired residence in Malibu has a stunning, infinity-edge pool, that transcends into a vast ocean view. This is the sanctuary where the singer-actress says she spends all of her time in summer.


4. John Travolta and Kelly Preston

Actor John Travolta calls his house in Florida a “mid-century-style home”, and says that coming up with the design was one of the most challenging tasks he’s ever taken on. The pool and cabana have a sleek and modern feel streamlines seamlessly with the architecture of the house.


5. Rob Lowe

Actor Rob Lowe’s southern California home is pure eye candy. The pool is especially marvelous and sporty. The rest of the house is built towards a neo-classical-style that stems from Lowe’s love of late 18th-century English manors.


6. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher

Hollywood’s high profile couple worked together with designer Brad Dunning to come up with the stylish design of their Beverly Hills nest. The swimming pool has a very classical, functional, and sophisticated appeal, all to set alongside and compliment a spacious deck and garden.


7. Ryan Seacrest

The home of the dubbed “hardest working man in Hollywood” and also the host of American Idol, boasts a flourishing garden overlooking a spectacular view. The simplicity in the pool’s design emanates a sleek look; all while exuding a relaxing and Zen environment.


8. Ralph and Ricky Lauren

Legendary clothing designer, Ralph Lauren, has an eye for more than just fashion. He and his wife, Ricky chose a lush and green landscaping plan to encompass their immense pool to their home in Jamaica.


9. Jayne Mansfield

Late actress Jayne Mansfield demanded “a heart-shaped house with a heart-shaped pool” before she would agree to wed Mickey Hargitay. Not only did was her wish granted but she also has the prestige of owning one of the most unique celebrity swimming pools in Beverly Hills.


10. Diane Keaton

Actress Diane Keaton’s Spanish Colonial Revival house in Bel-Air has very unique swimming pool. She went with the concept to use the bright, earthy colors inspired by the colors of a few California tile tables at a swap meet. Diane then tore apart the tiles and assembled them in a mosaic fashion as her pool tiles.


11. Alan Ladd

Actor Alan Ladd’s home is the sheer definition of classic California during the 1940s. His pool’s simple and elegant design perfectly melds with the warm air of a lazy SoCal summer.