Archive for the ‘home’ Category

reminder! brooklyn homesteader’s backyard farming bootcamp

August 25, 2011

This is going to be awesome…

Brooklyn Homesteader’s
Backyard Farming Bootcamp

Sunday, September 25, 2011 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (ET)

Greenpoint, NY

Ever wanted to learn how to grow, make and preserve your own food in a small space but need some hands-on guidance to do so?

Join Meg Paska, the “Brooklyn Homesteader,” on her own turf as she teaches you how to raise chickens, keep bees, grow a garden, compost, forage, can, pickle, preserve and homebrew all from her tiny Greenpoint homestead.

Coffee and homemade donuts will be served in the morning before the class commences.

It will tentatively go as follows:

– Building Raised Beds and Planning a Vegetable Garden

– Composting

– Chickens 101

– Food Preservation (Freezing, Drying, Canning, Fermentation)


– Beekeeping 101

– Wild Edibles

– Homebrewing basics with Jerry Madden of Tipsy Parson

– DIY Home and Body Care with Liz Neves of Raganella

WIND DOWN with local beers and Q&A

Attendees will get hands on experience in all aspects of the above mentioned topics and will leave with care packages of assorted goodies! (Books on the subjects covered, seeds, canned and pickled items from the class, etc)

Please email with any questions.

Students are expected to bring notepads and pens, dress in light color clothes, be able to climb ladders and are willing to sign a waiver, as we will be getting up close and personal with stinging, venomous insects, boiling hot jars of food and eating weeds from the nearby park.

All other materials are included in the cost of the class.

Meg Paska is a writer, Huffington Post blogger and instructor at such fine institutions as The New York Botanical Gardens and Third Ward. She currently manages apiaries for hospitality groups and farms in the NY area and has a book on Urban Beekeeping due out on Chronicle Books in early 2013.

$150 for the entire day of learning and fun.

RSVP here!

POSTPONED! how i learned to stop worrying & love cleaning products, the workshop

August 24, 2011

Sorry for the confusion on this one… we’re going to reschedule this and it’s going to take a new shape. A free demo at Sun In Bloom. Stay tuned!

When I was a kid, we had chores. One of them was cleaning the bathroom. This was my least favorite job. Looking back on it, I wonder what put me off more: the chemical smell of the cleaning agents or the effort. Okay, I’ll be honest – it was probably both. Now that I’m all grown up and stuff, I still procrastinate when it comes to cleaning, but I’ve made the process a little more fun. I make my own sweet-smelling cleaning solutions. Come learn how I do this on Thursday, September 22nd at Sun In Bloom…

Thursday, September 22, 6:30 to 8:30pm

(come early to enjoy some yummy food!)

Sun In Bloom
460 Bergen Street (btwn Flatbush & 5th Aves)


Call to RSVP: 718.622.4303

how to deal with blood suckers on holiday

May 18, 2011

I just returned from a dreamy, restorative few days up in a sweet place in Campbell Hall, NY called simply, heartland. Everything about the time & place was sweet: the scent of the air, the soft green plants, my travel companions (all yogis on retreat), the resident cat (Jack Kerouac). By the end of the trip, I was feeling sweet, too – all of my urban stiffness had melted away.

Before I arrived in this home-away-from-home, however, there was one particularly sour thought on my mind. It’s a thought that looms large in the minds of many travelers these days: will there be bed bugs?

blood sucker #1

As the old adage goes, bed bugs don’t discriminate. They inhabit 5-star hotels and student-filled hostels. And they’ll hitch a ride home with any warm-blooded being with a pulse. I’m not super paranoid about them, but my mind was put at ease, knowing I was prepared if I were to encounter the li’l blood suckers. (There weren’t any bed bugs at sweet & cozy heartland, thankfully.)


[tiny critter, big fat problem]

What I had tucked in my bag is a secret weapon against bed bugs. It’s completely non-toxic, totally safe for pets & humans of any age (you know I wouldn’t use it if it weren’t). It’s made from pure essential oils & plant-based enzymes that work to break down the outer shell or exoskeleton of the bed bug. What is this mystery product? BedbugLogic. In an independent study, BedbugLogic had a 96% efficacy rate after only two sprays and was 100% effective at knocking down bedbugs in seconds (ICR Labs BedbugLogic Efficacy Test February 2011).

I was lucky enough to meet with one of the creators of the product the day before I left for my country retreat.

Jill Taft (along with co-founder Michael Bedrick) started the Logic Product Group when her daughter suffered from recurrent episoded with lice (LiceLogic is another product line they created). After a run-in with bed bugs on vacation, BedbugLogic was born. Jill wanted a solution that was not just effective, but also safe for her children and the environment. The solution also had to be pleasant to use.

Before leaving my own home, I sprayed my travel bag with BedbugLogic as a precautionary measure. Being super sensitive to scents, I’m happy to report it smelled simply of thyme. There’s also a cedar scented version. The 2-ounce travel size is TSA-approved, so you can carry it on flights.

You can get BedbugLogic and Licelogic on Amazon.

blood sucker #2

There was another blood sucking little creature I was concerned about on this trip – the tick. Specifically, the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Those pin-head sized members of the arachnid class that carry a bacteria which causes a nasty disease known as Lyme (they also carry less known diseases, like babesiosis & human granulocytic anaplasmosis). I know people who have had it. I know of people who’ve had it more than once. I’ve been in a room with someone who had one on her. And I know people who have moved away from the East Coast to avoid them. From what I understand, it is not a pleasant experience. You can read more about Lyme here.

[From left to right, adult female, adult male, nymph, larva. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, adult females and nymphs can transmit disease through their bite]

Outside of the city (no deer here!), ticks are everywhere. On this last trip alone, I came across 3 larger ticks (now I’m thinking they were adult female deer ticks) in one day. Another retreatee found a tiny deer tick on his body. The trick is to find them before they’ve dug their heads into your skin. Ostensibly, we all managed to achieve this. This could be due in part to the spray I had mixed up to bring on the trip.

[an engorged, post-sucking, deer tick looks quite different from the hungry kind]

One of the key ingredients in the spray I created was palmarosa essential oil, which contains the constituent known as geraniol, an effective tick repellent. Geraniol is also found in lavender & lemongrass (which I also added to the formula), as well as catnip, rose, geranium, and citronella. All of these essential oils are reported to be effective insect repellents, keeping not just ticks at bay, but also mosquitos, ants, gnats, and other annoying insects.

Here’s some more interesting info about geraniol.

If you want to make your own bug repellent, here’s the formula I put together. I’ll also be selling this in my Etsy shop soon:

1. In a blue- or amber-colored 2-ounce glass bottle, add water until about 2/3 full.

2. Add:

  • 1 dropperful of catnip tincture
  • 15 drops palmarosa essential oil
  • 8 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 8 drops lavender essential oil

3. Top off with vodka.

4. Shake well and spray on, paying close attention to places where a tick might enter, such as on shoes, and around ankles and wrists. Ticks like to hang out on the ground, especially in leaf litter, and are always feeling around for the next taxi (warm-blooded animal) to latch on to.

Early detection is one of the best ways to keep ticks from sinking their blood-sucking faces into your skin. Keep your body covered, tuck your socks over your pants, wear light-colored clothing, and do frequent tick checks (especially before heading indoors). When you do find yourself indoors, get in the shower and do a more thorough check of your entire body. If you find an embedded tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, as close to it’s head as possible. Here’s a video that shows how it’s done.

If you know or think you have been bitten by a deer tick, go see your doctor right away. There are antibiotic treatments available to eradicate the bacteria in order to prevent serious illness.

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!

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!

announcing my new body care & cleaning CSA

January 19, 2011

I’m very excited to tell you about something I’ve got cooking. It’s a CSA – community supported agriculture – but it’s not for food. It’s for my natural body care and cleaning solutions. I’d like to think of it more as a CSB or Community Supported Botanicals program. This is how it works:

1. You sign up to be a member of the CSB

2. Each month, you’ll pick up a whole new batch of body care and/or cleaning solutions (made with the best organic botanical ingredients available) from a conveniently located pick-up point (in Brooklyn or Manhattan)

Benefits of membership

  • Every month you’ll get a fresh batch of organic botanical products with ingredients you can recognize (no artificial fragrances or preservatives)
  • You’ll also get free bonus samples of new products I’m working on, and other free goodies
  • At the time of pick-up, I’ll be available for free tutorials and advice on how to get the most use out of the items in your share
  • Discounts on my private healthy home consultations

Right now I’m recruiting members and asking for some initial input, mostly on the most convenient pick-up locations and times and which products they’d most like to see in the share. In the 3-month beta version of this CSB, members will also provide valuable feedback so that I can shape the program to best suit their needs.

Interested in joining? Contact me via email liz (at) raganella (dot) com and I’ll send you an application form.

make it yourself!

December 17, 2010

I want to let you in on a little secret. Making your own cleaning products is ridiculously simple. And fun. So simple and fun that, I guarantee that once you start, you won’t go back to buying the stuff off the shelf anymore. Even the good ones (Seventh Generation, Ecover, Simple Green) you’ll probably end up leaving behind. Here are just some of the benefits of making your own: you’ll save money, you can reuse the bottles (no wasted packaging), you can customize them to your liking, the ingredients are recognizable and non-toxic, and you’ll feel good about creating (instead of consuming). Same goes for making your own body care products. Plus, they make great gifts.

So how does one get started making their own products? Well, you can look up some recipes or pick up a good recipe book like Better Basics for the Home or Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair. Or if you live in NYC, I can teach you how in the comfort of your own home. Better yet, invite a few friends over and make it a party. A make-it-yourself party. You choose whether you want to make cleaning products or body care products and I’ll provide everything you need to create. Everyone walks away with 3 customized products, plus additional recipes and info on where to find ingredients. All that for only $30 per person. Book both a cleaning and body care party and your fee (as the host) for one of the parties is free.

Here’s a little sneak peak of what we might make at a party:

The labels on your jars might be a little different, but the contents will look very similar to something you’ll make. I made these products as a promotion for Green Mountain Energy, a wind energy company based in NYC (and Texas). You might run into one of the Green Mountain reps out on the sidewalk in front of your favorite health food store or at a craft or eco fair in the near future. And maybe you’ll see some of these little products there, too.

Here are some photos from a recent body care making get-together:

So grab some friends and pick some dates and give me a shout and we’ll work it out: liz (at) raganella (dot) com.

join me at downtown women’s club

September 29, 2010

Curious about what it takes to create a cleaner, greener, healthier home? This Thursday meet me at the Downtown Women’s Club monthly meetup to find out how you can make healthier choices at home that both improve your health and the health of the land.

We’ll talk about some of the most harmful household products many people harbor in their homes, as well as simple switches for a dramatic improvement in indoor air quality and health. Then feel free to grab a cocktail and mingle with me and members of the Downtown Women’s Club. Men are welcome, too!

Thursday, September 30

Linger Cafe & Lounge
533 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11217

tips on furnishing your home in a less toxic way

September 14, 2010

The following is a guest post from Caroline Smith, who has written for a number of blogs. Caroline tries to furnish her own home in a green and natural way, and runs a site that features a selection of eco-friendly bar stools.

For years, people have decorated their homes without knowing the consequences of using toxic materials. Since researchers have discovered that some danger exists in many common household products, furniture and fabrics, and even many of the groceries that are brought into the home, consumers are becoming more conscious of their purchases. By searching for the greenest options available, homeowners can limit their family’s exposure to toxic elements. While finding eco-friendly products is not an easy task, the following questions can help with the decision making process:

• Is the item to be purchased made from recyclable materials?

• What policies does the manufacturer have in place to promote environmental accountability?

• Are the stains and paints used on the product low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

• Do the fabrics have non-toxic finishes?

• Are the materials used gathered from a sustainable-source?

At first glance, it might seem impossible for one product to fit all of these qualifications, but this is not true. As consumers become more aware of living a less toxic lifestyle, greener, healthier products are becoming more widely available. For instance, bar stools are now available that have been made from recycled aluminum soft drink cans. These bar stools, manufactured by Emeco, are guaranteed to last a lifetime and boast that they may last as long as one hundred and fifty years. By purchasing products like this, consumers can prevent tons of debris from overloading the landfills. These eco-friendly bar stools are a great recycling project, but for people who still prefer wood furniture, there are other great options.

When buying wooden items, consumers should first check to see if any fabrics, stains and finishes have a low emission of gases. Then, they should determine if the wood comes from an environmentally managed forest. This is easily done by looking for a sticker containing the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC.

To prevent VOCs from entering the home and reducing the air quality when new furniture is brought into the house, consider these tips:

• Purchase furnishings that are made from organic wool, cotton, or hemp.

• Make sure the padding is natural rubber foam or recycled polyfill

• Only buy furniture with finishes that are guaranteed to be formaldehyde free.

• Ascertain that water-based glue has been used to secure joints.

People exposed to indoor air contamination may not experience immediate health issues, but the toxic gasses emitted by new furniture can have long-term effects for the whole family. These can range from lung damage to a weakened immune system. Some studies have even found a negative effect on the reproductive system and brain cells. This is the reason that everyone remodeling or redecorating a home should be concerned with choosing the least toxic materials available.