Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono +Co

// these hand-sewn cotton bags for shopping in bulk, sewing more out of excess tea-towels I have at home.

Simple Pleasures // Mono +Co

// this meat-free request at a cafe, it’s getting easier nowadays.

Simple Pleasures // Mono +Co

// shopping for eggs, look ma, no disposable plastics!

Simple Pleasures // Mono +Co

// a foot soak update, less than $2 spent.

Simple Pleasures // Mono +Co

// this sourdough toast, best eaten plain.

DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner

DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner // Mono + Co

White vinegar is one of the natural cleaning products I use at home to replace toxic household cleaners.  Mix it with equal parts of water, it becomes an all-purpose cleaner that removes grease wonderfully and disinfects effectively.

While it doesn’t smell as good as it cleans, vinegar actually has deodorizing properties, after drying up, that is.  I have since learned a neat trick to transform my bottle of vinegar into a more pleasant smelling eco-cleaner, by simply infusing the vinegar with ….. orange peels!  My family devours bags of oranges weekly, so I have no problem cumulating enough peels for this eco project.  You can use essential oil too, but this is a cheaper method, using citrus peels that would otherwise be discarded.

I have since upsized my vinegar purchase to a 5-litre version which is way cheaper so that I can make this all-purpose vinegar cleaner in bulk, in 2 weeks.

DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner // Mono + Co

What you need:
// Get the cheapest cooking vinegar you can get your hands on.
// Reuse an empty glass jar/plastic container, you can make as much or as little as you want.  However, being a really effective multipurpose cleaner (except on marble, granite and hardwood surfaces), you may find yourself running out of it very soon if you make too little.  I use it mostly on ceramic tiles in the kitchen, bathroom and glass surfaces.
// Citrus peels.

How:
// Fill the container with citrus peels.
// Pour vinegar to cover the peels and leave aside for 2 weeks.  You will notice the color of the vinegar will turn dark gradually.
// Strain the peels from the infused vinegar which by now will smell more like store-bought orange oil cleaner.  Store the liquid in a clean container, away from the sun.

To use:
// Mix equal parts of water with the citrus infused vinegar. Fill up a spray bottle with the diluted vinegar and use it as an all-purpose spray cleaner.  Just remember to avoid marble, granite and hardwood surfaces.
// I use the concentrated version to scrub/ wash bathroom floor.  Love the smell.  And since it does not lather up like standard detergents, I need not rinse with a large volume of water.

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DIY Facial Toner

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

I occasionally turn to my kitchen pantry for a DIY no-frills face cleansing regime since my journey started to educate myself on healthier alternatives for the little things we eat and use every day.  Skincare is definitely on the list.  The task of looking for effective skincare products with the least chemicals and even lesser packaging materials is more daunting nowadays as the number of brands and product range increased with more advanced research and development.

What used to be a simple clean + moisturize procedure has since morphed into a multiple-step skincare routine that requires ever more products.  There is no way I can fit so many fancy products in my tiny bathroom, so I zoomed in on some of the edible key active ingredients and made them on my own.  I am lucky that I do not have sensitive/ acne-prone skin or allergy reaction to these food ingredients.  But I will always test new ingredients on a small patch first (behind the ear or back of the arm) before applying on the entire face and neck.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

So what can be made from my kitchen pantry?  Many skincare products sitting on the shelves have drawn their inspirations from natural food like fruit, honey, oat, seaweed, olive oil, etc.  I simply bump up their concentration level in my homemade version in place of chemicals with names that I can’t pronounce, like 100% raw honey facial cleanser, or a 50% oatmeal + 50% banana mask.

I like to make them in really small batches, sometimes enough for only one application for items such as facial masks, to ensure freshness and to avoid contamination and the inconvenience of storage.  I use various recipes in rotation, depending on what ingredients I have in stock.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

One of the first few items that I DIY-ed and still using now is a toner made with only apple cider vinegar and filtered water.  I tried making my own after reading how apple cider vinegar benefits skin beyond the kitchen.

I have been using the one from Bragg, the raw, unfiltered and organic version with the “mother”- the beneficial enzyme, visible floating around when the bottle is shaken.  This is more expensive than the filtered ones, but a little goes a long way, after dilution, it costs less to make than buying the commercial toner.

I dilute 1 part vinegar with 8 parts filtered water, making 100ml or less each batch and store it in a clean glass bottle.  There are recipes out there that use more vinegar than mine but I thought it would sting my skin and choose the safer, more diluted recipe.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

Here’s another variation of the toner : some afternoons, I would save a few tablespoons of strong green tea from my teapot to mix with the vinegar instead of filtered water for extra anti-oxidant properties.  I usually make just enough for one application as this mixture needs to be store in the fridge.

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Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash

Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash // Mono + CoHomemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash // Mono + Co

Nowadays, I have recipes for so many homemade products, sometimes it’s really funny to look back on my old self: how I used to buy item after item for each and every possible purpose and ended up jamming the drawers and cabinets with too many bottles.  Some didn’t live up to their claims, so I tried out other brands, and ended up with multiple bottles of the similar thing, mostly half used.  Can you imagine the mess?

Since then, I have learned to make most of the household cleaning products and bathroom essentials with just a few basic items and find that they can be just as effective, but less harsh on our skin, like this homemade body wash with just 3 ingredients: pure castile soap, honey, and apricot oil.

I had bought the liquid castile soap for my children as their skin itch and flare up for subsequent hours after bathing with body shampoos and soap bars.  I tried countless body wash, the gentle ones, the soapless ones, the SLS-free ones, the PH5.5 ones, none worked.  In fact, I almost gave up on the first bottle of castile soap with citrus oil blend, which still gave my children rashes.  It was only when the shop owner recommended the unscented version that I hit the jackpot.  Since then, I have discovered that the same castile soap can be diluted in different ways to clean almost anything.

We are doing fine with the easiest and a highly diluted recipe of 1 parts unscented castile soap and 9 parts water, partly to save some moolah (this comes up to about $30 for more than 9 liters of body wash after dilution, though I am still sticking to the cheaper soap bars most of the time), and partly because I have learned that the amount of bubble doesn’t equate to the effectiveness of the soap. But occasionally, this mummy likes to get creative by adding pantry items for some much-needed nourishment of the epidermis.  Truth is, I derived a lot of affordable body care with luxurious sounding ingredients from the kitchen to pamper myself with, think ‘Himalayan Pink Salt’, ‘Coconut Milk’, ‘Oats’, ‘Molasses’, etc.  Come to think of it, many large brands also list these products on their ingredient list, but I am sure my homemade versions are more generous with these natural ingredients by proportion, just read on!

Finally, the best part about homemade body wash is that I don’t have to commit myself to a huge bottle of body wash for months.  I can make as little as a 30ml bottle that is akin to sampling, just in case of allergy, or a slightly larger 100ml if I really like it.


Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash

3 parts unscented liquid castile soap
1 part honey **
1 part apricot oil***

** I used normal honey, but raw honey that has additional anti-bacterial properties, for an even more luxurious touch.

*** can be replaced with other scented or unscented oil, e.g.  jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil.

Pour everything into a clean container and shake to mix them up.  Don’t fill up the container to the brim as you need some air space to shake and mix the ingredients.  The ingredients will separate again when left sitting on the counter after a while, simply shake before each use.

Optional 4th ingredient: as the liquid castile soap I used is unscented, I sometimes like to add a few drops of essential oil to the final mix as natural fragrance.

HO

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Behind the Scenes : Origami Diamonds

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

Origami diamonds that get to stay on as cute decor even after Chinese New Year.


Origami Diamond

Instructions adapted from design and form, I changed it slightly at my step #10 and #11.

// you’ll need 2 pieces of origami paper, scissors and glue dots.  I tried using a glue stick, but they did not work.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 1 : fold the paper from one corner to the other.  unfold and repeat with the other remaining corners.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// unfold, and you’ll see the first set of folds is completed.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 2 : half the square lengthwise. unfold and repeat with the other side.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// unfold and you’ll see the second set of folds appearing on the paper.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 3 : fold the paper into a triangle again, and pinch the right corner to pry open the paper and press it down to form a square.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 4 : flip the paper over, and repeat for the other side.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 5 : fold the right and left sides towards the center fold line.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

step 7 : flip over and repeat for the other side of the paper.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

step 8 : trim off the top part.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 9 : fold bottom left and right corners towards the center.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 10 : flip over the paper and repeat on the other side.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 11 : unfold everything.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

//step 12 : fold the marked corners inwards,

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// to get this.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 12 : repeat the steps with the 2nd piece of paper.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// step 13 : to assemble, join the two pieces at the corners that are folded inwards, apply glue dots and join the corners one by one.

Origami Paper Diamonds // Mono + Co

// done!

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Behind The Scenes : From Christmas To CNY

This idea is perfect as I get to display the wreath longer.  Simply cover with ribbons and fasten suitable accessories with craft strings or metal threads.  I salvaged these from Christmas log cakes. Chinese New Year hampers and floral arrangements.

// before

Xmas - CNY Wreath // Mono + Co

// after

Xmas - CNY Wreath // Mono + Co

// before

Xmas - CNY Wreath // Mono + Co

// after

Xmas - CNY Wreath // Mono + Co

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Behind The Scenes : Bottle Planters

Upcycled Bottle Planter // Mono + Co

Love collecting glass containers.  This brown one was upcycled into a tiny indoor planter and to add some CNY cheer to it, I attached a voucher with a design using an elastic band.  The dimension was perfect for the bottle, plus the voucher stays intact should someone wants to use it, it’s valid until March 2017!

Upcycled Bottle Planter // Mono + Co

My box of dainty new year themed tassels also comes in handy, just hang one over the bottle neck.

Upcycled Bottle Planter // Mono + Co

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Behind The Scenes : Mandarin Orange Tray

Upcycled Mooncake Box // Mono + Co

For this upcycling project, let’s go back to the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Mooncake boxes come with motifs and designs that are pretty close to Chinese New Year’s theme.  I have kept this box made out of chip wood for a few years in my craft drawer for embellishments and tools.  Very sturdy and still look brand new.

Upcycled Mooncake Box // Mono + Co

I remove the label on the cover and flip the base over.

Upcycled Mooncake Box // Mono + Co

Slip the cover underneath the base and found that it fits perfectly. I do this so that I need not find another place to store the cover.  However, on hindsight, I believe that this was designed on purpose so that the cover does not take up extra space on the table when serving the mooncakes. Brilliant!

Flip the box over again and fill it with mandarin oranges.

Of course, not every mooncake box is designed to be reused the same way.  Play around with it, flip over, deconstruct if you need to,  you might just find a new purpose for that mooncake box that is too pretty to be thrown away.

Upcycled Mooncake Box // Mono + Co

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DIY All Natural Room Fragrance : Lavender Potpourri

DIY Lavender Potpourri // Mono+Co

I can never get tired of lavender infused home fragrance.  Maybe it is because the scent is so closely associated with spa-time, which I enjoy so much.  It is my go-to scent for bedrooms, while the bathrooms, kitchen and living room experiment with a different mix of peppermint, vanilla, lemongrass, recently citronella, for its mosquito repelling properties.

Come bedtime, I will unscrew the lid of my potpourri bowl recycled from a facial clay mask jar, and breathe.  The lavender scent is widely known to soothe and relax the mind, a perfect way to end a day.  Or when I need a little help to sleep, thankfully not that often.

DIY Potpourri is super easy, just a mix of dried flowers and essential oil.  I generally use these three ingredients to make mine at home:

dried flowers – only lavender buds, in this case, as I like to keep the palette simple.
salt – I use Himalayan Rock Salt for this project, the pink hue adds extra points.
essential oil – get pure lavender essential oil from a reliable source, no synthetic concoction for me, no matter how cheap.

Why add salt?  Because it is cheaper to fill up the container with salt than lavender buds, volume by volume.  My 500g pack of salt costs $2.50, while a small sachet of lavender buds costs $7.50.  Plus, the scent comes largely from the essential oil anyway.  It’s all about being practical.

But first, choose a bowl/set up that you like since it will be part of the room decor. I like the clay mask container because it is shallow and has an 8 cm wide mouth, as diffusion of scent will be more effective with a larger surface area.  Avoid deep bottles as you will need to fill it up with more content.

Another plus point of this container is that it has a lid that let me cover the potpourri during the day when no one’s inside the room, allowing the scent to last longer without topping up on the oil too often.  The lid also allows me to refresh the potpourri once a while without adding oil by giving the container a good shake with its lid on.

I updated the style of my lavender potpourri bowl by wrapping it with a cooking twine.  It can’t get easier than this, I did not even use glue, only entailed some delicate job of tucking in the twine’s ends.  After that, simply fill up the container close to its brim with salt and lavender. The proportion of salt and dried flowers is up to personal preference.  Mine’s about 4:1.

This is now sitting on my bedside table, I only need to top up with a few drops of oil whenever I find the scent getting faint.  Low maintenance, I likey.

DIY Lavender Potpourri // Mono+Co DIY Lavender Potpourri // Mono+Co DIY Lavender Potpourri // Mono+Co DIY Lavender Potpourri // Mono+Co

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