betterArts Partners With Macsherry Library For Annual 'Heart Of Winter' Event

betterArts will run a crafts table at Macsherry Library's annual Heart of Winter Art Show & Chocolate Reception from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay. 

People of all ages are invited to create valentines, cards, notes and art for loved ones. In the gallery, art and written works will be on display. Chocolate desserts will also be offered, a special Valentine's Day treat donated by the library's board members and staff, local restaurants, and Friends of the Library. 

To enter your art into the show this year, click here.

Macsherry Library is located at 112 Walton St. in Alexandria Bay. Click here for more information.

betterArts To Offer Giftwrap-Making Station at Saturday's Kris Kringle Mart

betterArts will offer free giftwrap-making at this year's Kris Kringle Mart, put on by the Alexandria Bay Figure Skating Club and held at Alexandria Bay's fire hall from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5.

The annual event, put on by the figure-skating club as a fundraiser, features vendors selling a large variety of handmade items that will make perfect holiday gifts.

betterArts will have lots of art supplies on-hand and members of the organization will be available to help visitors make customized gift wrap for everyone on their list. The group will also offer toy giveaways throughout the day.

Alexandria Bay's fire hall is located at 110 Walton St., Alexandria Bay.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Gift-Giving: Annual Shopping Guide

Holiday shopping is upon us in just two little days; and there's no shortage of jacked-up consumerist sensibilities. But while there are inevitably going to be items each holiday season you're compelled to buy—like that video game your kid's dying to have, or a new flatscreen for the home, or a certain tie/dress/sweater/coat/fill-in-the-blanks that your spouse/cousin/parent/etc. has specifically asked for—there are also plenty of other gifts you're going to buy this season. You've got stocking stuffers, little gifts for people you love, the obligatory gift for your boss, co-workers, mailperson, dry cleaner, sanitation worker, and child's teacher.

So why not do something different this year? How about, instead of buying mass-produced stuff, you use your money to make a difference?

There are millions of ways to make real change with your money this holiday season. Whether you want to support artisans, shop local, or buy from organizations that will use your money to help people (

or animals

) in need, gifts this year run the gamut from sending young women to school to purchasing handwoven baskets from an underpriveleged person in Nepal. You can donate to a non-profit you believe in on behalf of someone you care about or in memory of a loved one; or simply buy a from a company you believe has ethical business practices. Here's a short list of some of my favorites this year (full disclosure: shameless plug for

Better Farm gear

to support sustainability outreach is of course included in the roundup):

  • Better FarmAll sales support sustainability and arts outreach
  •  
  • Amy's Smart Girls — Nearly 3 billion people around the world lack access to financial services that the other half of the world takes for granted. Through Amy Poehler's Smart Girls organization, you can supply a business loan to your choice of business start-ups (we recommend the "green" sector!).
  • Dragonfly PotteryAnn Donovan makes beautiful, handmade pieces that can be shipped anywhere. Check out the Facebook page here.
  • EtsyHand-crafted items supporting artisans of every ilk
  • The Gentle BarnThis group rescues, rehabilitates, and gives sanctuary to severely abused animals; then supports interaction between them and children who have suffered similar traumas. Animal and child share an extraordinary healing process
  • Gifts With HumanityThis is the retail component of Global Fair Trade Crafts, a web-based business designed to support individual artisans around the world
  • Global GirlfriendThis online shop helps women worldwide gain economic security. The fair-trade products are made by women around the world suffering from disadvantages that can be turned around by an income stream
  •  
  • Global Goods PartnersThis non-profit works with almost 40 artisan groups employing more than 3,000 women in close to 20 countries
  • Kari Zelson Robertson BetterArts board member Kari is an accomplished potter who has a gallery space outside her Rutland home. She will ship pieces anywhere and is happy to do custom work!
  • La Mia DesignsStephanie DeJoseph has run two upcycling workshops at Better Farm and excels at repurposed textiles and needlework.
  • Little Dresses for Africa —  You can go to this website to print out templates for dresses that you make and send in for distribution to girls in African orphanages, churches and schools.Or, you can make a donation to support the creation of dresses.
  • SokoSoko is an online store that connects online consumers to global makers and handcrafted jewelry from the developing world. All items are made with natural and upcycled materials.
  • The Shop for ChangeAn online marketplace enabling disadvantaged sellers around the world to sell online and sustainably grow their livelihoods
  • Ten Thousand VillagesThe founding organization of the Global Fair Trade Movement, this store has got tons of amazing gifts for everyone on your list
  • ThredUp  ThredUP is an online consignment shop that resells once-worn, practically new kids and women's clothing unbelievable discounts. You can also sell your like-new clothes to them for cash.
  • World VisionThis Christian humanitarian organization provides support to individuals and families worldwide regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. From their website you can purchase goats or chickens for families in need, supply a village with seeds for gardens or money to dig wells, or furnish a school with supplies

Any individual retailers and/or artisans are encouraged to leave their own website/store information as a comment below for holiday shoppers.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Your Better Farm Holiday Shopping Guide

Image from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
Holiday shopping is upon us; and there's no shortage of horrific Black Friday videos, cyber Monday scams, and jacked-up consumerist sensibilities. But while there are inevitably going to be items each holiday season you're compelled to buy—like that video game your kid's dying to have, or a new flatscreen for the home, or a certain tie/dress/sweater/coat/fill-in-the-blanks that your spouse/cousin/parent/etc. has specifically asked for—there are also plenty of other gifts you're going to buy this season. You've got stocking stuffers, little gifts for people you love, the obligatory gift for your boss, co-workers, mailperson, dry cleaner, sanitation worker, and child's teacher. So why not do something different this year? How about, instead of buying mass-produced stuff, you use your money to make a difference?

There are millions of ways to make real change with your money this holiday season. Whether you want to support artisans, shop local, or buy from organizations that will use your money to help people (or animals) in need, gifts this year run the gamut from sending young women to school to purchasing handwoven baskets from an underpriveleged person in Nepal. You can donate to a non-profit you believe in on behalf of someone you care about or in memory of a loved one; or simply buy a from a company you believe has ethical business practices. Here's a short list of some of my favorites this year (full disclosure: shameless plug for Better Farm gear to support sustainability outreach is of course included in the roundup):
  • Better FarmAll sales support sustainability and arts outreach
  • EtsyHand-crafted items supporting artisans of every ilk 
  • The Gentle BarnThis group rescues, rehabilitates, and gives sanctuary to severely abused animals; then supports interaction between them and children who have suffered similar traumas. Animal and child share an extraordinary healing process
  • Gifts With HumanityThis is the retail component of Global Fair Trade Crafts, a web-based business designed to support individual artisans around the world
  • Global GirlfriendThis online shop helps women worldwide gain economic security. The fair-trade products are made by women around the world suffering from disadvantages that can be turned around by an income stream
  •  Global Goods PartnersThis non-profit works with almost 40 artisan groups employing more than 3,000 women in close to 20 countries
  • The Shop for ChangeAn online marketplace enabling disadvantaged sellers around the world to sell online and sustainably grow their livelihoods
  • Ten Thousand VillagesThe founding organization of the Global Fair Trade Movement, this store has got tons of amazing gifts for everyone on your list
  • World VisionThis Christian humanitarian organization provides support to individuals and families worldwide regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. From their website you can purchase goats or chickens for families in need, supply a village with seeds for gardens or money to dig wells, or furnish a school with supplies
Any individual retailers and/or artisans are encouraged to leave their own website/store information as a comment below for holiday shoppers.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Pumpkin Carving

It’s that time of year again: Halloween and pumpkin carving! We all know it’s really messy to carve pumpkins... but I think that's the fun of it and kids love to get dirty. Here's a little guidance on carving your own lovely pumpkin to give your home a ghostly glow.


Drilled pumpkins featured on MarthaStewart.com.
The first thing you need is, well, a pumpkin (I got a beautiful, organic one from Better Farm over the weekend—email info@betterfarm.org if you'd like one of theirs!) and the right tools for carving. You can get a pumpkin-carving kit or use knives you already have in your kitchen. One knife needs to be serrated and you'll definitely need a big spoon and maybe a fork to scoop out the guts of the pumpkin. You will need a toothpick or a marker to drew out your picture. And if you're going to get real adventurous, you might need a power drill. The cool thing about scooping the guts out is that you can keep the seeds and either cook them or dry them out and plant them next year (or for those of you with backyard chickens: The birds absolutely ADORE pumpkin seeds raw). Here are some tips you can do to make it safe and fun for the kids.

1. Safety first—Kids should always carve pumpkins with an adult present. Pumpkin carving can be a slippery business, so it is important to have an adult grip helping with this process. There are some great carving kits out there with safety knives for kids, like these from Pumpkin Masters.
2. Keep it simple Don't try to carve out President Obama on your first (or even 20th) pumpkin. Instead, try an easy carving pattern. The Internet is full of ideas. Google search away!
3. Accept imperfections—There will be uneven lines, bumpy circles and faces with one big eye. It's a learning process and many pumpkins will be sacrificed for the cause. 
4. Be a Picasso —Let your children paint pumpkins instead of you carving them. They'll be able to create the pumpkins of their dreams and you can all enjoy it longer than a cut-up pumpkin. 
5. Take pictures After all the time and effort you have put into this, make sure that you take plenty of pictures of your creations. 
6. Compost—Pumpkins are filled with great elements for your compost pile. Don't let all that gooey goodness go to waste!
7. Have fun!

Natural Dye for Easter Eggs

(Editor's Note: If you don't have access to free-range eggs from well-cared for, happy birds, we'd recommend skipping the whole egg thing altogether and instead making your own papier-mache eggs this Easter)

The Following Article from The Old School

Skip the food coloring and dye eggs the old-school way this year with vegetable dyes and spices. In this tutorial, red cabbage, beets, and turmeric will give you beautiful muted hues for your eggs.




Prep Time:45 minutes
Takes: 1-2 hours
Makes:12 stellar springtime eggs
Costs: $10

Materials
  • 12 white, hard boiled eggs
  • egg carton
  • 2 tbsp turmeric (yellow)
  • 1-2 beets (pink)
  • purple cabbage (blue)
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • water
  • 3 bowls
  • slotted spoon
  • 3 pots with lids

Overachievers

Make a rainbow. For orange eggs, try boiled yellow onion skins, carrots, or paprika. For red eggs, try pomegranate juice, canned cherries (with syrup), or cranberries. For purple eggs, try hibiscus tea, boiled red onion skins, or red wine. A handful of dyestuff, or two tbsp of spices per cup of water are handy ratios to follow.
Just let the Easter bunny and his basket of pre-manufactured plastic eggs go ahead and hop on by this year — you’ve got better options. Take an hour, hard boil up a batch of fresh, white eggs, then color them the natural way using common foods and flowers. Gorgeous springtime results promised — here’s how.

Lesson Plan

  1. Boil one quart of water, 1 tbsp vinegar, and 1 tbsp salt in each of three pots.
  2. Add a handful of chopped beets to one pot, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you simmer, the richer the color will be.
  3. Add a handful of purple cabbage to the second pot, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Place 2 tbsp of turmeric in a bowl and pour your third pot of boiling water over it. Mix well.
  5. After your ingredients have simmered, pour the colored waters through a clean strainer into your remaining two bowls. You can opt to leave the veggies in, but your egg color will be a bit mottled.
  6. Place four eggs into the turmeric bowl, four into the beet bowl, and four into the cabbage bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove eggs with slotted spoon. If they are the color you desire, set them in the egg carton to dry, being careful not to handle them too much, which can cause the dye to rub off. If you're looking for a richer color, return them to the water until they meet your needs. If you plan to eat them eventually, move to the refrigerator for the second soaking.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Ready for the Thanksgiving feast.
There is so much to be thankful for.

At Better Farm, we're blessed on a regular basis with new faces; people from all walks of life and all over the world who are interested in living closer to the earth, expanding their horizons, and honing their crafts. All these different energies and perspectives are best witnessed during family dinners at the farm. We gather together: interns and artists and students, locals who grew up in and around Redwood, people from California and New York and Singapore and Kenya. We all sit down and tell our stories. We ask questions and debate and imagine. To celebrate such diversity of ideas and peopleness, we hosted a small-ish community dinner party Saturday. Here's what we had (e-mail us for recipes!):

Menu

Turkey
Gardein Holiday Roast
Zucchini Bread (zucchini from the garden)
Foccaccia Bread
Corn Bread
Cranberry Sauce
Hubbard Squash (squash from the garden)
Smashed Potatoes
Stuffing
Gravy
Braised Brussel Sprouts with liquid aminos and apple sauce (sprouts from the garden)
Stuffed Mushrooms
Pumpkin/Hubbard Squash Pie (pumpkin and squash from the garden)

Backyard eggs used in bread recipes.
Dinner party cast of characters
And here's our beloved zucchini bread recipe:
Zucchini Bread
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Mix together:
 3 cups of sugar
1 cup of cooking oil
4 whisked eggs

Set aside the mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix together:
3 and 1/3 cups of white flour
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1.5 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice

Here's to wishing you all a day of remembering all you have to be thankful for!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Arts & Crafts Corner: DIY giftwrap

atlas shrugs


By Jessica Kellner for Mother Earth News

The holidays are almost here! Start saving your giftwrap-able trash now! Conventional giftwrap is a waste of resources and money that ends up as a big pile of torn-up trash on Christmas morning. Save money (the giftwrap industry makes $2.6 BILLION annually—what better things could we do with that money?) along with trees and transportation resources by reusing household materials to wrap gifts.

 Here are some of my favorite tips and ideas:

When using utilitarian paper, ball it up, then unroll it. Crumple it repeatedly until it crushes easily into a small ball, creating a handmade texture that resembles crushed silk. From Natural Home and Garden.
Corinna Vangerwen
Use nature to decorate! I love using pretty bits of nature to decorate indoors. Why not let wintry boughs decorate your gifts, as well? From Corinna Vangerwen.
bows
Rather than plastic bows, use craft supplies such as twine and raffia or reusable items such as mismatched costume jewelry, stray Scrabble letters or extra buttons to decorate gifts. From Natural Home and Garden.
atlas shrugs
Reuse pages of an outdated atlas or yellow pages for a gift with worldly style. From Marinana's photostream on Flickr.
shirt giftwrap
Cut up an old shirt and wrap gifts in its parts. Blogger Make and Do Girl wrapped a cowl-neck scarf in this men's shirt sleeve. Adorable! From MakeandDogirl.com.
pinking shears
Use pinking shears to create colorful adornments out of just about any paper you have lying around the house: junk mail, packaging, magazines and more! From Natural Home and Garden.
paint deck
Still have old paint swatches around the house from your most recent remodeling project? Use those complementary colors as the perfect palette for giftwrap or adornment! From Attention2Detail blog.
name
Make the name card the adornment! Here, old sheet music and maps are cut out into large graphic gift tags. From Attention2Detail blog.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Ushering in the Holiday Season at Better Farm

A cozy fire stoked with harvested dead trees on the property at Better Farm.
The holidays are upon us at Better Farm!

We took advantage of the absolutely beautiful, wintry day yesterday to do a walkabout on the property in search of a Christmas tree. Unfortunately for us (fortunately for the trees, we suppose), there weren't any that were the right size or shape for the library at the Farm. We did manage to find a bunch of standing dead wood, however—perfect for the woodstove:

Tyler Howe and Brian Hines harvest some fire wood.

Next step was to find a local tree farmer. Which we did, right next door to the Theresa Bowling Center.


The guy who sold us the tree was kind enough to offer us free delivery. Our Christmas tree arrived just as we were sitting down to a delicious family dinner feast to welcome in the holiday season. How's that for service?

After dinner, we decorated the tree and marveled at the nice job May did with stringing lights around the library as decoration:





Check out the tree! 

 


With all the decorations in place, it was time to stage our 2011 Better Farm Holiday card. Can't show you any previews here—just make sure you're on our mailing list if you want to see the amazingness that is photographer (and former betterArts resident) Erin Fulton's prowess.

From all of us here at Better Farm, we wish you a superfantastic holiday season. Hope to see you at the New Year's Eve party!

To get on our mailing list, e-mail info@betterfarm.org with your snail mail and e-mail address.
For great holiday gift ideas, visit www.betterfarm.org/merchandise.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Green Holiday Decorating

With Halloween just a couple of weeks away and an onslaught of holidays following on its heels, it seems an appropriate and obvious time to discuss some do-it-yourself ideas for making your home all festive-like this season.

One of the nice things about making your own spooky mobiles, large Christmas ornaments, or clay menorahs is that in doing so you're likely to reuse items that might otherwise find their way to a landfill. That is to say, many things you might be looking at as junk are actually just a bunch of treasures you didn't even think could be applied in a practical sense. I mean, take a look at the pumpkin, spray-painted twigs, and pieces of cardboard and paper in the photo above. This ain't your kindergarten arts 'n' crafts, people. You can make your own decorations without turning your posh pad kitsch. Cross my heart.

Case in point: Here are a few Halloween-related DIY projects you can pretty much get together with items found around your home (click on photos for full, easy-to-follow instructions):




Boo! And just think: This is only scratching the surface of what could be if you had an army putting together, say, a haunted house at Better Farm in 2010. Specimen jars, headless horsemen, fake blood, and ghoulish treats—oh my goodness, the things we could do to scare the locals!

For large Christmas ornaments, Thanksgiving bling, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even Festivus ideas, keep your browser parked here in the coming weeks. We've got the market cornered with all sorts of big imaginings for cornhusk vases, Christmas stockings, and kufi head coverings. Time to dig out those glue guns and empty your junk drawers!

In the meantime, there's nothing saying you can't act lazy and just order a solar-powered corpse or unbelievably large Christmas decorations online. We promise we won't tell.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.