Bird is the Word

Even the birds know that winter in NYC is finally over and are joining the Spring fling that’s in full swing.  Bird migration season is here and Central Park is teeming with these incredible little animals!

This past Sunday alone (5/3) we saw 4 new birds we’ve never seen before just with a few hours of “casual” birding: Yellow Rumped Warbler, Blue Headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and the Prairie Warbler. Not to mention other visitors & favorite regulars: Black and White Warbler, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, House Finch, White-Throated Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Titmouse, Brown Creeper, Pine Warbler, Red Winged Blackbird, Cowbird etc. etc etc.

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Nashville Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Blue Headed Vireo

Blue Headed Vireo

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

I never used to care about birds, a sparrow’s a sparrow and a pigeon’s just a flying rat, right? Well partially right, pigeons ARE indeed flying rats but a sparrow is definitely not just a sparrow.  In North America alone, there are at least 35 species of sparrows and now that I’ve been birding for a few years, being able to identify different kinds of sparrows have become somewhat of a holy grail.

Nerdy, I know, but bird watching truly brought about a whole new perspective on life for me.  It’s a great activity that will bring you outdoors, make you look up, and realize that NYC is not just about people and the latest restaurants.  It allows for the appreciation of the details in life that distinguish the “little dots” in the sky with incredible beauty.

Some tips for first time birders:

  • Get out there! Start with the birds that are easy to find in your area. In NYC those would be: Cardinals, Robins, Blue JaysEuropean Starlings, Grackles
  • Once you get the hang of identifying the more abundant birds and get familiar with their favorite hangouts, start listening to their songs!
  • When you’re ready to take your birding to the next level (bird nerds unite) get a pair of binoculars and check out this great video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Download the free Merlin Bird ID app to help identify birds and ask what birds birders around you are seeing. We’re nice peeps!

Gift Great Hair – Homemade No-poo & Conditioner

Happy holidays everyone!!!  I can’t believe the end of 2014 is nigh.  This has been a seminal year for me and the husband as it signifies our first marital Christmahanakwanzika together!  In lieu of buying material things for the holidays (and in general), we have made the conscious decision to shed the clutter in our lives and minds.

But… gifting can be fun.  Which brings me to my perfect procrastinator, yet super practical, 5 minute (no joke) gift idea – a gift of great hair.  Who would say no to that?

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

I came across this homemade solution a few months ago when I was desperate for hair products that are organic yet effective.  Since I had all the ingredients readily available, I figure, why not?

No-poo Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Cup of Water

Conditioner Ingredients:

Other Materials:

  • Ketchup / Mustard squeeze bottle or an old shampoo bottle
  • Essential oils, if you’d like. Here’s some guidance on properties of essential oils for hair

Directions:

  • Mix No-poo / Conditioner ingredients in their respective bottles. Shake well.
  • To use No-poo: Wet hair and scalp thoroughly. Squeeze enough baking soda solution on scalp till you feel scalp is well drenched, massage and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse. Your hair should feel squeaky.
  • To use conditioner: Pour vinegar solution onto clean hair, massage and rinse. For extra shine, rinse with cold water (closes hair cuticles)
  • Do a happy dance. VOILA. It is THAT SIMPLE

Now you may think this is weird, I did too. I also know that the solution doesn’t foam like commercial products out there, but here’s my “why not” logic:

1. Baking soda is a known cleaning agent. It’s a mild abrasive and attractant (picks up dirt), and it is also alkali, which deodorizes. No brainer! In fact, after you apply the baking soda “shampoo”, you’ll notice that your hair is SQUEAKY CLEAN.

2. Apple cider vinegar has the same acidity as your hair, thereby restoring the alkali environment that the baking soda shampoo created. It also works to naturally de-tangle your hair and binds closely to your hair cuticle.  Ooooo, silky AND shiiny hair.

3. It’s works! It’s natural! It’s magic!

I have been using this solution for a few months now and have experimented on my husband (lol), we have both noticed a big difference in the health of our hair.  I have received more compliments on how bouncy, voluminous, and shiny my hair is over the past few months than I have in past years (even my hair stylist said so, therefore it must be true)!

This has since been recommended and passed onto many friends and family of ours and we’ve heard some pretty great feedback.  Now, this solution shouldn’t be used every day as it is pretty potent, so definitely listen to your scalp and adjust as needed. And try not to get the vinegar in your eyes, it WILL burn.

On that note, HAPPY OWLIDAYS and see you all in 2015!

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Be Cool. Freeze your Trash!

Ok, by trash, I really mean all the food scraps from cooking!  A few years ago, after watching “Dirt! The Movie“, I was inspired to start composting.  In a space-challenged city apartment, having a worm bin is out of the question, but that didn’t stop me.  I went on to discover the awesome GrowNYC community compost program and never turned back.

I can’t say that I was there for the beginnings of the program, but “back in the day” (lol), this program was only available in the Union Square Green Market.  Every 2 weekends, I would lug pounds of compost for the 45 minute journey downtown. It sucked, but I did it.

The program has since expanded and I was so thrilled when community compost arrived right outside our doorstep on the Upper West Side 2 years ago!

Urban Composter

Reasons why you should compost:

  • Less stinky trash = you don’t have to take your trash out as often. WOOT!
  • Say goodbye to the Mickeys in your neighborhood by taking their food source away. YAAAS!
  • Community compost makes it SO EASY (& all the cool kids do it)! Instructions below.
  • It reduces our waste stream, provides great nutrition to the Earth, AND can be used to produce renewable energy. SAY WHAT?!?!

 

Instructions on How to become a Cool Urban Composter:

Step 1: Read up on the rules and locations near you 

Step 2: Decide on the container you want to use for composting! You can go for something fancy, OR we just use an air tight jar. Other ideas include, an old plastic bag, empty yogurt container etc. etc.

Step 3: Collect your food scraps in the container. Freeze it when the container’s full!

Step 4: Drop off your scraps at the Community Compost

Rinse and repeat. You’re now an URBAN COMPOSTER. BOOM!

Holiday Dinner Thyme Part III of III: Dessert and Menu Design

Following Part I’s Pre-Appetizers and Part II’s Appetizer & Main Course recipes, I would like to share with you one of my favorite Ice Cream recipes as well as the “how-to” instructions on creating this super-festive Owliday dinner menu!

Owliday Dinner menu & tablescape

There’s definitely an art to Ice-cream making, but it sounds more intimidating than it may seem – more on technique later.   That said, experienced or not, this David Lebovitz Pumpkin Pie ice cream recipe sure isn’t one of those quick & easy treats, but I think the results are well worth the process. I followed the recipe without adding any “optional ingredients” and  topped off the ice cream with some crumbled Ginger Snaps prior to serving.  Remember, don’t skimp on the double “straining”, that key step makes the ice cream custard nice and smooth!

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble

Reading Buzzfeed is one of my favorite past times, not only do they have hilarious animal posts (such as this one), I love getting tips and inspiration from them!  This post on DIY Holiday Card and a trip to Paper Source was all I needed to get excited!

Tools Needed (for Menu and 3D Trees):

– 1″ Paper Punch“Leaf” Edge Punch

– 3-D Foam Squares; Elmers Glue

– Color Markers; Silver / Gold Gel Pens

– White / Green Card Stock

– Paper Printables for Little 3-D Xmas Trees and Ornaments

– Awesome Owl Stamp & Stamp Ink Pad

– Small Red and White Felt Balls

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Menu Instructions (oh so festive!):

  1. With Silver / Gold gel pens, draw from top of menu “ornament  strings” of various lengths.
  2. Using Edge Paper Punch on green card stock, punch an edge long enough to cover the width of the menu. Glue on “Menu” card, covering part of the ornament strings.
  3. Print out  Modern Ornament free printable on white card stock, then use the 1″ Round Paper Punch and punch out the ornaments.
  4. Attach 1 small 3-D foam square on back of each of the paper ornament and press firmly onto the menu card at the end of each “ornament string”
  5. Glue on the red / white felt balls on top of the Green leafy edge.
  6. Stamp the Owl on the bottom right corner.
  7. Using a black marker, write out the menu items and draw out the “String Lights”
Owliday Menu!

Owliday Menu!

3-D Tree Instructions:

  1. Using white card stock, print out this free Xmas Tree printable.
  2. Cut out the triangles and fold each triangle in half.
  3. With Elmers glue, glue sides to each other – TADA!

Floral Arrangement:

To top off the tablescape, I assembled a very simple and fragrant bouquet of White Chrysanthemums, Parrot Tulips, and Hypercium Berries.

Until our next dinner party – season’s tweetings to you and yours!