Archive for the ‘fun’ Category

an eco-friendly halloween

October 6, 2008

It’s October, which means one of my favorite holidays is almost here. While Halloween is by tradition a day of spooky festivities, one of the scariest things about it is the amount of resources spent on cheap plastic costumes and decorations. So instead of being freaked out over all the petroleum-laden junk associated with the holiday, I’ve rounded up a few tips for having a more green Halloween.


Instead of breathing in toxic fumes from that George W. mask you were thinking of wearing, try one of these thrifty and eco-friendly costume ideas (adapted from Halloween on the Web):

  • Pair o’ dice lost: This one requires a partner. Each of you wear a cubical cardboard box painted white with black dots to match a pair of dice. Carry a road map and look confused
  • A work of art: Recreate a famous painting on a big piece of cardboard (such as Munch’s The Scream, the Mona Lisa, or American Gothic). Cut out a hole where the face would be, then put your face through it
  • Two heads are better than one: Get an XXXL sweatshirt and a friend. Get inside — et voila! — you’re conjoined twins
  • Hari, Hari: Cover your hair with pantyhose (yeah, this is usually petroleum based) and cut a hole in the top. Bring your hair out of the hole (this even works with short — but not buzzed — hair). Wear a toga and carry a tambourine
  • Cartoon flashback: Get a bunch of friends together and go as characters from your favorite cartoon. Scooby Doo is a good example… some of my friends did this last year. You can probably find all the clothes you’ll need at the local consignment shop or on eBay

More crafty costume ideas from iVillage.

For thrift stores in your area, check here.

If you’re not feeling creative, you can also get used costumes on eBay.

DIY Makeup

  • General face paint: 1 tsp corn starch, 1/2 tsp water, 1/2 tsp cold cream, 2 drops food coloring. Mix well
  • Blood: Combine red food coloring and corn syrup. Drip the blood where you’d like, but don’t let the edges smear and give it plenty of time to dry
  • Blood and gore: Use red food coloring, corn syrup, and chunky peanut butter

[via Halloween on the Web]

(Side note: I’m normally not an advocate of corn syrup, but well, it’s Halloween, it may be the least toxic makeup option, and you’re not ingesting it!)

Find more DIY Halloween makeup tips here.

Want to do it like a pro? According to Make mag’s blog, Etsy will be giving a Halloween makeup how-to in Brooklyn, 10/27 and 10/28 (a testament to the level of professionalism at right)


Please, I beg you, don’t buy one of those giant blow-up lawn ornaments made from PVC. Try one of these ideas instead:

  • Jack o’ Lantern (no kidding!). But how ’bout a solar powered one?
  • Make a scarecrow from old jeans, flannel shirt, t-shirt, and pillowcase (another version here)
  • Cut a piece of cardboard into a tombstone, paint it grey and decorate as you wish
  • Cut shapes of bats, spiders, or cats from cardboard and black paint. Set up lights behind them to cast creepy shadows
  • Use an old sheet as a backdrop. Paint a scary scene or cut and sew felt or other scrap fabric onto it to create a unique Halloween scene
  • If you want to get fancy, rent a fog machine which uses non-toxic, water-based fog fluid. OR make one yourself! (If you end up buying one, and don’t think you’ll use it again, donate it to a school or local theater when you’re done).

For the serious DIY’er, more decor ideas from Instructables.

And for the kids
Discover Halloween tricks and treats for kids at NatureMoms.

One last note. Be sure to recycle all the elements of your costume and decor. Compost your pumpkin guts and toast the seeds. Have fun and Happy Halloween!


this weekend in bklyn…

October 1, 2008

If you’re in Brooklyn this weekend be sure to take advantage of one of these cool eco happenings:

Clean out your closet!

Collecther Clothing Swap
Dig in your closet for some tired old duds (12 of them, to be precise) and bring them to the swap. You’ll get 100 fake bucks to bid on some “new” get-ups. $15 gets you in on all the action.
When: Saturday 10/4 @ 6pm
Where: Franklin btwn Lafayette and Clinton, Bed-Stuy

My So Called Swap
What: One lady’s old sweater is another lady’s treasure. Bring some clothes your willing to part with and mix with fellow swappers while swooning over Jordan Catalano as “My So Called Life” plays in the background. Drink specials, cupcakes, and Tarot readings are also in store.
When: Sunday 10/5 from 4-8pm
Where: K&M Bar, 225 North 8th at Roebling, W’burg, 718-388-3088

Bring out your read!

The Great American Book Drive
What: Dust off those old books you never read and bring them to the drive to support some worthy organizations, like Better World Books.
When: Saturday 10/4 from 10am – 3pm
Where: Brooklyn Central Library, Grand Army Plaza

It’s open, come on in!

NYC Green Buildings Open House
What: GreenhomeNYC’s annual guided tour of green buildings all over NYC. Learn about sustainable building features like energy saving and indoor air quality while touring unique residences and businesses via bus, bike, or your own two feet.
When: Saturday 10/4, times vary
Where: Locations vary, check here for tour details

[Image: Greenbelt]

[via Brooklyn Based]

green art supplies

September 24, 2008

What kid doesn’t like to draw, color, paint, create? Wouldn’t it be great to know that the art supplies your kid is using are not only non-toxic, but also have a low impact on the planet?

Green Art by Loew Cornell is a line of earth friendly art supplies, designed with kids in mind. The product ingredients include recycled and reclaimed materials, organic fabrics, and paint that’s free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — all packaged with less waste.

They even have an easel and a lap desk made from reclaimed wood.

On the Loew Cornell site, they have a bunch of eco-friendly art projects, like leaf prints, stick frames, and rock paintings. They have ready-to-create art kits, too, including a birdhouse, recycled plastic bead jewelry, and sun catchers.

You can get Green Art supplies at Michaels.

[via tiny Décor]

brooklyn harvest

September 22, 2008

It’s the first day of Fall and it’s already feeling a bit cooler. The kids are back in school, people are already donning boots and sweaters, and some are gearing up for harvest.

For those of us in the city, no upstate trip is required to enjoy some good ol’ fashion pumpkin picking and harvest feasting. In Brooklyn, there are two harvest festivals next month.

The Gowanus Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 11 @ The Yard
Advanced tickets $10
Day of Show $12
Children under 5 Free

Brooklyn! Fall! Brews! Bounty! Yes, its that time of year again. The Yard is once again hosting a fall-themed celebration of Gowanus proportions.

Last year was an incredible success – over 1,000 people joined us at the banks of the canal to enjoy farm fresh food, live music, local vendors, pumpkin carving contests, pony rides, delicious brews and other triumphs of sustainable urban living.

This year, proceeds from the Gowanus Harvest Festival will be donated to Just Food.

So join us and enjoy the wonders of Autumn on Brooklyn’s most …charismatic… waterfront.

Red Hook Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 18 @ Added Value Farm
Annual festival featuring foods from local restaurants, live music and performances, kids’ activities, pumpkin patch, raffle & contests, farmers’ market, farm tours.

A bit from last year’s festival description:

Join several thousand New Yorkers, young and old as we gather together to educate, motivate, inspire and create a more sustainable future for Red Hook and all of New York.

Explore the Red Hook Community Farm, New York City’s largest urban agricultural project and take a tour of the facility led by a member of Added Value’s youth leadership team. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farm, RonnyBrook Dairy, Red Jacket Orchard, and Wilklow Family Orchards.

Enjoy great local, seasonal fair produced by some of the finest restaurants in the City including The Good Fork, Restaurant ICI, Tini, Baked, and Rice. Press New York State apples into fresh cider, check out the livestock, pick a pumpkin and enter into your art into the craving competition, or pickle some string beans with Classie Parker.

Explore the practicality of solar power, harvesting the wind, collecting rain water and making your own bio-fuel by learning from greening organizations such as: Tri-State Bio Diesel, The Cloud Institute, Community Wind, The Water Resources Group, Solar One, and the Brooklyn Greenway, Just Food.

What is a harvest festival?

Experience the harvest near you

2 orgs that offer abundance to those in need

[Event info via Brooklyn Based]

foraging with the wildman

September 22, 2008

We gathered a small feast of wild edibles this past Saturday in Prospect Park on our latest foraging tour — this time with “Wildman” Steve Brill. Both the content of his tour and his conduct explain the alias.

Before he even collected our $15 “suggested donation,” he was hocking his wares (field guides, a cookbook, magnifying lenses). From the wadded up piece of paper he pulled from his cargo pants’ pocket, he took attendance. He phoned the stragglers.

He put his daughter, the aptly named Violet, in the care of over 20 patient tour participants as he brought his merchandise back to the car. “Has anyone seen my daughter?” he uttered more than once as we waited in Grand Army Plaza.

After about 25 minutes, he announced the start of the tour. He played us the “Brill-a-phone” — a pseudo wind instrument created by clapping his hands in front of his open, hollowed-out mouth (somewhat akin to blowing on the top of an empty bottle).

Wildman Steve Brill

Despite The Wildman’s idiosyncrasies, it was an enjoyable day. The sun shone warmly, but the shade provided relief. I learned more about the edible plants around me. Sampled some new wild food and took home enough to be able to enhance some meals.

The root vegetable of the burdock plant, known as “gobo” in Japanese cuisine, will be a good addition to some vegetable soup I’m making. As will the goutweed or bishop’s elder, with it’s mostly celery, partly parsley flavor.

Root of burdock (Arctium) on the plant

Root of burdock (Arctium) on my table

Goutweed or bishop’s elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

I’ll make a “lemonade” with the staghorn sumac I picked (with the help of a tall tour mate).

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

I pulled a sassafras sapling from the ground — its root makes a nice tea.

Pulling sassafras

Sassafras root

The wood sorrel (Oxalis), bright and lemony, will be a tasty addition to a salad or a sandwich. I didn’t pick enough of it, but the lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) would be a nice salad green or spinach alternative (it’s high in vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, fiber, and protein).

I can make a dressing with grated garlic mustard root.

Root of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

We sampled some hackberries — the dried, brown ones taste a bit like the candy coating of an M&M. We also ate some foxtail grass seeds. Just gently twist the head of the grass over your palm for a mild little treat. A word of warning for pet owners: I’ve read that the seeds are toxic for dogs.

Hackberries (Celtis)

Foxtail grass (Alopecurus L.)

I tried a bit of black walnut, and my boyfriend and I came back the next day to collect some. We only found a couple, but the tree is full of them. Maybe in a week they’ll have fallen. When you do collect them, be sure to remove the husk before bringing them home — they tend to become infested with bugs.

Lots of nuts up in that black walnut tree (Juglans nigra)

Black walnut husks

A Monarch butterfly we spied at the end of the tour

While we did collect quite a few wild edibles, I was happy to see many farmer’s market stands still open so late in the afternoon. My dogs were barking at this point, so my boyfriend gathered a few things while I sat on the curb. When we got home, we used the field garlic in an heirloom tomato salad.

Field garlic (Allium oleraceum)

Grand Army Plaza greenmarket

Related reading

The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by “Wildman” Steve Brill

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill

Take a tour with the Wildman

Related posts

exploring, gathering
yesterday’s brooklyn foraging tour [with Leda Meredith]
stalking the wild asparagus

park(ing) day this friday!

September 17, 2008

What the heck is Park(ing) Day?

Park(ing) Day is an international event that reclaims over 200 parking spots in 50 cities around the world and transforms them into engaging public spaces for one day a year.

Park(ing) Day NYC is an effort of the New York City Streets Renaissance which offers individuals and groups small grants to turn more than 50 parking spots throughout New York City’s 5 boroughs into human-friendly places for a single day. These small, temporary public spaces provide a breath of relief from the auto-clogged reality of New York City, and aim to spark a dialogue about our valuable public space and how we choose to use it.

There’s a spot not too far from me on the other side of the park at Cortelyou Ave and Argyle Rd. This particular park is hosted by Sustainable Flatbush blogger Anne Pope.

Sound like a good idea to you? Join the fun and find a spot in 4 out of the 5 boroughs.

[Image: Keka Marzagão]

[Park(ing) Day via Brooklyn Based]

we could all use a good laugh

August 28, 2008

If laughter is the best medicine, these men in India must be really healthy. As part of a yoga practice, the security workers below get a healthy dose of chuckles.

[Image: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash via Activate]
Indian security personnel practice laughter therapy during an early morning yoga session in a park in the northern Indian city of Allahabad, on August 27, 2008.

Laughter is said to be good for:

  • Reducing stress
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Elevating mood
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Improving brain functioning
  • Protecting the heart
  • Connecting you to others
  • Fostering instant relaxation
  • Making you feel good


Even faking laughter, as many of these guys above are probably doing, has the same health benefits of genuine laughter. [Source: The Laughing Cure, Elizabeth Scott, MS]

Wanna try it?
There are actually laughter clubs across the world, many right here in the states. Find one near you.

gotta love goats

August 26, 2008

I do at least. They’re hysterical. Like these pygmy goats who like to jump on their dog:

Or this kid who likes to jump on the bed:

How about an office goat?

According to the National Pygmy Goat Association (NPGA):

The Pygmy Goat is hardy, alert and animated, good-natured and gregarious; a docile, responsive pet, a cooperative provider of milk, and an ecologically effective browser. The Pygmy goat is an asset in a wide variety of settings, and can adapt to virtually all climates.

Sadly, we can’t buy a goat because we live in the city — their are ordinances against owning them here (and where would we put the little bugger in our apartment?).
But if you’re interested in getting your own pygmy goat, as a pet, for milking, or maybe for mowing your lawn, try these NPGA-approved breeders:

If you don’t want to commit to having your own goat, you can rent one!

Related posts:

random brooklyn fireworks and other happenings

August 20, 2008

I like the outdoors — and not just your typical wilderness full of tall timbers and woodland creatures. Fun things happen when you go outside, even when you live in Brooklyn.

After dinner, my man and I decide to go for a walk. As we turn the corner away from our block, we start seeing flashes and loud noises. What is that, some stupid kids with fireworks? No, that cop just drove in the opposite direction of the noise.

Turns out, there’s a fireworks display going on a block away from our building. It looks like it’s launching from the library roof. Where else does that happen? Fireworks for seemingly no reason, not on the 4th of July or New Year’s.

After the big flashy show in the sky that rattled and confused the area bats (they were flying around all batty-like), we continued our walk along Prospect Park.

What’s that now? It sounds like a band playing. Maybe it’s a movie? It sounds like a movie. We decide to check it out. As we get closer to the long meadow, the big screen appears. Yup, it’s a movie. At first we’re disappointed — it’s Hairspray, the remake. I feel a bit like Andy Rooney by saying this but, Why do they feel the need to remake movies? Isn’t the first time around good enough? (Can’t you hear his quavery voice?) And there’s nothing worse than John Travolta in a fat lady suit and a bad Baltimore accent.

Surprisingly, his performance aside, the 20 minutes or so we watched were pretty entertaining. It’s actually an appropriate movie to play in a park where I often have flashbacks to Sesame Street, the epitome of multi-culti integration.

So what’s the point of all this? I dunno, maybe I just wanted to let you know that I like spending time outside — it’s gotta be healthier than sitting here, like I am now, on the couch typing away on the computer.

Get outside! Check out the Prospect Park events calendar.

potty time

August 11, 2008

What better way to chase away those Monday blues, butt with some good ol’ fashion potty humor?

Treehugger list the top 5 green-ass videos
(see one below)

EnviroGadget reports on the Shit Box (no joke!)