The Gardener and the Cook: Garden Time + SAUERKRAUT recipe

Our cooking instructor, Eva Sziegti, encourages us to take a gardener’s approach to the changing of the season, and shares a delicious sauerkraut recipe that is also zero-waste!


It is fall. It is harvest time. For a gardener, the stage is set for the finale. It is the time of fulfillment, maturity, and abundance. Fall in the garden is gratifying. It is the time of ripening and receiving the gifts of nature, and of our yearlong labor. In October, we enjoy the last autumn flowers, and we tend to cherish them even more than the fresh blooms of spring, because of their impending death.

Harvest time brings baskets full of produce, but also withered leaves, bald brown stalks, half empty beds, and decay. The painstakingly cultivated order is turning into chaos. Luckily, Garden Time is a cyclical time. Decay and death might take over, but we know that this phase is only temporary. The life that seems to disappear will in fact reemerge again in the spring.

Although we acknowledge the cycle of the seasons and try to live in harmony with it, our lives unfold in time that we perceive as linear. However, when facing stress or loss of inner equilibrium, we can all benefit from time spent in the garden, on Garden Time.

Garden Time with Children

Children, especially, thrive on Garden Time. Away from technology and engaged in hands-on tasks, their patience, perseverance, and sense of achievement (without instant gratification) are nourished. Especially if a child has their own garden bed or row to work on, they will learn to make decisions, solve problems, and take responsibility. The garden gives a sense of consistency, a sense of purpose.

And in the fall, there is plenty they can help with. Who wouldn’t like to pick the last peppers and tomatoes of the season, dig up some potatoes, carry a large squash to the kitchen, collect seeds of all shapes and sizes, or make seed packets from paper destined for the recycling bin? Children can get some exercise pulling up weeds and dead plants, covering the beds with blankets of straw, raking, or “driving” the wheelbarrow to the compost pile.

Into the Kitchen

Children also tend to be willing to eat vegetables that they have grown themselves. Of course, the taste of homegrown veggies is on another level versus those from the supermarket.  In the camp’s garden, we see the same scenario play out: a child tastes a freshly picked vegetable and exclaims something along the lines: “I didn’t know I liked cucumbers (or tomatoes, peppers etc.)!”

Speaking of eating—there is certainly a lot that needs to be done in the kitchen during this season as well. Kitchen Time has its own rhythm. Children usually enjoy cooking, especially if they like the food being prepared. They can be our helpers when we preserve the gifts of the garden. Ambitious cooks can engage their children in canning vegetables, making jams, jellies and preserves during this season. Other preserving projects, such as making applesauce, herb salt, or sauerkraut are simple enough to be rewarding even for an inexperienced cook and their family.

So, as we enjoy the last warm days of the fall, harvest the bounty from the garden, save the surplus for the winter, and prepare the garden for the next season, let us feel reassured that the circle of the seasons will go around once again.


Sauerkraut Recipe

Making sauerkraut is easy. We don’t even have to do too much. Bacteria, fungi, and time will transform the raw cabbage into sauerkraut—full of beneficial probiotics.  All we need is cabbage, salt, a glass or ceramic vessel to hold the fermenting cabbage, and patience.


1 gallon wide-mouth glass jar (or ceramic crock)

about 5 pounds of cabbage (white or red), finely chopped

3 tablespoons sea salt

2 teaspoons whole caraway seed (optional)

2 bay leaves (optional)



Put the chopped cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Let the salted cabbage sit for at least 20 minutes. The salt will start to pull water out of the cabbage. Take cabbage by the hand-full and squeeze more juice out.  The liquid should be squeezed back into the bowl, this will be the brine for the cabbage. Add caraway seeds and bay leaves. Put a bit of the cabbage into the glass jar. Using your fist, tamp it down. This will force more water out of the cabbage. Continue adding small amounts of cabbage and packing it down. When full, put the jar on a plate or on a shallow bowl. (Some of the liquid will spill out onto this plate as the cabbage starts to ferment.) Cover the filled jar with another clean smaller jar or glass (close in diameter to the mouth of the fermentation jar) filled with water (or crystals or stones). This will serve as a weight, keeping the fermenting cabbage submerged. Cover the whole thing with a piece cheesecloth to keep flies out.


Keep the jar in the kitchen or in a cooler room for slower fermentation. Occasionally, press down the weight to assure that the level of brine rises and the kraut is safely submerged (our goal is an anaerobic fermentation). Sometimes when the cabbage is not too fresh, it may not release enough liquid. If after 24 hours the kraut isn’t submerged, add some salted water to the jar (mix one cup of water with one tablespoon of salt). Leave to ferment. Check your jar every day. If at any time the kraut is not submerged in liquid, add more salted water. As the process of fermentation starts, grey scum will develop. This is normal. Skim what you can off. Wash the jar used as a weight and put it back.

After few days, start checking on the taste of the kraut. It will start to get tangy. In my kitchen, it usually reaches the right tangy-ness in about a week. If you ferment the kraut in a cooler room the process will be longer. Don’t leave the kraut to ferment for too long or it will become unpleasantly soft. When you are happy with your sauerkraut, take off the jar used as a weight. Cover the kraut jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.

Fall 2019 Guided Family Day Hikes!

The Nature Place is pleased to announce our new year-round offering: Guided Family Day Hikes in Harriman State Park!

Join Nature Place trip leader, Roger Dubin, for fun, family-friendly excursions in our favorite stomping grounds: Harriman State Park! Each of our Day Hikes explores a different area of the park (see below for hike descriptions).

Hit the trails with us and meet other outdoor-loving families, learn about local plants and animals, get in some good exercise in the fresh air, and enjoy your packed lunch with a beautiful view. We’ll provide you with further details, including meet-up location when you register.

All hikes take place from 10 AM to 2 PM.

Feel free to email for any questions prior to registration.

Note: As we will be covering some miles, please consider your child/ren’s hiking capacity before deciding to attend. 

Cost: $25 per adult, $10 per child

Meet Your Hike Leader:

Roger Dubin is an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, loves kids, and is happiest when sharing the hiking experience with families and children of all ages. He is a Day Hike Leader and Naturalist at The Nature Place during our summer camp season. He has hiked all of the trails in Harriman State Park also writes on the benefits of hiking for both adults and children. Roger is also a voluntary trail supervisor with The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, managing over 55 miles of trails in Southeast Harriman. He is certified in Wilderness First aid and CPR.

The Sustainability Scoop: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Ayla Dunn-Bieber recaps a year of sustainability, and gives us a taste of what’s to come…

Hello Friends!

Another cycle of our Dirt is coming to a close, making the Sustainability Scoop two years old. We can’t wait to launch Year Three this fall, and dive further into these essential matters.

This year we’ve explored (catch up or revisit below):

Food Waste

Electricity Use

Meat Consumption

Plastic in the Kitchen

Clothing Waste

Did you have an area that particularly resonated with you? What changes have you tried on this year? Any plans for sustainability goals over the summer? I’m currently in the process of testing ice pop flavors for the 400+ fruit ice pops we’ll be making every Friday at camp (no plastic packaging or cardboard boxes here)!

What’s ahead for the Sustainability Scoop:

Next year’s focus will be on practical projects and activities to increase our sustainability efforts, i.e. make you own… you name it!

Read this article for a taste of what’s to come, and for some serious inspiration: The Benefits-and Joy-of ‘Making Do’ With What You Have. It’s all about the mental shift – away from consumption and perfectionism and towards doing all that we can with what we have. We can do it, together!

Have a great summer. We’ll see some of you at camp and the rest of you back here next fall!

And remember…

image courtesy of Lamina Animal™ Ltd

Every Day is Earth Day

Wild Food Forager, Paul Tappenden, reminds us the Earth gives us gifts every day…

To those of us who love nature and her myriad, wonderful gifts, every day is Earth Day. We celebrate the seasons and all that they bring, and feel a responsibility to help protect that which is our very source of life.

Since becoming a forager and herbalist, I have made friends with many species and have studied their nutritional value and medicinal powers. The natural world is filled with powerful superheroes. These heroes don’t leap high buildings in a single bound, but have protected far more lives than Superman. They don’t parade around in tights and capes, but exert their super powers in very subtle ways.

As one who uses plants as food and medicine, I have become aware of their remarkable abilities, and have, of course, incorporated them into my life. I also feel that it is my duty to share this knowledge with others, especially the younger members of our society.

The main objective of Earth Day is to help spread respect and appreciation for this amazing planet that supports us and presents us with such beauty. One does not need to overlook a canyon or stand atop a mountain to observe nature’s beauty. It is possible to find great beauty on a single square foot of land, wherever nature has blessed the soil.

April is the month of rebirth (in the Northern hemisphere), when we can observe nature springing to life, and the world that surrounds us transforming, bringing with it sustenance and healing and promise of abundance.

Of course, I’ve already been out there grazing on fresh young greens and shoots, throwing wild ingredients into my dishes and just plain enjoying reuniting with familiar plant friends, watching their daily growth and marveling at the forces which bring us these gifts.  So, I am celebrating Earth Day today and every day, and hope that this annual celebration helps us appreciate all that we have been given.

The Clothes We Wear

Ayla Dunn Bieber gives us the scoop on clothing, fast-fashion, and the textile industry–and it’s not a good look! Luckily she provides plenty of resources, new ways, of doing things, and inspirational ideas for consuming less…

Hello everyone! Let’s dive right in to another topic…

Another layer to this wasteful mess we humans have created is brought to you by the clothing industry. High water usage; pollution from chemicals used to grow fibers for clothing and chemicals used in dyeing and preparation processes; the incineration and landfill-dumping of massive amounts of unsold clothing. Its clear that this industry, and our consumption habits, need to be seriously looked at.

Some not-so-fun facts to get your wheels turning:

  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt. To put these numbers in perspective, the amount of water needed to make a t-shirt is enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days while the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to hosing down your lawn for 9 hours straight. [1]
  • The production of 1 kilogram of cotton garments uses up to 3 kilograms of chemicals [2]
  • “When people think of trafficking, they often associate it with the sex trade, but about 50% of trafficked victims, including children, are sold into forced labor. It’s taking place in developing countries and parts of Europe where markets and factories go unregulated. The fashion industry is unfortunately rife with trafficked workers and forced labor.” [3]
  • Overall, one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second [4] This is due to consumers not recycling their clothes, as well as fashion brands wanting to get rid of leftover stock as a way of preserving product scarcity and brand exclusivity. [5]
  • Up to hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers get washed out of our synthetic clothes each time we wash them (AND 60% of the clothes produced are made of plastic [6]). These microfibers end up in our water systems and eventually in the ocean (and then into fish and into us!). Please watch this 2.47 minute video on this hidden problem with our synthetic clothes.


What needs to be done:

With basically every sustainability topic, the thing that will have the most impact is to BUY/CONSUME LESS. This holds true for clothing too. We need to buy AND throw away less. For the clothes we do have, we need to care for them (repair them and wash them properly) so that they can last as long as possible.

When you want to wear something new – consider borrowing, swapping or thrifting before buying a brand new piece of clothing! Dyeing, cutting, and re-fashioning old clothing are also all ways to breathe life into older clothing. Our friends at The Fiber Craft Studio are hosting a plant dying “cafe” on Friday, April 26th where you can use indigo plant based-dyes to give your clothes a total update.

If buying new:

  • Always ask yourself it is something you really need first
  • Buy quality
  • Consider the fiber it is made out of: hemp, soy silk, linen, organic cotton and wool (depending on how the animals are treated) are good sustainable choices
  • Stay away from: polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, modal and non-organic cotton

When you are ready to get rid of clothing:

  • Have a clothing swap with friends (try it seasonally!). We’re hosting one today, Earth Day (April 22nd from 11 AM to 4 PM) at the Hungry Hollow Co-op!
  • Donate to a thrift store
  • Recycle them! Almost 100% of textiles can be recycled
  • Never let clothes and other textiles go into the garbage!

Want more?

Watch You Are What You Wear a 16 minute long Ted Talk

Read Why I’m Boycotting the Clothing Industry Plastic Pollution Coalition

Check out Upcycle That

Read the Consumption Section of Close the Loop

Watch How Your T-Shirt Can Make a Difference 2 minutes long

Check out some great infographics from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.


Also! Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op have generously offered this exclusive coupon to readers of The Sustainability Scoop:


What are some ways you can breathe new life into old clothing? Let us know in the comments!


Thriftily Yours,




1 “8 Little Known Facts About Our Clothing Habits” Planet Aid, Inc., 28 July 2016, [Accessed 17 April 2019]

2 “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future – download the report infographics” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 6 Dec. 2017, [Accessed 17 April 2019] 3 “The Big Issues Facing Fashion in 2019” Forbes. 16 Jan. 2019. 2019/#3781476323a9 [Accessed 17 April 2019]

4 “A New Textiles Economy: Full Report” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 1 Jan 2017. [Accessed 17 April 2019}



The Traveler’s Dream: Monet’s Garden

The Traveler and the Cook

Our Cooking Instructor, Eva Szigeti, paints a beautiful mental picture of Monet’s Garden and, meditating on color as Monet did, provides a vibrant egg dying recipe that utilizes kitchen scraps.

There are travel destinations we will always remember, there are places we hope to revisit one day, and there are those we have only ever visited in our imagination. High up on my personal wish list of travel destinations is a remarkable French garden: Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

It is early spring, the part of the year when gardeners returns to their gardens. There is plenty to do, and the gardens already have gifts to offers: daffodils and hyacinths are the first to bring color and flower-beauty into my garden, sorrel is already offering its citrusy leaves, a few arugulas and collard greens have survived the winter, perennial herbs like oregano, lovage, chives, and tarragon can already be harvested, reseeded dill and cilantro are emerging out of the ground. There promises to be a good rhubarb harvest in few weeks. And yes, as I am trying to be grateful for what there is, I can’t stop wishing for a garden at its peak. It is spring, and spring is the season when a gardener is most likely to dream about all the potential hidden in their plot of land, but also to fantasize about extraordinary gardens. I am being taken to Monet’s Garden…

The garden in Giverny is special for multiple reasons. Monet’s Garden is unquestionably a work of art, but the garden is not only unusual because of its extraordinary beauty. A friend who has experienced this garden first-hand noted that its aesthetic qualities rival those of Monet’s paintings. This is a landscape that was created by an artist with the intention for it to be the subject of his art; the material for his study of colors and light. We see a double artistic intention here: the garden itself can be viewed as a piece of art, though it was created to be the subject of paintings. This piece of land was the artist’s muse; the flowerbeds are like models posing for the painter in the outdoor studio of a carefully orchestrated landscape. Looking at pictures of Monet’s garden, it is easy to see the origin of his paintings. Even those who haven’t seen the garden recall the image of wisterias covering Monet’s Japanese bridge, the water lilies, or the reflection of red azaleas on the surface of the water.

Being an artist (an impressionist painter, to be exact), Monet designed his garden mainly around color. His main interest was the exploration of colors and the study of color’s interaction with light. He embraced the element of water because of its reflective quality. He considered reflective qualities of petals and foliage in his garden design, and observed and painted flowers (colors) under different light circumstances. Monet’s favorite color harmonies were yellow-blue and blue-pink, and triadic combinations of red-silver-green and blue-pink-white. He used white flowers to create a magical look of glitter scattered on the landscape.

While his designs were elaborate and labor and space intensive, I am contemplating if it might be worthwhile to experiment with Monet’s color harmonies on a small scale in my own garden. Maybe. . .but for now, it is time to plant carrots.

While dreaming of visiting Monet’s garden someday, I am heading with my box of seeds to my not-so-picture-perfect (but beloved) garden. There is a lot to be done. . .trips get taken, paintings get finished, but gardens are ever changing landscapes of works in progress.


Dyeing Eggs with Onion Skins

Let’s cook up some color! Nature offers some great dyes, and humble onionskin is one of them. We use it every spring to dye eggs for Easter. The process is straightforward and comes with no mess. Just plan ahead and remember not to compost your onion skins.

If possible, use eggs with shells of different colors. White eggs will take up the color differently than brown eggs. The final color of brown eggs will vary too, depending on what shade of brown the shell is.

6 eggs
3-4 handfuls of yellow onion skins (yellow, red or combination)
1 tablespoon of vinegar
A few drops of cooking oil

Put the eggs and the onion skins into a pot. Add enough water to cover the eggs, add vinegar. Bring the water to boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, take the eggs out of the liquid. Let them cool. Using a soft cloth and a few drops of cooking oil, polish the dyed eggs.


Eating Violets

Wild Food Forager, Paul Tappenden, recommends a delicacy of foraged violets, with tips for how they can be prepared…

While I was walking around the neighborhood with our pups, I noticed some small patches of violets that were starting to flower. I’ve been seeing the leaves for a couple of weeks, but now that the snow has melted, the flowers are announcing their presence. Almost time to start gathering!

The leaves and flowers of Violets are both edible. They can be used in a number of culinary ways, either raw or cooked. The flowers make a colorful addition to salads or sprinkled over almost any dish before serving. I once chopped some up and added them to home made ice-cream.

A popular thing to do with the flowers is to candy them. For this, I will lightly whisk an egg white, stir in some confectioner’s sugar, then carefully dip each flower into the mixture, lying them each out on a parchment lined baking tray. I leave them in a very low oven or dehydrator until they crystallize, then use them to garnish and decorate cakes and deserts. It is very fiddly work and quite time consuming, but it makes a colorful presentation, and they taste great.

Another use I highly recommend is to gather a small jarful of violet flowers and to top it up with a mild vinegar. After a few days, the vinegar turns purple and takes on the flavor of the violets (as well as some of their nutritional goodness, which includes Vitamins A and C, and the anti-oxident and anti-inflammatory, Rutin.). Your friends will all wonder where you got such interesting and tasty vinegar.

I often use the leaves in salads, although I use them sparingly as they tend to be somewhat mucilaginous.  However, this property also makes them ideal for calming an upset stomach.

March Fat Pole

Our beloved camp storyteller, Chuck Stead, recalls a unique vernal equinox tradition…

I had long known about Winter and Summer Solstice. Winter Solstice is the longest night and Summer Solstice is the longest day. Celebrations on Winter Solstice involve lighting a fire and gathering around it and such, as you ‘light the night’ for the Sun to find its way back. Celebrations for Summer Solstice involved staying up all night (it being the shortest night of the year) and welcoming the return of the lengthening night. But Uncle Mal now told us there was also ‘Equinox’: in the Fall it was called Autumnal Equinox, celebrating the harvest, and in the Spring it was a Vernal Equinox to celebrate the awakening of life in the earth. So, there were four points on the calendar. At Winter Solstice was the longest night; at Summer was the shortest night…but what of the Equinox times?

Ricky Cramshaw, Cindy Maloney, and I were sitting in the Paint Shop watching Uncle Mal wind his wrist watch. Our dads all had pocket watches, but Mal was a wrist watch sort of fellow. He was talking about the Vernal Equinox that was coming up in a few days. I had just said, “But I don’t think anybody does anything for it.”

Mal looked at me and said, “Oh, well, maybe not much anymore, but there was a time…”. He looked out the dirty shop windows, toward the western sky and said, “They put up a May Pole down in the Fountain Yard and then they’d get the kids to dance around it, dipping in and out and around each other, braiding these long colored ribbons, until they go around enough times that the whole pole is braided with the ribbons!”

Cindy said, “But Uncle Mal, the Vernal Equinox is in March and the pole you talk about is a May Pole. Isn’t that on May Day?”

Mal looked at her and said, “Well, yeah, you got me there…but the point is, folks in the old-time community used to be more sensitive to the coming season. Vernal Equinox and May Day were times of community gathering.”

Ricky said, “So what do we do on Equinox Day?”

Mal looked at his watch and said, “Well sir, if we lived out West in the flat-lands, on Equinox you can set your watch because Sunrise and Sunset happen exactly at 6 a.m. and at 6 p.m. And if you stay up all night, from 6 p.m. when sunsets, it’ll rise pretty much at 6 a.m. the next day too!”

Ricky said, “So day and night are equal in length, just 12 hours each?”

“Yes, they are, but then the day starts getting longer and the night shorter.”

Ricky said, “But we don’t live in the flatlands.”

‘No sir, we don’t.”

“Them flatlanders sure are lucky.”

Uncle Mal said, “I don’t think so, I like to have some hills around me.”

Cindy said, “So, what sort of thing do we do on Vernal Equinox?”

I said, “We could do the May Pole?”

Cindy shook her head and said, “But that’s for May.”

Ricky said, “Then let’s do a March Pole!”

Uncle Mal asked him, “And what would you wrap around it?”


I said, “No! That’s a waste of good licorice!”

He said, “Then let’s wrap the pole with bad licorice!”

Mal said, “Tell you what. We’ll put a pole in the ground and nail some suet to it.”


“You know, some hard chunk of mutton fat.”

I said, “You want to make a March Fat Pole?”

He said, “This time of year, with spring not really kicked in yet, the birds could use a little help. We can put up a pole and nail some suet cakes to it and that’ll give the birds a little something to hold them over. Then come April the bugs start coming around and the worms start showing up, so our March Pole can be for the birds. What do you say?”

We agreed. Mal looked around in the shop and found an eight-foot wooden rod. We climbed into his truck and rode down to the feed store at Ramsey. He bought three suet cakes that were packed with bird seed and nuts. We rode back up to the Paint Shop and Mal picked out a spot in the back near the tracks, where he dug into the ground about a foot and a half deep. He nailed the three suet cakes to the pole, and then we gathered some broken rock near the tracks and dumped them into the hole, once he had stood the pole there. He patted down some dirt and more gravel around the base of the pole. We felt it. It was firm.

For the next few days whenever we could, we would go visit our March Fat Pole. Every time we came to it, we saw all kinds of birds feeding on it: sparrows, juncos, jays, cardinals, robins, and starlings. On March 22nd (which was Vernal Equinox that year) we found a Downy Woodpecker there pecking away at the suet/seed cake. Ricky ran to the pole and danced around it singing a March Fat Pole song he made up. Then, when we went there the next day, all three suet cakes were torn to pieces and all over the muddy ground were lots of raccoon tracks. The tracks were clear and fresh. We pressed our fingers into the tracks and closed our eyes. It was believed that this was a way to learn what the raccoons were thinking. We hunkered down quietly with our fingers pressed into the raccoon tracks. After a bit Ricky announced that he got a message of raccoon thoughts. He said to us, “Yummy, good suet on this stick!”

Plastic in the Kitchen

Ayla Dunn Bieber unpacks some not-so-fun plastic facts and provides resources for inspiring ways to break free from plastic on both an individual and societal scale…

Plastic is everywhere. Ever feel like your drowning in it? Like you just can’t get away? Well, we do have it bad, but unfortunately our animal friends have it even worse. We are literally drowning our buddies downstream. And get this – tiny pieces of plastic are now even being discovered in human feces [1]. Do I have your attention?

  • Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world [3].
  • The main cause for the increase in plastic production is plastic packaging. Plastic packaging made up 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced in 2015, and it also made up 52% of plastics thrown away [2].
  • Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. In 2015, Americans purchased about 346 bottles per person [2].
  • Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill nor are they recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. By 2050, this could mean there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Choosing to buy products with less packaging or no packaging altogether makes a big difference [3].
We’ve got a real problem on our hands, and it’s expanding so fast that we don’t even know the full reach of its ramifications.
So what can we do? We MUST reduce our plastic consumption! This means changing our habits. Start small, with a change or two and keep adding new ones!

Credit: Anne-Marie Bonneau,


Here are some tips:
  • Bring your own grocery bags and shopping bags – an obvious one.
  • Just say no to plastic produce bags! Use reusable bags instead (consider making your own out of old material/clothes you don’t wear anymore).
  • Buy in bulk, and bring your own container for your bulk items (jars, bags).
  • Bring your own left-overs containers to restaurants
  • Use re-usable straws
  • Use a re-usable coffee cup
  • Wax wrap – instead of plastic wrap
  • Make your own  ______ (fill in the blank, the options are endless – bread, toothpaste, tortillas…).
  • Re-use the plastic bags you do acquire
  • Use cloth or wax sandwich bags


For an amazing list of 50 tips to reduce plastic use, check out this awesome article by the zerowastechef!

Lastly, please take a moment to read these broader picture/longer term ‘REAL’ solutions from the folks at Greenpeace [4]:

  • “Government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. Legislative reuse targets.”
  • “Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire lifecycle and true costs of their products.”
  • “Government and corporate investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging.”
  • “Corporate phase-out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.”
  • A shift in dominant public mindsets away from our throwaway culture focused on convenience being equal to disposal, toward a vision of healthy, sustainable and more connected communities.
Let’s do this!


Contact or to sign up for our Zero Waste Community where we talk about these topics and more, and keep each other motivated to continue to fight the beast.



The Traveler and the Cook: Visiting a Palace

Our Cooking Instructor, Eva Szigeti, tells about a palace adventure, ponders what it must have been like to live there, and provides a recipe for a lavish quark strudel…

Visiting a historic house, old cathedral, castle, or a town with rich history could feel a little bit like time travel. Stepping with half a foot into another era is not only fun. These trips into the past also unquestionably contribute to our children’s informal education, nurture their imagination, put their knowledge into context, encourage critical thinking about the past, and even put our own lifestyles into perspective. For our family, one of these exciting trips was a visit to Esteháza, an estate with a grandiose palace located in western Hungary.

As the large structure emerged in front of us (the front of the building is 100 meters long, the wings measure 46 meters), the kids first question was: Was this actually someone’s home? The answer to this question is yes, but it wasn’t the family’s primary residence. The 126-room palace was just a summer house in rural Hungary, far away from Vienna. The palace, built by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, is often referred to as the Hungarian Versailles, although perhaps it has more in common with the Viennese Schönbrunn Palace. The glory days of the estate lasted from 1766 (when the main part of the palace was finished) till 1790, with the death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. Because of the estate’s remote location, his successors didn’t deem it a desirable place to live.

Although today no one would consider the place to be far from Vienna (only 60 miles), it still feels remote and rural. We got off the train at the nearest train station, which was about 2 miles from the palace. As it turned out, the small town has no public transportation and not even a taxi service. So lots of walking was part of our day.

Inside of the palace, the children wanted to run up and down the wide staircase, touch the golden rococo floral decorations on the wall, and explore the rooms. They fantasized about how much fun it would be to play hide-and-seek, to explore the attic, or look for secret doors. Of course, none of these were an option. So instead they tried to listen to the guide and take it all in. We admired the enormous mirrors, the furniture, the frescoes and chandeliers on the ceiling, and the huge wood burning stoves that had been fed by the servants from the adjacent rooms. In the Banquet Room, my daughter was imagining balls that might have taken place there long ago. She saw hundreds of candles burning, women in beautiful dresses, heard the music and wished that she could be one of the dancers.

We learned from the guide that the estate hosted not only balls, but also large hunts and big feasts. The most likely foods served were veal, rabbit, lamb and mutton, poultry, wild birds, and fish; all accompanied with sauces flavored by spices and nuts. The guests probably also enjoyed pates and rice porridge with spices, prepared by the many cooks of the estate. Exotic fruits, like oranges and lemons, were served. Chocolate biscuits and marzipan, a popular dessert of the era, might had been offered to the guests.

The Price, patron of the arts, also hosted concerts, opera, and theater performances. The estate had its own Opera House (seating 400 people), Marionette Theater, and a Music House with apartments for the musicians, actors, and dancers employed by the prince. The orchestra was led by none other than the celebrated composer Joseph Haydn. Haydn lived on the estate from 1766 to 1790. The majority of his symphonies were written for the Prince’s orchestra, and they were most likely performed for the first time in Esterháza.

As we walked through the estate’s extensive park back to the train station, my daughter expressed her desire to live in a palace. Then we tried to imagine the everyday life in the Esterházy Palace 250 years ago. The lifestyle of 18th century aristocracy seemed lavish, but extremely wasteful; grand, but perhaps not very comfortable.  After all, they lived in times when 60 miles was a great distance.

Their luxurious palaces had no electricity, central heating, or plumbing. They wore fancy, but most likely uncomfortable clothing. My kids wondered if Prince Esterházy would have perhaps preferred to live in our heated house with a nice bathroom, wear a cotton T-shirt, and listen to music every day without having to provide food and accommodation for musicians of an orchestra.

Quark Strudel

Strudel is a typical Austro-Hungarian dessert. The layered pastry (with sweet or savory filling) became popular in the Habsburg

Empire in the 18th century.

Making the dough itself requires skill, time and patience. The dough is rolled out, then gently stretched by hand until it’s paper-thin. Then it is filled and rolled up. Popular fillings include apple, sour cherry, poppy seed, and quark.

Today not many home bakers take on the challenge of making the strudel dough. Most bakers rely on store-bought dough. Filo dough is a good substitute for dough made from scratch.


Makes two strudels

For the dough:

8 sheets of thawed filo dough

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter


For the filling:

1 pound quark or unsalted farmer’s cheese

2 eggs, separated
¼ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
½ cup of raisins, optional
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Lightly brush a 13×9-inch baking dish with melted butter.

Prepare the filling. Put the quark/farmer’s cheese into a mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and raisin. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold them in the quark mixture. Cover your work surface with a clean kitchen towel. Place a sheet of filo on the towel (with the long side facing you) and gently brush it with the melted butter. Layer three more filo sheets, buttering each layer. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs in a 3-inch strip along the longer end of the dough, leaving an inch on the bottom and the sides without any crumbs. Gently spread half of the cheese mixture on top of the breadcrumbs then sprinkle with another tablespoon of breadcrumbs.  Fold the unfilled sides in and roll up like a jelly roll. Place the strudel seam side down on the baking sheet. Brush the pastry with melted butter. Repeat the process to make the second roll. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let cool for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, slice, and serve.