June 11th, 2015
T’is the season for refreshing cold drinks – a nice glass of iced tea, anyone?
If it’s not something you’ve ever fancied, or maybe have been put off by attempts in the past, then now’s the time to think again. Iced tea has been revolutionized (okay, well, made a lot easier to make at least…) by the arrival of the Cold Brew T bottle.
The cold brew T bottle was designed for Whittard by Hario, experts in brewing technology, and looks similar in appearance to a wine bottle. In fact the packaging suggests you could even use your cold tea brew as an alternative to wine at a dinner table…
The idea is that you use loose leaf tea to make your brew. Whittard stock a whole host of loose leaf teas***, including herbal infusions, green tea, fruity infusions and special blends designed for iced tea making.
We tried a mango and bergamot green tea, and a fruit infusion, both of which worked wonderfully well cold and were very refreshing.
Brewing the tea is easy, here’s a useful step-by-step guide:
Depending on the tea you use, it can look quite colourful in the bottle and, once thoroughly chilled, it does make a refreshing summer drink.
The one important thing to remember is that you need to think ahead. Unlike hot tea, which is best made and served fresh, iced tea is better after it’s had time to steep and brew. Don’t worry, this doesn’t make it end up stewed and undrinkable, far from it in fact.
The cold brew bottle is ideal to take to work, to drink for refreshment and hydration during the day. To ensure it’s ready when you need it, you might find it useful to make it the night before and refridgerate it overnight, or make it first thing in the morning and cool in a work fridge ready for the afternoon.
Overall, the cold brew T bottle is a fab concept and a great idea. It brews a gorgeous healthy drink and can be reused time and time again.
The secure top ensures its easily portable without worry about accidental spillages and it’s ideal for taking to work, on a picnic or for summer dining (although we’ll admit that we’re not quite ready to give up wine in the evening in favour of iced tea – one has to indulge a bit!). Give it a try and let us know what you think.
The cold brew T bottle retails for £20 at Whittard of Chelsea.
***Special limited time offer: Spend £10 on loose tea at Whittard and receive a complimentary caddy. Use the promo code “CADDY” when placing an order online (check out their terms and conditions)
(Disclaimer: We were supplied with a cold brew T bottle and teas to test for the purpose of this review, but all views and opinions are our own).
June 10th, 2015
Make the most of your outside space this summer, with the help of these fab offers from Waitrose Garden:
1. Relax and unwind in a tutti fruiti canvas hammock – now £39.99 (was £49.99)
2. Add warmth to your garden on a chilly evening, with a contemporary corten steel chiminea – now £119.99 (was £169.99)
3. Install a contemporary aluminium and wood Monaco arbour – now £199.99 (was £299)
4. Cook up a storm, with a large party fire pit, to use with charcoal or wood – now £179.99 (was £219)
5. Add shade to your garden Australian-style, with a Coolaroo triangle shade sail – now £47.99 (was £59.99)
June 9th, 2015
If you fancy the idea of having a dressing table in your bedroom, but are limited on space, how about opting for this product?
The Marilyn dressing table has been cleverly designed to provide all the function and storage of a dressing table, but in a very compact and space-saving fashion.
There’s one large drawer, two smaller ones, and two shelf areas, plus the mirror offers a 180 degree view. We love the white gloss lacquered finish (although it’s also available in a stone colour) as it helps add to its minimal feel.
The Marilyn dressing table is available from Dwell.
June 7th, 2015
For the fresh scent of a Mediterranean garden, there’s nothing quite like the fragrance of rosemary. It really must be one of the most versatile plants – it’s pretty, perfumed, bee-friendly …..and you can even eat it! Here are our five top ways of using it in your home.
1. For decoration
Rosemary lasts well when brought indoors.
Rosemary may not be everyone’s first thought as a cut flower, but it works very well. If you keep it in a cool place, it looks good for anything up to a couple of weeks and and after the flowers are gone its strong dark foliage is a great counterpoint to wild flowers. Fill a mug, small jug or bowl with sprigs and bring the summer inside.
2. For cooking
Add chopped rosemary and lavender to scones for a fresh, summery taste.
We all know and love rosemary for cooking with, and although it’s more usually found in savoury dishes it also works well for baking and puddings.
If you’re using your own fresh rosemary for baking, make it’s organic and hasn’t been treated with pesticides. You can use the flowers and leaves fresh, or dry the leaves and store them for the future. The taste can be quite strong, though, so experiment until you know how much of a rosemary taste you prefer.
We particularly like it in baking, mixed with a few crushed lavender seeds – leave the dried fruit out of your favourite scone recipe and add a couple of teaspoons of fresh lavender seeds, lavender flowers and rosemary flowers, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar.
The flowers and leaves are also pretty added to apple jelly before it sets.
3. As a gift
Keep a special pot of rosemary for cooking with, so you can be sure it’s pesticide-free.
Make your own flavoured oil to give away – it’s very simple, and adds a fresh flavour to salad dressings.
Simply find a pretty glass bottle with a well-fitting, food safe stopper. Give the bottle and stopper a thorough wash with hot soapy water, and soak off any old labels.
Dry a sprig or two of rosemary by hanging it up in a warm place for three or four days.
Put the sprig in the bottle, and add a few chopped leaves and some crushed garlic, if you like. Fill the bottle up with good quality salad oil such as groundnut or olive. Leave to infuse for a few days, then tie a ribbon round the bottle and label it.
4. In the kitchen
For keen cooks, make your own Mediterranean butter pads to add instant flavour to anything from fish to crusty bread.
Soften some butter, and mash it up on a saucer. Add some crushed garlic, a twist of sea salt and some finely chopped rosemary, and mix it all together evenly.
You can also add other chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, tarragon and chives, if you like.
Spoon the butter into the compartments of an ice cube tray, and freeze it. To use, drop a still-frozen cube onto sea bass a few minutes before the end of cooking, stir into sauces or defrost and use to make garlic bread.
Note: you’ll probably want to keep a dedicated ice cube tray for this as the garlic can taint the tray and make ice cubes for drinks taste a bit odd!
5. In the bath
Use rosemary essential oil to add the scent of summer to bath water
Rosemary has to be one of the most freshest, cleanest scents there is, and when the scent is from rosemary you’ve grown, picked and dried yourself then the satisfaction at least doubles!
Pick rosemary flowers, and spread them out on a tray in a single layer until dry. When dry, roll them lightly between your hands to crush them. Fill a pretty glass jar with a layer of coarse sea salt, then a pinch of rosemary flowers.
Add a couple of drops of rosemary essential oil. Repeat the layers until the jar is full, then seal and tie with a ribbon.
June 5th, 2015
Herbs are one cooking ingredient that definitely taste better fresh, and if you don’t want to spend your cooking time going out in the rain and picking slugs off the tarragon, it’s best to grow them inside. That way, they’re ready to hand whenever you need them and you know they’re clean and pesticide-free.
Ready to get started? Here’s how….
The hardiest herbs for growing indoors all year round are oregano, chives, mint, rosemary, and thyme.
If you don’t have any in the garden, start with small plants from a garden centre, and pot them up in containers with potting compost. In summer, you can add basil, coriander, dill and parsley as well, but these don’t winter well and will probably have to be discarded at the end of the season and replaced the following year.
The life of supermarket basil plants can be extended if you split them and re-pot the individual plants. Alternatively, if you have a glut of summer basil, dry the leaves for winter use or make homemade pesto.
If you’re leaving your herbs in place all year round, make sure the leaves aren’t touching a window as they may be affected by frost.
For chives, separate a small clump from a garden plant once they’ve stopped growing at the end of the season, and pot it up. Leave the pot outside until the leaves have completely died back, although watch out for frosts. Take the pot indoors and put it in a cool dark spot such as a garage for a week, then move it to a sunny windowsill to stimulate new growth.
Keep compost moist, and make sure the plants aren’t getting too hot.
For sage, the best way to start is with a tip cutting from an outdoor plant.
Start by cutting off a young shoot a few centimetres below the leaf crown (the bushy tip). Remove the lower leaves, retaining the top three pairs, then plant the cutting in potting compost. Take care to keep the compost moist until the plant has grown sturdy roots.
You can also start a tip cutting by putting the shoot into water then potting it. Sage likes to grow indoors, but will need a sunny windowsill.
With bushy herbs such as rosemary, pinch back new shoots to stop the plants going leggy. Picking sprigs off for cooking will also help, although never reduce the plant by more than about a third.
Remove flower buds from plants, to keep the leaves growing.
Use pots with good drainage, and if you’re putting them on a windowsill don’t forget to put a saucer underneath.
If taking cuttings or separating smaller plants from large clumps, pot up several to give the best chance of success.
If your plants are in the kitchen, you want them to look stylish. We love:
1. Raspberry herb pots, Burgon & Ball
Pretty pink herb pots designed by Sophie Conran
These pretty raspberry coloured herb pots will add a pop of colour to your windowsill and will ensure your fresh herbs are close to hand. Designed by Sophie Conran for Burgon & Ball, the set contains three pots and a tray. £14.95, available from Annabel James.
2. Word herb pots, Tesco
White ceramic herb pots by Tesco
Clean, simple and easy to fit into any colour scheme is this set of three ceramic herb pots, £12 from Tesco Direct. They’re even dishwasher safe, so you can sanitise them between plants.
3. Zinc pots, Anjo
Contemporary zinc herb pots from Anjo
A contemporary set of zinc plant pots will add a stylish touch to your windowsill. Can be used outside, too. £14.95 for a set of three from Anjo.
(Top image credit: Shutterstock/merc67)
June 3rd, 2015
If you’re newly inspired by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, you might be thinking about revamping your own outdoor space ready for the summer.
Many of us find our horticultural ambitions a bit limited by lack of space, but when you remember that the show gardens at Chelsea range from only three metres squared to 10 metres squared you’ll realise what can be achieved.
Planning a small garden takes a lot more thought, as every square foot has to work hard, but can be a lot more satisfying than working with a larger area. Here are our top tips:
1. Plan your time
Colourful garden furniture can provide a focal point in a small garden.
How do you want to use your outdoor space throughout the year? If you like to eat outside, you’ll need a level area for table and chairs. Do you need to leave room for a children’s play area?
Watch your garden at different times of day to note how the light falls – if your eating alfresco is mostly going to be done after work, you’ll need to put your table when it gets the evening sun.
2. Fixed features
Bright flowers and green leaves show off an old wall.
When re-planning a garden, most of us aren’t starting with a completely blank canvas.
Do you need to keep an existing shed, greenhouse, summer house, wall or patio? If so, it is a feature you want to screen or make the most of? Tall and climbing plants make efficient screens, and planting brightly-coloured flowers in front of a wall will create a nice contrast.
If you need to walk through your garden to get to your house, there are a couple of practical things to think about. P
utting in a proper path – one that’s paved or gravelled – will help protect both your shoes and your floors. Border the path with plants that don’t grow too fast, so that you don’t have to spend too much time cutting them back – if it’s a sunny spot, lavender or cottage garden flowers like wallflowers work well.
Avoid roses, or anything with thorns that may snag clothing.
4. Keep it simple
Not having much space doesn’t mean you have to cram every available inch with plants. A low-maintenance option is to completely pave the area, then add lots of pots and some pretty furniture.
Adding mirrors on walls can help to give the illusion of more space, and use feature lighting to add interest.
5. Make the most of it
Create unexpected corners with furniture.
Give both ends of your garden a different feel to give the illusion of more space.
Add a trellis, archway or lavender hedge halfway down to act as a visual divider, and create a private nook with a garden bench and a screen of dense greenery such as privet to shield it from the house.
6. Mix textures
Mix colours and textures for plenty of interest.
Add interest to a smaller space with clever use of textures – a stone or brick patio; wooden decking; stoneware, ceramic or lead-effect pots and gravel pathways will create a visually attractive mix.
When planting, mix flowering plants with textural choices such as bamboo and ornamental grasses.
Don’t be afraid to plant trees, either – most garden centres have smaller or dwarf varieties, suitable for small spaces.
By Sara Walker