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  1. It's been a few years since I wrote the blog below, and since then loose leaf tea has come back into vogue! Not least due to the fact that we now know that most teabags contain plastic. Bit of a surprise to most, especially those of us who have been happily composting away and spreading plastic infused compost onto our gardens! One way to avoid this is to get a teapot and use loose-leaf tea. For a tea pot, you need a tea cosy - expecially as the tea takes a few extra minutes to brew. Hence, in our house since the advent of loose leaf tea, the trusty tea cosy has come back into play.

    In line with my quest for delicious loose leaf tea, I came across a small online tea company called Brighteas, who do a fantastic range of flavoured tea; from breakfast tea (in their Classics collection) to the House of Wessex (anyone watch 'The Vikings?!) Great Blend 'Rich and malty with sweet honey and roasted notes'. They also do a special brew for birthdays!

    Brighteas have very kindly donated a packet of their Brighteas' Breakfast Blend to our prize giveaway, to which we have added one of our lovey padded tea cosies (see bottom of post). Please do have a read of the blog, and comment either at the bottom or on FB to let us know whether you 'cosy, or not cosy'. A name will be drawn at random on the morning of Friday 15th June.

    “To cosy or not to cosy, that is the question?’

    I posed this question to my Facebook friends recently, thus provoking conflicting opinions on the matter;

    ‘I own one but don’t use it’

    ‘Absolutely’ (read, what kind of social degenerate is it who doesn’t?)

    ‘Afraid not. Think it is probably a generational thing and stops at our parents generation....’ (read, what kind of social degenerate is it who does?)

    ‘Yep! We all do in my fam’

    ‘No, but I would like to’

    There do still seem to be plenty of people who like their tea brewed in the traditional way. I own both tea pot and tea cosy which I don't use everyday but do unveil for special occasions; Saturday mornings (always a relief to reach this milestone in our house) or when friends are visiting for a cuppa and a catch up.

    My friend Lucy bought me the 2 beautiful Wedgewood Cups & Saucers pictured below. Only pot brewed and cosied tea makes it into these bad boys, whipped out in times of deep and meaningful conversation.

    photo (2)

    So how did the tea cosy come to be so popular in Britain? The tea cosy was first introduced in the 19th Century, when the Duchess of Bedford popularised the concept of Afternoon Tea as an activity to entertain affluent (presumably rather bored) women. The host was responsible for pouring the tea but what with all the time spent networking and gossiping, the tea would often go cold (I’ve been there. But without the help of house staff).

    Enter…the tea cosy! A functional hat to keep you tea warm for up to 3 hours.

    Fast forward to the 20th Century and going for Afternoon Tea with the girls is still very much in fashion, as is the gossiping. We also have the likes of the Macmillan Coffee Morning on 26th Sept (ok coffee but there will still be lots to tea served!).

    Incidently, I’ve been to The Ritz for Afternoon Tea with a group of girlfriends. Myself and my friend Emma were rather shocked to be refused entry, due to our non regulation outfits. Luckily my friend had her wheelie case with her so we had to do a quick change in the toilets (not so very ladylike). I had shuffle along to afternoon tea with shoes on that were 3 sizes too big and Emma had to wear a rather posh dress she'd bought for a wedding the next day! High society indeed.

    Tea cosies now come in all shapes and sizes. In researching my blog I came across a book entitled ‘How Tea Cosies Changed the World’ wriiten by the Guru of tea cosies, Loani Prior. I borrowed her book from the library and it is honestly one of the funniest things I've ever read (who knew?!). She is absolutely hilareous, as are some of her tea cosies. I want to share with you a few of my favourite cosies from her book.

     
    Gone Feral (words cannot express) Betty The Burlesque Dancer  Daffodil Cosy - created for Cancer Research Morning Tea in Australia
    Devilish Loani Prior  

    If you need cheering up, or want a giggle, I do recommend this book. Here's a taster;

    'Teapots come in all shapes and sizes. You could always make the cosy and find the pot to fit, but your favourite teapot will stay there cold and naked. Not a pretty sight or a happy situation for a teapot to be in.'

    I think Loani's wise words are very true; 'There seems there is a tea cosy for everyone! Even my least favourite cosies (yes I do admit to least favourite) are loved by someone. The world would be a very boring place if we all liked the same thing.'

    Our new tea cosies certainly aren't as comical as those pictured above, but they are designed for modern women who like their tea brewed the old fashioned way. Now, time to put the kettle on...

    Tea Cosy Modern Cotton Tea Cosy Megan Alice England

    Please do comment below 'To cosy, or not to cosy' plus any other tips for healthy tea drinking. Your name will be entered into our Prize Draw, with a winner picked randomly on Friday 15th June. The prize is one pack of Brighteas' Breakfast Tea plus a grey moth tea cosy, as pictured above.

     

  2. Like it or loathe it, we all have to do a spot of housekeeping now and again! The second in my Eco Living blog series shares the simple steps we’ve taken towards a more natural way of cleaning our home.

    In the West, it has been proven that our reliance on an array of cleaning products has led to a significantly increased level of toxins in our homes. The chemicals in these products, with their (ironic) promises to make our homes safer, have now been linked to a wide range of health problems as well as pollution of our ecosystem.

    It’s time to par down the products, and simplify the routine - being ‘too clean’ is officially out! As well as being more eco, you’ll save money and free up time to do more of the things you enjoy.

    Step One: Reduce your range of cleaning products
    We use very few cleaning products; namely distilled white vinegar (always 2-3 bottles floating around the house ‘waiting/hoping’ to be used) and bicarbonate of soda, with the occasional ‘flourish’ of natural beeswax for furniture (although most of the time I use a microfiber cloth for dusting). I buy the Clean & Natural range, stocked at Big Green Smile, an online UK store selling a comprehensive range of natural beauty, baby and cleaning products.

    On the odd occasion that I fancy a scent, I buy Method cleaning products, which are all made from natural ingredients (available from Big Green Smile): https://www.biggreensmile.com/.

    Lemons are a really effective, natural tool for bringing the shine back to metal taps, plugs etc and for freshening up sinks. (My mum always has a lemon floating around in her sink!). Old toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning the grouting between tiles and difficult to reach places.

    I find that all tasks can be achieved effectively with the above non-toxic products, and they are all very cheap (for example, one bottle of White Vinegar is £1.39).

    NB: Contrary to belief, white vinegar has a neutral smell. Your home won’t smell of vinegar after using it! It also neutralises other nasty smells in the home. This feature from Good Housekeeping gives suggestions on how to add natural fragrance to your white vinegar, should you wish to do so:

    https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/tips/a25234/scented-vinegar-cleaners/

    Big Green Smile are offering an exclusive 10% discount to The Wise House blog readers. Just use code ‘WISE10’ (valid until 30th April).

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    Step Two: Choose ecological washing-up liquid and reusable cloths
    I have used Ecover washing-up liquid for many years, but recently switched to the brand Bio-D so that I can buy in bulk. Both brands work equally well. We rarely use our dishwasher, but when we do we use Bio-D tablets, which we've found to be the most effective of the eco dishwasher tablets we've tried.

    In the main, I use cotton dishcloths that can be washed and reused for years. Over the past six months I have been trying out sustainable alternatives to sponges and scourers, with mixed results! My favourite are the None Sponges and Heavy Duty None Sponges, and as such we have just starting stocking them at The Wise House. They are made by hand in Wales, and are available in plain bamboo or in gorgeous prints (almost too nice to use!): https://www.thewisehouse.co.uk/ourshop/cat_1474679-WASHING-UP-NONE-SPONGES.html.

    For grill trays and roasting pans ie difficult to clean items, I use a Copper Scourer by German brand, Redecker, who sell a range of copper cleaning accessories. Rose & Lavender sell a range of wooden Redecker products including brushes and metal dustpans, which are both on my future shopping list: https://roseandlavender.co.uk/product-category/redecker-products/.

    IMG_7510 IMG_7509 IMG_7550

    None Sponges and a Copper Scourer that has seen better days :-).                                                 

    Step 3: Switch to environmentally friendly laundry powder
    We source our laundry powder in bulk from a UK company called Bio-D, who sell a comprehensive range of 100% hypoallergenic, vegan and environmentally friendly cleaning products: https://biodegradable.biz/.

    I buy their whopping great 12.5kg box of basic Washing Powder (also available in 1kg and 2kg paper bags). Their most basic laundry product, we find that it cleans our clothes sufficiently well. It’s fragrance free, which suits me as I prefer clothes not to have a synthetic scent (you can't beat an outdoor line smell!). If you like a scent, the change to something neutral may take some getting used to. To help wean you off, have a read of the chemical cocktail of ingredients found in conventional ‘perfumed’ laundry products: https://biodegradable.biz/what-we-leave-out.

    Bio-D also sell laundry liquid with natural lavender. It’s eco credentials aren’t quite as top notch - plastic packaging, contains more water so less energy efficient - but still a great eco option. Another tip is to store lavender or scented soap in your linen cupboard/drawer so that sheets and towels absorb a gentle aroma.

    For stain removal, I keep a box of baking soda/soda crystals on standby. Castille Soap is also supposed to be an excellent stain remover, although I am yet to give it a try (we sell a Castille Olive Oil Soap but have been busy enjoying it on hands and face!). Also remember that the sun is an amazing stain remover - give the stain a rub by hand, and pop the garment in direct sunlight. It works like magic to bleach the stain out. Bio-D sell a box of Laundry Bleach, ‘to remove stains and keep whites light and colours bright’.

    Personally I don’t use fabric softener, but Bio-D do sell an eco softener. A dash of white vinegar can be added to your wash to soften fabrics, particularly jeans and towels.

    Bio-D are offering an exclusive 10% discount to The Wise House blog readers. Just use code ‘10OffBioDWH’ (valid until 4th May).

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    Step 4: Switch to recycled Toilet Roll
    We buy our toilet roll in bulk from Who Gives A Crap, a UK company who make 100% recycled toilet paper and kitchen roll. Regular toilet paper is one of the most wasteful single use items on the planet, with 27,000 trees destroyed a day to make it. Who Gives A Crap use no trees at all for their paper, with 50% of their profits going towards building toilets for those in need. This is one area where you have to spend more than on regular paper. You can buy in bulk to keep the per roll cost down, and the paper is excellent quality so not much needed per wipe!!

    To mark Earth Day this Sunday, Who Gives A Crap are currently offering Trial Packs to encourage people to make the switch. Sign up here: https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/products/free-trial

    Thank you for reading. Please do share any additional tips at the end of this blog post. To mark Earth Day ‘End Plastic Pollution’ on Sunday 22nd April, we are offering 10% off our Living With Less Waste range with code 'WISEEARTH10' (valid until 30th April).

    Next blog post: Simple Steps To Eco Living Part 3 - Natural Beauty & Skincare
    Last blog post: Simple Steps To Eco Living Part 1 - Grocery Shopping

    References

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/14/toxic-chemicals-household-dust-health-cancer-infertility

    Cabbages & Roses - Guide to Natural Housekeeping