ReConsumer-Eyes - Mountains of Laundry

ReConsumer-Eyes is a weekly column shining light on a person product idea or thing that pertains to my mission and our weekly theme. If you have a suggestion for this column you can see our upcoming weekly themes in our Events calendar and pitch your idea to

This week our theme is Cleanse and I am taking this super literally today!

Today I want to let you in on one of my trade secrets while assisting you to cleanse your household of a few toxins in the process!

I talk a lot about being an avid environmentalist and do my best to utilize environmentally friendly living practices.  I joke about needing a 12-step program for recycling, like it is ok to throw things away sometimes! I do not have to devise a new use for each and EVERY disposable thing that passes through my hands (but honestly, I do feel compelled to try). 

Back when I was a kid in elementary school we watched a movie about the Great Lakes and Erie Canal.  One of the lakes had actually caught fire. It was a festering pool of plastic waste, industrial sludge and household toxins that had turned the once pristine lake into something so unnatural that it was on fire. Astounding! 

That same viewing pointed out the soapy-ness of the lakes with enormous iceberg impersonators that were actually giant floating soap bubble blobs that covered the surface of the lake. Horrifying!

 The Great Lakes are looking a whole lot cleaner today but those childhood images stuck with me and planted a seed that grew!  It seems like from that day on that I would do anything in my power to keep my impact on our natural environment to a minimum.  It was clear that my simple decisions had an impact – like what kind of soap to use, what kind of containers to use, how to steer clear of single-use plastic.  As a kid, this stuff all just seemed so simple to me.  Not surprising that I have spent my life’s focus on creating ways for people to recycle all manner of discarded materials. 

A few years ago I sat down and calculated how many pounds of clothing my production company kept from the landfill and it was mind-boggling!  We kept over 1,000,000 (that is ONE MILLION!) pounds of discarded textiles out of the waste stream just in our own production!  It is impossible to figure how much waste my teaching and students have added to that solid number but it is a lot and I am so proud!  It is my passion and business to encourage easy and creative textile waste recycling.

A million pounds of used clothing and textile waste is a whole lot of laundry!  We have carefully laundered every single item that we have recycled – which uses a lot of water and laundry soap. 

Tons of research went into the decision to use Bio-Pac laundry soap and I have been using it for years for my family and business.

Not only is the product free of petroleum distillates, dyes, perfumes and chlorine, it really cleans, AND their company philosophy really resonates with me.  True Eco Warriors!  You can learn all about them here. Learn all about all of their products and think carefully about the cleaning agents you use. Your choices do make a difference.

Do you have an environmentally kind cleaning product or method for household cleaning? Scroll down and share it in the comments. The more the merrier!


It's Screen Free Week and I've made it my mission to convince you that the joys of going screen free are so immediate and immense, so real and reliable, that you'll turn off your device once you've read this post and not log back on until next week!

Screen Free Week is a global celebration that invites everyone, young and old, to rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Begun in the 1990's as "Turn the TV Off" week, it has now grown into a broader invitation to shuck all the online time and rediscover reading, playing, thinking, creating and connecting. It is an opportunity for all of us to go back to the experiences we used to have before technology played such a dominant role in our lives.


Nowadays, between smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions, the sheer number of screens in a home can seem overwhelming. But it wasn't that long ago that we were without these devices. It wasn't that long ago that our time was more our own and our connections were more real.


If your family is drenched in technology and it feels challenging to know how to approach the idea of Screen Free Week with your children, here are some simple ideas:

Play outside with your children in the fresh spring air.

Move your furniture around into a fresh, new arrangement.

Call someone you love and have a long evening chat.

Cook something new.

Listen to music. Or better yet, play live music.


Play word games, board games, card games or a jigsaw puzzle.

Read aloud after dinner.


Give your time to someone who needs you.

Take a long walk and really let yourself meander.

Sew. Tinker. Paint. Fix.

These are just a few of the many ways you can rediscover the essential joys that have gone by the wayside in recent years. Once you dive into any one of these pleasures, you are certain to springboard into more and end up with a great new list of your own.

One thing is certain. When you turn off your screens you will be amazed at how much more time you have. You'll realize that you pour a lot of your time away, getting caught up in unnecessary wanderings online. You'll reconnect with aspects of yourself and your life that you don't even know you've been missing. You'll have a lot more fun. Fresh, real life fun.

So go on. It's time.

Turn this screen off.


“Where'd ya get that?” my car mechanic asked me.”From the Wicked Witch of the West?” He was referring to the bike pictured below, which I bought last year at a yard sale for five bucks. I enjoyed his teasing, partly because I was proud that I was biking home after dropping off my car to be fixed and partly because I know that this bike, in all it's rust-lovely glory, is a two wheeled sweetheart. It takes me many places I want to go with grace, strength and speed. Okay, maybe not speed but certainly the two other things.DSC_0022

Bikes are everywhere these days and all it takes is a fine spring day to bring out bikers all over cities and towns. Now is the time of year when kids learn to ride their first two wheelers, experiencing the sudden whoosh of freedom and balance that comes with giving up training wheels. It's a historic moment in any child's life and most of us can remember that happy moment in our pasts.community_bike_ride_jy_002_t725x500

Bicycles have been with us since the 1400's when drawings supposedly appeared in the folio of Leonardo Da Vinci. The illustration below done by Da Vinci, or a student of his or even an impostor (no one is sure) is an early representation of the bicycle that we have come to know and love today.Leonardo_Folio_133v_Bicycle

China has the most bicycles in numbers, but the Netherlands has the most bikes per capita probably because the country is wonderfully flat, making it great for riding. The two most bike friendly cities in the world are thought to be Amsterdam and Den Haag, both in Holland. In the states, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Portland, OR, all vie for the title of “Most Bike Friendly City” in America.

Even though 100 million bikes are sold worldwide each year, there are those who don't want to own a bike but still want to use one. Luckily for these types a wonderful new bike sharing program has sprung up in variety of cities in North America. In New York, there is CitiBikes which allows anyone to purchase an access pass or annual membership and then to pick up a bike at a designated location, ride as much as desired and then drop the bike off at the original or other location. Toronto also boasts the fantastic the Bike Sharing Program which works in a similar way. People from all walks of life can take advantage of this wonderful, affordable way to get to work or just around town without the stress or cost of maintaining one's own bike. Plus, it's a simple way to get fit while in the fresh air at a very low cost.ride-share-toronto

Bikes offer up a simple miracle – the reminder that in our age of high technology where everything is being sent through the ether of the internet – there is still the need for a human being to carry an envelope or package through the city streets to an appointed destination. Bicycle messengers still work in a variety of American cities, where they can be seen bobbing and weaving through traffic. It's can be dangerous and exhausting work but for the young and gutsy, it's a way to make a living in the city.Bike-Messenger-Neil

Lorne Holden is an artist and author of "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/ The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done." Grab a copy of her book and dive into something new for spring.


French EmbroideryIf the words “Hand Embroidery” make you think of a gift from Granny in days gone by, here's some great and colorful news. Hand embroidery - the craft of decorating fabric using needles with thread or yarn – is a vibrant practice still being done by people of all ages all over the world including right here in the America. Cultures as diverse as Latvia, Mexico and Hungary are a few of the many places on earth where hand embroidery is still a thriving craft. Pictured above is an example of embroidery from France. Historians have found embroidery that dates all the way back to the 5th Century BC in China. As far back as then, people had discovered that the hand stitches that were used to create, tailor and mend garments, could be used in a decorative fashion as well. Incredibly, the basic stitches of embroidery that are used today - chain stitch, blanket stitch, running stitch and cross stitch - can be seen on examples of the earliest embroidery. And those very stitches are still seen on modern garments like the colorful peasant blouse from Mexico seen below.Mexican EmbroideryEmbroidery is generally done using an embroidery hoop. This allows the fabric being used to remain flat and makes it easier for the person working to move their needle above and below. Hoops are generally circular but can sometimes be oval or square.891883-001One country where you will find embroidery as a central and thriving art is Guatemala. There, the distinctive coloring and embroidered designs are put on everything from clothing to purses to home linens. Mayan women in Guatemala create garments that are made from two kinds of handwork – weaving and embroidery. It is common in many Guatemalan cities to see women sitting in doorways selling their wares. They often have just a few pieces for sale and each work is unique and represents hours of work. Hand embroidery is a principal way that Mayan women adorn their clothing, confirm their heritage and make money for their families.ScanHand embroidery is an act of creative expression that can be done by people of all ages. In fact, some of the finest examples of hand embroidery are made by elderly women who have been practicing the craft all their lives.lens-11Hand embroidering is a wonderful way to create adornment for any kind of garment or household linen that is truly one of a kind. If you're interested in giving it a try, there are affordable online classes at There you will find wonderful lessons on all the basic hand embroidery stitches as well as instructions in how to create your own patterns.


Lorne Holden is an artist, author and educator. Her book "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done" will inspire you to embroider or dive into doing anything that makes your heart beat fast. Check it out!







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.

arts 102 02

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