Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

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?

from one product, many

January 14, 2010

When I set out today to disassemble our holiday wreath, I was only thinking of the beautiful dried flowers and how I could put them in a jar or vase as decoration. But as I tackled the job to take apart this one product, I discovered a vast array of possibilities.

In order to take something apart, it helps to understand how it was put together. Turning the wreath around, I saw this one was constructed over a round metal frame with wire attaching the bows of pine. I grabbed a wire cutter and started unraveling the wire.

As I made my way around the circle, I could see the arrangement was a series of sprays or bouquets with a range of botanicals. Some kind of magenta thistle-like flower, eucalyptus, a white star-like flower, wheat, pine, and some other plants I can’t identify (Leda, if you’re reading, I hope you’ll enlighten me!).

I started imagining all of the uses of these goods. Here are the elements of the wreath and a few ideas I came up with:

This one was easy. Mulch. I’ll take the small pine branches down to the street trees for a nice covering. Or we can take them out to my bf’s sister & brother-in-law’s place to please the blueberries.

eucalyptus & other dried flowers & plants
I separated out all of the various plants into piles. Collating them this way, I thought of the person who gathered these plants and strung them together to make a lovely holiday wreath. I was undoing their work, but giving it new life. Now they’re in vases and various other vessels around the apartment.

One could always use a bundle of wire. Crafts, jewelry, impromptu home repairs, tying up sagging houseplants, or maybe making a wreath of my own. How about a mobile?

Alexander Calder's handiwork

metal ring
A lamp or chandelier. An art project. Part of a plant stand. A tie or belt rack. A giant halo for a Halloween costume. Any other ideas?

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)

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.

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!

holiday shop the old-fashioned way

December 11, 2009

Maybe the really old-fashioned way to give material love during the holidays was to make something special for your nearest and dearest. But if you don’t have the time to get crafty, walk or bike to the small, local businesses in your neighborhood. Keep your hard-earned dough in your community. It’s good for the local economy, and you may just meet some great people along the way.

Here are some of the stores in or near my neighborhood with unique goods and friendly faces.

Cog & Pearl

190 Fifth Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 623-8200

I’m always inspired by the selection at this cute little shop on 5th Ave in Park Slope. Beautiful locally made jewelry, soft & cozy screenprinted tees, and a slew of upcycled goodies. Some of the sustainable merch they’ve got:

Eko-logic upcycled mittens
the cool thing about these is that you can peak your fingers out the top, or tuck them under a cozy flap inside

Picture 1

Preloved upcycled sweaters


Book Journals
(super cute, made from old school books)


Remake It Home


Bob & Judi’s Coolectibles

217 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215-1256
(718) 638-5770

You can’t go wrong with a sweet vintage find and this quaint little shop is chock full of interesting goodies. I especially love the vintage Christmas cards and decorations, including vintage glass ornaments that remind me of my grandmother. Here are some other things I spied there…

Vintage Xmas cards


Vintage decor


Lots of vintage & antique finds


Also… Though it’s about half the size of Bob & Judi’s, just down 5th Ave is a similar selection of vintage baubles at Under the Pig.

Unnameable Books

456 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 789-1534

Recently relocated from Bergen Street on the other side of Flatbush, this book nook is full of carefully curated new & used books, including a few kids selections. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they’re always playing great college-radio-like music. Here’s a title that caught my eye:

Fat of the Land – Adventures of a 21st Century Forager


Green in BKLYN

432 Myrtle Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205


Elissa Olin, owner of this great green shop in Fort Greene is sweet as can be. So is her adorable Basenji-mix, Lola (wish I would’ve snapped a pic of her!). If you’re looking for an organic baby gift, housewares, or personal care, she’s got it all. Right now, Elissa’s running a special end-of-2009 promotion – spend $20.09 in the store and you’ll be entered to win a green gift basket (value $200.90). A few green standouts:

Aminals organic stuffies


Stuff for your furry friends


(the felted ones double as a washcloth; skinny-skinny soaps are made in Brooklyn)


Root Stock & Quade

297 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 788-8355

I’d love to just sit in this shop all day long and stare at all of the dreamy greenery.  Now that we’re all spending some more time indoors due to the frigid weather, the shop is full of terrific houseplants, including low-maintenance snake plants (also good for filtering polluted air). But this Fort Greene plant shop also specializes in garden design. They’ve also got festive mistletoe – but take care – be sure to pick & discard the poisonous berries if you have kids and/or pets roaming your home.


I brought home some mistletoe (mwa!)


And here’s a fave o’ mine on the other side of the river…


83 Orchard Street
NY NY 10002


I have to give props to my girl, Kate, owner of this super eco clothing shop. She’s got an eye for gorgeously designed, sustainable & fair trade clothing & accessories. Plus, many brands are Brooklyn, NYC, and/or USA made. Kate will help you pick out something special for most everyone on your list, like one of these beauties:.