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レモンとハーブWhile we gear up for our ever popular Spring/Summer pedicure,  we thought we’d share an at-home version for you to preview while you dream of sunshine and bikini’s.  Not to worry – warm weather will be here sooner than you think!

Perfect for hands, feet or anywhere that needs a little extra love…

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of course sea salt
  • 1/8 cup of extra light olive oil
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest

Gently combine the sea salt, the olive oil and the lemon zest in a bowl.  Using a simple kitchen mortar and pestle, crush the rosemary to help bring out the essence of it’s oils.  Add to the mixture.  At a basin or in the bath, take a tablespoon of the mixture and apply to skin in a circular motion to gently remove dead skin and dry patches.  Rinse with warm water.  The Benefits?  Rosemary Oil relieves muscle aches and pains. Lemon contains malic and citric acid, natural alphahydroxies that help to naturally slough off dead skin cells.  Sea Salt exfoliates and expels toxins.

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ImageFor years I have been the sole buyer for Sweet Lily Boutique – honing in on great all natural product lines and pretty handcrafted gift items for all of us to enjoy. It’s only recently that I’ve delved into the manufacturing side with our new Sweet Lily Hand & Foot Scrub. While I’ve always had an appreciation for a good product as the end user, I now also have great admiration for the people behind the making of it too. I’m not talking about large factory manufacturing, but rather the small kind – the kind that is started between two friends in a kitchen or the curious person who crafted a never been tried before formula. Then comes the collaboration – from the graphic design, to the unique packaging, to the label. So the next time you pick up that microbrewery bottle of beer, pretty hand poured soy candle or delicious jam from your local farmers market, take a moment to reflect on all of its details and you too will notice the passion and teamwork that went into bringing that one little nicety into your world. Enjoy!

Christmas tree in snow with colored lightsIt’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!

Rose GardenThere 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…

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Autumn…

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.

Spring…

  • 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.

 Gardening Notes:

  • 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.

Healthy BlindsFor 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!

drinking fountainDoes 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!

yelp #1In this day and age, it seems as if we live and breathe the advice of others.  From suggestions on where to eat, cool places to hang out or even vacations to take, we all head right to those Reviews to help point us in the right direction.  As a small business owner, I do appreciate reviews, positive or negative, as it’s the honest feedback that makes better.    But here’s the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly,  on those sites we all have seem to become accustomed to living by.   The Good:  Review sites are definitely helpful in introducing us to new places–especially if we’re new to a neighborhood or looking for a specific food type, review sites can be a great starting point to help find us what we’re looking for.  The Bad: Very often unscrupulous business owners pay other companies to write  positive reviews on their sites and post bogus, negative reviews on their competitors sites.  Not very good for karma.    The Ugly:  Unless a business is paying for advertising, these seemingly honest sites will often hide their positive reviews.   And then, as part of their sales pitch, offer to remove unfavorable reviews in exchange for paid advertising.  Kind of ruins the whole point of this review concept, right?    My advice…let’s stop using review sites all-together and explore our world organically.  Try a new restaurant, stumble into that local bar, take a vacation to an unknown place and let’s be the judge for ourself.   If we don’t experience the good with the bad, then how can we truly ever learn to appreciate all the things we enjoy?

Pigs in the yardSince the arrival of spring, my family and I have been happily working in our yard– planting new flowers, trimming the hedges and basically doing all the primping that makes lounging outdoors so beautiful.   We have however, come upon a major bump in the road…how to maintain our newly planted grass.  Which brings me to the question…should we fertilize or not?  I’m sure you would agree when I say there’s nothing like a luscious green lawn.  But at what price?  Fertilizers are widely known to be responsible for many adverse human health effects, including leukemia and many types of cancer.  And let’s not forget  to mention that they pollute our surface and ground water, deplete the land of its vital nutrients and cause harm to animals and pets.  All this havoc is mainly caused by the long list of unsafe metals that exist in fertilizers including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, uranium and boron just to name a few.  So what’s a eco-conscious mom to do?  I’ve begun my search to find an alternative, but have only been able to come up with fertilizers that are good for small gardens or companies that claim to use organic only to discover their claims are not all true.  I promise to keep you in the loop on my findings, as I’m determined to find a better solution.  In the meantime, we’re going au naturale… I’ll take a healthy family over green grass any day!

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Next week begins National Fire Prevention and Awareness Week (Oct 7 – 13th).   I cannot stress enough how important it is to become of aware of this issue.  My personal eye opener happened a few years back when my family suffered a house fire.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but in a matter of minutes the entire house was gone. In big cities we are lucky to have buildings equip with life saving sprinkler systems coupled with fire departments that respond quickly.  In suburban areas, however, fire departments are mostly volunteer.  Which means it takes some time for them to get the call, mobilize and get to your home.  It’s for that reason that families need to have a very well thought out home escape plan and if you are doing any renovations or building a new home, you should consider putting in a residential sprinkler system.  We did and believe it or not, it costs less than a new driveway or your kitchen appliances.  The peace of mind, however, is priceless.  For more info on how to protect yourself from a home fire, proper escape plans and how to properly maintain your smoke detectors, visit this website.  www.nfpa.org

Summer in NYC always poses a problem for us moms.  School’s ended, it’s hot and friends are on vacation so playdates are few and far between.  What’s a mom to do!?  Over the last few years, I’ve conjured up some creative outtings to pass the time and keep it interesting for my little guy too.

Gavin & Mommy’s Day of Fun….Top 5 Picks

#1 Turtle Back Zoo:  if you haven’t been to TBZ in West Orange NJ, then rent a Zip Car and get over there!  It’s a great escape from the city heat and it’s perfect for smaller kids.  Animals range from monkeys and bears but the main attraction is the train that circles a large reservoir, the Tarzan-like playground and the merry-go-round.

#2 Ikea Red Hook:  get some shopping done, have a cheap lunch with great views and take a free ride around the NY Harbour.  Spend $10 or more and your receipt is proof to ride the Water Taxi for free.  Cruise from the South Street Seaport and back again for a 20 minute view of Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty.

#3 Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park:  The newly renovated Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO is a weekday favorite.  Find a spot on the grass and watch the ferries and tankers roll by with the Statue of Liberty & Brooklyn Bridge as the backdrop.  Bring a frisbee or a kite and enjoy the open air and lack of crowds.   And don’t miss Jacques Torres’ Ice Cream Shop on Water Street (open only in summer) for some deluxe cones and take a ride on Janes Carousel.

#4 Metropolitan Museum of Art:  my 4 year old loves and surprisingly grasps the idea of the art at the MET.  It’s a great way to introduce them to classics like van Gogh, Monet and even Jackson Pollock.  Make sure to pick up some books designed for kids in the gift shop to continue the learning at home.  And the cafeteria has an affordable kids menu and serves it up in a NYC Taxi box…did someone say free souvenir?

#5 Big Toot:  who needs the Circle Line when you can ride a vintage US Navy Launch boat instead.  Every weekend Big Toot departs from the World Financial Center and circumnavigates the Statue or Liberty and Ellis Island on a 1 hour tour oriented for kids.  $10 for adults  / kids ride free… and they provide the kiddie life vests too.  Just hold on tight…because it can get bumpy when the big guys roll through and make waves.

As you can tell, we like boats, the NY Harbour and some iconic landmarks.  But really who doesn’t?  Tourists travel from all over the world to see what we can  in an afternoon!