Tuesday, 30 June 2009

why we should all Love London...

Those of you who catch up with my antics via twitter may have noticed a little and excited tweet about a small design competition the studio won last week.

And, as promised, here is what it was all about...

Love London. Even thought it sounds like a bad t-shirt logo for tourists, Love London is actually reputed to be the largest singular green festival in the world - this year running from 8th - 28th June 2009 - filled to the brim with various walks, talks, workshops and events across the capital.

One of these events was the Eco Design Fair, held at a couple of venues over a couple of weekends, and it was at one of these venues that we trolled up to on Friday, to deliver our winning competition entry.
Run with the recycling company Regenersis, the competition asked for designers to rethink how a mobile phone could be reused, and to create an item suitable for the domestic market using a box of old handsets.

After much thought and dismantling, re-assembling and arranging, I stacked the handsets together on my desk, and noticed how appealing the singular blocks of form and colour were - different shades, shapes, sizes.

I then visited my favourite charity shop, Emmaus Brighton and Hove, and noticed an old oak chair with no seat and a few battle scars sitting outside the main warehouse. A conversation and a couple of quid later, and the chair was back at the studio.

So - how to combine the two, and minimise the eco impact of the construction as well? Glue was out, threaded bar was in, and within a few hours, the two disparate elements were combined into 'The conversation chair'.

And it was with this chair that we trained, tubed and walked across what seemed to be the width of the capital to the Truman Brewery for the Eco Design Fair Recycling Party (and if I had a pound for every odd comment or bizarre look we had, I would be very rich indeed).

Chair deposited, we walked around the fair where the wonderful exhibitors included De-Lata (bags made from can ring pulls), Green Giving (eco fabric wrapping) and Sublime (international ethical lifestyle magazine) and quenched our thirst with tasty organic cider and beer from a fabulous converted routemaster bus in one of the myriad of squares in the whacking great 11 acre site the Truman Brewery sprawls over.
The party was great, the company wonderful, the fashion show fabulous and the exhibitors inspiring - a grand way to spend a muggy central city evening.

Monday, 29 June 2009

champagne supernova update...

yeast added - fizz begun - now all six buckets are singin' to a bubbly tune.

taste - not bad at all.

colour - decidedly dubious - hopefully will get better with a straining before bottling in a couple of days.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

champagne supernova...

Despite any rumours you may have heard, I do not really drink a great deal at all.

I usually attend a beer festival or two during the year and partake of a few pints of proper ale, cider or perry, have mulled wine at Yule, a few Pimms or similar in the Summer and a smattering of other bevvies through the seasons. But not really that much at all.

When I do drink, however, I like to make sure that whatever I am drinking will be worth the pain the next day. So, no aussie beer, air freighted wines and chemical filled bottles.

Real ale, cider, perry, local and natural if at all possible please.

Home made? Maybe even better, so when I saw the hedgerows filling with the pungent white froth of elderflowers my mind began to wander into the realms of home brewing.

Even though we have never made wine before, I regularly make cordials (of varying flavours and therefore successes), jam and pickles, so wine should not really be that much harder. Indeed, the recipe for elderflower champagne I found seemed ridiculously easy, and as it would be rude to not reap a bit of the early summer harvest, the Summer Solstice found us trooping through the countryside with a large basket and a couple of pairs of secateurs.

An hour and some nettle stings later, we had filled the afore mentioned basket around three times with elderflower heads bursting with scent and flavour.

As I never tend to do things by halves, we had collected enough elderflowers to make around 75 litres of champagne, and were then faced with the dilemma of what to make the bloody stuff in. An old dustbin was suggested, but due to the thought of actually having to get into it to clean it out properly, we eventually plumped instead for six new buckets (a bargain at only £1 each and will be re-used in all sorts of guises).

Sugar, lemon juice and rind, hot and cold water and some white wine vinegar were all added to the buckets, being ceremoniously topped with a white cloud of elderflower heads before the whole lot was stirred gently. A hat of clean tea towels ensured that the mixtures were not befriended by any beasties, and the whole lot was left to ferment in the kitchen.

24 hours later, and we returned to the shiny row of buckets to check on the fermentation. There was none, so tonight we are heading back to add a bit of yeast to the mixture instead (elderflowers do naturally ferment, but as a few of the flowers we added were a little open, we may have to give it a helping hand).

Will the mixture ferment? Will our champagne get its fizz? Will we actually get 60 bottles of booze for the grand total of £16 (for the fairtrade sugar and lemons)?

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

consumerism conundrum...

I received a link to this article this morning, and it made me think about the difficulties being an eco trader.

As countless people tell us, the way to be truly green is to to consume nothing. But if we consume nothing, people and companies who are trying to give us greater choice by introducing 'green' items onto the market end up coming off very badly - they tend to be smaller companies, very affected by market fluctuations.

With no-one buying they cannot survive. It all harps back to the 'use it or lose it' mantra - how can we moan there is no choice on a shelf when we do not support those who are trying to give us that choice?

Of course the upside is that there are wonderful web-based eco companies who can supply all and sundry to your door, but even as I sit here writing this web based blog, I am aware that not everyone is Internet savvy.

So - use it, don't lose it, but don't use too much, because that is also bad.

Hmmm. It really is not that easy being green.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

truffles three ways...

Life has been varied and hectic. Mostly in a good way, and we realised yesterday that we have only eaten in our house for one day this week, and I have actually turned into a real life truffle hunter.

So, what's been occurring?

Well, Monday saw another visit to the wonderful Jamie's Italian in Brighton, to celebrate a surprise visit from my brother and a couple of birthdays. As I was sent into complete realms of bliss by my dinner last time we visited, I plumped for the black truffle tagliatelle again. If I am brutally honest, it was not as good as the first plate I encountered, which I think was down to the fact that I was given a large portion this time, instead of the small I was expecting, and my taste buds went into overdrive. Otherwise, wonderful. Truffle number one done.

And, as promised, here are a couple of sneaky pics I took of the interior.
I particularly liked the understatement of the toilets, which had lovely swan neck arching taps instead of those rubbishy little pokey ones you usually find. Very expensive, but lovely.

The route down the stairs was also eventful, as you are confronted by a projection of a live video feed from the kitchen onto the wall in front of you. A bit gimmicky, but interesting, and I could have looked at it for hours.
So, Jamie's Italian and Monday done.

Tuesday saw me out once more for a J.O. themed evening. We went to the grand opening of the new Recipease shop, along the quieter end of Western Road in Brighton. For those of you who do not know the concept, have a look here, but to sum it up - you can go and buy a meal, you can go and make a meal to take home, or you can be taught how to make something at the mini cookery school. Excellent concept, and I hope it does encourage people to learn new skills. We are due to go to the pasta making school soon, so I'll keep you posted.

Mr Oliver was there for the opening, and seemed an extremely pleasant sort of bloke. I did not get a chance to speak to him directly, as he was the proverbial honey pot surrounded by the bees. The good people of Brighton made a wonderful job of keeping him occupied for the duration of his stay with chats, photos and autographs, so we wandered around, drank nice red wine, and ate some wonderful Italian styled tapasy bits.

Wednesday? Gardeners' World Live of course. Smaller than last year, the show has really visibly shrunk, with the Good Food element massively dominating the interior Halls. Equally, the Floral Marquee seemed much thinner on the ground, with the nurseries enjoying very comfortable 'personal space' between one another, and two large central areas being occupied by an Orchid Stage and a Rose stage. This did not detract however from the wonderful displays.

The show gardens - again, a very mixed bag. Some had interesting bits and bobs, not many tickled the wow buds too much and construction, once again, seemed to be the stumbling block for many. Generally, a good display but nothing too extraordinary, although the Highways Agency garden by Marney Hall was bang on.

Met up again with the wonderful James Alexander-Sinclair, and eternally elegant Nina Acton of the Three Counties Showground, and (with many others) enjoyed a lovely day. Dinner was not so lovely, as the service station called, lest we run out of petrol on the way home.

Thursday, thank heavens, was a regular day. Truffle number two arrived, in the guise of my own pasta concoction, which was nowhere near the J.O. offering. The fact that my truffle oil is so precious to me that I tend never to use it, therefore it is probably at least a year or two old probably had a lot to do with it.

Friday saw the third and final of the truffles in this week long hunt. Out for dinner once more to celebrate another birthday, we went to the Ginger Fox - a beautiful country pub restaurant at the foot of the South Downs.

One of the 'Ginger' chain in Brighton, the group are famed for their high quality, organic and locally sourced produce, served with surprise and high elegance. Right up my street, and to say I was looking forward to the visit was the understatement of the day.

My dinner was beautiful - Wild Boar Terrine, followed by Summer Truffle Arancini, topped off with a trio of chocolate and blueberries (blueberry jelly / white chocolate and blueberry mousse / hot chocolate fondant with blueberry ice cream) All washed down with a pint of country perry and some very lovely red wine. Truffle number three - completed.

So - a good week., filled with friends, family, celebrations and very good food, and I was only rained on once. Can't be bad eh?

Monday, 1 June 2009

the guilt of loving paper...

I received a letter last week, and even though I felt guilty for doing so, I read the contents and felt a little sad.

I have been formally informed that The Ecologist is to go paperless after July 2009.

Please do not get me wrong - I understand all of the implications of creating a magazine, printing it, distributing it etc etc. I do not know the kg rating of carbon emissions for each edition, but I'm sure they are significant, despite their best intentions to limit it as far as possible.

So you can understand why I felt an incredible rush of guilt after I was upset that my monthly issue would no longer be plopping through my door after next month.

The letter that accompanied my June edition explained the change, and how I could continue to enjoy The Ecologist.

But I'm afraid I won't read it as much as I do now when it goes screenside.

I'm genuinely excited when my monthly magazine changeover arrives. And I do read them all, and all of the way through. Even the little snippet bits and the long and involved bits. I read in bed, in the garden, whilst eating lunch, when away on business, on trains etc etc. The very times that I am trying to get away from my screen, not attaching myself to it a little bit more. And at the end of the month, the interesting bits are kept and filed (yes I really am that anal) and the remainder either gets composted or lines the bottom of the chicken hutch.

Plus there is the satisfaction of reading it exactly when and where you like. Can I look at my laptop in the bath? Not advisable.

So - I have paper guilt. I am guilty as charged of wanting to consume paper - even if it's recycled and printed with vegetable inks. Is this wrong?

My other worry is that there are fellow subscribers that also feel the same. I will continue to subscribe, but I'm sure that many will not. Will The Ecologist feel the pinch of those who are also paper lovers?

Hopefully not, as it is the message that counts, not the form in which it appears, but I will sigh a little when I open up my laptop to read the first e-edition instead of snuggling down in bed. I'd rather have the cat on my lap than have a laptop...