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It’s that time of year again when all of us who celebrate Christmas begin to decorate our homes for the season. My childhood memory is of my father, pulling our fake Christmas tree down from the attic. To me, this seemed so environmentally responsible– re-using it year after year and thus cutting down on the waste of its real counterparts. But after the birth of my son, I started to look at this synthetic replica of nature and wonder “could this really be more eco-friendly than cutting down a tree?” Turns out it’s not. Most environmentalists would agree that real trees are the better choice. 85% of all fake Christmas trees are manufactured in China and are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), one of the most non-renewable forms of petroleum derived plastic–certainly not a product that I want in my home, nevermind sitting in a land fill. Real Christmas trees, on the other hand, are healthy for our indoor air quality, can be re-planted in a yard or even recycled and made into wood chips to be used in many of our public parks. Ever since my revelation, my families new tradition is to head into the woods of Pennsylvania, where we hand-pick and cut down our Christmas tree. The part I love best about this new holiday tradition is that my son’s memories of Christmas will be one of a tree that comes out of the woods, and not out of a box. Happy Holidays!
There are many ways I like to relax, but one of my favorites is gardening. There is nothing more calming than being outdoors and nothing more rewarding than being a part of a gardens beauty and growth. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting a garden guru named Bob, or “The Plant Whisperer” as I call him. Bob has visited me and my plants a few times to lend his expertise –his last visit being just a few weeks ago to help with the fall pruning. Below are some of his tips I thought I would share–basically my cheat sheet to help me throughout the year. Happy gardening…
Fertilize when the leaves start to fall. You want to send the nutrients and energy to the roots, not the old leaves.
- Organic Holly-Tone for Hydrangea and any Evergreens
- Organic Plant-Tone on Rose Bushes, Trees, Crape Myrtles and Butterfly Bushes
Prune only when leaves start to fall or turn brown.
- Hydrangea – cut off 20% of drooping and old growth. No need to cut flowers – they give you’re garden a pretty look in fall and eventually most will blow away with the winter wind.
- Sea Grass & Blue Salvia - should be cut down entirely to the ground.
- Roses - cut back to 12” to 18”
- Crape Myrtles – don’t prune unless its branches are horizontal and susceptible to breaking and splitting from the weight of ice and snow.
- In Spring & Summer fertilize flowers once a month.
- Hydrangea – cut off any remaining flowers in early spring.
- Lilac Tree – prune branches only after it flowers
- Release Praying Mantis eggs & Lady Bugs in the yard to help control pests and keep eco-systems naturally balanced.
- An upright flower with yellow leaves means it needs food.
- A drooping flower or leaf means it needs water
- Water less often and deeply. 1” of water twice a week.
- Always cut back at the point of new growth.
- Cutting back branches that are lying on the ground or against the house just redirect the energy to the places where you want it to grow.
- Too much mulch chokes a plant and doesn’t allow oxygen to its roots. It also allows a place for slugs and mice to hide while they eat the soft bark.
- Water when the sun comes up to prevent fungus on leaves and grass.
For most of us eco-friendly buffs choosing non-toxic window treatments is indoor air quality 101. But it seems that some manufacturers, and even consumers, need to catch up. So here are a few key tips when it comes to buying window treatments and maintaining the health of your family at the same time:
First, here’s what you need to know:
- Poor indoor air quality can cause asthma, cancer and other respiratory problems – especially in children and the elderly.
- VOC’s found in window treatments and new furniture are the #1 source of indoor air pollutants.
- The more sun that beats on a window treatment, the more the material will deteriorate and off-gas VOC’s over the years.
- Solar shades often contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which continue to deteriorate and off-gas for the lifetime they are in a home.
- Composite materials, such as hybrid shutters or blinds, are made with glues that contain formaldehyde.
- Paints continue to off-gas for 3 to 4 years, even if they have no odor.
- Fabrics are usually chemically treated with fire retardants, azo-dyes and ScotchGuard which contain PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate).
What can you do about it?
- Research who you’re buying from. Hunter Douglas makes GreenGuard Certified shutters and blinds that are made especially for schools and children. Whereas The Shade Store offers a selection of GreenGuard Certified Solar Shades.
- Select natural fabrics like cotton, linen and hemp that have not been pre-treated with chemicals.
- Opt for shades made from bamboo and natural grasses.
- Choose solid wood instead of composites.
- Make sure paints used are “No VOC” and preferably water based.
Just a few, simple, educated decisions on your part can protect your health and give you a pretty home too!
Does anyone remember the bygone days of drinking fountains? This week I had the pleasure of using two lovely ones –one at my son’s school and the other at my doctor’s office. In an age where we are all conditioned to carry a water bottle, it was so refreshing (no pun intended) to conveniently walk up and take a free sip of water. Shouldn’t we consider bringing back the drinking fountain as a cultural norm? Personally, I would love nothing more than to leave my bulky Life Factory glass water bottle at home . I wouldn’t have to schlep it around town and fear running out of water mid-day too –something that inevitably happens. I think the first order of business for the new Mayor of NYC should be to bring back the fountain! There are already 150 of the them scattered throughout Central Park and wouldn’t they be the perfect match to all those Citi Bikes!
A few weeks ago my husbands beloved grandfather, Gerry Karlin, passed away. At his funeral, an American flag was given to the family in honor of his service in the Marines. My husband and I now posses this flag and have been toying with the idea of what to do with it–especially since we’re not really “flag people” per se’. Over the last few weeks, this flag has triggered a conversation between us about what it means to be an American. We started to notice how many homes wave this iconic symbol; reminding us of the liberties American citizens have and how many people sacrifice themselves to allow us our freedom. And, sadly, the evening news speaks volumes of the social injustices and fighting that still occurs in other places in this world. Even at our worst, America is still the best. So it’s in that spirit that this July 4th we decided to proudly mount that flag on our weekend house (one of our little American dreams). Happy Birthday America and cheers to all the great people who make up this country!
For two years I lived in Miami, Florida and no disrespect to my fellow Floridians, but I really missed the change of seasons. Each one has its special attributes, but Spring happens to be one of my favorites. It’s all about change, new beginnings and rebirth. There is so much to look forward to in these coming months –the blooming of beautiful flowers, the arrival of endless days of sunshine and the return of pretty open toed shoes! With such hectic schedules, it’s sometimes easy to let this season quickly pass by. I try my best to make time for quiet moments to really take in the sights and sounds of this special season–sometimes it’s as simple as taking a slow walk in a park or stopping to watch the formation of a flock of birds returning from the South. But most importantly,I take these brief moments to remind myself of what’s really important in life and to reconnect and “reboot” in the way that nature had intended. Happy Spring!
It’s been almost ten years since Sweet Lily first opened its doors. In that time we’ve been exposed to many new gadgets, the advent of social media and the rise of reality TV. But the one significant change that stands out in my mind is that way people are now communicating. Years ago, clients visited Sweet Lily and used it as a gathering place. A sort of social sorority to catch up, share neighborhood info and most importantly spend time with friends and family. Today, sadly, more and more clients are booking group appointments, but when they arrive, not a word is spoken between them. They are fixated to their smart phones…clicking away, checking emails or texting a friend elsewhere. What’s the point? Can’t people just disconnect for one hour to engage in a person to person dialogue? This terrible social etiquette has even found its way into my home life too. My husband and I, well we used to talk, yes, talk, at night over a glass of wine. Now I feel like his I-Phone is his mistress and I’m competing with her on a daily basis. It speaks volumes about our new world order and with great sadness, the way of the future. I hope we all don’t get too lonely. But I’m sure if we do, they’ll make a Friend App for that too.
For the last year or so, my husband and I have been involved in building our dream house at the beach. In the process, we’ve been mindful to select eco-friendly building materials and products conscious of low VOC’s. Too often we only care about our organic food and all-natural beauty products, but forget about the importance of our indoor air quality, especially when it comes to our children. If you just put a little extra leg work into your home renovation, you can definately find reasonably priced replacements to unhealthy MDF and Formaldehyde based building products. Here are just a few I thought I would share….
- Eco-Friendly Insulation: Certainteed Greenguard Certified
- Formaldehyde Free Interior Doors: Masonite Safe n’ Sound Emerald Series
- Hardwood Flooring: Listone Giordano
- Wall & Floor Tiles: Nemo Tile Company
- No VOC Paint: Benjamin Moore Natura
- Opt for Real Pine window & door casings instead of ones made from MDF or a glued composite.
It’s never a perfect world…but every little bit helps!
Have you ever had a sandwich that looks good but tastes terrible? Or a cookie that sounds delicious but doesn’t quite satisfy your cravings? What is that missing ingredient!? Simple, it’s L.O.V.E. Our wonderful neighbors across the street, at what is now cutely named Cafe Clementine (formerly Columbine), seem to procure all their delicacies with much care and affection. It’s the special attention that the sole-owner Barbara and her staff give when selecting their breads, anti-biotic free chicken and rich chocolates that keeps us coming back for more. This is very apparent as we watch devotees line up along West Broadway on damp, rainy days just to get some of their home-cooked soup. If you haven’t tried Cafe Clementine’s food, it’s a TriBeCa must! And the next time you’re out and about, take the time to seek out small, privately owned cafes and specialty shops…Trust me, you’ll taste the difference!