The Day of the Dead

day of Dead 2By Lorne Holden When I was a little girl growing up in Cleveland, the last day in October always meant two things: costumes and candy. Absurd amounts of candy. And given that the costumes were often purchased at a large chain store, Halloween became a yearly glut of consumer consumption. Buy a costume that would be cast off and never used again! Gather more candy than anyone should be allowed to eat in a year! For a kid, this was heaven.

But as I grew older and became a parent, I found myself drawn to a festival on the same date that seemed to be more grounded in connection, history, beauty and respect. This festival is Mexico's Day of the Dead.

The Day of the Dead is actually three days: October 31, November 1 and 2nd. It is celebrated widely in Mexico as well as in other countries where there is a high Mexican population. The colorful costumes and painted faces that are inspired by Day of the Dead have become iconic worldwide. We know immediately when we are looking at a scene from Day of the Dead.

Day of Dead 2 good 2

While the American way of celebrating Halloween stems from a history of connection to the Celtic Harvests, the Day of the Dead has it's history in the ancient belief of celebrating the afterlife. Nowadays, the Day of the Dead reflects the original beliefs shaped by the pre-Hispanic indigenous population as well as Spanish Catholic ideas.

 

The Day of the Dead is Mexico's most important holiday and is a time of joy and celebration. It is literally a time when people stop to remember, talk about and cherish those they love who have died. Mexican people spend a lot of time in graveyards, cleaning gravestones of family members and leaving gifts. Also, people create ornate and colorful altars in their homes; they make and eat Pane del Muerta, a sweet bread, and create and decorate sugar skulls. It is all a wonderful and expansive celebration of taste, color and love.

day of daed altar 2

 

This year, consider grounding your family's Halloween celebration is an activity inspired by the Day of the Dead. Creating an altar in the home or taking time to simply remember a beloved, departed family member can offer up a sense of family history and continuity. Taking time to make bread, or create ornate costumes based on Day of the Dead images can remind kids that they have what it takes within them to make this Halloween special and their own. Start a discussion about the difference between creating and consuming. Talk about what it means to remember and respect those who have come before them. Let this years celebration be more than just sweet things to eat.

Skull 2

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Lorne Holden is an artist and the author of  the bestsller "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done." Learn more about her here: makeithappenintenminutesaday.com.

 

ReConsumerEyes - Plastic Bag Ban

By Lorne Holden

09.08.14 PB Ban GB LH15

On March 1 of this year, the wonderful town of Great Barrington, MA made a bold move and banned the use of retail plastic bags in all stores . This splendid act made the town the first community in Western Massachusetts to implement such a ban. Great Barrington joins three other towns in Massachusetts who have done the same thing: Nantucket, Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

09.08.14 PB Ban GB LH14

I do most of my shopping in Great Barrington and in the weeks following the ban, I was overcome with joy each time I saw no plastic bags being used at the grocery store. I was accustomed to seeing piles of plastic bags in peoples carts as they left the store. I was even used to hearing the snap and whoosh of the bags bas they were pulled off their stands, opened and filled. But there was new space and quiet in the stores now. Things were tidier. Less junky.

This got me thinking...

Just how many bags were NOT being used now that the ban was in effect?

I began taking an informal survey. I asked the manager at one of the large chain grocery stores. What was the count of bags now not being used? She looked at me with glassy eyes. I tried again. Could she give me an estimate of how many bags were used before the ban took effect? (She was amazed I was interested. I was stunned she was amazed.) “Fifteen thousand in general,” was her answer. “A month?” I asked. “A week,” she answered. “More during the holidays.”

5-pack of The Thank You Bag by Jelledge on Etsy

My brain scrambled to do some quick math. Fifteen thousand bags a week added up to 60 thousand bags a months or 720,000 bags a year. One store. One small town in New England. Nearly three quarters of a million plastic bags a year. Except the number is actually higher if you count the extra bags used during the holidays.

I continued my quest for the numbers. The high end fresh food market used 250,000 a year and the national chain office supply store used 110,000.

So, doing my best guesstimating math, I added up the numbers from the two large grocery stores, one high end market, the office supply store and a national budget store and got a whopping 2.6 million bags that WILL NOT BE USED AND DISCARDED. It is a staggering number from one small town.

There are 296 towns and 55 cities in Massachusetts. Can you imagine the impact if a ban was implemented state wide? I just multiplied the town/city number times 2.6 million bags and my calculator blew a gasket, started to smoke and couldn't even display the answer because the number was so high. Whew!

Recently, there was great and inspiring news. California implemented such a ban statewide at the end of August 2014. Prior to this, the state was spending 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfills and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from the streets. It is also estimated the Californians were using and disposing ten billion plastic bags a year. Ten billion.

So now we have four towns in Massachusetts. One big state out west. Let's keep going. Get involved where you live and make it happen in your town. We can do it. Let's de-bag the planet!

Reuseable Bulk Bags by kootsac on Etsy

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Lorne Holden is an artist and the author of the Amazon Bestseller “Make It Happen in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done.” Learn more about her at: www.makeithappenintenminutesaday.com.  Learn more about Lorne, as a Freak of the Week right here.

ReConsumerEyes ~ Peek-A-Boo

I listen to podcasts often. This American Life and Alternative Radio are my favorites.  It is enjoyable to learn current events without the pace and need for filter that other ‘news’ sources require.  Lately, it has become crystal clear, that the MOST important issue we all face is the dire situation with our environment.   Without clean air and water – our BASIC human requirements – nothing else can really matter.  Seeing the gravity of our headlong dash toward human species ruin is daunting.  Terrifying. I feel uplifted when I  hear David Suzuki speak on how we have the ability to create a new way and he makes me aware that I HAVE to take a positive role – present solutions, teach perspective options, lead.  It is our duty as truth seers to share our visions.  No judgment, no us vs. them just a new way to see things – ReConsumerEyes.

Recycling Cotton T-Shirts with Peek-A-Boo Embroidery

Have you seen the things that I make from recycled wool sweaters?  I started doing that in 1987 while a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  Back then it was my mission to introduce the idea of recycling.  There were no blue bins on any curbside and recycling was not a household word.  The ‘bottle bill’ had been introduced in Massachusetts in 1983 and all the talk about that piqued my interest in environmental affairs.

Since the 1980s things have changed in so many ways – most people in our culture have curbside recycling available to them.  Maybe, even, most people actively recycle their household waste.  A movement of crafters creating from all manner of discarded materials has certainly developed.   In this span of time, I have learned a whole bunch about our solid waste habits, and specifically, textile waste stream.

Since the advent of Polar Fleece, the growth of our cultural turn toward reuse, the number of wool sweaters has dwindled - few, and far between at most thrift shops.  What was once a true waste material, wool sweaters (or wool knits, as they are known in the ‘rag’ trade), have become a sought after commodity.

So what do I say to that?

I say FRICKEN YAY!

There are so many people recycling wool sweaters that I don’t need to do that any more!

(Some days, I have to confess, I say Fricken YIKES !! – EVERYONE seems to be wearing plastic clothing without out even a thought of the environmental or health impact/s)

Next, I head to the thrift shop and see what is prevalent – and cheap.  What are people discarding that is prolific and nice to work with – (to me that means it is natural fiber)?

T-Shirts!  Sweatshirts!  Corduroys! Oh My!

Took me a little while to configure design and structural elements to enhance these new non-wool elements.  Peek-A-Boo Embroidery is the best yet!  Amazing possibilities come to mind!  From detailed panels that add flair (and structure) to simply constructed handmade garments, to intricate all over embellishment establishing regal richness, the quality of the finished product will blow your mind!  There is something quite magical about turning common cotton t-shirts that we all have WAY too many of, into fantastic art to wear.

It is so much fun and garners such a sense of accomplishment, to witness such transition, I have drawn up a day-long lesson, teaching my process.  On June 15, in my studio – located at 40 Melville Street in Pittsfield, MA I will be holding a Peek-A-Boo Embroidery workshop.  Students will choose to make a simple long sleeved pullover, skirt, or cute Dixie Dress in whatever size/color they want.   Garments are completely handsewn.  There is no experience necessary.  Hop off your screen, sign up at Crispinaffrench@gmail.com or 413-236-9600 and learn to stitch magic into your wardrobe.  

The workshop runs from 10-4:30pm on June 15th.  The cost is $195 which covers tuition as well as the use of all tools and materials.  Students are asked to bring a bag lunch.

Thank you to Jane Feldman for the center image of Bridget Conry wearing a Peek-A-Boo top I made.  Thank you Bridget too!

ReConsumerEyes - Clotheslines

I listen to podcasts often. This American Life and Alternative Radio are my favorites.  It is enjoyable to learn current events without the pace and need for filter that other ‘news’ sources require.  Lately, it has become crystal clear, that the MOST important issue we all face is the dire situation with our environment.   Without clean air and water – our BASIC human requirements – nothing else can really matter.  Seeing the gravity of our headlong dash toward human species ruin is daunting.  Terrifying. I feel uplifted when I  hear David Suzuki speak on how we have the ability to create a new way and he makes me aware that I HAVE to take a positive role – present solutions, teach perspective options, lead.  It is our duty as truth seers to share our visions.  No judgment, no us vs. them just a new way to see things – ReConsumerEyes.

– Clotheslines –

When our family was living in our Tree-Top home at the rectory, our electric bill was $45 a month.  I bitched at Chris for 5 years about the fact that there was a brand new dryer sitting, unused, in the laundry closet that he just needed to install.   During that time I fell in deeply in love with my clothesline – and the warm weather that made hanging laundry pleasant and efficient.  Being that we lived on the third floor, Biggie, hung me a line from our kitchen window out to a maple tree near the train tracks.   It took two good-sized loads to fill it.  Brightly-colored prayer-flaggish kids clothes shook love and innocence on that neighborhood, which was in so much need.  With this realization, my dryer-installation nagging waned and I fell more deeply in love with my hubby.

We moved to Fairyland on the mountain, where there was a washer/dryer and all, and our electric bill is $100 a month!

Not much else changed as far as our consumption goes.  So, as soon as our deep snow cover gave way, I installed a good long clothesline. This line has taken a while to become useful, needed to replace the first faulty line-tensioner I bought, and Biggie helped with a few tweaks.  But then, YAY!  I love to hang laundry.  Yesterday I took in a load of wash that had been hanging for a week.  It had finally dried – it rained, and rained, and cold rained last week.   This week is off to a sunny start!

Hanging laundry outside when the weather is chilly made me appreciative of the warmth of my tiny kitchen on Melville and the clean laundry stacked on the kitchen table.  When it’s really cold or rains there are options for indoor clothes drying.  They do require indoor space and if you plan for it, drying clothes indoors is easy.  In winter, when our air gets so very dry, the moisture is welcome.  We have a large wooden drying rack and it might be a good idea to get a clothesline going in our attached garage for next winter.

 

ReconsumerEyes - Earth Day

By Lindsay Loodle for Crispina ffrench Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day, this weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome!

Earth Day, a day founded in 1970 to bring environmental issues into the spotlight, was no milestone yesterday – policymakers around the world continue to make decisions that hurl us closer to the two-degree global temperature increase. The majority of the world lives in a culture of denial or non-responsibility.

But Earth Day yesterday was a good reminder about the importance of continuing to raise awareness and develop alternative ways of living that favor the Earth. Our ReconsumerEyes see hope as more and more organizations and individuals accumulate towards a massive wave of transformation. Slowly but surely, the modern world is learning to redefine it’s relationship to the natural world.

This week, one such example of a group of people endeavoring to spread awareness about environmental issues caught our attention. Global Water Dances is an international network of movement experts creating one day of synchronized dances around the globe to shed light on water issues. Through movements that evoke the quality of water and reveal what life is like without safe access to water, the group – composed of hundreds of movers and shakers – bring attention to how the seizure of public water supplies by private bottling companies has deprived 780 million people worldwide of this vital substance.

Global Water Dances will be launching their second global performance on June 15, 2013, and you can join! Each action is a drop in the ocean, making every other action more plausible, more likely, more hopeful. Our global and national institutions aren’t up to the task of facing climate change, but in communities everywhere, people are finding ways to defy and disrupt the culture of denial and inaction. The culture of responsibility is growing. It rocks, and we are part of it. Find more ways to dance, paint, and sew your way towards a solution!

ReconsumerEyes - A Tree Grows in Maryland

By Lindsay Loodle for Crispina ffrench Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day, this weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome.

Arbor Day is just around the corner (April 26 – mark your calendars!) and what could be a better time to draw inspiration and take action towards replenishing the Earth. With our ReconsumerEyes, we’ve looked at green ideas for the home for helping reduce and reuse our waste. Today, our greenspiration comes at the state level.

Called the modern day Johnny Appleseed, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley received the National Arbor Day Award in 2012 for his efforts to bring about 40% coverage of the state with forests and trees by 2020.

The Governor’s Marylanders Plant Trees program launched in 2009, and has already succeeded in encouraging Maryland citizens to plant 101,056 trees – over 25,000 per year! By offering $25 coupons towards the purchase of native trees, the Governor has enabled tree planting to become the work of everyone. As he said in announcing the milestone of 2013, “There are some challenges so large we can only do them together.”

We believe that Governor O’Malley truly follows in the footsteps of Arbor Day founder, J. Sterling Morton, for making the Ethic of the Land a state priority and for leading the way towards “healing and restoring the common good we share with all natural beings.” Follow the progress of Maryland's Smart, Green and Growing initiatives by visiting www.green.maryland.gov. Then, tell us what you think other states should be doing to catch up, and who you think deserves the Arbor Day Award for 2013!

ReconsumerEyes - Cork Planters

By Lindsay Loodle for Crispina ffrench Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day, this weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome.

In the spirit of warm breezes, gushing rivers, and all things green, we have an enchanting project for you that can give a touch of spring to any time of year: micro planters. Made from recycled wine corks, these planters are simple yet delectable. And because of their small size, they can be arranged in almost any formation! Here are a few you might like to try:

1. The standard cork planter can be lined along a windowsill or bunched together in your garden; this planter goes just about anywhere. To make these, fill old wine corks with plant cuttings – ones that can thrive in small containers like spider plants, jade, string of pearls, bonsais, mini ferns, dwarf mosses, or micro-orchids – water gently with an eye dropper, plant mister, or dollhouse watering can, then watch your granular garden transform even the smallest of spaces! Follow Crafts Unleashed's instructions for creating these delectable seed spots.

2. For a functional twist, turn your cork planters into refrigerator magnets. Upcycle That has instructions here!

3. Finally, my absolute favorite version is the wine cork garden globe designed by Anthropologie. Stunning and other-worldly, these art pieces make incredible flowerbeds. And Andi from All Put Together has helped us learn how to build them. Read her blog post here...

Try your hand at one of these wine cork crafts for the start of spring, or tell us your own method for recycling corks and/or building planters!

ReconsumerEyes - Fool's Gold

By Lindsay Loodle for Crispina ffrench Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day, this weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome.

Did you get a chance to play a prank for April Fools Day? Well, if you didn’t, we’ve got a trick that you can play on friends and family all year long.

Plastic wrap is one of those pesky materials that we find so useful in the kitchen but that poses a real threat to our environment – the amount of plastic trash in the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has increased 100-fold during the past 40 years! After much searching, we’re ecstatic to have finally found a product equivalent to plastic wrap that is healthy for the Earth in being a more-than-single-use product made from biodegradable materials.

Sarah Kaeck makes and sells Bee’s Wrap out of her farm in Vermont. This organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax can be molded with the warmth of your hands to stick to the top of any dish or wrap any food product. The antibacterial properties of the beeswax help keep food fresh and allow the Bee's Wrap to be used again and again. Best of all, when the Bee's Wrap finally wears out, it can be thrown in the compost!

We suggest pranking your neighbors, roommates, parents, coworkers, anyone! by replacing their plastic wrap with this eco-friendly alternative. You can begin greening kitchens everywhere by buying Sarah’s Bee’s Wrap on Etsy or on her website www.beeswrap.com. Play the prank!

p.s. This blog post is focused on reducing plastic, so we thought we’d add this special TEDTalk on recycling plastic by Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, the world’s leader in producing post-consumer recycled plastics. Check it out!

ReconsumerEyes - The Egg Man

Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day. This weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome.

We love Easter because it signifies the start of spring and the rejuvenation of life around us. But this holiday tends to land us with a lot of waste – all those decorated Easter eggs! This year, we went on a hunt for an innovative way to dispose of Easter eggs while helping Mother Nature regenerate.

Paul West of Gardening with Urban Nitrogen sent out the word in March 2012 that he was collecting Easter eggs from homes in West Seattle to turn into homemade nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Nitrogen, he says, is the most important component for supporting plant growth. And some of the best sources of nitrogen are in our everyday food waste like sour milk, expired or hard-boiled eggs, beans, lean meat, low-fat yogurt, and tofu.

Paul ended up with oodles of eggs for his pilot project, and luckily, left us instructions for how to do it. We love Paul’s method – as simple as putting eggs in a blender – and wanted to share this bit of inspiration. Consider giving the Earth a rebirth by making fertilizer from old eggs this year. Or, tell us your own solution for a waste-free Easter!

You can find Paul’s recipe for homemade garden fertilizer on his blog www.urbannitrogen.blogspot.com.