Archive for December, 2009

my upcycled, diy, homemade holidays

December 29, 2009

This season was busier than most in the crazy ‘prepare for the holidays’ crunch. We decided to invite 10 people over for Christmas dinner (that makes 12 total) – a feat we had yet to attempt in our modestly sized Brooklyn apartment.

We started in November. Using no-VOC paint by Mythic, we gave a fresh coat to the living areas (still have to work on the rest of the apartment!). The stuff worked great – went on super smoothly & didn’t stink much, unlike traditional toxic paint. Painted interior, check.

One of our dining chairs was getting kind of ratty and I didn’t think we had the time to send it out to be reupholstered so I decided to tackle the task myself. I consulted my pile of fabric to be repurposed and found a curtain that we ‘inherited.’ Now all I needed was a staple gun. Easy peasy. (Here are the instructions.)

Reupholstered chair, check.

Another thing getting a lot of wear and tear was the throw pillows on our couch. I know I can make one, so why buy? Throw pillow, check.

We wanted to create a warm & cozy mood for our holiday festivities. So I went out and got my favorite beeswax candles from Big Dipper Wax Works. (They’re available at Whole Foods or on Amazon, too.) I didn’t have any candle holders and I’d been wanting to try out my Ephrem’s bottle cutter so I grabbed some old kombucha bottles I’d been saving up to upcycle into drinking glasses, or in this case, candle holders. It’s so ridiculously easy to do. Here are some rough instructions (the kit has more detailed info).

1. First, clean the bottles of all labels (this may require soaking in hot, sudsy water).

2. Next, lay the bottle on the wheels of the cutter and, holding firmly, turn the bottle towards you until you’ve met the beginning of the etch.

3. Then, hold the etched part of the bottle over a flame, turning slowly at first and speeding up. There should be soot building up on the spot.

4. Get it good and hot and then dip it in a bucket of cold water. The top of the bottle magically pops off, et voila! You’ve got a new product! (Actually two new products – the top can be used to make a lantern or turned upside down with the cap on to create a little dessert bowl or cup.

5. To finish the rough edged, get yourself some wet/dry sand paper, wet it down and smooth around the cut edge.

Candle holders, check.

I’d recently learned the art of soap & lotion making and wanted to show off my new skills to my family & friends. So I made a couple of batches of melt & pour soap and some bath fizzy bombs. We gave our party guests goody bags (see below) full of clean goodness. Handmade gifts, check.

I don’t really like to buy new wrapping paper, so I either reuse it for years or make my own. This year, my boyfriend got in on the act and we made a whole batch of paper together. I carved out some stamps (I learned this skill from Make Workshop last year). Using unfolded paper from some mailings we received, we stamped away in red, gold, and green (red, gold, and green!). Handmade blockprinted wrapping paper & gift bags, check.

This was all my bf’s doing, but I just had to mention it. We (he) made butter & ricotta (with some help from Brooklyn Farmhouse!) for the party. With the ricotta, he made Italian cheesecake. Delicious!

grass-fed cream makes all the difference

A very Merry Christmas, check.

How did you spend your holidays?

happy holidays!

December 24, 2009

A merry & a happy to you & yours!

With Love,

(& Rudy the Red-beaked Reindeer)

farming brooklyn – youth edition

December 21, 2009

BK Farmyards – the decentralized urban farming network (that also happens to have been founded by my friend Stacey) – is kickstarting a youth farm in Crown Heights. The thing is, they need a little help from their friends.

Would you like to help city kids learn about the amazing world of growing food? You can. Visit the BK Farmyards Kickstarter page and give (generously) – you may even be rewarded for it.*

*If you…

Pledge $20 or more

A big thank you for your support on Twitter,, and our newsletter

Pledge $50 or more

A stylish, reusable grocery bag crafted by bk farmyards and made from all recycled materials. We’ll include a satchel of aromatic cooking herbs from one of our farms.

Pledge $100 or more

Adopt a Chick! You will receive postcards from one of our hens over the course of the year. Watch how fast they grow and know that you made fresh eggs available for the neighborhood.

Pledge $500 or more

Dinner for 2 in a New York City restaurant that features local organic produce. We know some great chefs: your taste buds will love you forever! Prior to meal, we will inquire about your dietary requests.

Pledge $1,000 or more

You and a friend will tour New York City’s urban agriculture scene with one of our farmers for a day. Take a behind the scenes look at urban farmers day-to-day life and discover some hidden treasures throughout he city.

Pledge $2,500 or more

Do you want to develop your own farmyard? Enjoy our consultation services for a growing season. Send us photos of your yard as well as your dietary preferences, and we will draw up a crop plan for you along with a schedule for starting seeds. During the season, consult with us about any pest or disease concerns in your new farmyard: we will give you information about pest cycles you should be aware of for your crops. We will also provide consultation to improve your soil health: your crops are only as healthy as your soil!

the gift of making & sharing

December 19, 2009

I love collecting new skills. Here’s my latest: soap making. I just finished taking a course in soap & lotion making at the Open Center with LaShonda Tyree, aka ‘The Soap Coach.’ Over 5 courses, LaShonda taught a class of about 30 the art of handcrafting lotion, bath products, cold-processed and melt & pour soap. The night of the melt & pour class I was so inspired that I tweeted a message asking if anyone wanted to join me in a soap-making party. I immediately got a response from Kate (The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking) and Adriana (What I Made for Dinner).

After a series of emails back & forth to figure out logistics – the party of 15 soapmakers was on.

What I most loved about the whole thing – aside from having a great time with friends new & old – is that one person (me) was able to share a simple skill with several others who will then go on to teach their friends and teach their friends and on and on. Plus we all made such diverse & creative soaps that we can share as gifts this holiday season.

To find out how it went down, check out Kate’s post.

For great tweets on creating, eating, and general merriment, follow Kate @hipgirls & Adriana @AdrianaV

And here are some of my own creations from the night:

A sheet of hibiscus-calendula-grapefruit soap

A sheet of hibiscus-calendula-grapefruit soap

Using a cookie cutter to cut out soaps

Using a cookie cutter to cut out soaps



the gift of peace

December 16, 2009


Feeling anxious about what to get your loved ones for the holidays? Fret not. Follow the advice of Waylon Lewis over at Elephant (and HuffPo). This gift is one-size-fits-all.

The Greenest Top Ten Holiday Gift List of Them All

What to get for that-special-someone who has everything.

1. Nothing.

Why buy anything? Will more stuff make you happier?

2. You’ve been looking for it all your life and it’s right here. Right here is boring, hard, lonely.

3. But just sit. Do nothing. Keep your eyes soft, open. We’re not shutting out thoughts. We’re not shutting out anything. If you notice yourself thinking, just notice the thought, and return to the present moment.

4. If you can’t find the present moment, rest your attention on the breath. In, pause, out, pause. Or perhaps more realistically; in, thought, pause, thought, out, thought, pause, thought…. Just come back to the breath. Come back to your relaxed, upright sitting posture.

5. Come back to nothing.

6. Come back to yourself. Loneliness is your only friend. Loneliness is good, true, honest, deliciously sad and romantic.

…keep reading…

give the gift of raganella!

December 15, 2009

Looking for a unique way to show your loved ones you care this holiday season? Give them the gift of a healthy home. Give them a Raganella gift certificate!

Certificates are available in values of $50, $100, $200, $300.

All sessions include a detailed report with personal recommendations for product switches, lifestyle changes, and natural health service providers.

Some of the benefits of a healthy home detox include:

  • Improving in-home air quality
  • Providing a greater sense of well-being
  • Improving environmental impact

Happy Holidays are healthy holidays. Get your Raganella gift certificates today!

give the gift of nutrition

December 14, 2009

It’s hard to eat well during the holidays – with all of the preparing and shopping and making goodies for family and friends. So what’s better than giving the gift of nutrition during this often gluttonous (and glutenous) time of year?

Diamond Organics has these great fruit and veggie gift samplers that make those other holiday gift baskets look stale.

Picture 2

The Organic Family Pack offers a family of 4 a week’s worth of fresh fruits and veggies.
Here’s the description:

A Family Pack is like our Original Organic Fruit and Vegetable Sampler but with larger quantities- enough to feed a family of four for a week. Organic produce availability changes with the seasons, but tends to be things that most families eat on a regular basis: 2 heads of lettuce, 1/2 lb mesclun, 1/2 bunch of each basil and parsley, 1 lb carrots, 1 lb broccoli, 2 lbs tomatoes, 1 lb onions, 2 lbs potatoes, 1 lb green beans, 1 lb zucchini, 1/2 lb mushrooms. Summer fruit may include peaches, strawberries, grapes, and bananas and in the winter, citrus, apples, pears and tropical fruit, a total of 5 lbs of fruit. Net wt. 16 to 17 lbs. Includes overnight delivery to most areas.

Picture 3

Another option is The Original Organic Sampler Pack. The details:

A unique gift that’s sure to surprise and please – open the box and out pop gorgeous greens, lettuces, mesclun, fresh herbs, vegetables, and colorful fruit.
The Original Organic Sampler contains a unique selection of organic specialty greens and lettuces, mesclun salad greens, fresh herbs, vegetables, and seasonal fruits. The selection will vary according to availability at time of packing.
Net wt. 9 lbs. Price includes overnight delivery to most areas.

Diamond Organics has all sorts of other goodies, but to me, the fresh produce is more unique, and may be more welcomed than candy.

classy classie does the can-can

December 14, 2009

This past weekend I attended the NYC Food & Climate Summit. I saw a lot of familiar faces, was graced with video messages from eco-ethica heroines Wangari Maathai and Vandana Shiva, as well as some other motivating food movers and shakers. But the highlight of the day was not talking about food waste policy, it was preserving food to reduce waste and extend the seasons. I signed up for the food preservation session not knowing who was leading it. When I opened up the program for the day’s events, I was excited to see Classie Parker’s name next to the session I was attending. Woohoo!

Want to know why Classie warrants this kind of response from me? Check out the following video and read the HuffPo post about canning with Classie from Lorna Sass, the Queen of Pressure Cooking.

Canning with Classie great way to spend the afternoon. I even volunteered and got to take home my own jar of pickled veggies that I made. I just have to resist opening them for another 30 days or so.

Watching Classie 'shake her foodie'

Watching Classie 'shake her foodie'

Martha Ma also led the session with her style of lacto-fermentation. My favorite quote from her: “Screw probiotics, go eat some pickles, man.” Learn about the benefits of lacto-fermenting foods here.

Related post
Red Hook Harvest

i do 30, do you?

December 14, 2009

Some like it hot, but I like it cold. The water temp setting on my washing machine, that is. That baby is locked in at the cold position for every load of wash. If everyone in Europe alone kept their laundry setting at 30°C (86°F – though I think mine is colder than that), it would mean the equivalent of taking 3 million cars off the road, according to Wah? For real? Seems so. So heed the advice of New Edition and ‘Cool It Now’ – turn your washer setting to cold.

And watch this fun vid featuring a tiny washing machine in the streets of Copenhagen from I do 30. May as well join their facebook page while you’re at it, too.

Oh, Bobby B, what happened?

a holiday reminder from icebreaker

December 14, 2009


Really any box is reusable, to wrap gifts, to store holiday decorations, for art projects, dioramas, etc, etc.

Thanks, Icebreaker, for the reminder!