Simple Pleasures

This post is inspired by a recent photo book I have read and re-read over the past week: HDB Homes of Singapore.  118 homes nestled in the heartlands are featured in this super thick (and 4.9kg-heavy) book by Japanese couple Tamae Iwasaki and Eitaro Ogawa.  While I have always been awed by beautiful HDB apartments featured in the local decor magazines, this book isn’t about glamorous interiors or stunning home makeovers.  Instead, the photographs bring these apartments to life by showcasing the real, surprisingly warm, and unedited state which homeowners live in, clutter and all.  And it’s hard not to fall in love with these every day yet unique homes.  Each featured unit and every photo come with a short narrative that the couple meticulously pens after talking to the homeowners to find out more about the stories behind themselves, their stage of life, their style, and even knick-knack items that filled and shaped the home.

I shall make an attempt to mimic this editorial style to feature a few easily-forgotten and underappreciated “spots” around my place that make it such a pleasure space to stay.  Shamelessly labeling this home #119 : Simple Pleasures.

Thanks for making me fall in love and appreciate my HDB home all over again.

// No west sun means cooler rooms to enjoy in the evening.
// 没有夕照的房间, 夜晚家里的温度舒服一些.

// The homeowner appreciates this generous outdoor laundry drying rack design that seems to have disappeared in the newer flats.  Solar power is free!
// 户外晾晒衣服的好处数不尽: 免费.环保.杀菌. 新一代的组屋快看不到了.

// Indoor greens, planted or drawn, are placed around the house for a soothing effect.
// 为空間或墙上增添一些绿意, 清爽过每天.

// The homeowner has a knack for diy decor items like this wool felt ball garland in the master bedroom.  “Wake up happy” is a very possible blissful dream every day.
// 屋主偏爱手作品, 主人房墙上的羊毛球串是其中之一. “每天开心地起床” – 简单且实际的幸福梦想.

// Another handmade wool felt ball garland, this one is a colorful version placed in the kids’ bedroom.
// 又一手作羊毛球串, 彩色的, 让孩子的房间明亮起来!

// Souvenirs from holidays are meant to be displayed, not kept deep inside the cabinet.
// 把出国买回来的纪念品摆出来, 藏起来的别买.

// The family’s eco + diy habit has spread to upcycling glass jars, plastic cups and containers, and paper boxes into decorative or useful items around the house.
// 这家人把环保, 手作, 和居家良品合为一体了.

// A super practical way to use the window grilles.  I spy a polar bear.
// 超级实际的窗口铁花. 看见北极熊在玩躲迷藏.

// A naturally bright and airy bathroom, keeping everything clean and fresh.
// 光线充足空气流通的浴室, 自然就会清新整洁.

// Colorful spot in the bathroom, one of the pails used to be a bath tub for the children when they were newborns.  Personal memorabilia! Can you guess which one?
// 多彩的浴室角落, 其中一个塑胶桶是屋主的小孩刚出世时用过的婴儿浴盆. 小朋友的个人纪念品! 猜得到是哪一个吗?

// Waste paper and newspaper recycling spot, neatly stacked up and bundled with paper strings.
// 整齐的纸张环保角落, 的确会让人更愿意分类,整理.

// Another colorful spot, the household waste sorting and recycling corner.  The homeowner revealed that she is gathering a set of sandcastle building tools by upcycling various plastic containers collected over the past few weeks.  She has so many different eco projects ideas!
// 又一个多彩的环保角落,  小小的垃圾分类回收区.  屋主透露这几个礼拜正在累积无法避免的塑胶包装材料, 把它们循环成堆沙城堡工具,模具.  全年都有不同的环保创意主題!


HDB Homes of Singapore is available at here and an exhibition titled HDB Homes Of Singapore: The Photo Exhibition by Keyakismos and Tomohisa Miyauchi is currently held at SPRMRKT till 27th June 2017.

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Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

I started making Eco enzyme during Chinese New Year when I cumulated quite a lot of mandarin orange peels.  Eco enzyme is a mixture of 3 ingredients: fresh fruit or vegetable scraps, sugar, and water that goes through 3 months of fermentation and then turns into a vinegar based eco detergent that has many uses around the household.  While finding out how Eco Enzyme works, I read that the term eco enzyme is more of a “colloquial term” than a real enzyme product.

The real enzyme is probably what Tampines estate is using to kill their cockroaches when they recently announced that they will be going the enzyme route as a more effective form of pest control treatment, after a month-long trial last year showed positive results.  I had to admit that I cringed a little when I saw the reporter licking off the enzyme solution from her finger to show that it is edible and completely safe.  Then again, how I wish that everything we wash down our drain should be as safe as this. I always thought that for a population that counts a small part of our drinking water from reclaimed sewage water, we should be more wary of the chemicals that we wash down our drains.  But of course, the water treatment technology is more sophisticated and advanced that I think.  Still, I prefer less harsh chemical detergents around the house, and even better, make one on our own with ingredients that we know are safe.

The Eco enzyme I made is not for consumption purpose.  And there are only 3 steps.  The initial time spent on mixing the ingredients takes less than 5 minutes, then we leave the rest to Science to break down the scraps and turn it into an environmentally friendly household cleaning solution.  Here’s how:

Step 1 : Gather a plastic container with a lid, fresh vegetable and fruit scraps, black or brown jaggery sugar, and water.

Step 2 : Fill up the container with 10 parts water, stir and dilute 1 part sugar, then top with 3 parts of fruit peels and vegetable scraps and stir again to mix well.  Leave enough gap in the covered container for air to expand during the fermentation process.  Cover the container, keep it slightly loose, not screwed too tightly and leave this in a cool area away from the sun for 3 months.

Step 3 : Filter to extract liquid enzyme.  I use a coffee filter bag with wire handle for this job.  Store the Eco enzyme in plastic bottles and dilute according to usage.  The residue that has been filtered out are useful as plant fertilizer.

After reading up, making and applying the Eco enzyme in household cleaning, following are some tips and links that I have penned down/bookmarked during my DIY Eco enzyme journey and hope that you will find it useful as well.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

+ Why plastic container?

Gas will build up during the fermentation process might cause a glass container to explode.  Even though plastic ones are safer, always leave a gap inside the container when filling up the ingredients.  Also, for the first month, open the cover to let build up gas escape every day when fermentation is most active.  On certain days, I can even hear a fizzing sound of air escaping as I  unscrew to open the lid.  After 1 month, check on the eco enzyme once a month.  Stir the solution to keep everything well mixed once a while.

+ Any preferred vegetables or fruits to use?

Citrus based fruit peels make the best smelling eco enzyme.  For my first batch, I added 100% mandarin orange peels.  Later I learned that one of the benefits of making Eco enzyme is to reduce the amount of kitchen waste sent to landfills.  Since scraps like vegetable roots, peels, yellowish leaves are unavoidable, turning them into Eco enzyme instead of throwing them away is a great way to reuse them. I have since been following a 70% fruit to 30% vegetable scrap ratio to keep my final Eco enzyme smelling good and to do my part to ease the landfill load.  However, only fresh scraps can be used.  Do not include cooked leftover vegetable scraps that are uneaten.

+ What are those marking on your container?

That is a method I learned from a DIY workshop ran by this group mentioned in this article to measure the ingredients required for a batch of Eco enzyme without a weighing scale.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Firstly, cut out a strip of thin paper as long as the height of your container without the lid, I always use the newspaper since it is thin enough for me to do multiple folds.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Next, fold it into halves 4 times, so that when you unfold the paper, you get 16 equal parts.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Mark the paper according to the recipe, with 10 parts for water, 1 part for sugar and 3 parts for fruit/vegetable scraps, leaving the remaining 2 parts for an air gap.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Trace the marks onto the bottle.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Then I add the ingredients in this order: 1. pour water till it reaches the marked “water” level, 2. add sugar until it displaces the water to reach the level marked “sugar”, and finally 3. drop fruit peels and vegetable scraps till the liquid level reaches “food”.  Give it a good mix and cover.

+ How does the end product look like?

It should be brownish with a pleasant citrus vinegar aroma.  Filter with a cloth bag to retrieve just the liquid portion and store the Eco enzyme in plastic bottles.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + CoGreen Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + CoGreen Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + CoGreen Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

+ How do you use the Eco enzyme?

I have just harvested my initial batch that yields fewer than 2 litres, too precious to be used nonchalantly.  I am currently using it to mop the floor, cleaning the kitchen counter and as fertilizer for my plants.  This is a list of household uses and dilution instructions for Eco enzyme which I find will come in handy when my next few containers reach their 3-month fermentation target.

Green Monday : DIY Eco Enzyme For Cleaning // Mono + Co

Anyone with experience to chip in more?  I find myself barely scratching the surface.  I am lucky that my first few containers fermented without a hitch.  Nothing rot. No terrible smells.  Will update as I go along if there is anything worth a mention, both making and using it.

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Green Monday : Grocery Shopping

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

I visit the supermarket mainly for chilled/frozen items, stuff that I cannot get from the wet market.  Last Monday, I experimented with shopping a day’s worth of meatless grocery at the supermarket to get food items with as little packaging waste as possible.  Armed a few small cotton produce bags (road test!) and just ONE reusable shopping bag – a method I adopt very often to avoid over-purchase/impulse purchase, I headed to the nearest supermarket that carries a wide range of fresh produce and here are the items + packaging waste I bought.

+ Fresh vegetables

Nowadays, almost every type leafy vegetable is bagged in crisp clear plastic bags for a more convenient checkout process.  When it comes to vegetables like brinjals, gourds, cabbages, peas, lady fingers, asparagus, and taro, I found them individually wrapped with plastic cling film at some supermarkets.  Some items like chilies and long beans even come with an additional styrofoam tray.

The stall holders at the wet market bag some of the vegetables after weighing so I can tell the “cashiers” in advance that I do not require their plastic bags, and offer 1) my cotton bags or 2) request to wrap them in newspapers instead.  I usually avoid getting those that are already bagged, or I visit the market really early to “catch” these vegetables before they are being packaged.  And cabbages, cauliflowers, and radish are never shrink-wrapped at the wet markets.  I could thus avoid most of the plastic packaging waste when I shop there.

There is only one aisle with open crates of broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and capsicums (yes, only these 4) greeting me warmly with their bright colors sans any plastic packaging, so I bought all four varieties.

Packaging waste count: As these vegetables are sold by weight, I ended up still having their price labels (and receipt) as trash.

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

+ Potatoes

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Only Holland potatoes and Russet potatoes come in these mesh bags that I like to reuse.  The rest are packaged in plastic bags.  So I got the Holland potatoes.  At the wet market, I usually buy about 5 each trip as they are sold in bulk.  I hope I can finish these up before they start to sprout and shrivel and end up as food waste.

Packaging waste count: The mesh bag can be reused, this becomes handy when buying root vegetables or shiitake mushrooms at the wet market so that the stall owner doesn’t have deduct the weight of my self-brought container since these bags are very light.  The plastic item tag was unfortunately trashed.

+ Mushrooms

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Other than fresh shiitake mushrooms that I buy and store in my reusable covered containers, I almost can’t find other types of mushroom that do not come with plastic packaging.  I say almost, because I have seen brown and white button mushrooms sold in bulk occasionally.  Since I usually get pre-packed Erynjii and Shimeji mushrooms from the wet market as well, I stick to these varieties instead of shiitake that are packed in plastic bags at the supermarket.

Packaging waste count: plastic bags, same outcome if I were to shop at the wet markets.

+ Flour

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

I get white flour sold in bulk at the dried goods store.  While the supermarket does not carry flour in bulk, I found this brand packed in a paper bag that can be recycled.

Packaging waste count: None.

+ Pasta

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Since I buy pasta from supermarket all the time, I went straight for the one that is packaged in a paper box.

Packaging waste count: a small plastic sheet that made up a see-through window on the cover of the box.

+ Freezer /Processed foods

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Processed foods come with plenty of packaging trash.  With home cooked meals 80% of the time in my family, I will be lying if I say I don’t use any kind of processed food to help in my cooking.  Condiments, ready-made sauces, and vegetarian’s favorites such as seaweed sheets, kelp, fried bean stick, tempeh, and fried tau pok, ingredients I use all the time come with some form of plastic packaging.  Not to mention common items like sugar and salt also come in plastic bags.

To counter the build up of non-recyclable processed food packaging waste at home, I stick to the obvious solution of buying these in recyclable tin cans or glass bottles as far as possible.  If not, indulge in processed foods as infrequently as possible, which makes a healthier option as well.

Packaging waste count: flexible food foil packaging


++ Update++

In case you are curious what I cooked for that day with the items bought:

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Lunch: Baked pasta
~ penne, broccoli, red capsicum, shimeji mushrooms, cooked with garlic, butter, cheddar cheese, whipping cream available at home.

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Honey Bread loaf.
~ White flour, baked with wholemeal flour, honey, steamed taro, instant yeast, salt and butter available at home.

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Dinner dish #1: broccoli, red capsicum, shimeji mushrooms, stirfried with ginger slices and vegetarian oyster sauce available at home.

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Dinner dish #2: Tomato omelette with eggs available at home.

Green Monday : Grocery Shopping // Mono + Co

Dinner dish #3 : Instant vegetarian rendang with potatoes, added tau pok available at home.

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Hand Sewn Produce Bag : Plain Design

Hand Sewn Product Bag // Mono + Co

Instead of Tenugui, I hand sewn another version of produce bag with another 100% cotton fabric found under the curtain section of Daiso.  Like the scallop border, so I sew the bag without drawstring loop to keep this design intact and simply seal the sides using the blanket stitch.

Hand Sewn Product Bag // Mono + Co

Reinforce the bag opening by going through the fabric with several repeated stitches using contrasting colored thread.

Hand Sewn Product Bag // Mono + Co

And they turned out nicer than I thought.

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Hand Sewn Drawstring Bag

Hand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + Co

I wanted to hand sew a drawstring bag to store my home baked bread when these Tenugui with cute animal prints caught my eyes at Daiso.  Made of 100% cotton, these hand towels come in a dimension that is perfect to be turned into a drawstring bag with a few simple folds and blanket stitches without cutting the fabric.

These bags are also in the perfect size for buying in bulk stores for nuts, grains, onions, potatoes, carrots etc.  No more bulky containers when grocery shopping!

Hand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + CoHand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + CoHand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + Co Hand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + CoHand Sewn Drawstring Bag // Mono + Co

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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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Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this morning ritual that saved a lot of yeast packaging being discarded.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this repurposed Nutella glass jar,  so the kids can see their savings grow, instead of a number.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this diy all-purpose citrus vinegar cleaner.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this glass pot to replace my 9-inch baking tin cum food saver, because it comes with a cover.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// reading for pleasure, 15 minutes every day.

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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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