Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Green Christmas Tree

It's difficult to think about Christmas without the Tree. The lights, the ornaments, the tree skirt, the gifts neatly wrapped and stashed beneath all bring us joy. Whether you are organized enough to get your tree the weekend after Thanksgiving or too busy until the week before Christmas, it's a ritual with warm and happy memories.

In spite of those joyful emotions it is increasingly difficult, maybe Scrooge-like, not to consider what a greener kind of Christmas tree would be. Greener might mean a live tree transported with its roots intact or a pesticide-free tree. Greener might mean strung with solar powered LED lights or being reduced to mulch for park trails.

Perhaps you are even more inventive in your approach to the New Green Tree? Suppose you want to use the 3 Rs and do it with style. Here are some artistic inspirations above and below that reduce, re-use, and recycle!

Paul Deakin, a student at the University of Southampton in England, created this tree with 1,050 beer bottles.

The ladder tree via Apartment Therapy via MetaFilter via MeCha.

More details on the 2-D Christmas tree appear in the The Style Files, a daily blog by Danielle de Lange, based in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vintage Christmas Box

'Twas once upon a Christmas time someone thoughtful, and with a keen eye for design, selected this holiday box. It had been filled with Eaton-Hurleut writing paper. The beautiful box was saved for many years and changed keepers several times. I'm not sure if I knew exactly what it contained when I first saw it. But, it didn't matter. It was the box itself as a decorated object that captured my fancy as a young admirer.

Several years ago, this treasured box was given to me in a casual cleaning of basement shelves. I don't think anyone else in the family had any interest in it or appreciated the pretty botanical print adhered to its top and sides. By then, it's contents had probably changed several times before storing a handful of small brass bells, jingling loosely.

I was delighted to hear the jingly box among the Christmas things unpacked this year. I still marvel at the beautifully rendered holly leaves and berries thoughtfully laid out and wrapped with delicate bows. It is a simple pleasure for me to behold the vintage box and a joyful reminder of the power of beautiful things in our lives, no matter how small.

With very best wishes for a joyous and beautiful holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Forcing Paperwhites

After a busy week away from this address, it's good to be back and getting ready for the holiday season. The first week of December I started forcing several narcissus bulbs. In a re-purposed glass ice bucket, partly filled with black polished stones, three bulbs were nestled snugly to fit. The bucket was filled with water to the top of the stones and the very bottom of the bulbs. The bucket was stashed in the unheated storage room. A small amount of water was added every day to keep the water level just reaching the bottom of the bulbs.

Within four days of cool, dark isolation, roots started to appear. The stalks started to grow and by day six the ice bucket, now, holiday planter was brought upstairs into the natural light. Each day the bulbs have grown above and below the water line. It's a fascinating process, and one I have marveled over each year at this time.

With luck, the fragrant flowers will open by Christmas, adding their beautiful simplicity to this address. When they start growing taller and seem ready to tip, I'll add a small stake and tie them together with a ribbon. A gardening friend recommends adding vodka to the water to slow the growth in height and keep them standing straighter. Vodka apparently affects plants and mammals differently.

Try forcing paperwhites as a gift to yourself or a friend. Bulbs make good gifts too, if you're still looking for a perfect gift for the perfect friend who has everything!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paper Ornaments

Creating quick and simple ornaments is a rewarding process in a hectic season. Imagine a paper ball you can transform from two-dimensional paper into a delightful object in the round. This beautiful and clever idea comes from Design Sponge on their DIY column. Using materials you have on hand, this fun green project can be completed in less than ten minutes, maybe five, if you catch on quickly!

You can use any kind of paper. I made my first one with recycled paper. I clipped pages with colorful images on both sides from catalogs to recycle. Next, I'm going to try one with origami paper. The D*S crafters, Lauren and Derek, used wrapping paper. Here are their instructions:

a stapler
something round to trace
glue (or crafter’s glue dots)

1. trace and cut out 9 circles from your paper (or papers) of choice.
2. fold each circle in half, then place them in a stack. staple them together at the top, center and bottom of the fold.
3. one by one, glue the outer edges of each piece together alternating top and bottom. the glue should be placed about a third of the way from either side. when you’re done gluing, your stack of paper will be in the shape of a sphere, ready for hanging on your xmas tree or decorating your holiday table.


Photo and instructions are courtesy of Design Sponge, a great daily blog by Grace Bonney on home and product design. The DIY column appears each Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Groovy Green

For the simplest of outdoor holiday decorations, try a stack of the exotic looking, yellow-green, fruits of the Maclura pomifera tree. These inedible orbs, vaguely resembling brain models, are commonly known as osage oranges. The trees were originally grown on the plains as hedge-like boundaries. They are also known as hedgeapple trees. The fruit of the tree is said to help repel insects and spiders. Far from the plains, yet near this address, many people with these female trees find the droppings a nuisance. If, on the other hand, you see the green oranges on the ground and find them a delightful curiosity, offer to help scoop them up. They will last several weeks in outdoor decorations. With their beautiful shape and color, they look great in a bowl, flower pot or urn for an easy and elegant arrangement. Easy and green!

You may recall the pumpkin colorfully poised on this urn earlier this season. The pumpkin lasted long past Halloween, and offered a lite snacking spot for the local squirrel(s). They snacked so voraciously, that over a period of a few days before Thanksgiving, they ate through the shell and made an opening about 5 inches in diameter, close to the top. I mentioned the pumpkin may be ready for the compost heap to the resident composter. I was grateful it had lasted so long and offered a splash of color to the increasingly monochromatic early winter landscape. A day later the handsome composter told me of finding the pumpkin on the urn with a surprised squirrel snacking inside it.

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a squirrel and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

In this story, the squirrel ran away and the pumpkin was cut up and composted, very well. A happy green ending, after all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Greetings

Enjoy these vintage Thanksgiving Day cards. Best wishes from this address to yours for a wonderful holiday.

These vintage cards and many others may found at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gifting in Green and Red

Homemade gifts are always welcome, and perhaps even more so this year. Here's a beautiful and easy gift idea for everyone on your list. Who wouldn't smile for a delicious peppermint treat dipped in white chocolate?

All you need are peppermint sticks (candy canes would work, too), a bag of white chocolate chips and a jar of white nonpareils. Dip the sticks in the melted chocolate. Let the sticks partially set for 5 minutes on a sheet of parchment. Then, roll the dipped ends in the nonpareils and allow to fully set at room temperature.

Package your gift in a decorated box or bag. Giving green with a red ribbon!

Photograph by Frances Janisch courtesy of Country Living

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wrapped in Green

Its not the countdown to the holiday season, or the colder weather that motivates me to think about baking gifts for my family and friends - it's the temptation of seasonal cookie recipes and images of beautiful looking party food.

Having already made mental lists of the special people I want to bake gifts for, I am skipping ahead to the search for great ideas to package and present them. Sure, there are recipes to be tried, ingredients to be tracked done, time set aside to frantically do all the baking, but for now I just want to think about packaging with a clever touch of green.

Cookies being delivered across the street or across town would look great in a glass tumbler covered with a piece of wax paper and tied with a colorful ribbon or twine. A vintage tin lined with wax paper and topped with a ribbon would be a fun surprise on a colleague's desk or under the tree.

This season, give a gift wrapped in green! It's two gifts in one.

Photograph courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Monday, November 10, 2008

Japanese After Dinner Chews

After a fishy dinner of miso soup, seaweed salad, a combination platter of sushi rolls and sashimi, you're satiated and grateful the meal has come to a close. Your credit card is returned with the receipt to be signed and one for your records. But that is not all, a little gift from Japan accompanies the padded vinyl folder. Each guest at your table is given a tiny box.

This would not be easily confused with the peppermint starlight mint that always upon a time appeared on the table when the check was returned. This is an entirely different token of appreciation for your patronage.

Each diminutive box is boldly decorated with a large scaled image of a familar fruit and clearly marked BUBBLE GUM. After carefully unwrapping the clear cellophane that seals the gift, one can open a flap to reveal 4 spherical balls.

The gum is made by the Marukawa Confectionery Company, Ltd in Nagoya, Japan and is available, hence popular, with children (and select sushi restaurant patrons) all over the world. The company was founded in 1888 and started making gum in 1948.

The fruit flavors -- strawberry, orange, grape and melon -- are convincing and the texture is delightful. It is easy to blow a bubble with only one piece, although you may not be able to resist adding a second gumball or more from your box.

Still, the packaging is so charming and distinctive that it's tempting to just keep the whole gift intact -- a little reminder of our fascination with things small and beautiful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Hallo'green?

The simple beauty of the pumpkin. The color, the shape and the whimsy it evokes this time of year makes the big gourd a great looking decoration inside or out. After the Halloween party, think green and turn your pumpkin into an edible treat like pumpkin bread or pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie or pumpkin mousse or pumpkin pasta sauce or pumpkin compost!

And, when you carve your pumpkin, don't forget to pull out the seeds for roasting. This works best as soon as you've removed them. Rinse the seeds in cold water and pat them dry. Place the seeds in a single layer on a well-oiled baking sheet. Toss the seeds to coat then. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees until toasted (about 30 to 40 minutes). Check and gently stir the seeds at 10 minute intervals. Allow to cool and serve to your carving party or store in an airtight container.

From Radio Kitchen, broadcast by an NPR affiliate, here are instructions to help transform your pumpkin:
To use the pumpkin, you'll want to make a puree. Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Place face down in a baking dish in about 1 inch of water. Bake at 350 for up to 90 minutes, assuring meltingly soft flesh. Scoop out the flesh and put it in a food processor with a little butter. Puree until smooth. You'll get about one cup puree for each pound of flesh.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bicycle Racks as Art

Bicycles Part 2: I'm still thinking about bikes and cutting down the number of cars, whether its on campuses or encouraging commuter cycling to workplaces. The increased interest in bike power, correlates to an increased demand for safe places to lock up two-wheelers.

New York City was already on the task, when it held a bike rack design contest this past summer. Guidelines and information for the competition appear on the contest web site, The city received over 200 entries from more than 24 states and 26 countries. Ten finalists were selected and their prototypes were installed at Astor Place. The public was invited to view them and share their comments on the future street furniture.

Musician, artist, and blogging cyclist, David Byrne, entered his own bike parking designs. Although his designs weren't entered as part of the contest, he did participate as a judge. His gallery, PaceWildenstein, offered to produce his designs for the city to try out for a year. They appear in the photos above.

New York City has installed nine new bike racks designed by David Byrne. Top row, left to right: MoMA, Olde Times Square and Villager. Middle row, left to right: Coffee Cup, Wall Street and Ladies’ Mile. Bottom row, left to right: Hipster, Chelsea and Jersey. (Photos: New York City Department of Transportation)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bicycles = Sustainability

Getting around campus without a car has just gotten a little easier and a lot more fun for many college freshmen this year. Several greener campuses across the country have initiated bike programs to help reduce the number of cars on campus. At least two colleges offered incoming freshmen the gift of a free bike if they left their cars at home. Several other colleges have bike loaner and bike sharing programs in the works.

The administrators want to prevent these campuses from becoming cities of asphalt parking spaces, help students keep their expenses down, and add a healthful element to students' daily schedules while offering a pleasanter and more personal college experience.

Perhaps most importantly, bike programs present a viable alternative transportation philosophy to our future generations. Imagine, upon their graduation, they'll think dark green in their choices of a new job or opportunity and select a place to live within biking distance.

See the New York Times article, With Free Bikes, Challenging Car Culture on Campus for more information.

Graphic of Bicycle District was designed by Jon Jandoc. Jon's site is The Joke is Up. Thanks also to

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tartan Tumblers

To find a set of matched retro glasses takes time - sometimes years of patience and a good sized dose of luck. At this address, many sets of glasses have been collected and enjoyed, among which there exists a fabulous set of 12 tartan tumblers in charming colors. The horizontal stripes include a band of 3 yellow, 2 black and 3 grayish green, complemented with vertical stripes of red. From the varied signs of wear they exhibit, these glasses have been admired, held, and cheered at more than one tabletop.

But in the spirit of giving green and, of course, to further appreciate their fabulous design appeal, these glasses have taken on an expanded purpose - a mission of sorts. They are no longer merely drinking vessels, but simple missionaries of good design. They will be transformed into gifts this holiday season. They may be filled halfway with little glass beads and made into candle holders for small votives or tall tapers, or maybe hold small posies of boxwood and tiny flowers. They may be filled with candies and wrapped with criss-crossed ribbon and a bow at the top. They may...

Fortunately, there's still time to experiment how best to re-use and re-introduce them. Fortunately, good design is always in style.

Monday, October 13, 2008


At Battery Park City in New York, overlooking Rockefeller Park, a lush and popular riverfront stretch, rises a 31 story, green, luxury residential tower called Riverhouse. To promote the building's eco-luxe lifestyle and the stylish interior architecture of David Rockwell, a quite convincingly family-oriented show home has been created in a beautiful, light-saturated, 3 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath duplex.

Parenting lifestyle magazine Cookie organized the event to share ideas of eco-chic family living in the new and certified green building. The 1,930 square foot apartment features such smart green choices as solid bamboo flooring, low emission adhesive and paints, filtered air and water, energy efficient appliances and double pane floor to ceiling windows in each room (with spectacular views of the Hudson River).

Cookie's designers selected comfortable contemporary furniture and accessories to create rooms that multi-task for multi-uses by multi-ages very appealingly. Upholstery in dark colors and stain resistant fabrics for the great room worked well with rounded edges for the coffee table and layers of light for playing, reading or entertaining. Some rooms were painted soft shades of blue-grays or soft whites with a hint of sunshine, while the window treatments were mostly white and simple with shades and translucent draperies. All the spaces were tempting to settle into immediately and make yourself at home. Even the stair hall was transformed into an inspiring spot for a quiet moment.

Between the master suite with a large dressing room and the 2nd bedroom with bath, a gallery of photos lined the second floor hallway. The simplicity and flexibility of the wooden laundry clips evenly spaced in a row further reflected the practical aesthetic exhibited throughout.

In the entrance hall, leading to the great room with a sleek open kitchen on the right, a mud room was established with white shelves lined with baskets on one wall and a large closet opposite. The beautiful white and black baskets were woven from rolled newspaper - perfect storage for keeping a well-organized green home.

Even if you don't live in a building generating energy from solar cells on the roof and boasting an organic bakery in the lobby, you can still take inspiration from the practical, yet chic ideas exhibited.

The Cookie Living show home is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11-5, October 10-October 26, 2008. Further information on Riverhouse may be found at

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vintage Julia Child

I'm finally going to make real French onion soup a la Julia Child. Although my first introduction to The French Chef came from a parody on Saturday Night Live, I am a huge fan of hers. I still chuckle at the recollection of Dan Aykroyd in her style of clothes and hair, imitating her sing-songy advice, while cutting a chicken and cutting his hand.

I recently watched selected lessons from The French Chef, 1963-1973 on DVD. It was Julia's first television series and understandably a huge success. From the earliest episodes in black and white, in a studio kitchen fitted with a washer and dryer next to the oven (what better to use for counterspace), she enthusiastically introduces a series of dishes with potatoes - one of which doesn't work as intended. The camera continues to roll as she reassures her cooking audience it's okay to make mistakes and obviously make a mess.

Her exuberance and humor are refreshing and fun to watch as we learn French cooking techniques. With her warmth and helpful commentary she revolutionized cooking shows while focusing on fresh and lesser-known ingredients and a cuisine new to most Americans cooks. The mismatched pots and dishes in the kitchen and her casual scientific measurements add to the candor and appeal of her iconic style.

The French Chef is available on DVD in three boxed sets. Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Women Get To Vote, Too

On a cold day in 1917, fourteen suffragists stood in front of the White House holding signs and banners picketing for the right to vote. One banner reads:


With our Election Day only one month away, and a presidential campaign that has created history for its liberation from America's obsession with white and male presidential candidates, it seems a good time to reflect on the success of the women who fought for the right to vote. In 1920, American women were finally guaranteed their opportunity to vote with the acceptance of the 19th amendment to the constitution.

To learn more and see more great photographs, please visit the online exhibition, Women of Protest, at the Library of Congress.

Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Makeshift an Autumn Party

The changing colors of autumn and the pleasant cooler temperatures are inspiring for outdoor entertaining, yes. But, this address likes to keep it simple. With this in mind, may I endorse the concept of makeshift party furniture? And here, I mean makeshift in the kindest and earth-friendliest way.

If you need a large harvest table for your buffet or bar table, try reclaiming a sturdy base such as a pedestal topped with an old door or plank of wood. In Better Homes and Gardens, Sarah Wolf shows a party table created with a galvanized tank or trough balancing a wooden door. If you don't have a galvanized tank yet and always wanted one, thoughtful designer/blogger Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy recommends ones by Behlen and Dover Parkersburg.

Need extra seating? Eco-living guru/blogger Danny Seo's tree trunk chair makes a handsome perch. Without your own set of available firewood and a neighbor who doesn't want their tree taken out, try bales of hay. The bales can be grouped as benches and covered with old quilts for a softer settee.

Resourceful + Stylish = Makeshift!

Photograph courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Cast-offs Become Keepsakes

Preparing bags for charity pick-ups is a process that encourages me to rethink my closets, my collections, my life. Thoughtfully recalling the words of manic cleaner-uppers and professional organizers, whom I dare not engage, I smile at their idea of a place for everything.

With the equinox just past us and the feel of autumn teasing the air, I'm ready to unpack my sweaters and cool weather clothes. (I like to dress in layers and recommend it to anyone who will listen.) The changeover encourages me to edit out clothes I no longer need or wear and recycle them.

With this on my mind, I happened upon another approach to recycling sweaters. A textile designer created orbs of sweater remnants and wrapped them in contrasting yarn to make holiday ornaments. They are available at Viva Terra as Festive Sweater Ornaments and on sale for $9 for a set of six. This appears to be a clearance sale, so quantities may be limited.

Go green with sweaters!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Gift: Edible and Green

In my effort to be greener, I was looking through my storeroom for a recyclable container to transport my homemade breadsticks as a gift to a dear friend. My breadsticks are simple to make and yummy to nibble for a snack or hors d'oeuvre. But by themselves, they just don't look as good as they taste. And when it comes to a gift - presentation counts.

I wanted something cylindrical and short. My canning jars were either too tall or too small. Old glass tumblers weren't tubular enough. Then I pulled out my vintage straw cup holders. From the moment I found them years ago, I admired them for their charming stripes and classic old style. One could imagine the afternoons they kept a tall iced glass of lemonade or minted tea from condensing upon one's wicker porch furniture. Alas, I did not have the perfect glass to fit or the furnished porch, so they remained underutilized among my would be picnic things.

The breadsticks needed something fun and functional - the cup holders needed to be rescued from obscurity and recycled. I added a sheet of deli paper as a lining, filled it with breadsticks and the gift was complete. Edible and green.