Archive for February, 2011

upcoming workshops (updated!)

February 18, 2011

Check out my latest workshop offerings and new collaborations that I’m pretty excited about!

UPDATE: I’ve included some related events that I thought you’d like to know about, too. (Workshops in green are led by me and/or collaborators.)

Thursday, February 24

Domestic Detox | Pollution is Personal
Open to all, this community presentation aims to raise awareness about the thousands of untested and unregulated synthetic chemicals in everyday household products and offers practical solutions to help families create a healthy toxin-free home.

Thursday, February 24
7:00pm – 8:30pm

The Commons Brooklyn
388 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

More Info:
The Commons Brooklyn

[Image from The Worsted Witch]

Tuesday, March 8

Green Housekeeping for the Domestically Impaired

led by Olivia Lane of Olivia Lane Housekeeping & Organizing!

Let’s face it: You’re busy and you like to have fun. Housework is time-consuming and you have 10 million things you’d rather be doing, that is, if you could stop tripping over the same pile of stuff on your way to do them.

Attend our workshop and learn not only how to fit housekeeping into your full and fabulous life, but learn how adopting a happy, eco-friendly housekeeping practice can make your life even better. Olivia will offer practical, personalized advice on how you can say goodbye to clutter and hello to all the good stuff you really need, want, and deserve. She’ll also share her secrets for making cleaning and organizing a sacred, self-healing and renewing ritual you’ll actually look forward to! Liz will explain how the products we clean with impact our health and our environment. She’ll also demonstrate how to mix our your own homemade cleaning product.

Participants will leave with a mini-guide to eco-friendly housecleaning, a homemade cleaner, and a fresh perspective on life, love, and dust bunnies!

Please bring a small 4oz jar.

Olivia Lane is a professional apartment cleaner and organizer offering creative, positive, and personalized eco-friendly service to Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene & Lower Manhattan. Visit for more info.

This workshop is brought to you by Brooklyn Skillshare in collaboration with:

721 Franklin Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Tuesday, March 8
6:30pm to 7:30pm

Cost: FREE!

Sunday, March 20

Natural Beauty: Make-it-yourself Body Care

hosted by The Good Life’s Melissa Danielle!

This workshop begins at 10:30am. You are invited to join us at 10am for a light potluck brunch.

Are you ready to get crafty making luxurious lotions, polishing cleansers, and other body care products? In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn the simple art of mixing up your very own customized goods that enhance your natural beauty. Many of the ingredients we’ll work with can be found in your cupboard, or are easily located at your local grocery store.

Everyone walks away with 3 products (all-over body cream, facial cleanser, body scrub, deodorant; subject to change).

Please bring: three 4-oz. glass containers (mason or baby food jars work great.) We will also have containers on hand to purchase if need be.

The Brooklyn Free School
372 Clinton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Sunday, March 20
Light brunch at 10am
Workshop begins 10:30am, ends 12:30pm

– $35 for Non-members
– Free for Members of The Good Life

Register here

More info about The Good Life

Wednesday, March 23

Why Can’t the Laundry Do Itself? Housekeeping for the Domestically Challenged

Let’s face it: You’re busy and you like to have fun. Housework is time-consuming and you have 10 million things you’d rather be doing, that is, if you could stop tripping over the same pile of stuff on your way to do them.

Attend my workshop and learn not only how to fit housekeeping into your busy, fabulous, fun life, but learn how adopting a happy housekeeping practice can make your life even better. I’ll offer practical, personalized advice on how you can say goodbye to clutter and hello to all the good stuff you really need, want, and deserve. I’ll also share my secrets for making cleaning and organizing a sacred, self-healing and renewing ritual you’ll actually look forward to!

Participants will leave with an original, handmade mini-guide to eco-friendly housecleaning and a fresh perspective on life, love, and dust bunnies!

The Brooklyn Free School
372 Clinton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Wednesday, March 23
7pm to 8:30pm

Suggested donation: $12; pay what you wish. No one will be turned away.

Register here

About Olivia Lane Housekeeping & Organizing
I am passionate about helping people design balanced and fulfilling lives built around their own ideals and I use housekeeping and organizing as a tool to assist people with this. When our homes are unkempt and uncomfortable, it only makes sense that we too feel a little out of control and uncomfortable. The foundation of my housekeeping and organizing philosophy is to stay creative and positive. It’s not about how clean or organized your home is now; it’s about how clean and organized you’d like it to be, and I can make it happen! I work with clients to discover and co-create the kind of environment they are happiest in. Whether you need me to help unearth a closet full of New York Times dating back to the 1970s, visit regularly to keep things “just so”, or simply spruce up after a party, I can help make big or small domestic changes that will make you feel great at home and empower you to do great things out in the world.
I use only natural (non-toxic and biodegradable) cleaning products that are not tested on animals. I also use recycled and re-purposed materials whenever possible.
Serving Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene & Lower Manhattan.

Coming soon…

Monday, March 28

Another round of Green Housekeeping for the Domestically Impaired with Olivia Lane

at Sustainable NYC

Stay tuned for full details!

happy generosity day!

February 14, 2011

[Image from: Living Generously]

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Be honest. You hate it, right? Either you feel obligated to go out on a date and/or buy chocolates & flowers for your sweetheart or you feel like a loser if you don’t have anyone to smooch on this lovey-dovey holiday.

Well, this brilliant guy named Sasha came up with a way to turn V-day on its head (in a good way). He’s recoined it “Generosity Day.” Wow, how’s that for a load off? It makes the day so much more meaningful by allowing everyone to participate. Forget about the candy hearts, how about really giving your heart to someone who could use it? (okay, I don’t mean a heart transplant or anything, though donating your organs isn’t a bad idea). Instead of having one special Valentine, any person you meet can be the lucky recipient of your love. No one is left out. Help an old lady across the street. Heck, help any man or lady or child across the street. Smile and wave to neighbors you don’t know – after all, isn’t that what a stranger is? – as they pass.

Generosity Day could include acts such as:

— Giving the hard-working delivery guy a 50% tip
— Helping a stranger lift a heavy package up the subway steps
— Keeping your cool if you get splashed with mucky street water by a passing car (a generous gift to both you and the offender)

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

If you’re into the social media thing, the twitter hashtag is #generosityday and the facebook page is

Here’s how I’m celebrating:

— I gave to 3 local projects via ioby and 1 project in Kenya via Global Giving

I’m giving away one free healthy home consultation session ($325 value!) to one lucky person who “likes” the Raganella facebook page. The winner will be chosen at random after midnight tonight (12:00AM ET 2/15/11). This is limited to folks who live in NYC, unless you’d like a consultation via skype (hey, I’m open to it if you are). All you’ve got to do is like the fan page. Good luck!


How will you celebrate Generosity Day?

an essay on scent

February 11, 2011

A nasal ranger in action (Who knew there was such a thing?)

I’d like to linger on this idea of fragrance or scent a bit longer (see previous 2 posts). I came across an evocative essay on the sense of smell written by AS Byatt. It’s pretty visceral, so if you’re a delicate creature, be prepared. A few of my favorite quotes to lure you in:

And the people in the house will have sweet, sanitised smells. Their perfume, their talc, their underarm deodorant, their shower gels and shampoos and conditioners and hairsprays will all be strong and probably intensify as they mingle on skin and hair. You will deodorise your shoes, socks and feet with things scented with strawberries and blackcurrants and mangoes. You will sit at dinner and eat your roast, or your delicate pea soup, or your rosewater sorbet and vanilla cream to the accompaniment of a candle which penetrates every fissure and fold of tablecloth and napkin and nostril with strong incense, myrrh, patchouli.

If these were sounds they would be a cacophony. As with sounds, you are inured to it and turn up the volume. Women don’t wear ghosts of fragrance any more – Floris bluebells, lavender water. They assert themselves with Opium and Poison, the swooning, insistent scents of the artificial paradises of the decadents.

Perfume masks. Smell is direct.

We are losing functions – we don’t recognise, we don’t detect; it is all ersatz. Ants, as EO Wilson discovered and described, communicate and organise their complex societies with odours and pheromones. We also recognise – or used to recognise – good and bad food with our noses. I know the smell of tainted meat or fish, or mouldy sprouts – but I believe our senses are being blunted by the chemical haze we choose to live in, like living in a constant buzz of high-level interference, snow on the television screen, just audible screeching on the radio to which we have had to become inured.

Taxis increasingly have swooning smells, too, from sanitising tutti frutti to lingering pot. There is legislation against decibels, which seems to do little good, or else I am prejudiced by being too old and too accustomed to hearing myself think. I have friends who are allergic to perfumes. The effect of the delicately perfumed loo paper on sensitive tissue is better not described. I have a scientist friend whose lab door bears a notice forbidding students or visitors to enter wearing perfume as it gives her migraines. I met an elegant professor from Yale who said her husband felt that she shouldn’t wear perfume because it was intrusive and impolite.

Read the rest if you’d like.

The sense of smell is an underappreciated and underutilized gift we all have, unless you have anosmia. It can be a life-saving tool – think fire. It can be arousing, in the case of pheromones. It can trigger salivation and hunger pangs if there’s an enticing aroma of something edible. It can be a bane, in my case, if subjected to heavily perfumed or artificially scented persons, places, or things. And like most of the senses and experiences of life, it is subjective. One person’s favorite scent is despised by another. Right now, my favorite is the floral-citrus essence of pomelo.

Scent is strongly tied to memory, having the ability to temporarily shake us out of the present like a subtle time machine. The aroma of baking, a reminder of grandma. A whiff of perfume, an old friend or love. The aura of woodsmoke, the first crisp day of Autumn. The distinct smack of band-aid, a big fall you had as a child.

The formidable stench of lilies reminds me of funerals. The piercing shock of moth balls of my Aunt Norma’s basement (of a house she no longer inhabits). We all have these memories scent-linked memories. What are yours?

synthetic fragrance-free solutions (part 2 of why i think mrs. meyer’s stinks)

February 11, 2011

You guys smell better to me than artificial fragrances.

In the last post I touched upon why I don’t like certain “eco-friendly” cleaners (like Mrs. Meyer’s, Method, and Simple Green) because they contain synthetic fragrances. (Find out why.) I promised this time that I’d focus on solutions to this problem.

Here are some products I do like:

Method Free + Clear
But wait, didn’t you just say you didn’t like Method? Nope. I just don’t like the scented Method because they use “fragrance oils,” a synthetic fragrance ingredient.

Citra Dish Dish Soap (Valencia Orange)
The CitraSolv line of products uses only essential oils in their formulations. No pervasive, stinky perfumes. This is the dish soap we use at home.

Bon Ami Cleaning Powder
Great for countertops, stovetops, and sinks. If you don’t have Bon Ami on hand, baking soda will do.

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
A subtle scent of pine is all you’ll find in this all purpose household soap.

Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (Baby Mild)
Even more gentle than Sal Suds with no scent at all. You can customize it with your own essential oil blend if you wish.

My own. Of course I’m biased here, but I know what’s going into the products I make. You can make them, too. Here are some recipes.

What do you think? Are you bothered by fragrances? Do you love them? Could you be suffering from olfactory fatigue? Please do comment!

why i think mrs. meyer’s stinks

February 10, 2011

Mrs. Meyer’s does not smell like this.

I generally don’t like to slam products. I’d rather focus on solutions than problems. But when there’s a general perception that something is eco-friendly or healthy, I want people to know the whole story.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and a friend’s recent query spurred me on to finally do it. Said friend asked me to offer some advice on choosing an eco-friendly house cleaning service. There were a few contenders on the table, including both nationally known and local companies. To me, aside from all of the obvious criteria for choosing a service (reliability, trustworthiness, thoroughness), the biggest question that would set cleaning companies apart is this: which products do they use?

There are a lot of green cleaning products on the market, and even more jumping on board every day. It’s incredibly easy to fall for the claims made by many of them, especially when they’re as enticing as: “biodegradable,” “not tested on animals,” “chlorine free,” or “phosphate free” (since last year, all dish detergents are now phosphate free). And while these are all respectable traits, they don’t say everything you need to know. Here’s what I think you should know. Many companies either choose to ignore or simply cannot claim this of their products: “free of synthetic fragrance.”

I’ve always suspected Mrs. Meyer’s soaps included artificial fragrance because a) the scent on my hands did not go away quickly b) I could taste the scent through my nose, c) the scent made me nauseated. While in the privy of one of my favorite restaurants (lots of local & sustainable NYC restaurants love Mrs. Meyer’s), I decided to peek at the label to confirm my suspicions. Right there, plain as day, was the ingredient I was looking for: Fragrance (Parfum). When I see that ingredient without any footnotes explaining its derivation, I begin to question the validity of the rest of the product claims.

Mrs. Meyer’s says:

“Our fragrance compositions use a combination of natural essential oils and safe synthetic ingredients. This allows for the most pleasing, quality, and intriguing scents – inspired by the garden – that you’ll want to use again and again. This approach provides consistent performance, quality, and safety in every bottle. All fragrances are phthalate-free.”

Why do I care so much about synthetic fragrance?

1. The fragrance/perfume industry is protected by patent or trade secret laws which allow them to hide any and all ingredients in their formulations. I don’t know about you, but I like to know what’s in the stuff I’m washing my hands with or spraying on my kitchen countertop.

2. Fragrance can be made from any combination of petroleum and non-petroleum derived substances, including formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene (I don’t think Mrs. Meyer’s includes any of these).

3. This potentially toxic soup can have any number of untoward effects on human health, including reproductive and endocrine disruption, immune system effects, and neurotoxic effects.

To learn more about the dangers of artificial fragrance, read Get a Whiff of This: Perfumes (fragrances) — the Invisible Chemical Poisons
by Connie Pitts.

I trust my senses first, but when I want a little confirmation for my concerns, I turn to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) cosmetic database. It’s not without its flaws, but I find it helpful when I’m unsure about the safety of particular ingredients. In their assessment, Mrs. Meyer’s products range from 3 to 6 on their 10-point hazard scale (that’s moderately hazardous). The caveat here is that, without knowing the actual composition of the fragrance chemicals the Caldrea company (maker of Mrs. Meyer’s) use, EWG applies the worst-case scenario fragrance to all products.

It’s easy for me to unfairly single out Mrs. Meyer’s (as I did in the title) because she’s got a friendly name and image. But sadly, she’s not the only green game in town that has this vital flaw. Her partners in crime also include Simple Green and Method (whose products also include artificial colors). Just because something is Green Seal certified (ahem, Simple Green) does not mean it is healthy, it just means it is not considered to be detrimental to the ecosystem. I care a heck of a lot about the ecosystem, and the one I care most about is yours.

Here are some others who share my concern:

Green Cleaning Seattle

Real Green Girl

The Smart Mama

In this last post from the Smart Mama, she refers to a study where Mrs. Meyer’s was found to contain high levels of 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic solvent. Mrs. Meyer’s has since corrected this problem. You can read about it here.

I also know I’m not the only one who can’t stand these synthetic fragrances. A few user reviews:

As I mentioned, I like to use my senses. In our culture of sensory overload, it can be difficult to distinguish harmful from healthful. It’s easy to dismiss the way we feel (our gut or intuition) because there are so many external influences affecting us. The good news is, once we start eliminating these influences, including all of the artificial scents and flavors, the line between what’s toxic and what’s not becomes a bit clearer. Life begins to smell (naturally) sweet again.

Stay tuned for part 2 of why I think Mrs. Meyer’s stinks: synthetic fragrance-free solutions!