Best of the Month: Plant Styling, Ted Lasso’s Biscuits and Bisexual Vampires
It’s time for another edition of The Monthly Mint – a chance for you to join in the Peppermint office chat about all the things we’re loving and living for each month.
Here at Peppermint we’re forever on the hunt for the best in sustainable reads, eats and wears to inspire you all. But have you ever wondered what we are really liking in our off-screen lives? We thought we’d open our front doors (despite how messy it might be inside) and share a few of our favourite things each month. That way you get the chance to get to know us a little better and if you’re ever in need of a recommendation next time you find yourself stuck in the “I don’t know what to watch/wear/read?!” scroll, you know where to start.
I was secretly hoping by this stage someone else would have covered The White Lotus because I am not confident I have the words to accurately describe the brilliance of it (made all the more ironic by the fact I have just returned from a short stint… in a fancy, tropical location). But as that hasn’t happened, it’s my duty to inform you all that this must-watch show, must be watched. Filmed in dreamy VSCO-tones and set to an equally eerie, ethereal soundtrack, the series follows the tangled, messy lives of several white, privileged families staying at a luxury hotel in Maui, Hawaii, over the course of a week. Deeply unsettling, complex and uncomfortable, while also extremely entertaining, the ridiculous-and-oh-so-real storylines weave their way through themes of misogyny, wealth, privilege and colonisation, ultimately pointing out the vast difference of consequences (or often lack of) between rich and poor, black and white. All of the actors are brilliant, especially Jennifer Coolidge, but Aussie Murray Bartlett steals the show as the increasingly unhinged hotel manager Armond. Check in to The White Lotus ASAP, although you might just quietly find that you’ve already been there – or somewhere similar – before.
As the social divides deepen, with disinformation muddying the water more and more, it’s becoming harder for many to see the (scientifically verified) forest for the trees. Climate denialism is intersecting with COVID denialism, and while that’s a much bigger topic for another time, the urgency of turning both around is crucial to our future – and current – communities. We all need connection, and that drive for feeling safe and part of something, is what actually pushes people towards conspiracy theories. The pandemic sucks, to say the least. And it’s easier to blame and believe a made-up, overly simplistic explanation, than it is to just accept that it sucks. While the lack of understanding and empathy for our fellow community members from those who are pushing for a self-entitled, imagined ‘freedom’ infuriates me (to put it politely), I also understand to a degree what has driven them there in the first place. We want it to all make sense, at a time that it just doesn’t. Well, to us it doesn’t – to scientists, less so. Here’s a few peeps and podcasts that I have listened to, followed or read recently, to help reforest my mind with a deeper understanding of the science – as well as the nuances.
Conspirituality – Episode 69 – Fascism Down Under (with Dr Izzy Smith) ‘A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds’. For this episode they chat with Dr Izzy Smith, a Tasmanian endocrinologist.
Dr Izzy Smith’s Instagram (she also runs a men’s mental health podcast, Behind The Uniform).
The Center for Countering Digital Hate ‘An international not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation’. They recently published a report on the “pandemic profiteers; the dozen leading anti-vaxxers who have enriched themselves by spreading misinformation. The Anti-Vax industry boasts annual revenues of at least $36 million and is worth up to $1.1 billion to Big Tech with 62 million followers across their platforms.”
Van Badham – Guardian journalist and author of a new book QAnon and On – “the story of the modern internet, the farscape of political belief and a disinformation pipeline built between the two that poses an ongoing threat to democracy itself”.
Professor Peter Doherty – Immunologist, Australian of the Year 1997, vaccine expert and Nobel Prize winner for Physiology and Medicine in 1996. Also seen in ABC’s Cracking COVID.
Science With Dr Karl – a triple j show with a “weekly injection of science, myth-busting and answers”.
Nurse Merowyn – Melbourne oncology nurse Merowyn Olaver shares her experience as a healthcare worker alongside combating misinformation.
Despite my somewhat limp and sad green thumb (I am quite effective at killing even the most un-killable plants – plants need regular watering, it would seem), I have endless grand plans to continue the lushification of all the nooks and crannies of our house. As a result, I’m forever hunting for the perfect pots, baskets and indoor-friendly plant combos to make the house as plant-queen-lives-here as possible. But since I don’t want to overcommit to the wrong plants or pots or baskets, and I’m a case study in overthinking, the choice overwhelm has led to a purchasing tally of exactly zero. Zilch. Nada. I’ve been trawling through the websites of all the usual suspects – Eden Gardens, Epilo, The Plant Lounge, Mappins, various Brisbane nurseries and even Facebook marketplace (which, admittedly, is an unexpected treasure trove of plant-swap goodness), but I think I need some expert guidance, which is where The Plant Lounge’s in-home plant styling service is really speaking to me. For a redeemable fee, the lovely crew behind this Brisbane-based plant haven, will come to your house IRL and “green the heck out of your space” taking into account the light and environmental factors, before creating a proposal that includes a summary of the meeting plus plant and product recommendations. They’ll even help you organise delivery and logistics! Watch this (soon to be green) space, friends.
About seven years ago, when I was working for a digital startup, I remember reading a Forbes article about this Silicon Valley savant – “dubbed the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire” who also happened to be a Stanford University dropout – revolutionising blood tests with the creation of an innovative blood testing machine that perfectly married the best of tech with medical science to address a consumer pain point. Removing the need for vials and vials of blood, Theranos, its game-changing machine and the turtleneck-clad woman behind it, the now infamous Elizabeth Holmes, had all the hallmarks of a tech-genius success story and was celebrated as such around the world. Young woman drops out of college, garners support from some of the best philanthropic minds (slash bank accounts) in America and does it all before she’s 30… Fast-forward five years and I stumble across a podcast called The Dropout… The exceptionally crafted story dives into the end days of the Theranos empire, as it became clear that the finger-prick diagnostic machine never worked and the once compelling genius narrative began to look more and more like alleged fraud, which is what Elizabeth was eventually charged with. It was, I think, the beginning of the end for my rose-tinted view of the tech world (and the inherent smoke-and-mirrors nature of startup land); it was a narrative that I’d bought into, perhaps naively, because these are the self-made hero stories we want to believe in. These types of stories are almost the perfect distillation of the American (and increasingly Australian) dream – work hard, be exceptional, be smart and anyone can achieve great success too. Except, increasingly it seems, details are left out: privilege, luck, good timing – these are all the X-factors that help these businesses succeed. The follow up, The Dropout: Elizabeth Holmes on Trial, is an almost-live reporting of the trial with legal experts weighing in on how they think it will pan out, mixed with refreshers and updated interviews from Season 1 players. This new podcast isn’t quite as intriguing as the first, but it’s asking an interesting question in a world that’s becoming disillusioned with the at-times tone-deaf worship of the self-made billionaire story: what are the ramifications if you never actually make it while faking it? Sure, companies fail all the time. But what happens to the people impacted by those failures? Sometimes our need for a strong narrative hero, however fictional they may be, has lasting, real world impacts and the very people these ‘tools’ are designed to help end up with the short end of the stick – and maybe we’re all a little bit culpable because we fell for the fairytale.
DIGITAL AND ASSISTANT EDITOR
It’s Emmy season, baby! Which means, as the glutton for content I am, I’m going to use my Monthly Mint to write about a television show I’ve already plugged. But! It’s going to be in a fresh new way because I made the famous Ted Lasso biscuits to celebrate the show’s 20 nominations and seven wins. Thekitchn.com managed to score the official recipe straight from the oven mitts of Apple TV+ and despite claiming they “actually tasted like a sponge” IRL, if the fictional confection is good enough for Queen Rebecca Welton, it’s good enough for me.
Consider this, dear readers, as a double plug for the excellent space that is Open House Collective (a West End staple, who we featured in Issue 48) and Melbourne-based brand CACTEI as, for my dear friend’s birthday this month, I purchased this killer ‘Dumb Days’ tee. Printed locally in Aus after the designs are hand-drawn in founder Elly Malone’s bedroom, the company is doubly passionate about transparency and sustainability. When paired with the perfect pair of bright pants, it’s pretty much tailor-made for for dumb days in this springtime sunshine. I may just have to get myself one – I mean, who doesn’t want to match with their pals?
After being registered for about four months, I’m stupidly happy (and privileged) to share that I’m now fully vaxxed! The rollout, especially for young people (I still technically count despite my rickety knees and general distaste for kids on lawns) has been notoriously difficult so it’s super positive to see vaccination rates on the up and up. This has also seen the increase of a new phenomenon known as the “vaxxie” – or vaccination selfie plastered – on social media. Yes, to some camps these may seem trivial but the humble vaxxie has an important role to play in fighting misinformation and celebrating those doing their civic duty. So, yes… you’re damn right I snapped away, eschewing my usual selfie anxiety to let my friends and family know getting vaccinated does indeed make you 1000% hotter.
COMMUNITY AND PARTNERSHIPS MANAGER
You may have noticed from previous Monthly Mints that I do love a little shop – be it a casual online aspirational browse or an actual serotonin-inducing purchase. Recently, I have been loving doing both on the shopping app, Depop. Filled with vintage pieces, preloved items and interesting accessories, I can spend a very, very long time combing through the Instagram-like feeds of sellers and clicking those little hearts. Of course, I can’t shop Depop without recognising my privilege to be able to do so and also educating myself on how problematic online secondhand sites can be. I get the feeling that in Australia we don’t necessarily have the same issues with mass thrift purchasing or flipping, but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent about the gentrification of secondhand shopping and how apps like Depop or Poshmark can price some people out of essential secondhand purchases. With that in mind, I can also see how Depop is a way for us to circulate clothing in a more responsible, valued way (consider the staggering figures on our rates of discarding clothes in Australia and the problems with recycling textile waste, which you can read more about in Issue 51 of Peppermint ), and it also presents a viable income option to those who would not have the overhead to run a bricks-and-mortar clothing store. Like anything to do with fashion or consumerism, there are good points and bad. My advice (based solely on my own experiences of shopping on Depop) would be: filter your searches so you can buy as much as possible from local sellers in your area and use the pick-up option if you can do so safely; buy only pieces you know you will wear and love for many years to come, ask any and all questions of your seller to feel confident in your purchase (anyone worth their salt will take the time to give you measurements, fabric descriptions, extra photos etc!), and, if you have the ability, start your own Depop shop to send your unworn items onto a more loving home (bonus points if you can post in home-compostable bags!).
Getting flowers is truly one of life’s great pleasures and giving them is pretty damn good too! In my local hood in West End, I’ve just discovered the wonderful Bare Bouquets, a small, woman-led business that creates gorgeous arrangements using 100% Australian-grown flowers, biodegradable packaging and captured rainwater to keep blooms looking fresh. Best of all, most of their bouquets are made using Australian natives, which lend themselves to drying out beautifully, so you can enjoy your bunches for as long as possible. Even if you’re not in Brisbane, it seems like there are wonderful small florist-y businesses popping up all over Australia right now (a quick google reveals lots and lots of fantastic options that are worth investigating). Who could you send a sustainable posy to today?!
SEWING CONTENT COORDINATOR
My beloved What We Do In The Shadows is back for Season 3! Adapted from the cult classic New Zealand film from Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, the TV show launched in 2019 and despite being an American remake of an Antipodean hit, and therefore having the highest possible chance of being terrible, it quickly shot its way to the very top of my list of favourite Vampire Media. Perhaps due to the original creators’ heavy involvement, the charm and spirit of the original film survives and thrives. The television format gives the groundbreaking concept of, “What if vampires were kind of dumb and bisexual?” room to breathe and develop in more ambitious and hilarious ways. The new cast featuring Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, and Mark Proksch are all absolutely terrific, though special attention must be paid to Harvey Guillén’s star-making turn as Guillermo de la Cruz, the long suffering vampire familiar turned vampire hunter.
Recently, conversation in the office turned to Spotify playlists, leading me to examine my own ‘On Repeat’ lineup. My musical taste has long been despaired of by my loved ones, and anyone unfortunate enough to share an AUX cord with me, once memorably described by my sister as “just, sad folk music”. Anyways, I love Angie McMahon. Probably best known for her debut single ‘Slow Mover‘, the Melbourne-based singer-songwriter has a beautiful, distinctive voice that rings out big and low, like fine whiskey in a a dark room, if whiskey was actually delicious and not kind of gross. Her lyrics are strongly written – one of my favourite songs to scream-sing along to is upbeat ode to the lethargy of sadness ‘Pasta‘ – and she also has the delightful habit of releasing absolutely banging covers of her (and my) favourite songs like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Silver Springs‘, ABBA’s ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You‘, and Oh Pep’s ‘Tea, Milk & Honey‘. I had the privilege of seeing her perform live (in The Before Times) and her showmanship had me swooning. That concert also introduced me to her opener, Haley Heynderickx, another absolute queen of the ‘sad girls with guitar’ genre of which I am so fond.
I have recently purchased an AeroPress coffee maker in order to replace my old Nespresso machine – the entire concept of pod coffee was giving me overwhelming environmental guilt whenever I even thought about coffee, which I do roughly 600 times a day. An Aeropress is a compact and portable manual machine. It utilises the science of vacuum seals, air pressure and gravity to make me my little cup of joe, which means I am significantly cutting down on electricity usage as well as wasteful by-products in the course of my essential morning rituals. I am not a particularly cultured coffee drinker – I can generally distinguish between coffee I enjoy (good coffee) and coffee I don’t (bad coffee) – but that’s about the upper limit of my palette. So I turned to my friend’s roommate who rides bicycles and has a moustache, therefore I assumed knew a lot about the topic, and asked him to explain to me, in intricate detail, the pros and cons of various coffee making systems. It was somewhat of an awkward conversation as he was convinced it was an elaborate attempt at entrapment and he was about to be busted for mansplaining the second he let his guard down but he eventually related to me the many pros of the AeroPress and how despite the simplicity of its rig it makes a brew that is never sour or bitter, to the extent he confided in me it had empowered him to start drinking straight black coffee. Now, I will not go that far, as I’m afraid if I start drinking black coffee I will become too interesting, but I will confirm the Aeropress is a easy-to-use alternative to the French Press or the Espresso machine, that makes, in the immortal words of Agent Dale Cooper “a damn fine cup of coffee”.
Unashamedly domestic in my chat about things that matter, I have added yet another small appliance to the kitchen cupboard. The FoodSaver vacuum sealer is causing much noise and fascination as it sucks the air out of many different food storage opportunities. Take that annoying little tub of tomato paste that you open, use one tablespoon, then carefully place in the fridge for a subsequent use, only to find it some weeks (months) later sporting a greyish furry mould! Now said paste finds its way into a reusable container or snap-lock bag with a vacuum valve and it lives to coat a pizza base several more times. Zero food waste. That packet of expensive crackers that you opened can now be saved for a second, third, fourth crack, with a certain crunch. Substitute the tomato paste and crackers for berries, veggies, cheese, nuts, bread and any other food items that would otherwise die a quick and certain death in the fridge or pantry. Waste reduction is massively improved, and stale crackers are a thing of the past.
Dr Norman Swan’s first book, So You Think You Know What’s Good For You, is getting a lot of attention for a few reasons. Firstly, because it’s a very digestible read, and because Norman has been sounding out on the airwaves (and in the ABC’s Coronacast podcast) for so long that his voice and wisdom are the embodiment of truth in a world that is full of misinformation. A true medic, with a long-term goal to help us find pathways to be healthy, he has turned out this part memoir/part summary to explain the most significant issues that affect overall health and wellness in the majority of the population. I have been listening to Norman on ABC Radio National for so many years the audio version of the book was like a marathon session of the health report, but it was so compelling to hear someone bring everything together in a totally honest and evidence-based way.