where green living, parenthood, and interiors intersect

Thursday, June 30, 2011

If the shoe fits.....whiten it!

Perhaps you are already thinking "what do Amanda's dirty sneakers have to do with eco-friendly home design or matters relating to parenthood?!?" Well, I could just reply that it's my blog and I can post what I want, dirty footwear and all....or I could try to explain the strange experiment I've conducted and why I'm posting aerial shots of a half-clean pair of Vans slip-ons for the whole world to see.

It all started on a canoe trip last year. I wore these puppies and they got very dirty, as you can see. And usually if something is damaged or soiled beyond cleaning it goes in my "out box" immediately, destined for the trash or Salvation Army. But I wear my various Vans slip-ons incessantly and this particular pair had only been in my life for a few months; it would have been premature retirement. I just could't do it. As a parent of a little boy, you'd think I'd have a stain removal tool box loaded and ready, but there is not a not a bottle of bleach or an ounce of Shout whatever-it's-called to be found in my house. No chemicals, no carcinogens here. Just a sad, badly stained pair of shoes.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I ordered my first package of Nature Bright from Shaklee's Get Clean line, a completely pure and nontoxic household product family that I have been using, adoring and distributing since January 2011. It's a laundry booster and stain remover according to the package but really it's a glorious all-natural bleach alternative and stain banishing hero. (They really should have me write their copy, no?) It had been successfully removing various art class materials from my son's school outfits, those mysterious oil stains that you never remember making, stubborn ring-around-the-collar from shirts that were also bound for the "out box," and everything else I challenged it with. I even used it to remove mildew and whiten grout. But it never occurred to me to tackle my stained shoes until I was packing up the "out box" again for another donation run and a light bulb went off.

Channeling my inner Billy Mays, I mixed some water and Nature Bright and scrubbed one shoe with a little pressure for about a minute. I let it sit and rinsed it a half hour later. Here are the results:

Good, but not good enough, so I went back in with another few minutes of scrubbing and about an hour of setting time before rinsing. Hallelujah!! One Van was white again! See for yourself:

So now it all makes sense, right? This post is simply about my experience with my favorite new eco-friendly cleaning product, that all parents or just anyone who is breathing should have, to keep everything in their home stain-free. Perfect Baby Green Blog content. Contact me at ajm2727@gmail.com for more information on how you, too, can be green and stain-free. Now I'm off to whiten the other half of the pair.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Glory

Today's post is simply a tribute to Summer, featuring images that capture the nostalgia and innocence of this beautiful season.

"That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ferris Wheel at the Summer Fair by Irene Suchocki, available on Etsy.

Who doesn't have fond childhood memories of running through sprinklers on hot summer days without a care in the world?!?

Beach Towels by Bucks County Frames, available on Etsy.

An original movie poster for The Endless Summer.

Summer Sky and Summer on Wheels, both by Girl Hula, available on Etsy.

An image by my favorite surfing photographer, Jeff Divine, taken in 1970's SoCal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Color: Indigo

Today's Monday Color is the mysterious and rich Indigo, a shade of blue that has a long history in ancient cultures from the Egyptian Pharaohs that buried their dead in indigo dyed cloths to its reference in 4000 year old Sanskrit texts across Asia, as well as its symbolism of the intuitive, truth-seeking Third Eye Chakra in Hinduism for tens of thousands of years. In more contemporary times, it has held a time honored place in the rainbow acronym we all learned as kids (the "I" in R.O.Y.G.B.I.V.). It is the only commonly used natural blue dye, but needs to be produced in a reduced form in order to dye textiles because Indigo is inherently insoluble in water.

To me, it is the purest blue, expressing its history and natural roots in the very depths of its color. Paired with white, it graces several rooms of my beach house. Synthetic dyes inspired by Indigo are washed into the blue jeans I wear almost daily. Its personality can be moody or bright, ethereal or uplifting, all depending on context.

Images above:

1. A soothing Indigo and Gray living room found on Creative House Idea.

2. An homage to Indigo, from Caravane in Paris, France (found on Remodelista).

3. Indigo chairs bring a bit of brightness to an otherwise somber interior (from HGTV's blog).

4. and 5. My own restful Indigo, White and Gray bedroom in Long Beach, NY.

6. A Hamptons family room designed by Amanda Nisbet that effortlessly pairs Indigo with Sky Blue and bold Fuschia.

7. Refreshingly crisp Indigo tiles in a bathroom designed by Stephan Learner (from Elle Decor.com, photograph by Peter Estersohn)

8. Indigo promotes restful nights for baby while bright accent colors keep this nursery fun. (Coincidentally, the color predictors over at Pantone are targeting an Indigo trend for 2012....read more here on Re-Do It Design blog).

9. This 24"x 36" Mark Rothko reproduction 'Blue, Green & Brown' Canvas Art from Overstock.com delivers a large dose of Indigo on a budget.

10. Indigo Dip Pillow from John Robshaw, whose block printed textile empire was born during a trip to India to find natural Indigo dyes for his paintings.

11. Viva Terra's Reclaimed Indigo & White Oriental Rug let's you bring Indigo outdoors in a traditional pattern with high-tech features (the rug is made from recycled plastic bottles and packing materials and naturally resists stains and mildew).

12. Uma Resist bedding collection from Nancy's Linens in Indigo (other colors available).

13. The practically perfect Ikat Slipper Chair in Indigo from Urban Outfitters.

14. For poolside or to transform your bathroom, the Alttoglass Nieblas Fog Azul Non Slip Recycled Glass Mosaic Tiles have a beautiful deep blue hue (1" mosaic tiles come on 13"x13" sheets).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Etsy Love: Dagmar's Designs

The only thing I love more than creative, eco-friendly, handmade treasures is a good story behind them. Dagmar, of Dagmar's Designs, grew up in communist Europe where artistic expression was stifled, to say the least. Her mother bought Dagmar her first sewing machine at age 13 and she proceeded to fill the void for fashionable, trendy clothing for herself in her birthplace of Slovakia. Fast forward a few decades, and Dagmar now lives in Canada with her husband and two children where she flourishes as a designer and craftswoman, once out of need, now out of passion.

Vintage buttons and fabrics on 100% organic cotton canvas means this Owl Family Pillow would be the 2nd cutest thing in your nursery!!

As someone who believes that no box of tissue should be without a cover, I'm loving Dagmar's ingenious 100% organic cotton canvas tissue cover (custom designs and sizes available).

Combining organic cotton canvas, lamp sheep fleece, and bits of wool felt and printed organic cotton, this Green Sleeping Birdie Pillow is green in more ways than one.

Wishing I had a daughter right now!! These wool felt hair clips are adorable (other styles available) and completely glue-free!

Friday, June 24, 2011

This one time, at art school.....

I was going through some archived image files this morning and it occurred to me how some things really do come full circle. I attended school for fine art photography starting at the ripe young age of 17. I had a hunch that I didn't want to pursue a career in the field but was obsessed with images and wanted to learn everything I could about making them. I didn't put it together at the time, but many of my project subjects were houses (especially abandoned ones on the verge of collapse), rooms filled not with people but just with light or interesting memorabilia, religious and memorial sites, and little exterior details taken in my old East Village neighborhood. I was naturally drawn to documenting the human environment sans the humans, so in hindsight it's not that much of a surprise that I eventually transitioned into a career as an interior designer.

The series that I stumbled upon below was taken throughout the early years that I lived in the East Village, as an homage to my interest in the way people (myself included, I guess) lived in the city. I was fascinated by the separation of 'outside' and 'inside;' the way I felt my apartment magically transported me out of the city every time I entered it. So I fervently shot entry doors, appreciating them for the little portals that they seemed to be. I stored the series away until years later when I was decorating a real estate office with a nonexistent artwork budget. We printed up a massive grid of the doorknob series and, together, they told an interesting story about my eclectic neighborhood and its inhabitants.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Caravan of Dreams

I'm bursting with excitement about my latest discovery in eco-friendly cribs under $1000: the Caravan Crib by Kalon Studios. Made from the highest quality FSC Certified Maple and 100% nontoxic finishes, this sustainable beauty comes in "raw" maple or with rails in 5 decorator-friendly colors: black, red, green, yellow (shown), and blue (shown). It features adjustable mattress heights and easy toddler bed conversion. It starts at $695 for the raw finish with an upcharge for the colors.

The matching Caravan Dresser has equally lovely mid-century modern lines, raw or colored bodies, and integrated drawer pulls.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saving Green while Being Green

Sadly, it is still more expensive to make many environmentally conscious purchases. A can of zero VOC paint still carries a premium. The Diesel engine VW I was coveting for the last month would have burned cleaner than a gas car and gotten far better MPG. But alas, I couldn't afford the upfront cost increase, so I defaulted to a good old gas model.

I'm a girl on a budget, raising my son as a single mother in hard economic times. So I scanned my lifestyle for ways that I do in fact save money through the environmentally responsible choices I made and I came up with the following list, proving that it is possible for economic = eco-friendly.

1) I swear by the reusable cloth snack bags by Itzy Ritzy as a way to simultaneously save money and resources. Here's the math: a 50 count box of slightly smaller Ziploc sandwich bags from Kmart.com were advertised at $2.19 (and I believe prices at my local Waldbaums are much higher). I sent along two reusable bags in my son's lunch and snack every school day this year of which there were approximately 180 and then there were snacks for car rides, beach outings and park trips....so let's call it around 400 bags per year. This totals $17.52 before S&H, but for just $9.99 each before S&H I have zippered reusable bags that will last years.

2) Turning off lights and appliances when not in use is a no-brainer for saving money and saving resources. It may only equal 20 bucks a year or so in savings, but conserving electricity is simply the right thing to do. I take it a step further by not having AC in my house so my summer electric bill is a few dollars a month compared to the $100 or so I used to shell out July through September in the city.

3) The reusable water bottle trend has certainly caught on and we all know filtered water is usually a safer bet than tap. But it's a surefire way to save pennies too! I've probably purchased about half a dozen pretty steel canisters over the past few years but if I had bought individually bottled water or had a 5 gallon filling station at my home, I'd have easily spent hundreds every year. The cost of filters for the average water filter pitcher system is around $60/year. (The Tree of Life Bottle pictured above is $9.98 from Gaiam and of course I use the Shaklee Get Clean Water pitcher that filters out more contaminants than PUR or Brita models.)

4) I recently discovered 7-11 coffee refills for .99 cents (any size!). I think my medium coffee was around $1.65 so I save about .60 cents a day if it's a one-cup day and even more if I'm refilling multiple times. This only works in the burbs where 7-11's line the streets. Going out of one's way for a refill would clearly cancel out the savings in fuel costs. I believe Starbuck's also offers a BYOC discount, but the budget-minded like myself try to stay out of Starbuck's.

5) My 32 oz bottle of Shaklee's Get Clean Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate is still about 2/3 full and I purchased it for the member price of $10.35 in January. And if you know me, you know I clean my house A LOT. So, for around $10 I get a year of 750 squeaky clean square feet. Not to mention the space I save under the kitchen sink by not having to have a half dozen targeted cleaning sprays and bottles. (Send me an email at ajm2727@gmail.com, I'd be happy to help you save money and space too!!)