Urban Agriculture, Co.

The seed for Chad Corzine’s Urban Agriculture Co. was planted a few years ago when he got a tired of paying a lot of money for fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers at farmers markets. Corzine, who was working as director of business development for his father’s candle firm, decided to create a mini garden on his Los Angeles balcony. The project, as they say, was an epic fail. “I thought, how hard could it be to garden on a balcony?” recalls Corzine, 30. “But I was wrong. It turned out to be one giant mess.”

Chad, Post-Kickstarter/ Pre-Footwear

Thinking there would be an easy solution for urbanistas like him who desired a just-plucked tomato or two, Corzine searched the internet for gardening tips or simple kits that would yield fresh veggies in an urban setting. His efforts bore no fruit. “I realized there was a void in the market,” says Corzine, a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara. “The kits that were out there required buying soil separately.”

Corzine’s aha moment led him to begin assembling his own kits, containing organic soil and vegetable, flower or herb seeds, to be planted in a container made from recycled tea bags. “I would spend Friday nights assembling the kits and then selling them at weekend farmers markets and flea markets around Los Angeles,” he says. “I figured they would be big with millennials like me, who were trying to get into gardening, but I found that the kits had a wider appeal. People were buying them as gifts.”

A View From A Sill

In 2016, Corzine had cultivated enough interest in his products that he quit his day job and launched Urban Agriculture, moving the business into a 4,000-square-foot warehouse, where he has some 25 employees and produces Grow Kits ranging from arugula to zinnias, all created to sprout successfully on balconies, window sills, protected patios or walls. The line got a huge boost in 2016 when the kits were chosen as “Oprah’s Favorite Things” and featured in the media mogul’s O Magazine gift guide.

Urban Agriculture’s 117 products now include such items as garden accessories, seeds and Cocktail Kits, which come with an herb kit, a Mason jar for mixing, a muddler, straining spoon and recipe courtesy of a master mixologist.

But Corzine isn’t content to rest on his bay laurels. He’s launching 36 new products this year and plans to expand with items for pets, kids and personal care. “I’m a true start-up,” Corzine says, “so if I’m not in the office, I’m trying to figure out what we can do next. My work is my relaxation now. I go to housewares shows just for fun.”

He has, however, found the time to move from his balconied apartment to a loft in downtown Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, I don’t have a balcony any more, but I do have access to the roof. That’s where you’ll find me testing the prototypes.”

Ten Things to Do in Phoenix’s Art District

All of these are within walking distance of the FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel. Read about the FOUND:RE Hotel HERE.

Roosevelt Row–The city’s über arts neighborhood, “RoRo’s” has galleries, performances spaces, boutiques and  First Friday art events. rooseveltrow.org

Phoenix Art Museum–With collections emphasizing contemporary, Latin American  and Western art plus fashion, the architecturally striking museum also features must-see exhibitions. phxart.org.

Heard Museum–The center of the universe for art by native peoples.  Exhibits also explore the history and culture of Arizona’s tribes.  A great shop and bookstore, too. heard.org

Irish Cultural Center–Irish?  You can research genealogy at the center’s library.  If not, look for exhibits, lectures and events at the center’s lovely stone buildings. azirish.org

Japanese Friendship Garden–Lushly landscaped and tranquil, the zen-like garden is a quiet place for a stroll or enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. japanesefriendshipgarden.org

Her Secret is Patience–Artist Janet Echelman’s ethereal public art sculpture at Civic Space Park evokes monsoon clouds and is best seen at night, illuminated. https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/parks/alphabetical/c-parks/civic-space

Phoenix Public Market–Both an open-air farmer’s market and a hipster cafe, the market is a favorite gathering place for Phoenix urbanistas. phxpublicmarket.com

Valley Bar–Underground and hidden, the bar is all about cocktails and emerging musicians, poets and storytellers. valleybarphx.com

The Nash–A music education center and nightspot, The Nash is ground zero for live jazz. thenash.org

The Light Rail–Don’t feel like walking? The light rail will drop you near most of these destinations and let you explore more of metro Phoenix. valleymetro.org

FOUND:RE Phoenix: A Design-Centric Hotel in the Center of The Arts District

The front desk, a block of wood, is suspended from the ceiling by chains. Behind the desk, a giant painting by Phoenix artist Randy Slack is a spoof of Burt Reynolds’ infamous 1970s nude Cosmo centerfold–only in this case, Reynolds sports a blonde wig. Walk across the lobby floor and you’ll be stepping into an interactive video projection, triggered by motion.  It might take you a while to remember to check in.

Welcome to Found:Re Phoenix, the city’s newest boutique hotel–a hyper-local spot where art takes center stage.  

The 105-room hotel, located in Phoenix’s downtown arts district, started out life as a generic, chain business hotel.  A few years ago, a group of local developers began a $25 million project to transform the eight-story hotel into something that reflects downtown’s new vibrancy, thanks to the light rail, Arizona State University’s growing downtown campus and an influx of artists, galleries, boutiques, and indie restaurants and bars to the area.

Found:Re does have that foundry/industrial aesthetic, with a touch of Steam Punk thrown in for good measure.  The lobby’s raw look carries over to the rooms, which have concrete floors and exposed conduit. Cantilevered metal beds and factory-style lights were made by local craftspeople.  Bathrooms are covered in penny tile and separated from the sleeping area by sandblasted glass panels.  Rooms have views (some with balconies) of the city’s urban landscape.  

Not to worry–Found:Re isn’t all that raw and industrial.  The hotel’s Match Cuisine & Cocktails has become an inviting downtown hangout, thanks to pub-style food crafted in a wood-fired oven, an extensive list of Arizona beers and wines, and cocktails like the Mizuwari made with local bourbon and ginger. A pool also beckons, where you can loll about with a fruity drink.

And then there’s the art, with dozens of local artists represented in the lobby, restaurant, hallways, rooms and the on-site gallery spaces (yes, you can buy, if something strikes your fancy). Besides Slack’s front-desk centerfold, the bar area has an aura of mystery, thanks to a series of enigmatic portraits by artist Linda Ingraham, while the pool patio is sparked by a lime green dinosaur statue by Jeff Zischke and a beach-y mural by Lucretia Torva.  You can peruse fine art photography while you wait for the elevators.  Even the room numbers–each unique–were created by an artist.  Want to know more?  The hotel can set you up with its cultural curator, who can answer questions or put together tours of local galleries and artist studios.

Best of all? Found:Re’s location, right in the middle of downtown Phoenix’s cultural offerings, making a great base camp for weekend’s worth of exploring.


Here’s Ten Things to Do Within Walking Distance of the Found:Re Hotel.

Über Bar Tools: Bar Wonders from Down Under

Amusespot is pleased to represent Über Bar Tools, an Australian company specializing in a large selection of Bar Tools for the trade and home. The line is noted not only for its innovation but also its availability of tools in gold, copper, and stainless steel finishes. Additionally, the company stands behind many of its products with registration and guarantee programs. Writer Nora Trulsson recently sat down with co-founder Michael Silvers for a few questions. 

For a limited time take 15% off all Über orders with the code UBERTOOLS. Available here.

Michael Silvers is nothing if not enthusiastic about his Über Bar Tools company.  The energetic Australian says he leaps out of bed each morning, and wears his company’s umlauted “U” logo pendant around his neck.  “It’s the fuel that keeps me going,” he says of the business, which offers professional-quality, bespoke bar tools to both passionate cocktail culturists and bartenders, restaurants and hotels.  “It renews me daily as a business person.”

Silvers launched the company with partner Sam Tam, an industrial designer, in suburban Sydney in 2006–long before the un-umlauted transportation company came onto the scene.  But his fascination with all things bar goes back to his childhood.

“When I was about nine years old, my father built a man cave at home,” explains Silvers, “with a big bar that had about 70 bottles of spirits, beer steins on the wall and an ice machine. My father had a tremendous sense of hospitality, and we always had parties. That always impressed me.”

Years of travel also exposed him to bars and nightclubs around the world, where he observed the cocktail arts.  As a young adult, he and his brother joined his father in a men’s gift business (think decorative items, games, barware).

In the early 2000s, he had epiphany as he sat in a bar and watched a bartender pour spirits to make drinks. “The generic liquor pouring devices waste a lot of alcohol, much of which winds up on the counter,” he says.  “The measures are inaccurate, so each drink tastes different.  Then and there, I decided to create the world’s best speed pourer–and Über Bar Tools was born.”

But things didn’t exactly flow smoothly at first for the company.  Aiming for a wholesale market, Silvers found that restaurant and hospitality supply companies were indifferent to the product.  Instead, he took the pourer to the end users–the bartenders–who were impressed with the product, gave Silvers input and requested more tools as well.

“Ten years later, we’ve got more than 70 patented items and we’re in more than 30 international markets,” says Silvers.  “We design our own products and oversee every step of the manufacturing process.”

And what are the products?  Shakers, strainers, muddlers, stirrers, ice picks, citrus presses, mugs, tweezers (so you can add those garnishes just so) and bar rolls–a set of bar tools in a roll-up case–so you can take your straight-up cocktail skills on the road. Most are crafted with durable stainless steel, but a few are also available in copper and gold finishes.  While the products are aimed at the professional market, the world’s current cocktail craze has made everyone an aspiring mixologist.

Silvers is always moving the product line forward, with about a dozen new tools in development at any given time. He still seeks inspiration by visiting pubs, bars and nightclubs around the world.

Does he have  a favorite bar or bartender?  Silvers is diplomatic. “I love them all.” He does, however, admit an admiration for Dale DeGroff (aka King Cocktail), the bartender, author and consultant widely credited with reviving the cocktail scene after his stint in New York’s Rainbow Room.

At the end of the day, Silvers prefers lingering at his own home bar, where he kicks back with his favorite cocktail, a whiskey sour, made, of course, using Über Bar Tools.

Amusespot has a wide selection of Über Bar Tools available, ranging from shakers to fantastic ice picks to professional items like pour test kits and travel bar kits.Take 15% off all Über orders with the code UBERTOOLS
Available at Amusespot.

D.R. Harris: Grooming Products with a Royal Warrant, Since 1790

For this London apothecary and perfumery, it’s business as usual–and that’s the way we like it.

Writer and aesthete Oscar Wilde was fond of the colognes and toilet waters.  Author and humorist P.G. Wodehouse shopped for shaving creams and brushes. You’ll still find boldface names shopping for shaving accoutrements, soaps, aftershaves and cream shampoos, but London-based D.R. Harris & Co. Ltd. is discreet.  The shop will not sell and tell.

The D.R. Harris history dates back to 1790, explains marketing director Julian Moore.  “Two cousins–one a surgeon, the other a pharmacist–founded the company,” says Moore. “They performed minor surgeries, compounded medicines and, as a house benefit, started formulating colognes and toilet waters for their clients.” Back in the 18th century, Moore points out, people didn’t bathe regularly, so the cousins were probably doing everyone a favor.

The cousins–Henry Harris and Daniel Rotely (hence the D.R.)– soon found themselves doing a brisk business on St. James’s Street, around the corner from Buckingham Palace and Parliament, an area that later bristled with gentlemen’s clubs.  Over the centuries, D.R. Harris moved to different locales in the area, most recently moving back to a building the business had occupied in the 1960s, with an interior that has historic fixtures, including pharmacy drawers affixed with Latin ingredient labels. A second, newer shop is located a few blocks away on Piccadilly.  Because the shop initially offered colognes and shaving items, customers were largely men at first, notes Moore.  But with the addition of soaps, shampoos and lotions, the offerings became more unisex, attracting the ladies.

“We are still a working pharmacy,” says Moore, “so you can come in and get your prescription filled while you shop.  And it’s still owned by a member of the Harris family.  Up until about 30 years ago, a family member was the pharmacist, too.”

But it’s the timeless grooming products that have attracted fans worldwide.  Generations have braced their skin with Bay Rum aftershave, enjoyed the citrus-y, fern-y scent of Arlington cologne or reveled in aromatherapy with the lime and lemongrass notes of Classic cologne. Almond Oil soap soothes and cleans, shaving creams in jars are meant to be used with old-school badger bristle brushes, and Milk of Cucumber and Roses is a light moisturizing lotion. D.R. Harris still offers cream shampoos in jars, a pearlescent mixture you lather up between your hands before massaging it into your tresses.

Not that D.R. Harris is completely stuck in a 1790s time warp.  They have responded to consumer needs and trends. “We add two or three new products a year,” says Moore, pointing out a newer line of hipster-friendly beard oils and mustache waxes.  “We’ve also don’t use paraben and sodium laurel sulfate in our products.  Most of our products are made simply, with essential oils and alcohol.” The firm has also become environmentally conscious, using less packaging and encouraging customers to recycle the glass containers.  Many of the ingredients are sourced in the U.K.  They don’t test their products on animals, and the badger bristles are the by-product of sustainable farming.

One thing that has not changed much is the traditional look of the bottles and jars, as well as the old-fashioned labeling and typeface on the products.  “We prize that look,” says Moore, “and our customers do, too.  I saw some of the ‘modern’ packaging from the 1960s and ‘70s, and it looked terrible.  We are glad that we kept the original look. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

No doubt Wilde and Wodehouse would agree.

D.R. Harris is available at Amusespot here.

Triumph & Disaster: From Cricket to Cosmetics

The genesis of Triumph & Disaster, a New Zealand-based men’s grooming products company, started when founder Dion Nash played professional cricket, traveling to the far reaches of the world with the sport.

Founder Dion Nash

“I played cricket for ten years,” says Nash, who once captained the New Zealand team.  “You stand in the sun all day long, sometimes for five days in a row.  You become accustomed to using sunscreen, then showering to get the sunscreen off.  Your skin gets irritated and dry.”

When Nash read an article that rocker Rod Stewart attributed the secret of his forever-young looks to a daily slather of Oil of Olay, Nash swiped some from his mother and surreptitiously used it post games, telling teammates that it was more sunscreen.  “I didn’t want to get hassled by anyone in the locker room, but it kept my skin from drying out.”

When an injury forced a career change, Nash went to work with 42Below vodka, learning about business–sales, marketing and branding–before the brand was sold to Bacardi.  “They wanted me to move to London,” Nash says, “but my wife and I had a young family and didn’t really want to leave New Zealand.”

Nash pondered his future and circled back to his pro sports days, when there was a dearth of men’s grooming products.  “I decided I wanted to provide a service to guys by creating products that wouldn’t be embarrassing if they fell out of a gym bag–things you wouldn’t be stealing from your wife or mother.”

Thus, Triumph & Disaster was launched in 2011, the name inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem given to Nash as a youngster by his father–as well as a metaphor for the ups and downs of pro sports.

He admits there was a bit of self-doubt at first (“I kept thinking–am I really making moisturizer now?”), as well as a few zigzags to get the products right.  The first version of the scrub came back pinkish and sweet-smelling.  “We decided it had to be black,” recalls Nash with a laugh, “and the second version turned our faces black.” Eventually, it was perfected with a combination of volcanic ash and green clay, and a clean, herbal scent.  The scrub joined a moisturizer, a body soap, a cleanser and a shave cream as the first five products.  The line has now grown to some 25 products, including paraphernalia like dopp kits and teeshirts.

The products, Nash points out, feature many New Zealand-centric natural ingredients, such as kawakawa leaf extract that calms skin in the body wash, ponga fern leaf extract in moisturizers and the volcanic ash in the scrub, a nod to New Zealand’s crater-filled geography.

The packaging and the branding, though, has a definite rock & roll “tude.” “You might be a banker on a train, but everyone’s got a bit of rebel in them,” Nash says. “We all grew up with punk, grunge and alternative music, so we play to that.”

Indeed, YLF (You Lazy Fuck) body wash is designed for body and hair, with coconut, burdock and kawakawa extracts, plus a sandalwood and neroli scent; the scrub is dubbed Rock & Roll Suicide; and the Coltrane Clay smells like loose-leaf tobacco and keeps haircuts looking sharp.

Triumph & Disaster has been a hit with men–and the line appeals to women, too.  “We’re not all beards and chainsaws here,” says Nash.  “Many women don’t necessarily like to smell like roses.  They like our herbal scent.”

And Nash’s former teammates, the ones who might have razzed him in the locker room for his Oil of Olay bottle?  “I sent them our Stash Box sampler of products. They approved.”

Available at Amusespot HERE.

Tinkerbots: Bauhaus’ New Wave of Programmable Tinkertoys

When you buy a Tinkerbots robotic toy-building kit, two things are likely to happen:  First, you’re going to want to spend as much time playing with them as your kids, and, second,  your mind will conjure up images of the colorful, snap-together parts being made at some Gepetto’s workshop in Silicon Valley.

So, buy two kits–one for the offspring and one for yourself, to amuse co-workers and entertain friends at dinner parties.

Then, erase the vision of the kindly toymaker teaming with the high-tech world. Tinkerbots, which launched in late 2015, is the brainchild of a German trio with nary a toy-making nor a tech background. Leo Oschütz hatched the idea when he was studying product design at Bauhaus University (as in Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius Bauhaus) and was tasked to create a “dream machine” for a class project.  His early Tinkerbots prototype won awards, not to mention plenty of friends who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the modules to create mini moving robots. It dawned on Oschütz that his little invention was more than just a school project and quite possibly a marketable product.

In 2011, he teamed with Christian Guder, a fellow Bauhaus grad, who was knowledgeable in bringing a product to market.  Through mutual friends, they found Matthias Bürger, a PhD in innovation economics, and launched Kinematics, their company, and their first product, Tinkerbots.

“At first, we survived on grants and award money,” says Burger, “then we started looking for investors.  But most German investors are cautious.  They’re looking for apps, or business-to-business startups–not consumer products, let alone toys.”

But the thirty-something partners kept plugging away, testing the prototypes at schools, child-care centers and on friends’ children, as none of them had children.  They came up with the name “Tinkerbots” for its toy-like sound and robotic reference.

In 2014, they decided to take investment matters into their own hands with a crowdfunding campaign that allowed contributors to pre-order a choice of six building kits.  “Our goal was to raise $100,000,” says Bürger, “but we ended up with $300,000.” It took about 18 months to deliver the product to market (and anything that could go wrong, did, Bürger admits), but the toys were a huge hit.

The crowdfunding gave them enough cash to pay engineering experts and hire a small staff.  It also helped winnow down the offerings to the three most popular kits.  Of the 200-some parts that go into the kits, most are made in Germany and assembled on site at the firm’s headquarters in a Berlin suburb.

Tinkerbots at Amusespot

“We’re now selling in Europe and the United States,” says Bürger, “and though our main target audience is children from 6 to 11 years old, we’re finding that 25 percent of our sales are for adults.  One 70-year-old guy told me he didn’t buy a Tinkerbots kit for his grandson, but for himself.”

The toys, Bürger notes, were designed to appeal to both girls and boys, but when he observed the market-testing sessions, boys tended to build more cars and monsters, while girls built animal figures.

The toys are educational, the three partners explain, teaching children building, robotics, sensorics and basic programming.  Schools and other educational institutions are interested in the product, as are businesses, which use the kits within team-building exercises.

Still, Tinkerbots is aimed squarely at kids.  “Children see it and they get it,” Bürger says. “It’s designed to be easy.  It doesn’t have to be explained or require a parent’s help.  They can’t make a mistake. Through trial and error, they figure out how to build, rebuild and move the toy.” Even better, the Tinkerbots have the ability to interact with Lego kits.

Gepetto would approve.

Available at Amusespot.com

Gastronomy A-Go-Go: Chefery Delivers to Las Vegas & Henderson

Food from The Chefery will be featured during our Father’s Day Shopping Event on Wednesday June 15th from 4-7pm.

Please RSVP at (702) 857-8212 or fun@amusespot.com.

Limited space is available.

Here’s a bit of background on the firm:

Order dinners from Chefery, the Henderson, Nevada-based online restaurant, and chances are good that founding partner Brian Skenandore will deliver it personally and spend some time schmoozing with you, suggesting heating tips for the freshly made, partially cooked gourmet meals and how to best plate the food for visual appeal.

“Our customers are educated,” says Skenandore, a chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, with many years of restaurant and hospitality experience.  “We have an incredible pool of fine-dining opportunities here in Las Vegas, run by internationally acclaimed chefs.  Our clients know these places, and I like to spend time talking to them about food.  It gives me menu ideas.”

This hands-on meal-delivery service started in 2015 when Skenandore landed back in Las Vegas after working at fine-dining establishments in Minnesota for several years.  Previously, he had received his bachelor’s in hospitality at UNLV and had worked at Wynn as a management trainee, where he also became a Level 1 Sommelier.  “My wife didn’t like driving in the snow in Minnesota,” says Skenandore, 36, “so we came back to the Las Vegas Valley.”

Beet Burger

Cooking for friends back in town, it dawned on Skenandore that there was a niche market for nutritious, Michelin-quality fresh meals, delivered to a customer’s doorstep. “If you want food delivery here, it’s pizza, Chinese food or paying a lot of money for someone to deliver a restaurant meal to your home,” he says. “I thought of Chefery as having a personal chef, but not as intrusive.”

He enlisted the aid of several partners, including chefs Suzan and Ryan Alday, whose combined culinary chops include stints at the Mandarin Oriental and Waldorf Astoria hotels, as well as with chef Alain Ducasse in New York.

The trio moved into a low-key, 500-square-foot commercial kitchen in Anthem Village Center (that’s right–Chefery is Amusespot’s neighbor), sans retail storefront, as the business is online only.

Inside the kitchen, the magic happens.  Chefery’s emphasis is on nutrient-dense, healthy ingredients, sourced locally and regionally, much of which is organic.  The meals are par-cooked and delivered packed in minimum-waste, biodegradable containers. Nothing is frozen, and the meals take only a few minutes to finish cooking with a microwave, oven or stovetop. Orders, which are made online 24 hours in advance,  are delivered Tuesday through Friday in Henderson, Summerlin, the Strip and other area locales.

What’s on the menu? Entrées that meld French, Asian and American influences.  Right now, that includes jap chae, Korean sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with marinated beef and vegetables, topped with dried seaweed (featured main image); chicken breast served with Tuscan farro, citrus segments, olives and spinach (above); and, for vegetarians, a beet burger topped with arugula, horseradish and house-made pickles.  “We like to use seasonal ingredients,” Skenandore says, explaining the monthly menu updates.  “Right now is ramp season, so we’re doing pickled ramp bulbs and ramp coulis with a pan-seared chicken leg and thigh.”

Chefery is also on top of the bone broth trend, rich in protein and collagen, which is said to promote good health.  Their chicken and beef bone broths are made with a 10-hour stock base to which more protein, vegetables and aromatics are added, cooked and strained.

Healthy kids’ meals, salads, sides and a dessert or two round out the menu.

Who’s been using Chefery?  Working professionals who want a nice meal without having to leave the comfort of their homes.  Doctors, lawyers, fitness professionals, gym owners, retirees–there isn’t a single profile, says Skenandore.

He’s also fine with clients pretending they made the meal themselves to impress guests.   “I don’t care if they take all the credit,” he says.  “Hide the evidence.  You can bury the packaging in the back yard.  It’s biodegradable.  Be the hero of Friday night dinner.  It’s okay with us.”

Interested in making The Chefery’s Bone Broth?
Check out the recipe here.

Or order online at cheferylasvegas.com

USE CODE NEIGHBOR1 at CHEFERYLASVEGAS.COM for Buy One Meal Get One Free Offer ($15 credit applied at checkout). Tax not included. Offer good through August 31, 2016

Flying Bird Botanicals Takes Flight

For years, Scout Urling’s trajectory was, go to school, study pre-med, become a naturopathic doctor.

But somewhere along the line, she veered off course.

The result?  Flying Bird Botanicals, Urling’s successful, Bellingham, Washington-based tea company that offers a variety of organic herbal blends and traditional teas to be enjoyed hot or iced.

“I was all set to go to med school to study naturopathy,” explains Urling, a graduate of The Evergreen State College,  “but after college, my husband Eric and I decided to spend some time traveling.”

The couple headed to Mexico and  Guatemala, where Urling met a group of local women who were working with traditional herbal medicines.  “I had apprenticed with an herbalist in Bellingham while I was in college,” she explains, “so this was appealing to me.”

Urling spent time working with the Guatemalan women, learning from them and teaching them what she knew.

The experience enriched her, but also made her doubt her career plans.  “I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend another seven years in school.”

Back in the United States, she was at loose ends and decided to enroll in a medical massage program.  Pregnant with her first child in 2009, Urling also began blending herbal teas, packing them in containers affixed with labels created by a local artist and selling the blends at farmers markets.  Flying Bird Botanicals, as she called her teas, proved to be popular.

Urling soon became a regular at the markets, proffering her loose-leaf blends made from herbs, plants, spices, fruits and flowers that she selected and hand-processed.  “When I was in college, I spent summers working at organic farms in the area,” she says.  “I knew which farmers grew what.  I’d go to one farm to gather raspberry leaves, another place for red clover oats or other ingredients.  Some of the farmers even grew things for me.”

Her family home became a fragrant production facility, with bundled herbs hanging from ropes to dry and tables covered with sheets, screens and dehydrators as she experimented with blends. “My family was very tolerant,” Urling says, “and Eric totally supported this.”

The hobby quickly became a business.  “Everything just took off,” she recalls.  “I think I started writing several business plans, but I never had time to finish them.”

Urling hired her first employee in 2012 to help mix the loose-leaf tea blends.  Not long thereafter, she met someone locally who could bag her teas to her exacting recipes, and moved the tea production out of her home and into a commercial space.  “Bagging the tea opened up new avenues.  It’s just so much easier for most people to make a cup of tea with a bag instead of using loose-leaf teas.” In 2013, she reached another milestone when her products were certified organic. Ulrich also began offering organic black, green and white teas, sourced directly from overseas growers.

The main reason for Flying Bird Botanicals’ success?  Taste. “All of our teas are tonics in nature,” Urling notes, “but I don’t care how good a tea is for you.  If it doesn’t taste good, nobody will drink it.”  Urling crafts each blend herself, instinctively adding ingredients that are harmonious–blending, tasting, then tweaking the balance several times to get the right flavors. She’s also always thinking of new blends to test.

At the end of the day, there’s still tea at the Urling home, which now includes two children.  “The kettle is always on, and we have a carbonated water-maker to make tea sodas for my son and daughter.  They put honey in the sodas, so what’s not to love?”

Does she ever fall off the tea wagon and crave, say, a Diet Coke?  “No, never.  But a good Mexican Coke in Mexico? Oh, yes.  I’d think about that.”

Want to try Flying Bird Botanicals Tea?  Take 20% off through the month of May.  Use Code TWEET

A Real Swedish Seaweed Soak At Home? Ja!

A key ingredient in L:A Bruket’s product line is seaweed, or tång in Swedish.  Not just any seaweed, but Fucus serratus, commonly known as toothed or serrated wrack.  It’s found in the North Atlantic of Europe and used for everything from cosmetics and thalassotherapy (those seaweed baths) to fertilizer.

Mats Johansson and Monica Kylén enlist the aid of their friend Bo Albrektsson to supply them with seaweed.  “Bo’s mother and grandmother gathered seaweed to use in baths and massages,” says Johansson, “so he’s carrying on a West Coast tradition.”

According to the couple, Albrektsson sets out in a small wooden boat from March through November to secret harvesting spots along the Varberg coast, where, dressed in heavy-duty waders, he gathers seaweed by hand or with a rake. He rinses and dries the seaweed in the sun, then brings it to L:A Bruket’s headquarters, where it’s packaged into individual bath-sized boxes. In between seaweed gathering? Albrektsson’s an osteopath who espouses holistic and alternative medicine.

Johansson has some tips on using their seaweed (which comes with a package of sea salt) for the best results.  “Put the seaweed and the salt in a bucket of hot water and let it steep for a few minutes.  Then pour that into a bathtub full of warm water, get in and soak for about 20 minutes.” It’s a detoxifier for the skin and body–rich in minerals, he notes, and it helps to rub the seaweed onto your skin.  Johansson suggests toweling off–not rinsing–and going directly to bed for a good night’s sleep.  “You can shower in the morning.”

Here’s the best part:  When you’re done with your bath, gather the seaweed in a bucket and take it out to your garden.  You can recycle it as fertilizer.

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