Tea Seed Powder, Again

I am a guest author this week at Secondguru, one of my favorite local eco-lifestyle website for green and sustainable living ideas.  Pop by and read me wax lyrical about the amazing tea seed powder.

I mentioned that I am always looking for more ways to use tea seed powder, sometimes also known as Camelia seed powder.  The multi-use eco-cleaning product that I originally sourced from Taiwan to replace commercial dish detergent (no more dry hands from daily dishwashing chore!) has since become a must-have item around my house.

This is one of those days when the sun is bright and laundry dry so fast that I start looking around the house for more things to wash, with tea seed powder of course.

And this is how I hang my makeup brushes to dry, clutched along my window grilles with stainless steel laundry pegs.

If you have not discover this wonderful natural cleaning product, it is pretty worth a try considering it’s really affordable at SGD4.90/kg.  I have shared more tips on teaseed powder uses and where to buy on Secondsguru!

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018

Today is the second day of Chinese New Year.  I can already forsee that there will hardly be much decoration waste to discard when the celebration is over.  We are happily reusing most of the decorative items from previous years and I use a lot of tassels like these to inject a Chinese new year feel into almost anything around the house.  Everything gets stowed away rather than being thrown away, and since they are not that elaborated, they don’t take up much space in the store room either.  As long as I can practice self-control when it comes to pretty wicker hamper baskets!

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : vase, tassel, mini wooden peg with bird motif, grey jute string, patterned origami paper.
// new : baby’s breath in pink, to be dried and added to my dry flower collection.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : hamper basket, artificial peach blossom from hamper deco, tassel, red packets
// new : mandarin oranges.  When all the exchanges are done after the new year visits, the fruits will be eaten, the peels to be soaked in white vinegar to make an citrus infused all-purpose cleaner.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : a pair of door couplets and 3 “福” wall decorative images, since I refrain from buying zodiac specific ones.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : red packets from last year turned into lanterns this year, and tassels.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : umeshu glass bottle-turned-vase for a bouquet of artificial flowers, also pre-loved.

Zero Waste Failures

Not all my waste-free-upcycling-craft-attempts are smooth sailing.  As much as I hope to transform every discard into something useful or wish that I can make everything that I need from scratch, sometimes, they just don’t turn out the way I thought, or like they say: Pinterest fail.

Here are a few to share:

++ DIY Shower Pouf ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: nylon mesh packaging bags for garlic, free from vegetable stalls. jute string, from Daiso.
// how it failed: the material was too rough as a shower pouf, the tough nylon makes them better off as produce bags. turned out that nylon is a recyclable material, so off they go into the blue recycling bin,

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

++ DIY green fabric dye++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: wilting pandan leaves that were unsold by end of day, free from stallholder
// how it failed: the fabric did not absorb the color with the boil and soak method, my fabric used to squeeze pandan juice ended up many shades darker (photo below right).

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

++ DIY five stones ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// material: used empty silk pyramid tea bags, dried green bean as filling
// how it failed: the fabric just couldn’t hold the stitches, started falling apart after the 4th game.  better zero waste luck sticking to loose tea leaves.

++ DIY liquid laundry detergent ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: labour brand bar soap
// how it failed: the liquid soap turned into blobs of fats instead of a running liquid detergent

++ DIY cocoa eyeliner ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: cocoa powder and coconut oil
// how it failed: not sure why, but mixture turned clumpy after a few days and became too difficult to apply evenly.

++ DIY Reusable facial cleansing pads ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: cotton fabric from an old blouse
// why it failed: the material was too rough for wiping makeup off my face.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤]

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I am not a fan of stocking up, not even dried ingredients that can keep well for months.  When I need the Eight Treasures herbal soup ingredients, I still prefer to visit the traditional medicinal halls to get the ingredients when it’s time to prepare it.  I usually don’t give a second thought about getting my herbs wrapped with their traditional pink wrapping paper, as long as it is not plastic.  But since I had a tenugui with me on this particular day, I thought why not use it instead.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I passed the tenugui to the boss and asked for my “Eight Treasures” (八珍) to be packed without using his paper wrapper, his customers in the shop started to chuckle.
“Boss,  from now on must provide hankerchieves as free gift with your herbs!” they jokingly commented.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

Anyway, I don’t know how, but the tenugui seemed to open up a conversation with the usually reserved boss.  As he started chatting while stacking my herbs super neatly on the tenugui, he also gave me few tips to prepare the soup:
// always rinse the herbs briefly to remove dirt,
// place the herbs and water in a pot, and bring to boil together,
// turn down heat, always reduce to simmer for better result, for this soup about 1.5 – 2 hours,
// for additional nutrition, add 1 fresh chicken egg to cook with the soup, must rinse the shell under running water to clean
// sieve the herbs, drink the soup and consume the egg, that has absorbed the “essence” from the herbs,
// to the seived herbs, add just enough water to cover them, and cook for second time to yield a slightly diluted version, in order not to waste it.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I was apprehensive about leaving the shell to cook in the soup so I added de-shelled hardboiled egg on my first try.

Then I read this post where the author cooked the egg first, then add to the cooking soup with shell intact but cracked.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I tried with the cracked eggshell method on my second try and served it with mee sua.

Feeling more adventurous, I found this post where the author rinsed the shell, soaked in brine for 15 minutes, before proceeding to cook it in the soup.

Let me update this post when I cook this soup again.

On Free Gifts

Not all free gifts with purchases are created equal; there are those that are stowed away in the cupboard for months and end up taking up space.

Then there are those that keep appearing on the kitchen counter every other day.  Here are 8 free items that I’ll absolutely use over and over again:

++ oo1 lasagna ceramic dish ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// for baking brownies,

On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// and honey granola.


++ 002 stainless steel spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// bundled free with condiment, fits nicely in my zero-waste takeaway lunchbox.


++ 003 porcelain spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

//  originally for jams, now for scooping everything delicious.


++004 cotton dish towel ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// workhorse in the kitchen, extra brownie points for the hanging loop.


++005 mug ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// that have been around for a long long time.


++ 006 4pc cutlery ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// because I never own a branded one before, not that the logo matters. The point is it’s free AND useful.


++ 007 plastic container ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + CoOn Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// the handle on the cover made it a handy snack carrier, minus the need for plastic bags.


++ 008 tote bag ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// simply useful, for avoiding plastic bags.


Are you equally choosy about accepting the free gifts into your house?
Have you ever ended up NOT buying something because the bundled gift was not desirable?

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I collect these used candles in blue, yellow, and red from parties as they are a waste to throw away after just 1-2 minutes of use.

Since most DIY candle tutorials online like this and this are all about simply melting the wax followed by adding colour or scent to the end product, I thought I could do the same with the discards I gathered.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

This tutorial that melts the wax directly inside mason jars hits the right note with me: messy wax residues in pots and utensils are a pain to clean up.  I separated the candles from their wicks, placed them in a glass jar and proceeded to melt them in a water bath.

The colours from the candles combined to produce a purple shade end product, to which I added lavender essential oil as a scent to match its appearance.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

After trying out the method with a portion of the candles that led to a successful light-up session, I am ready to use up all my stash to fill the jar.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I also reused a wick from one of the candles.  Once I have too many used candles, now I have too many wicks.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Hopefully, this little one will bring some cosy feel to my home.  I am extremely late on this Danish Hygge concept since I have only very recently read the 2 little books of “Hygge” and “Lykke”, back to back, by The Happiness Research Institute.  I can’t be more inspired to add elements of fun/warmth/togetherness/cosiness/happiness to my everyday life!

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Simple Pleasures

over new year’s eve & new year’s day

// reusing this holder with a new calendar.

// and the metal tearing guide component from the new calendar becomes a binder for unused sheets from kids’ school exercise books.

// washed and ironed these square tenugui for wrapping lunch boxes or packing finger food takeaways without disposables etc.

// rinsed and air-dried tiny honey jars that came with our tea order, too wasteful to be recyled or discarded.  Think lipbalm containers.

// scent of the month : lime.  Infused white vinegar with leftover lime peels to make a safer all-purpose cleaner.

// 2.5 cups of rolled-oats-turned-honey-granola fit a reused 680ml pasta bottle nicely.

// stowing away this handmade Xmas wreath away with recycled log cake toppers and hamper ornaments.  Green CNY decorating ideas up soon.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I wrote here how I started looking for tea seed powder to replace chemical dishwashing detergent and ended up loving it even more in my bathroom here as my shampoo and facial scrub.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

When mixed with water, it can produce just the right amount of bubbles to look like a detergent.  In fact, it degreases really effectively without that slippery feel of commercial soaps that requires lots of water to rinse clean.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I have since found the perfect container to upcycle into a handy shaker bottle that dispense just the right amount of powder for dishwashing.  The raisin tub I was using previously is dispensing baking soda now.

One of my main concern when switching to tea seed powder is its short shelf life.  It is best to use up within 3 months after the bag is opened, according to the instructions on the packaging.  Going by how little is required to wash my hair and the dishes, I need to have more uses for it to use up 1 kg packet every 3 months.

Here are some uses I have found so far :

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Makeup Brush Cleaner. Since tea seed powder has anti-bacterial properties, I started using it to replace diluted liquid castile soap to clean my makeup brushes.  I simply mix 1 heap teaspoon of powder with water in a small glass and run the makeup brush back and forth in the glass to release the makeup, grease etc.  Rinse the brush and repeat to ensure that it is completely clean of makeup.  Wrap the brush with a clean cotton towel and squeeze to dry the bristles slightly.  Hang brush with hair facing downwards to air dry.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Fruit and vegetable cleaner.  I got this idea when I saw commercially produced fruit and vegetable cleaner made with tea seed powder.  I have only used it on fruit and vegetables with peels like apples, grapes (still attached to stalks,) zucchini, carrots, etc. I soak them in tea seed powder and water solution for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.  Tea seed powder is not edible, so it is important to rinse the fruit and vegetables clean after soaking.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Cooking oil plastic bottle cleaner.  If you have tried washing plastic containers stained with oily food, you will know how difficult it is to degrease them for recycling.  The oil somehow finds a way to cling really well onto the plastic surface and I often find myself running it with soapy water at least 3 to 4 times before getting them squeaky clean for recycling.  Imagine the amount of water required to wash and rinse the cooking oil bottle.  I end up discarding these plastic bottles instead of recycling them.

Not anymore, after I use tea seed powder.  I mix the powder with a small amount of water to form a thick paste and rub it all over the bottle. I cut open the container to make washing the interior possible.  Then I add more water to rinse and degrease at the same time.  The above photo shows how much water I used in total to degrease the bottle, less than 300ml, not bad for such an oily plastic container.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pastry brush cleaner.  Again, tea seed powder shows its powerful degreasing property with just one wash and one rinse.  I simply run the powder all over the greasy silicone bristles and add some water to form a thick paste, rub clean an rinse.  Squeaky clean once again.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pesticide for plants.  I found this use stated here, here, here, so far only use once and the plants are still surviving.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities – Eco Edition

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co

Spent the first week of the year end school holidays in the malls and can’t wait to do something different?  How about activities with an Eco/Nature-theme?  I have compiled a list in a chronological order to share.

In case there is only time for just one Eco-event, taking part in a beach clean-up as a family is highly recommended.  Nowadays, we barely give a second thought every time we drink from plastic bottled water, clean hard to reach corners with Q-tips, pack take-away meals in styrofoam /plastic boxes or pick up a straw for our drink.  But these habits have generated most of the common trash we collected when my family joined Trash Hero Singapore in one of their monthly sessions to clean up a quiet part of the beach at East Coast Park.

Armed with a pair of gloves (a must, never pick up trash with bare hands, and tell the kids to always inform an adult when they find broken glass, fish hooks, syringes, needles, or any sharp objects) and a plastic bag, the instruction from the organizer was simple: pick up as much trash as possible in 2 hours.  After 10 minutes, I found myself squatting at the same spot sorting out items that shouldn’t belong there: cigarette butts, tiny plastic sticks from Q-tips (but my kids think that these are lollipop sticks, guess they look the same after the candy and cotton buds are gone,) candy wrappers, straws of different colors and sizes, and most annoying of all, styrofoam bits that have disintegrated into impossibly tiny pieces over time.  The task of picking out these bits looked impossible and I told myself I will bring along a sieve/colander next time to separate these styrofoam pieces from the fine sand.  I moved on to picking up larger trash items like plastic bottles, drink cans, used wet wipes, snack packaging, fish nets, and plastic bags.  Others found toothbrushes and plastic combs.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + CoNov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co
Photo credit : Trash Hero Singapore

By the end of the session, 80kg of rubbish were collected, mostly plastic.  The single most important takeaway from this beach clean up: avoid the use of disposable plastic.  Trash Hero Singapore will be conducting another beach clean up session on 26 November (Sunday) at Sembawang Beach Park.  Check out the details here.

Can’t wait to start a greener way to spend the rest of the school holiday? Let’s start from this Saturday :

Nov 25 (Sat)

//Charismatic Primates of Malaysia – Living in Harmony with Nature and Wildlife
A second Jane Goodall Institute Singapore Lecture Series with primate experts from Malaysia.  Registration is required.
LINK

// Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Free guided nature walk at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin.  The one held later on 16th Dec has been fully booked.
When/ Where: 9.30am / Chek Jawa Information Kiosk, Pulau Ubin
Registation here.
LINK

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.  Another afternoon walk is available on 26th.
When/ Where: 9am/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here.

// Singapore Really Really Free Market
Set up a free booth with family or friends, share pre-loved items, enjoy some time without spending any money.
When/Where: 3pm-7pm/ Blk 137 Bedok Reservoir Road S470137
LINK

Nov 26 (Sun)

// Trash Hero Beach Clean Up
When/ Where: 8am/ Sembawang Park Beach
LINK

// Repair Kopitiam
Have broken down items at home?  Say no to a throw away society, send them for repair and learn the how-to at the same time as volunteers share their repair knowledge and skills.
When/ Where: 10am – 2pm/ 2 locations ->Blk 897A Tampines St 81,Singapore,521897AND Block 423, Jurong West Ave 1,Singapore,640423
LINK

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.
When/ Where: 4pm – 6.30pm/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here

Dec 1 (Fri)

// Night Critter Watch at Rainforest Boardwalk
Guided walk. $13 per participant. Free for 6 years old and below. Registration required.
When/Where: 6.30pm-8.30pm/ Singapore Botanic Gardens
LINK

Dec 2 (Sat)

++ The UP Market ++
UP refers to upcycling, my favorite way to reuse glass bottles, plastic containers and old bamboo toothbrushes.
Join this upcycling-themed market “that aims to build a community of upcyclers to share upcycling ideas, products and to promote upcycling and other sustainable lifestyles.”
LINK

// Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market
Support local produce and locally made products at this fair held over 2 days.  While there, make some some time cover part of the Heritage Trail as well.
When/ Where: (Dec 2)12pm – 8pm/ (Dec 3)10am – 4pm/ D’Kranji Farm Resort
LINK

Dec 9 (Sat)

// Ecolife at Coney Island
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/Where: 9am-11am/ Coney Island West Entrance
LINK

// Ecolife at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/ Where: 9am-11am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Promenade
LINK

// Photography Talk by Mr Isak Pretorius
The speaker is a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s Bird Behaviour Category (2013) and will be sharing his passion for photography and nature during the free session.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 12.00pm/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
LINK

// A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of MacRitchie
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm / MacRitchie Reservoir Park
LINK

Dec 10 (Sun)

//Tzu Chi Recycling Day
Every 2nd Sunday of the month, Tzu Chi set up recycling points around the island to receive recyclables.  Don’t just stop at dropping off your recyclables, try your hands at sort out them out and learn more about environmental conservation and the need to cut down on waste.
When/ Where: 9am – 12pm/ Various locations
LINK

//Forest Walk: Tengah Forest
Explore what’s still left untouched by the ongoing Tengah’s “Forest Town” development, set to be Singapore’s largest smart sustainable smart town with a car-free town center.
When: 8am
LINK

//Family Yoga In The Park
Children are welcome. Free.
When/ Where: 8am – 9am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tecoma Green
LINK

//Healthy Living with Navayugum
Free workshop to learn more about living a healthier lifestyle through a guided spice tour, healthy recipes, followed by a relaxing yoga session in the serene Fort Canning Park.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 10am – 12pm / Fort Canning Park
LINK

Dec 16 (Sat)

//What’s in my sky?
Learn to identify many amazing birds of different species that passes through or make Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve their home in this free guided walk.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
LINK

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Lower Peirce
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm
LINK

//Marine Mangroves cum Coastal Cleanup at Ubin
Another coastal clean up activity, this time to “remove abandoned drift nets and marine debris that chokes up Ubin’s coastline.”
Registration required.
When/ Where: 3pm – 6pm / Meet at Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
LINK

Dec 19 (Tues)

// Zero Waste Living with Bea Johnson
Hear from Bea Johnson, one of the earliest zero waste lifestyle adopter, on how she and her family stick to the 5R’s: “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and only in that order” and inspire the rest of the world to “live simply and take a stance against needless waste.”
When/ Where: 7pm – 9.30pm/The Metro @ thebridge, Ascent, #01-07, 2 Science Park Drive
LINK

Dec 23 (Sat)

//Learning Forest Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free tour of The Learning Forest that is located in the new Tyersall-Gallop Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes before session starts at Visitor Services, Tyersall Gate.
When/ Where: 9am – 10am / The Learning Forest, Singapore Botanical Gardens
LINK

//Heritage Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free guided tour. Highlights of the tour include the Bandstand, sculptures in the Gardens, the Heritage Trees, the Main Gate, the Saraca Stream Walk.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.
When/Where: 9am – 10am
LINK

//Race Against Time – Science behind a Botanic Garden Tour
This 45-minute tour suitable for participants 9 years old and above introduces the research facilities at the Singapore Botanic Gardens such as the Library of Botany & Horticulture, Orchid & Micro-propagation laboratory and the Herbarium.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.
LINK

// What’s in my mangrove?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the mangrove trees and plants of the forest at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve,
LINK

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Bukit Timah
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm-6.30pm/ Bt Timah Nature Reserve
LINK

// What’s in my water?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the creatures and plants that lives in and around the water edges of Sungei Buloh.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am
LINK