Well actually, it’s over here.
Attention followers of Raganella, I no longer post on this blog. I’ve started a new endeavor – Gathering Ground. Nature awareness, mindfulness meditation, and healing plant education for parents with young’uns.
Wow. A girl takes a little break from the city life and things just sneak up on her. I’m teaching 3 workshops over the next few weeks and I haven’t even told you about them yet. Yikes! Well, here they are. Better late than never, I s’pose…
Lovely Lavender & Romantic Rose
THIS Saturday, July 14!
11am to 1pm
NY Botanical Garden Midtown
20 West 44th St
Two of the most beloved flowers in the plant kingdom are more than just beautiful. They also have healing benefits for the body, mind, and soul. Learn the many uses of lavender and rose, including how to make a herbal-infused oil and a creamy salve with additional botanical ingredients.
(Price includes a $10 Materials Fee)
$55 for non-members, $51 for members
Create Your Own Body Care
Tuesday, July 17
3:30 to 6:30pm
195 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
From luxurious lotions to polishing cleansers, come learn how simple it can be to nourish your skin, naturally. In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn the simple art of mixing up your very own customized goods that enhance your natural beauty and also make great gifts.
Everyone takes home 3 products:
all-over body cream, facial cleanser, body scrub
SIGN UP! (link to come)
DIY Cleaning Solutions
Thursday, August 2
9am to 12pm
195 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Chemicals in common household cleaning products stink. The good news is, there’s a better solution! Homemade cleaning products are non-toxic, simple to make, effective & pleasing to use. In this workshop, you’ll:
• Make your own customized, non-toxic, non-polluting cleaning products
• Identify everyday household products that may be harmful to your health
• Learn about plants that help filter out toxins in your home
Everyone makes & takes home 3 products:
all-purpose spray cleaner, scrubbing cleanser, glass cleaner
SIGN UP! (link to come)
I just made myself sick. Not intentionally, but it had to be done. I’ve had this collection of body care products sitting for several years under my bathroom sink, just collecting dust. Some of these things have been sitting there for at least 6 years (some over 8!). Most of them contain a whole slew of gross chemical ingredients, and in particular the one I can’t stomach the most – fragrance (parfum). Some of them were so-called “organic” products that just didn’t work well (like deodorant).
I’ve been making my own body care goods for a few years now. The only thing I still buy is shampoo because I haven’t made the time to go no ‘poo yet (and when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know). So why didn’t I toss the nasty stuff sooner? Because I know there is no good way to dispose of products that contain unhealthy, polluting ingredients. So today was the day to just say F it. I’m going to get rid of you once and for all, jerk products! I grabbed a plastic bag (another yucky conveyance of the modern world) and in glopped the old shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.
In this mess of conventional body care products was baby shampoo. I don’t have a baby, so let me ‘splain. A few years ago, my ophthalmologist told me to use it to clean out my eyes (they were a little gunky, I guess). I never got into that habit, so there sat this giant bottle of generic baby shampoo in the cabinet. I took a peek at the ingredients of this yellow tinged goo and was not at all surprised, yet still appalled, that the product included Parfum (Fragrance). As I’ve mentioned many times before, this one ingredient is probably my least favorite, and unfortunately it’s in just about everything. Fragrance is one of the dirtiest of dirty cosmetic ingredients around. So what I want to know is, why is there fragrance in a product made for babies? Aren’t babies supposed to smell naturally delicious? Why on earth would we want to cover up that inborn sweetness, all the while exposing tiny developing humans to unknown chemicals?
Here’s where we get to my one holiday wish. The only gift I really want is for everyone to stop using products containing fragrance. It’s really not so hard to do once you know where to look. Turn around your shampoo bottle, your lotion, your deodorant, your laundry detergent, your fabric softener (oh please, don’t use fabric softener!). Look down that long list of ingredients to the one that reads “Fragrance” or “Parfum.” Now toss it. You’ll only be doing this once because from now on you are going to use products that do not include the word “Fragrance” in the label. Take note: products labeled “fragrance free” or “unscented,” can still contain masking fragrances loaded with trade secret protected chemicals.
If you like products with a scent, only buy goods that contain pure essential oils. The brands I trust are John Masters Organics, Suki, Dr. Bronner’s, and Dr. Hauschka. Local Brooklyn brands that I like include Meow Meow Tweet and Sprout. And of course, my own products, Raganella’s Botanical Solutions! (And if you’re into perfume, check out Herbal Alchemy). I’m sure there are other good companies making products without synthetic ingredients, I hope you’ll report back to me with your favorites.
For more info about Fragrance, check out this article from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
There are only 5 days left to reach the goal for Hands That Feed on Kickstarter (read more about the project below). The thing with Kickstarter is, if they don’t make their goal, they don’t get any of the money pledged. But here’s the good part, a generous donor has just offered to work outside Kickstarter and independently match the next $2,000 in donations that are made!
If you think it’s a worthy cause, all you have to pledge is $10. If you don’t have $10, maybe you could tell a few friends who do. Please watch the video and read on to learn more. Then give generously, if you can.
Big earthquakes – like the one that hit Haiti in January – often leave a wake of disaster. And the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti was disastrous to an already compromised country, affecting approximately 3 million people, leaving people homeless and hurt, taking people’s lives. But out of the destruction, comes opportunity. An opportunity to heal the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
There are many methods for helping people in need, but which are most effective? Giving the power to the people to help themselves, in my mind, will have the longest lasting positive effects. Enter, Hands That Feed:
Hands That Feed is a documentary film exploring the agricultural collapse in Haiti, its role in the post-earthquake food crisis, and the emerging grassroots development models that seek to restore Haiti’s food supply and environment.
Hands That Feed will narrate the experiences of dynamic young adults in post-earthquake Haiti, representing a range of innovative grassroots recovery organizations, as they seek to build a sustainable future for the country. The film starts on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Following our characters through day-to-day life, the viewer learns how Haiti lost the ability to feed itself, turning a natural disaster into a crisis. The inspiring young people undergo personal transformation, mirroring the potential transformation of the nation, as they study sustainable agriculture techniques and trauma relief through yoga practices. They then tour the country as teachers, experiencing the hardships of post-earthquake Haiti. The viewer witnesses the challenges, frustration, and victories of teaching society to be self-sufficient in both agriculture and leadership.
Learn more about Hands That Feed and consider supporting them by giving to their Kickstarter campaign so they can complete this important project.
I think it was my dad who said if you shop on the outer edges of the supermarket, instead of going up and down the aisles, you’re more apt to eat healthier. When you think of the way a supermarket is laid out, this makes sense. All of the whole foods – fresh fruit and veggies, meats, dairy – are on the perimeter of the store, as opposed to the processed foods stacked on shelves in the aisles.
But that simple rule doesn’t seem so simple anymore. It’s easy to become neurotic over food choices these days. Even Michael Pollan’s tome, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” deserves some caveats.
With genetically engineered and/or modified, chemically treated, and irradiated foods going unlabeled on supermarket shelves, and with all of the strange industrial food additives in packaged foods, it can be difficult to figure out which foods may have unintended long-term consequences on our bodies and on the planet.
One way to overcome this decision-making hurdle is to know the source of your food. I’m fortunate enough to live a couple of blocks away from one of NYC’s best greenmarkets, and so we buy most of our food there. But there are certain items that cannot be purchased at the greenmarket.
One food item that I like to buy at the supermarket is white vinegar. I don’t use it for cooking however. I use it to clean surfaces in our home. Vinegar has so many household uses (which I wrote about a while back). I got to thinking about how white vinegar was made when reading the label:
Heinz® All Natural Distilled White Vinegar is Always:
Sourced from sun-ripened corn.
Ultra-filtered to guarantee sparkling clarity.
Diluted to 5% acidity and bottled at peak freshness.
Naturally Good Since 1869!
Seems pretty wholesome and benign, right? Not when you know that at least 60% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered (Source: USDA). Currently, it is up to the manufacturer to disclose whether their products contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). The only labeling you’re likely to see is a product label touting that it is non-GMO and not the other way around (no one seems to want to brag about their GMOs).
Why am I so anti-GMO? The answer is, we don’t really know enough about the consequences of GMOs to have unleashed them wholesale onto our complex ecosystems, our complex bodies.
And this recent study has just begun to unveil the potential outcome of the introduction of GMOs into the food web.
So what to do? I may have to splurge and buy organic white vinegar or use the pricier organic apple cider vinegar in lieu of the cheaper GMO variety. It’ll still be cheaper than buying chemically based cleaning solutions (which I wouldn’t do anyway) and I’ll be supporting agriculture that is less likely to have damaging effects on the planet or my body.
More info about GMOs in vinegar and other everyday products:
This past Saturday I had a lovely afternoon of foraging in Prospect Park with friends Leda, Meredith, and Liza. We spent most of the expedition picking garlic mustard and bishop’s elder, and digging up field garlic. But then eagle-eye Meredith spotted the mother lode – oyster mushrooms!
If I had to guess, I’d say it was about 5 pounds (or more) and I had to use my trowel to divvy it up. Each share was at least enough for a dinner for two. It was the first time I’d ever found an edible mushroom – I usually buy them (for a pretty penny) at the farmer’s market.
I’ve moved my old blog here, but have some work to do to make it all pretty. Stay tuned – there will be more fun to come!
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I know I’m not alone in hoping that the future presidential administration will lead the country toward a new green economy, something like what Van Jones describes in The Green Collar Economy. Well, here’s a glimmer of hope — an interview with president-elect Barack Obama reveals he’s well aware of the many layered agricultural, economic, energy, and healthcare issues we’re facing. A poignant excerpt:
I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That’s just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.
(Image: Annie Leibovitz)
If you haven’t been to TripAdvisor lately, you might not know they’re running a poll to tell them where to donate $1 million. There are 5 non-profits in the running, including Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy.
The deadline is quickly approaching — this Sunday, November 9th — so get on over there and vote!
In this video, actress Rosario Dawson tells not to go to TripAdvisor to vote… and then has a change of heart.