Home Made Sustainable: part 1 – Bedrooms

Welcome to my new series, Home Made Sustainable! I warned you this was coming and finally I’m getting things written down which have been in my head for months! I’m super excited about it because my hope is that some small portion of my experience may be useful to somebody, even if only slightly, but also I’m determined to be realistic and openly discuss the fine line we all tend to tread between being super sustainable and conscious consumers and being human.

Background

Last December my other half and I were fortunate enough to have completed on our first house; a project house. We were really excited to get our creative juices flowing and put our own stamp on everything, but there was a big project ahead of us and it went off to a really bad start with a serious mouse infestation, rotten floorboards, litter everywhere and general disrepair.

It may seem strange to start with the bedrooms in a new house, however for us this was the most logical way of doing things as they needed the least work (and enabled us to stay there from time to time). When I say the least work, I still mean full wipe-down and redecoration as well as new, non-mouse-pee-stained carpets.

Yes, this is our bedroom the day we got the keys. I wasn’t exaggerating.

Mouse house

The mice were actually the first challenge in doing things earth-friendly: how could we get rid of them without fumigating or mouse traps and killing them all off rather painfully and dramatically? Turns out it took time and patience but eventually they moved on thanks to a plug-in frequency emitter thing my OH found on the internet. Apparently it can take up to a month or so because they won’t leave if they have young; the builders did have an uninvited guest to their lunchtime doughnuts one time and we were beginning to worry we’d have to take some more drastic measures, but thankfully the mixture of frequency, loud banging & drilling and lack of food seemed to steer them away – phew. We now also have two mischievous cats which naturally helps.

Renovating responsibly

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices in renovation there are a multitude of alternative products available on the market: special brands of paint (e.g. Earthborn), wool carpets, reclaimed wood floorboards etc. However the unfortunate problem is the often comparable cost increase. Now, the cost of environmentally sustainable products is a whole other debate and generally speaking I am a firm believer in paying that price, the ‘true cost’, but the thing is that it’s not always doable. Sure, I’ll pay £7 for a natural deodorant compared to a £1 aerosol of animal-tested Sure (although I’m finding a love-hate relationship with natural deodrants as someone who needs antiperspirant), but carpets and paints etc. are a whole other ball game – they’re not cheap to begin with and, like most first time buyers, we had a limited budget. This is one of the reasons I want to write this series; to encourage people to do what they can when they can’t do everything and not to feel guilty about it (which I have to constantly remember). To paraphrase the popular saying ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing sustainable perfectly, but more people doing it imperfectly’.

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Medium oak varnish on the sanded floorboards

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Feature wallpaper up! Birds print from Leekes

Master Bedroom

So, here is where I started. We sanded down the floorboards that were underneath the manky old carpet and kept them exposed just in this one room, knowing that it would be a hell of a lot of work to keep them exposed everywhere else. The fact that I stained and varnished them myself gives me joy every single day and really leans into the natural, woody tones we like to go for. The furniture is a mixture of new and second-hand but mostly the latter:

  • New – bed frame, rug (under bed), shower curtain pole, mattress, made-to-measure blinds
  • Second-hand – chest of drawers, bedside tables, mirror, makeshift wardrobe (not pictured because it was hideous).

I looked high and low for a second-hand bed in the style I was after but was having trouble finding the right thing. I then looked for FSC certified wooden bed frames but again, budget came calling so we ended up with an eBay bargain we assembled ourselves. Similar with the rug, we kept looking on FB marketplace but wanted something to pick up the accents in the feature wallpaper (which is Leekes, by the way if you’re interested) and nothing was hitting the spot. Boxing Day bargains saw us the bedroom rug and our main sofa (which we had to remove a window to get in). There were pangs of guilt for this but obviously these are not items we intend to replace for a long time and will do our best to sell-on once we do, so I think it’s important to be realistic. The other thing on the new list is a shower curtain pole, which sounds odd but was a touch of Pinterest-inspired genius to allow for extra wardrobe room in the smaller of the two alcoves. The made-to-measure blinds were chosen because of the way our windows open, so their ability to position any which way is super helpful and means we can maintain privacy whilst letting light in. The honeycomb shape also allows for better heat insulation apparently – they’re from blinds2go if you were interested.

I feel it important to mention our choice of new mattress for a second, because there seem to be an abundance of options available at the moment all with very similar selling points (e.g. Eve, Simba, Emma, Leesa…). I did some thorough research, read lots of reviews and formed a spreadsheet to figure it all out. In the end, we chose the Leesa mattress [not in any way sponsored] because not only to they plant a tree for each mattress they sell, but they also donate 1 in every 10 sold to charities. Isn’t that fantastic?! And yet it’s not featured much on their current advertising which baffles me completely! But this is an area I feel proud to be doing more ethically despite it being a new purchase.

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The chest of drawers is the perfect example of the woody tones we love and came from OH’s grandparents’ farm – it’s about 80-90 years old! Huge, deep drawers too which I’ve relined with leftover wallpaper from the feature wall. The bedside tables were a Facebook marketplace bargain with funky knobs added by yours truly (TK Maxx purchase), as was the mirror. The makeshift wardrobe I can’t really stand (hence why it’s not pictured! It had a hideous cheap plastic covering) but it had been hanging around my parents’ house unused for years, so for now it does the job, along with the drawers & pole. I keep wishfully looking at second-hand wardrobes on marketplace but transport is a problem – alternatively there are several charity furniture shops in Cardiff but bearing in mind the problems we had manoeuvring the sofa in, and the sharp twist at the top of the already narrow stairs, I’m concerned about getting something in in one piece. It also seems a real shame to waste any space in the large alcove so I’m currently in the process of installing scaffold board shelving and heavy duty curtain poles to form open wardrobes – keep an eye on Instagram for updates.

As for the paint, varnish and wallpaper, all of it was bought new and was a mixture of Dulux/Ronseal/Wickes own brand/standard white emulsion. I looked on Facebook and there are some good second hand decorating materials on there, but this was an all-hands-on-deck type of project and we were stressed enough as it was without needing to add guilt on top. Of course now we have a load of rollers etc. that we need to store somewhere, but that’s the way it goes!

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This is oldest photo I can find of the spare bedroom, but this was just after us painting it.

Guest bedroom

The other two bedrooms we carpeted with a kind of natural neutral colour my grandmother-in-law had from Pye Auctions (grandparents are pro at spotting a good deal or donating great pieces!) and furnished again with mostly second hand furniture. The spare bedroom we originally painted pink & purple as you can see above, but I regret the purple now and am planning to slowly change the decor to deep greens for a more botanical feel. I’ve started this off already with a curtain I deployed my mother to make for me, though we’ll likely install a blind as well as this is the sunniest room in the house. I really need a better photo of the dressing table to do it justice; I’ll try post one on Instagram soon.

  • Second hand – day bed & trundle, 1 of the mattresses (both from family, not sure how I’d feel about a 2nd hand mattress from strangers), dressing table (a DREAMY vintage charity shop find!), chair, first set of curtains (now replaced), curtain pole, cushions & TV & bedding etc. I had already.
  • New – IKEA kallax unit (we’re likely to sell this on as it didn’t fit either of the spaces properly), 1 mattress, current curtain fabric.

Third bedroom (aka Office)

The third bedroom is our designated office and has been entirely second hand decorated bar a new filing cabinet (not pictured), including this fantastic rug from my parents we had in our living room back in the ’90s. I love it! The desk isn’t as sturdy or deep as I’d ideally like, so this will be replaced eventually however I’ve spotted a company I like the look of – @lovemuju – so hope to invest in one of their reclaimed, handmade desks one day or nab another Facebook bargain. The idea for this room was to paint it all grey and then have coloured accents, which it does but clearly not as defined as your standard insta photo; realistically though that’s not really my style!

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Mid-progress, painting done

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Office set up – I love our rug! (There’ll be some greenery added)

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There’s since been a yellow clock added on the wall to match a new filing cabinet

So there you have it, an introduction to the chaos that is my house renovation. There’s plenty more yet to come, I think I may have to split the kitchen into two posts as that’s a long and traumatic story! But I’m really pleased so many of you seem interested so please let me know any thoughts in the comments box below 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Blown away at Blue Honey Local

I’d fancied the look of this place for a few weeks now since hearing they’d moved into the old Milgi residence, yet it was a Wriggle deal which looked too good to miss which prompted me to crack on and give it a go.

Blue Honey have had the Night Cafe in Sully’s, Quay Street since April 2017, offering an array of live music and mouth-watering meals that have had many a glowing review from the Cardiff food community (Korean Fried Chicken, bao buns, bang bang cauliflower just to name a few). The new venture on City Road is but a moment’s walk from home for me and so I was thrilled at the chance to try it out for myself!

We used the fab little Wriggle deal ongoing at the moment, giving you 3 small plates for £10 [if you’d consider booking through my affiliate link, I’d be ever so grateful] which is a bloody bargain let me tell you; especially considering the quality and freshness of the food served here. We were given a small menu on arrival and asked to tally up what dishes we wanted, bringing it to the bar to order. There were three of us so we went for a bao bun each and one of everything; normally I don’t share food very well but as everything on the menu is vegan I knew I was in safe hands. The result? Hand on heart, it was a bloody triumph. 100% will eat again and again!

Arriving first were the butterbean puree topped with parsley & dukkah and served with warm bread; the cucumber salad with chilli oil sauce, sesame seeds & spring onion; and the Vietnam rolls with thin strips of veg, mint and peanut wrapped up in rice paper served with a sweet chilli dip. I mean if that doesn’t get your mouth watering already, you’ve no idea what you’re missing. The puree was hummus-like and was a refreshing alternative dip with the accompanying bread, given a light spice from the dukkah and presenting a texture contrast with some of the more crunchy elements of the table.
The cucumber salad had a kick to it I didn’t expect but was crazy moreish and thoroughly enjoyed by all. The Vietnam rolls were a little fiddly at first but the sweet chilli dip was the perfect accompaniment to the veg and mint, the latter of which I’ve never had in this context but it worked well.

Next came the chargrilled hispi cabbage with nam prik sauce and lime – this was, for us, the star of the show believe it or not. Who knew cabbage could be SO GOOD?! It was a big portion (thankfully) so I brought some home with me for lunch the next day. Fantastic decision. Give it a go, please.
The crispy tofu, cucumber and black pepper sauce bao bun was a delightful experience, as was the chargrilled edamame with garlic & lemon (be prepared for finger food here) but the other stand-out piece for us was the cheung fun: crispy noodle roll pieces with spicy hoisin sauce. I could have eaten this all day! Very moreish, very tasty, very up my street.

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The flavours were well-balanced throughout the whole meal, service was spot on and the atmosphere was idyllic – just look at that tipi! I’m very glad Eartha stayed here as the greenery everywhere was super soothing on a warm summer evening. All in all, this was a brilliant midweek treat and I urge you to give it a go yourself. You won’t be disappointed! Wriggle’s offer of 3 small plates for £10 is available on weeknights, 5-7pm, no booking required. If you fancy giving it a go, I’d really appreciate use of my affiliate link. Enjoy!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Welcome back! Charlie’s next chapter…

Croeso y Charlie’s Chapter, if you’ve never been before! If you have, then I apologise for my long absence from writing – I’ve missed it if that’s any consolation. You may or may not know that this dormancy was largely due to having bought our first house and it being a full renovation, which meant living with my in-laws for several months and many, many small breakdowns (not because of them, they’re lovely). Truthfully, I’m a control freak; so whilst I’d rather not do (some) things myself and risk getting them wrong, I’ve discovered that I also get anxious having other people in my space – despite how necessary it may be. Renovating has therefore been without doubt the most stressful experience of my life so far. But we’re finally living there, feeling more settled and getting our life back together bit-by-bit, so it’s high time I start writing again!

It’s tricky, because I feel like I’m starting from the beginning. Doubt creeps in; what should I write about? I don’t have anything much to talk about besides the house… How do I write about house stuff without sounding naïve to some or condescending to others? Does anyone actually give a rat’s ass? And then I remember why I started this blog in the first place – for me. Because I wanted a creative outlet to talk about things I’m passionate about. And there is far too much focus on the numbers of everything these days, so I’m going to crack on with what I want to talk about and see what happens. Same as before.

I’ll start with a confession: unsurprisingly my food endeavours during this time have mostly been quick or familiar fixes, with the occasional meal out to feel human again – so not very inspiring.

Second confession: I have used single use plastic. The shock, the horror! Does this make me a bad person or a hypocrite? Absolutely not (in my opinion), because when shit hits the fan and your life quickly becomes a mess (whatever the cause) then you are absolutely allowed to cut yourself some slack. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nobody is perfect. Total clichés but totally true here. When you’re knackered and having a rough time of things, beating yourself up is the last thing you should be doing. Also, have you tried renovating sustainably?! It’s an effing minefield in of itself. One that I hope to share with you through a new series of mine (like that sneaky segway?) in which I’ll be talking my way through some Dos and Don’ts, things I’ve learned along the way and what I’d love to improve next time. I’m still figuring out the structure of these posts so if there’s anything in particular you’d love to know, please leave me a comment or a DM on Instagram.

Let’s get one thing straight before I dive back in: I am by no means a food or plastic-free or house renovation expert. My belief is simply that if any of my experiences could be useful or interesting to others, then why the hell not. Plus I like to talk/write and have met some bloody fantastic people since starting this blog, so I intend to continue!

Quick shout-out to some of the people who’ve kept me sane recently: my friends, family, OH and wonderful new neighbours; Dusty Knuckle Pizza – you guys & your pizza always cheer me up and I’m buzzing that the Warden’s House crowd funding paid off! And Ripple Living – Sophie’s vision and the success of this shop restores my faith in humanity. Plus it’s right around the corner, yay!

[Also Deliveroo and Abel & Cole veg boxes have been real lifesavers during all the upheaval, just saying]

Thank you all for your patience, please, please give me a shout if there’s anything you’re burning to hear about and in the meantime I’ll get cracking on some more posts for you soon.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic, part 6: Plastic Free Periods

You may have seen me mention cloth sanitary pads/liners in a previous blog post, which I made the very comfortable transition to a while ago and have since expanded my collection. But how about menstrual cups?

Firstly, what is a menstrual cup?

There are several different types/brands, likely the one you’ve heard most about is Mooncup® but I have no idea if they were the first?! Essentially, menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone and are designed to capture your flow during that dreaded week of the month, as a tampon would, except it sits lower down and is zero waste/low impact.

They’re very hygienic if cared for correctly (they need to be boiled to disinfect, but we’ll come back to that later) and being completely reusable, they are much more eco-friendly than ‘normal’ sanitary products which the average woman will use more than 11,000 of during her lifespan, amounting to a serious amount of waste – not to mention financial cost! Shocking, right?! Think about just how full your bathroom bin has gotten in the past… grim.

I must admit, when I first heard of them during my uni days, I thought it sounded gross too. Boiling a menstrual cup?! In the kitchen?! Obviously, you do this in a pan solely designated to your cup but the idea just did not appeal to me. Here I’ll try to outline the potential reasons against, for, and where you can find them. Any questions not answered below, please do leave a comment or message me directly!

Reasons why you may not like it

  • Habit
  • *Convenience* (I put this in asterisk because I hope to prove to you that it is, in fact, quite convenient after all)
  • Initial cost
  • Sounds gross
  • Never heard of it before…

Habit is a funny thing to break and convenience has driven us to the wasteful world we find ourselves in now; however, these things can be altered. What may initially seem inconvenient eventually just becomes normality. So, what changed my mind?

Reasons why you may LOVE it

  • Super easy to use
  • Very convenient
  • Much more cost effective over time
  • Kind to the planet
  • Easy to clean
  • No rushing to the shops to stock up on tampons when you feel the pain coming…

When I decided to take the plunge I still wasn’t totally sure if I’d like it or not. What if it hurt? What if I didn’t do it right and it leaked? Would it be messy? But since using it I can honestly say I’ll never go back, it’s one of my favourite sustainable swaps I’ve made so far! I love it! I’ll answer all these questions in the practicalities section…

Which cup did I choose and why?

TOTM, a Cardiff-based company, because these guys are recommended by one of my favourite Instagram ‘influencers’ Oenone (@uhnonee) and because I decided it was time to add periods to my single-use-plastic-free tick list. Plus, it’s pink. And local. What’s not to love? (Side note: If you haven’t listened to her Adulting podcast yet, I really recommend giving it a try. I’ve probably mentioned it before but it has opened my eyes to so many really important issues.)

My TOTM cup arrived super quickly, maybe even next day delivery, and their customer service on Instagram is fantastic; they’re very helpful, friendly and always seem genuinely happy to answer any questions you may have. I really recommend them myself, I don’t have a referral code I just love my cup and can’t fault their service! Plus, their size 2 cup is now available in Tesco stores! As well as a lot of their organic sanitary range.

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Screenshot from my Less Plastic insta-story

So, what about the practicalities…

Is it safe? Yes. Medical grade silicone, as long as you clean it properly in between periods (boil in a pan, dedicated to this purpose alone, for 4-5 mins) is completely safe. Also very important: don’t tug on the bottom when removing, the seal has to be broken for the cup to come out properly and safely so to do this you have to squeeze the bottom first – more on this later*.

How often do you have to clean it? Rinse it every time you change/empty it during your period, then once finished boil it as stated above and it’ll be sterilised ready for next time. They come with a handy little drawstring bag to keep them safe and clean too ☺

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Bubbling away peacefully in its special pot 🙂

How long do you keep it in for? General recommendation is max 8-10 hours as far as I’m aware and I’ve had absolutely no worries with leaving it in this long, however it does depend on your flow as well. For the first few days you may want to check it more regularly to get used to taking it out and putting back in, but also so you get to know your own flow a bit better; more often than not it’s nowhere near as much blood as you think. Honest!

Once you’ve gotten used to this then you’ll feel a lot more comfortable leaving it in for the full working day and not worrying about leakage or discomfort. And generally that’s what I do; put it in/clean it when I first get up and then again when I get home from work. So far I’ve had no issues with this but as I said, it does depend on flow; mine is pretty light after the first two days and I think that’s also due to the combined pill I take as contraception (risk of too much info there but I thought it might be relevant to some of you to know).

How about overnight? Yep, no problems there either in my experience. You have to consider that some people only sleep a few hours a night (how they live I do not know) but even if you’re a seriously heavy sleeper like myself, don’t worry, you’re covered. The seal makes sure of this. I always used to find that when I slept with a pad during the night it was generally lighter than during the day anyway so assumed it was to do with being horizontal but I have no scientific justification for this, just an observation.

How easy is it to put in and take out? It does take some getting used to and I think it also depends on how comfortable with yourself you are down there. In my opinion, the more comfortable you can bear to get with that area the better, so as to avoid feeling unnecessarily awkward in situations where exposure is required, such as during a wax, smear or medical exam. It drives me nuts that so many people are afraid of getting a smear test for this very reason – please remember that these are professionals. They don’t care what you look like down there so neither should you. I digress.

There are several different types of fold you can do to insert the cup effectively (here’s a useful YouTube video) and different folds will be more suited to different people/shapes & sizes. You also need to make sure you’re relaxed down there otherwise it’s not going to be comfortable. Some people do find them uncomfortable to insert and wear and if this is the case for you I would recommend seeking professional advice just to be sure; remember that babies are meant to come out of there ladies… there should be plenty of room if you can relax. If need be, it’s generally recommended to get graceful and cock a leg up on the bath or assume a squat position to ensure easy insertion (those last two words sound gross, I know). The cup should sit comfortably just inside, so that the chord is right at the edge but not protruding, you just need to be able to access it easily for removal. Do not go putting it up as far as a tampon.

Screenshot 2018-11-19 at 5.31.51 PMIn terms of removing* and cleaning it you need to make sure to break the seal before bringing the cup out, otherwise you’ll risk serious discomfort and possibly even some injury in severe cases. Simply squeeze the base of the actual cup, above the cord at the end, and it kind of folds back a little as you remove (you may even hear a gross noise as the suction breaks). Do this over the toilet or in the shower to avoid extra mess, rinse in the nearest sink/in the shower if at home, then reinsert and crack on. In a public toilet be sure to take a water bottle into the cubicle and rinse in the loo, or worst case scenario wipe down with loo roll and rinse when you get home. It’s worth nothing that you should wash your hands before and after you empty your cup to make sure everything stays clean.

You can also practise putting it in and taking back out again a few days before your period actually begins just to get used to it – there’s no rule that says you have to be on your period!

Does it hurt? No, most people I’ve spoken to agree with me that you can’t really feel it to be honest because it sits lower than a tampon, quite close to the edge (close enough so that you can feel the cord to remove it). You may feel it at first but it’s very quickly forgotten about!

Can you exercise with them in? Yes, they’re perfectly safe to exercise in due to the seal it creates which prevents leakage and means it’ll work in all positions! Just rinse and clean it as normal and crack on!

How do I know which cup size is right for me? This varies depending on the brand, some have more options and some less, but TOTM’s guidance is that if you’re below 18 years old and do not have sex regularly then go for size 1. Size 2 if you’re under 25 and/or haven’t given birth vaginally. If you’re over 25 or have given birth naturally opt for the size 3, although I recently had a friend ask me about this as she wasn’t sure which category she fit in and when referred to the TOTM online team she told me they were a great help, so don’t be afraid to ask them for specific advice.

Where can I buy a menstrual cup?

As previously mentioned, TOTM now have availability in some Tesco stores, whereas Mooncups can be purchased from my friends at Natural Weigh. Also, Ripple once open on Albany Road will be stocking Hey Girls! cups, where one is donated for every purchase to help end period poverty, as well as reusable pads. Some brands are even available at Superdrug stores. There are all manner of different ones to choose from and this post isn’t sponsored by TOTM, it’s just that this is the brand I went for and am very happy with.

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Source: TOTM Organic

So, how do you feel about them now? Convinced to give it a go yet?

If there are any questions I haven’t answered here, please do leave them in a comment or send me a direct message and I’d be happy to help or point you in the right direction. There’s also a good amount of advice online (I was inspired by my friend Hannah’s blog post on her site The Feral Lady) and in plastic-free/eco forums on Facebook etc. One I use regularly for tips and advice is Zanna Van Dijk‘s ‘Living Consciously Crew’.

Here’s to more plastic-free periods! I honestly wouldn’t be without my TOTM cup now.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

 

*Acknowledgement: some of the images used are from TOTM’s website because I’m not really artsy enough! 

A little life update…

Hey folks, it’s been a while.

I would normally apologise and make excuses, but I’m trying to stop apologising when I don’t need to be sorry. I’ve always been the kind of person that leads a generally busy life and constantly juggles hobbies or priorities, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Some things slide for a while to make way for others, that’s just life.

So, what has been going on?

I have no idea whether anyone’s really interested in these ‘life update’ posts but when it’s someone I follow and read their posts regularly I know I like to be a little nosy so I figured ‘what’s the harm?!’. If it doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to read. More than anything I’ve been thinking it might be good to get my blog-related thoughts down on paper to hold myself accountable too.

Firstly, you probably already know from a few tweets and Instagram stories that my OH and I are buying a house which is all very exciting, but moving is something I find to be very stressful. I’m a control freak so have trouble just letting things happen, I prefer to make them happen myself. Buying the house in fact isn’t even the start of where my posting has gone awry; we were uncomfortable in the flat we were living in and decided to negotiate with our agents to leave our contract early, which in itself took time and then there was the whole closing everything down, moving everything out, getting our deposit back debacle to deal with. And now we’re living with my in-laws whilst the house is going through. Fair play to them, it’s so good of them to take us in in this interim period and we’re getting along really well but as it’s transitional, I still kind of feel like I’m moving. When you put it all together I think I’ve been ‘moving’ since July. But like I said, I really can’t (and don’t mean to) complain because I honestly don’t know how we’d have coped without having the support from our parents. Plus, we now have chickens at my in-laws which is great fun!

The knock-on impact from this is that I’ve been trying really hard to manage my money better lately (difficult for me at the best of times) and eating out a bit less than I used to, on top of the fact that I’m not actually living in Cardiff right now. Me three years ago would never have believed how much I miss our little city life at the moment; I grew up in a very rural village and then went to uni in the bubbliest uni bubble you’ve ever seen (Aberystwyth, woop woop!) so I remember being very intimidated by the ‘big city’ when I moved here. Cardiff, of course, isn’t big at all in the grand scheme of things but it certainly is for me!

In terms of blogging, I have a handful of half-written posts that I now feel are too far gone to finish. For this I do apologise, whole-heartedly, and intend to make up for in quality going forward if at least not in quantity. I’d also intended to come back with a food post having written so much about my single-use plastic journey recently but at the moment plastic is coming more naturally to me and to be honest, I haven’t been all that adventurous food-wise either (besides the Chai Street vegan menu the other week which was seriously good stuff). So heads up that the next post is probably another about plastic, but hopefully one that a few of you may be particularly interested in, we’ll have to wait and see. I have a few food posts in mind and a particular idea I need a little more work on, so will be trying my best to get back into some sort of swing from now on.

There you have it. Nothing ground-breaking and certainly a far cry from some of my best work but I felt the need to get something out there to explain why I’ve been so absent and hope that you’ll continue to bear with me while I sort my life out (although it’s about to be another very busy year both in and outside of work). Most importantly, the passion is still there. Also importantly, Ripple Living announced last night that it’s going to be on Albany Road, just a short walk away from our new house. I couldn’t be more excited!

I’ll be back very soon,

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Plastic Free July: how did I get on?

You may have seen my last post 10 ways to kickstart your Plastic Free July which also included the extra steps I planned to take in my own. I decided to go totally single use plastic free as the next logical step in my Saying Goodbye to Single use plastic journey, and now it’s all over I thought I should hold myself accountable and let you all know how I got on. Here goes…

What went well?

  1. Loo roll
    This I managed to do by first trying a trial box, then subsequently ordering a bulk order of Who Gives a Crap? toilet roll.
    I love this stuff because it does the job well, it’s made from 100% recycled paper (or bamboo and sugarcane if you go for the fancier version), no nasty chemicals, inks or dyes added, 50% of profits go towards charity & building toilets in communities that need them AND they arrive totally pointless plastic free. What. A. Dream. At 0.135p per sheet too, compared to Asda’s own brand (plastic-wrapped) 0.16p per sheet*, it’s clearly price comparable.
    *figure from a colleague who worked it out specifically for price comparison
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  2. Tea bags 
    Following on from part 3 of my ‘saying goodbye to single use plastic’ series I bought a couple of boxes of Pukka Herbs teas – three mint, night time and turmeric to be exact – which I’ve been using as well as the occasional pot of loose leaf from Natural Weigh. Besides the extra added cost (search for the deals on the Pukka teabags) I’ve loved making this change and fully intend to stick to it, particularly because there’s such a range in the Pukka herbs selection too.
     

  3. Veg and fish 
    Even in supermarkets now there seems to be an increasing amount of veg available loose; Morrisons in particular have taken the bold but
    sensible step to sell cucumbers without that ridiculous plastic shrink wrap around them. Thank God someone has a brain. You’ll likely already know that these guys as well as quite a few other supermarkets will happily let you take your fresh fish/meat cuts home in your own box too if you ask (or in some cases, insist before assumptions are made), which I continue to do as and when I need it.

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    This was actually a little haul from Cardiff Market 🙂 (in the box are some glamorgan sausages)

  4. Milk 
    In the absence of a proper front porch suitable for milkman/woman deliveries, I’ve been buying glass bottled milk from a nearby Nisa local which I was reliably informed about on Twitter, as well as the odd bottle from Hard Lines Coffee in Cardiff Market, as above. Thank you social media!
  5. Olives 
    Deli counters are not exempt from the above, don’t be afraid to ask to use your own box when stocking up on olives and that sort of thing – if you don’t ask you never know!
  6. Using my reusables
    This past weekend we visited friends in London and headed to Foodstock in Battersea Park. I was thrilled to see they were using the £1 deposit per cup scheme already, but me being me I already had my own with me and was glad that using them on this occasion felt far more normalised. We also asked for our food to be put into the lunch boxes I’d brought with me, which the vendors happily obliged to and so we tucked into our food guilt-free. (I also had my spork and cloth napkins on hand because I’ve become a super nerd with this stuff now)
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  7. Straws 
    These have been mentioned before but nowadays I often take enough out with me to lend to a friend so that as few straws are sacrificed as possible. On a family meal out last week my request for no straw meant that all of us enjoyed our happy hour cocktails straw-free – result!
  8. Takeaways – I’ll come back to this later, some pros and some cons.
  9. Refusing to buy 
    Things I’ve not bought for the past month: salad, fruit, ice lollies, biscuits, crisps. Might sound easy to go without but rightly or wrongly for me it really wasn’t. The latter two, however, gave me the opportunity to really demonstrate to my OH why the problem is as big as it is when he realised there are absolutely no plastic-free biscuits in our local corner shop and pulled a sad face. We opted for Toblerone instead as the cardboard and foil can be mostly recycled. I also made my own ice lollies with a super cute little mould set 🙂
  10. Chocolate & sweets 
    Following on from the above, I thought chocolate was going to be super hard to find but actually it seems there are quite a few you can get in foil and cardboard. These do come with a slightly higher price tag though so moderation is required unless you’re a total baller. Sweets-wise it took me until halfway through the month (when a craving kicked-in) to realise that pick’n’mix is the only obvious way to get sweets loose – why had I never thought of this?! I subsequently stocked up on our next cinema trip, paid a small fortune for it, then realised that Wilko and some Tesco stores also sell it for an undoubtedly slightly cheaper price. We live and learn.

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    Pick’n’mix in a tupperware and some plastic-free chocolate, the paper and foil can be recycled

  11. Snacks 
    I had every intention of making loads of my own snacks but life has been crazy lately so got in the way a little. I did manage to finally get around to making popcorn though which was way quicker than I realised and so much cheaper! I also have a bag of dates which I
    will get around to making energy balls with – both from my last trip to Natural Weigh.
    My main snack substitute has been a stroke of pure genius if I do say so myself; I always get sugar cravings after lunch and had recently got into a bad habit of buying a chocolate bar from work most days. Instead, I bought a jar of chocolate spread and have been shamelessly snacking on spoonfuls at my desk rather than wasting all that packaging. It’s probably even worse in terms of nutritional value and clearly not a long term solution, but it addressed a problem and for that I am slightly proud. Much cheaper over time, too and I’ll add the empty jar to my collection.

What didn’t go so well?

  1. Theatre drinks ×
    During our trip to London last weekend, we were unable to take glasses into the theatre itself for hygiene and safety reasons so I sacrificed two plastic cups for G&T purposes. The bartender assured me they are recycled so I’ll have to hope that’s enough, and we did use my bamboo straws of course. I must admit I felt quite deflated about this, but sometimes I have to reality check myself and remember there are so many other things I work hard to do that the odd slip-up is only natural. Yes, I could just not have had a drink but it was a treat experience we’d wanted to do for a long time, so I have to let that be okay.
  2. Ordering online ×
    Packaging is always tricky when ordering online because basically, if you’re not ordering from a specific environmental/plastic-free store, more-or-less 9 times out of 10 there’s single use plastic involved. As much as I hate that, it would be largely impractical to stop ordering things online completely (#firstworldproblems) so this is another area of compromise. For now. (Let’s hope it can change)

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    Something I recently ordered online, ironically an ‘eco-friendly’ product…

  3. Ice lolly/cream ×
    I knew this was going to be a tricky one for me and if I’m honest, it’s the one thing I’ve not been painfully strict about. Not everyone has a sweet tooth but for me ice cream is easily one of my top 3 favourite foods, I don’t go a week without it! Despite this, we have tended to only buy it in a guilty pleasure-type way from the local Tesco express rather than planning it into my weekly shopping and as a result, most of the ice cream we eat is either Ben & Jerry’s, Halo Top, or something else in one of those cardboard-looking cartons.
    The problem with these is that they have an inner plastic lining like disposable coffee cups which make them non-recyclable waste (and upsets me greatly), yet much to my dismay even when I gave myself a talking to and bought a tub instead which could later be used as yet another lunch or freezer box, there was a plastic film between the lid and the box. WHY?! Carte D’or, I’m very disappointed in you. (FYI – I’m not actually that snobby about ice cream it just appears that way reading back…)

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    #POINTLESSPLASTIC

  4. Bread (hit & miss)
    Not all supermarkets have their bakeries loose so when we have run out of fresh loaves or I haven’t had chance on the weekend to pop to the market, OH has bought a couple of loaves in wrapping. I recently learned that plastic bread bags can actually be recycled, however, along with carrier bags at larger supermarkets – as can some of the frozen Quorn packaging and bags from frozen peas – so this offers some light relief at least. Check the label next time you’re out shopping and it should say.
  5. Wrapping on a nut butter jar / sellotape ×
    Some of the jars or tins I’ve bought over the month have still had plastic wrapping around the lid, despite my best efforts. Meridian I’m looking at you.
  6. Greetings cards ×
    Some places like Card Factory or the odd local store stock greetings cards without wrapping but not all that many sadly. Maybe I’ll get back into making cards but then sourcing the resources without packaging may be a challenge in itself. Tips welcome.
  7. Takeaways
    This is a weird one which has some ups and downs. I know what you’re thinking. Why not just go out for food or make it yourself? But realistically when you’re spoilt for choice in as wonderful a place as Cardiff we do like to treat ourselves once in a while (aka more often than we’d like to admit). Deliveroo have recently added an option that lets you tell them you don’t want cutlery in an attempt to reduce their environmental impact, which is fantastic, and some of their vendors are clearly making conscious efforts to adjust their packaging.
    An example of this is Pieminister who have taken to using cardboard boxes for their deliveries which they assured me are suitable for kerbside recycling. Result! A lazy morning breakfast delivery from Pret the other day was also almost completely plastic free, bar a small pot of smoothie bowl which I’ll keep for seeds and that sort of thing.
  8. Smoothie ×
    I did give in on one of our SUPER hot days this month and buy a big bottle of Innocent smoothie. I know, I could’ve made one myself at home, but it was just too tempting and too convenient – I caved. I’m obviously keeping the bottle and intend to take it along to my next zero waste shopping trip because reuse > recycle.
  9. Toothpaste & deodrant ×
    Whilst I’m still using Lush shampoo and conditioner bars and recently started on their shower gel (although they’re not doing the naked one at the moment so not totally plastic-free), I have recently regressed from using natural deodorant and toothpastes for two reasons. I felt it important to keep myself accountable and be totally honest with you all.

    • firstly, it’s been bloody roasting during this heatwave and as a sweaty human being (sorry not sorry) I wanted the safety net of a classic antiperspirant during this time. The aerosols are recyclable in my local kerbside but still not the ideal solution.
    • secondly, our bathroom sink is having trouble draining and we suspect it may have something to do with the film clay-based toothpaste creates around the basin… so I’ve swapped to the cruelty-free, but not plastic-free, toothpaste I buy for my OH from Superdrug for the time being.

 

 

And there you have it, my Plastic Free July round-up. I didn’t keep track of my waste in a glass jar because I didn’t have one going spare, but I do kind of wish I’d kept my month’s waste somewhere as a physical demonstration. Measuring it in terms of bin bags wouldn’t be accurate in our case either because as much as this is important to me and my boyfriend is happy to go along with most of it, I also don’t force it on him so there will be things he’ll buy that I wouldn’t.

Now the official challenge is over there are some things I’ll succumb to buying again such as berries and the occasional salad or stir fry, but I do intend to try out some local pick-your-own farms and forage for blackberries in the near future. The important thing is that I made some more changes I hadn’t done before! And I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same. Don’t forget, saying goodbye to single-use plastic isn’t just for July…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Recent round-up: Charlie’s foodie finds

I’m aware that I’ve been talking more about plastic than food lately, I’m very passionate about both, but so as not to stray too far away from the point I figured it was high-time I write about some of the meals I’ve had recently.

Here below is a run-through of a handful of outings which I wanted to talk about but either forgot to take a photo of menu or simply had too much fun eating to worry about taking enough notes. For that I do apologise. 

Dusty Knuckle Pizza

I cannot rave about this business and its pizza enough. I first came here last summer for one of Imran Nathoo (Kitchen Clonc)’s post-Masterchef supper clubs, which was delicious and totally changed my mind towards peach, but had yet to visit for their own offerings. Since my boyfriend and I eventually did tick it off our list earlier this year, we’ve recommended it to all our friends & family and been back several times ourselves – I can’t get enough!

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I’m not one of those naturally gifted photographers, okay…

It’s ever so slightly off-the-beaten-track on Llandaff Road in Canton but so, so worth the walk out of town. Conveniently, the fantastic little St Canna’s Ale House is also just a hop, skip and a jump away for some after dinner local beers and often live music. I’m yet to head there for one of their foodie pop-ups, previously including the likes of Brother Thai and Pettigrew Bakes, but we absolutely love this cosy, fun and very friendly little pub. You get such a good local vibe without it feeling exclusive, which for a village girl like me is wonderfully nostalgic. Anyway, back to Dusty Knuckle.

One our first visit we enjoyed the sauerkraut & pear and anchovy toast starters, followed by the Nduja and Blas Y Mor pizzas. The sauerkraut was sharp but not over-powering and was a new experience for me, whereas the anchovy toast was very fishy so a word of warning for the faint-hearted, but for us it was fantastic. My Blas Y Mor pizza was an ode to Welsh cuisine; laverbread, cockles and samphire all came together to create a unique taste experience, balancing well with the sweet tomatoes and gooey cheese and creating a class flavour combo. Their dough is the perfect balance of soft and easy-to-tear yet firm in the right places (no soggy bottoms here!), not too bloaty either in my experience. Basically I just don’t see what’s not to love. 

On subsequent visits I’ve tried the asparagus with an egg on top, the four garlic pizza (which I fully intend to go back and eat a whole pizza of, apologies in advance to my boyfriend), the goats cheese and beetroot chutney and their vegan option from last week’s Cardiff International Food Festival; courgette, burnt lemon, onion, pomegranate and nigella seeds. All of which I loved, all of which I’d have again in a second. Just writing about it is making me hungry… So if you live in or around Cardiff and haven’t checked this place out, put it at the top of your list and get down there.

Side note: they also do metal reusable takeaway boxes nowadays which I think is effing fantastic (collection only I believe).

Maria’s Greek Taverna

Situated in the heart of Cardiff’s bustling Crwys Road, this place is certainly a welcome addition to the already plentiful restaurants and cafes in this part of town. Some girl friends and I went to try it out for an early post-work dinner one evening and managed to get in there just in time to take advantage of the small plates offer – 3 for £12. So obviously we picked 3 each…

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Inside the restaurant is painted a cool, sea blue with coordinating decorations giving you real holiday vibes without having to leave the city. Judging from Gourmet Gorro’s opening review, it seems this is a whole family affair with Maria herself as the matriarch and you can taste the authenticity in the food. We ate until we were full and then I took home the leftovers to eat some more, I wish I could remember exactly what we had but it’s on my list to revisit soon – the more halloumi fries and goats’ cheese I can get my hands on the better! [Keep an eye on Wriggle for deals]

Restaurant Tommy Heaney (The Great House, Laleston)

Birthday celebrations with both sets of parents (my own and the in-laws) meant we had to go for something special. I’d heard great things about Restaurant Tommy Heaney from my friend The Octopus Diaries and others and fancied the taster menu more than that of James Sommerin in Penarth (I always worry about the veggie swaps for taster menus unless specifically stated). On arrival the hotel itself was gorgeous, outside and in. We were seated next to a big fireplace on a circular table, which was nice as everyone could easily talk, and after having spotted a bread basket on our way in, we tucked into bread and olives whilst perusing the menu and ordering drinks.

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Some of my family, however, share my enjoyment in reading a menu ahead of time so we’d pretty much already decided on the taster menu; although we weren’t asked on booking to specify, and our servers warned us that if one wanted the taster we’d all have to have it too, they seemed a little surprised when we all dived in. I think it perhaps wasn’t expected as we ended up being the last ones in the restaurant by the end of the evening (not a bad thing) and some of the younger members of staff weren’t entirely familiar with the taster menu’s contents – I assumed they were going through a changeover ahead of Tommy Heaney’s move to take over the former Arbennig site in Pontcanna, taking some of his staff with him. Unfortunately on this occasion I forgot to take a photo of the menu (I mean, it was my birthday…) so you’ll have to forgive the lack of detail, but here’s some photos to demonstrate. It was all very tasty and very well done, I can assure you that, and swapping the meat for fish for me was absolutely no problem – hoorah!

All in all we had a delicious meal all round and agreed we’d love to try out his new Cardiff set up – which is actually undergoing crowdfunding at the moment – however, the small hiccup of some unfamiliarity with the taster menu and/or not always introducing the dish whilst placing it in front of us, plus a very long wait for a taxi, let it down. I would still recommend dining here as the food was of a brilliant standard and the setting was idyllic, but if you’re planning on having the taster menu I’d recommend asking them to make a note of this when you book to avoid any such issues in the future.

P.S. There’s a chance to try out his cooking a little closer to home for a few weeks now (hopefully longer!) as he opens his pop-up in Arbennig over the next six weeks to support his crowdfunding campaign to take over the venue permanently. Find more info here and get involved if you can!

Adi’s, Bridgend

Wandering back east towards Cardiff I had the pleasure of discovering Adi’s dessert bar in Bridgend a few weekends ago. Whilst the idea is much the same as many other dessert shops – pick your base (waffle or pancake), pick your ice cream, sauce, toppings etc. – the thing that made Adi’s special was that there were alternatives available for everyone. And I mean everyone; my boyfriend’s sister is both dairy and gluten intolerant and was in absolute heaven!

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Gluten free pancakes or waffles? Sorted. Dairy free ice cream? Not a problem. Non-dairy milkshakes? No worries. And that’s on top of all the full dairy, full gluten ‘regular’ options too, making it an ideal place to go if you’re catering for a variety of needs or searching for somewhere to treat yourself as I was. We opted for bubble waffles which look as funky as they sound, a couple of dollops of ice cream each, some fruit, sauce, sweets, the works. We left very happy chappies and I wouldn’t hesitate to go here again next time I’m in Bridgend – my boyfriend’s sister already has!

And there you have it, a round-up of all the places I’ve meant to talk about recently but hadn’t got around to it. You can probably tell which one is my favourite 😉 but I would give a thumbs up and a recommendation to any of the above depending on what you’re looking for. I do plan to begin writing proper reviews again soon so anywhere you’d recommend or if you try any of these for the first time, do let me know in the comments! Next up on my list; the brand new 39 Desserts, Tommy Heaney’s pop up and John Cook (previously of Arbennig)’s DIRT pop-up in Ogmore, watch this space…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx