eco-friendly hair care

as maryanne just taught us all, baking soda + vinegar are miracle products, and are practically the only things you need to have a clean and fresh-smelling home.

and now i'm here to tell you that they can work equally miraculously on...your hair.

i've fought a long fight with shampoo/conditioner. the day i washed my hair, no matter how well i conditioned, my hair looked and felt like straw. it would be okay the next day, good the next, perfect the next, then all of the sudden super greasy and gross the next, and i'd start the dance all over again. then i read about the natural method of cleaning your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. possibly better hair plus better for the planet? sign me up.

the process is fairly simple. wet your hair thoroughly, then take about a tablespoon or so of baking soda and plop it into your palm and splash in some water to make a fairly watery paste. get the paste onto your fingers and work it all over your scalp, starting at the crown of your head and working outward. massage your scalp with the paste for about 1 minute (for extra green points, turn off the shower while you're massaging:), then rinse. do another rinse using a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in about a cup of water (i keep a large chinese take-out soup container in the shower for this purpose...), then rinse that out thoroughly. that's it!

it does take a little perserverance to make the switchover from shampoo to this method. everything i read about it warned that you'd have "yucky" hair for the first couple of weeks, because your scalp would continue to overproduce oil, as it had been doing to compensate for all the oils that the shampoo stripped away. i could never get a more precise description than "yucky", but now that i've lived through it i can give you one: my hair felt like it was coated in a mixture of wax and motor oil. by day 13, i was getting a little cranky, and tired of bandanas. but then like magic, on day 14, my hair was perfect and soft and glossy.

you may have to fiddle with the proportions of baking soda and vinegar a bit—everyone's hair and scalp are different. if you use too much baking soda and your hair turns out dry, you can use a little bit of natural oil to even it out; just smooth a tiny bit over your hair, avoiding your scalp, once your hair is dry.

and no, you won't smell like a big pickle. :)

- cakehouse

DIY Green Cleaning Products

One of my earliest memories is of walking along a sandy winding road in Sicily with my paternal grandmother when I was three years old. She had a glass bottle in her hand that had just been emptied of the last of its olive oil. We stopped at her outdoor laundry room - a tub complete with cold running water - and she filled the bottle about half way. What she did next blew my little three year old mind - she bent down, gathered a handful of pebbly sand, which she dropped down the bottle's slender neck. Holding her palm over the opening, she then proceeded to vigorously shake the bottle for several seconds, finally dumping the entire contents back onto the ground, refilling the bottle with water for a final rinse-and-spill to clear out any remaining grains of sand.

And voilá: the bottle was spotless!

Somehow, though our grandparents kept clean and tidy homes without employing cleaning products that have nightmarish lists of health warnings, most of us are only now realizing that you can find much of what you need to clean your home in the pantry.

Here are a few simple recipes, along with some go-to multi-taskers to help you clean your abode without harsh chemicals. I think nonna would have approved!

Multi-Tasker 1: Club Soda
  • Poured into a spray bottle, club soda holds its own against much harsher and pricier all purpose cleaners.
  • Since it is alkaline, it's especially adept at getting out acid-based stains, like coffee.
  • Also a great window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 2: White Vinegar
  • On its own in a spray bottle, a killer disinfectant.
  • Mix two teaspoons in a quart of warm water to use as a window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 3: Baking Soda
  • Used dry, it's a great appliance cleaner; wipe it off with a damp sponge.
  • Sprinkled in an oven and spritzed with water, it makes a good (if slow-working: it needs to sit overnight) oven cleaner. After it sits, wash it out with water.
Simple Recipes

Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup salt
boiling water

Pour salt down the drain, followed by boiling water. Run hot tap water until clog clears.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
white vinegar
baking soda

Sprinkle bowl with baking soda and spray with vinegar. Scrub with a toilet brush
Air Freshener
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Mix baking soda and hot water in spray bottle until baking soda dissolves. Spray those nasty odors away!
Copper and Brass Cleaner (I use this one to shine pennies before decoupaging them and making earrings)

Dissolve 1 part salt to two parts vinegar. Soak till shiny. To use as a scrub, increase salt to make a paste and scrub your little heart out!
Laundry Detergent
one part washing soda
one part borax

Mix and use as you would regular laundry detergent.
(Note: both washing soda and borax are available at soaps gone by)


HOW TO: resuscitate that old t-shirt!

as i've mentioned here on the {newnew} blog before, one of my favorite forms of recycling is wardrobe recycling, aka wardrobe refashioning. instead of heading to h+m when you feel like you have nothing to wear, why not shop in your closet instead, and re-make something that doesn't fit anymore—or just doesn't fit your current style?

one of the easiest places to start refashioning is with t-shirts. we all have them: the t-shirts we don't wear but can't seem to let go of. here's what i did with one of mine.

this was part of my college uniform:


not only is it ridiculously big (as all of my clothes were back then), it had developed some issues in the back....


...and so had since been relegated to the pajama drawer. but i never wore it, because i was afraid it was just going to keep ripping and completely fall apart. clearly, it was time to dismantle it myself.

i started by removing the sleeves, then cutting across the back horizontally at the spot of the enormous gaping hole, leaving me with this:


then i cut down the sides vertically, making two pieces, and slit the part of the back that was attached to the front down the middle, comme ca:


i decided that those two pieces coming off the top of the front piece would become straps, so i trimmed them a bit to make them slimmer and equal widths, and hemmed the edges. i also turned the neckband under in the front and stitched it down to make a uniform hem all around.

then i put it all together: pinned the side seams and sewed them up, hemmed the top of the back piece, attached the straps to the back, and hemmed the front piece— which had ended up longer than the back—at the bottom. and this is what i got:



putting it on, i realized that the part where i had hemmed under the existing neckband stuck out...


...and i was going to fix it by turning it under one more time and re-hemming, but then i realized that i liked it the way it was. i also love that the finished product retained some of the pinholes and frayed edges of the original shirt.

and so something destined for the scrap heap became a fab, totally original "new" top.

- cakehouse

HOW TO: Make Paper from Junk Mail

Like everyone, I get a TON of junk mail. And despite my calls to company's telling them I want off their catalog mailing lists, I still get a lot of mail that goes straight into the recycling bin - incentive checks from credit cards, sale fliers, you know you get them too. Well in celebration of Earth Day, here's a great way to re-use a lot of that un-wanted mail to make new paper!

What you'll need:
-old magazines, letters, junk mail
(no newspaper, the consistency will be just terrible, try to keep it to letters and
things printed on white paper for the best results)
-blender or food processor
-screen, deckle and mold, or i've even done it with a silkscreen, though the weight of the paper on a silk screen over time will warp it, and you won't be able to use to that way again
-iron (maybe?)
-bathtub or large container, large enough for your screen and some space to get the water to mix around

Just take your stack of paper and either shred it or rip it up into small pieces - the smaller the better really as this will be the base for your pulp and you'll be able to pull thinner sheets with finer pulp.

After it's all shredded up into small 1" pieces, set it in a bucket of water and let soak overnight to break down the paper a bit. Drain the excess water, and now it''s time for the blender! Blend the rough cut pulp with water about 1 part pulp to 4 parts water. At this time you can add in any food coloring (or hey, try natural dyes, boil some onion skins and add that to your pulp, you'll get a nice muted color and keeping in the actual skins will create some nice contrast in the final paper)

Put all this great pulp into a large vat, big enough for you to dredge your screen through - I couldn't ever find a container big enough for my screen, so everything goes into a nice clean bath tub with the drain closed. And I add more water to the pulp. Now once that is all set, take your screen and let it sink to the bottom, and swirl around the pulp in the water so it is even. Line up the deckle on top, and while the pulp is still swirling around lift up the screen, allowing all the water to pass through the screen, leaving a nice film of pulp on the top - the deckle helps keep the sheet forming evenly. You can experiment with different thickness of paper, depending on how diluted you made the pulp.

Now this is the tricky part, getting that sheet off the screen! You can use some absorbant felt (and CHEAP too!) and stack that with some newsprint to help soak up some of the water and in one quick motion put the screen - paper sheet down - directly on to the felt. Stack another sheet of felt and newspaper and felt again, pull another sheet and stack that on top as well. As the stack get bigger, you can try squeezing more water out by laying heay books on top or putting the sheets in between two boards and a clamp, and really squeeze that water out.

Drying time for the sheets really depends on how much water you got squeezed out initially and how moist the air is etc. Once the sheet are completely dry, if they curl up a little, you can always put them under a towel and iron them a bit to straighten them out. HAVE FUN!

I use it as gift wrap mostly because it tends to bleed when written on or drawn on. To protect against this you need to size it so that any ink on it doesn't bleed out. Have fun adding stuff and creating your very own custom paper!

I'll be offering this recycled paper in my supply shop at as an Earth Day / Spring special

HEY - let me know what I missed in this do-it-at-home tutorial you did this for a living!


Friday Night Beauty Tip

Since this winter weather will keep many of us indoors with a little extra time, I wanted to share some beauty tips you can do at home. There is nothing better for the skin than natural, preservative free products. And what better than some you can make yourself! One of my favorites is face scrub used every other week (oily skin) or once a month (normal/ combination), it can make any complexion radiant and help promote cell rejuvenation.

The scrub I craft is a dry oatmeal base scrub and an ‘essential’ water that is mixed together before use. I currently make two types, one a rose-lavender blend shown in picture for normal/combination skin and the other a new blend, tea tree-green tea for oily skin. The green tea used I bought in Korea and it was part of the first picking, the aroma is light and herby when mixed with the tea tree 'essential' water, it is by far my favorite. Both will be available at the Brooklyn Home Show.

Following is a recipe made with Chamomille (anti-inflammatory and redness reducer) suited for this killer weather, it takes approx 10 minutes start to finish, try it!

5 Tablespoons quick cooking oatmeal – grind fine, hand grinding would be best for this amount

1 1/2 Tablespoons Chamomile Tea – try brewing the tea in half a cup for a strong golden color

Mix the two above and let sit together for 2-5 minutes, the mixture will cool and become paste. Once ready take a small amount, what ever two fingers can ‘scoop’ out and use over face and neck. Use circular motion and soft pressure, the oatmeal will be fine enough to do its ‘scrubbing’ without aggressive efforts. Remove by washing with warm water and pat dry. Any left over can be refrigerated up to a week.


by Josie