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Design Squish Blog: FALL AND WINTER - FREE FILM SCREENING AT COOPER UNION - film, wisdom, cooper union, environment, hippies, sustainable lifestyle, do-it-yourself, creative environmental options, craft, organics, gardening, planting, flower pots, reusing, old and vintage, nature, environmental news, recycling tips, brooklyn, ditmas park,


design squish blog

Speaking of houses with grass roofs…this peculiar boat-house is not only floating on the water but also has a green lawn backyard on the roof. It is located in Amsterdam and is a living example of the hippie times that swept through Holland in 60’s-80’s as one Dutch friend of mine pointed out.  Not only you are not wasting any fertile soil for the ground of your house, but also multiplying the amount of oxygen released by greens by growing them on the roof. Some will argue with me that this is not too hippie. Then, how about the house below?  I believe the owner is growing some very important kinds of weeds….
design squish blog

January 24, 2009


design squish blog*above: This house with grass roof is starting to grow a small birch tree.

Is there is anything more green than these houses with grass roofs? Unless they are houses with forest roofs! ha-ha. They are called Icelandic Turf Houses.  These photos are taken on North Islands of Scotland and Iceland.  Apparently, these turf houses offer superior insulation compared to buildings made solely out of wood or stone.  One of the reasons these houses started their existence is that there was not a lot of good timber in Iceland and it was difficult to obtain other construction materials.  However, Iceland did have a large amount of turf..
turf house, sod house

design squish blog*above: village with grass roofs:

January 22, 2009


ptarmigans - white mountain quails

I love Ptarmigans. Ptarmigans are sedentary species, breeding across arctic and subarctic Eurasia and North America. The Ptarmigan is seasonally camouflaged; its feathers moult from white in winter to brown in spring or summer. Ptarmigan’s feet are fully feathered to maintain body heat and to act as snowshoes during winter.

January 14, 2009


Manny Howard wrote a story which I read in New York Times called My Empire of Dirt in which he describes how he attepted to live off the land of his own backyard in the city of New York for one month. 
He made a plan of where and what kind of vegetables and greens he will plant and what kind of animals he will grow in his 800 square feet backyard:

A cucumbers, cantaloupes, peppers, heirloom tomatoes.
B Rabbit feed, chicken feed, six rabbit hutches, a slaughter station, a refrigerator, and four egg-laying coops.
C 1.Tomatoes, beets, celery, yellow squash, purple eggplant, a fig tree. 2 Collard greens, cucumbers, and callaloo. 3 Cabbage, eggplant, rhubarb, leeks, garlic, onions, fennel, rosemary, thyme, and mint. 4 Corn, broad beans, basil, bok choy, and parsley.
D A duck coop, a duck pond, and two wayward rabbit hutches.
E A high-rise high-capacity chicken coop.
F The potato crop: a raised bed technically known as a “drill.”


Whatever came out of this project you can read here:  My Empire of Dirt.  I am going to ruin it for you: it did not end well.  To live off the land one needs a much bigger backyard, maybe not in the city and maybe more the size of a real farm. Also, one needs to know well how to take care of plants well.  I think to grow additional food for your meal, like tomatoes, strawberries,peas or chives is good in the city, but not a whole meal. Chicken are also possible to grow in the city but for such clustered city like New York, maybe quails since they are smaller?


January 01, 2009


california green store

california green store

    reform school

Reform School is a store, web shop and collective based in Los Angeles, CA. 
Billie and Tootie write about their store:  “We definitely wanted to talk about how sustainable design is a huge focus for us, and that green living is important to us, not only in business but in our personal lives as well. We wanted to be eco-friendly without being too in-your-face about it. The last thing we wanted was to be another shop selling all things hemp & bamboo ( not that we don’t love hemp & bamboo)”
To visit: Reform School.

December 30, 2008


Recently I found an old book by Konstantin Paustovsky called Stories and Tales About Forests.  The stories are short, meaningful and sincere;  filled with long descriptions of the morning dew in the forest, first snow or pine trees scent.  The stories have this utopian idealism, kindness, sensitivity and and unity with the world which can be found in some soviet movies, ideas and literature.  I wish I could translate some stories into English but the only one I found is in Russian.  It is called A Farewell to Summer and it is about going to sleep, waking up and finding all the world covered in snow out of the window. 

design squish blog
To read a full text version of A Farewell to Summer in Russian:


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December 23, 2008


design squish blog

design squish blog

design squish blog

What is so special about Russian furnace?  Answer: You can not only cook in it, warm the house with it, but also sleep on top of it! There is space on top specifically designed as a place for sleep. All the heat from furnace rises to the top of the house and furnace -bed becomes the warmest place in the house. 

December 20, 2008


russian banya

russian sauna

The most important part of russian banya ( БАНЯ ) for me is jumping from hot banya heat into the snow or frozen river to cool yourself down. Another very important aspect of russian banya is beating yourself with hot white birch branches. I should not forget about drinking kvas ( russian root beer drink) in the banya entrance room, vodka and snacking on pickles, mushrooms, and etc after a good banya session .
It is a real authentic russian experience and I think everybody should try it. A friend of ours built russian banya in his backyard in upstate New York and apparently it is very easy and cheap to build.

*below: bania in upstate New York

design squish blog

December 17, 2008


cornell library of ornithology bird nest illustration
macaluay library

Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell Library of Ornithology is surrounded by Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary that is teaming with birds and plants.  More than four miles of trails wind through a variety of habitats used by birds and other wildlife. The library itself has one of the world’s largest repository of wildlife sound recordings, contains over 160,000 individual recordings representing more than 50% of the world’s bird species. When you walk into the library you see giant books of beautiful old life-size illustrations of birds, photographs of birds and long aisles on books about birds.  Cornell Library of Ornithology is an amazing place to visit.

December 14, 2008


I love short stories by russian author Sergei Kozlov.  This story is called Good Elephant (I am sorry about translation. It was translated through Babelfish). On snow covered cold February,  Hedgehog has been trying to heat the furnace for days and nevertheless he could not get up in the morning -  it was that cold in the house. “Is this a punishment? “- muttered hedgehog, putting paws into the felt boots and getting up from the bed. - Another week and I will burn all the firewood I have and freeze! ” Hedgehog shuffled burned wood, moved aside shutter and started new fire. Hedgehog started thinking about his disastrous position. “Forest is completely covered with snow”- he thought - “All the small trees are under the snow and I cannot cut down a big tree. “It would be nice if Bear came over.  He has a sharp saw and special sleds to carry firewood.  Donkey and Bear would come and say:“Hedgehog, probably you have no more firewood? Let’s go collect more! ” Hedgehog thought:  I would make them tea.. But now… Bear is probably asleep and does not even think about me… ” Hedgehog became so sad, that he tossed up two additional firewood and began to look at the flame without thinking. Furnace was burning, the house became very warm, and hedgehog no longer believed that firewood can end and that he might freeze. ” Hedgehog started dreaming: “Firewood will end and I will begin to freeze.  The elephant in the zoo will find out about this and he will come running into the forest, find my house, insert his trunk into the chimney and instantly it will become warmer from his breath. I will say: ” Thanks, elephant for giving me your heat.  Now go warm up my friend Bear - he probably also has no more firewood… Elephant will run away from the zoo each night and breathe into my chimney, and my friend Bear’s too, so we would not freeze”.  While Hedgehog was dreaming of this, the frost, wind and cold grew harsher. Hedgehog’s firewood soon entirely ended. For the last time he warmed up the house very well, piled up all the blankets on his bed, put on a wool coat and felt boots. Then, he climbed under his blanket mountain and began to wait. First it was hot, and then, when furnace cooled, it became very cold. With each hour it became increasingly colder. ” I w-w-wiish elephant would come here f-f-f-aster-r-r ! - whispered Hedgehog, rolled as a bagel under his blankets. Frozen Hedgehog could not even whisper anymore because of cold but the elephant still did not come… - Elephant-t-t! - called Hedgehog. - I am f-f—freezing… ar-r-rive, p-p-p-lease, elephant! Hedgehog called elephant three days and two nights. But on third night he became warmer. So warm that he even took off his wool coat and felt boots. This is because the cold finally started leaving. To Hedgehog, it seemed as though an enormous elephant has been walking between pine trees and breathing into his chimney.

designsquishblog, design squish blog, hedgehog

December 11, 2008


design squish blog

Russian amateur folk artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov have been painting his town Borovsk, population of 12,000, a place of cottages slouching on grassy slopes, with murals.   I think this is a great idea to use city walls instead of canvas. I would rather see folk art on buildings than bare brick walls.

vladimir ovchinnikov

ovchinnikov mural

mural in russia

borovsk mural

*above: Vladimir Ovchinnikov incorporates poems of Russian writers into his murals as well as famous folk sayings

russian wall painting

*above: Vladimir Ovchinnikov uses Russian folk saying “Good (towards boy or girl) just like a cucumber!”

владимир овчинников

Vladimir Ovchinnikov

*note: the cat inside the window and the church reflection on the two images above are painted

December 10, 2008



Do not place unsolicited advertizing materials on this property sign can be placed in front of your door in New York state to prevent useless advertizing materials such as flyers, product catalogs and fake postcards saying that you won a trip to Florida from coming into your house.

December 06, 2008


I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail
Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would

Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound

I’d rather be a forest than a street
Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet
Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would



news paper wood

This is something I saw on designsquish.  This is wood that is made out of newspaper, not vice versa.  The paper is rolled in the way that it has similar characteristics as natural wood log. The paper is glued to each other by water soluble glue. 


design squish blog, brooklyn botanic garden gallery

design squish blog, scientific illustration

New show at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society, country’s most accomplished botanical artists. So absolutely beautiful!

December 05, 2008



How green is IKEA?  Last time I went to IKEA, I bought a giant bag of swedish meatballs and sauce.  I cooked them at home and they were delicious - for some weird reason I could not stop eating them. Hm, I thought.  I looked at the ingredients on the bag of sauce and it read: monosodium glutamate.  I was surprised that IKEA, a big swedish company would use MSG in their meatballs. Do they have MSG meatballs in all IKEA stores or just U.S? Maybe they think MSG is good for you?
I remembered that when I was buying meatballs in IKEAnext to them I saw big containers full of bright yellow and blue reusable IKEA bags. IKEA stopped using plastic bags but instead you can buy IKEA’s big reusable plastic bag for $59c. Lots of IKEA furniture is made from natural, untreated wood, free of phtahaltes, lead; their kitchen furniture is free of formaldehyde. IKEA supports the use of environmentally friendly, sustainable and recycled materials as well.

November 30, 2008


seattle google maps


Google maps now has a better resolution thanks to Google’s partnership between a commercial satellite imaging provider and the department of defense.
The new hardware of Geoeye satellite is a significant improvement over previous generations in resolution of the images. I suppose now they also have a better photo camera that takes pictures for street view. 



Green Screens is an electronic recycling event all over NYC boroughs.  Green Screens: “As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, more and more consumers are looking to replace their outdated equipment with new, energy-efficient products. However, with technology constituting an estimated 87.5 percent of landfill toxic waste, it is vital for consumers to understand the importance of recycling technology in an environmentally responsible manner”

November 28, 2008



little prince, design squish blog

It is nice to stay inside on a cold winter weekend, wrap yourself in blankets and read some books…on the internet.  Google Books allows online access to public-domain works, books and other out-of-copyright material to be downloaded in PDF format. Google is scanning more than 3,000 books per day. Of the 7 million books scanned, 1 million are “full view”, 1 million are in the public domain / limited preview, and the remaining 5 million are no longer in print or commercially available.


design squish blog, spicy dill pickle vodka

I wanted to check my yahoo e-mail and stumbled upon yahoo top ten green do-it-youself suggestions.  They are really fun. They include:  Gardening gift certificate, paper gifts made from junk mail, homemade infused vodka, homemade IPhone case, tickets to a local event and a subscription to Ready Made Magazine. My favorite is homemade infused vodka.  Here is a recipe from yahoo:  Find organic fruit, herbs, spices, or peppers at the farmers market (or your garden) and soak them a bottle of vodka (organic also, if possible). In two weeks or less, you’ll have a flavored treat for holiday cocktail parties. *
*(My own addition to the recipe:  You can also infuse vodka with pepper, horseradish and even pickle.  There are a lot of different ways to infuse vodka in Russian tradition. I am definitely drinking homemade spicy dill pickle infused vodka for the holiday!)
Recipe for Spicy Dill Pickle Vodka:
1 bottle of vodka
2 cucumbers
1 jalapeno pepper
6 cloves of garlic
sprigs of fresh dill


EV, LEV, ELECTRIC CAR, sustainable car,

This is the most stylish EV I’ve seen! This car is called Myers Motors NmG (NmG stands for “No more Gas,” haha.  It gets 30 miles to the charge and goes over 70 mph. sadly, you will have to charge batteries for 3-5 hours and it costs twenty five thousand dollars.

November 25, 2008


redesign chairs, old furniture,great way to restore old chairs Great way to restore old chairs!
&MADE is one of the UKs freshest consultancies for ethically conscious contemporary design. Located in a former mid 20th Century doss house overlooking a tributary of the River Thames, they have grown from their birth in 2005 into an award winning studio, working in product, furniture and spatial design. With an extensive knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes and a background of new technologies and engineering , &made demonstrate a unique creative process, with a commitment to conscious design. One that has been recognised by the Design Museum, MoMA and Terrence Conran.

November 23, 2008


algae fuel cells

Algae fuel is a biofuel from algae. Algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than a football field of soybeans.  Algal fuel does not impact fresh water resources, and can use wastewater or even saltwater.  With increasing oil prices, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources and the food crisis, there is much interest in farming algae.  (Bill Gates already invested, how about you ? ) The United States Department of Energy states that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland, or 1.3 Belgiums. This is less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.

November 21, 2008


american persimmonplant american persimmon

  The Persimmon originated in China and is cultivated in different parts of the world.  It turns out that the American Persimmon variety s native to the eastern United States.  Apparently it grows from New England to Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The tree has been cultivated for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times by Native Americans, although American Persimmon is still fairly common wild in some areas. Although, in many regions the species is becoming scarce these days.  NatureServe lists Diospyros virginiana (American Persimmon) as Critically-Imperiled in Connecticut and Iowa, and Imperiled in New York. Officially the species is listed as Threatened in New Jersey and of Special Concern in Connecticut.
See distribution map.
I suggest planting a persimmon tree. 

November 20, 2008


vertical planter, rain drain system

The “vertical planter” is a re-designed drain system where rainwater gets captured in the upturned branches. All kinds of moss and grass seeds will eventually sprout in the upturned branches - planters and make the city even more green.  In Seattle, where it rains a lot, this idea is very compelling.



I love going on flickr and finding photographs of places I want to visit or move to and then marking them favorite. 
To view my favorites go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anastasia_ugorskaya/favorites/

- Ana

November 19, 2008


hippie manifesto

This magazine was found on garage sale.  This issue is special because it is a manifesto of this magazine.  It tells you issue by issue about how to “Get out of the City and Back to the Land”  .  The topics include: laying out a homestead, building a small barn, fish pond in the backyard, buying a place in the country as well as “Part-time Farm Pays for Itself”, “A Good Garden with Less Work”, “Earning Money in the country” and “Dwarfing Fruit Trees and Berries”.

November 18, 2008


reuse broken umbrella, umbrella bag, recycle umbrellas

Have you ever felt bad for the numerous broken umbrellas during the storm? You do not have to anymore!
They all can be turned into a bag! Yes Yes.

taken from FIFTYRX3, a blog about style and sustainability by Jill Danyelle.
(“fiftyRX3 was a project in style and sustainability. It consisted of a photo documentary of what Jill Danyelle wore everyday for a year with a goal of averaging fifty percent sustainability based on the environmental mantra ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’. There was also exploration into the relationship we have with our clothing and how others perceive who we are through what we wear.)

November 17, 2008


imageParking Daysustainable flatbush

How hard is it to organize a community garden, promote energy efficiency and make a city to place benches alongside your main neighborhood street?  Really hard.  SUSTAINABLE FLATBUSH is an organization based in Flatbush area of Brooklyn that emerged from neighbors desiring changes.  It has been responsible for such projects as a Parking Day, Flatbush Community Garden and Flatbush Electronics Recycling. 

November 10, 2008


colorful ditmas park house

ditmas park architecture

Ditmas Park sign

historic ditmas park

ditmas park, west midwood houses

ditmas park, victorian flatbush old houses

*above: Houses in Victorian Ditmas Park

izba russian

russian house
*above:  Russian village style houses

Ditmas Park is a very old Victorian neighborhood located in Brooklyn, New York.  Sometimes it is called Victorian Flatbush or West Midwood.  It is filled with old Sycamore trees and vines and consists of many smaller ~2 ~3 block neighborhoods such as Caton Park, Ditmas Park West, Prospect Park South, Albermarle-Kenmore Terrace, West Midwood, Fiske Terrace and e.t.c .  Walking in Ditmas Park makes me feel like I am not in New York City but somewhere in the country side or a small village in Russia.
New York Magazine has an article about Ditmas Park called “Because Ditmas Park Is the New San Francisco”. (!!!!!)  Indeed, one can find similarities of Ditmas Park houses, Painted Ladies of San Francisco and Russian style village houses.

painted ladies of san francisco

*above: Painted Ladies in San Francisco
*to read a full New York Magazine article on Ditmas Park :

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July 08, 2008

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