After a long search I’ve settled on a good toothbrush. We’ve tried wooden ones with natural bristles; awkwardly shaped. We’ve tried plastic toothbrushes with removable heads and natural bristles; the bristles fell out. We’ve tried another removable-top version with plastic bristles; still so much plastic. Then I came across another possibility.

bamboo toothbrush © elisa rathje 2012

These are bamboo handled toothbrushes, quite beautiful I think. They’re shaped well, and don’t seem to turn grey in the water as wood does. Even the bristles are a biodegradable nylon, so they are compostable. A fair companion to our homemade toothpaste. They age well too, and so they’ll be retired in a few months to the cleaning trug, to live out life in service, in the company of the feather duster, the cotton mop, the sodium bicarbonate and the vinegar. Have a look around for bamboo toothbrushes, see what you think.

huckleberry shrub

Red currants and red huckleberries were bountiful this summer, the former in my mother’s garden and the latter in the forest. Inspired, as is frequently the case for me, by the wonderful Marisa of Food in Jars, I decided to try my hand at a preserving an old fashioned colonial shrub.

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

Huckleberries and currants;

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

Snowed under with sugar (we made one using birch sugar, for my family in Canada to keep);

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

Thoroughly muddled and left in the fridge for a couple of days to develop into the cold-pressed syrup that Marisa describes. Top up with vinegar according to the recipe, I used apple cider vinegar.

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

You needn’t take this next step unless absolutely necessary: seal and pack the jar very well in a suitcase, and take it to England.

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

I do however highly recommend tucking the huckleberry shrub into a picnic basket along with some sparkling water;

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

And enjoying a glass of it in the park. Hyde Park was glorious on a late summer weekend, just right for skipping rope with my little family and listening to the grasshoppers.

shrub © elisa rathje 2011

hair tonics

The other day I read a gorgeous description of using a rosemary infusion to dye fabric. It inspired me to try a recipe in my beloved copy of Sloe Gin and Beeswax, for making a hair rinse in Mid-Winter. For my little brunette child and my little blonde child, I’ve been infusing a pair of herbal hair tonics.


Rosemary for dark hair, picked from the garden.


Chamomile for light. I would have preferred whole flowers, but in a few months we can harvest some. Meanwhile organic Royal Chamomile tea is just fine.


I made an infusion of each by pouring boiling water over the herbs; I covered them and let them infuse for a few hours.


I’ve halved the recipe: 4 or 5 stems of rosemary, a litre of spring water, 75 ml of apple cider vinegar, and 3 drops of rosemary essential oil. A cup of chamomile flowers and lemon essential oil for the light version. I put the infusion through a strainer, mixed the cider and oils well in;


Decanted them into bottles and corked them. Rosemary is said to darken hair over time, to stimulate the scalp and roots, and condition the hair. Chamomile is said to enhance highlights in light hair, strengthen it and restore shine. Cider vinegar is known to be excellent for removing excess products, conditioning and restoring ph balance. We’ll use a generous splash of the tonics after washing our hair, no need to rinse.