Monday, October 15, 2007

When Thinking About Gift Giving With Eco-Consciousness

Living in today's materialism seems to be the norm. It takes "intention" to shift the tide when living with materials and giving of ourselves. I think these are some great guidelines taken from Tree Huggers.
1. Be sure your material gift will get used
It may be the thought that counts, but a gift that the receiver does not use is simply wasted: not a very nice thought. Give material possessions only if you know the recipient well enough to pick out something they were on the cusp of getting for themselves, or which they really need and will certainly enjoy using.
2. Give a consumable gift
Your friend will love your consumable gift twice: once while enjoying the organic teas, fair trade coffee, fresh flowers, fresh or dried fruits and nuts, or other consumable gift; and again when they appreciate that your gift leaves them with no guilty conscience about a gift left unused in the corner of their closet.
3. Share a piece of yourself
Avoid material consumption altogether. Instead, offer your services to baby-sit while your friend enjoys a cozy date with their partner, give a gift certificate for a relaxing massage, or a winter’s-worth of driveway shoveling (in which case you just save that massage for yourself).
4. Make a gift of a green service
If your time is prioritized elsewhere, you can buy a green service. Consider a gift of carbon offsets for a commuting colleague or a Zipcar membership for a friend who more frequently must turn to taxis to supplement their public transport lifestyle.
5. Make a gift of any service
You will still reduce material consumption by giving a service of any kind. Especially heart-warming are humanitarian services, such as making a gift of a micro-loan (for example via Kiva).
6. Give a gift where it is needed on behalf of someone better off
Make a child smile when they get a card describing the child in another part of the world whose life will be improved by the gift of a llama or a sheep on their behalf (for example via World Gifts or Heifer.
7. Creative gifts show you care
The baby sweater you knit yourself is more likely to become a family heirloom, extending the life cycle of the materials in your gift.
8. Buy a local gift
A gift made or grown locally can tell a story or share a unique product you have discovered on your own stomping grounds. Your locally-sourced gift will save the environment from the emissions involved in shipping.
9. Buy high-quality goods
Sometimes a little extra care or money invested will result in finding a high quality gift that will do justice to the materials consumed in the manufacturing by a long lifespan. Try flea markets or vintage and second-hand shops for quality goods you can afford: then make the gift “new” with a personal touch like a special paint job, or some ribbon around the edges. Your friend will enjoy your perfect high-quality gift much longer!
10. Think about your packaging
Use packaging that will not go to waste. Your packaging may be part of the gift itself, such as wrapping the gift in a scarf or enclosing it in a box that can be reused for collecting life’s odds and ends. Reusable wrapping, such as a gift bag, will pass on the fun. For family and close friends, consider the Sunday funnies instead of commercial gift wrap.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The Kallah (bride) and Chatan (groom) traditionally fast for 24 hours before the wedding and restrain themselves from seeing each other for 1 week prior to the ceremony. Michaels father will be officating. We have designated an area of the garden that has a pergola that will function as the Chuppah which symbolizes the home - open on all sides as to invite community and a covering that symbolizes the covering of God's love and grace. Both the bride and groom will be escoted to under the Chuppah by their father and mother. The mothers will break a plate symbolizing the broken relationship between the home of the original family. The breaking of the glass by the groom is to signify that just as broken glass is never able to be completely repaired, neither is a broken marriage. This is to instill accountability for the committment vows. These vows are in the form of a Drashala - or charge of challenge committments to each other and God. The reading and signing of the Ketubah (marriage contract) is done before the ceremony. Callie would like the Ketubah to be designed by her sister Rachelle who is an artist. The ceremony will end with an announcement and blowing of the Shofar (Ram's horn). Of course there are many other elements to consider, but this is a sneek preview into the event slated for June 28, 2008.


Callie and I had our weekly meeting to work on her redesigned gown for Day 1 of the celebration. There was more deconstruction and need for more fabric. A great amount of energy was given to locate a wholesale fabric vendor in the US to purchase peacesilk, milk fabric, soy fabric, seacell, hemp satin, stretch bamboo, and various other vegetable fabric products. However, access to these items is prohibitive. Either the supplier websites couldn't be accessed, samples were costly and time consuming to receive, and the cost of the fabrics were prohibitive. Linda Loudermilk is an amazing designer who uses only eco-friendly fabrics, but the generic designer..... is held at bay. These products seem to be available only to those who have connections. We finally decided to go to the local second hand store and find previously loved gowns, drapery sheers, and fabric pieces to move forward with the morphodesign process. Fortunately, we found a gown of the same vintage, color, and textures as well as a piece of fabric to add as an accent. Once again we pulled out the seam rippers and our problem solving skills to progress with our textile architecture.

We are still trying to locate a baker who will make and "organic" cheesecake that tastes wonderful and willing to be creative with design elements. We sampled a local baker to save on travel CO2 emissions, but after sampling the cakes, we decided the vendor wouldn't work for us. We have located another baker in a small town nearby. This business is willing to have us purchase the "organic" products needed to prepare our cheesecake. We still need to sample the cakes and make design requests.

It was time to talk about the menu for day one so we can decide on food catering etc. The Messianic/Christian wedding will take place at sunset. Our guests will arrive at 7:30 for organic/fair trade wine, appetizers and fruit while mingling under a canapy in the front gardens. At 8:15 the guests will be directed into the back yard covered under a large tent and seating for the 8:35 PM ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the bride and groom will go to a quiet room to spend their first moments alone as a couple. During this time the guests will be seated for a light sit-down meal of a specially designed salad with greens, creamy soup, and grain bread formed in the shape of a Challah so that knives (non-violent) will not be necessary. The highlight of the evening will be the dessert table with an amazing cheesecake with a side of fresh fruit, a variety of handmade chocolate truffles, and fairtrade coffee/tea.

We have found a wonderful site that has affordable bannana, mango, and coffee papers ( We even found a site that sells stationary made of elephant dung (probably won't use). Callie also discussed setting up a website that allows our guests to access which will provide directions to the ceremony, RSVP, suggestions for renting "green cars", use of train etc. and bridal registry/donation to ethical/conscious organizations in order to cut maintain eco-ethics. Our home residence is currently using alternative energy sources through the local WE Energies in keeping with our eco-conscious attitudes.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Focusing on the Bride

Callie's dress redesign is going to require adding an additional 10 yards of fabric. We have a couple options to remain within our eco-friendly ideology. We can either go to the second hand store and recycle another dress or find "green" fabric suppliers. I have located a supplier in Oregon who will send us a sample of ethically processed silk. I hope to get the info soon so we can make our decision. We are also looking for peace silk shoes. I have added a couple websites to the blog that give us some options for vegetarian shoes. We can also, go to a garage sale or second hand store for shoes as well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Another day in the dressmaker shoppe. Callie and I met to work on her wedding dress for Day 1 of this 2 day event. This gown is especially important because it is an heirloom dress from her future mom-in-law (Sharon). We are preserving the elegant design elements while integrating the unique characteristics Callie desires to present to her groom (Michael) on their special day. It looks as though the bride will carry a bouquet of fuschia and gardenia. The intent of the design is to emulate the grace and flounce of these botanicals in the structure and flow of the gown. As of today, the gown is completely deconstructed and in several pieces. Next week we hope to begin the reconstruction process. We also deconstructed the veil and hope to recreate by adding a Spanish comb and fresh flowers on the wedding day.

We also discussed the guest list in hopes of keeping it within Callie and Michaels goal of having an intimate and elegant event involving the individuals immediately committed and vested in their marital vows/promises. All family and friends will be gathered on Day 2 to extend their congratulations to the couple at the home/garden of the grooms parents (Jim and Sharon Thurow). This will be a full day of music, food, games and fun.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Great Day

I was one of the lucky people who was able to experience the wonderful flavors of the cheesecake with a group of great people to share it with. I happen to love food-to an excess, savored the flavors and had so much fun in the process. This weekend, on Sept 8, our yard will finally be opened up to see the sunlight. The trees will be trimmed and hopefully, the yard will start to look like it is supposed to . Life is such a blessing and I really take each day and savor it like I do food. Fortunately, no calories involved.Sharon

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ahhhh..........The Delicious Results

WOW ..x@!#* We (Michael, Callie, RaChelle, Sharon, Adam, and Mary) have officially become Wisconsin Cheesecake Heads and didn't believe that there could be such a difference in not only the taste of cheesecake, but also with the service in which it is presented. Our first stop was to trial Suzy's Cheesecakes. Since we had never been to a "cheesecake tasting", our imaginations of how this event would evolve where elevated to the heights of what we knew to be the uppity WINE sniffing, swishing, and swallowing. Not so with cheesecake. Soon after we found our way to the delightful flower shoppe called Urban Scents we were greeted by a gentleman who asked if we had someone doing the flowers. We apologetically responded "Yes, We are doing the flowers." where upon he quickly pointed us to the glass table in a corner of the store. The first disappointment was that the table was empty-yes, I mean void of cheesecake!!!! Our leashed angst was diminished when we were slipped a portfolio of cheesecakes to meander. Soon to follow was another request of "Do you have someone doing your flowers?" With greater confidence and a smile, we responded with "Yes, we have someone doing our flowers." While everyone perused the photos, I was strategically positioned to watch the process of getting the samples ready for testing. Open containers and drooling employees surrounded the floral workbench while the service platter was being loaded. I realized that they were all getting tanked on the "cheese" when the plate came with the 3 crumbs of "cake". We all struggled with a Freudian flip flop between "do we have to share this" and "I'm sure more is coming." We resolved to accept what we were given and repeatedly licked our forks for every last dim of decadence. By now we have enough questions to seem more knowledgeable than the woman fielding. Finally after several "I don't knows, that picture-we don't do that, it's never been done, you'll have to do that yourself, and the summer night air will be too warm for cheesecake" she snarls "WE'RE JUST THE HANDLERS". While we are waiting for the answer to our closing question regarding what it will cost to have the cheesecake handled to Port Washington, we are asked for the third time "Do you have someone doing the flowers?"
RESULT: We unanimously agreed that the best sample was the New York cake and that we should personally fly to NYC to get a New York style cake for each table and make the dessert the centerpiece.

Stop number 2, Gourmet Cheesecakes and More, was Cheesecake Central; obviously focused on making cheesecakes. Many, many displays. The presentation of samples came to us in greater quantity AND taste. However once again, requests regarding simple customizing i.e. making a square cake instead of a round even if we bought the pans, were denied with the statement "we don't do that." RaChelle's critical thinking snapped into gear when she realized that they must have some super ovens to be able to bake a 16 inch cheesecake with amazing consistency and no evidence of cracking. The evidence mounted when the alcohol in the grasshopper cc gave us a buzz and the crust detatched from the raspberry cheese filling exposing the impostor jello-cheesecake. Nonetheless, we ate so much that we were ready to throw up.
RESULT: The best was the NY style. However, we decided to create our own jello cheesecake recipe and form it into a cheesecake ball so the guests can play catch between courses.

Stop number 3, Simma's Bakery, was not at all planned, rather a call of desperation that went something like "Do you have an opening, if someone cancels..., can we just come, we don't mind if noone chats with us..., please-you don't even have to give us samples." We were impelled to end our journey with some kind of resolve even if it meant gaining 5 MORE pounds within the next 90 minutes. Up to this point, the only options had been butter cream frosting, round, plastic columns/pedestals, strawberries for fresh fruit, non-organic ingredients, no faux layers, and only indicated colors. this establishment we are handed 4-5 design portfolios (guess what..they can do any of them), free water, free coffee, and free choice of any sample we desired from the display case. Our options included fondant, genache, or butter cream wrapping, square, color to match fabric swatches sprayed with iridescence, faux layers, silver/bronze or BYO pedestals, variety of fresh fruit, cake crust or no crust, and in addition the possibly cage free/organic ingredients and cocoa dusting.
RESULT: The cheesecake will be layered squares to form steps, cocoa dusted, with a draped chartreuse bow and an intermezzo of sugared pears and edible violets. The center flavor will be a surprise. So is the cost- $400 + $35 pedestal rental + $65 delivery, but well worth it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cheesecake Tasting

Yeh... we are gathering for a cheesecake flavor fest. On Friday August 24th we will be doing a tasting of our local cheesecakes companies. At 1:00PM we will travel to Suzy's Cheesecakes ( located in and visit Gourmet Cheesecake Shoppe ( and More in West Allis at 2:30PM. We will be requesting that these vendors use organic products from local farmers. We are also supporting business that acknowledges rabbinical supervision by Kosher supervisors of Wisconsin since this wedding will be celebrating Jewish and Christian traditions. Watch for our rave reviews!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dress Alterations

This week we needed to confront the costs involved in altering the Lazaro dress bought last year. Since the skirt has 17 layers we knew that it would be an expensive task. We made appt. with 2 tailors in Milwaukee and decided on Anna's Custom Tailoring in the Knickerbocker Hotel. The hem will cost $145.00 and attaching buttons will be an additional $2.00 each (13 buttons). Callie also decided that she wanted to add some personal design features to the gown as well. Anna asked that we bring the dress back in March 2008 so she didn't have to store it. She also wanted to wait until the final moments before the wedding to make any changes so that the dress fit perfectly.

Anna’s Custom Tailoring
Inside the Knickerbocker Hotel
1028 E. Juneau St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
To contact us:
Phone: 414-224-9633

Friday, August 10, 2007

Breaking it Down

It's time to create a budget, timeline, and divide this task into pieces. The pieces should look like this; The Dress/Tux (Day 1), The Dress/Outfit (Day 2), The Cake, The Menu, The Yards, The Invitations, The Music (soloist, live symphony/jazz band/IPOD/family band/karioki), The Ceremony/Vows/, Register For Gifts, The Dishes, The Dance Floor, The Tent, Lights/Linens/Tables/Chairs/Chair Covers, The Activities, The Rings (provider of "green" design, recycled, etc. ring service in West Bend), the Honeymoon, Centerpieces, Servers, Photography/Media Documentation, Announcement in Newspaper, Contact Officiator or Service (Mike's dad), Decoration/Floorplan.

Overall deligation of responsibility

Deciding on Size of Tent

Contacted Canopies in Milwaukee to see what it would cost to rent 30'x60' Century Peak-yop tent. This dimension was determined by the following. Each person takes up 10 sq ft, therefore a round table that serves 8 people will take up a space of 10'x8' (aprox. 1 square cube = 10'x10'). We'll need about 10 cubes for tables, a band requires 4 cubes, 2 cubes for cake table, 6 cubes for dance floor (20'x30'). Delivery ($135), 8 Cathedral side panels(@$25 each-$200), tent ($810) for a total of $1045 to rent from Tuesday thru Sunday, they set up and break down. To purchase this tent would cost $7,500 to buy outright.

Tennies True Value in West Bend has a Eureka brand tent. It isn't a peak tent, however would work. Price for the tent $200 ($100 each 20'x30'), 8 windowed panels ($80 or $10 each), no delivery fee, no set up. Therefore $280 for us to put it up ourselves, we pick up, return, and have it from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. 262-334-5891. To purchase this tent outright would cost $3,444,24.

A Peek into the Garden

Theme Colors

Event Colors: chartreuse and violet/lavender
Bride: Antique White
Groom: Rich Brown Tux with Champagne Shirt and embossed ascot
Flowers: Bride's bouquet Calla lilies, hydrangea, lavender grown in Mary's garden, tables/ceremony, flowers in season within the garden

China, Silverware, and Linens

In efforts to conserve on consumption of paper products and integrate family memorabilia, Callie and Michael decided to use heirloom china from both sides of their families as well as recycled old china, silverware, and linen. We posted an ad on Craigs List and Freecycle. Bingo!!!! within a few days we were able to get a few donations. We also visited several second hand stores to pick up more. We are still on the lookout for sets of old china that have plates, soup bowls, cups/saucers, dessert plates, sugar/creamers, vegetable bowls, salt/pepper. We are also looking for a few soup tureens. We've started the search early b/c there are many things that we will need and wanted plenty of time to look. Some of the pieces we have found are Mikasa (My Love), Bavarian (Clarrisa), Crown Victoria (Lovelace), Creative (Regency Rose), Crown Potteries (448), Czechloslovakia (Cabbage Rose), Harmony House (Lisa), Noritaki (Eugenia). At some point we wondered how cost effective this strategy was. We accessed rental quotes for service for 75 individuals and found that a minimal cost for renting china and silverware would be somewhere around $1200-$1600. So far we have spent $215 for 60 of our 75 placesettings. BIG FIND TODAY......Ornate metal 5 foot stand for unity candles for $30.00 at a neighborhood household recycle store.

Brides Dress: Reinvent Heirloom

Callie loves to dress up. Sharon (Michaels mom) graciously offered the gown she wore for her wedding with permission to do whatever Callie wanted to do to recreate it. We have begun the deconstruction process and will slowly reinvent the garment using all of the materials. This will be the gown worn for the evening wedding ceremony. Callie found a gown (Lazaro) last year at a bridal sale that was irristible. The original price was nearly 3K, however she paid $200. It is a bit soiled and tattered, but we will make the alterations and repairs. We will cut this gown to just above the ankle so that Callie can enjoy "playing" in it for the festivities on Day 2.

Review of Process to Date

Within the last month many things have been decided. The wedding date has been determined by the bride (Callie Rose) and groom (Michael) to be June 28th and 29th, 2008. It will be a two day event and a blend of Jewish and Christian ceremonial traditions. The location of the first day will be in the garden of Callies mom (Mary) and the second day in Michaels parents (Sharon and Jim) backyard. The first day (75 guests) will involve a wine and cheese buffet to begin at 7:30 PM (beginning of Shavous) with the ceremony to begin at 9:00 PM. A light sit down dinner will be served (organic salad greens grown in Mary's garden topped with grilled fresh Lake Michigan salmon caught by brides uncle Pierre, choice of 2 organic homemade soups, organic quinoa/cilantro salad, whole grain rolls, and beverage. Bridal Cake will be a cheesecake (TBA) from a local vendor. The dance floor will be graced with the sounds of light jazz quartet, sting lights, while guests intermittently visit the beverage tent with homemade chocolate truffles. Day 2 (200-250 guests) will be less formal, a picnic with buffalo burgers, organic side dishes, homemade pies, and beverages. Music will include the sounds of family bands and an IPOD playlist system. There will be lawn games, and other family activities (TBA) as well as the gift opening.