Handsewn Bento Bag

I don’t own a sewing machine (yet), so these hemmed Tenugui/Japanese hand towels from Daiso are great for my sewing craft work.  The drawstring produce bags handsewn with the same material are really light-weight and handy for my plastic-bag-free market trips, they are also great as lunch box carriers, something useful especially for packing hot food in my non-thermal stainless steel containers as they are too hot to hold without handles.

Just like the my previous projects, I am using the same Tenugui with dimension measuring 87 x 35cm.  My bento bag is modified from this design that originally requires the width to measure 1/3 to the length of the fabric.  After tucking the fabric in various ways to figure out a similar sewing pattern without cutting any part of it, I managed to sew this not-that-symmetrical origami bento bag.

The space is generous, I tried with a 26 x 13 x 6cm box an still manage to tie a pretty bow with the ends of the bag.

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Oatmeal Porridge White Pullman Loaf

Oatmeal Porridge White Pullman Loaf // Mono + Co

I like how oatmeal porridge in this recipe made the sourdough bread really soft, so I added 135g of it to my bake today.  I probably need to add more if I want it to be as soft and fluffy as the ones I bake with steamed taro or steamed white rice.

Oatmeal Porridge White Pullman Loaf // Mono + Co

Oatmeal Porridge White Pullman Loaf // Mono + Co

 


Oatmeal Porridge Pullman Loaf

for oatmeal porridge:
100g boiling hot water
35g instant oatmeal

290g bread flour
1/2 tablespoon instant dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 large egg **
80g water
25g cold butter, cubed
topping: 2 tablespoons rolled oats

** I use a large egg weighing 70g.

To prepare oat porridge, mix hot water to instant oatmeal and stir until a thick consistency is formed. Leave it aside to cool completely.

In mixer bowl, combine bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar well with a hand whisk.  After the dry ingredients are mixed, add cooled  oatmeal porridge, beaten egg and half of the water.  Start the mixer and knead on its lowest speed (KA 1) .  If the ingredients do not come together into a ball, slowly add more water, once a ball dough starts to form, stop adding water.  Turn off the mixer and let the dough sit for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, start the mixer again and knead for 1 minute before adding cubed butter, one by one.  Knead this until the dough reaches window pane stage; when the dough becomes very smooth and elastic.  Remove bowl from mixer and bulk rise this for 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and transfer it to a clean work top.  Shape the loaf and place in greased pullman bread tin, seams side facing downwards.  Let it rise in a draft-free place for 50-60 mins.  Before baking, spray the bread top with a fine mist of water and sprinkle rolled oats on top evenly.

Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan immediately after baking, and let it cool on a rack completely before slicing or serving.

Store in an airtight container if not consumed immediately, to keep the loaf soft and the crumbs from drying out.

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Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

I recently started to make a switch to soap nuts for my handwash laundry.  While I am still getting accustomed to a really low sud way of washing my delicates, it’s indeed a great way to save water just like my almost-no-suds DIY tea seed kitchen detergent.  For more heavier soiled laundry, I am falling back on traditional bar soaps made with vegetable fats.  I tried an old-school “Labour” brand of laundry bar soap a few years back.  Can’t really remember what made me stop abruptly after using up all the 5 bars that came in the pack, but they did last quite a while.

I chanced upon a multi-purpose bar soap brand for household cleaning and laundry recently.  The seller recommended that it will lather even better when placed inside a drawstring bag, and hanging the bag with the soap inside to drip dry after using will prevent the soap from “dissolving” in a soap dish that is always wet.  I think this is a fantastic idea for bar soap users.  I can’t remember losing how many bars of bar soaps in the shower to such “flooding” soap dish incidents, so I diy a pouch my shower bar soap as well.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

For even better lathering effect, I made the drawstring pouches with a cotton washcloth from Daiso.  My shower bar soap instantly turns into an exfoliating bar when I use the soap placed inside the textured bag.  One washcloth is enough to make 3 handy pouches that fit the standard size bar soaps.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

While this current laundry bar soap doesn’t feel drying to my hands, I can’t remember how my hands actually felt when I was using the Labour brand bar soap, but I remember it being much cheaper.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Palm oil, coconut oil, canola oil, soda ash, and sodium hydroxide are listed whereas only “made with vegetable fats” is printed on Labour bar soap’s packaging.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

The pack comes with 4 individually shrink-wrapped bars.  Since I still have an extra pouch left,  I will be getting the Labour brand this weekend again to see if I like it better when I use it inside the pouch.

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Purple Sweet Potato Burger Patty

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

This purple sweet potato burger patty was created based on a taste that I like, smoky with lots of sweetness from onion and basil leaves.  Added walnut and black sesame seeds to make my mum happy, she always worries that I don’t get enough nutrients by going meatless.  But hey look, my recipe is packed with real food, no space for fillers like breadcrumbs or flour!  Pan frying these patties will require a bit of tender loving care as I only add a beaten egg to hold the ingredients together.

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

As I made this through trial and error, I don’t have an exact recipe for this.  To recreate this, I will probably be referring to the following photos and estimate the proportion of ingredients by eyeballing.  I did not come up with this recipe from scratch though.  Other than having a rough idea how I want my burger to taste, I referred to one of my favorite recipe sites, Minimalist Baker , for some ideas on creating this delicious looking sweet potato burger patty.


Purple Sweet Potato Burger Patty, A Rough Guide

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

In a food processor, blitz a handful of walnuts and about 1/4 yellow onion.

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

Add this to steamed and mashed sweet purple potatoes (from 2 medium size ones), a tablespoon of black sesame seeds, a handful of sweet basil leaves, chopped, an half a tablespoon of sweet paprika.

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

Stir to mix well.  Depending on how moist the sweet potato is, the patty at this stage will be on the dry side.

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

Slowly add beaten egg and stop just before the patty mixture becomes too wet to be molded.

You should be able to shape the patty by hand to look like this:

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

In a preheated skillet, add some cooking oil.  Gently place the patties on the skillet and fry till both sides are cooked.

To assemble and serve, I added lettuce,

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

sliced red capsicum,

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

cheddar cheese, and grilled portobello mushroom,

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

between 2 burger buns.  Eat immediately.

Purple Sweet Potato Burger // Mono + Co

More meatless vegetarian patty ideas, try out:

// this made with black bean,

// this vegan version with chickpeas and sweet corn,

// my favorite protein, bbq tofu patty,

// another “red meat”-looking patty, using beetroot.

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Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Food Wrap

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I go by a simple rule that if something can be diy-ed relatively easily, then resist buying, unless leaving the ‘making’ to someone else saves me plenty of money.  Beeswax cloth food wraps definitely fall under the “can-do” category.

For the uninitiated, beeswax food wraps are the environmentally friendly solution to plastic cling wraps since it can be reused, unlike the disposable nature of the latter.  I have long given up on plastic food wraps as they never seem to “cling” once out of the dispenser.  I find old newspapers a better wrap for my leafy vegetables and see through food savers are my preferred storage containers for halved lemons, avocados and carrots.  But if you are still buying, using, and discarding rolls and rolls of plastic cling wraps, perhaps you might want to consider investing one of these reusable food wraps.  I have since made these wraps on 2 separate occasions and share some tips and thoughts on this DIY project below.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 001.  Sizes: XS and XL

The best thing about making my own wrap is that I can decide how big or small I want the wrap to be.  As big as this one that I can easily use to wrap watermelon half, or

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

as tiny as this one for 2 cherry tomatoes,

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I even have one for wrapping a bamboo spoon for a packed meal.  Neat.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 002. Methods: Oven or Iron?

These are the initial few sheets that I have made. Things went smoothly right from the very first piece, simply because the bake in the oven method is really easy.

I first line a baking tray with parchment paper, then place the cotton fabric on the paper, sprinkle beeswax pellets evenly on it and place it in a preheated oven at 150C.  It takes just 3 minutes for the beeswax pellets to melt.

Take the tray out, add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil (I learned that the addition of oil helps to make the wrap more pliable and cling better here) and use a clean large paintbrush with short bristles (so that the beeswax is not absorbed by the bristles) to spread the wax and oil evenly on every inch of the fabric.  Do this step swiftly before the wax starts to solidify at room temperature.  If the wax solidifies before you can even spread them, pop them back into the oven for another 30 sec to 1 minute this time to melt again, but watch closely and do not leave the oven unattended since beeswax and cotton are flammable.

Once the wax has been evenly spread, remove the fabric from the parchment paper and let it dry.  Once dry, wash it once with water and mild soap before its first use.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

The only teething issue I have is how to keep the melted beeswax remaining on the cotton fabric, not on my baking tray.  Even after lining the tray with baking paper, I still ended up with beeswax staining my tray, which I have yet to clear. (Oops)

There is another iron-on method with instructions here.  But I decided not to try just in case the beeswax stains my iron and ironing board.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 003.  Do they cling well?

Yes.  Much better than plastic cling wraps.  Make these with the lightest cotton fabric, not the heavy kind for making curtains with.  The thin fabric will allow the food wrap to cling better.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I have since been testing these wraps vigorously, at home as well as on-the-go, washing, and drying in between just to see how well they can replace the plastic version.  They definitely work, and they “cling” so much better than the plastic ones.  As beeswax softens at the warmth of my hands, I managed to shape and mold the wrap closely to the contour of the food items or containers.  And once they are placed in the chiller, the shape is further set as the beeswax solidifies.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I am so happy with the result that I customize one as a lid for my baking pan so that it becomes my “bread storage tin”.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

And made more with some fabric scraps from Ikea.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

But I still prefer plain ones, so I made more with my plain fabric and dye them with pomegranate tea and turmeric tea for a colour variety.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + CoGreen Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 004. How to care for them?

First thing first.  These wraps are not to be used for raw meat and dairy products since the wrap can only be washed with cold water and mild soap.  Keep the wrap away from heat sources as the beeswax will melt.  For the same reason, do not it use to wrap hot food.

To wash, simply run the wrap under cold water and wash with mild soap.  Wipe dry with a tea towel if reusing immediately.  Otherwise, hang to air dry, then fold the wraps and store in a drawer.  The wraps will retain the creases from the previous usage and will need a re-wax (same instructions a making a new one) when the wrap no longer clings as well as before.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 005. Other tips?

++ A pair of pinking shears will help to earn extra design points.

++ Be careful if you are allergic to beeswax or pollen, you might want to get wrap made with plant based wax such as soy instead.

++ When passing food to friends wrapped in these wraps, make sure to inform them that these are reusable and non-disposable.  I am adding this tip because one ended up being trashed by an unaware friend.

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Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// make extra crispy fried shallots and shallot oil to give away when I buy too big a bag of shallots.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// bring-your-own-container desserts, always more appetizing than eating out of a single use plastic bag.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// switching to loose tea leaves.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// going back to wired mouse and keyboard when I learned that alkaline batteries are not recyclable and incinerated here.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this pair of abandoned drinking glasses, washed and sterilized in a pot of boiling water.

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Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tea seed powder is what remains after the edible oil, more commonly known as Camelia oil (苦茶油), has been extracted from the tea seeds.  The defatted seeds are then crushed and milled into fine powder which contains natural saponins.  This makes the powder an effective yet natural cleaner and degreaser, perfect as a replacement for my commercial dish washing detergent, less harsh on my hands too.  You see, I love cleaning, but I don’t want my hands to look the part.

Although instruction on the package says to mix powder with water to form a paste for scrubbing dirty dishes, I kind of miss the “slippery feel” of a lathering detergent.  I also feel that I am using more powder than required for my usual load since I am not sure if the dishes are cleaned properly by just rubbing the powder paste on them.  Therefore, I attempt to boil the tea seed powder plus water mixture into a thickened solution that is easier to dispense and apply.  Although the tea seed detergent does not lather up like the commercial ones, the greasy dishes feel squeaky clean after a quick rinse.  And I mean a really quick rinse since there is no soap residue: the kind that takes forever to wash away.  With the water price hike effective this month, water bill saving is a selling point for me to switch to this homemade detergent.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have already used up two-1kg pack bought from a local organic shop, not only as detergent, but also in lots of other body care uses as shown here and here.  One important thing to note is that once the bag is opened, the powder will turn rancid fast and must be used up in three months.

Since the opened bag must be kept in a cool dry place, I choose to store the balance from an opened bag in an airtight container.  Prettier than a pouch clip on a slouching bag.  Lest you think that I diy the label on the plastic container, it is actually a label from another brand that I first bought from Taiwan.  So I have in fact used up a total of 3 kg todate.  Yes, it’s that versatile and effective.

As the tea seed powder solution will turn bad overnight, I have to make a fresh batch everyday for daily use, and discard whatever I can’t finish up.  I have since learned a great tip to make the detergent last longer without spoilage.  Revelation came somewhere between the second and third bag, and after poring over the ingredient labels of a few commercially available tea seed powder detergents : adding sea salt as a natural preservative!

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I  don’t have the exact formula or scientific recipe to the proportion of ingredients, but this is the ratio I use : 100 ml water to 1 tablespoon tea seed powder to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  I came up with this as it is easy to remember and it also happens to produce a pretty thick consistency after boiling.  If you find it too thick, add lesser tea seed powder for a more runny detergent.  Mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.

Here are the steps I use to make the detergent : first, mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.  I use a pot that I cook with, since I wash my pot with the very detergent that I am making, so there is no reason for me to use a separate pot to boil the mixture.  The powder is inedible though, so keep it away from children.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, the solution will slowly thicken.  Turn off heat and allow detergent to cool down completely.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tranfer detergent to a squeeze bottle or a pump dispenser, shake each time before use.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have been filling up a 600ml (600ml water + 6 tablespoons tea seed powder + 3 teaspoons sea salt) squeeze bottle bought from Daiso with my homemade dishwashing detergent.  A bottle can last me for about 4-5 days of daily dishwashing.

Another chemical household product eliminated, another eco multi-purpose cleaner in my house.  More on its other usage soon, especially as a shampoo for my greasy scalp!

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Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

Although the Plastic-Free-July Challenge targets at single use disposable plastic, I am using this opportunity to mention something about my love for glass jars and bottles.  Glass is my most preferred material as food storage containers for my pantry.  You can see through them and know what’s exactly inside.  There is no worrying of toxins leaching into my food.  And they are such a breeze to sterilize, take your pick from six methods here.

There are many food items that are already packaged in glass vessels, I always think that it’s such a waste to be buying glass containers (or plastic ones) yet discarding perfectly well pasta sauce jars into the recycling bins instead. Here are some of my favorite reused and repurposed glass jars and bottles,  I collect those that come in clean lines and once you remove the labels, they will look totally like the ones that you want to buy from the stores.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Papa Alfredo pasta sauce jars.

+ AFTER:
I love these 680ml pasta sauce wide mouth bottles that do not come with shoulders.  They are great for dispensing breakfast goodies such as Milo powder, oatmeal and granola.  Covering the lids are my diy beeswax wrap to test out how well them can wrap and mold.  I have since been using the wraps for food items instead.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Prego pasta sauce jar.

+AFTER:
Bottle for my homemade cold brew coffee, perfect on a warm day.  I leave the coffee brewing inside the fridge for 1-2 days.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Daiso rice vinegar glass bottle.

+ AFTER:
Cooking oil dispenser.  I buy 2L bottles of cooking oil that are quite bulky to dispense during cooking.  This glass bottle with a flip cap is perfect.  The dispensing hole is also big enough for easy refilling.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Japanese rice seasoning mix bottles.

+ AFTER:
Toasted sesame seeds dispenser.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Bragg apple cider vinegar bottle (946ml) and preserved olive vegetable bottle.

+ AFTER:
Glass water bottle with drinking glass ‘set’.  Fill to the brim daily with drinking water and place on the table as a reminder to keep myself well-hydrated.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Bottled organic milk bought and drank in Korea.

+ AFTER:
I brought it all the way home and currently using it to store balance whipping cream from an opened tetra pak carton.  I sterilize the glass bottle thoroughly every time before reusing it for storing dairy products.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Honey bottles.

+ AFTER:
Condensed milk and evaporated milk containers.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Eternity perfume bottles.

+ BEFORE:
Reed diffusers after removing the spray nozzles.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
(left-right) Cough medicine bottle and essential oil bottle.

+ AFTER:
Indoor green display.  Brown bottles go really well with fresh green cuttings like these.

+ BEFORE:
Beer bottle.

+ AFTER:
Flower vase.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Another bottled milk bought and drank during an overseas vacation.

+ AFTER:
For another stem cutting display.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar bottle.

+ AFTER:
Wrap the bottle body with jute string and turn it into a rustic looking display vase.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Clarins body oil bottle.

+ AFTER:
Bottle filled with water, placed by the warm window for growing new plants from cutting.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Jam jar bottles.

+ AFTER:
Pretty gift jars, with some crafting efforts.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Nutella 850ml bottle.

+ AFTER:
Pretty greeting card-bottle.

Reuse And Repurpose : Glass Jars and Bottles // Mono+Co

+ BEFORE:
Nutella 1-kg glass bottle.

+ AFTER:
DIY piggy bank.

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23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso

Time to bring out your reusable shopping bags, food savers and tumblers for the Plastic-Free July Challenge.

I digged out my not-so-plastic purchases from Daiso over the years to demonstrate how shopping in everyone’s favorite $2 haunt can be just as enjoyable, without going gaga over only the plastic containers, plastic organizing tools, melamine tablewares, and microfibre towels.  I never know I can find jute strings easily here until I saw them in Daiso!

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#01 – cotton dish towels that are so soft that I turn them into handkerchieves to replace the use of tissue papers.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#02, #03, #04 – Three different designs of food savers in glass or enamel material, albeit with plastic lids.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#05 – Japanese Tenugui for anything that requires wrapping.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#06 – drinking mason jar with handle for a yummy smoothie.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#07 – wooden trivets for hot pots.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#08 – natural loofah for smooth skin. I found this without plastic wrappers.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#09, #10, #11, #12, #13 – wooden/bamboo kitchen tools : spoons, chopsticks, forks, spatula, rolling pin.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#14, #15, #16 – paper string (for bundling up newspapers for recycling), jute string (for crafting), butcher’s twine (for cooking).

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#17 – these European thin glass drinkwares that I turned into toothbrush mugs.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#18 – bakewares that are pretty enough for food to be served in them.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#19 – chawanmushi cups with lids for perfect steamed eggs.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#20 – tea cup for zen moments.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#21 – wooden pot lid holder.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#22 – ceramic plant pot.

23 Not-So-Plastic Items To Buy From Daiso // Mono + Co

#23 – ceramic oil burner for freshening up a room.

I enjoy discovering these non-plastic products as I feel that they give me more value for money since they also tend last longer too, with most in mint condition (except the loofah, of course) when I take good care of them.  What about you? Do you have your favorite non-plastic purchases from your local 100-yen shop too?

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