Simple Pleasures

 

// repurpose my old bamboo toothbrush as plant pot markers, the bristles are made with horse bristles, composting them directly inside the soil.

// upcycled my raisin tub into a handy tea seed powder dispenser.

// glass bottle collection getting uncontrollable.

// another glass-bottle-turned-beaker to serve my homemade zero waste ginger black molasses tea in, more on this tea recipe later.

// when all the honey is gone, the tub turns itself into a useful container for soaking 2 cups of soy beans over night in the chiller.  Homemade soy milk!

Simple Pleasures

a few incidents that made me realize how the my eco-conscious habits have rubbed off on the kids. nothing complicated, just start with no wasting of food at home and go shopping together with reusable shopping bags.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because someone didn’t want it, she brought back and we shared it together after dinner so that the untouched buttercream cake would not be wasted.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because her friend finished the bubble tea and was about to bin these disposables, she carried these all the way home to be rinsed and recycled.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because the top is still wearable after mending, she asked for help with my limited sewing skills to extend its wear longer.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because this was to be discarded after a pomelo peeling competition, she brought back the peeled fruit for me to make pomelo pulp juice.  I shared with her how to make great smelling citrus infused vinegar so that she will bring back the peels as well next time.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because the little one felt “lucky that we bring along our reusable cutlery set”, so she can have a last minute ramen treat without the standard disposables.  We were too slow to stop the drink that came in a set but took for no straw.  I told her: “we take note this time, we’ll definitely do better next time.”

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Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I have quite a number of wooden kitchen items at home but I have never thought of applying oil over them to moisturize and protect their surfaces.  I always thought that wooden products, being a natural material and subjected to much abuse in my kitchen, are meant to split/turn moldy/breakdown/wear and tear and eventually be replaced due to hygiene reasons.

I was so wrong.

While going through some of the methods to clean and restore my chopping boards, I stumbled upon this post that detailed how to give old wooden salad bowls from the thrift store a total makeover. Another one here.  My wooden spatulas and spoons need more than a thorough nightly air dry as maintenance.  And they have the potential to outlive me and gain vintage status if I just give them regular TLC sessions with spoon butter, which is nothing more than a mixture of beeswax and a neutral flavor oil.  The super brief ingredient list only means that I am going the DIY route instead of buying a big jar that I can’t use up.

There are many recipes out there when you search for “spoon butter recipes” and they are really similar to how I have been making my lotion bars and lip balm.  So I am going to make just enough to buff my wooden utensils and use up the leftover as hand moisturizer for the next few days. I hate leftovers that linger for months.

After eliminating mineral oil, and a number of cooking oil that turns rancid easily, I decided to turn to this recipe that uses coconut oil, something that I have been using for my homemade skin care products.  According to other sites, walnut oil and olive oil are great choices too.  Pick something food grade that you already have in your pantry instead of buying a bottle for a single purpose.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I made a really small initial batch for testing, with just 3g beeswax pellets and 10g coconut oil, since most instructions mention “1 part beeswax/ 3 parts oil.”  I have covered almost every wooden items in my drawer except for 3 large chopping boards.  If you need more, simply increase the portion of ingredients accordingly, especially for chopping boards.  I will give my boards the royal treatment over the weekend and let it cure longer.

I made the spoon butter directly inside a small glass jar that I am storing it with, hardened wax is really messy to clean up.   I learned that the hard way after making my beeswax wrap, so I will avoid making it a separate vessel to skip the transferring and pouring steps altogether.  For this reason, use a glass jar instead of a plastic one since we will be heating it.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Place the glass jar with beeswax pellets and coconut oil in a pot of water over low heat and let it simmer.  Once the beeswax pellets melt (in my warm house, coconut oil is always in liquid state), stir to mix well.  I usually hold the bottle by its rim (wear a mitten and be careful) and swirl to mix.  Then leave the spoon butter on the kitchen counter and let it set at room temperature.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

To use, rub the spoon butter over the clean and dry wood surfaces, either with dry cloth or bare hands.  Leave them to sit over night.  The next day, wipe away any residual grease that is not absorbed by the surface with a dry cloth.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I always thought my spatula handle feels unfinished and dry.  After treatment, the wood grains even start to look more beautiful.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

The difference before and after on my bamboo chopping board.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Bamboo toothbrushes getting a treatment too, especially the ones with unfinished surfaces that gets moldy really easily inside the bathroom.  See the difference before (below) and after (top).  But I can’t seem to find a way to reach the part between the bristles.

Reapply whenever the wooden surfaces start to look or feel dry.  I won’t wait until they crack or split anymore.

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Simple Pleasures

just a gather of some random shots of things that caught my eye, made my day, or meaningful enough to make me press the shutter, but just don’t seem to fit in anywhere or significant as a post.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// all these in 5 days, by the window sill.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

//  food safe cotton fabric, ready for making soy milk.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// almost bought a $10+ bread scoring lame, then I found razor blades in Chinatown selling $1.20 for 5.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// glass tooth mugs kept sparkling clean with vinegar.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// hello due date sheet, long time no see! try creating your own library/ reading system from here and here.

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Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// after learning that the glass has become a worthless commodity in the recycling industry hence jars & bottles are sent to landfills instead, I added a Pinterest board for “glass bottles and jars upcycling ideas”.  I wrote about how I repurpose some of mine last month here.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// glass thermal bottle for my daily tea habit.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// these desiccant sachets start popping up inside all our bags of Menglembu groundnut snack!  Till I figure out how to tell if these are still effective, I will be reusing them to keep my tea leaves dry.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// reviving my neglected sourdough starter…. it’s still alive!!!!!

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// diy single-ingredient toothpaste with only baking soda, coconut oil is simply too messy for me and too oily for my basin.  Just add water and it becomes a natural mouthwash.

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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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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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Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong

Hong Kong. No Disneyland. No Ocean Park.

I was there to spend a simple weekend exploring local organic stores and wet markets (surprised that they are air-conditioned), plus trying out meat-free eateries.  All this while sticking to some basic eco-friendly rules that I follow at home, like finishing up my food.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Despite clearing out my fridge before the trip, I still had a leftover peanut pancake which became my first snack in Hong Kong, packed in beeswax wrapper, stow away inside my luggage with other reusables that became really useful during the trip.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

I brought along 2 containers.  A plastic version that is airtight and leakproof and a stainless steel version, two of my most compact ones.  Beeswax wrapper in smaller dimension seals my cutlery set in case I need to throw them into my bag when the containers are full, keeping them away from the-whatever-dirt-I-have inside my bag.  These come in handy for street food and bakeries with no seating, think stinky tofu, cream cakes, and egg tarts.  But whenever there is an option to dine in, I will choose so to save the hassle of explaining my “no-disposable” preference.  It’s a great way to immerse oneself in the native atmosphere.  The servers at the Cha-Chaan-Teng are straightforward and loud, and always have an interesting tale or two to share among themselves, nevermind that the shop is full of hearing ears.  However, take note that some eateries will impose a minimum spending amount per head due to Hong Kong’s high rental rates.  Besides food containers, I also brought along a borosilicate glass flask for hot coffee takeaways and of course, my daily drinking water that I boil and cool every night in the hotel room.  If you find bringing these along cumbersome, at least consider foldable reusable bags for shopping, I brought 4.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Packing for a vacation doesn’t mean stuffing the luggage with plenty of disposables,  especially for a short trip like mine.  I simply condense my bathroom routine with multi-purpose products, such as applying the same jojoba oil for face and body or using the same soap for hair and body.  I could easily do without a face mask or scrub for a week, so why bother bringing along?  Sunscreen is a must though.

The first thing I do when I step into a hotel room is to gather all the disposable items and place them outside the bathroom for the chambermaid to know that they can reuse them after we check out.  Even if you don’t use them, leaving them on the bathroom counter will only damage the paper packaging with water splashed from the sink, making them unusable for the next guest.  I usually bring along my outdoor rubber slippers as bedroom slippers after a quick wash.  But if the room is floored with hardwood, I will just go barefoot, making myself feel at home, thus saving a pair of disposable room slippers from the landfill.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Public transport in Hong Kong is famous for its efficiency.  MTR stations are super accessible, with numerous exits leading to the various destinations.  But I have view watching in mind, so I boarded one of the 11 airport bus routes that depart from the terminal to my accommodation that lies along the route.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

Google map has also totally changed my public transport experience in a foreign city, allowing me to explore further, connecting the dots with buses, minibuses, even the 100-year-old tramlines are also included in the Google routes.  No longer are itineraries limited to just popular touristy spots or places near MTR stations.  Precious amount of travelling time is saved by choosing the “fastest route”.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

But we can always choose to go the slower way, such as purposely taking a stroll along the street even though a bus will take us there in 5 minutes.  There are plenty of things to see in the neighbourhoods, unlike the cookie-cutter malls.

Some of the daily mundane that caught my eyes:

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// public road for everyone

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// store with memories

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// creating own’s patch of greenery with limited space

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// or leave it to nature

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// rag-and-bone man, keeping useful items in the loop

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// the usual recyclables in demand

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// packaging-lite shopping

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// wrapped by nature

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// cellophane-free vegetables

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// local organic vs imported premium

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// “it’s more tiring to cook at home”, a reason for take-outs in this fast-paced city

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// even places of worship can conduct workshops on environmental issues, overheard at the Wong Tai Sin temple announced over their PA system

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// every effort counts, an eco-reminder spotted in a local market: “today let’s save the earth together. tomorrow will be a better day for us.”

Turns out that Hong Kong has plenty of recycling bins dotting around the island.  They are never too far away from you to drop your recyclables.  I started counting recycling bins around me while waiting at the airport.  They are in such abundance that at a particular vantage point, I could spot 3!

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// a reminder that you are contributing to the landfill, rubbish don’t just poof and disappear

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// no language barrier. no excuse!

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// recycling bins next to garbage bins to make you think twice.

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// see through ones

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// batteries included

Eco-Friendly Traveller : Hong Kong // Mono + Co

// slot for papers only, so you can’t sneak in your plastic bottles

At the end of my trip, I still ended up with some non-recyclable plastic rubbish, though I am sure that I have saved more waste than I have created as a result of being a mindful consumer.  I understand that the environmental problems won’t go away immediately after I reject a plastic shopping bag.  But the key point is to at least try, isn’t it?  Any more tips from experienced eco-travellers?

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