30 November 2011

Additions Style Giveaway

I have always admired people with unusual ideas. They liven up my brain and ad a flame to my own thoughts. I think that is what they call INSPIRATION! Take for example Valerie of Additions Style. She is a major inspiration for me not only because of her typically awesome Motivation Monday blog posts but also because of the incredible way in which she combines her skills as a jewelry artist with a totally unique, modern way to make them - using hardware instead of gold and silver! 

In Valerie's etsy shop you will find a unique collection of jewelry and accessories made from recycled, upcycled and repurposed hardware for women and men. In her own words:
My whole design process was recharged that day and I realized that I could create jewelry that looked like silver, using hardware to make it affordable. Since that day I have found great resource for recycled hardware to create the jewelry and accessories in the collection. Working with the hardware has been inspirational for me. I get new ideas all the time and creating is exciting.
And to get a feel of her gorgeous works, this week you have the chance to win a stunning set of steampunk earrings and a necklace from Valerie's etsy shop! Right on time for Christmas!

To enter the giveaway you only need to follow the Rafflecopter widget. In bold are the two mandatory entries you have to complete in order to enter this giveaway. To increase your chances of winning, go ahead and complete all of them!

Good luck!

29 November 2011

No New Gifts Christmas

As I pointed out the other day, this holiday season will be a bit different for our family because we want to make it green this time. We will be celebrating a No New Gifts Christmas and that is so exciting. Our brains are already humming like busy bees, trying to invent wonderful projects that will make the recipient feel loved.

I have been restlessly browsing through many a lovely DIYs and as much as I would like to gift my own handmade soaps, that will not happen this year because I still haven't had the courage to start learning to make them. Cross your fingers for next Christmas though, or maybe even Easter, why not!

So, sticking to what I already can do, here is the list of my favorite sustainable projects so far that I could turn into gifts. The good thing about them is that they are green, recycled and easy to make:

Yarn bowl  by Carolin's Homework

If you have a bag of leftover yarn and some flour this project is for you - what is left from the flour paste can be used for paper mache projects.

Dictionary Art  by Brooklyn Limestone

Give a second life to an old, maybe partly ruined book and turn it into modern wall art.

Newspaper Basket  by How About Orange

Here is a fun clever way to put to use some of the newspapers you have and turn them into a practical object for your home.

Felted Soap  by Rhythm of the Home

The wool protects and lengthens the life of your soap, and even eliminates the need for a washcloth. Felted soap bars also make lovely gifts for both children and adults!

Book into Sewing Box by STC Craft

Awesome downloadable instructions for turning a book into a unique sewing box!

The Pants Bowl by Kanelstrand

If you are a long-term reader of Kanelstrand you must know this tutorial, but I am posting it in case you've missed it. Easy, fast and impressive bowl from your old pants.

Beeswax Candles by Crafty Little Gnome

Cute beeswax candles in little jars. These candles make great Christmas gifts and because they are compact and come with a lid they are also great for traveling.

Tshirt Pillow by Ruffles & Stuff

If you have a fun shirt that you want to repurpose, try this! It's scandalously easy

Phonebook to Pen Organizer by Chica and Jo

Upcycle an old phonebook into a quirky and unique pen/pencil organizer that will be a real conversation piece on its owner's desk!

Felted Bracelets by Kanelstrand

Learn how to knit and felt a bracelet - unique Christmas gift for any stylish lady.

Fork Bracelet by Stars for Streetlights

Crazy-awesome bracelet made from a fork! I can't say anything else, I am left speechless and dazed.

Sugar Scrub by Coordinately Yours

With this tutorial you will finally be able to satisfy your nature-loving friends that are always on the lookout for natural body and bath products.

Recycled Wool Sweater Blanket by Homemade Holiday Gifts

You can't get more unique making a blanket than that. You only need 5 felted sweaters and some skills.

Tshirt grocery bag by Ecouterre

Upcycle old tshirts into bright and beautiful produce bags.

Funny Bunny Plush Doll by A Beautiful Mess

Stitching this sweet doll will take you no more than 2 hours. But can you already see the facial expression of its recipient?!

In case you are wondering why I chose to put the yarn bowl first, it's because I can't wait to try and make it! I have so much leftover yarn, that it will do for a pretty sturdy bowl, I hope. Stay tuned for the results. If you feel like browsing through even more awesome green DIYs, take a look at my latest post on Green Living Ideas. And have a white green December!

28 November 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Ekofabrik

This Monday, in A Portrait of the Artist I am very honored to present the woman behind Ekofabrik. Kim Johnson is a freelance graphic designer and children's book illustrator who loves to sew pillow covers. I am sure you have seen pillow covers but I bet you haven't seen anything near to what Kim has in store. It takes just a glance to remember forever her distinct style and to fall in love with the simple and bright forms of her creations. But not only does she come up with unique modern designs for young and old, she does so with the environment in mind. Kim works with organic cottons, eco-felt, natural materials and vintage fabrics. 

As Kim points out:
Using recycled plastic keeps billions of plastic PET bottles out of the world’s landfills each year. 10 bottles equal one pound of polyester fiber. This fiber can be used on its own or mixed with cotton or wool to make clothing, etc. By supporting recycling we can lower harmful air emissions and save millions of barrels of oil from being used which, in turn, reduces the harmful effects of acid rain, global warming, and smog. 

You are a graphic designer and a children's book illustrator, how did you decide to start making your amazing eco-friendly pillow covers?
I have always loved to sew and knit. I come from a long line of artists in my family and have always done something creative, even as a child. I was searching the web one day for environmentally safe fabrics for my home and came across felt made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. I was very excited!! I am a big believer in recycling and I thought that eco-friendly felt would make excellent pillow covers. I was right, it is very easy to use, no fraying, you can wash it and there are so many colors to choose from. One of my very first pillow covers was the “Honeycomb Bee” pillow, which was recently seen in Simply Handmade Magazine, September 2011 issue.

You opened your Ekofabrik etsy shop in January this year and since then your pillow covers have been featured in some major magazines as Life@Home Magazine, Simply Handmade Magazine, ReadyMade Magazine and Shop Til You Drop Australia, which is a great success in such a short time. How did you do it?
I spend a lot of time on the web with my blog and my three shops. It is important for an online business to keep up with other blogs and what is current in the market today. I researched the magazines that I liked and submitted product for their review. The Simply Handmade and ReadyMade features resulted from my submissions and Life@Home and Shop Til You Drop editors contacted me through my shop on Etsy. It has been great exposure and I appreciate all of the positive feedback.

Type Cushion Cover
What is your inspiration for the clean and simple style of your pillow case designs?
My inspiration comes from modern art, nature and Scandinavian design. I tend to decorate minimally with key pieces, lots of color, vintage influence and elegant lines, which I think show in my work.

I recently published a series of posts on the plastic that is polluting the oceans. What made you choose felt from recycled plastic bottles for your designs? Why not natural wool felt?
I chose the recycled felt because of just that, it is recycled. Plastic drinking bottles, as you mentioned above, is a very big problem for our environment. I thought what a great way to show that recycled can be beautiful and affordable.

How do you recycle in everyday life?
I am the biggest recycler on my block! I tend to have more recycling than actual trash. I also use recycled grocery bags, set the setting on my printer for double-sided printing to not waste paper, set out pans to catch rain water for my plants, etc., the list goes on. :)

Eco Felt Dot Pillow Cover
Apart from your Ekofabrik shop you have two more on etsy - Photographik, where you sell Giclee prints, printed on eco-friendly watercolor papers with archival inks; and The Little Green House where you offer vintage goods.You seem to be very active, how do you manage to keep your shops in shape and updated? How much time do you spend on etsy? 
Yes, my life is pretty hectic. I spend a lot of time managing the shops. I generally spend a couple of hours or so a day to maintain, longer when I have new items to list. I am also a freelance graphic designer, which is my bread and butter, and I am currently illustrating my first children’s book, which will be out next spring. With such a busy schedule I try to take an hour a day for yoga to reset the batteries.

How do you incorporate your knowledge as a graphic designer in your eco creations?
As a graphic designer, the computer is a very important tool. I use Photoshop and Illustrator to draw up my designs. This way I can change color and adjust at a whim. I also use clean lines, a lot of shapes and complimentary color combinations, which are staples for a graphic designer.

Doodle Flower Pillow Cover Series
Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
I hope to have Ekofabrik at a larger capacity, expanding into other housewares. I already make placemats, but I have other ideas, including original fabric designs printed on natural cottons and linens using water-based inks. I am also toying with the idea of writing a craft book on how to make some of my pillow covers.

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
That is a hard question. There are so many talented people on Etsy. I have many favorite items. One shop in particular I do love is messicakes. I love their modern unique wall art, right down my alley! 

Make sure you connect with Kim: Etsy | Website | Blog

26 November 2011

Become a Holiday Sponsor on Kanelstrand

Can you hear Christmas bells already? Do you want to increase the popularity of your shop or blog and boost your sales for the Holidays? Kanelstrand Organic Living is the place for you!

Traditionally December is the busiest month of the year and it will be no different in 2011. But what is even better is that Kanelstrand Organic Living has grown immensely and in the past month our pageviews have doubled tripled! And do you want something even better than that? All those pageviews translate into direct clicks for your business!

Here is what Laurie of Do You Like My Hat, who is currently advertising on Kanelstrand wrote a while ago on her blog:
"Sonya is a brilliant writer and photographer who puts her heart into everything she does. She does not simply offer an advertising spot on her blog. She devotes hours and hours to running the giveaway and publishing the portrait of the artist. The whole idea of which made me blush and seemed ridiculous, but after having accepted, gave quite a boost to the old self-esteem!
No other advertising has given me such amazing results!"

Thank you Laurie! I really want the best for my collaborators! If you want to become part of the team click here to learn how to do so and waste no time because ad spaces are getting filled up. 

By becoming a sponsor you can also take part in A Portrait of The Artist series, which introduces eco-conscious artists and crafters from around the world, or you can have a giveaway right here and exchange the fruits of your labor for even more reputation!

By advertising on Kanelstrand you will reach a combined number of 2,000 readers through RSS, Google Friend Connect, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. The blog currently receives about 50,000 pageviews a month.

Are you ready to boost your shop for the holidays? Read more about ad prices and discounts, fill out the form here or contact me directly!

25 November 2011

Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day - You Choose

I hear that Holiday season starts today. Are you all excited? Maybe I won't even get any comments here today because you have all rushed off with the traffic of Black Friday, who knows.

In the past few years I have been steadily building a full size revulsion to Christmas shopping. I have been gradually getting sick of the thousands of people around me in the shopping center. My husband and I have been trying to pull this event earlier in the year so that we make sure we have all presents for relatives and friends in time to send them around the world and yet to miss the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping.

But I am sick of it. Really. Truly. Christmas is supposed to hold different values than that implied by money. It is so ironic that this specific holiday, that is about the birth of Jesus, about family and kindness, has been so much exploited as to reach to the level of the event with the highest economic impact in the year.

The meaning of Christmas seems to have been lost in heaps of purchases. That is why this Christmas I would like to challenge you. And the challenge starts today. Celebrate Buy Nothing Day! Unshop, unspend, unconsume!
I know you can do it. It's not that you will change something big in a day. Nothing much apart from the way you think. And it is worth changing sometimes. This experiment could turn out to be life changing for you. If you buy nothing for just one day, you may realize the true value of watching how you spend.

I know I can do it, and I will. Unshop for a day. I would love to unshop every day.  I would love to have a handmade Christmas, would you? How about a handmade-gift Christmas? One that would bring the family closer in the process of making the gifts and that will inject more meaning to the holiday, more warmth and closeness.

In the same line of thoughts, I wanted to let you know that I will not be compiling Christmas gift guides this year in a bid to walk the talk. I am aiming for a No New Gifts Christmas at home and I would love to:
  • Make gifts
  • Bake or cook consumable gifts
  • Give the gift of my service like give a massage, babysit, clean a house, mow lawns, etc.
  • Donate to charity
  • Volunteer at a charity
  • Have a shared experience with my family and loved ones
  • Create something, together, instead of consuming
  • Give to others things I don’t need (a good sewing machine, etc.)
  • Find gratitude for what I already have.
So, if you want to see the world changing for the better, slowing down, unwinding, relaxing and hopefully getting at least slightly more organic and bearable, I suggest that this holiday season you make a change from consumerism. Be the change you want to see in the world.

24 November 2011

5 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Shampoo

There are some amazing alternatives to store bought shampoo full of toxic chemicals. Etsy offers a spectacular array of natural products made by creative sustainable crafters who know where their ingredients come and cater to the needs of their customers the way they would to themselves.

But you can make sure you have a clean and healthy care even without the act of buying. Yes, Mother Nature has it all in store for us, and the only thing we need to know is how to use her riches.

Illustration: The Extent of Silence
Let me start with what I have been using since my teenage years - eggs. Egg yolks were essential if you wanted to have a thick hair. Treating it regularly with a mask of 1 egg yolk and a tablespoon of kaolin sure produced the effect! At the time though I didn't know that eggs also cleaned my hair, I only thought they were nourishing. But it's never too late for some additional knowledge, right?

Apart from recreating hair, the eggs fight dandruff and prevent hair loss. They work perfectly well for all hair types.
  • Oily hair - beat 1 egg, add the juice of 1 lemon. Apply to wet hair and leave for about an hour. Rinse well.
  • Dry hair - whisk 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one cucumber. Apply and leave for 15 minutes to restore the luster of your hair.
One thing I've learned though is that after the egg treatment your hair smells rather unpleasant. You can avoid this by rinsing it with a solution of 1 tablespoon of vinegar in 1 cup of water.

Baking soda
I have written a lot about washing my hair with baking soda, but I will repeat it again – it is easy, cheap, and great for your hair. Rinse with vinegar to condition.

Edit: Since I wrote this post in 2011 I have learned the hard way that baking soda is extremely detrimental to hair. You can read a very thorough article with my findings, called Baking Soda Destroyed My Hair and see for yourself. I do not recommend anyone to ever wash their hair with baking soda.

If you know the ingredients of mayonnaise you won't be surprised - it has eggs, oil and vinegar. All three of them are doing wonders to your hair and think about what they can do combined!

Mayonnaise is great in your fight against split ends and dry hair. If you massage a handful of mayonnaise in your hair and leave it for 10 minutes you will have a smooth, shiny thick hair after just a few applications. To get rid of the smell, rinse with vinegar.

Aloe Vera
I am a big fan of Aloe Vera mostly because of its anti-inflammatory properties and the way it helps with acne or sun burn. But it is also very effective as a shampoo. You can use Aloe Vera gel and massage it gently all the way to the scalp. In this way it will not only clean your hair but will also work for a healthier scalp. Aloe Vera increases the blood flow, and balances the pH levels, and prevents hair fall. It removes dandruff, promoting a healthier scalp. With all these benefits, it is even more refreshing than using typical shampoo.

Calendula is a widely spread flower often considered as a weed. It is, in fact, a versatile herb known for its skin healing properties. Calendula contains flavenoids and has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, ideal for soothing and treating the scalp. You can buy the dried flower or dry it yourself at home.

Make a natural shampoo by filling a glass jar with dried calendula flowers and adding olive oil until the flowers are completely submerged. Close the jar and store it for 2 weeks in a dark place but don't forget to shake it well each day. Strain the oil into a clean bottle or glass jar. For a natural preservative, add vitamin E oil to it and start using as you would a regular shampoo.

Here are 10 more ways to wash your hair without shampoo.
Whichever way you choose to wash your hair don't forget to wash it with lukewarm water. Hot water dries out your hair and makes it look lifeless and dull. For more advice on how to take care of your hair during the winter months, read my article 6 Natural Tips to Winterize Your Hair Effortlessly.

Have you tried any of these natural alternatives to shampoo? How do you keep your hair healthy? 

23 November 2011

Larson Farm Giveaway

Wouldn't you just love to receive a handmade Christmas present this year? One that will surely be safe for you and will be made with love? I know I would, and that is why today I am hosting a giveaway for the amazing Debbie of Larson Farm Naturals.

Not long ago you all fell in love with Debbie and her lifestyle, while reading her interview in A Portrait of the Artist and I know why - good, crafty people, who invest their soul into their work can be sensed from afar. Their positive drive seems to spring out of the words on the screen and infect the readers so much that they want more and more. And because YOU wanted more, today Debbie is giving you a chance to win a Holiday Collection gift box containing 4 amazing soaps!

No store bought soap can ever compare to the traditional cold process soaps made by Debbie. Olive, Coconut and Palm oils start out her soaps for a wonderful balance of emollients, vitamins and antioxidants. The extra Shea Butter lends to the soaps' super creamy appearance and texture. With each bar you get luxurious moisture for your skin with every use!

Do you know how much I want to enter this giveaway? Don't ask!

Now imagine a crisp clear winter day - the smell of the air after a fresh snow fall, the quiet breathing of the clouds and the hushed ruffle of feathery wings.

Combine that with the scent of pine. Can you already see tall pines covered in snow? Imagine yourself walking through the pine forest back home after a busy day in the snow.

And now, right when you enter your warm home, the woodsy scents still clinging to your clothes you will be met by the sweet smell of sugar plums. A favorite of your kids.

And something more to top the experience - peppermint stick. Isn't that the trademark of Christmas smells?

Now open your eyes. Here is the hard truth. You can actually have all 4 of these amazing soaps. Debbie has made them for you and your Christmas. I am sure everyone in the family will love them but I really doubt you will want to share them!

To enter the giveaway you only need to follow the Rafflecopter widget. In bold are the two mandatory entries you have to complete in order to enter this giveaway. If you only complete one of them you will not be eligible to win. To increase your chances of winning, go ahead and complete all of them!
Good luck!

22 November 2011

The Dirtiest Public Surfaces - U.S. vs. Norway

With the advance of the colder months it is natural for people to turn their look inside and to start preparing for more time spent indoors. Since autumn and winter are also good grounds for developing flu and colds, at about the same time each year we tend to get over sensitive and protective to our health. But it is disturbing that as the years progress the dirt that we are exposed to in public areas gets more and more.

I would have thought that in a highly technological and developed society as is the case with our Brave Western World, people would have realized long the importance of personal hygiene but alas, the contradiction between technology and personal care not only persists but it is getting deeper.
Photo: NancyFphotos
The dirtiest surfaces in the USA
I believe by now most of you are well acquainted with the results of the Kimberly Clark sponsored research that revealed the top 7 dirtiest public surfaces in the U.S. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona:
“This new testing is compelling because it underscores the importance of hand and surface hygiene. Most cold and flu viruses are spread because people touch surfaces in their immediate area and then touch their faces, other objects and other people. Washing and drying your hands frequently throughout the day, can help prevent your risk of getting sick or spreading illness around the office.”
From bad to worse the top 7 dirtiest public surfaces in the U.S. are:
7. Vending machine buttons
6. Crosswalk buttons
5. Parking meters
4. ATM buttons
3. Escalator rails
2. Mailbox handles
1. Gas pump handles

The dirtiest surfaces in Norway
Since things in Europe are always a wee different than in the U.S. I would like to let you in on a research conducted by the Infection Control Service in Kristiansand - one of the Southern municipalities of Norway. While the Kimberly Clark tests could be considered as misleading, with regards to their supposed hidden agenda (we all know what Kimberly Clark are selling, don't we?), the testing in Norway was not funded by any company and was conducted with the help of Eurofins, - a leader in food and pharmaceutical products testing. It is also number one in the world in the field of environmental laboratory services, and one of the global market leaders in agroscience, genomics and central laboratory services. 

Although different, the results of this research are mind-boggling. It employed a slightly different methodology - instead of measuring the levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) on public surfaces as was the case in the U.S., the number of bacteria was counted. Before I go on, I would like to point out that not all bacteria are harmful. Yet, it is common sense to try and reduce your contact with public surfaces.

6. Again, from bad to worse, the object with the lowest amount of bacteria is also the one with the smallest surface - a 20 kroner coin received as change. It proved to carry a total of 17 different bacteria.

5. The door handle of the town cinema follows with 60 bacteria.

4. As I already pointed out things in Europe are slightly different and here is another proof - the fourth place is reserved for gas pump handles. Unlike U.S. where they are the dirtiest, in Norway they only sport the humble number of 80 bacteria. I believe one of the reasons could be the disposable gloves you can use to grab the handle.

3. The ATM and the crosswalk buttons seem to be equally dirty, with a total of 100 bacteria found.

2. With an equal amount of germs, 120, here follow the handle to the medical center of Kristiansand and the mouse of a publicly used computer.

1. The dirtiest public surfaces in Kristiansand, Norway are the inside handles of the public toilets. They have not less than 400 bacteria. The number of germs on the public W.C.s equals the combined number of all other tested surfaces!

The only conclusion I came up with, and one which has long been my private suspicion is that people don't wash their hands after they go to the toilet. I shudder when I think about this - the handle on the outside of the toilet door is cleaner than on the inside. 

I am having hard time coming to terms with the fact that in a world where you have the cleanest toilets possible, offering disinfectant liquid to clean the seat before you use it (though personally, there is no force on Earth that might make me actually sit on a public toilet), warm water, soap, paper tissues AND blow driers to chose how to dry your hands, you can be as lazy, careless and clueless as to not wash them. I don't understand that.

If anyone can explain that, please do! In the meantime, wash your hands for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Source: Kristiansand Avis, Nr. 46 - 17 November 2011

21 November 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Anny May

Today, I would like to present to you Anny - a fashion designer who is fascinated by handmade articles. In her home studio she creates clothes and accessories of all kinds but what she most likes to work with is eco friendly, recycled and organic fibers. Anny's goal is to create comfortable clothes that are respectful of the body and the environment. Each item in her inspiring shop AnnyMay is an original design created by hand, one stitch at a time, in small quantities. You will find dresses, sweaters, tops, tunics, t-shirt, tanks and hats. But Anny also has a knitting collection, which includes luxurious shawls, ponchos, scarves, fingerless gloves and boleros. 

But what I most appreciate in eco artists is when they walk the talk, which is the case with Anny:
"I strive to live my life in a simple, peaceful, and environmentally conscious way, and my craft reflects that way of life."

What attracted you to becoming a fashion designer?
I like to draw and then create the finished product. I like to be involved in the hole creative process of a garment. And what is more pleasant than dressing up people.

Tell us a bit more about Ethical Fashion. What ideas do you put into that term?
Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare. 

I like to promote the use of eco-friendly materials through my work and trough my small scale production.

Floral Fabric cuff

Where do you find eco-friendly fibers to work with? Which are your favorites?
This is the most difficult part of my work. Eco-friendly materials are hard to find, but through the years I found interesting suppliers both in Canada and the US. I also like to recycle all kinds of materials that strikes me. My favorite fibers is organic cotton and Tencel.

We were impressed with your desire not to over-exploit our planet. Does this mean that you are a minimalist in fashion and in your lifestyle?
Most definitely, we live a very simple life surrounded by our children. We love nature and we are surrounded with trees and benefit from a healthy environment. We are reasonable consumers and we are happy with our minimal way of living. I believe that it shows in my creations and I try to come up with comfortable and quality garments, that will outgrow fashion and that people will enjoy for a long time.

Bamboo Poncho | Eco-Friendly Scarf | Pomegranate Shawl

How do you use your creativity to show respect for the environment?
You do have to be very creative to live outside standard ways of living. Society values money and image, creativity helps us find other alternative solutions. I read a lot, observe nature and try my best to limit my impact on our environment.

What do you do whenever you are not designing clothes and accessories?
I like to walk everyday and read. I am involved in many movements promoting handmade products such as: frenchhandmade.org, createursdici.com and my blog.

Wood Leaf Post earrings
Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
In five years from now my kids will be older I’ll have more time to promote my ideas and my creations. I would also like to give conferences and educative workshops... who knows?

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
So much wonderful creations on etsy! It is difficult to choose only one!! I'll give you one of my latest favorite... This wool knitted dress from Muza. I choose it because it represents for me the comfort, the heat, the handmade, the purity and the beauty of the nature. All that a garment has to have as qualities!

Make sure to click and see more of Anny May:
Blog: http://annymay.com/en/categorie/blog/
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/annymay
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/annymayeco

You can read more editions of A Portrait of The Artist here.    

19 November 2011

Weekend DIY: Creative Christmas Garlands

We are almost a month away from Christmas and I already hear Christmas bells, don't you? Today I have compiled a set of amazing garland DIYs to make your house festive and stylish.

Don't you just love them? I am having a hard time choosing which one I should make this Christmas, because I like felt and paper, and light, and pine cones... You see? My decision is a tough one.

* * * * * 

1. If you live in a pine forest like me, you can just go out and pick the pine cones for the first project. This garland is fast and easy to make and you can choose whether to paint the pine cones or not. I would go with the their natural colors though. 

You can find the pine cone garland tutorial on the Two Shades of Pink blog.

* * * * *  

2. The following garland is not only colorful but bright as well. It will create a lovely cozy atmosphere wherever you hang it because of the lights hidden in each pyramid!

Read the tutorial for the lighted paper pennant garland on the OnceWed blog.

* * * * *  

3. Another amazing paper and light garland, this time with an eco-friendly twist. You can re-use clean paper cups to make these wonderful bell-like lights! To tell you the truth, looking at this garland makes me feel like I am in a fairy tale.
Head on to the Hey Gorgeous blog, to read the dixie cup garland tutorial and to see the awesome photos!

* * * * *  

4. How about a playful mirror-garland? You only need some mirror pieces and lights!

To see how it is done, follow the winter sparkle garland tutorial on Apartment Therapy.

* * * * * 

5. And the last one is yet another favorite! As a felting fan I find it hard not to mention a felted garland. You can have lots of fun making those tiny colorful balls, and even better - little hands can be of great help!

Read the felt ball garland tutorial on the My Sparkle blog.

Happy crafting!

17 November 2011

Must Have Chunky Scarves for the Winter

Whether or not this winter is going to be cold, a scarf is a must have. It is a fashionable accessory which accentuates your outfit and shows your style. A big colorful chunky scarf is hip right now, and so much the better if it is knitted out of natural yarn.

If you are not in the mood for knitting you can simply drop by at etsy and choose from a myriad of amazing crafters. Here are my choices.

The Aztec chevron chunky cowl is impressive with its angles.

The Roycroft cowl is versatile and on sale! It also features handmade buttons.

The Macintosh Soopa Scarf has a deep cranberry color and is 8 feet long and 8 inches wide.

The New and Improved Yonni cowl  will blow your mind with an intricate pattern and warmth.

The Infinity Fur Cowl is stylish and chick and is embellished with trim and rhinestones. You can wear it as a wrap or scarf.

The Softspoken Chunky Cowl is crocheted in a ribbed stitch that is definitely suited to keep you warm as ever!

Have a warm winter!

16 November 2011

EcoChi Giveaway

My home is my castle. And as such I strive to make it the best place for me and my family not only by keeping it clean and cozy but also through colors, shapes and smells. Scientific and mathematical studies dating back to ancient times have proved that the space around is is an integral part of who we are, how we feel and it influences the choices we make.

Knowing this I was excited to receive two autographed copies of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience - an amazing book by Debra Duneier, the creator of the EcoChi Design System, who is also a certified eco-designer. Read carefully because this will rock your eco-friendly souls. Debra has created EcoChi based on three very basic ideas:

  • feng shui 
  • green and sustainable living 
  • environmental psychology

This book talks about something more than design and materials because how people feel in their space is much more important. After reading it in a breath, I am now sure that our home needs attention and love. Just like a human being it has a life - it breathes, it has bones, it contains and activates our senses. By opening your doors to nature and embracing serenity, the EcoChi system can start working for you and help you attract harmony, health and happiness while being environmentally friendly! Debra demonstrates how to design your home in a way that will support you in achieving abundance in all areas of your personal and professional life.

To give you a taste of this trove of spiritual advice, here is a link to the first chapter of the book.

Debra Duneier currently sits on the advisory board of the Sarut Group which includes Pylones USA and The Tea and Honey Store. She is a member of the US Green Building Council, Women Builders Council, the Real Estate Board of New York, the Retail Marketing Society, the American Management Association's Sales and Marketing Council, the International Feng Shui Guild, The Green Finance Committee of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and is a founding member of the Women's Leadership Exchange's LEXCI and the Belizean Grove. 

Starting today, my earth-conscious friends, two of you will have the chance to win the hard covered, eco-friendly, 4-color, autographed book titled EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience by Debra Duneier, and will have the opportunity to completely redesign their homes and lives!

After enjoying the book immensely, I can only wish you good luck and tell you: 
You have the power to design your life!

To enter the giveaway you only need to follow the Rafflecopter widget. In bold are the two mandatory entries you have to complete in order to enter this giveaway. If you only complete one of them you will not be eligible to win. To increase your chances of winning, go ahead and complete all of them!

Good luck!

15 November 2011

What Everybody Ought to Know About Shampoo

There is something important you ought to know about shampoo - it is not exactly what it seems to be. In fact, the majority of store-bought shampoos contain toxic chemical compounds that contribute to cancer, liver disorders and neurological diseases.

If you think about it, this could be one of the reasons why so many allergies, asthma, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, irritations and rashes, sinus problems, seem to have sprung out of nowhere in the past 50 years.

Judging by what we see on store shelves modern marketing strategy obviously glorifies "going back to Nature"  - herbal, fruit and organic shampoos seem to be abundant, at least that is what their labels say. But the sad truth is that most of the shampoos you can buy are packed with chemicals that are not only far from Nature but are also dangerous for your health.

Most of you know that I went shampooles half a year ago but I will admit that at the time I didn't think about the dangers lurking in shampoo and I only did it out of curiosity. Washing my hair with baking soda proved an easy, eco-friendly, cheap and beneficial option for me and since my hair is getting stronger and cleaner, and I only need to wash it once a week, I don't see a reason to go back to shampoo, especially after what I have learned.

Illustration: Life is Just a Dream
But after I did some research on shampoo ingredients I find it hard to contain myself, thinking how many people intoxicate themselves and their children (!!) on a regular basis, thinking they are cleaning themselves! I know that to many of you who read Kanelstrand Organic Living that is old news but I also feel compelled to share what I have learned with those who still haven't thought about the dark side of shampoo. I find it startling that big "beauty" corporations offer us products that they know can harm us and our children.

So, to back up my words, I took two bottles of shampoo - Garnier Fructis Nutri-Repair and Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Damage Rescue - and picked the toxic ingredients for you, so you get a better idea as to what you may be exposing yourself while you are thinking you are taking good bubbly care of yourself. What an irony!

Here is an alphabetical list of the dangerous chemicals I found in the 2 bottles of shampoo and which can be found in 90% of shampoo:

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
Synthetic detergent. Apart from shampoo it is also used in bubble baths, hand wash, dish-washing liquid, also in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers - and in 90% of products that foam. It can pose serious health threats because it could be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.

Animals exposed to Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) experience eye damage, central nervous system depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and even death.

SLS and ALS may also damage the skin's immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame. It is frequently disguised in semi-natural cosmetics with the explanation "comes from coconut".

Cocamide (DEA, DEA-CETYL phosphates, DEA OLETH-3 phosphates, Myristamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, Cocamide MEA, Lauramide MEA, Oleamide DEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate)
These chemicals are used as emulsifiers and foaming bases in the majority of body care products. They are used in shampoos to reduce the surface tension of liquid. Since they are derived from coconuts, people often see them as harmless natural ingredients. But, they can trigger allergic reactions in the skin and lungs when used in high concentrations. Also, they may lead to formation of nitrosamines, chemical compounds that can cause cancer. If you use a shampoo that has cocamide DEA, MEA or MIPA, make sure it also contains vitamin A and C, which can serve as nitrosamine blocking agents.

In spite of the fact the the FDA (The American Food and Drug Administration) has warned the industry of their potential danger since 1979. Furthermore, in 1998 a study by the NTP (American National Toxicology Program) seriously condemned their use and designated them nitrates and nitrosamins, cancer causing elements.

Dimethicone is a silicone product that’s used as a skin conditioning agent and emollient. Since silicone emollients are occlusive, they coat the skin, trapping anything beneath it, and do not allow it to breathe. Dimethicone not only creates a kind of film over our skin and pollutes our bodies but it also accumulates in our organs. In addiction, poisonous hydrochloric gas is emitted during the chemical production of this ingredient.

Apart from shampoos, fragrance is added to most deodorants, sunscreens, skin care, body care and baby products. Fragrance is a way for manufacturers to disguise harmful ingredients and is virtually unregulated by the EPA or the FDA. Fragrance can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. Almost all of them are synthetic. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritations. Some cause brain damage or are neurotoxins. Avoid unless you can be sure they are not carcinogenic.

Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM Hydantoin (Germall Plus, Germall II and Germal 115)
After parabens, these are the most used preservatives. They are well established as a main cause of contact dermatitis. They contain formaldehyde, which is not only an inexpensive preservative and disinfectant but also a suspected cancer-causing toxin. It causes allergic, irritant and contact dermatitis, headaches and chronic fatigue. The vapour is extremely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat (mucous membranes).

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) together with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products because they are very effective foaming agents. But did you know that the foamy effect of shampoo is purely aesthetic? It has absolutely no cleansing properties!

SLS and SLES are not carcinogens but they are probably the most dangerous ingredients in skin and hair-care products. They can also be found in toothpaste, where according to some studies it causes the recurrence of aphthous ulcers, commonly referred to in some countries as canker sores or white sores.

SLS is found in car wash soap, engine degreaser, toothpaste, lotions and garage floor cleaners. It is most often used to degrease car engines. When used in shampoo, apart from the nice foam it produces, SLS dissolves the oils on your skin, which causes a drying effect. It corrodes the hair follicle and impedes hair growth. It has been blamed for many cases of premature hair loss. It takes hair longer to grow when it has been affected by SLS.

But wait, there is more - SLS can also be absorbed into the body from skin application. Once absorbed, SLS mimics the activity of the hormone Oestrogen, leading to different health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer.

Although SLES is considered less irritating than SLS, and according to toxicology research it is not a carcirogen, is commonly contaminated with dioxane, which is a known carcinogen. it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are even longer-lasting.

Yellow 5
You would think this is a harmless colorant but there is something more about it. Yellow 5 (together with other colors) is a coal tar derivative. The main concern about coal tar derivatives is that they cause cancer in animals, and they have also been found to cause potentially severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, and lack of concentration. 

The NPF states that coal tar contains approximately 10,000 chemicals, of which only about 50% have been identified and the composition of coal tar varies with its origin and type of coal used to make it. Coal tar causes increased sensitivity to sunlight, so skin treated with topical coal tar preparations should be protected from sunlight.

These chemicals are just a fraction of the danger lurking from most "beauty" products. But looking from the positive side, there is a great number of natural body care brands, natural health stores and independent sellers that are committed to use healthy, organic ingredients and who take great care in keeping us and the earth clean. 

And, positive as I am, instead of listing the big bad brands using toxic chemicals, I will give you a short list of my favorite independent eco-friendly body care producers on etsy. Your body - your choice.

Stop on by and decide for yourself. Etsy makes it easy for you to communicate with the person behind the creation. So, you can ask them anything! I am sure they will be glad to give you an answer.

Belle Terre -  handmade soaps, shampoo bars, and related products
Cassia Aromatics - handmade soaps, scrubs and aromatherapy
Coquette Bath - handmade soaps, lotions, and lip balms
Herban Luxe - handmade herbal makeup
Larson Farm Naturals - handmade soaps with all natural ingredients
Milk and Honey Naturals - natural soap and solid body care shop

After reading this post, I urge you to do some further research yourself. Perhaps it is time you examined your personal care products a little further to see if they are having a deleterious effect on your health. We have reached the point where diet and exercise are not enough to keep healthy and we must realize that we have to monitor every aspect of your life – from what we eat through what we use, to how we clean our houses.

14 November 2011

Remove Warts With Natural Remedies

Warts are small, usually painless growths on the skin caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. They usually affect just one part of the body - the hands, the feet, or the face - without spreading to other areas. Although they are generally harmless, warts can be embarrassing, itchy and unpleasant.

There are many commercial solutions for treating warts, ranging from home cryotherapy kits to salicylic acid but they could be expensive and some make the wart appear even uglier and more conspicuous than the untreated wart. Before you buy a wart removal product, try treating them with some natural remedies which you can find at home.

But before you start, have in mind that getting rid of warts may take quite some time. Warts can appear and disappear without a cause or may disappear without treatment. In any case, whether you choose a commercial or natural treatment, be patient and prepare yourself for numerous daily sessions over weeks or months. Before each treatment it is a good idea to prepare the affected area by soaking it in warm water to soften the rough surface. Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Photo: Charles Williams

Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has proved to have great effect in removing common warts and flat warts because the acid it contains soaks into the skin and makes the surface layer, with the wart and virus, to peel off.

Before going to sleep place a piece of cotton soaked in vinegar on the wart. Secure the cotton with a band-aid and take it off in the morning. Repeat each night until the wart disappears. It is important to keep treating the area until the core is gone since if it remains the wart will grow back.

Another method that will act more gently on the surrounding skin is to mix warm water with a cup of vinegar and soak the affected area for 20 minutes a day until the wart disappears.

Black tea
The acidity of the tannin in tea is what helps treat the warts. It can be just as effective in removing warts as various over the counter wart removers.

Soak a used bag of black tea in warm water and then press it directly on the wart for 20 to 30 minutes. Afterwards let the skin dry naturally. Make sure you dispose of the tea bag after using it on the wart. Repeat the procedure three times a day for a few days and the wart will eventually disappear completely.

Green Tea
The antioxidants in green tea boost your immune system thus helping you get rid of warts and prevent them from appearing. How to apply? Just drink green tea regularly. The recommended dosage to boost immunity is 2500 to 500 mg daily.

The high potassium level in bananas helps kill warts. The potassium is believed to have a caustic effect during long periods of contact with the skin. In other words, the potassium is burning away the wart, layer by layer, without damaging healthy skin or causing scars.

During the treatment, it is recommended to keep the wart covered with a clean dry bandage during the day. The idea is to deprive the skin of moisture, because moisture helps the virus to multiply. If the bandage gets wet, remove it as soon as possible and replace it if you can.

Rub the inside of a little piece of a banana peel on the affected area each night and you will see results within one to two weeks. It is important to use fresh banana peels each day and to have bananas that are just turning from green to yellow, because the active healing compounds degrade with age.

Or you can secure the inner side of the peel to the wart with an adhesive bandage, so as to leave the peel work overnight. Wash the treated area with soap and warm water in the morning and allow the wart to air dry. Then apply a clean bandage to the wart during the day. Since the virus that causes warts thrives in moist environments, take care to change the bandage if it gets wet.

Remove the dark parts of the damaged wart daily with nail trimmers. You must expose the fresh, undamaged wart root to the peel to enhance the treatment. You will begin to see progress in about 4 days and hopefully your wart will disappear in about 2 weeks.

The powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties of garlic helps remove warts naturally and painlessly. By treating the wart with garlic, you will infuse it with the oil of the garlic, which is a also antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal.

Slice a fresh garlic clove in half and apply it onto the wart, taking care to treat only the wart itself and not the surrounding skin. Discard the garlic. Then place a bandage over the wart and leave it overnight. In the morning, remove the bandage and carefully wash the area surrounding the wart. Repeat every day. This can take a few weeks, but eventually, the wart will begin to turn black before falling off.

Onions are used for particularly stubborn warts. Apply a little fresh onion juice and allow it to dry on the wart. Do not rinse it off but let it get washed off naturally when you go for a shower.

In order to gently stimulate the area, you can apply a little fresh onion juice on a cotton bud and slowly massage the juice into the wart. This is one of the most effective home remedies for warts on the hands and feet. It is not advisable to use this treatment for warts on the face.

Do you know other natural methods to get rid of warts?