DIY: Celebrate Earth day by sprouting your own seeds

Around this time of the year, kids get to learn a lot about recycling, planting and trash clean up in celebration of Earth day. I think it’s important to let them know we must do these things all year around and Earth should be celebrated every day.

So, it doesn’t matter if you do this project on Earth day, this week or next month as long

as your kids experience the joys and wonders of watching their own seedlings emerge. Plus, they’ll get a little lesson on recycling and composting on top of it all!

You will need:

* An empty egg carton (the

molded pulp

ones, not plastic or

polystyrene)

* Potting soil

* Seeds

* Plastic wrap or bag

* Pen or pecil

* Tooth picks and paper to make labels

Tip: to make the germination process a breeze, pick seeds that germinate easily such as beans, pees, carrots, squash, cucumber and pumpkins. Hard to start seeds might not even sprout and you’ll end up having a frustrated kid!

Get started:

1. Separate the bottom part from the lid of the egg carton. Take the bottom part and poke holes in each cell using the tip of a pen or pencil.

Those will be the drainage holes. Place the lid of the egg carton under the bottom part, nesting one under the other. Now you have your seedling tray.

2. Place small amounts of soil in each cell and plant the seeds making sure the seeds are lightly covered by soil (follow package directions)

3. Water each cell. Be mindful not to over water the seeds, a spray bottle comes in handy.

4. Use tooth picks and paper to make labels.

You can also use rocks or clothes pins to label the seeds.

5. Cover your tray with plastic wrap or a bag to create greenhouse conditions.

6. Place the tray by the window and watch your seeds grow! Keep soil watered and remove the plastic wrap when the first leaves appear.

7. When your plants have more than two leaves, separate each cell and plant it directly into the ground (or pot). The pulp that the egg carton is made of will decompose and become

compost

.

Doing this project is a great way to teach kids about the importance of planting and re-planting, recycling and composting. Explain to them why we should plant trees, how you are recycling the egg carton and how it becomes plant food. Let them have fun while you guide them.

Make a photo journal, they’ll enjoy comparing the growth of the plants and making observations later on.

 I know I did when I was little and now I pass the experience on to my kids.

Natasha K.

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What are B Corps? Why Do We Need Stuff?

In my last post, readers, I reflected on Earth Day and sustainable small businesses and our own businesses. It was a lot to read, kind of heavy, I know. Today is going to be a bit along those lines, but I'm going to share two big things, that combined, relate to sustainable small businesses.

Please note that when I use the word sustainable, I use it a la Merriam-Webster definition
a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>  
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>. 

The first thing, which is the second question in the title, "Why Do We Need Stuff?" comes from Megan Auman, of Designing an MBA. In the last month she launched a site called Understanding Objects and is all about changing the perception that the world doesn't need more stuff, it needs YOUR stuff. 

Hardly a mind-blowing concept here, but as an artist, I've struggled too with the idea that there are already so many stationery companies out there, why does the world need my stationery? Or better yet, I've tried to build a business based on a Toyota business model where I buy only what I need when I need it to avoid having too much stuff around. To have another artist out there, trying to repair our concept of "stuff", especially in relation to our own art, it's encouraging. It reminds me that there is a place for my art and my stuff, it's just a matter of placing the correct value on the stuff we buy and sell to others.  

The second thing, is that yesterday, Etsy announced their certification as a B Corporation. This point answers the first question, "What Is A B Corporation?"  I encourage you all to read the article about Etsy joining the B Corporation Movement and what it means as an artist and seller on Etsy. It's some incredible stuff, let me tell you! 

But I want to talk about what it means for us, Etsy sellers, a bit and also what it means for our readers on this blog that are buyers and lovers of the New York Etsy Team.  

As, I've discussed many times, what I do personally to run a sustainable business- I run a non-certified sustainable corporation. That's right, I've taken my personal feelings and actions and have allowed them to determine how to run and operate my business. I think it's a logical step for any small business just starting up and one-artist show. However, when a largish company like Etsy takes the steps to become a certified B Corporation, it means they are opening themselves to being questioned regularly about their sustainable business practices and are open to follow a set of guidelines and metric systems that determine whether they are practicing sustainable business standards not just on local, environmental, and employee issues, but globally, as well.  Companies already established as B Corporations are Patagonia and Seventh Generation.

So what about you, artist and small business owner? What does Etsy becoming a certified B Corp mean for you? 

Well nothing yet. You don't have to rush out and do anything, but you should be aware that Etsy is interested in practicing good business for itself, and you. This also means that Etsy's hopes to influence others businesses to start practicing sustainability. It was in large part what Hello Etsy in Berlin (which I covered last year) was all about-how can large and small businesses make an impact for the good of the environment, irreplaceable resources, and humanity?

These are tough questions. After all, who doesn't want to make money? People go into business for a variety of reasons, but most often to make money.  Etsy's decision means that now they want to help small businesses keep making money AND make business decisions that don't hurt humans, or the environment.

I don't believe that many of us small businesses are capable of paying to go through the rigorous process of becoming a B-Corporation yet, but I think it's a great thing to aspire to. I also think it's something that can be started small just by using the tools in the NYC area:
  • composting your produce and coffee bean scraps (Etsy does it!)
  • riding your bike, or taking public transportation instead of driving
  • recycling even the smallest piece of paper
  • carrying our own bags when shopping to avoid taking new bags, or even just collecting all of your plastic bags and then recycling them in the bins specific for plastic bags
  • turning your paper bags into envelopes (I did a tutorial you can see here)
  • recycling your #5 plastic containers (mostly the stuff that holds your yogurt) at Whole Foods Stores
  • Reuse magazine pages to stuff your packages when mailing
  • Reuse boxes, when shipping mail (yes branding matters, but you can do a lot if you state your case beforehand)
The list goes on, and all it requires you to do is to look around you for the resources, until you are large enough and can become a B Corporation of your own.

And for buyers, what does this mean for you? 

Well, it means that you know and have a better idea of the type of business you are purchasing from. I don't want to imply that all businesses are bad businesses, because they are not. However, now those individuals that are concerned with the state of environmental affairs and want to start buying stuff that has value and meaning (Go Megan!), know that you're shopping on a site that is practicing sustainable business and is encouraging their members to practice the same, and they will feel better about their purchases and will put a higher value on them knowing that they are making an impact on the greater world.

Lastly, for artists, buyers and Etsy Small Businesses in NYC, I encourage you to check out Goodnik. Goodnik is an organization that helps social entrepreneurs whether they are in the for-profit or not-for-profit or aspiring B Corporation sectors. They are a great resource just for learning more about this topic.

Let us do more good business!


Sara//
S2 Stationery and Design

Earth Day Reflecting

Happy day-after-Earth Day!

Two weeks ago, I had promised photos and a recap of the Etsy craft event on making terrariums, but I didn't make it. I had to rush home to dog walk. Yep. I was dog sitting that week and had to make sure the rascal was okay.

Needless to say, I missed the event, but heard many, many great things about it. I've even seen a few of the terrariums made that evening and am full of envy that I don't have my own to share with you.

Alas, Etsy's events section of the website offers two video tutorials to make your own:
http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2012/how-tuesday-light-bulb-terrariums/
and
http://www.etsy.com/community/online-labs, make sure to watch the "Hands On Dirt With Red Rose and Lavender" under the Etsy How To section.

Both videos are great and I intend to use them when I make my own terrarium, if I ever find the time!

Terrarium by Red Rose and Lavender

Earth Day for me has always been a day of reflection. I recently became environmentally aware- I'd say in the last 8 years. When I lived in Virginia, I used to frequent the farmers market and the artisanal cheese monger in my neighborhood. It was an amazing world and yet I didn't appreciate my then roommate trying to make me use non-chemical based detergents and soaps to wash our dishes. In fact, I had my own stash of chemical laden products to use when she wasn't looking.

Six years later, I've completely changed. Now, I'm the roommate that requests we use chemical-free dish washing liquid (I even pay for it) and I use vinegar, baking soda, and water as my main cleaning agents. I've become sensitive to chemical based smells. And my goal is to help educate as many people as possible on the ways in which they can also live greener lifestyles. Of course, it is up to the person to enact these changes, but if we share what we know with each other, we now have a choice and that's the key to most life style changes after all. 

Yesterday, I didn't do very much. I didn't volunteer and I did end up buying a pair of leggings from Sears. That one purchase threw me into a spiral of thought about packaging and products and my own company. It made me think about my responsibility as a crafter, maker, seller, and business owner to make responsible choices not just for myself, but for my customers.

My rational has always been that if I can't figure out how to recycle or reuse a piece of the item I purchased, than I shouldn't expect my customers. It is the main reason why I don't wrap cards in plastic. Do you know how to recycle the plastic sleeve most cards come in? 

A hint- Whole Foods recycles plastic bags, sleeves and cling wrap. Next time you visit one, check and see if they do. The one by me does and it has helped make my life a bit easier.

This month, I already reached out to a printer who uses eco-friendly paper sources and inks for orders. I've been stuffing my boxes to ship with old magazine pages instead of using bubble wrap or any other non-recyclable stuffing product. I even found out that Uline sells biodegradable bags and burlap that biodegrades as well. Amazing!

We have so many more choices these days on how live green lives. A part of me thought, yesterday, that I do enough-I compost, recycle, volunteer with my local CSA and therefore could take an Earth Day off, but the reality is I can do more. I don't feel guilty about not celebrating Earth Day in the rain, in fact, I did a ton of things I needed to do, like finish knitting a blanket that's been on my to do list for some time now, but it means I can integrate more ways of greener living in my life and it's why I am writing this extremely personal blog post today.


If you've made it this far into my posting. Hooray! Thank you for reading.  If you didn't, I promise the next posting won't be so long and drawn out about my thoughts on Earth Day and green living.

In the mean time, I want to share another creative project off of the Etsy website. I'm completely excited about this. It is part of the How-Tuesday series on the website and it's a tutorial on how to make a cardboard chandelier. Talk about recycling packaging!

Cardboard Chandelier by Kayte Terry

I can't wait to be able to make this for my own home one day. This project is definitely going into the "Future To Do" folder.  Also something for YOU to add to your own to do folder is saving the date of May 7th, for a hands-on evening with Kayte, the woman who shared the cardboard chandelier and wrote the book that it is featured in Paper Made! More details will be shared soon on the Etsy website.    

On that note, I'm off to do some more green discovery. Stay inventive and creative!


Sara//

Recycling Ideas On Pinterest

Readers, are you all clued in to the wonderful world of Pinterest? If you aren't, I highly recommend that you get an invitation and join. As with every online site, you should review the guidelines carefully and make sure you want to be part of the site. If you do, you'll see how it is a great tool for inspiration, marketing, business development, and creativity.

But I've digressed, of course! The reason I'm talking about Pinterest today is because I found an entire world of recycling ideas and crafts and it makes me so happy and I think it will for you, too!

My board on Pinterest where I keep my favorite recycled/upcycled ideas is called "Upcycled Ideas" (hardly imaginative, I know).  As of now, it only has four items, but I'm looking forward to collecting more and referring back to them at various dates to use them as needed.

While I love all of the ideas on the board and definitely intend to use the toilet paper roll options, my favorite of  is the "Holder for Charging Cell Phone" by Make it and Love it.


What I love even more is that they give you the step by step process on how to make your own. Seriously, how awesome is that?! Of course tutorials are the rage on line, especially for craft lovers like you and me, but when you combine the exchange of ideas on how to make our lifestyles more eco-friendly, it's even better! I encourage us all to take our favorite recycled/upcycled ideas and share them with the ever growing community of pinterest users. You never know what impact you may have just from sharing something as simple as reusing a lotion bottle to charge your cell phone.

If any of you have recycling/upcycling ideas that you want to share, please drop them in the comments section, especially if it has a URL and/or get them on pinterest for others to discover and share.

Happy pining, creating, and recycling!


Sara//

Giving Your Holiday Cards A New Life


Happy New Year, Readers! I hope your Holidays were spectacular and that you've entered 2012 with feelings of excitement, determination, and peace.

The first week of January, I attempt to do some spring cleaning. I clean out my closets, shred old papers I no longer need, go through old magazines from 2011, and do an inventory of my business stock. I also file all of my receipts and get my books in order as I prepare for orders in the new year and tax season. In other words, I purge, breathe, and usher in something like order before the chaos begins.
Now, this is all important because I'm a bit of a pack rat. Okay, that's a bit extreme, I'm not a pack rat, but I do like to keep cards and movie ticket stubs and anything else that reminds me of a favorite moment in my past year. I have boxes of things like this and I love having them, but I also spend time sorting through them and making sure I'm not carrying too much of my past into my future.

Which is why I tackle the pile of Christmas cards I received in January that first week.

In the past I felt horrible at the thought of throwing away a card that someone took the time to send me. Eventually, the photo card came out and I didn't quite feel so bad about recycling cards. You may be wondering why? The truth is that it is so rare that someone writes on their photo card that the card is impersonal. And so purging of Christmas cards became easier and my paper load less.

It wasn't until last year that I discovered a wonderful little way to really recycle your cards (photo cards not included) that involves giving your cards a new life - donating them to St. Jude's Ranch.


For more than 30 years, St. Jude's Ranch has been collecting used greeting-card fronts to reuse.  The children at St. Jude's Ranch turn the card fronts into new cards that are sold at the gift shop. Not only do the children learn to craft, but they also learn about recycling and running a business.


St. Jude's Ranch accepts all cards, not just Christmas cards. They take general, birthday, thank-you, Easter, Valentine's Day, and any other holiday I'm missing, but currently they have a need for both birthday and thank-you cards.  They prefer the front of cards sized 5"x 7" or smaller and have no writing at all. I tend to tear the card and recycle the back with the writing on my own. Something to be aware of is that St. Jude's cannot accept cards by Hallmark, Disney, or American Greetings because of trademark and/or copyright issues since they sell the remade cards.

I know you're thinking that shipping the cards to St. Jude's defeats the purpose of recycling the cards, but honestly, you're doing an amazing thing by sending these cards to children in need and you can mark the postage charge as a charitable contribution on your taxes.

So now, take all your card fronts and put them in a USPS Flat Rate Box and ship them to the following address:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

For those of you looking to doubly make a difference, you can host a collection with friends to mail one big bundle to the group. Turn it into a party where you invite your friends over, have some snacks, catch up, and gather those cards into a sizable donation. We're spinning the craft party in another way!

You can also purchase cards from the children next year for your own Holiday card needs. Cards are sold in packets of 10 for $10.  You can find out more information on the categories and how to order on their website.

Any questions can be directed to St. Jude's directly via phone at 877-977-7572 or you can visit their website.

Happy New Year of Crafting and Recycling!



Sara//

Wrapping Your Holidays With Eco-Love

Good December, {NewNew} readers!

Last month, I promised you a blog with tips on how to eco-friendly decorate your home for the Holidays. I'm sorry to break the news to you, but I'm not writing about that this month. Instead, I'm sharing my favorite eco-friendly alternatives to gift wrap.

Yes, we are talking about decorating under the tree for your loved ones and the planet. I think it's a trade-off, but don't worry, you will get your tips for eco-friendly Holiday decorating. You can hold me to it!

Now, before I get into my favorite tips (that I've spent countless hours scouring and talking to people about), I wanted to share some quick facts on Holiday waste (courtesy of the Recycleworks.org):
  • From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (EPA and Use Less Stuff) 
  •  In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff)
  • The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year n the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (Use Less Stuff) Consider sending an electronic card.
  • Ribbons--if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. 
  • Paper Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. (The Recycler's Handbook)
Now, as a stationer, I find the paper facts troublesome. Which is why I've made a commitment to the Earth and myself to create a sustainable business.  The reality is that there are paper lovers in the world and creative people love paper, but that doesn't mean you have to be irresponsible.  Between you and me, it's partially the reason why my collection of paper bags is almost as big, if not getting bigger, than my inventory for projects.

I'm getting beside myself here. What is important is that you know how you can still celebrate your holiday in style just in a less expensive and harmful way.  So here goes, my recommendations for your gift wrapping:

1. Kraft Paper. You have a ton of this already. If you shop at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, your groceries get bagged in it. If you shop at almost any large retailer now, your goods get sent out the door in your hand in it - the paper bag.  I am aware that some bags have colors and logos, but all you need to do is cut off the bottom of the bag and the handles and use the inside. I also encourage you to use the colored/logo side as well.  For the Holidays, Trader Joe's bags have tags for you to cut out and use on your gifts, see below.



If your bag is plain brown, great! You have your own canvas to work with. Stickers you may have can be used, any stamps you have can also be used to create a pattern. If nothing else, grab some markers and draw different colored lines. Easy, peasy!

2. Tissue Paper.  I save tissue paper from everywhere and anywhere. If my jeans are wrapped in it when I leave a store, I save the sheets, even with the tears from the label and use it for future wrapping. The excuse "you'll see through it" doesn't work since tissue paper rarely comes in sheets of one--two should do the trick nicely.

3. Newspaper, Maps, or any other antique looking paper.  You are probably thinking about ink getting on your fingers. Well, you can not be an eco-warrior if you can't stand getting your fingers a bit dirty now and then! Newspaper makes great gift wrap because it's black and white, sometimes gray, meaning that any color bows or ribbons you use will contrast amazingly against the background. The word pattern also is done for you, so no stamping or coloring necessary.

The same goes with maps. If you have small boxes and an Atlas that you're considering throwing a way, don't! Take those old sheets of history and create new memories with it. I guarantee that everyone who gets a gift wrapped in old world maps will be mesmerized and full of disbelief!

4.Old Textiles.  The Japanese have a technique called furoshiki, where they wrap gifts in cloth.  You can take old bandanas, blouses, skirts, scarfs, cut them into a square based on the size of the fabric and the size you need for your gift and secure the open end with a button, safety pin, or simply knot it. Talk about a fashion statement!



5. Potato Chip Bags. I am not kidding you on this one and I can not take credit for it. I got it from Martha Stewart and it is my favorite idea ever! I'm quite mad that I didn't even consider it on my own! Here's the genius of the idea: Cut open a potato-chip bag along the seam to reveal the shiny white or silver inside. Flatten the bag, wash it with soap and water to remove the grease, and then air dry. Once completed, wrap your presents and decorate with ribbons or bows, as you like. Now I have a feel good reason to eat chips-Yes!


Okay, so I think you're covered for your gift wrapping needs, but what about decorating? Bows? Ribbon?  Here are my tips:

1. Aluminum Bows. Virginia Kraljevic (fellow blogger on the {NewNew}) posted a amazingly easy method to create a bow with a good already in your pantry- aluminum foil! The even better part is that aluminum foil is recycleable. Yep! After the gift is unwrapped, you can recycle both the paper and the bow. Awesome! The video also shows how to create a stamp from a rubber cork and apply that to your upcycled paper bag for decorating purposes. She then shows you now to put together the bow. It's easy, it's gorgeous and so simple, it blows my mind! Check out the Etsy video:

                                   How-Tuesday: Upcycled Gift Wrap from Etsy on Vimeo.

2. Paper Bows. Again, I'm not the genius behind this idea either, but I LOVE it! It's another simple and easy way to recycle paper and decorate your Holiday packages and I guarantee you have all the supplies you need already at home or in your work space.  Coming from the website Splash of Something, Katrina gives you step my step instructions along with photos (like the one below) to help you make your paper bows out of magazines, newspapers, and even books. How cute!



3. Ribbon.  Collect ribbon scraps throughout the year and use them for gifts. One of my favorite ribbon scrap methods is to take them from shopping bags. They are all the rage these days, so just be more aware of the bags you're bringing home and when you go to recycle the bag, unknot the ribbon handles and store for future gift giving!

Before you say, "but Sara, sometimes they are cord like and ugly", think about how you could personally embellish it or how lovely it will work with kraft paper. Also remember that it is one less piece of textile in a landfill and all those small boxes you are giving away would look lovely with a piece of the twine or cord around it. Shops now offer them in all colors and lengths, so your collection overtime could be large enough for all your gift giving needs!

Lastly, we're going to cover mailing packages. Not everyone is going to be local and you are bound to need to send a few packages to loved ones afar.  Here are my two tips: 

1. Reuse Boxes. I am a box junky. I am! Any box that is in relatively good shape, I keep for shipping purposes. They work wonderfully well and aside from having to black out any other shipping information so as not to confuse postal workers, they are solid. Plus this saves you money!

2. Stuffing.  Now, I reuse magazines to stuff my boxes, but Martha Stewart shared a wonderful little technique that I also LOVE immensely - Biodegradable Stuffing! It cushions small, fragile items just as well as the non-eco-friendly stuff like bubbles or styrofoam nuggets. So use things like real peanuts and popcorn (the receiver may not want to eat stale popcorn, but they can peanuts!).  Even better, both can be composted.


So there you have it! Ways to wrap, decorate, and ship all in an eco-friendly manner.  I hope you use these and find them helpful. I look forward to sharing more environmental + crafting insight in 2012!

Happy Holidays!


Sara//

Eco-Friendly and Natural Cleaning Recipes To Use In Your Home and Office

Just in time for the Holidays, when you may have more dirt around thanks to more-than-normal foot traffic, and closed windows keeping out the cold weather, I'm providing you with eco-friendly and natural cleaning recipes to use to keep your home and office clean and chemical free.  Some of you may already know these agents, or have them in your cupboard. If you don't, next time you're at the store pick them up!


I know that some of you may be thinking, but what about scents? We want our apartment to smell like cinnamon (go buy some cinnamon sticks!), or gingerbread (bake some, the smell will linger for hours!), or pine tree (buy a real tree, just make sure you recycle it according to your city and state recycling laws). If you go the natural route in regards to scenting your home, you'll avoid the fake chemical scents in over-the-counter products like candles (not all), soaps, deodorizers, sprays and yes, cleaning products.

What I mean by fake chemical scents is that most of these products contain harsh chemicals that have been linked to causing breathing problems in all beings, adults, children and pets. The other thing to remember is that these scents linger over time and the more you use them, the more damage they are doing to your health.  As noted on TheDailyGreen, "These chemicals can produce indoor air pollution by off-gassing toxic fumes that can irritate eyes and lungs. (Children and pets are most at risk.) Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (pesticides, technically), that can actually make bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs." 

With that in mind, lets make some natural cleaners! 

Just an FYI, I bought both my large container of baking soda and vinegar from the cleaning isles at Target. These items are by no means expensive, and while I myself use Seventh Generation products and Method on occasion, I am aware that they are not always in everyone's budget.  


The great thing about the recipes provided below (thank you TheDailyGreen!) is that items like baking soda, don't have a scent, but is a great deodorizer and vinegar, while doesn't smell too good at first, wears off in no-time and is one of the best cleaning agents around, especially for glass. I tell you this in case you decide that vinegar and baking soda might not go well with the scents of cinnamon and gingerbread. It is not true! You'll be fine and that lack of, or lingering scent will make your nose happier. 

All these recipes require are the following items: 
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle 
  • Lemon Juice (good substitute for vinegar) 
  • Liquid Soap
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Club Soda (great for carpet stains!)


General Cleaning (kitchens and bathrooms):
Baking Soda and Water: Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and work up some elbow grease. 
Lemon Juice or Vinegar: Got stains, mildew or grease streaks? Spray or douse with lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit a few minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush. 
Disinfectant: Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
Kosher Salt and Water: If you need a tougher abrasive, sprinkle on kosher salt and scrub with a wet cloth or sponge. 

Oven Cleaning:
Baking Soda and Water: Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, don gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.

Windows and Mirrors:
White Vinegar, Water and Newspaper: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking. If you're out of vinegar or don't like its smell, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.

Carpets:
Club Soda: You've probably heard the old adage that club soda works well on carpet stains. But you have to attack the mess right away. Lift off any solids, then liberally pour on club soda. Blot with an old rag. The soda's carbonation brings the spill to the surface, and the salts in the soda thwart staining. 
Cornmeal: For big spills, dump cornmeal on the mess, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and vacuum up the gunk.
Spot Cleaner: Make your own by mixing: 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in a blender, with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy. Spray on, then rinse with vinegar. 
To Deodorize: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet or rug, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.

Wood Floors:
Vinegar: Whip up a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then mop your floors, scrubbing away any grime. 

Laundry: 
Baking Soda: Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda in with your normal cleaner - it's great for deodorizing and helps regulate the pH level in the washer water to keep it from being too acidic or alkaline. Additionally, it helps to boost the detergent you are using by making it work more effectively and reduce order causing bacteria. 

And don't forget, while you're cleaning and getting ready for Holiday festivities, be sure to pay attention to unwanted items and properly dispose of them-recycle what you can, donate what can be used again (there are many programs like the NY Cares Coat Drive in NY City that collects gently worn coats to give to individuals in need during the winter months), and consider this as you purchase items for the Holiday season.  

Next month, we'll discuss how to decorate your home, even though the Holiday season will be in full swing, without taxing the environment too much. Exciting, I know! We're going to get creative! 

Until December, Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family, friends, and loved ones. 


On Being a Saver

As I've mentioned before, I'm a saver of things that might rightfully be considered trash and thrown away --- felt scraps, for example. But, per the felt scraps example, I save these things because of their potential to become something not-trash. I see their possibility for transformation. I know I'm not alone in this among crafty types.

Perhaps you can relate to the inherent quandary in being a crafty saver in the big city, namely, a lack of space to keep saved items. I often wish I could strike a better balance between my visions of possibility or intended use and the reality that saved things will likely hang around a good long awhile before I use them, thus contributing to the increasing clutter amid which I consequently live. Alas. Two illustrative examples of this:

1. Milk carton screw-caps, and



2. Lamp shades.

I started saving milk carton screw-caps with the intention of making wristlet pin cushions (they form the base). This was many, many months ago. But the caps are small so it's not a major burden on my space to keep saving them---yet. And the chances of my actually using them as intended are good: Wristlet pin cushions are well within my likely future crafting ventures. So this save is reasonable, if a little annoying when the caps overrun the area above the sink.

I have a harder time justifying the second save, two metal lampshades that I salvaged from floor lamps that pooped out on me. (Am I alone in going through floor lamps like nobody's business?) I saved them with the idea that I could use one or the other as a sun-shield for my scrabble-tile pendants when selling at outdoor craft shows and markets. But I haven't figured out how exactly to rig them up. As with the the screw-caps, it's been months and months since I had this idea, but unlike the screw-caps, these things take up space. I'm constantly moving them around so I clearly don't have any to spare for them. So this save really isn't justifiable: Major space burden coupled with only a vague idea for their use. But, oh, the potential! It's almost intoxicating. Help!

In addition to things I save for their potential transformative use, there are things I save because they're just so obviously useful, whether or not I actually use them. You can relate.  I'll discuss these in my next post. Enough confessional for one day!

Until then --

 Linda // Purty Bird




Top Five List for Recycling

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

We hear those words evermore these days, not just for the sake of the environment, but also for the sake of our wallets.

I absolutely try to reuse anything and everything that is meant to be disposable.

And so here is my top five list for recycling items that you normally might just throw away: (In no particular order)

1. Empty cereal boxes, the kind that have an inner liner where the food is held. This is one of my favorites! What I like to do is carefully dis-assemble the box and re-assemble it inside out so that I have a box that I can either use for gift giving, shipping items in, or even just storage for small items. If you choose to use it as a shipment box, make sure you put a label over any writing that might be inside the box, otherwise that box is ready to be labeled and shipped.

2. If you don't already save them, the plastic container that your wonton soup arrived in would make an excellent storage container, and not just for food. They're great because they are see through and easily stacked.

3. Page-a-day desk calendars, the kind you rip off the comic or other with the day and probably crumple and toss. Not so fast! Collect those and use the non-printed side for scratch paper for your grocery list or other musing.

4. Lonesome sock, you know the kind, the one the dryer left lonely without a mate. Good news, our single sock now has a new life, as a dustrag, a puppet or sock monkey.

5. That pesky junk mail. Especially the kind with the envelopes for you to mail back applications and such. I use those envelopes to store receipts in, for different categories and write exactly what's in them.

What are some things that YOU give a second life to? Please share!

by Lorina Pellach-Ladrillono of http://www.beadscarf.com/ and http://beadscarf.etsy.com/

How-To: Making a Miniature Artist's Canvas

I have always been obsessed with creating miniature versions of the things I use in my everyday life. I think the extra focus required to make miniature objects imbues the tiny things I make with a special quality--as if they are more charged with meaning than they would be at their regular size. Another reason to spend your time making tiny stuff is that it doesn't take up a whole lot of space, which, if you have friends who live in small apartments and want to give them beautiful handmade things but don't want to burden them with a lot of clutter, is a very good thing!

This tutorial will teach you how to make dollhouse-sized blank artists' canvases from empty tissue, granola bar and cereal boxes, which you can then paint and add to friends' art collections. I am hoping I can spark a whole trendy miniature painting craze!

Here's what you will need:
-empty boxes made from thin cardboard that you otherwise would have tossed into the recycling
-muslin fabric
-white glue
-acrylic gesso
-a normal size brush for applying the gesso, plus teeny tiny ones for doing the actual painting
-acrylic paints
-a gridded acrylic ruler is helpful for making accurate right angles when cutting up your boxes

Step 1: Figure out what size you want your miniature canvas to be. You can just eyeball the size if you like, but if you want it to be the perfect size to fit into a dollhouse, you'll want to do a little math. The standard size for dollhouse accessories is 1/12 scale, which means that you want to divide all your regular measurements by 12. If the full-sized painting would be 18 by 24 inches, then you want to make your mini canvas 1 and 1/2 inches by 2 inches.


Step 2: Once you have cut your cardboard to size, spread it with a thin layer of white glue and stick it to a piece of muslin. Make sure that the sides of your canvas are parallel to the grain of the fabric.


Step 3: Fold the fabric around to the back of the canvas and glue it down.


Make sure the folded fabric edge is glued slightly inside the edges of the cardboard so it can't be seen from the front.


Step 4: When your glue has dried, paint your canvas with a thin layer of acrylic gesso. You want to make sure not to put the gesso on too thickly, because being able to see the grain of your muslin is crucial to having a miniature painting that looks like the full-sized version. If you want to have an especially texture-y canvas, try different types of fabric and see which one looks best.


Paint gesso on the edges & back as well.


That's it! These miniature canvases are so easy and fun to make that you can create hundreds of them in nearly no time, then invite some friends over to have a painting party.


Then you and your friends can have a miniature art show:



Stella (lookcloselypress)