Home Made Sustainable: part 2 – Water saving tips & tricks

This week is #WaterSavingWeek, an annual initiative run by Waterwise, an independent, non-profit NGO focused on reducing water consumption in the UK. As such, this isn’t a post about a particular room (if you were expecting all of this sort-of series to follow that structure then I’m sorry to disappoint!) but about the ways in which I try to keep our water footprint down and conserve our most precious resource on the planet.

Water may not seem like a commodity, many of us will expect to just turn on the tap and have it there, yet it is not actually a renewable resource in the way you might think because only 1% of all the water on the planet, is usable for human consumption. Just 1%. And when you think about all the things that treated water is used for – washing our clothes, washing dishes,  washing ourselves, flushing toilets, cleaning and so on – then you begin to realise just how precious water is.

As you can tell, this is yet another thing I’m very passionate about (spoiler: it’s my job), so I wanted to share a few things we’ve done to make our home more water efficient. For more information on why it’s important to save water, follow this link.

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Source: Waterwise’s Instagram

Like energy efficiency, being water efficient can save you money in the long run. If that’s what motivation works for you then that’s absolutely fine. Did you know though, that water scarcity is a serious and rapidly increasing problem in the UK? And that London actually receives less rainfall than Sydney, Istanbul and Morocco? [Source: Waterwise]. Even here in Wales, water resource is a concern because with the extreme peaks and troughs of weather we’re seeing more and more of now (climate change is happening guys), if we get a sudden burst of rain after a long dry period then the ground can’t absorb it properly and we end up with flash flooding. And it’s not as simple as just storing up the extra rain to use later on – if only it were. I could go on about this for hours as a geography and water nerd but here are a few helpful resources if you’d like to go a bit deeper: this podcast by Climate Queens which I recommend listening to, the “Explained: The World’s Water Crisis” episode on Netflix, or this blog on Waterwise’s website.

The point is, reducing our personal water consumption where possible to do so is much needed for the sake of the planet. It is not a renewable resource and it’s significantly more expensive to treat and get to your tap than many people realise. So, how do we do this? Easy, here goes…

Check your supply

The first thing we did was have a new service pipe installed as the house was being supplied via lead [common for old properties like ours], which has been proven to be detrimental to our health and is not recommended, particularly for young children and expectant mothers.

To identify and rectify this issue is pretty simple, all you need to do is get in touch with your water supplier and request a sample to be taken and/or an inspector check your supply [they will still be able to do this during lockdown as it’s an essential service]. If found then some water companies will replace the lead for free in particular circumstances but if not, it wasn’t expensive to arrange a Water Safe registered plumber do the job. The water supplier then needs to return to swap over your connection and you’re good to go!

Additionally, if you aren’t already on a meter then this is definitely something to consider, as it can not only save you money (though not always) but more importantly allows water companies to customise their service a little more and identify any leaks on your supply that you may not see (they’ll tell you if they find anything and what to do about it). This helps to reduce water wastage overall and keeps your supply running as it should.

Check your taps

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My kitchen sink set-up… I love it!

As mentioned in #TapThursday of #WaterSavingWeek, checking your taps is a great way to save water without impacting your daily experience. Our new taps in the kitchen [pictured left] and bathroom come ready-fitted with aerators, which do exactly what they say on the tin; aerate the water so that you get the same supply, same pressure but using less water. To ensure best quality and standards, keep an eye out for WRAS approved products and clean the mouth of your taps regularly to keep any bacteria at bay (holding a cap full of bleach or household cleaner over it for 5 mins or so, then running the tap on full for a minute to flush it should do the trick).

Adapt your shower

There are a few things you can do in the shower to save yourself and the planet some valuable water. Firstly, deploying a water saving shower head is great for lowering your water usage without compromising on quality or experience. These are often available from your water supplier directly but also tend to be in most supermarkets or hardware stores nowadays – they usually contain a tiny little aerator as I just mentioned for taps.

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My water saving shower head & timer

Secondly, shower timers can provide a fun incentive to take shorter showers and save water that way. You could even make it into a competition with your house mates/family and see who can get in under the 4 minute limit! Four minutes isn’t prescriptive, but tends to be the optimum/recommended time for water efficient showering [4-5, better still if you don’t shower everyday but only when necessary]. Timers are, again, often available from your water supplier directly but can also be found online or just use a stopwatch you already have.

Thirdly, those precious few (or maybe not so few) minutes spent waiting for the hot water to come through if you have a combi-boiler like ours, can be prime opportunity for some water saving. Placing an empty bucket or watering can in the shower to capture this excess water is a fantastic adaptation that can save a lot over time; it has more of an impact than you might think! I tend to keep the bucket there during the rest of my shower to catch any bounce-off etc., then use the water to flush the toilet (not all in one go, just as and when until empty), provided that there aren’t any nasty chemicals in there of course – best to opt for natural products to be on the safe side or take the bucket out before you begin washing your hair and such. I’ll go into this more in a minute but do remember that all we should be flushing is the 3 P’s: pee, poo & paper. I’d also like to note that essential oils should not be part of any bathroom cleaning as they are known to be very harmful to aquatic life (despite their presence in many homemade cleaning recipes). I could do a whole other post on what happens from toilet to treatment so let me know if that’s of interest.

Reduce the amount you flush

So, as mentioned above I would hope it goes without saying that nothing bar the 3 P’s should be going down your toilet on a regular basis. Even cleaning solutions are best kept to a minimum where possible. Wet wipes, sanitary products, hair and all kinds of other stuff cause vile, disgusting and disruptive blockages [even fatbergs] which can lead to flooding yourself or your neighbours and ultimately, the price of fixing this is reflected in the bills you pay (not directly, but it’s an expensive problem to fix).

The age-old saying “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” genuinely has some merit when it comes to saving water because the average toilet flush uses around 9 litres. Can you believe that?! Again, many new ones have now been adapted to use less; however, toilets are also the leading cause of household leaks, so it’s totally worth checking yours over to make sure it’s in tip-top condition. There are also some nifty, inexpensive little bags you can pop into your cistern which reduce the amount of water used for each flush. The Hippo is a great example.

Get a water butt

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Excuse the messy garden but here’s my butt!

As well as watering our flowers & plants with grey water (a term often used to describe household waste water NOT from the toilet i.e. washing up/shower/dishwasher etc.), we have a water butt fitted in the garden which collects rainwater ready to use as and when we need it. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can get special types of crystals to go in plant pots or glass bulb things which secrete the water at a slow & steady pace, making it last longer and keeping plants better hydrated.

I installed our water butt all by myself (rather proud) and have to say it wasn’t complicated, plus it filled up in just one rainy evening! Dream! I’m seriously considering getting a second to be honest, especially as we don’t have an outside tap.

And there you have it, my top tips for saving water at home/things that we’ve done to try save as much as we can. One other habit I’m trying to get into is remembering to pour excess water from drinking glasses etc. into the watering can instead of down the drain! It’s all a learning curve. If you don’t have a water butt you can also use the water left after washing up the dishes to water your plants & flowers, provided that you’re using an eco-friendly washing up liquid.

Do you have any extra tips? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: this post was not sponsored in any way, however was done in support of Waterwise who happen to be friends of mine.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Veganuary 2020 – What, why and how?

First thing’s first, let’s acknowledge that the what we should be eating to be sustainable debate is a very complex one, complicated more so with the use of globalised statistics (rather than national or even local) with many variables, new research emerging all the time and by no means do I believe that everyone should be doing the same thing. For example, being gluten-free for medical reasons AND vegan would be a challenge unfeasible and inadvisable for many. Notwithstanding the fact that even having a choice in the first place is heavily reliant on privilege (that’s a whole other kettle of fish for another day, here’s a podcast that explains some of it). That being said, I believe strongly in doing what you can, when you can and being kind to yourself about it [relevant now during lockdown more than ever]. Many of you will already be aware that I’ve been vegetarian for just about ever – finally giving up full-time fish midway through last year (I say full-time because really, do we need to label ourselves as strictly this or that? A responsibly-sourced treat once in a blue moon is still a reduction and therefore a win in my view) – so I figured it was time to take the plunge and see how much further I could go. How hard could it be, right?

My answer: pretty damn easy.

Obviously there are a multitude of caveats as touched on earlier, which I feel important to mention: I was already following a plant-based/vegetarian diet but with some added dairy; I am privileged to have the access, finances and time to shop & eat in this way; I don’t (to my knowledge) have any medical issues which might compromise a vegan diet; and I’ve done my research to do my best with regards to proper, balanced nutrition, which is absolutely crucial if you are considering making such dietary changes. Ideally it’s advised to seek professional dietary advice to ensure you’re aware of how to cover all bases, which I do intend to do when funds allow.

Right, now that’s out of the way we can get to it.

What is Veganuary?

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Peanut butter noodles from Zanna Van Dijk‘s ebook Eat More Plants

Most of my followers have no doubt at least heard of the concept (because social media is designed to be an echo-chamber thanks to those damn algorithms) but just in case you haven’t: this is the idea of pledging to go vegan for the whole of the month of January – Veganuary is the official charity running this. I would recommend pledging via their website if you do decide to go for it because they send out super helpful emails throughout the month advising on nutrition, helpful swaps and how to cope with cravings if you have them. If you fancy the challenge sooner than next January, there’s nothing stopping you trying it now and in fact Macmillan ran a campaign this year supporting a Meat Free March [I had meant to publish this prior to that, my bad] which they may well repeat – there’s no deadline!

Why did I decide to do it?

The answer to this is basically that I wanted to push myself because most of what I was already eating was only a couple of ingredients away and I’d gotten into a bit of a rut of cooking the same stuff over & over, so this was a brilliant excuse to mix things up in the kitchen. As well as the environmental impacts, of course, though it’s important to note that some things like avocados & almonds can also have a large carbon footprint in comparison to other fruit/veg/nuts due to importing and growing practices; hence why it’s super important to do your research and consider what’s manageable for you personally. Don’t beat yourself up if you start with these things to ease the transition and phase them out gradually; I still eat avocado sometimes and had more during veganuary than I normally would but the whole thing is a journey. Some argue that shopping local, regardless of whether it’s meat or veg, is still better for the planet overall but there are so many variables at play and relatively little research on a localised scale that I’ll let you make your own call on that one – it’s preferable, no doubt about that, but not necessarily a definitive answer. Anyway, I digress.

How did I do it?

As mentioned earlier, I would really recommend signing up to the official Veganuary emails, they were so helpful during the first few weeks of getting into the swing. Those first few days post-New Year celebrations I was pretty clueless to be honest and not in any fit state to do a thorough, planned food shop, but once I had set aside time to do this I felt much more in control and confident. A crucial golden nugget of info for me has been the ‘daily dozen’ checklist from Veganuary which details the recommended portions of fruit/veg/nuts/seeds/wholegrains/beans to succeed nutritionally in a vegan diet. Absolute game changer. I’ve since used it alongside my weekly meal planning to ensure I’m getting as much ticked off as possible each day. [If anyone’s interested in this please get in touch, I’d be happy to share] I also think that talking about portions rather than macronutrients (% or grams of protein/fat/carbs) is a much healthier way of looking at things and promotes a more positive relationship with food, which is especially important in any sort of restrictive diet.

What did my typical meal plans look like?

Well, I’ll show you. As someone who bases their intake on 3 meals a day plus a few snacks, it was relatively easy to incorporate most of what I needed according to the

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Curry is super easy to make vegan! Plus, you can throw in as many veggies as you like.

daily dozen checklist but getting absolutely everything in required a bit of extra effort and careful planning, so I didn’t always manage it truth be told. But it’s so handy to have that awareness to start with! And crucially, which I should’ve mentioned earlier, the widely accepted advice is that all plant-based eaters should be taking daily supplements for optimum health; namely B12, vitamin D and omegas [ref: podcast linked below]. This is not to say that meat & dairy eaters are exempt from supplement requirements, in fact I’d wager that most people probably don’t tick all the right nutrition boxes because we’re not really taught about it growing up and consumption of animal products does not guarantee a balanced diet.

Exactly what supplements to take/how much and how to meet nutritional needs in your own diet can only be answered by a registered dietitian though, as it depends on your own body chemistry etc., but Dr Rupy Aujla of Doctor’s Kitchen recommends these three as a base to work from in this podcast. As I said earlier, I intend to seek professional advice on my own requirements when funds allow; for now I take these three daily (most days, sometimes I forget) in the form of easily available pharmacy tablets – there are sprays and drops on the market but can come at a greater cost and are not as widely available.

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As you can see, our meals were not revolutionary, ground-breaking or particularly challenging for a competent home cook and the benefits we found of not topping meals with grated cheese was that I put more effort into herbs, spices and more intense flavours. My OH reckons that some of my best homemade meals came out of veganuary! There were a few things we tried that one of us didn’t like much but these were mostly substitutes and they do take a bit of trial & error to work through. Going into veganuary I was particularly worried about not being able to use most Quorn, which we relied on quite often before, but during meal planning I found that I didn’t even need substitutes most of the time to be honest; carefully balanced veggies/beans/legumes was more than enough.

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Homemade tapas went down a storm for a Friday night feast!

So, my advice to you:

If you’re thinking of trying vegan cooking, even if just a day or two a week, is to look up some recipes and just give it a go. If you find you like it, then do a bit more research into properly balancing your meals and appropriate nutrition. And if you like that? Then go for it. You don’t need to label yourself as vegan to enjoy vegan food most or even some of the time. A perfect example of this is my in-laws, who when my OH and I first got together were ex-farming meat lovers. 3 and a bit years later I’ve taught them to recycle properly (no easy feat with my father-in-law let me tell you), they’ve cut down their packaging consumption, keep their own chickens whose eggs they distribute to friends or other family and now eat plant-based about 90% of the time. It’s a journey. (PS. if you’re reading this I’m super proud of you guys!)

Final thing: have I carried on veganism post Veganuary?

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Jackfruit fajitas were one of my favourite new discoveries

Most of the time. We still have some things in the house like mayo, cheese and non-vegan Quorn that it would be wrong to waste, plus my OH isn’t vegan so there will still be some consumption there; but since the start of February I’ve only had the odd bits of dairy and still practise vegan eating the majority of the time. I thought chocolate would be really difficult for me as a previously daily consumer but found that during Veganuary because I was snacking on more fruit, nuts, seeds and small-ish amounts of dark chocolate I slimmed down a bit and didn’t crave that sugar hit as much as I thought. Cheese was the hardest thing by far. Most vegan cheese I tried just did not cut it. However, since then I’ve visited La Fauxmangerie during a weekend in London and that is pretty damn close to the real thing in my view – not to mention the vegan cheese & chocolate we had in Paris recently which was NEXT LEVEL so there’s still hope for the future of non-dairy cheese.

If I’m honest, I’m not convinced cheese actually agrees with me based on my experience of reintroducing it. My digestion has never been all that reliable, I definitely have work to do on my gut microbiome (could be a number of things, one of the reasons for wanting to double-check dietary advice), but post-veganuary I do feel much better in myself – until having cheese in a couple of my meals. It could be a coincidence but my skin has been great lately and I don’t buy into the ‘veganism gave me more energy’ thing but if I feel good in myself and am having more normal digestion than I was used to, then why not carry on? Not prescriptively, I don’t think labels are helpful as you can probably tell, but enough rambling. Diet is a very personal and emotive thing. There are so many arguments for so many things but if you aren’t able to go plant-based and have the privilege to be able to make choices such as organic, free-range, responsibly caught or local then make those choices when you do decide to eat meat, fish or dairy. There will be some that disagree but that’s what makes us human.

As of the day of posting (which is much later than intended but better late than never), I am back to my milk chocolate addiction but do mix it up with vegan ones every so often and I’m going to blame some of it on the Covid-19 chaos because we all need to cut ourselves some slack right now. I am more consciously aware of what snacks are nutritionally preferable so it just depends on my mood on the day at the moment; doing #PEwithJoe helps me feel on top of things and make those healthier choices too (who knew it’d only take a global pandemic to get me back into fitness?! Sure I’m not alone there). Enough rambling – I hope this post was of some benefit to you and please let me know any questions via Instagram or the comment box 🙂 I’ll link some of my favourite plant-based recipe sources below just in case!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Plant-based recipe sources I love:

  • Zanna Van Dijk – as mentioned earlier
  • The Happy Pear – YouTube or Instagram & they have a new book coming out soon
  • The Food Medic – some great plant based meals in her Lunchbox Club IGTVs
  • BOSH! – I use their book every so often which is full of good ideas
  • BBC Good Food – Vegan Meals book, I use this regularly for all sorts!

And so many more…

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