Creating environments to meet your needs and suit your lifestyle.

Guest Room Readiness

November, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press


Guest Room Readiness

Holiday Guests – Be Ready

 Many people will be hosting out of town guests during the upcoming holiday season.  If that includes you, make a list now of the things you would to have for your guests.  This list should include necessary bedding as well as toiletries to have on hand.

Bedding

A review of guest bedding will force you to consider whether you need to send blankets and comforters out to be cleaned.  If done now, there is plenty of time to get them out and back without a panic.  Look at the condition of the pillow covers and mattress pads for your guest bed(s).  Wash any of these and add a brightener like an Oxi-Clean, to freshen them up.  Consider the guest bed sheets, their condition and quality.  High quality sheets with a high thread count along with a nicely weighted blanket are at least as important to a comfortable bed and good night’s sleep as a great mattress.   Often there are pre-holiday white sales so if you need to buy or upgrade any bedding items, this is a good time.  Your guests will appreciate it.

Toiletries

This is where an actual list is critical.  Sit down and make a list of items you would like to have available to you when you are a guest in someone else’s home.   Make the list before you go into the guest bath and see what’s left over.  Think about the best, most essential items to have on hand in your guest bath.  The list might include a plush guest robe, slippers and thick bath sheet sized towels.  Hair products including shampoo and conditioner, and body products of shower gel and possibly others are also a must.  Many hair and body care products are packaged together which can be very nice and helpful.

Other toiletries you might want to include are a razor, shaving cream, body and hand lotion, hand soap, shower cap, hair dryer, hair brush/comb, extra toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, nail clippers and nail file.  Be sure there is facial tissue (commonly known as Kleenex), extra bathroom tissue and cotton balls are a bonus.  Finally, no bathroom is complete without a waste basket, however small.

Extras

Additional touches for your guest would be an alarm clock and an extra blanket.  Chances are you will know the kind of special touches your particular holiday guests would appreciate.  Think about some small welcomed treat for your guest to discover on the night stand.  It’s often surprising what a big impact a small gesture can make.

Backpacks and School Supplies—Keeping the Clutter at Bay

September, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press

It’s back to school and all that it implies with increased papers, writing implements and increased mail.  So where does it all go and how can you stay organized?  Here are some helpful steps to take to keep the countertop and tabletop clutter to a minimum.

Clear Out the Paper

As the next season appears on the horizon, the new installment of mail order catalogs is already out.  Go through your old catalogs and magazines and recycle the old ones.  Even if they don’t impact your countertop clutter, you’ll feel the benefit of just having less clutter generally.  Recycle outdated phone books, community guides and school phone lists as soon as the new ones arrive.

Go through old mail, old homework sheets and work books that may be hanging around from last spring.  Keep only what is reasonably likely to be used.  If you don’t already have one, get a file box for each child to store their more important papers from each grade.  Again, try to be selective in what you keep.

For school supplies, throw out old broken crayons, dry markers, dried up paint and the like.  Many of us seem to store markers, pens and pencils long after their useful lives.  Even if you keep these items in a drawer, get small containers or dividers to separate them and keep them organized.

Organize Incoming Mail

Incoming mail creates clutter every day for most people.  Consider whether your system of collecting the mail, sorting it and storing it works for everyone in the family.  Is it best kept in the kitchen, desk area or some other location?  If you are relying on a countertop surface, consider an organizer unit designed specifically for this purpose.  Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Target and The Container Store all have well designed pieces for countertop application.

Where countertop storage isn’t an option, baskets or bins that stack on simple wire racks or shelves might do the trick.  The bulk of the storage is kept vertically but it does take up some floor space.  The benefit of this method is that there is ample storage space for homework assignments, work books, etc. in this type of system.  I would suggest this as an option for homework and ongoing projects even if you don’t need it for mail.  This kind of system can be found at the above-mentioned sources and at Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus.  If you need further storage suggestions and quickly, see “Storage and Display” catalog put out by Pottery Barn.

Recycling Ease

Junk mail these days generally goes directly into the recycling bin so having the bin nearby is a must.  The large plastic bin itself doesn’t fit in with people’s design schemes, so some in-between step is usually required.  If you don’t happen to have a cabinet dedicated to garbage and recycling, some other system is required.  A brown paper grocery bag under the sink works well enough for some but if not for you, try a tall basket such as a hamper basket with a lid.  These can be quite tall and narrow and handsome enough to sit out in plain view.  No one would guess it holds your recycling.

Backpack Storage

If you’re fortunate enough to have a mudroom, hopefully its’ careful design included a place for backpacks.  If not, here are some alternatives.  In most coat closets there is enough space to install two hooks on both side walls; one above the other a sufficient distance apart.  These hooks must be sturdy and anchored into the drywall or a stud, if possible.  Don’t expect to hang a fully loaded backpack on these hooks, however.  There won’t be a huge amount of space here but it should be just enough for the width of a backpack.

While we’re on the topic of closet space, this is as good a time as any to clean out the children’s coat closet.  First, pull out last year’s coats, shoes and boots.  If they’re too small now, set them aside for donation.  Next, look to see that all the space is as efficiently used as possible.  Is there a top shelf with items that haven’t been used in more that a year?  If, so move them to longer term storage.  Consider whether anything in the closet is best stored elsewhere and if so, move it.  Opening up even a small amount of space is helpful.

Where kids use a back door that enters from an attached garage, retrofitting backpack storage is easier.  A bracket with several hooks that has an overall length of more than 16 inches can be mounted in studs just inside the garage.  If ample space is available in this area, consider narrow lockers for each member of the family.  They can house much more that just the backpacks.

Summer Furnishings at Summer’s End

August, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press


Summer Furnishings at Summer’s End

The best time to determine what your outdoor living space needs is during the season you are using it.  This coincides perfectly with the turn of the season retail sales.  The outdoor furniture retailers will soon be busy preparing to sell off summer inventories to make room for their winter stock.  Believe it or not we still have one month until Labor Day and, depending on the weather, perhaps a month after that to enjoy our patios, porches and gardens.  It’s worth getting in on the best products at end-of-the-season prices instead of putting it off until next spring for top dollar.

Start with the big stuff.  Access your outdoor furniture needs.  Begin looking for sale notices or call the showroom or retailer of products that appeal to you.  They will be happy to tell you when their sale will start.

Many places that sell outdoor furniture also repair it.  If the frames of your existing furniture are in good shape but the fabric needs repair, call a local retailer to see if they will fix it.  If you furniture is all metal or wood and you have cushions that need to be replaced or repaired, many of the same retailers can assist you there as well.

Midsummer is a great time to purchase outdoor planters and pots, especially the over-sized variety.  In May, when you were shopping for annuals or perennials you undoubtedly saw some splendid looking pots for the walk or patio.  Then you saw the price and decided that the plants were enough of a splurge.  The colors of the flowers themselves will be enough, never mind the decade old terra-cotta pot they’ll sit in.  While it is true that the pot matters little compared to what’s in it, it is a real delight to see a beautiful planter filled with cascading flora at a prominent spot on the walk.

Garden ornaments such as trellis’, water features, bird baths and outdoor fireplaces are great additions to outdoors spaces.  It is a good time to consider more functional objects as well such as gardening tools, hose guards, table umbrellas, hammocks and even picnic equipment.

There are many possibilities for lighting in your outdoor spaces.  Great looking lanterns, strings of festive lights, torch lights that stick in the ground and line the walk, all have a certain allure on a summer evening, especially at the right price.

The world of outdoor grilling products has exploded.  Some outdoor grills are more substantial than the typical kitchen range and priced accordingly.  Of course there are several smaller, even portable grills, on the market and as well as a number of handsome gas grills with plenty of btus, warming shelves and stainless finishes.  With amenities like these available at good prices it makes considering an upgrade very appealing.  

Set the Table for Summer

June, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press


Set the Table for Summer

The outdoor dining and entertaining season is here.  We may finally be able to set a dining table outside for our guests (but have the pontoon boat at the ready just in case the monsoon season begins again).  Liven up your summer table with a piece or two of seasonal table fare.  Not only will specially chosen pieces perk up your table, over the years of collecting just one or two at a time, there will be a story behind each one.

Table Linens

Assess your table linens for outdoors and in.  Take stock of any changes or additions you could make that would be a refreshing change.  Consider adding a second color over top of an existing solid color tablecloth or add print napkins to a solid tablecloth.  This works in reverse as well, adding solid napkins, or even a variety of solid but coordinating colors to a print tablecloth.

Serving Pieces

Consider whether you might need additional serving pieces like platters, bowls or pitchers.  If you have mostly solid colors in dishware or table linens, a whimsical painted pitcher would be a great addition.  The same would be true for a colorfully painted platter.  After the food is long gone, the platter will anchor the table with color until the last guest departs.  All you need is a large colorful piece or two to create a festive table.

Serving Utensils

Serving utensils can be like small pieces of art, sculptural, whimsical and fun, or handsomely traditional.  Whatever the style of your tableware, dinner guests always appreciate      weighty utensils that work well and are handsome to boot.

Family Outdoor Dining and Picnics

Families with smaller children may especially want to consider fun and festive dishware in safe, durable plastic.  This year the colorful designs are particularly hip and easy to find.  Target offers some great looking sets as does Crate & Barrel.

World Market may also be a good bet.  This just might be the year to stock or restock your picnic basket for walks in the forest preserves, trips to the beach or special evenings at Ravinia.

Sources

To assist you in setting your table for summer, any of these sources are worth a stop when you are downtown:  I.D. at 3341 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773.755.4343; Material Possessions at 704 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312.467.1490, and in Winnetka at 954 Green Bay Rd., 847.446.8840; No Place Like at 300 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312.822.0550; Pass the Salt & Pepper, 3310 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773.975.9789; Porte Rouge at 1911 W. Division St., Chicago, 312.269.2800; Stitch, 1723 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773.782.1570; Table Manners, 2112 Central St., Evanston, 847.492.9664, and Williams Daniels at 1918 W.Montrose Ave., Chicago, 773.293.3851.

For very special linen pieces go to Frette on Oak Street and Pratesi just down the street for a look at sumptuous silks, linens and cottons.  Bedside Manor Ltd. on Halsted or on Green Bay in Winnetka is a wonderful place to look for table and bed linens, guest towels and hand towels.

For sources that may be closer to home, try Multiple Choices, 843 Elm St., Winnetka, 847.441.5240; Dinner At Eight, 1167 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847.251.8380; Adesso in Highland Park at 600 Central Ave., 847.433.8525.  Also The Artisan Shop in Plaza DeLago, Wilmette, always has something stunning you can’t quite decide if you have to give it as a hostess gift or it would be alright to keep it for yourself.

So Many Boots, So Little Space

February, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press


So Many Boots, So Little Space

Winter has settled in and snow invites those young and young at heart to get out and play.  Short of putting a mudroom addition on you house, quite a luxury if you live in an older home, how can you gracefully deal with the wet snow pants, sopping mittens and dripping boots that constantly adorn your doorway?  With some creativity these seasonal challenges can be met without too much trouble.

Off the Floor

Boot trays are the best thing since sliced bread.  They sure beat the old towel I’ve seen thrown down to catch incoming snow.  These boot trays are like the “little black dress” of door mats as they are narrow enough to fit in most hallways with even the smallest ones holding three to four pair of wet boots and shoes.  Yet they remain unobtrusive.  The basic black plastic cleans easily and somehow the tray makes things look tidier.  Set the boot tray  close to the door mat so boots and shoes can be set right on the tray without wet footprints that require immediate wipe-up.

In wet snowy weather it is also a good idea to use a door mat with contours so the water won’t stay on the surface, along with a heavy rubber backing.  This way there won’t be concern about ruining something you love.  After the muddy spring season, put your colorful rug back in its place.

Off the Door

Is it a gender thing or does no one else’s husband think that a door knob is an extra hook for a coat too damp to be put away?  When wet outdoor clothes come in, the closet isn’t the best place for them to drip dry.  Perhaps the entrance way has hooks or pegs to hang coats over the boot tray that sits right below.  Perhaps not.

Where there is a laundry room adjacent to the entry, or at least in striking distance, that’s the perfect place for drip drying.

If there is an attached garage adjacent to the back door, a row of pegs or hooks right beside the door but on the garage side is a great idea.  All types of stackable racks and shelves are available to create a perfect storage area tailored to your needs.  Where space is plentiful in this location, individual lockers or tall cubbies are another solution to the challenge of keeping hats, mittens, coats and even sports gear organized.  In fact, this area can serve as a more than adequate quasi-mudroom where there is none, with the only downside being the cold.  If clothes are really wet from outdoor play, you will probably want to dry them inside but storing them in the garage mudroom is no problem.

Where there is no alternative that allows for putting winter wonderland clothes out of sight, a coat tree can hold a load of damp clothes.  Set it on a mat to catch the drips so that cleaning two surfaces isn’t necessary.  After all, these ideas are really meant to be time-savers so you have time to do the things you want to do, like go play in the snow.

Create Your Own Treasures of the Season

December, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press


Create Your Own Treasures of the Season

The holiday season adds another dimensions to our lives and so we are not just working and caring for our families but thinking of ways to bring joy into the lives of others.  As we hurry about in our efforts the air is festive in shops, offices, even on the sidewalks people are smiling for no apparent reason.  Can’t we package this holiday spirit up somehow and take it home with us?

Of course we all have our traditions and these usually include the annual hauling out of the holiday china, special candlesticks, the menorah, the dried herb wreath, holiday dishtowels or, heaven help you, the plastic light-up Santa.  Traditions are great for many reasons but not the least of which is to build memories fort he younger generation.  Still, try something new and different this year.

Update Your Table Décor

Holiday china creates an instant festive atmosphere.  “Holiday” china doesn’t have to mean the type that has a Christmas pattern running around the rim, though that can be quite nice.  It can be as simple as using solid white or off-white china and mixing it with very festive serving pieces.  This can easily be done no matter which holiday it is you celebrate.  There are a number of great looking seasonal designs for platters and bowls that would add a holiday spirit to any table.

Add a new twist to your existing table linens with beaded cloth napkins or napkin holders.  The beads and linen fabric are an elegant touch for any table.  If you want to keep it yet simpler, buy a few spools of really nice quality ribbon, wired or unwired, and use these to tie around cloth napkins.  The ribbons, especially on all white table linens, make a nice statement all on their own.

A clean crisp way to add a hint more color is to use a set of tinted crystal.  If this sort of investment is not for you, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrell offer some colorful alternatives.  Another twist on the regular tableware is to buy a few unusual serving utensils either something very artful that you wouldn’t use everyday or some antique silver.  They needn’t match each other and collecting different patterned ones over the years may be a fun new objective.

If you like hands-on projects, create your own table center piece with some smaller greenery pieces, pinecones, etc. in a foam block and then add fresh flowers on the day your are entertaining guests.  These items can be found at a nursery like Chalet, Smith & Hawkins or, for much less at Frank’s Nursery.

Other Ideas for the House

When decorating for a holiday season a few carefully chosen items are better than several decorative objects that either displace or crowd existing items in your home.  If it’s appropriate, tie a ribbon around that piece of sculpture that sits on the living room shelf or coffee table.  Put holy around the candle in a votive or drop in a few blue and silver balls to add some sparkle.  Put a fabric runner on the top of the dining buffet.

Children do love the excitement of the season.  A cozy set of flannel holiday sheets, used just during the holiday season is something they are sure to remember and look forward to year after year.  Lush holiday hand towels for the guest bath is another annual touch the children will look forward to.  If you have only grandchildren or regular young visitors, they’ll appreciate it too.

A wreath is one of the most common holiday decorations.  (The wreath has its origin well before the beginning of Christianity. The wreath is a celebration of the season and the winter solstice, and not historically connected to any particular religion.)   Try using grapevines to create a wreath.  If you have access to woods near you, you can easily find the grapevines yourself.  Short of this, buy a grapevine wreath and have your children add dried herbs or flowers to decorate it.  Make some smaller ones and give them away as gifts.

There are some pretty fun and festive doormats for inside or outside and these are useful to boot!

Exterior Ideas

More people see the outside of your home than will ever see the inside so why not extend the cheer outside.  Garland is one typical holiday dressing for your light post or porch railing.  Another idea is to use a large pot, painted bucket or even a galvanized or copper tub to hold an arrangement of greenery, tall twigs, pinecones and red berries.  One nicely done container by the front door is all you would need to share the spirit of the season with passers-by.

The Gathering Place—Furnish it Wisely

November, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press


The Gathering Place—Furnish it Wisely

The gathering place—every home has one. If any place in your home should be smartly furnished, it should be the space where family members come together. After all, this place, above all others, is where life’s big issues get discussed, decisions about the future are made, laughs are shared, and tears are shed.

As we head into the autumn season and the holidays loom, the significance of family is highlighted. Take the opportunity to think about the space in your home where people tend to gather and whether it is all you want it to be.

The Kitchen

In some homes, the gathering place is the kitchen table. During food preparation and cooking time, children and spouses come and go talking about their days. Or, maybe dinner guests are milling about, wine in hand talking with the cook. In order for people to stay in the kitchen, it must be a space that can accommodate them and be comfortable enough for people to spend time there.

A kitchen can accommodate family and guests graciously and comfortably without being huge. In fact, last Thanksgiving I observed something very interesting; the home where my extended family gathered to spend the holiday was not large at all. The kitchen was 9 x 12 with an eat-in table in the center. The table was a drop-leaf table that opened to a 42” round. I marveled at how many things happened at that table in the four days we were there.

The small table served as a buffet, dining table, dessert table, craft station for grandchildren, manicure table for the young ladies, writing desk for grandma, a place to tell stories and listen, a spot to sip coffee and discuss the future of family members, our country and the world. That’s a tall task for one small table. All of this happened at that table because the space was comfortable, appealing and flexible enough to accommodate the variety of activities that people demanded of the space. The furniture fit perfectly and an extra bonus was the lighting, which allowed for several options. There was bright task lighting, softer conversation lighting, direct lighting and combinations of the above.

Dining Room

In other homes, the gathering place is the dining room table. The dining room table has had a long tradition as the homework base or, at least, school project command central. These activities are opportunities for good family interaction.

If this is your family gathering place, the table and chairs should be comfortable and user friendly (or made so with slip covers) so that every family member feels welcome to use them. If the table is highly finished, you should have protective pads made for the table. Use an inexpensive tablecloth over the pads when the table is used for projects so you don’t worry about it and neither do your family members.

Where the dining room is only the gathering place for family and guests to enjoy good meals and good times, it still should be comfortable. If you want people to linger in a dining chair, it must be up to the task. In fact, the whole room should be an appealing, inviting space where people want to sit back and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. This is all done with the right furniture, the right colors, and the proper lighting.

The Family Room

The family room is also among the more common gathering places in a home. This is most likely the case when there is not an eat-in kitchen and the dining room is either too formal or just not a place to settle into for long discussions.

The key to a great family room is to have the furniture arranged for conversation. Arrange it around a fireplace first, if you have one and for the television secondarily. Here you want to create a coziness and warmth so family members and others will linger. There should be enough seating to accommodate your family members and four people beyond that, if possible. Ottomans, which are great with reading chairs, can act as extra seating. Throws are another essential family room accessory.

Summary

The architecture and layout of your home will strongly influence the hub of the house. But you can influence where your family’s gathering place is by how you furnish the spaces. Whether your gathering place is in the kitchen, dining room or family room, furnish it with comfort, warmth and style!

LuxeHome — The Luxurious Shopping Experience

October, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

LuxeHome — The Luxurious Shopping Experience

Luxury abounds at The Merchandise Mart’s new LuxeHome collection of 24 boutiques featuring the most recognized and respected high-end products for the home from around the world.  The 90,000 square feet that make up LuxeHome is a showcase for the finest and newest concepts in kitchen, bath and home building.

It is open to the public and the trade Monday through Saturday.

This experience brings new meaning to the phrase “one stop shopping.” The consumer has a chance to see first hand the best of a range of styles for any given product offered.  Walking through LuxeHome is like walking through a well-edited kitchen and bath magazine.  The kitchen showrooms certainly highlight this.  From traditional (Christopher Peacock Cabinetry and Clive Christian) to cutting edge European contemporary kitchens (Poggenphl U.S., Verenna Chicago by Poliform of Italy and Studio Snaidero Chicago) and everything in between.  LuxeHome is a feast for the eyes.  In the Snaidero Chicago showroom, the motto is “form follows function,” yet the form is artful, even sculptural and very impressive in its unique approach to kitchen efficiency.

The tile, stone and bath boutiques also make quite a nice showing at Luxehome.  The latest trends in materials and their combinations are interestingly and artfully displayed.  You can lose yourself in the cavernous Waterworks showroom with its comprehensive range of products from the bathtub to the towels that furnish the classic bathroom.

Many other building products are showcased such as wood and stone flooring, windows and doors, lighting, closets, and door and cabinetry hardware.  Every boutique is well-planned and the experience of LuxeHome is a dream for consumers and designers alike.  This new concept at The Mart promises to be a model for the design and architecture industry.

Whether you are just thinking about a home renovation or new construction project, or are in the midst of one, a trip through LuxeHome would be instructive.  This new experience at The Mart also includes a schedule of events from special design shows to lectures by designers, authors and editors on specific design topics and trends.  Visit www.luxehome.com for upcoming special events.

Stylish Sustainable Floors

September, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press


Stylish Sustainable Floors

For many people, new green products are intriguing but mysterious.  Here are two floorcovering products with an edge and style that can’t be beat.

Marmoleum

Marmoleum is a resilient floorcovering made from natural ingredients—linseed oil, wood flour, rosins, pigments and jute.  It comes in over 100 colorways, in sheets and tiles (thought not every color comes in both).  The tiles are 13 x 13, so mixing the color palette is an exercise in creativity where the sky’s the limit.  Imagine what you can do with so many colors to choose from—create a colorful mix with multi-colored tiles or use a neutral gray, brown or beige and drop in only a handful of one or two colors in strategic locations.

The people at Marmoleum say it all starts with nature.  Linseed oil is pressed from the flax plant. The flax plant, the source for linen, is an easily cultivated plant whose supply is readily renewable.  Pine Rosins are mixed with the linseed oil to produce a flexible binder.  The pine trees from which the rosins are extracted exist in abundance throughout the world.  Wood flour is obtained from managed forestry, including the planting of special forests.  No tropical hardwoods are used.  The vibrant colors are made from ecologically friendly pigments.  The backing used for Marmoleum sheets is made from spun yarn of strong jute fiber, Jute is plentiful and highly renewable.

All linoleum remnants are recycled back into the production process which achieves maximum waste reduction.  All adhesives are 100% solvent free and meet all low VOC requirements.  At the end of the product’s life, it is biodegradable.  For more information on Marmoleum contact www.themarmoleumstore.com.

Flor

Flor is a modular peel and stick carpet system that comes in 100 colors, 30 styles, 11 textures and 8 new patterns.  It’s thoughtfully engineered to handle traffic, smartly designed to be liveable and stylish.  Sustainable carpet used to be obscure but now you see the Flor advertisements in all the home and interiors magazines, and for good reason.

The beauty of the modular system is that you can mix and match from the system of related colors and textures that were designed to work together.  You can order and install it yourself.

The Flor product and its packaging are completely recyclable.  The carpet is made from the corn plant.  The product was developed by the parent company Interface, a leader in the sustainable market for interiors products.

The variety of styles offered by Flor make it a great product choice for many rooms.  It can be used as a wall to wall product or as an area carpet, defining a furniture grouping.  If need be, you can peel up a square and wash it off in the sink.  If one piece needs to be replaced, change out one square.  Samples are also available by mail so you can check out the colors before you order.  For further information click www.interfaceflor.com.

Recently, I had the opportunity to specify both Marmoleum and Flor for a client.  We used a field of neural gray Marmoleum for a study/family room with a dozen drop-ins of red and blue.  In the adjoining guest suite, we specified a neutral Flor color with a sparse 4 or so drop-ins of red.  The result was a clean, crisp look with a playful finish.  There is great satisfaction in implementing a successful design with sustainable products.

The Sustainable Gift

July, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press


The Sustainable Gift

Parties! Parties for wonderful people and for a variety of occasions have inspired today’s column. This summer I have been to parties that celebrate wedding anniversaries, a house warming, a send off for friends moving away, and a party to celebrate the return of a friend from a year abroad. At each party, the guests brought gifts either for the honored guests or for the hosts, or both. This got me thinking.

Many gifts were given at these parties to people who probably didn’t “need” a thing. Yet, the idea of a gift is a very nice thought and people want to give them. I began to think about how people could give gifts without creating more “stuff” in the world or, perhaps a gift that didn’t simply gather dust.

The Consumable Gift

A consumable product is almost always appreciated and is often the “greenest” gift. The gift of a nice bottle of wine is a wonderful gift for those who enjoy it and, when it’s finished, the bottle is recyclable. There are wonderful specialty gourmet foods available that make nice gifts, and all the better if they are organic products. I would put body products in this category also because they get used up and the container recycled. This idea isn’t just for grandma’s hand lotion or lip gloss for the young teenage girl. If the friend for whom you are getting a gift is a gardener, for instance, there are wonderful gardener’s soaps and lotions on the market.

The consumable gift you give doesn’t have to be an expensive purchase at a swanky gourmet shop or from the organic shop located way out of your way. Often the best gifts are simpler than that. Homemade jam, cookies, or other dish along with the recipe that you know the person will enjoy, might be perfect.

Other types of consumable gifts are things like gift certificates to the movies, restaurants, tickets to events you know the person will enjoy or, better yet, that you can do with them. There are a number of places along the North Shore that offer cooking classes (where you can take a specific one-time class) or arrange an in-home wine tasting party as a gift.

Sustainable Products as Gifts

The truth is that no matter what stage of life we are at, there are things we use everyday that inherently wear out over time. Gifts that fit this bill are both terrific to give and receive. If these items were made in a sustainable way, all the better.

One such item that caught my attention recently is a bamboo cutting board. Bamboo is harder than maple, does not need to be stained or painted, and is harvestable in 3 to 4 years. Bamboo has an extensive root system that continually sends up new shoots so it does not need to be replanted. The cutting boards made from bamboo come in a variety of sizes, are beautiful as well as useful. So whether you want a major cutting board for all the kitchen prep work or a small board to cut lemon and limes for summer refreshments, you can find them locally at Dinner at Eight in Wilmette.

Another item that gets lots of use and needs replacement is the kitchen towel. Colorful and fun towels are readily available and make a very useful gift. You can buy towels of organic cotton, without dyes in the Gaiam Catalog (800.869.3446) and at Whole Foods. Tie a colorful piece of fabric around a set of these for a handsome package.

For other sustainable gift ideas look through Organic Style and Natural Home magazines. People want to feel good about the gifts they give; that they are liked, appreciated and useful. Now you may have the added satisfaction of knowing that the sustainable gift you give is a gift to the Earth as well.