Archive for February, 2011

Terra Cotta Lamp

February 28th, 2011

I get the weirdest ideas from the weirdest moments.   I was watching a presentation of landscaping plants on QVC one Saturday morning (don’t judge…it’s what I watch) and I saw a terra cotta pot on the left side of the screen and thought, “that could be a lamp.”

So I went and got myself an old terra cotta pot from the storage shed at the house, headed to Lowe’s to buy a $7 lamp kit, and just wanted to see…. could I make a lamp?

The shape of this pot and look of it works here.  A brand new terra cotta pot—the scrubbed clean generic looking one–may not work with this project because I think the pot needs some character to it.   And it also needs to be a little more round/square/solid instead of fluted at the bottom to work.

Anyhoot….I figured since there was a drainage hole on the bottom of the pot, there’s where all the electrical wiring and cords could run through, thus eliminating the need to drill any holes.   It really was as simple as assemble lamp kit pieces according to instructions and run it all through the drainage hole.

I think this is the wrong size shade for this lamp, but I grabbed whatever I could find nearby to see what it looked like.   WITH THE RIGHT SHADE, I think this is a pretty easy and fun project to do.  Total cost:  $7.        If Country Home magazine was still in existence, I think I’d easily incorporate this into a story or use it for my column.  But for now, we’ll just read about it here at Daily Danny.

Checking out the New Element Hotel

February 25th, 2011

I was recently invited by the folks at Starwood to come check out the new Element Hotel in New York City and spend the night in what I think might be one of the greenest hotels around the Big Apple, if not the country.

Element is a new concept under the Westin brand that seems to want to get away from “hotel living” and let guests feel like they are at a home away from home.   The amenities are great: free wifi, lots of gathering spaces with comfy chairs and places to chat, read a book or watch TV, and added bonuses like a warm GOOD, FREE breakfast in the morning and even a 2-hour free cocktail reception in the lobby at night. 

Here’s the first thing that is a major difference between Element and other hotels in NYC: each room as a kitchen.    Listen: I’m not visiting New York to whip up a dinner party for friends or attempt my hand at the latest recipe from the pages of the dining section of The New York Times, but I like the fact if I want a cup of tea late at night or want to warm up some leftovers from dinner I had a great restaurant earlier that evening, I can.  In my bathrobe.  At anytime at night.   So bonus points here.

But just in case, the kitchen is STOCKED!    Lots of kitchen basics are here and an automatic dishwasher to keep it all clean (even with eco-friendly Seventh Generation soap to use inside the dishwasher).

Water efficient showerheads from Kohler are in the very modern bathroom along with dual-flush toilets, which I’m glad to see becoming much more common in hotel rooms these days.

At Element, their green commitment is pretty deep:

  • All Element Hotels meet the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification program, meaning the building has achieved certain levels of major energy efficiency, use of recycled materials and use of non-toxic supplies throughout the entire hotel.
  • Floors feature carpeting made from 100% recycled material.
  • The art on the walls is mounted on bases made from recycled tires.
  • Low to zero VOC paints are used on the walls.
  • All guest room kitchen appliances are Energy Star rated.   And in the common areas, reusable dishes, utensils, glassware and other non-disposable items are always used and readily available.
  • Recycling bins are available throughout the entire property.

But there’s also approach about “whole living” at Element, including expanded common spaces designed to get you out of the hotel room and into the public space to meet friends, relax and unwind.   I have to say, for the value of the hotel, you get a lot in return.   The enormous gym at this property is something I’ve only seen at 5-star properties.    Plus, the free Internet stations in the living room area were a big plus, just in case I didn’t feel like lugging my laptop into the city.

And speaking of their “whole living” philosophy, no surprise to see this magazine in the room!

There’s also an amazing installation of recycled water bottles in the lobby that I stupidly didn’t take a picture of…but if you’re in the hotel, you must see it.  I was told by the Element brand manager that it was not only easy to make, but transportable in a tiny box to go from city to city if they needed it to be shipped.     It was really upcycling at its best.

Organic on the Cheap

February 24th, 2011

This morning, I appeared on The Dr. Oz Show to give my secret tips to save big when shopping for organic food. 

For many people, buying organic food can be a frustrating experience because it simply costs more.  I still remember a tweet from a colleague that complained she was paying $10 for a small pint of organic berries in January.  I had to remind her: those berries were not grown in the US since berries aren’t a winter crop here, so they’re expensive because they were flown in, not because they were just organic.

Anyway, if you missed this morning’s segment, here are my secret tips for you.  I’ll try to post the clip when I can!

  • Sign up for a Recyclebank account.   Organic food brands like Kashi organic cereal offer free points when you buy them at the supermarket.  By registering a free account at RecycleBank, you can earn rewards for buying organic and recycling at home.    These points can then be redeemed for money-saving coupons on items like Kashi cereal, EarthBound Farms salad mixes, Honest Tea, and Naked Juices.     And folks: we’re talking MAJOR coupons for $2-$3 off individual items.     It’s free and the savings add up quickly.
  • Buy organic when it counts:  If you eat the skin, buy organic.  If it’s thick skin you peel, it’s OK to buy conventional.    Thin is in: grapes, celery, berries, apples and tomatoes.     Thick is OK: bananas, pineapples, onions and—yes—coconuts.
  • ALWAYS buy organic: raisins.    Conventional raisins are what I call pesticide pellets: thin skinned grapes sprayed with pesticides are dried and turned into raisins, which you have no assurance that they’ve been properly washed, cleaned and had all the chemical residue removed.  With organic, you do.
  • Organic wine is a good option to buy because it doesn’t contain additional sulfites to preserve it, just naturally occuring preservatives are in the wine.  No need to waste your money on organic spirits (like vodka) since the fermentation and distillation process removes ALL traces of chemicals that might be in the grain.


Click on this pic to watch the whole segment from Dr. Oz.  

My Favorite Bedding

February 23rd, 2011

One of my favorite stores in New York City is ABC Carpet and Home.    On one rainy, cold day I found myself in the bedding department JUST LOOKING at all the pricey bed sets and sheets.   Like I said, I was JUST LOOKING.

But then I found myself in the revamped Coyuchi Organic bedding section and the first thing I noticed was this: COLOR.   Instead of the usual soft, white, lite organic bedding they used to have, there were rows of richly colored organic cotton bedding dyed with low impact dyes.

But not just any kind of bedding, but organic cotton jersey bedding.

Here’s a detail shot of the pillow sham.   Guys: imagine the softest t-shirt you own that you absolutely love to wear and feels amazing against the skin.   Now imagine sleeping on it with a fluffy comforter encased with this fabric and even fluffier pillows covered in this fabric.

It is—as Oprah might say—my favorite thing ever.

Here’s the online link to these dreamy sheets:

(Almost) Waste Free Fast Food

February 22nd, 2011

Last week, I was in Los Angeles for a few days and decided to stay somewhere off the beaten path in Century City.    I scored a crazy, great deal online for the Century City Plaza (almost criminal the rate I paid), so I decided to grab a quick bite to eat the Century City Mall across the street.

I’m not a food court kinda eater; I don’t like to grab food and go and would rather sit down and eat a meal.  How people walk down the streets of NYC eating a sandwich while juggling a Blackberry while darting through people on the sidewalks is beyond me. 

So, I was thrilled to see how the Century City Mall concept towards food courts was a wee bit different.   I mean, first up: look at Big Fat Pita!

I don’t know what is about LA, but whenever I’m there, I tend to go vegan with my eating choices.  So I decided to have a roasted tofu bao sandwich from the cleverly named Take a Bao restaurant.

Looking at my meal, I realized it was served on real ceramic plates, with real utensils, with a glass cup for my beverage.   Then I looked around at all the other diners and saw they too had the exact same plate, cup, utensils and tray… matter which restaurant they took their take away order from.

See what I mean?  (Although, I wish people would just stop with always adding a plastic straw whenever they drink something.   A small pet peeve of mine…I always order “a glass of water with NO straw” and get the weirdest looks).

And then I saw this.  There are attendants who walk around the cafeteria picking up all the used plates, cups, utensils and trays and take them back to a central cleaning facility to wash everything.  Then everything gets sent back to the restaurants to be used over and over again.

I can only imagine the waste output is limited in a major way.   How many times have you seen takeout containers, bags, wax paper cups, disposable bottles and other items clog up trash cans at regular shopping mall food courts.   As much as I complain about LA, I have to say, this is one smart way to run an eco-friendly food court.