Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Organic Cupcakes

I know of at least a couple of great cupcake shops in London, but I'm not sure if they use organic flour or Fair Trade ingredients. I've found these online - and the cupcakes look amazing.

The photo above is from the Bumblebee Bakery in Brighton.


These look pretty good too - lots of photos on their website.

Eco Business Opportunity #1

My Eco Self decides Tea for Joy is a good name for a tea-shop. I have a vision too; all second-hand china tea cups from car boot sales, and vintage tea chests from a salvage yard My Eco Self has yearned to visit. I can visualise pretty cupcakes too, all organic but tantalisingly twee, decorated with hundreds and thousands, and sold with a huge mark-up. My Eco Self is domestically challenged. I go to the best cook I know, Food Neurotic Friend.
“Do you want to go into business with me?” I ask.
“Is this because you have a girlfriend?”
“I don’t eat wheat” he replies.
“It’s not like being a vegetarian,” I tell him. “You can still cook with it.”
I go to a popular cupcake shop on the other side of town, convinced that FNF might share my vision when he sees cupcakes presented in their best light.
“Those fluorescent pink sparkles don’t look very organic or very healthy,” he says, when I bring home a selection.
“They’re integral to the design - and the marketing strategy. I’ll use organic flour, Fair Trade sugar, and source recycled paper cases.”
“I actually have a full-time job already,” says FNF, with pursed lips and the hint of a glare. His new girlfriend is lucky to have him, I think.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Beekeeping courses

Or, sign up for a course, here:


Burt's Bees

Recently I've been using Burt's Bees products, including this body butter, which smells lovely. Their products are pretty natural, but they're a pretty global company - if anyone knows a honey-based range made in the UK, let me know. I know of this one, below - their products look nice.

10 of the best honeys


10 honeys to try.

Bee Conservation Trust


This website gives some hints on how to make your garden friendly to bees.


“How often do you buy honey?” I ask Food Neurotic Friend. “Did you know that bumblebees could be extinct within ten years?”
Food Neurotic Friend opens his well-stocked fridge to proudly reveal a jar of sycamore-scented honey produced at a foodie friend’s farm.
“Then how about planting some honeysuckle and lavender in your garden to attract them?”
“My whole garden’s planted with vegetables – would you rather see bees when you come round or have a local, seasonally produced salad?”
“Well, maybe you need to start using honey-based moisturisers as well, to increase the business demand and encourage people to keep bees,” I tell him.
“Em, are you saying my middle-aged skin isn’t baby soft already?” says FNF.
“I’ve not been close enough to find out,” I say, from a safe distance across the room, “but I’m just saying you could switch the products in your daily maintenance routine.”
“I think fundamental change starts with the individual,” says FNF, switching conveniently to self-help mode. “I’ve been sent a press release about a bee-keeping holiday – do you want to go? I think you’d suit one of those bee-keeping helmets, it’d keep you quiet for a while.”
“Well, unfortunately I’ll have to turn down your kind offer this time,” I say, “I’m allergic to bees. But I’ll eat some of that sycamore honey while I’m here and recommend it to my friends – that can be my PR exercise for the day.”

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

And one more

And one more - also in New York.


And another tea shop

And this one too - it's in New York - I especially love the name.


A tea shop I love


This is a tea shop I really love.

Two for Joy

My Eco Self is looking at an art exhibition with a close overseas friend. There is a painting we both like, out of our price range, but entitled “Two for Joy” and picturing two songbirds painted in bright acrylics.
“One for sorrow,” say MES and friend in tuneful harmony, “Two for Joy.”
My Eco Self and friend both have upcoming birthdays.
“Let’s give each other presents this year,” I suggest, “with the theme “Two for Joy.” Overseas friend loves the concept. Once gone, My Eco Self remembers that the scope of my artistic skills is very narrow. “Two what?” I wonder, “Two sculptures made from recycled tin cans? Two unevenly knitted gloves from recycled wool from the charity shop?” I sit in silent contemplation, waiting for inspiration. None comes. Food Neurotic Friend e-mails to tell me he has somewhere special he wants to share. There’s a new tea shop nearby selling over 200 types of teas, from traditional Irish breakfast to Green Tea with Cherry, with the health benefits described in a hefty and well-informed paragraph per tea on a ring-bound menu, and which sells the tea leaves loose as well. Easily distracted, despite the urgency to find a financially viable and income generating Eco project, My Eco Self is talked into a mid-afternoon sojourn with Food Neurotic Friend. My Eco Self reads the menu avidly until I identify a tea which will ‘uplift.’ I buy a small quantity of tea leaves, wrap them up for overseas friend and label them ‘Tea for Joy.’

Friday, 9 May 2008

Leaving present

My Eco Self has a conversation with a colleague who tells her about how she asked for her leaving gift from a previous job to be donations to Oxfam. “I think it is ridiculous when people buy me extravagant things I don’t need.” Said colleague is married to an investment banker and lives in Hampstead. I consider asking for donations to a climate care charity, as a matter of principle after my suggestion that the company carbon offsets its flights with donations is rejected. Except that working part-time will not allow for many future extravagances, so perhaps I should graciously accept one last unnecessary item, easily auctioned on E-bay if not palatable. My Eco Self considers the likelihood that I will get a leaving present I like. It is low, I think, being of unequalled impeccable taste amidst other black-suited accountants, another reason why perhaps I should abstain from the present. I make some hints to a stylish human resources director, always dressed impeccably in Marc Jacobs with fine gold butterfly-shaped chains offsetting her perfect ivory skin. “I’ve just seen the new Cath Kidston catalogue - and everything in it is so beautiful.” “I especially like the clear umbrella on page nine,” I add. “When I leave I’ll miss your style.” “Aren’t you still working three days a week?” she replies. My Eco Self remembers that working part-time is not strictly an instant escape, despite the mental departure.

Capsule wardrobe - shoes

In addition, My Eco Self does not own an extensive collection of shoes. My Eco Self decides these are an essential item, rather than an extravagance, and should be excluded from the non-shopping stance. To confirm, My Eco Self quickly looks up the HM Revenue and Customs website to check the VAT ruling on shoes to see if they are zero rated and therefore government sanctioned as an essential item. Research concludes that shoes are not in fact zero rated, unless they are protective for industrial use. My Eco Self thinks this justifies a shopping spree as a new pair of sensible shoes would be protective too - from the curse of hereditary bunions. From across the street, a pair of shoes are already calling to me from the shop window of my favourite boutique, all white floorboards and old distressed mirrors. The shoes are gold sparkly lace-ups, made in leather and ideal, decides My Eco Self, for long walks with a hint of glamour. Which is what I tell Food Neurotic Friend when I show up at his front door to show off the new purchase. “What long walks have a hint of glamour?” he says, “Are you planning to walk from here to Claridges?” “Any walk can have a hint of glamour” I insist, it’s all about your attitude, with a hint of a sexually seductive swagger until I remember the audience. “I thought you weren’t buying any more new clothes?” says FNF. “Clothes and shoes are different” I reply. “I’m preserving the life of my other shoes by buying a few extra pairs, so I’m taking the long-term ecological view.”

Capsule wardrobe

My Eco Self decides that although I am not buying new clothes for an extended period, for ethical and financial reasons, I need to be ready and properly prepared. My Eco Self looks in my wardrobe. An old edition of In Style, filed for reference, details the requirements of a capsule wardrobe. My Eco Self does not own a little black dress, or a classic trench. Is this likely to cause a crisis in the immediate future, I wonder, considering whether a down-sized existence often brings with it a potential proliferation of invites to black-tie events? Or if an escape from the confines of a 12 hour day at a computer screen will make me more in touch with the weather and susceptible to rain showers? All things which need careful consideration.

Giving up work

My Eco Self is bored at my accountancy job. My Eco Self decides to set up a fashion label, Fair Trade, organic, and ethical, after watching a documentary highlighting the images of underage children incapacitated by pesticides and forced to work 13 hour days. Well-disciplined from one week of clothes-buying cold turkey, having abstained successfully from the Cath Kidston temptation, My Eco Self decides to give up buying clothes altogether until better informed on all the ethical issues. The reduced buying initiative coincides neatly with newly negotiated part-time hours, to allow time to set up the fashion label and work on other eco projects which will hopefully lead to a complete escape from the corporate existence. A simple life, earning less money, with less disposable wealth, will lead to more home-cooked meals, walking to save the bus fare, and a healthy glow from the outside air, which will make My Eco Self look young, vivacious and attractive to the opposite sex.

Eco travel

“Why don’t you write a weekly column on Eco travel?” I ask Food Neurotic Friend.
“Maybe,” he says, “when I get back from China.”
“Don’t you ever think about your carbon footprint? You’re always travelling all over the place.”
“I’m very selective about the trips I go on,” he says.
“You mean, it depends if there are single, attractive women going.”
“I’m faithful to my girlfriend.”
My Eco Self has not yet met the vegan food journalist, FNF's new girlfriend, despite making strong suggestive hints.
“She lives in North London,” says FNF every time the subject is broached.
“You might want to watch your carnal footprint too,” I add.