Mint tea anyone?

I deeply loved my Emma Bridgewater Great Britain teapot.  It was a little bit of retail therapy one day shortly after my daughter was born when my hormones were particularly prone to large swings.  Normally, I’m too cheap to buy a £50 teapot, but that day, I NEEDED it, and to hell with anyone who tried to stop me.

ImageIt was our beloved teapot for about 2 years until my husband dropped a glass on the pot.  The lid shattered, so for a few months we were using a small plate over the top to keep the steam in.  Then slowly we started noticing cracks in the teapot itself.  First little ones, then great big swooping cracks that got stained by the tea inside.  We tried to ignore the cracks, but eventually the cracks got too big and salts started leaching out of the outside.  Lord only knows what leached out into our tea, but let’s not think about that!  So, it sat empty on our counter for a while, as I just couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it in the bin.

ImageAfter a looking at a few videos on how to drill a hole into pottery, I decided to just give it a go.  I don’t have the fancy diamond bits talked about, but instead just used a regular masonry bit that I had already.  It worked like a charm!

ImageMy lovely cousin Jodie gave me some mint cuttings when I crashed at her place for the Observer’s Ethical Awards earlier this month.  No, I didn’t win, but the two of us had a really nice time at the ceremony and got to chat with some cool and amazing folks.  The highlight of my night was talking to Anne (don’t call her Annie) Power.  She is an amazing woman, and a total inspiration for never getting complaisant with one’s life.  But back to the mint.  After a week and half in water there were some nice roots sprouting.  Sprouting roots?  I’m not sure that’s the correct botanical term…

Anyhow, here’s the glorious transformation in its entirety, and now my kitchen windowsill basil has a little minty friend.  The whole process from drilling to watering-in took about 15 minutes, and I am kicking myself for letting that little upcycling job sit and linger for so long.

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Elderflower Apple Vodka

Elderflower HelmetJune rolls around and so does my hay fever.  Going for a bike ride with the kids along the bike path is fabulously fun, but I could not do it in June without a good dose of Loratadine.  I was fine all day, riding, picking elderflowers and throwing rocks into the Water of Leith.  But once we got the flowers home and I started pulling off the flowers for my vodka liqueur, no dose of loratadine was going to hold back my super sneezes.  But no pain, no gain eh?

I should have been more greedy with my elderflower picking, but my kids and I picked about 6 heads of lovely little white flowers.  Most recipes call for 10-20 heads per 1L of alcohol, so we’ll see how things turn out in a fortnight or so.  To round out the flavours and boost the interest, I threw in a half of an apple too.   The hard part is going to be the waiting for infusion and dissolving of sugar.

I added the apple to push the liqueur all the way to the top, eliminating any air bubbles.

I added the apple to push the liqueur all the way to the top, eliminating any air bubbles.

Thankfully I made an elderberry gin in September, so was able to enjoy a splash of that over ice today.   I’m all about eating in season, but the joy of preserving and liqueurs is that I don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying flavours that are half a year from my local season!  I might finally crack open my pickled nasturtium pods, now that I think about it!

 

Top 10 Eco-friendly Father’s Day Presents

Father’s Day is fast approaching, and I still haven’t purchased anything for my own Dad, nor my husband!  Yikes.  But the good news is that I’ve narrowed down the options.  Some are in my price range and some are my dream presents for when I win the Lottery!  A girl can dream.

Please leave a comment with your favourite idea for an Eco Father’s Day present!  I’ll have an anniversary and birthday to shop for in the next 2 months!!

 

Green Wall Planters

I heart vertical green walls! Every time I see them, I drool.  I have a strong feeling that the skill needed to plant and maintain these is fairly sizeable, but I suppose one has to start somewhere right?

http://www.gardeners.com/buy/green-wall/8587295.html?start=86&cgid=GiftsforGardeners_Cat

http://www.harrodhorticultural.com/vertical-wall-planter-pid9283.html?Aff=GPL&gclid=CjkKEQjwwbCcBRCxvJn9-N6dorwBEiQAVriOiosiuwQ5E1nI4_YwI7fT27KPBtAqpPydRRa0oaj7PNjw_wcB

http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2012/11/01/cool-new-indoor-outdoor-modular-vertical-garden-cylinders/

 

Shiitake Mushroom Growing Kits

My mushroom hating husband is starting to turn a corner after reading about the amazing health benefits of eating shiitakes.  Pearl Oyster Kitchen Garden mushroom kitSince I have to “hide” the mushrooms in our organic veg box every week by puréeing them into pasta sauces or soups, it would be great if slowly I can start to use these little brown guys chopped or whole instead.  I have a feeling if he grew his own mushrooms, he’d be must more inclined to eat them in larger bites.  The kids, probably not but it should be fun for the whole family at any rate to see these sprout and grow.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/shiitake-mushroom-growing-kit/

http://www.smithymushrooms.co.uk/shop/best-sellers/shiitake-mushroom-kit/

Not shiitake but I really like the packaging and ethos of this kit.

http://espressomushroom.co.uk/shop/pearl-oyster-kitchen-garden/

 

Language classes

I’m a big fan on  not giving “things” that require energy to make and just sit there waiting to eventually be thrown away.  So things that are consumable are usually my go-to option for gifts.  But learning a language is much much more than a gift.  We’ve been trying to teach ourselves Italian for 6 months now, but I think it might be time to get help from a living human being, as the books and CD’s from the library can only get us so far.  Any google search for your city will pop up a boatload of options.  I am seriously thinking about popping into this language cafe in Edinburgh.

http://www.yaketyyak-languagecafe.co.uk/index.htm

 

Mirra Office Chair
This is obviously my dream present.  But if you don’t have a tiny weeny pocket book like I do, and are in the market for an office chair, then this should surely be on the top of that list. The chair is Cradle to Cradle certified, looks lovely, and it feels like you are sitting on a cloud!  Or at least it’s what I imagine sitting on a cloud would feel like.   I’ve been pining over this chair since 2003 when I helped organise a talk by the amazing William McDonough, in Nashville, and I got two of these chairs donated for door prizes (I know, nice prizes huh?).   One day, one day…

£850 in the UK – ouch! http://www.johnlewis.com/herman-miller-mirra-office-chair/p332673

$550 in the states  http://www.sit4life.com/products/Herman-miller/Mirrareg-chair/26

 

Bike Safety

At least one of us managed to keep their exercising New Year’s resolution.  Since my hubby cycles to work and I don’t fancy being a widow, I am a VERY big fan of all things related to cycling safety and high visibility.  I have a roll of the reflective tape, and can say it’s brilliant for putting all around on the bike, through loops on backpacks, on helmets etc.  But I came across these stickers below that look super cool too.  I’m half thinking of ordering them and letting the kids go nuts with them on daddy’s bike!  And these wheel lights are just cool for any age really.  My son’s friend has them on his bicycle and I’ve been trying to track them down for about a year now.  So may have to get two pairs of these for matching father’s and son’s bikes.

candy color reflective bike decals - rydesafe visible

Reflective stickers  http://www.rydesafe.com/index.html

Reflective tape http://www.edinburghbicycle.com/products/self-adhesive-reflective-tape?bct=browse%2faccessories%2fsafety-bells-mirrors-reflectives-masks

Wheel lights http://www.johnlewis.com/colour-changing-bike-wheel-led-lights/p231306699

 

Mobile Phone Standby Reducers

I’ve gotta say this was the first present on my list initially, but after doing a bit of digging, it turns out that reducing energy from standby phone recharging is really quite small.  Turning off your microwave so it’s not on standby is a much bigger energy reduction, so I will probably pass on this item.  But for the sake of inclusivity…

Standby Saver Socket: http://www.nigelsecostore.com/acatalog/Standby_Saver_Socket.html

Interestingly, if you are curious to see a list of energy usage for various plugged-in items around your house, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has compiled a table:  http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-table.html

 

Reclaimed Teak Bench

Our garden “bench” has been needing to see the inside of a dumpster (that’s skip for you Brits reading this) for the past 3 years…  It’s broken with rotting wood shards poking out on all sides, and whenever the kids go near it, we say “be careful with the bench, you don’t want to get a splinter!”  So, really it needs to be removed.  I’ve been on the lookout for a second hand bench to save some money and recycle a large item.  But so far I’ve not seen anything that fits our budget, taste and need for a quality item.  So, I’ve come across this website that sells reclaimed garden furniture from old ox carts and boats.  Super cool pieces and for the quality of the wood, I think they are quite reasonably priced.  I have a feeling one of these may be our wedding anniversary present this year.

Canoe Bench

Bench made from a boat  http://www.gardenfurniturecentre.co.uk/bali-bench-canoe.html

 

Man-fume

Who doesn’t love a good smelling man?  Perhaps more of a present for me though…

This £50 man-fume is made with organic essential oils from Aveda.

http://www.aveda.co.uk/product/5349/16614/Pure-FumeTM/Personal-Aromas/Aveda-Men-Pure-Formance-Aroma-Spray/index.tmpl

 

Organic Whiskey

As if our liqueur cabinet needs another bottle of whiskey.  But these bottles are organic!  How cool is that?

http://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/benromach-organic-whisky/

http://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/bruichladdich/bruichladdich-the-organic-multi-vintage-whisky/

 

 

 

 

Gardening Scotland

 

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Lithodora Diffusa ‘Heavenly Blue’

Wow, what a weekend it’s been?  I struggle to say it has been a hot weekend.  But it has certainly been nicely warm at 19 degrees C.   Instead of working away in the garden today, pulling weeds that are nearly going to seed… I spend the day at Gardening Scotland.  I had no idea what I needed to buy for the garden, so just went to get inspired.  It turns out that hostas and alpines inspired me.   I bought two of each (Minute man and Whirlwind), and have already planted the hostas.  Apparently I really really like minuteman, as I came home and went to put my two new hostas near to my only hosta, planted about 2 years ago, and it’s exactly like the old one.  I haven’t a clue the variety name (Have a hunch it was Patriot), but they look indistinguishable to my untrained eye.  So I planed the new one on the other end of the garden.

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Saxifraga gaudinii ‘Canis-dalmatiica’

I’ve had mixed luck with aplines in pots.  Theoretically they should be difficult to kill… But I think perhaps I haven’t been planting them with enough sand/grit in the soil?  Perhaps I’ve let them dry up completely?  Who knows, but anyhow, I’ll keep trying.  I was really really wanting to buy another plant, but given my success rates in keeping these guys happy and alive, I decided to be conservative with my pocket book.

The biggest purchase of the day didn’t even go to a plant…  I feel a bit embarrassed to say that, given the amazing peonies on offer (I was “this” close to buying a gorgeous red one called America).  Perhaps I should have packed a lunch, because my stomach got the better of me, and the opportunity to buy venison fillet was just too tempting.  So Tuesday night’s dinner is going to be amazing!   In a past job, we managed a research project looking at carbon emissions from farm vs wild deer, and it turned out that eating wild deer decreased GHG emissions. No, this cut of meat wasn’t wild, but certainly its carbon footprint is lower than beef.

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