Monday, July 26, 2010

Veggie Vibe, Part 2: Books to Help Cultivate Little Green Thumbs

Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes by Rosalind Creasy.
Wait a second- aren’t potatoes brown and tomatoes red? Not if you’re planting a rainbow garden. Creasy’s gardening guide in picture book format offers step-by-step instructions for planting heirloom and little-know variety of produce. From ordering seeds to soil preparations to weeding and harvesting, Creasy provides easy to follow advice for gardeners of any age. With bright illustrations, clever descriptions, and simple recipes, this book will inspire readers to grow a whole rainbow of unique fruits and veggies.

Kids’ Container Gardening, Year-Round Projects for Inside and Out, Cindy Kretzel.
Are your children gung-ho to test their green thumbs, but you don’t have the space, time, know-how, or patience for a huge garden? This book provides clever ideas for “contained” garden projects. From butterfly gardens, to father’s day fountains, to Venus flytrap hothouses, readers will find a garden to grow for every season of the year.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Green Guest of the Month:
Gail Green, “From Trash to Treasure”

As an artist and illustrator, Gail Green takes her last name to heart as she creates environmentally-responsible artwork. This month Gail will be sharing her eco-conscious craft ideas in two workshops she will be teaching at the Craft Consumer SuperShow held July 30th and 31st at the Rosemont Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Here’s a look at Gail’s “green” approach to art.

Gail, one of the workshops you'll be teaching at the Super Show is called "From Trash to Treasure", which focuses on repurposing items normally thrown away. What inspired you to create this class?

One of my functions in the craft/hobby industry is to do project design. That involves creating projects and writing instructions that are subsequently published in books or magazines, used for manufacturers’ product packaging, catalogs, trade show displays, etc. So I keep a “stash” of different items to use for various project needs, including lots of items I’d normally just toss. I transform these items and turn them into published projects. We had also recently done a thorough “spring cleaning” in an attempt to un-clutter our home by turning our unwanted items into garage sale finds for someone else. And some cash for us! That’s when the idea hit me….and I wondered how many other people out there in this economy are thinking the same thing.

Also, I was raised in a household that did not have a lot of extras because we simply didn’t have the money for them. I was taught to recycle, re-use and re-purpose from a very young age. It’s proven very helpful in this economy because it is more natural for me to NOT throw out items that might have some purpose other than just be wasteful. I’m not a hoarder or live in a messy home….I was just taught the “waste not, want not” philosophy.

What favorite items of rubbish will you be reusing for the workshop? How did you decide on these items?

I already had a bunch of empty metal containers (Altoids), empty prescripton medicine bottles, glass jars and some other items. And then I started just looking around as we were doing our spring cleaning effort. I started seeing normal, everyday “throw-away” items in a WHOLE new way! For example, egg cartons. The paper ones are more environmentally friendly than the Styrofoam ones to begin with. And, when I painted items, I needed to elevate them so they could dry without sticking to the table. I thought of cutting the egg carton sections out, flipped them over and used them as my elevators! Voile! It worked! It has proven to be a great system…and a way to re-purpose something normally just discarded!

What other ways are you trying to "go green" as an artist?

I’m chemically sensitive to many things, including some art materials. Solvents or items with irritants are not only bad for the environment, they are also dangerous for people like me. With this in mind, I tend to use more chemically safe materials and have recently been exploring some wonderful low and no-VOC paints and varnishes by Earth Safe Finishes, along with some other chemically safer materials like non-solvent Tombow Brush markers and Glue Dots adhesives.

In addition to using environmentally safer products, I am VERY conscious of how I dispose of art materials. For example, just tossing old paint bottles into the garbage is not the best choice. It’s worth the trip to take them to the village recycling center so they can be disposed of properly.

Now, about those treasures…Can we have a sneak peak at how the trash will be transformed?

Of course! The photos show some of the projects, which include a faux marble finished glass jar and a transformed plastic photo frame.

What other earth-friendly techniques will be revealed at your Workshops?

Actually, the environmentally responsible concept has also segued into my Rubber Stamping Workshop, as well. I’ve developed an interesting effect mixing “green” household cleaning sprays with ink. Combined with Earth Safe finishes, the results are a luxurious, fine art look! I’ve even managed to incorporate cardstock made from sustainable materials—Strathmore Artist Papers’ new Bamboo and Hemp note cards.

Can you offer other environmentally-responsible advice for those planning kids’ craft projects at home?

Use everyday items or shop garage sales. Make a game out of discovering unusual uses for common, everyday items—especially those that normally are just thrown away. Other tips include….Read labels when purchasing arts & craft materials. Be conscious of the choices you make. Choose cardstock and other paper products made from sustainable sources such as bamboo, hemp or recycled when possible, as well as low/no VOC paints. If you must use products that require ventilation, make sure you do so. And dispose of questionable materials properly.

Thanks, Gail, for all of your green-minded art ideas!
Remember, anyone can attend the upcoming Craft Consumer Supershow to see Gail in action.

Information is at or you can visit her blog at

Saturday, July 3, 2010

UnCONTAINable Veggie Vibe

“They’re ready, they’re ready!” My youngest son shouted as he burst through the front door waving a fistful of purple and red radishes, dirt still clinging to their stringy roots. “Can I have them as my snack?” How could I argue with such an enthusiastic plea for veggies? And how did I arrive at this green-star parenting moment?

It started a few years ago when my daughter brought a bean sprout home from school. Having never planted a vegetable before in my life, I had slim hope for this scrawny specimen. Still, I stuck it in a container with my pansies, and like magic, it grew. Not as tall as Jack’s beanstalk, but tall enough to produce several handfuls of beans. The beans must have been magic as well because my kids gobbled them up. The next spring, I decided to expand my container garden repertoire and see if I could re-create the wonder of kids wanting to eat vegetables. I let my kids pick the seeds they would plant. Day after day my kids tended their containers: watering, watching, waiting. Sure enough, each time a radish, tomato, or snap pea ripened, my kids would pop it in their mouths and declare it the best they’d ever tasted.

Planting vegetables might not transform children into picture-perfect healthy eaters (my kids still wrinkle their noses at brussel sprouts) , but they’ll be a lot more interested in trying that carrot or pepper when they had a hand in helping it grow. Growing veggies in pots is a simple and easy way to start cultivating those little green thumbs. Container gardening doesn’t require hours of weeding or watering and is great for small spaces or yards with limited sun. The best veggies to plant in containers are those that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes, lettuce, peppers, or bush tomatoes. (My favorite are radishes. They’re great for impatient gardeners… less than a month from planting to harvest.) All you need is a pot, some planting soil and a packet of seeds, and soon you’ll be hearing those magic words: “Mom, can I pick just one more pepper.. please.”

To find out more about container gardening visit:

Coming Soon: More ways to cultivate those little green thumbs: Read my reviews of books on gardening with children!