This post was written by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate
This Valentine’s Day, you can show your love for the people in your life and your planet with eco-friendly gifts and experiences. Herban Lifestyle offers a range of bath and body products that are made with natural, organic, and fair trade ingredients, which you already know from reading this blog. But what about some other Valentine’s Day treats and traditions? Here are some ideas for gifts that are kind to you, your loved ones, and the planet:
• For cards, go paperless with e-cards or get crafty and re-make some cards out of old cards or magazines. Another fun option is to send a grow-a-note card that has seeds embedded in the paper so you can send a card and flowers all in one! Greenfield Paper Company offers a huge selection, as do several Etsy sellers, including girl*in*gear studio, who has some gorgeous plantable Valentine cards. Petco also carries them as does Capitol Hemp, and My Organic Market.
• Flowers travel long distances to get to us, often from South America requiring a lot of fuel. Together with the pesticides needed to grow them, cut flowers can have a very large carbon footprint. This Valentine’s Day opt for a potted plant or an organic, local bouquet of flowers. Check out the very sustainable Green Space for bouquets and plants.
• Show your love for the world and your gift recipients by going with organic and fair trade chocolate this Valentine’s Day. There are many brands with exquisite products, like Divine Chocolate. Mmmm, it’s orgasmic! Remember to look for organic and local wines while you are at it!
• Save water, bathe together! And bring some of our earth-friendly bath products to add some sassy fun to the experience.
• For date ideas, check out the Eat Well Guide to find local and sustainable restaurants in your area or head to the local museums and parks via the Metro system.
• Plan a staycation in the DC area, its all the fun of a vacation only locally and definitely screams green both for the environment and your wallet! Plus, there are many wonderful Smithsonian museums with free admission, all of which are Metro accessible.
• If you do decide to travel, check into a green hotel that seeks to reduce their water use and have a low impact on the environment. You can search for green hotels using the “Green” Hotels Association webpage.
• Give cco lingerie: feel sassy and sexy in organic cotton, organic hemp, organic silk, recycled fibers, or Lenpur, a material made from white pine tree clippings. It’s the gift that satisfies you and your partner and is available for men and women. Check out Treehugger’s guide to sustainable lingerie here.
• Sleep on organic cotton or bamboo sheets. You’ll sleep soundly knowing that your soft as silk sheets have a lower impact on the Planet.
• If this turns out to be one of the most important Valentine’s Day ever, spare yourself from conflict by purchasing responsibly sourced diamonds and fair trade metals. Or go vintage: A family heirloom or beautiful antique ring makes a very romantic statement.
And, of course, check out the Herban Lifestyle website for our fun Valentine gift sets that will really get you in the mood!
One of our favorite Christmas time rituals is the making of the cookies. And one of our favorite recipes is for stelline d’oro (little golden star cookies) which comes as a bonus in Tomie dePaolo’s children’s book, Clown of God. If you have young children, I highly recommend you buy the book (or any by dePaola).
I wanted to share the stelline d’oro cookie recipe with you, but because it is copyrighted, I can’t include it here. So instead, I offer you my adaptation. The orange blossom water (available in gourmet shops, or Italian or Indian groceries) gives the flowers a unique delicately floral flavor. The original recipe contains saffron, which adds a warm earthy flavor. I recommend you check it out. Anyway, here is my recipe:
The cookie dough:
2 cups unbleached organic flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup organic butter*
1 cup fair trade evaporated sugar
1 cage-free organic egg
2 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon warm water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 cup fair trade confectioners’ sugar
Natural vegetable coloring (optional)
Colored sugar (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the orange juice to the butter/sugar and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, mixing well. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Divide the dough into 4 sections. Roll out each section until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (sometimes we use different sized stars to make it look like the night sky). Place cookies on a baking sheet that is either lightly greased, or covered in parchment paper (my preference). Bake at 375-degrees for about 6 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges.
Cool on a cookie rack. Once cooled, glaze the cookies, using the following recipe:
Mix the glaze ingredients together until all lumps are gone. You can tint the glaze with food coloring (I use India Tree natural vegetable colors).
Glaze the cookies and, if you want, sprinkle with coarse colored sugar (I use Joby and Marty’s Amazing Colored Sugar, which I buy at Whole Foods).
*Make sure you use real butter, as butter substitutes will keep the cookies from holding their shape
This weekend, my husband surprised me with high tea at Cherry Hill Farmhouse, a historic property managed by Falls Church parks and rec. Cherry Hill hosts reenactments, concerts, readings, lectures, and teas, and this past Sunday, the tea included a presentation by a costumed interpreter who told us about Christmas celebrations in Northern Virginia the late 1800s. We sat in the parlor of the farmhouse, and learned about the decorations used on a typical Christmas tree. There were small candles clipped to the branches, handmade paper ornaments and a garland made of popcorn and cranberries was wound around the tree.
This reminded me of how much I enjoyed making popcorn garlands when I was a child. So I decided to make one for the little live Christmas tree we bought this year. Making the garlands is pretty simple, but in case you haven’t tried it before, here’s how you do it.
You will need the following materials:
Cut the embroidery floss into 5-foot lengths. This makes it easy to manage. You can connect them later for longer garlands. Thread the needle with the embroidery floss (I used 3 strands), then thread one cranberry down to the end and knot the thread around it to make an anchor.
Thread the popcorn and cranberries in a pattern until thread is full (I did 1 cranberry, 3 popcorns, 1 cranberry, 2 popcorns, etc., but you can do whatever pleases you), avoiding any squishy cranberries.
Leave enough of an end to tie another cranberry-knot when you’re done. If you would like a garland longer than 5 feet, leave a length of thread beyond the cranberry knot, which you can tie to the next garland.
This garland looks lovely and when you are ready to toss out/plant/put away your Christmas tree, the garland can go outside where the birds and squirrels will make good use of it!
My friend, Meg, and I have held a holiday cookie exchange for a small group of our friends. It’s a fun, low-key way to get into the holiday spirit. And it has become an eagerly anticipated tradition amongst our regular attendees.
It is not an elaborate event, just a simple gathering, with good food, great company, and a wonderful assortment of cookies, which we in turn give to our friends and family as gifts.
If you are interested in throwing a cookie exchange, here’s how we go about it. We send out an invitation asking guests to bring two dozen homemade cookies to trade with other guests. We promise our guests that they will walk away with an amazing array of home baked treats that will make them look like a domestic rock star, as if they have spent hours in the kitchen
We hold it in the early evening on a weeknight in order to minimize its competition people’s holiday social commitments. It is scheduled so that it is not too close to Christmas, but not too far away, so that the cookies will still be fresh for the holidays (however, if you need to, you can freeze most cookies). Sparkling cider, sparkling water and wine are offered along with hearty appetizers, and a backdrop of Christmas music sets the stage for a holiday state of mind.
While the piece de resistance is the gathering of the cookies, the party is also a great way to just relax in the company of good friends. And it’s a lot of fun to see what types of cookies people will bring. I never ask ahead of time, and interestingly, there have never been duplicates. The cookies have ranged from classic (gingerbread), to fun (candy cane), to unusual (organic lavender sugar*). Guests are asked to bring containers to transport their cookie conquests, but if they forget, I always have extras.
I’ve been to cookie exchange parties where the hostess asks guests to bring a copy of their recipe to share, but we skip that part. We feel that it is enough to ask people to make cookies and make time for yet another event during the busy holiday season. If anyone really wants a particular recipe, they can always ask the cookie cook to email it to them. However, we’ve found that our group is quite happy to just bake one type of cookie! I have also see websites that offer elaborate rules around cookie exchanges, but we tend to be fairly lax. All we ask is that our guests bring cookies they’ve made, and if they absolutely don’t have time, they can bring store bought. Again, this is about enjoying time with friends, and the last thing we want to do is add more pressure to our friend’s lives!
If you decide to host a cookie exchange, please let me know how it goes. And if you’ve come up with a creative or fun addition to the tradition, I’d love to hear about it!
*I buy Fair Trade cane sugar (which ensures that sugar cane farmers receive a fair price for their harvest), both for my home baking as well as for my sugar scrubs. My favorite brand is Wholesome Sweeteners, which is available at Whole Foods. I also learned recently that many brands of sugar are not vegetarian! They use bone char (usually from cows) to whiten their product (ew!). For more information on this topic, you can visit the Whole Foods blog.
Once again, it is time for Squidfire’s Winter Art Mart in downtown Baltimore! This year’s Art Mart will be held on December 11 at the First Unitarian Church in Mt Vernon. As always, the art mart will feature some of the best diy/indie crafters from all over the East Coast. Whether you’re looking for handmade soap, freshly baked dog treats, unique paper goods, or even locally roasted coffee beans, they will have it there. So, come on out and support local artists and get unique, handmade crafts for everyone on your holiday shopping list! I hope you can join us on December 11, from 11am-6pm, at the First Unitarian Church, 501 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21201.
Two years ago, I was a vendor at my first craft show. It was held by the DC Craft Mafia. My company has come a long way since then, and I have learned a lot about how to display my products and how to best utilize my time and space at a craft show. So I am thrilled to be part of this year’s Holiday Heist, a juried arts and crafts show produced by the new guard of the DC Craft Mafia, an amazing group of crafters who really know how to put on a show. The Holiday Heist will be held on November 21 in Vienna, VA at the Soundry, a converted auto hobby shop. The Soundry has an art gallery, coffee shop and studio space for artists and musicians.
This year’s Heist features 27 selected local crafters. You can see a list of the vendors and a brief description of their offerings on the DC Craft Mafia’s website. Even if you aren’t one of the vendors, you can still get crafty – there will also be a “make-and-take” table run by ScrapDC, and gingerbread cookies to decorate!
The Holiday Heist details:
Sunday, November 21, 2010
10:00am to 5:00pm
316 Dominion Road NE
I hope you can join us!
Sunday, May 9th is Mother’s Day, a holiday when people in several countries (United States, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey and Belgium to name a few) make it a point to call, visit or send cards and gifts to our mothers. We take the time to show our gratitude for all they have done for us. And in light of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, I started thinking about the image of our Earth as Mother. The Earth supports and feeds us, so it seems fitting that we show the same respect and gratitude to our Mother Earth as we do to our human mothers.
And I was very happy a couple of years ago when I came across an environmentally conscious company that delivers earth-friendly flowers. At last, a way to honor both mothers at the same time.
According to the National Retail Federation, in 2009 consumers spent about $14.10 billion on Mother’s Day, about $1.9 billion of which went toward flowers. Unfortunately, commercial flowers of the type sent to so many mothers are typically grown using toxic chemicals that can negatively affect farm workers who handle the flowers. These chemicals are also bad for local wildlife and the environment. This is no way to show for love your mothers.
Organic Bouquet was the first company to offer eco-friendly floral products delivered right to your home. Organic Bouquet offers flowers and plants purchased from growers who are committed to using sustainable farming practices (Organic, Veriflora, Biodynamic, Fair Trade and Transitional) “that aim to improve the quality of farm working conditions, minimize damage to ecosystems, conserve biodiversity, and enhance environmental quality for future generations.” If you order by 3:00pm EST today, Organic Bouquet will waive their $10 Saturday surcharge.
If you live in the DC area, local florist Green Space in Georgetown offers organic flowers and plants in eco-friendly containers. All of their products are organic, recycled, biodegradable, fair trade and/or locally sourced from small farms and artisans.
The past week’s snow storms have given me and my husband an opportunity to catch up on some films I have wanted to see for a long time. For years, we had both heard of the genius of Akira Kurosawa (as the Bare Naked Ladies say, “Like Kurosawa, I make mad films. Okay, I don’t make films, but if I did they’d have a samurai”) and we finally had a chance to see for ourselves. Over the past 10 days, we have watched Seven Samurai, Sanjuro, Yojimbo and Rashomon — all brilliantly written and acted, and beautifully filmed. His works definitely live up to the praise that I have heard all my life. My husband and I are now official Kurosawa fans.
One theme that I noticed flows through all four movies, is the eating of white rice. It was considered of great value to the characters, who lived in 11th to 16th century Japan. In Seven Samurai, people are presented with onigiri, or rice balls. And this got me thinking about a project I had wanted to undertake for some time. Given that it was Valentine’s Day, I was inspired to try making heart-shaped onigiri!
A couple of months ago, I noticed a small Japanese market on U Street. Even though Hana Japanese Market has apparently been there for over a year, I had driven past it many times before I discovered it. I was thrilled. As far as I know, there are no other Japanese markets in DC. There are plenty of Asian markets in the DC area, but they don’t carry some specialty items that I used to easily find in stores in Daido Market in White Plains, NY and Fuji Mart in Greenwich, CT.
While shopping at Hana Market, I picked up some supplies to make onigiri, with the idea that I would try my hand at making these simple, delicious rice balls. This included short-grain brown sushi rice, large flat sheets of nori (dried seaweed), furikake (in this case, a dried mixture of sesame seeds, shredded nori and salmon), as well as a set of onigiri molds.
I started by cooking the rice according to the package directions. It came out perfectly, with enough stickiness that the rice would hold together, without being too gummy.
I then pressed enough rice into a wetted heart-shaped mold to fill it half-way deep (it’s important to wet the mold each time to keep the rice from sticking to it). This is actually a mold that I bought at Daido the last time I was in White Plains, but had never used — Valentine’s Day seemed like a good occasion to break it in.
Then added more rice to fill up to the top of the mold.
Then I placed the top of the mold over the rice, and pressed down to compact it.
I then took off the top of the mold, flipped it over, and pressed on the bottom to release the onigiri.
I then decorated it with a band of nori for visual interest!
It was so easy, and so fun, I tried some different variations. This one has a small amount of cooked salmon.
And I also mixed some furikake into the remaining rice to make it look more festive. This also adds some interesting flavor and texture to the plain rice.
Here is the final variety of onigiri! It was super easy, and fun, to make these cute and healthy Valentine’s Day treats.