Cold-brew tea

Summertime heatwaves mean my desire to even boil water goes lower on the list than folding laundry. This hip trick is a reminder that you don’t need hot water to make tea. Let room temp or cold water, tea bags or loose tea, and a little time in the fridge work for you.

I love cold-brewing and wrote a post about it with ideas for fun cold brew infusions. The pitcher pictured above is about 2 liters’ worth of water steeped in the fridge overnight with 5 blueberry teabags. Voila, blueberry iced tea.


Spruce up your sips

Add some pizzaz to a water pitcher on your holiday table by adding any type of organic citrus peel sliced into strips. Using an organic fruit is important because pesticides and residues aggregate in the peels, but the good news is you only need one organic fruit to make a few pitchers of infused water. Thin skins—found on oranges, lemons, tangerines, clementines, etc.—work best to keep the water from developing a bitter flavor.

The infused water, which I usually let sit for a few hours in the refrigerator prior to serving, is a vibrant and anti-oxidant rich way to sip, packed with vitamins and minerals from the citrus peel and pith. Refill the pitcher a couple times if neccesary, starting with a new peel after 24 hours of use. Alternatively you can add strips of fresh peel to a pot of tea for a warm infusion.

Read this post for a ton of other ideas for creative ways to use citrus peels.

Non-toxic bug repellant

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of Nicole of Fairbanks, Alaska-based blog, Arctic Garden Studio. I got a taste of the monstrous mosquitoes Nicole deals with regularly in her work with the Alaska Bird Observatory (or rather, they got a taste of me) when we toured Creamer’s Field bird refuge. If she says this works, I believe her and plan to try it on our Texas-sized mosquitoes!

Take a small spray bottle and fill it halfway with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint Castile soap (or use unscented Castile soap plus 10 drops of peppermint pure essential oil), fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. Nicole recommends spraying it on and rubbing it in. There’ll be a slight residue, which also helps keep the bugs away. Not down with mint? Try lavender; it’s another bug un-friendly scent.

Added bonus, you can also use this spray bottle to get rid of aphids and pests on your garden plants!

Blueberry infused vodka

Take your summer celebrations up a notch with a handful of blueberries sliced in half and dropped right into a 375ml bottle of vodka, or use a cup of sliced berries for a 750ml bottle. (Don’t break the bank on your infusing vodka, a low-end vodka is a perfect base.)

Let it sit at room temperature for a week (or for up to three). Strain and enjoy with club soda, lemonade or your favorite fancy flavored soda. Store at room temp or in the freezer.

Summer sipping

This hip trick comes to us from herb maven and non-toxic bodycare goddess Liz, of Raganella. We stayed with Liz during our recent trip back to NYC and she reminded me about how wonderful it is to sip infused water all summer long.

Her go-to, refreshing beat-the-heat flavors are cucumber, mint and lemon, either one or a combination of all three! Liz recommends a more medicinal version of oat tops or oat straw and rose petals for a cooling and relaxing effect. Simply slice any fruit/veggies thinly and place in the bottom of a pitcher, fill and refill with water and refrigerate (or don’t) and enjoy throughout the day. The herbs and aromatics will continue to flavor the water on the upwards of 24 hours. Pour over a strainer if you have loose herbs or debris that spread out in the water.

A delicious way to use citrus peels

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my Hudson Valley pals, Julia and Kaela. Kaela put me up during my travels in the area and we ate our way through the weekend, as to be expected!

Prior to my arrival, she stuffed spent citrus peels and rinds inside a chicken and roasted it over potatoes and vegetables, which also had a few large citrus halves (any smaller and you’ll bite into them accidentally after roasting) tossed in for good measure. What a delicious way to use trash!

Make limeade

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of my friend and fabulous yoga teacher, Amy, who often works with kids and has a handful of snacks and treats up her sleeve for any instance.

Here’s one of her latest kid-friendly bev ideas. Have a lime on hand? Cut it in half and squeeze each half into two 8-10 oz cups respectively, fill the rest of the way with water and a drop of stevia extract (or pinch of xylitol or just plain sugar) and you have instant summer refreshment. For added fizz and pizzaz replace regular water with club soda.

Making sweet from tart

I rode around on a borrowed bicycle during my recent trip to Tucson stalking orange blossoms. The trees were heavy with both blooms and perfect oranges. I pocketed a few, to remember how sour the uncultivated Arizona citrus can be. I borrowed a small sauce pot and went to work on a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for any amount of juice is easy. I had two oranges and no measuring cups. I ended up with about a half cup of juice, so I measured about 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water directly into the saucepot. Bring it to a simmer and simmer for about 5-7 minutes; it will thicken slightly and become shiny. Add the juice to the pot, bring it to a simmer again and remove syrup from the heat. Refrigerate, where it will last for a couple weeks. Add bubbly water and enjoy!

p.s. Using tart juice, like lemon or lime (if you’re not in AZ with sour oranges at your disposal) will replicate a deelish homemade Aranciata!

Spruce up your holiday table without breaking the bank

Turkey day and the season of holiday gatherings is fast upon us and it’s easy to lose track of our expenses when hosting (and sometimes even just attending).

Give your holiday table and entire house a bit of low-cost pizazz by selecting one or two inexpensive bouquets and placing individual or pairs of flowers in cute soda bottles or mason jars. Bring color and unique style to lots of areas of the house for under $10. Check out this video to see Kate in action demonstrating this hip trick!

Windy City outdoor entertaining tip

This hip trick comes to us courtesy of Jennifer in Chicagoland, the host of my recent houseparty there who dazzled me with her clever home ideas. Here’s one of them, which is also featured on her blog.  

Fall is here, snatch up these last few weeks for outdoor entertaining. Create ambiance by using old lamp and light bulb domes as outdoor candle holders. Wind protection, fire hazard protection and possibly some pretty kaleidoscope action, depending on your dome. Be sure to re-purpose domes that have both a top and bottom opening (or be sure the flame is allowed to vent out of the single opening).