From Trash To Treasure – Upcycle Mooncake Boxes

Mid-Autumn Festival will be over soon.  Fancy mooncake boxes; Love or Loathe them?  Keep or Throw?  Reuse or Upcycle?  Anything but recycling, because fancy packaging can’t be easily recycled.

Furthermore, recycling is NOT working, and definitely NOT the answer to our mounting waste pollution problems.  I buy my mooncake sans packaging.  If I see nice mooncakes boxes, I’ll shamelessly ask for them.  If you have been throwing away your mooncake boxes and wonder what else you can do with them, here are some ways that I reuse the containers.

//  Serving tray, for pretty tea sessions

// Laptop stand, to improve airflow

From Trash To Treasure : Upcycled Mooncake Boxes // Mono + Co

// Baby keepsake box, for the most beautiful memories

// Bookstand, for current reads

// Desk organiser, for hiding away all stationery mess

// Toolbox, for the handywoman in me

// Pantry organiser, for better space management

// New arrival, looks suitable as CNY decor like this

An Almost Zero Waste Travel Journal – Tainan, Taiwan

Have you been making a list of things to do post-circuit breaker? Or post-pandemic?  No one can tell us when the “virus-free” day will come or how the pandemic will end, but nothing will be the same again.  Especial for travellers.

Whether we can afford the flight tickets, post-covid19 remains to be seen.  But there is no harm thinking about the next vacation spot.  Taiwan came to my mind while scrolling through the old photos on my phone.  Here’s sharing some of my zero waste reusable kits when I travel overseas.

Bring your own water bottle so that you can refuse all the bottled water during the trip.  The water dispensers in airports even dispense hot water, great for tea lovers like me.

I bring this reusable coffee cup instead of my usual stainless steel water bottle during vacations. Because this cup has a wider mouth, this makes it easier for stallholders to fill it with my takeaway drink orders.  The double-walled container is also suitable for hot drink orders.

Waste from single-use plastic bottles can be easily cut to zero when you bring your own reusable ones.  I always boil my own supply of drinking water using the electrical pot provided by the hotel.  Before sleeping, I will boil a full pot of water and let it cool down overnight.  Next morning, fill the bottles and go.  Or, you can also politely ask the hotel’s cafe or restaurant to fill up your drinking bottle before you head out for the day.  At mealtimes, I will also try to ask the eateries to help fill my bottle with plain water.

There is a lot of trash from the pantry items inside the hotel room and at the breakfast counter, if you consume them.  I don’t mind drinking black coffee to skip individually packed sugar and creamer.  I also bring along my handkerchiefs, instead of using the serviettes.  Disposable straws and stirrers are also unnecessary for me; I drink straight out of the cup (yes, iced drinks too!) and reusable chopsticks, spoons, even knives, make suitable stirrers as well!

Taiwan is a vegetarian-friendly destination.  Almost every place has vegan or vegetarian options.

Ice cream served in a cone produces less waste than one served a cup.

Dining-in is always our first choice so that we can be served with reusable plate ware and cutlery.  Byo containers are reserved for packing street food!

Another good reason for dining in; watching chefs close up while they cook your meals!

The reusable menu is so rare to find!  Everywhere else provide paper slips.

I bring along tenugui as a reusable towel/handkerchief, avoiding create trash from the use of wet wipes and tissue paper.

The tenugui make great carriers too!

Tea seed powder is also part of my byo kit, as I use it to wash my greasy food containers, cutlery and drinking bottle at the end of the day.

This enamel food container helped saved plenty of disposable waste being created.

What kind of reusable containers do you bring when you travel overseas?  What is the max number of byo items you can pack before your bag becomes too heavy!

101 things to do at home – Circuit Breaker (Extended) Edition

*Updated 15/5*  Added a list of eco-documentaries available for streaming.

It’s Day Five of the circuit-breaker period.  Have you run out of things to do at home yet?

With everyone in Singapore hunkering down at home until May 4, lots of #StayHome activity ideas are being shared around; the message is simple: Stay Home To Stay Safe.  Jotting these down as we still have the next three weeks to do our part to flatten the curve by staying at home.

I also started looking for programmes that would help my elderly parents feel less bored at home.  This is more challenging; my mom has been scrolling through videos on the small smartphone screen all day.  Sharing online content is not enough. If you know of any meaningful activities during these times to engage the seniors, please share with me?

This is still a growing list.  It’s a work-in-progress as we navigate this pandemic crisis together.

// If you enjoy documentaries and films about the environment

+ Our Planet series: One Planet, Frozen Worlds, Jungles, Coastal Seas, From Deserts to Grasslands, High Seas, Fresh Water, Forests

+ Chasing Coral

+ The Next Black

// If you enjoy reading 

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Borrow digital reading materials online – the public libraries are closed; gain access to thousands of ebooks, audio books and digital magazines by downloading the NLB app.  You will also need the Libby and Press Reader app to read the borrowed titles, follow the in-app instructions or refer to the FAQs here.

+ Read magazines online – SPH is offering three month’s free access now

+ Audiobooks for kids from Audible are now available for free, sometimes it’s nice to rest the eyes for a while.

+ Read Covid-19 updates and related stories onlineNational Geographic, The Guardian, The Atlantic

+ Read an eBook, “Coronavirus and Business: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review”

// If you enjoy stage performances

+ Watch a musical – Andrew Llyod Webber musical on The-Show-Must-Go-On! YouTube channel, release every Friday and available online for 48 hours.

+ Watch a local play – The Necessary Stage‘s Rosnah(2016) and Those Who Can’t, Teach (2017). Pandemonium‘s Dragonflies (2018), Wild Rice‘s Monkey Goes West,The Theatre Practice‘s Liao Zhai Rocks!, Liao Jiu, Sing’Theatre‘s A Spoonful Of Sherman (2019)

+ Ballet for you? The Winter’s Tale by The Royal Ballet

+ National Theatre full play: Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature

+ Catch a concert performance – Montreux Jass Festival has made over 50 performances available for free streaming.

+ #DabaoSCO – Singapore Chinese Orchestra is asking us to “nua at home” and enjoy concerts like this and this.  Follow SCO FB Page for regular updates.

+ Andrea Bocelli, #MusicForHope, an Easter Sunday concert, live from Duomo di Milano

+ Concert highlights from Esplanade are now available online

// If you enjoy DIY sewing projects

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Got cloth at home?

+ DIY reusable masks with patterns and instructions from here, herehere and here

+ Make reusable masks without sewing, like this, this and this

// If you enjoy bread-baking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Do you have a sourdough starter at home?  I am making a new one.

+ If you have one sleeping at the back of the fridge or inside the freezer (yes, it is possible), try reviving it?

+ But first, I am making raisin yeast water; they make starters strong which help to produce the dramatic oven spring in bread.  I use this recipe from Junko Mine.  Then I make my starter.  Then I will bake bread with this recipe.

+ Find natural sourdough starter guides and sourdough bread recipes: The Perfect Loaf, The Clever Carrot, Nourished Kitchen

+ If slow-baking with a natural starter is not your thing, try these recipes using commercial yeast instead. Milk Bread | Pull-apart Garlic Bread | Po Lo Bao | Butter Buns |

// If you enjoy cooking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ I am beginning to enjoy IGTV content shot from the real kitchens of chefs like Chef Massimo Bottura  and Padma Lakshmi

+ Binge-watch YouTube cooking videos: Bon Appétit, Day Day Cook, Peaceful Cuisine , Adam Liaw , Green Kitchen Stories

+ Famous recipes unveiled!  Hilton shared how to home bake Doubletree chocolate chip cookies; Ikea tweeted the meatball “instructions”, which should not be confused with this version on IkeaSG’s website;  Disney Park posted this churro recipe and video; I have never heard of a funnel cake, but Canada’s Wonderland is giving away their recipe online as well; bread recipes from Belmond hotels

+ More recipes: Pret A Manger dark chocolate chunk cookie recipe

// If you enjoy doing household chores

+ Be motivated by vloggers that cook, clean and organise the house: here, and here,

+ Get inspired by early risers! This Morning Routine playlist gets me excited about waking up at 5am, even on a non-working day!

// If you enjoy exercising

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

A friend managed to set up a basic home gym before the shut-down of non-essential businesses took effect.  I only have an old yoga mat at home so I will learn to make-do at this moment.  Seems like running will have to wait too. I will turn to YouTube channels for at-home workouts instead:

+ Yoga: Yoga with Adriene, Purple ValleyAhstanga Yoga, Yoga with Tim, Fightmaster Yoga, The Yoga Room, Boho Beautiful

+ Others: Pop Sugar Fitness, Blogilates, HASfit , Fitness Blender, Group HIIT ,Live Fit GirlTrifecta Pilates

+ Dance tutorials: Like this, and this

// If you enjoy learning online

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Activities and classes at Community Clubs may be suspended but PA instructors are conducting lessons online using FB Live instead.

+ NTUC Learning Hub is offering free online courses from GO1 for a limited period, till May 31.

+ Or explore other online course platforms EDx and Coursera for courses that suit your interests.

+ LinkedIn classes on remote working

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander’s guide

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

When I think of zero-waste bulk stores, small shops in the neighbourhood centres come to my mind first; wet markets for packaging-free grocery, hardware stores for spare parts and stainless-steel-everything, Chinese medical halls for loose-leaf herbal tea or medicine, even dried rose buds and lavendar, all sans the plastic bags.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

I have shared so many of my zero-waste wet market grocery shopping attempts here and here that I started to wonder if I am boring everyone to death.  So it was really a pleasant surprise when Mothership picked up one of my posts and shared it here.

If you want to find out more about zero-waste grocery shopping in the heartlands, start by exploring the wet markets first.  Check out what your nearest wet market offers.

To locate a wet market near you, try these sites:

1)I found a list of markets on, a very interesting website to gather local statistics and data.  Unfortunately, it was last updated back in December 2016.

2) There is another list in PDF format on NEA’s website available for download here.

Here are 5 things I buy #byo style from the wet markets, that always surprise people who have not been to one before!

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

1.  Ground Coffee
Not your atas single-origin coffee for a home-brew flat white.  These are Nanyang-style blends, roast to perfection for making a full-bodied kopi-o.  Bring a small air-tight container, no more than 500g volume.  The stall-holder will tell you the coffee aroma escapes immediately after grinding.  If left standing unconsumed for too long, the grounds will end up only good enough for scrubbing body or absorbing odour in the air.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

2.  Plain Flour
Prima Mill’s “for-professionals” ranges of flour are available through the dry goods stores inside the wet markets.  I have come across two types: Flying Fish brand (my favourite, with a 10.8% protein level) and Necklace brand (9.5% protein level.)  Let me know which one your nearest store carry!  My container allows me to buy up to 2kg of flour.

Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping - A Heartlander's Guide // Mono and Co

3. Grains and Nuts
Offering varies, depending on the size of the wet market.  I usually get my walnuts here.  You can also buy raw almond and peanuts, bake them into healthy snacks.  I bring drawstring bags to make it easier for stallholders to weigh and pack.  Once I reach home, I will transfer them to air-tight containers.

4. Assorted “Old-School” Biscuits
Bring an air-tight container.  Avoid the temptation to buy too many types!

5. Chinese Preserved Vegetables (酸菜,咸菜,大菜,四川菜。。。)
These pickles are great for adding flavours to Chinese-style meatless soups.  The stalls sell them by weight, this means buying according to requirement, say, a quarter head of the preserved cabbage instead of the entire head.  Bring a leak-proof container, and……

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co… a reusable shopping bag to pack everything, of course!

Happy zero-waste shopping in the heartlands!

Simple Pleasures

// unlimited supply of sweet basil at home, it’s that simple.

// found a random encouragement note in a library book.  I am not alone.

// removing labels from jars and containers without leaving any adhesive residue behind should be this easy to encourage reusing and recycling.  Refilling these emptied detergent bottles with DIY citrus infused vinegar cleaner.

// mom couldn’t resist buying a box of unbelievably-cheap-but-expiring-really-really-soon Betty Crocker pancake mix from the discount store but needed help to finish.  That’s how I ended up having pancakes AND waffles for breakfast.

// gave my favourite good morning towel a make-over using natural food dye: turmeric, a shade that I really love after using it for my DIY beeswax food wrap.

// using food dye means I can use my cooking pot for the project.

// because every drop counts.  Transferring cooking oil to a repurposed glass bottle.

Post-CNY Stuff : Five More Get Upcycled

First five here, this post shares mostly what I do with empty CNY goodie containers.

++006 P.E.T Containers, Large ++

// for infusing cheap artificial vinegar with orange peels to make great smelling all-purpose cleaner.  Compared to the dispensing spout from original vinegar bottle, the large larger mouth makes it easy to drop citrus peels into the container.  Right bottle with vinegar that has gone through just one day of rest with peels.

++ 007 P.E.T Containers, Small ++

// three of these fit the depth nicely in my pantry drawer where I keep the dry goods.

// bonus: they weigh 50 grams each without its red lid, useful for bulk grocery shopping where stall holders can do mental calculations faster without taring their weighing scales.

++ 008 Ferrero Roche Clear Box ++

// it’s too pretty, too functional to be thrown into the recycling bin,  I am sure there are areas at home or office that could do with one or two frill-less clear box like this.  If you’re crafty, you might like these ideas:  this herb planter, and this trinket box, this mini greenhouse, and this tiny aquarium.

++ 009 Tin Box No.1 ++

// Another airtight container great for buying/storing biscuits and crackers bought from the bulk snack shops at wet markets.  No: bulk shops are not limited to upscale shopping centres, and  yes: wet market in the heartlands carry many items in bulk sans packaging.  All we need to do is bring our own bags/containers and ask nicely for no plastic bags.

++ 010 Tin Box No. 2 ++

tin box recycling

//  I have no plans yet for this beautiful gift box that came with yummy pineapple tart.  When there is a creative block, I will turn to short-term hoarding as a solution.  A week of displaying this on the wall and if there are still no ideas, recycle it.  It’s progressing as you can see, the magnetic buttons were added to spur more ideas.

Post-CNY Stuff

Five upcycling ideas.

++ 001 Hamper Basket ++

// adding a very nice touch to my bike.

++ 002 Cookie Tins ++

// looking pretty AND the perfect airtight containers for ground coffee and tea dust.

++ 003 (Another) Hamper Basket ++

// as hamper packaging gets exquisite, so do my upcycled storage boxes.

++ 004 Mandarin orange gift box ++

// for storing knick-knacks.

++ 005 (yup, one more) Hamper Basket ++

// as an iron holder.

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?

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.