When I was growing up, there was a Singer Sewing Center right across the street from the bowling alley where I loved to bowl. Starting from when I was ten, I would go to the Sewing Center every Saturday, sit down at a machine and learn something new. I started with the basics - sewing a straight line, learning to reverse and then jazzing things up with a zigzag stitch. DSC_0451 There was a sewing contest at the end of the year where each student made a garment they would wear in a final fashion show. I made a blue and red patterned jump suit with a shiny zipper. When I had it on, I felt brave and looked like a million bucks. So daring! I knew I would win.Visitors Browse Stands At The UK Aware Greener Living Exhibition

I didn't. A girl who had made something far more challenging to sew won and although I cursed her at the time, I get it know. Thankfully, my love of sewing was stronger than my wounded pride and I went back for a second series of classes. The skills I learned became so ingrained that I don't even think of them as skills. When someone said to me recently “I don't sew,” I barely understood what she meant. How could anyone not know how to sew?

Machine is easy to learn and a joy to do. It offers up speed and ease in the sewing process and durability for the finished product. It also gives us options - now we can mend those beloved blue jeans rather than having to toss them: we can buy those too long curtains because we know we can hem them and we can make those perfect pillows or even sew a new cushion for a flea market chair. In short,  machine sewing is a time saver and a beauty maker.

The history of the sewing machine is a varied tale and the facts about it's development seem to depend on who is doing the telling. If you're interested in the twists and turns of the machine's development check out the great site Sewalot. What we do know is that the idea for the first sewing machine arrived in 1789 when a Brit named Thomas Saint invented what is generally considered the first sewing machine.


sewing-machine-repair-oldCenturies passed with a variety of machines being invented by a variety of people, before people like Isaac Singer brought his ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive to building and marketing the sewing machine as we know it today.

It is good to remember that every piece of clothing we buy has been made at a sewing machine by someone, usually a woman. Clothing factories worldwide are often unsafe and their workers are often poorly paid. If you want to be conscious of buying clothing from companies that are known to treat their workers well, check out the list put together by the Fair Labor Association. Black woman working by her sewing machine on candlelight, VaranaAlso, there are many wonderful charities which help women find a path out of poverty by giving them sewing machines so they can create things to sell. A wonderful one is The Sewing Machine Project and you can learn more about it here.

Gandhi called the sewing machine “one of the most useful things ever invented.” Anyone who sews would certainly agree.

Lorne Holden is an artist, author, educator and entrepreneur. Check out her bestselling book "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done."



Last night a dusting of snow fell in my yard. No foolin'. April may be upon us, but here in New England, winter is taking a long time to bid adieu. Even so, when I stuck my head out the window this morning I heard the chirp of a spring bird. My heart leapt up, my imagination got going and I started to plan how to prepare my garden for the season of popping joy that is to come. Preparing the ground for gardening is an essential step to any season of growing. It's akin to starting the creation of a delicious meal by making sure you have great ingredients. Here are some simple steps to give your garden a head start for a season bursting with lushness and beauty.

Clean Up + Prepare the Soil

Start your work by simply getting rid of anything that didn't get cleared away last fall. Leftover leaves, small stones and fallen tree branches need to be swept away, so that they don't get packed in to the soil when it needs to be turned over. This doesn't have to be a tiresome job, think of it as uncluttering your landscape to make more space for beauty.

Digging the soil

Next, dig loose the soil and add organic material. You want a garden that has been aireated with some good turning and nourished with the benefit of alot of compost or other garden booster. Compost is widely available at all garden centers, if you don't make your own. If you feel your soil is overly acidic or very sandy, lots of organic matter added at the start of the season will make a huge difference to your growing success. You do have to add fresh organic matter every season, so don't hold back. Try to make it at least a 50/50 mixture of your native soil with good compost.

If you find your soil is poor in a way that can't be salvaged, try using raised beds and filling them with excellent soil that you can purchase.

Start Your SeedsSeedstarts:eggshells

Next, do that simple, miraculous thing: start your seeds indoors. There's nothing that lifts the heart and reminds us that sunlight and nature's bounty is on the way, like starting seeds indoors. It's easy as pie. You can get starter kits at your local garden center or don't even bother and use your eggshells in an egg carton, as seen above. Seeds that are started this way can be planted right into the ground in the shell, which adds a boost of calcium for the growing plant. It's a simple process made particularly fun, when you invite young kids to participate.

Plan Your Joy

If you are planting a flower garden, think of your garden space as a painters canvas that you will be filling with color, texture and light. Then, take time to plan what you will plant. Jot it down on paper first, even it's just a scribble. It doesn't have to be fancy! Just give yourself a sense of what will go where. The simple plan seen below is a great example of how easy it can be. There is great support for this part of your process heregarden-design-garden-ideas-stunning-great-garden-border-ideas-garden-border-ideas-nz-natural-garden-border-ideas-narrow-garden-border-ideas-new-garden-border-ideas-garden-border-materials-ideas

If you are growing a vegetable garden, take advantage of the great information about Companion Planting which outlines where to plant vegetables in relation to each other, for maximum growth potential.

Relish Your Work

Taking time to prepare your garden is making an investment in the joy and beauty that will be flourishing there in the months ahead. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the prep work you've done and let yourself revel in thoughts of what's to come. There is beauty and deliciousness in store!

Lorne Holden is an artist, author, educator and entrepreneur. Her book, “MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day” was inspired by gardening.

ReConsumerEYES: Southern California

hollywood-sign-address1 Being from the Northeast corner of this giant sized country, it's easy to think that Southern California is only one thing: Hollywood. In fact, this large and diverse part of our country stretches from Los Angeles all the way to the Mexican border and has many wonders that are worth knowing about. I am lucky to have some great pals who live or work in Southern California and recently I asked them what they liked about this unique corner of the world. Here's what they had to say:

Film maker/ Producer Lisa Kors reports that there are hidden architectural gems in Los Angeles, a city not usually known for it's buildings. The great Frank Lloyd Wright designed a number of homes there as did the amazing Richard Neutra who designed the beautiful home pictured below. Many production and set designers who work in the film industry build whimsical castles or fairy homes that can surprise the eye and there are hidden gems of architecture that can be seen by walking the canals of Venice, CA. These canals are an off the beaten path adventure used mostly by locals, so if you find yourself out that way, act like a local and go for a stroll!Richard-Neutra-Singleton-House-3

Artist John Richey, who works as Chief Registrar for the Keith Haring Foundation, was born in San Diego and reports that Southern California is a place where  the "weather is always nice, the people are super chill, the food is awesome and there are great beaches, national parks, museums, art galleries and more.”

He especially loves Coronado Island which is a resort city located across San Diego Bay. This remarkable place is considered a “walkers paradise” and is known for the number of bicycles that are used there. Wonderfully, It is possible to get all around this island without ever using a car. In addition to having beautiful beaches, there is the historic hotel, The Hotel del Coronado (below), which was where the classic film “Some Like it Hot” was filmed. Coronado-Island-Hotels

Now living in New York, John also reports that his first place he goes after landing in San Diego is In-n-Out Burger. He also loves the plethora of Mexican food that is everywhere from tiny taco shacks to larger established restaurants. And being an artist, he reports that there are big, wonderful museums as well as galleries and experimental art spaces that offer up an endlessly lively art scene.

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For those with an interest in things more "out there," film maker Brian Savelson brings news of the "Integratron." According to it's website, the Integratron is “a resonant tabernacle and energy machine sited on a powerful geometric vortex in the Mojave Desert.” It is located in Landers, California near Joshua Tree, a place known for it's strange and beautiful landscape. It was built in 1959 by the aircraft mechanic George van Tassel, who stated that he was contacted by people from outer space and guided to create this structure as it had the power to rejuvenate human cell tissue.


After van Tassels death in 1978, the structure had various owners over the years and fell into disrepair until it was purchased by the three Karl sisters in 2000. They now run the structure, considered to be acoustically perfect, as a place to visit and heal. They run sessions in the interior of the building (below) that they call “sound baths” which are meditations accompanied by sounds created by quartz bowls.


All of these places are just a sample of the many joys to be found in this sunny southwestern corner of our country. Consider it on the map of possibilities for your next trip!


Lorne Holden is an artist, author, educator and entrepreneur. Learn more about her and the great book she wrote by visiting her site MAKE IT HAPPEN.



ReConsumerEYES: Handmade Stuffed Toys

Ragamuffins A-Z 3Ragamuffins.

When you hear that word, do you think of two loveable somebodies scuffling down a laneway, leaving a trail of dust in their wake? It's the image that comes to mind, right?

But did you know that Ragamuffins were also the first creative creation of our hero Crispina ffrench? She made her first Ragamuffin years ago, with a piece of handmade felt during an artist's workshop in college. She had been assigned to make a piece of felt and turn it into art in some way. And what a way she did! Her initial Ragamuffin was the spark that ignited the entire creative realm that she offers up today. After Ragamuffins, came blankets and then mittens. And now, well, hop on over to her Etsy shop to get a further taste of her marvelous creations.

There is real magic in making a toy. As toys are the springboard for imaginative play for kids, you add a dimension of originality when you have your child make their own toys.  Crispina says, “When kids are allowed to create any kind of animal or person by hand and put that creature in a setting, a completely personal creative process unfolds. It's good for everyone!”images-1

Art lovers may remember that the great sculptor Alexander Calder was required by his parents to make his own toys as a child and that practice grew into one of the great art careers of the 20th Century.

When I was a young, I used to make teddy bears and little stuffed rabbits and give them as gifts to friends. It was an arduous process, made especially vexing by the fuzz that would fly off the fake fur and land all over me. But the look on a person's face when they received their gift made all the trouble worthwhile. There is now a plethora of glorious handmade toys available on the ever wonderful Etsy – have a visit there and feast your eyes and heart. These sweeties below can be found there.

If you're interested in creating a wonderful handmade toy for someone you love, consider signing up for Crispina's upcoming Ragamuffin workshop upcoming in April. Not only will you have a great day and come away with a wonderful toy, you may get inspired to continue creating things you can't even imagine yet. Watch this site for registration details and grab your spot right away - these workshops fill quickly.

stuffed animals aqua