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

10 ways to kick-start your Plastic Free July (and the next steps I’m taking in mine)

One month. No (single-use) plastic. Can you do it?

Honestly, I’m a little nervous.

Mostly because I currently eat a lot of Quorn and most of it involves plastic packaging, so finding veggie alternatives is going to mean getting creative or upping my fish intake from my current reduced rate of twice per week. Let’s not forget that in order to take part in #PlasticFreeJuly you don’t have to give up plastic completely, you can simply make more of an effort to swap the biggies and go from there. The only reason I’m taking the mega plunge is because as some of you will have read in my previous posts, I’ve already been making lots of sustainable swaps over the past 7 or 8 months so this feels like the next natural step (or rather, quantum leap).

I’d like to address both sides of the coin in this post; firstly, the top 10 changes you can make if you’re a beginner on this journey (warning: these have been mentioned in previous posts) and secondly, the next changes I, myself, will be making. *Gulp*

Top 10 sustainable swaps to start you off:

  1. Bags for life
  2. Groceries
  3. Straws
  4. Water bottle & coffee cup(s)
  5. Cutlery
  6. Toothbrush & toothpaste
  7. Shampoo & shower products
  8. Washing up
  9. Laundry
  10. Cleaning products

1. Bags for life

First of all, use these over their single-use counterparts. Second of all, remember them!

We all do it, head into the shop just for ‘a couple of bits and bobs’ and either forget to take a big enough bag in with us or pack everything in nicely, get home, unpack and leave the bag for life in the house. We’ve all been there.

Next time, leave them somewhere you can’t forget like hanging on the front door or on the coat rack as you walk out. What I do is have several dotted all over the place; one or two in each handbag just in case and you’re sure to be covered 9 times out of 10. The ones that fold away nice and small are perfect for this (my favourite pictured above) and some can even be looped around or clipped onto the outside of a bag rather than shoved to the bottom of it.

2. Groceries

Produce, bread, meat and fish are the simplest areas to reduce your single-use plastic consumption in when grocery shopping. In terms of supermarkets, look out for the ones with tongs and brown bags with plastic insert in the bakery section and simply take your own cotton or clean bag for loose bread instead. For supermarket loose produce, head to the larger stores as these tend to have a wider variety but be warned, they’re usually more expensive compared to markets and greengrocers. Most meat and fish counters nowadays will allow you to take your own lunchbox to them so where possible buy these things fresh rather than packaged.

Alternatively (and preferably, where possible), support local businesses instead and seek out farmers markets, butchers, fishmongers and bakeries who are often more likely to be on board. (I like to do this as a Saturday morning activity but appreciate that doesn’t work for everyone).

3. Straws

You must have heard enough about this in the news already but in case you weren’t aware, straws are one of the most common litter items found on beach cleans and incredibly harmful to marine life, often becoming lodged in the noses of turtles and the stomachs of penguins with potentially fatal consequences. Worse still, eventually they can break down into micro or nano-plastics which are absorbed and eaten by fish and sea life, poisoning the animals and/or making their way back to seafood eaters like myself.

Refuse straws altogether or purchase your own metal or bamboo ones, but remember to make the refusal clear when ordering a drink to avoid assumptions and slip-ups.

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My straws in Nest 23, Cardiff

4. Water bottles and coffee cups

In my opinion these reusables are some of the easiest changes to make but the problem many people face is remembering to wash them up between uses, so do this during the day in your workplace if you can or I recommend having more than one and keeping them in different locations. One in the car, one in your bag and you’ll never be caught short. Just don’t forget to put them back once clean!

5. Cutlery

Although some plastic cutlery can be recycled and wooden ones composted, reduce comes before recycle and therefore it’s much better if you have your own in the first place. You can’t go wrong with a trusty spork in my opinion (mine pictured above) but there are also several cute sets you can get online which are perfect on-the-go size, available from many places such as Joseph Joseph or Surfers Against Sewage & Save Some Green.

6. Toothbrush and toothpaste

Toothbrushes are another of the most common litter items found on litter picks and it’s something that perhaps wouldn’t have crossed your mind before. Rather than throwing away old plastic ones, they can be kept for cleaning those hard-to-reach areas in bathrooms and kitchens but when buying new opt for a bamboo toothbrush which can be dissembled and composted afterwards – mine is from Save Some Green. If you really can’t go without, compromise with an electric brush with changeable heads (dispose of these responsibly in the bin not the toilet) which is at least a reduction in waste and can be used for years if cared for properly.

Toothpaste can be made yourself if you’re feeling creative or purchased online and in some zero waste shops in glass jars rather than plastic tubes. Finding the right one for you takes trial and error and does come at a premium price but every little helps and it should last longer.

7. Shampoo & shower products

There are now growing numbers of shampoo and conditioner bars available if you search online but I get mine from Lush, who also do ‘naked’ shower gels which are cruelty and plastic free as well as many, many of their bathroom and beauty products (all are cruelty free). This is another one I’ve actually found super easy because these do seem to last a lot longer than bottled products and they’re so much more convenient for travelling.
Loofas, natural sponges and even crochet pouches for soap (in place of shower gel) are all also available online from several sources such as Cardiff-based Tabitha Eve Co, who I’m a big fan of if you hadn’t guessed already. [The below image is taken from my ‘Less Plastic’ Instagram highlights]

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8. Washing up:

Ecover are a great brand for being more eco-minded* as their bottles are made from already recycled plastic and can be recycled again, as well as having refill stations dotted about the country (the closest to Cardiff is in Penarth). Alternatively, zero waste shops like Natural Weigh often have washing up liquid as one of their products so take a large container (I use an old 4 pint milk bottle), fill your boots and decant into a pump or squeezy bottle as and when required.

9. Laundry:

The same goes as above in terms of refills but you can also use soap nuts or purchase an Ecoegg like myself which has refillable pellets and lasts for months in-between. It doesn’t leave as strong a scent on the laundry but if I need an extra cleaning boost I dissolve some bicarb of soda in some water, add 10 or so drops of lavender oil for scent and add that in as well which does the trick.

10. Cleaning products:

Ecover* also do a variety of household cleaning products but to be honest, bicarb of soda and white vinegar does a fantastic job on nearly everything. I made my own anti-bacterial spray for surfaces (pictured above) and there are so many sources online for DIY cleaning products, go ahead and get creative!

And there you have it, your 10 tips for starting out on a single-use plastic free journey! It doesn’t just have to be for July 🙂

*EDIT: I just discovered that Ecover and Method are now owned by SC Johnson who do not make any attempt to hide the fact that they do test on animals… Maybe don’t go for these after all.*

So, what are my next steps?

Throughout my ‘Saying Goodbye to Single-use plastic’ series I’ve worked through these initial 10, some of which take more time and effort than others but it’s all worthwhile in the end. The way I see it, implementing these plastic free alternatives is like joining the gym or starting a new regime; initially it feels like a lot of extra effort but with time you begin to see the benefits and it just becomes habit.

Loo roll

If you search around a bit there are a few alternatives to your regular toilet paper online but before committing to anything make sure it’s biodegradable. Otherwise, it should not be going down the toilet and will contribute to those grim but very real fatbergs we’ve seen on the telly. Anything that isn’t toilet roll or bodily excretions should not be flushed, regardless of whether it’s labelled ‘flushable’ or not. Just wanted to get that out there…

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I’ve chosen to try out this Who Gives a Crap? toilet roll which is made from recycled paper, not virgin like most other loo rolls, wraps all its rolls in recyclable paper and also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need with fab charities like WaterAid. How cool is that?!

There’s a variety of other products available on their website as well as information about deliveries and a detailed FAQ page, but the initial price sounds quite steep at £24 for 24 rolls or £36 for 48. You do, however, get discount for buying multiple boxes so some communities club together to do this and although many sustainable swaps are initially more expensive than their wasteful counterparts, they are usually designed to last longer and so provide much better value for money. Consider how long a box of 48 toilet rolls will last and how many trees are saved in the process – is it really that much? Divided up it actually works out cheaper than some of the leading brands and isn’t tested on animals in the process, which is what we like to hear.

Tea bags

I have some loose leaf tea at home but my work stash of teabags has run low for some time now. This weekend it’s one of my missions to get some plastic-free tea bags from Pukka Herbs or Aldi’s Specially Selected range to keep me going (brands stated in a previous post to be plastic free).

Avoid all single-use packaging when shopping

This is what will potentially be the most difficult because even though the majority of my groceries are loose produce, rice and pasta or tinned beans etc. there’s the odd thing that catches you out such as yoghurt, ice cream (I say odd, I buy it most weeks…), salad especially is pretty impossible in the UK. Where can one find a loose lettuce?! If you find one in Cardiff please let me know because I’ve been fancying getting creative with some summer salads but this has been a barrier.

The up side of these is that many of these you can make yourself – nut milk is apparently relatively easy to make although I’ve not tried it yet; I know of a few places in Cardiff I can get dairy milk in glass bottles and got my first one just this evening (from Nisa in Splott); in place of ice cream I could make my own ‘nice cream’ with frozen bananas or there are plenty of recipes online. Anyone lucky enough to have a garden or allotment could also grow their own salad and spinach. Sadly, I don’t fit the latter category so this is something I really look forward to in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future! Donations from existing local gardens or allotments welcome…

Laundry, continued…

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By this I mean that I’ve gone one step further than just using cruelty and single-use plastic free laundry powder, I’ve ordered a Guppyfriend washing bag and I cannot wait! (Pictured, source: their website). This awesome little contraption is made of specially designed micro-filter mesh that catches the fibres from your synthetic clothes which ordinarily get washed out in the effluent and cannot be separated at wastewater treatment works, inevitably ending up in the environment. You simply put synthetics in the Guppyfriend, wash as usual, then scoop out the fibres and dispose of them properly – much like cleaning the lint filter on a tumble dryer. It also serves as a frequent reminder to work towards more sustainable shopping habits, which can’t be a bad thing. Keep an eye on my Instagram for updates 😉

Crisps and chocolate

I am a snacker. I’ll be honest. I’ve found a recipe or two for DIY crisps online which I trust are relatively easy but are undoubtedly considerably more effort than shop-bought; for the sake of the experiment I’ll give them a go though because the way I’ve always seen it is that the environment is more important than I! Chocolate is a tricky one in itself and is likely to be one thing I can’t avoid if I’m totally honest, I’m addicted, but snack bars can be made at home relatively easily if you’ve got a bit of time and enough will power to make them last the week. Looks like I’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen!

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My first glass milk bottle in Cardiff

I am conscious this post has gone on for a while so I’ll round it off here but I hope it’s been useful to all of you reading, whatever your current plastic situation! Any suggestions or questions please do get in touch, or if you do take some of my advice I’d love to hear from you!
There’s loads of info available on the Marine Conservation Society website as well as a nifty little book called ‘How To Live Plastic Free’ on its way to me in the post; I’ll be keeping my Instagram as up to date as possible too. Best of luck with your plastic free journeys! 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Header image taken from the MCS plastic challenge webpage.

Saying goodbye to single use plastic: part 5

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about plastic as I’ve been waiting to accumulate some more ‘sustainable swaps’ to write about. The truth is many of the previously discussed initial lifestyle changes one can make, such as seeking out loose fruit & veg, always carrying a reusable coffee cup, bags for life and straws, swapping to a bamboo toothbrush and even reusing old spray bottles to make homemade cleaners rather than buying new, have all pretty much become habit for me now. Whilst it’s become a bit of a light-hearted joke around the office, that doesn’t change the fact that more people need to be making these alterations to continue to encourage wider change – which so far, thankfully, seems to be working as my friends and family begin to make their own small changes! The more the merrier though as the saying goes.

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A reminder to always pack your eco essentials 🙂

If you’re unsure where to start or simply ‘haven’t gotten around to it yet’, head back to my first post of the series for some inspiration and dare yourself to read many of the current news articles about why reducing single-use plastic is so important. Yes, we’re never going to see huge changes overnight but the planet was here before us and will be here long after us and, in my view, is far more important than our lives will ever be. It is our home at the end of the day.

“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”

Source: IEMA

I still have plenty left to change; try as I might, I still can’t buy unpackaged like Quorn, yoghurt or milk. I’ve looked into using a milkman but I don’t think will work for us at the moment as we don’t have a porch or tucked away doorstep, so that’s one for next time. Fortunately, a large proportion of plastic milk cartons in the UK are made from already recycled plastic so don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re in this same situation or haven’t yet made the milkman switch. Some things have changed since my last post though, so what’s new?

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Plastic-free shopping

This isn’t as easy as I’m sure many of us would like and the truth is that we do need to, as consumers, use our purchasing power and vote with our wallets where we can to show companies that we care about this stuff. I do realise though that this isn’t possible for everyone and that buying loose, free-range, high welfare and organic isn’t perhaps a luxury everyone can afford, so do work within your means. These are the ways I’ve been trying to make my shopping as plastic-free as practically possible:

  • Loose fruit & veg – I’ve touched on this before but if you can seek out a greengrocers or farmers market it honestly isn’t as ridiculously pricey as the supermarkets make it
  • Tins – beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn etc; tins can be washed out and put in the recycling bin
  • Milk – as mentioned, most plastic milk bottles are made from recycled plastic already and can be recycled again, but there are glass options growing in popularity now
  • Yoghurt – I tend to buy large pots of Skyr/natural yoghurt and keep them to use for other things or refill at zero waste shops like Natural Weigh or the soon-to-come Ripple in Cardiff
  • Meat/fish – ask your fishmonger/butcher if you can use your own container, Asda, Cardiff Market and now Morrisons do this and I’ve had success with Sainsbury’s once but am unsure if this is a company-wide thing
  • Seek out zero waste shopping opportunities – e.g. Lidl; you can buy nuts loose and bread if you want to, just let the shop know that you’re using your own containers

Hygiene products; panty liners

I was about to write *WARNING: taboo content* and apologise to any male readers but

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then thought better of it. Periods should not be taboo and it’s absolutely ridiculous that one feels the need to introduce a warning before discussing something so common to half of the population. ‘uhnonee‘ previously The Tiny Tank has a brilliant talk about this on her podcast ‘Adulting’, which I absolutely love and strongly recommend, and this article from The Guardian is also highly relevant.

As long as I can remember I have worn a pant liner every single day, sometimes changing it to a second new one throughout the day and it became obvious to me that this was something I was over-looking in my plastic and waste reduction journey.
What were the alternatives? First of all, don’t wear one at all. Whilst this may seem the most obvious option, I find it uncomfortable and habit is a funny thing. So whilst searching online as I often do to read up on other zero wasters’ journeys and recommendations, I came across washable cloth panty liners as a thing and was intrigued.

These tend to be handmade from natural fabrics, mostly cotton but sometimes also bamboo, made to the shape and size of regular pant liners you can buy in the shops. Manufactured liners have a sticky side to attach it to your underwear which is plastic-based in addition to the plastic fibres infusing the pad itself. Cloth liners have wings with little poppers on instead which are visible when undressed but help keep it tucked into the pants, though you may need to put it back into position every time you go to the loo as they can slide around a bit.

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How do you wash them? Are they sanitary? The simple answer is that you can rinse them in warm water or give a little scrub pre-wash if you like, but otherwise they just go in with your normal washing on 30 degrees and bob’s your uncle. I honestly love mine; in the weeks awaiting their delivery (they were made to order from Etsy) I made sure to try and use up every last shop-bought liner I could find lying around in handbags, pockets, make-up bags etc. and they arrived in the nick of time. I actually wouldn’t go back now! As with many other eco-friendly alternatives (cloth nappies, period pants, menstrual cups etc.) the cost is higher than your regular shop-bought, but over time it’ll cost you and the environment a lot less.

Mine are made from brushed cotton and are so comfortable and natural to wear that I’ve asked my mother to have a crack at making me some more to add to my current 6, which I wash and rotate religiously as obviously it’s not a whole week’s worth. I really would recommend making this switch if liners are something you use a lot, or even just to have handy at that all important time of the month. You can find a variety of sizes online (I reckon 6″ is about the same size as ‘regular’) as well as many tailored to actual period/sanitary pad purposes, though the thought can seem a little daunting. Just something to think about – it’s an insane amount of waste when you add it up!

I’ve also invested in a menstrual cup from Cardiff-based TOTM, but am yet to use it so will share my thoughts another time.

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Natural deodorant

This is one that’s taken some trial and error, as does toothpaste but I’ll come back to that later. Lush do several different types of natural deodorant, including both a bar you buy in a block and this funky-looking powder that a friend of mine says is miracle stuff. I recently tested out the bar for size and had high hopes, but I have to be honest I couldn’t stick it out for more than a few weeks.

The first thing when it comes to natural deodorant – you have to accept that you will sweat. It’s not anti-perspirant; sweat is inevitable. Once you’re over this you can crack on trying out what works for you. I started using the deodorant bar from Lush a week or so before my holiday in April in order to get the hang of it, then continued to use it for some of the holiday. The problem I faced with it was BO I wasn’t accustomed to, nor did I particularly want to get accustomed to. Like I said, you will still sweat, but it was the residual odour of that sweat that didn’t work for me. This is a very individual thing so that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for others, everyone is different.

The one pictured that I’m currently using I bought on my last visit to Natural Weigh and I have to say, this one I’ve loved and intend to buy again. It acts like a roll on where you have to push up from the bottom to bring the deodorant to the top, rather like twisting a lipstick, then simply apply to the necessary area, let it dry and off you go. It’s from Kutis, the lavender and bergamot flavour, and I think that’s what makes the difference for me – essential oils are a wonderful thing and fantastic for a whole host of plastic-free alternatives. Plus, they smell good!

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Two of my plastic-free lunchboxes – cute and not too pricey!

Lunch boxes

You may have seen on my Instagram a while back that I got really excited about finding some plastic-free lunchboxes in TK Maxx. Whilst it’s totally okay to have plastic lunchboxes because they aren’t single-use and you can keep old yoghurt or ice cream tubs etc., it’s particularly nice to find other alternatives out there that aren’t as fragile as glass can be. I’ve so far bought two bamboo lunch boxes, a set of three bamboo boxes with clip lids (for fridge/cupboard storage) and a lunchbox made from rice husks. Absolutely no complaints, they’re fab. Just be careful because many aren’t water-tight.

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Toothpaste

As I said, this is another tricky one. I first tried a small pot of Truthpaste, peppermint and wintergreen flavour, and whilst to begin with I found it gross (the boyfriend couldn’t stand it) I got used to it after a while and it wasn’t so bad. It’s not the minty fresh feeling nor the frothing up you get in a regular toothpaste, but it’s not tested on animals either so it depends on your priorities. Once this ran out I dived in for a bigger pot from Natural Weigh which is Georganics, peppermint flavour, and this has sat on the side pretty much ever since. If I thought the first one was bad, this one actually tastes like a foot. So I’m yet to find one I love but perhaps will get another pot of the Truthpaste… be warned though: it’s one of those eco swaps that is sadly a hell of a lot more expensive than its plastic tubed counterpart.

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Wax wraps and cotton produce bags

I recently expanded my collection of beeswax wraps and I use them loads to be honest, I really do recommend these for anyone looking to make the first few steps toward a more plastic-free lifestyle. A friend just got me for my birthday one with a stretchy bit specifically to go over bowls, how cool?!

Cotton produce bags are also something I’ve begun using recently because not only can you take them shopping with you as they weigh next to nothing, but also helps you keep things organised at home. I started off with three and have now expanded, all from Tabitha Eve Co, recently labelling my most used ones for convenience which I actually think looks kinda snazzy!

So there you have it. If you’ve read all of the posts in this series so far you should have a pretty good idea of what you can do to reduce your own plastic use by now! But it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect; unfortunately there are still too many occasions where I’ve had to find compromise such as buying reduced food to save it from waste, which seems pretty ridiculous to me that one can’t often do both. Every little thing does help though, especially if others are encouraged to join in too.
Please take the opportunity today, World Environment Day 2018, to make a small change and stick to it #PledgeLessPlastic – you can find all kinds of info and make your pledge on the IEMA website here.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

National Vegetarian Week – My top 5 vegetarian dinners

A little earlier in the week than my usual blog post but I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about my top 5 favourite veggie dinners this week, seeing as it is National Vegetarian Week, in the hopes of giving at least a few of you some inspiration to try something new or different!

First off, I’d like to add two disclaimers: a) I’m not full veggie but have become more so recently, only eating fish a few times a week, and b) some of these recipes are my own but I don’t claim to be any amazing chef or anything, I just like throwing stuff together to see what I can make. Take from that what you will.

1. Veggie risotto

This is one of mine and is detailed in its own blog post from a while back (click here for the recipe), but is brilliant for cooking in bulk or for feeding guests as it’s super easy to bulk out – just keep adding more veg! The trick here is not to underestimate how much stock is needed and to be careful to add it slowly and steadily, waiting for it to be absorbed into the Arborio rice before adding more.

You can also mix it up by using a different cheese of your choice or by using butternut squash instead of pumpkin, just see what you prefer or what you’ve got in the fridge. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Veggie risotto with pumpkin and halloumi

2. Quorn cottage pie

Some people really aren’t keen on Quorn and that’s fine. I used to be quite picky with it myself and actually went off it for a while, but when I realised I was eating a crazy amount of fish instead I decided to bring it back into focus and have rediscovered a love for its diversity.

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Mini Quorn cottage pie

Again, cottage pie is pretty easy to make a few extra portions of so I’d recommend making this on an evening when you’ve got a bit of time (it isn’t the quickest dinner in the world but definitely worth it) and saving the rest for lunches the following day if you can. It’s not only packed with flavour and goodness, it’s also proper comfort food if you do the mash right. My mash is something I take great pride in but, unfortunately for you guys, is and shall remain a secret recipe… Just trust me when I say that playing around with the ingredients a little can make a world of difference.

Quorn have their own recipe on the website which uses their mince and is the one I usually follow, making a few of my own tweaks along the way, but there are loads of recipes for it online too so have a Google and see what you most like the look of.

If you’re not into cottage pie their mince is also good for a bangin’ veggie spag bol (title photo of this post) – also a recipe on their website.

3. Quorn sausage casserole

(Believe it or not, I’m not sponsored by Quorn, I just eat it a lot. If I was I’d be asking for some more changes to their packaging, but this isn’t a plastic post so I won’t go on).

Quorn sausages are my favourite of the lot and actually the most versatile, in my opinion, because aside from having them as classic bangers I also like to cut them up into chunks to have in fajitas, pastas and casseroles. Casserole recipes vary online including Quorn’s own, but personally the below is what works best for me:

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4-6 Quorn sausages
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • ½ a leek, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Italian herbs seasoning or similar
  • 1 red pepper, sliced

Method:

  1. Fry the chopped onions in a little olive oil in a large pan, at medium-high heat until beginning to soften. You can either add the sausages (cut into chunks) at the same time or grill them separately and add later.
  2. Once the onions are softened, add the pepper slices and leek and continue to fry for a few minutes. Drain and rinse the butter beans then add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes. Stir around to mix it all up, then sprinkle the Italian herbs (perhaps two teaspoons or so, not too much) and add the frozen peas too.
  3. Reduce the heat a notch and let all that simmer away (with the lid on if you have one) for around 5 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken and the peas have melted. If you didn’t add the sausage at the start, now add the cooked sausages cut into chunks.
  4. After simmering take off the hob, taste test the seasoning and serve. Save any leftovers for lunch the following day.

Alternatively, you can put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, no need to brown the sausages first, and do it that way but the sauce doesn’t thicken in the same way.

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It seems I’ve never thought to photograph my own casseroles so here’s Quorn’s. Source linked.

4. Chickpea curry

One of my own recipes, this is my go-to if I want to make a homemade curry. Super simple, very satisfying and easy to customise by varying the ingredients to include spinach, beans, sweet potato or butternut squash if you wish. My recipe includes prawns but for a vegetarian curry just omit those – it still tastes just as good!

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Butternut squash and chickpea curry

5. Burrito bowls

Finally, another one of my own concoctions but it’s one I make time and time again because it’s just so… you guessed it, quick and easy. Sometimes I chuck in some Quorn sausage chunks and sometimes I don’t, it’s completely up to you, and you can cook the exact same thing but enjoy as a fajita rather than a burrito I just haven’t been brave enough to make my own tortillas yet!

Best served with a little bit of mayo, yoghurt, or half an avocado (seasoned with salt and pepper), this is one of my favourite homemade vegetarian meals to date. Even my meat-loving other half loves it. Find the recipe within this blog post.

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Burrito bowl deliciousness

What about eating out?

If you’re not so confident in the kitchen don’t fear! There are all kinds of places in Cardiff offering fantastic veggie dinners that shouldn’t be missed: The Grazing Shed’s Naughty Shephard burger is a favourite of mine, anything and everything from Milgi (I’m still yet to try their Sunday roast but have been dying to for ages!) and Anna Loka is full of vegan delights, just to name a few. Many chains now also offer some great veggie and vegan menus including Wagamamas, Wahaca and The Stable.

Basically, you’re spoilt for choice whichever way you look at it so I urge you to try at least two new vegetarian meals this week – after all, variety is the spice of life! Who knows, you might even find something you didn’t know you liked until it was on the plate in front of you.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

This post was not sponsored in any way, all opinions or recommendations are my own.

Holiday eats – Restaurante Rebate, Alicante

Every now and again we all need a break. I recently returned from a lush two weeks off, one spent in Southern Spain with my wonderful other half who never takes holidays but was in dire need of relaxation, one spent milling around at home-home then driving across country to North Wales for some adventuring. All in all, we had a fantastic time and although I didn’t document this trip as much as previous holidays for various reasons, it was really good to have a proper break from pretty much everything. What we did do was sleep, eat, drink, repeat; basically my idea of living the dream (with some exploring thrown in of course). So without writing my usual fairly lengthy run-down of the whole holiday itself I decided to focus on my food highlight of the trip: Restaurante Rebate.

Staying in a family apartment not far away from the small town of Sucina, we hadIMG_7620 hired a car in order to get around and explore some places. This restaurant was recommended to us by said family and was easily one of, if not the highlight of the Spanish half of our holiday. Restaurante Rebate is tucked away down some remote, dusty roads towards Alicante and appears to be in the middle of bloody nowhere by all accounts; yet on arrival we were instantly impressed by the appearance, layout and style of the restaurant. Mostly focused outdoors, there was plenty of sun, plenty of shade and several gorgeous trees among the tables. A small platform had been placed in the middle for the main event; this was the Flamenco Show which is on every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime, according to their website, and which we’d booked a few days before flying out.

Setting the scene…

Once seated at our choice of table (sun or shade) we were offered drinks whilst perusing the menu, which we took gladly and I followed the waiter’s recommendation of a glass of IMG_7619Cava. Start as you mean to go on. Seeing as it was a gorgeous sunny day and we were planning on spending most of our afternoon there, we treated ourselves to the 4 course tasting menu for the bargain price of 24,50€. At this point I feel it important to mention how incredibly polite, attentive and accommodating the staff were to every question or request, adapting my courses to include only fish and vegetarian dishes without hesitation whilst my boyfriend took them as was.

As the cherry on top I opted for the accompanying wine flight, making it 25€, as I don’t currently drink red wine (nor much white wine that doesn’t originate from New Zealand) so was keen to expand my horizons. Also, red wine makes you seem quite adult, doesn’t it? This was a fantastic choice because our wine waiter was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly very passionate which made the experience all the more special – and myself proud that I’d chosen to be grown up and get sophisticatedly drunk on a Wednesday afternoon.

First course: ‘Waking up your tastebuds’

Parmesan & lemon jam, a hummus cone, orange & kale smoothie, fishcake on sunflower toast. Paired with a pale but fruity white wine which was delicious; not as sharp as I’d usually go for but very easy to drink. [Disclaimer: best to declare early-on that I am in no way a wine connoisseur so do forgive the lack of fancy terms here. Maybe oneday.] 

Needless to say, I was most excited about the hummus cone. It was awesome; sprinkled with a little paprika it was like a savoury ice cream cone of loveliness. Good crunch, too. I imagine that the fishcake could’ve been a close second because I love a good fishcake, however I think this was before they’d asked whether I ate fish or not so it was swapped out in place of a decorated cream cheese, also very tasty in fairness. The smoothie was weird as is any kale smoothie in my experience, but not unpleasant, and the parmesan with lemon jam was a delightful little sweet crunch to present a great texture contrast between the tasters. All of these nibbles complemented each other well in flavour and texture, so far so good. Before you ask, yes I did note the plastic bag and straw for the smoothie and yes, it could’ve been avoided but my Spanish is already very limited so I wasn’t sure how to convey this to the staff nor if they’d understand where I was coming from.

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I chose the wrong seat for insta-worthy lighting, didn’t I?

Second course: ‘Refresh moment’

Cesar salad, strawberry salmorejo, ceviche served on patacon, beetroot tartare. Paired with a medium white wine, sharper than the last but still soft and equally as drinkable. It still had a hint of fruitiness but less so to coordinate with the savoury tasters in this course.

The salad was very tasty and refreshing with a light crunch, likely my highlight of this course as I particularly enjoyed the sprinkling of crumbs on top. Beetroot isn’t usually to my taste but despite being a little sharp, the tartare was more pleasant than anticipated and accompanied the salad well. I hadn’t understood what ceviche was (I now know it’s a kind of seafood) but the components worked well together and atop the sweet patacon it was a lovely little mouthful. The strawberry salmorejo turned out to be a tomato and bread-based purée, originating in Andalucia, and whilst this balanced out the dish in terms of texture by contrasting with the crunchiness of the salad and patacon it wasn’t to our liking to be honest. The taste of strawberry just seemed a bit strange in conjunction with tomato, though I understand its intention was to be refreshing.

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Third course: ‘Fried specialities’

Mussel croquette, wild mushroom croquette, roasted chicken croquette, criolla pastry. Paired with a rosé wine, getting sharper again but with good flavour and body to it.

Here I had a vegetarian substitute for the chicken croquette but all of the fried delights were very satisfying and not over-greasy, fried just right. A heavier course than its predecessors, the sharpness of the rosé cut through the mashed potato within the croquettes nicely so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or bloaty, just well fed (though the food-baby was beginning to kick-in). Moreover, by this point I was on my fourth glass of wine so was getting to the level of merriment that requires fried goods to keep you going. Perfect timing.

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Fourth course: ‘Tasty’

Creamy Spanish omelette, roasted pear with blue cheese, duck delights on sweet potato puree. Red wine, medium bodied and rich without being too heavy or bitter of aftertaste – I enjoyed, much to my surprise.

This was possibly our favourite course because of the presentation of the omelette; it was IMG_7649deconstructed in such a way that a lightly cooked egg laid atop a crunchy base of what I think was some kind of thin, tiny homemade potato chips and some seasonings, and you had to stir them all up together to form the omelette. This might sound strange but it was bloody delicious and so creamy! Definitely our favourite nibble of the whole experience and I think it’s quite fun to get involved with the food as well as simply eating it. The roasted pear was done very well and balanced out the strength of the blue cheese, though because of the cheese I was glad it was a small portion as oppose to a normal-sized dish else it could have been overwhelming. The duck delights was thoroughly enjoyed by my other half in his tasters – despite his taking a likeness to some particularly photogenic ducks strutting around the restaurant from a nearby pond, pictured – but unfortunately I can’t remember what my duck substitute was and had been so distracted by said photogenic ducks that I’d forgotten to take a photo of this course. My apologies! What is pictured below is the red wine with this course and the dessert wine for the next.

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Fifth course: ‘Small desserts’

Cheesecake, fruit salad with sangria, carrot cake. Dessert wine, sweet and very rich but a great end and matched perfectly with the desserts.

The deconstructed cheesecake-in-a-jar was a good mix of sweet and savoury but lacked the biscuit base we are so accustomed to at home so wasn’t a full cheesecake as far as we were concerned – enjoyable all the same. I helped myself to both portions of the fruit salad with sangria which was both refreshing and deceiving in the sense that fruit sounds healthy, but when one considers the four previous courses and sweet but tangy alcohol alongside, perhaps not realistically part of your five-a-day after all. But we don’t go on holiday to diet do we?! (Christ, wouldn’t that be a miserable world).

Last but not least, the carrot cake was perfectly spongey and deliciously moist. As someone who doesn’t like an over-abundance of carrot in their carrot cake, this was spot on; as was the relative amount of frosting (because I’m not keen on too much frosting either, I often find it over-powering). The cake especially paired with the dessert wine as light and moist met rich and flavourful, whilst the natural sweetness of each element of this course was what made it work well altogether to round off the meal without being sickly.

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Final thoughts?

We loved this tasting menu and the experience overall. It felt personal, it felt special and everything was executed to a high standard for a real bargain price. At the end of the meal we felt full but not uncomfortable, very content and in my case very ready for an afternoon alcohol-induced nap. As I said at the beginning, this was likely the highlight of our Spanish holiday and as well as the brilliant food, the attentive and knowledgeable staff and the venue as a whole provided such a welcoming, friendly and easy-going atmosphere that you felt right at home spending several hours there as we did. I really would recommend visiting if you find yourself in the Alicante area, especially for the traditional Flamenco Show which was an encapsulating and exciting performance of several phases, a fantastic accompaniment to the meal itself. Information can be found below – if you visit too I’d love to hear your thoughts!

IMG_7626Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Information: 24.50€ for the taster menu, 25€ including wine flight.
Address: Carretera CV 952, Km. 10,5, 03190 Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante
Bookings: reservas@restauranterebate.es
Website: Restaurante Rebate

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic Part 4: Natural Weigh, zero waste shop

The ‘Blue Planet Effect’ is spreading far and fast it seems (yippee!) and the latest thing to pop up on my eco-radar has been Wales’ first zero waste shop – if you haven’t been yet, I urge you to give it a go. Natural Weigh is based up in Crickhowell where several pubs and restaurants have already taken the no straw stand and turned to a life with less plastic, making it a lovely little day trip or Saturday afternoon out if you’re taking the hour’s drive out of Cardiff.

The first thing to come to the minds of many of you, I’m sure; “is an hour’s drive really that eco-friendly?” Well, it depends how you use it. Ideally, if you take orders from various friends or family, or better still take them along with you and car share as I did with my boyfriend’s mum on my latest trip, then you’d be making the most of the journey and that’s what I would recommend where possible.

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What’s in this shop? All kinds! From dried fruit, nuts, pasta, rice, pulses, cereal and even cacao nibs and cocoa sweets; full details are on their website and there’s new products being added all the time, all organic as much as possible. Something I didn’t get on my first trip but stocked up on last weekend was washing up liquid; I’ve been looking into cruelty-free and more eco-friendly washing up options for a while now, you may have seen me talk about my none sponges, coconut hair scrubber and attempts at making my own washing up liquid in previous posts during my plastic series. The homemade washing up liquid didn’t quite make the grade for me sadly, so my other plan of action was to buy one of the large 5 litre bottles of Ecover washing up liquid and keep a normal-sized squeezy bottle to decant into, still involving plastic but less so than buying lots of individual bottles (and Ecover’s bottles are made from already recycled plastics AND can be recycled again). Upon realising that washing up liquid was available in Natural Weigh, however, I kept aside a large 4 pint milk bottle and an empty squeezy bottle once finished and filled up on my last trip. No purchasing of new plastic required. Perfect. (I’m yet to put it to the test in action so will keep you posted).

Recently added products include: natural deodorant, natural toothpaste (both of which I’ve bought and are just getting used to so will report back in another post), shampoo bars and a range of products from the fabulous Tabitha Eve Co. from whom I’ve purchased several items, including her best-selling none sponges, and which I’ve already raved about in my previous post! I really recommend browsing her Etsy for the full range of handmade products.

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How does the shop work? My mother asked me. This is also detailed on their website but essentially, you save up your own containers be it pre-used plastic, glass jars, old yoghurt pots, or something I’ve been doing (which I feel is a small stroke of genius, if I do say so myself); taking my empty sea salt & pepper grinders – you know, those ones with the glass base and a plastic grinding top – and just refilling straight into those. At this point I feel it necessary to add that one of my favourite things about this zero waste shopping experience is that it’s so much easier to put everything away once you get home, no faffing around unwrapping anything or decanting and spilling all over the place such as with packaged rice, pasta or condiments.

Back to the containers: you take your own containers to the shop or purchase some of their own glass jars on arrival, weigh the container empty and print a barcode for it, fill the container, scan the empty barcode and re-weigh et voila! You simply pay by weight, as the name suggests.

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What’s the advantage of this? Well you’d hope that would be obvious; the lack of unnecessary packaging not only saves on plastic, which would likely otherwise end up in landfill, rivers, oceans and eventually our food & water supplies; but also lends a much more convenient approach to shopping in many ways as just mentioned. By using your own containers or purchasing containers you can use time and time again you can ensure you’re buying only as much as you want or need, rather than being forced into purchasing more than you bargained for and potentially leading to wastage. On the flip side, if you’d rather buy things in bulk to last you a good while (which is what I tend to do) then you’re also at complete liberty to do so – your container size is your own choice.

IMG_7396Natural Weigh estimate that so far in their 8 or so weeks of being open for business, they’ve saved around 8 million tons of plastic and 2,761 pieces of single-use plastic from ending up in the oceans or going to waste. That’s fantastic! Imagine if this caught on in every town in the country; the impact could be phenomenal!

Isn’t it more expensive though? That entirely depends on what you buy and how much. As I have discovered for myself, some items are more costly than others such as loose leaf tea, nuts and organic cocoa products. However, the weight you buy is entirely up to you and don’t make my usual mistake in thinking you have fill every container if you don’t want to or are trying to stick to budget. Owners Robin and Chloe will also happily scan your stuff to give you a running total if you ask nicely ☺

As an example, below is my first shop at Natural Weigh and the total was around £20 give or take a few. Here we have: white basmati rice, spaghetti, wholewheat penne pasta, red lentils, oats, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, banana chips, bran flakes, sea salt & chocolate ginger.

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My first zero waste haul

Have you been to a zero waste shop before? What was your favourite part about the experience? I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, I absolutely loved it and hope they catch on all over the place. Just last week in fact it was announced that Cardiff will be getting its own zero waste shop this summer, but as I said Natural Weigh is great way to spend an afternoon if you catch lunch in one of Crickhowell’s pubs as well. Great people working hard for a great cause, they deserve all the support and I hope it continues to spread the word as it has done so far!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Brilliant breakfast at Big Moose Coffee Co.

You may have seen a post of mine about my top 5 favourite breakfast spots in Cardiff a while ago; this is a place that deserves a new spot on that list.

Big Moose Coffee Co. is a new coffee shop tucked away in Cardiff’s city centre offering sandwiches, omelettes and some seriously tasty breakfasts with a twist. Crowdfunding exceeded all their expectations and allowed this charitable group to make their dreams a reality without becoming a charity; these guys have the sole mission of ‘leaving the world a better place than we found it’ and intend to do so by employing homeless or disadvantaged youths through Llamau, training them up for the world of work with the customer service and transferable skills many of us take for granted.

Not only that, but their offerings in the café are serious contenders in the Cardiff food & drink scene. I’ve been twice already and will not hesitate to return time and time again, not just because of the incredible service and perfectly executed breakfast, but also because the coffee shop itself has such a welcome, friendly and relaxing feel to it that you simply don’t want to leave. It’s a large space but it feels warm with the right lighting, not to mention the pleasant greenery on each table and potted planters on one of the walls, adding both a decorative touch and a strange sense of peace – perhaps all the hoo-hah about plants being good for the mind and soul is true after all?

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As well as all of this, there are two extra features I feel I have to mention which make this place really special: firstly, the stairs are incredible, serious home-deco inspiration I intend to recreate one day when I’ve a house of my own. Mix & match tiles sounds so simple but it’s so effective in my opinion, donating a very personal touch which large open spaces like this so often lack yet make you feel at home, comfortable, content.

Secondly, the toilet is uniquely kitted out with a grass-like wall, fairly lights and a wall print reading “Be kind” which is perfect for toilet mirror selfies but also serves as a reminder for everything Big Moose represents. Embrace it, welcome it and let yourself feel at home in this coffee shop and I can confidently say you’ll enjoy the whole experience.

Menu options vary from sandwiches to omelettes, toast to tea & cakes but the two breakfasts I’ve had there so far have been easily two of my favourite breakfasts in a while. Big Moose is already right up there with Milk & Sugar (the old library) in my go-to city centre brunches. First to be put to the test was my classic, ‘basic b*tch’ breakfast of avocado and poached eggs on toast which has become my solid point of comparison for all new breakfast/brunch experiences [see aforementioned top 5 Cardiff breakfasts post for evidence].

The yolk was the star of the show, running perfectly over a lovely thick spreading of smashed avocado and presented on a wooden board for extra pizazz. I was invited to season it with salt & pepper myself so as to suit my own taste, which I liked, and on the whole this breakfast was a dream. I was especially excited that somewhere was mad enough to be open at the absurd hour of 8am on a Sunday which I found myself walking through town in. So, whatever the time or occasion I’d certainly recommend giving Big Moose a try, you may just be in luck as I was!

Second time around I took my parents along and ordered the other thing on the menu screaming my name: the banana, walnut, maple and coconut cream toast. Sound strange? Trust me, it’s a stroke of pure genius. Also totally vegan, by the way. I still can’t quite decide (or perhaps I’m just scared to admit) whether this superseded my beloved avo & eggs on toast and became my new breakfast heaven. It very well may have.

This is one for a sweet tooth, I will warn you, but the texture contrasts were also amazing with the crunchy walnuts and toast against ripe banana and smooth coconut cream, maple syrup marrying it all together in perfect harmony. I’m seriously hungry just thinking about it again; if you like bananas then you really, really need to try this. For the sake of your tastebuds. For the sake of your soul.

And that, my friends, is why you should visit Big Moose Coffee Co. next time you’re in Cardiff city centre. Yes, the food is brilliant. Yes, they’ve designed the café with environmental awareness in mind, taking the no straw stand and encouraging everyone to help themselves to free tap water, both to drink in and fill up your water bottles. Yes, the décor is brilliantly cosy, homely and welcoming. But most of all it’s the culmination of all of these things that makes this place so special and good for the soul in every way.

Treat yourself, treat others, take some time to relax and unwind and all whilst supporting an incredible, local cause. Big Moose, you know I’ll be back soon.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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What we did in Madrid

Sometimes when life gets hectic and you find yourself feeling stir crazy, all you need is a good break away. My mother and I decided on a weekend in Madrid to blow the cobwebs away and refresh and we had a great time. I did do a little research beforehand such as reading blogs by Hungry City Hippy and Eat Liverpool, but for the most part we wandered our way around the city and went wherever our feet took us. That being said, Google maps is a godsend when it’s getting dark and you’ve lost your bearings!

Friday – arrival in the city

As we only had two and a half days in the city we operated a good balance of exploring, catching up on sleep/rest and eating. (Mostly the latter). On the Friday evening we arrived at rush hour and in the pouring rain – but at least we made it in spite of the snow and below freezing temperatures at home! Our Airbnb host’s assistant met us at the apartment, checked us in, giggled at my inability to do the careful jiggle with the keys needed to open the door (I have zero patience at the best of times) and pointed us in the direction of the nearest corner shop for a few kitchen supplies. It was a lovely little apartment, nothing too fancy – and, if you’re a light sleeper, not particularly sound-proof against noisy neighbours – but ideal for a couple (or mother & daughter) looking for a few days in a centrally-located city pad. Once settled in, we head out for a bit of an adventure and a wander and found ourselves heading in the direction of La Pecera, somewhere I’d heard about in Eat Liverpool’s blog and was very keen to try.

My mum went for the vanilla & activated charcoal ice cream mix, in a chocolate cone and with coconut shavings, mini cookies and sparkly balls (easy, tiger) on top. Mine was the salted caramel & matcha mix which sounds odd but was very tasty; topped with honeycomb, ginger biscuit crumbs and more sparkly balls, I was happy as Larry. The fish-shaped waffle cones are clearly the allure of this place but coming from a family where my dad fishes most weekends, we’re naturally drawn to anything fish-like. Sad, I know. All in all it was really good ice cream though, perfect treat to tide us over ‘til dinner and great for the ‘gram.

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Our fishy-looking ice creams in La Pecera

After proceeding to wander the streets a little more, realise we were lost with no phone battery and do our best to ask for directions in a nearby pharmacy, we found our way home to regroup before dinner.

Artemisa, vegetarian restaurant

Much to our delight there were all kinds of choices for an evening meal along the street we were staying in, around every corner were more and more cafes, bars, bakeries and restaurants. We managed to get a table in this charming vegetarian place (which also happens to be 100% gluten-free for those sufferers amongst you) just five minutes’ walk from our apartment and, at this point, I was glad I’d downloaded a free Spanish phrase-book app as I (foolishly) hadn’t been prepared for so many non-English speakers. It was actually very refreshing!

There was plenty on the menu we fancied the look of but decided to opt for a sharing platter and some nachos & guacamole to start, also sharing a bottle of organic white wine. We demolished the nachos in minutes alongside some free appetisers, which I couldn’t identify but were nice all the same. The sharing platter was much larger than we’d expected but I ate as much as I possibly could (forgot to take a tupperware for leftovers on holiday didn’t I *eyeroll*). It consisted of: Persian pie, vegetarian croquettas, tofu slices in a Cabrales cheese sauce, curry vegetables and organic paella. Tofu took me by pleasant surprise yet again but my favourite of all this was the organic paella; each component of the platter was delicious with well-balanced flavours, very fresh tasting and nothing overpowered anything else. The organic wine was a perfect accompaniment. I was really impressed with this meal and with the plethora of incredible-sounding options, vegetarian and vegan, I’d definitely be back here should I visit Madrid again.

Saturday – Mercado de San Miguel

This was what we’d been buzzing for. After a much needed lie-in we head there for lunchtime and it was an elbows out, hold-onto-my-shoulder situation but we didn’t mind, all part of the excitement! People everywhere, food everywhere, I was in my happy place. Y’all know I love a food market.

We bustled our way around for a nosy and a sense of what was on offer, beginning with two sangrias and a plate of mixed olives. If that isn’t the perfect start to this kind of feast I don’t know what is. The group next to us had a pretty impressive spread on the go, they clearly knew what they were doing and I got the feeling the local tactic is for the wives to grab a seat and the husbands to go fetch the food (I wouldn’t be complaining). Olives demolished and sangria all sipped up using my bamboo straws (as pictured above), which the Spanish did not understand, we grabbed a small cone of mixed nuts to munch on whilst we surveyed the options in full.

Crepes, macarons, lemon meringue pies and churros for desserts; stews, sushi, pasty-like things called empanadillas, all kinds of jamón and all the seafood you could want for mains/tapas; fresh fish, cuts of meat and all kinds of cheeses for you to try there or buy to take home. I could have easily spent my weekend eating my way around this place, but we still tried our best in the time we had. Without rambling on forever, here’s the run-down of our nibbles:

  • Sangria, olives stuffed with sundried tomato, olives stuffed with salmon & cheese, manzanilla olives (because I like ones that still have the stone in)
  • Mixed nuts for snacking
  • Chickpea & spinach stew which was bloody delicious, may even try to recreate it at home
  • Tuna maki rolls which I know isn’t Spanish but couldn’t help myself
  • Ham & cheese empanadillas or, as mum called, it ‘a foldy over thingy’ (obviously this was hers not mine)
  • Two big fat G&Ts: a raspberry gin with strawberries, orange peel & tonic and a Larios Spanish gin with lemon & tonic. These were pour-by-eye, strong measures and I was loving it.
  • Churros & chocolate dipping sauce because it would be a crime not to when in Spain…
  • A raspberry and a pistachio macaron to finish (very good but not quite Cocorico Patisserie standard)

Looking at it now it doesn’t seem as much as it felt. There were a couple of other things I’d have liked to try if I’d had the room such as oysters or some calamari, although I was put off slightly by the latter because there was no accompanying sauce so I thought it might be too crispy alone – is serving lemon mayo with calamari a purely British thing? After all that we were full, tipsy and my poor mother who isn’t quite as seasoned a day-drinker as I (not sure if that’s a good thing) was ready for an afternoon nap. Lesson learned for next time: be sure to bring tupperware on holiday so I can buy now and eat later, maximising my foreign food market game.

Saturday night – Las 10 Tapas de Santa Ana

Tonight we wandered around another part of town we’d not yet explored in search of some authentic tapas and possibly drinks. I had wished we’d been more organised and booked somewhere for the Saturday night, I’d read about a couple of highly commended places that required prior booking, however with the Beast from the East threatening to disrupt our flights we’d thought it best not to tempt fate.

There’s something kind of relaxing about walking around a new city at night (with your wits about you, of course), the lights, sounds, smells and opportunities change and in a place like Madrid you know you’ll never be short of places to go or things to do. There were quite a few theatres around and they seemed like a popular evening attraction; this restored my faith in humanity a little when, at home, there seem to be ever-increasing funding cuts to the performing arts which occupied so much of my life as a youngster and hold a special place in mine and my family’s hearts. Despite this, we were on a food mission and landed on a place in Plaza De Santa Ana with jazzy little placemats and very friendly, helpful staff. Here’s what we ordered (excuse the bad lighting on photos):

  • Two Spanish beers
  • 6 mixed croquettas (2 fish, 2 chicken and 2 ham I think)
  • Padrón peppers with Essex salt (a favourite of mine after trying them at Curado Bar)
  • Crispy fried cheese with puréed pumpkin and quince jelly
  • Goats cheese toasted roll with caramelised onion (not sure how Spanish it is but one of my favourite flavour combos ever so I almost always order it)

I always love to try local beers and lagers whilst away and I’ve rarely been disappointed, this was no exception. Not too heavy, not too sharp, just light enough for a meal without taking up valuable food space or risking a bloat. The croquettas were very fishcake-esque mostly being filled with creamy mashed potato but that was absolutely fine by me, satisfying as hell. The jelly from the crispy fried cheese went well with my fish croquettas as well as the cheese itself, which was perfectly gooey once cut open without being too hot and burning your tongue as can sometimes happen. The toasted roll was a little tough to the bite and could’ve used more caramelised onion to balance the flavours out a bit more, but still enjoyable.

To my surprise, the highlight for me (after the cheese balls) was the peppers as they’re so moreish and easy to devour in seconds. Really hits the spot as a side dish or bar snack and the salt isn’t overpowering, just marries nicely – I developed a taste for them after trying at Curado Bar, which I definitely recommend for a little slice of Spain in Cardiff. All in all this was a satisfying meal after a day of really good food, but we decided to move elsewhere for dessert and a cocktail to mix things up, treating ourselves to ice cream sundaes and mojitos. Not pictured because my phone had had enough!

Sunday – a bit of culture; the National Archaeological Museum of Spain

As our last day, we thought it best to do something other than eat even if just for a morning. There are a wealth of museums and art galleries in Madrid to choose from and I’m sure many of them are quite the experience, but we decided the National Archaeological museum was more our thing than paintings and such. Despite only having a few hours (my bad, I love a lazy morning especially on holiday) we really enjoyed reading about the evolution of our species, ancient jewellery and pottery found in the area from early settlers and even more learning about the development of weaponry, gold & silver decoration and the expansion of the Roman Empire in Spain. There was plenty to nerd-out over if you like your history and geography. Again, I know it might sound weird saying that walking around the city to and from the museum was a part of what made this holiday really enjoyable but it’s true, it’s like people-watching but with some stunning architecture and new sensory experiences thrown in. Plus, it’s just nice to be somewhere different, isn’t it?

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The grand entrance to the Archaeological Museum

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Cute little park outside of it, sun shining through the trees at last!

And back to the food…

The area of town the museum was in seemed nice, we walked around a bit in search of an afternoon nibble, but soon realised it was a little too nice and more pricey than we were willing to pay for. The cafes and restaurants we walked past looked very enticing, the perfect place to dine al fresco with a cold glass (or bottle) of wine, but we’d spotted MásQMenos on the way up that we returned to for a small lunch of cheeses, mini Spanish pizzas called cocas, and a chorizo in cider tapas dish for my mother instead.

Over the course of the weekend we couldn’t help but notice that there was always a queue outside this one taco place near the vegetarian restaurant from our first night, Takos el Pastor. So on this last day, we thought we’d wait in line and see what the fuss was about. There weren’t many veggie options but I took my chances with a mushroom & cheese and some sort of cactus fruit taco, whilst my mother enjoyed a traditionally fried beef and a chipotle chicken. They were relatively small but tasty and great value for money, I could see why so many people were taking full advantage of the 1 euro per taco deal! But unfortunately I’m still not sold on mushroom [besides the mushroom dish I had at Cathedral 73 those of you that remember that post, that was a surprising exception]. I think this is more of a place for you meat-eaters but it was nice to be in a queue and chat to a few people during the wait and it was clear why this place seemed so popular. Cheap, cheerful, happy food.

Madrid was a delightful little city break with so much to see and do and a plethora of foodie places to eat your way around the city. A weekend well spent, I look forward to returning one day and definitely recommend it for a refreshing getaway, though I would recommend doing your research and booking one of the many renowned restaurants in the city for an evening as I wish we had. It would’ve just been the icing on top.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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Fighting plastic pollution: The No Straw Stand

Following on from my current Saying Goodbye to Single-use plastic series, I return once again to the straw issue. The No Straw Stand has been setup by Cardiff uni students Nia and Douglas who are trying to make Cardiff a straw-free city. They’ve an ever-growing list of businesses taking the no straw stand and have recently received support from Keep Wales Tidy – which just goes to show that small changes can lead to progress! There’s still a way to go sadly, but I thought I’d compile some of my favourite businesses already happily associated with the No Straw Stand, which I recommend trying if you haven’t already:

Blanche Bakery

I finally took myself to try out their offerings recently and was very pleasantly impressed; their donuts are their major selling point and I can 100% see why. They taste incredible, you’d never even know that they’re vegan, full of flavour and very satisfying. Much like The Moos on nearby Whitchurch Road, Blanche Bakery are totally vegan; so whether you’re after something a bit different, want to mix up your diet or try something new, or simply go somewhere you can indulge without having to check the ingredients, this is certainly somewhere to visit.

It’s small and cosy, but this also means it was lovely and warm on an otherwise very cold day. I opted for the French toast donut (definitely stole the show), the ‘chick’n mayo’ sandwich and a hot chocolate. The sandwich was tasty and filling but I’m not sure the texture was the one for me, still felt kind of meaty which I’m sure is fab if you are or were at one point a meat-eater but just not quite right for me. The hot chocolate was very well presented and tasted good, but to be honest I did miss the milk – which is something I thought I’d never say because I’m not even a big fan of milk. I couldn’t tell you which kind of vegan milk was used, however, so maybe it’s different with different types? I can’t be sure, but they also have a good tea selection so next time I’ll go for that. Either way, definitely try the donuts and go for the chill atmosphere of the place, I loved it and will be back again soon to try more.

 

 

The Grazing Shed have also taken to supplying biodegradable straws according to the No Straw Stand. I’ve written about them before in my Glastonbury highlights; often regarded as the best burgers in Cardiff it was nice to have a sense of ‘home from home’ whilst away festival-ing. Not so long ago I found myself there again and was particularly impressed with their efforts to cater to my awkward requests, it really made my evening! [The awkwardness was that their chips are all skin-on and I have the weirdest allergy in the world and can’t digest potato skin. Bummer, I know. Instead though, they were happy to substitute me another patty in my usual Naughty Shephard which was thoroughly enjoyed and very much appreciated.] If you haven’t tried The Grazing Shed yet, you really are missing out.

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Source: Pieminister Instagram

Pieminister is somewhere I’ve always been a big fan of – who doesn’t love pie & mash?! (Un)fortunately, we’re so spoilt for choice in Cardiff that I’m always keen to try new img_7026places so these guys have become rather a rare treat for me somehow. They’ve been phasing out their straw stocks for a while now, only supplying them on customer request, but since they officially went plastic straw free a month or so ago I decided it was high-time for another visit. In this case, they visited me via the magic of Deliveroo; I went for my usual Heidi pie but this time added cheesy mash (is there anything better than cheesy mash? Seriously?!), gravy and a side of mac ‘n’ cheese, just because. It was bloody delicious and all packaged in cardboard containers marked as recyclable (though they did appear to have a coating on the inside similar to coffee cups and ice cream pints…), which was a real bonus*. Great job team!

*This links in with an email I received from Deliveroo just a few nights ago, stating that they’re investing in the manufacture and production of more recyclable and/or biodegradable containers for transporting hot foods via their service, in order to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. They’ve also supplied some of their businesses with trial biodegradable straws and are introducing an ‘opt-in cutlery’ scheme to encourage wider adoption of these eco-friendly alternatives. Brilliant news!

 

 

Juno Lounge, one of my long standing favourite places, have taken to only using compostable straws which I’m thrilled about! You can read my full review of Juno here, it’s one for a cosy comfort meal for sure.

 

 

Wahaca has always been one of my favourite places to eat in Cardiff because I love their policy on sustainability, food waste and the fact that their fish is clearly stated as MSC certified. These guys have always been against straws (but recently made it official) for any of their soft drinks or delicious cocktails and I’ve been too many times to list, however the things I always go from their street food menu are the plantain tacos (I almost always have plantain on a menu if it’s available) and the cod tacos. Bloody lovely. Their sweet potato & feta taquitos go down a real treat too – I’m hungry just thinking about it. If you like Mexican, give Wahaca a go.

Penylan Pantry – you may have seen these guys before on my list of Top 5 Cardiff Breakfast spots and I still stand by that. I love everything about the inside of the Pantry and intend to visit again very soon, but as well as their delicious & freshly made food, their sustainability and environmental awareness is a big bonus factor for me [see Hungry City Hippy’s post for more] and I really do hope more businesses take these things on board. Go, see for yourself; you won’t regret it.

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Milk & Sugar/Llaeth & Siwgr I’ve also mentioned before in my Top 5 Cardiff breakfasts and they remain very much one of my favourite go-to places in town. I’ve not yet had a disappointing meal from them in the Old Library and I happily go there time and time again. It’s great for people watching if you get a window spot, it’s a lovely big space (also available for functions, parties and sometimes kitchen takeovers) and there’s something on the food or drinks menu to suit everyone. They have also taken the No Straw Stand so next time you’re in town, stop by and give Milk & Sugar a try – trust me.

 

Lastly, Lilo’s Pasta is relatively new to the Cardiff scene but started off in nearby Pencoed where owners Liam and Chloe spotted a gap in the market and, after Chloe living on pasta for most of her second year of university and playing around with tasty variations, dived in full-force after graduating. They now have two trucks for festivals and weddings (you may have seen them at Cowbridge Food Festival last year or Depot from time to time), two successful cafes and have been really focusing on moving towards a plastic-free environment. As a new business, Chloe has taken the opportunity to make ‘sustainable swaps’ wherever possible, such as storing their ingredients in big glass jars and ordering their signature coffee in brown paper packaging, whilst ensuring that whatever packaging they do use is either fully recyclable or compostable such as the takeaway boxes. Straws are a work-in-progress but their plastic ones are only available on request currently and a more eco-friendly option available as soon as possible.

Their pasta itself is proper, convenient comfort food for a very reasonable price and with plenty of options to choose from (including vegan & veggie options), as well as regularly changing specials – like this one pictured which was their duck special not so long ago [source: instagram]. Your waistline needn’t take a hit either, swapping regular pasta for courgetti if you wish or even adding protein to any smoothie or milkshake. They’ve also begun offering Oatly as a vegan milk replacement in their hot drinks at no extra cost and if you take your own coffee cup or food container you’ll get 20p off your order. Great job guys!

One interesting thing that came up in conversation was that in their store it may seem like recycling isn’t been followed through as there aren’t separate bins, however when the waste collector was asked about this it was assured that the recycling is separated at the plant later on. I really hope this is the case for many other businesses because I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of assuming that no separate bins meant no recycling! Moreover, Chloe told me that she’s even been asking their supplier to cut down on packaging when goods are delivered where possible, such as not double-wrapping salami etc. This, my friends, demonstrates that if we, the consumer, put the pressure on the businesses to adapt and change, then businesses apply this same pressure to their suppliers, meaningful change can begin to happen and across a wider board. Fingers crossed, eh? It’s all about spreading the word!

 

 

So, if you haven’t taken the No Straw Stand yet, why not check out some articles online or refer back to part 1 of my plastic series. If you have, but your favourite restaurant or pub hasn’t, why not ask them about it? I’ve been surprised to have received some bemused looks when requesting no straw in my milkshake or cocktail recently, which just goes to show that the message still needs to be spread further and wider to get everyone on board. So grab your bamboo straw (or metal, but bamboo is more sustainable & eco-friendly truth be told) and get the message out there!

You can get bamboo straws from Save Some Green or Tabitha Eve Co when she’s next at Cardiff Market.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 3

We’ve now had more than enough of 2018 to ‘get back into the swing of things’ and try get our heads around whatever resolutions we made for ourselves (is it really Spring already?). Hopefully, if you’ve been interested in reading this series, reducing your plastic consumption has been one of those resolutions – refer back to parts 1 and 2 for more context – and hopefully some of the little tips and tricks I’ve been sharing in my journey have helped some of you do this. Small changes really do have an impact when everyone gets involved! So, what’s new since last time?

Laundry (the bane of my adult existence)

I finally ran out of the laundry tablets I’d been using and decided to search for an eco-friendly alternative. I was sent this very useful video a few weeks ago and was tempted to make some of the laundry tablets on there, however I hadn’t realised I’d run out until going for the empty box in the cupboard (doh!) and so had to act quickly. Luckily, next day delivery is a thing and I was intrigued having read about Ecoegg from fellow Cardiff bloggers The CSI Girls and heard about it from a work friend, so I bought myself one online and it arrived the next day. So far I have absolutely no complaints!

IMG_7375The egg itself is, to be fair, made from recyclable rubber and plastic but the key selling point is that it’s not single-use and comes full of refillable pellets so that once you have an egg, all you need to do is replace the pellets to use time and time again! These pellets biodegrade throughout your washes, coming in a variety of scents (I ordered lavender to begin with but may mix it up next time) and your first full egg is claimed to last around 54 washes – you get a little tick list to keep track if you like.

Additionally, the company are UK based, UK made, cruelty-free, vegan friendly and package the product in cardboard making it fully recyclable. I’ve been really conscious over the past year or so to start phasing out anything not cruelty-free in our house, starting with makeup, so this was a major selling point for me too because you’d be surprised how many household things are tested on animals (this, like the plastic, is a gradual process of adaptation and a learning curve). I must note that on this occasion I was also very impressed with the minimalist brown paper envelope it was delivered in, later recycled. The only possible criticism is that the scent of the Ecoegg pellets isn’t as strong as some of the popular laundry detergents, but to be honest this doesn’t bother me as long as the clothes are clean!

Sustainable cinema – is it a thing yet?

IMG_7376 (1)Something else I wanted to talk about, although it may seem more of an occasional thing rather than an everyday lifestyle change, is that I’ve recently been trying to apply the reusable coffee cup principle to my cinema outings. Several years ago when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I fell for the marketing strategy and bought one of the limited edition decorated drinks cups from the cinema. I had since kept it lying around as a keepsake until we went to go and see the latest film, The Last Jedi, when it dawned on me that surely if I took this drinks cup to the cinema it could be refilled same as a reusable coffee cup would in a café? The answer, sadly, has been somewhat unclear.

First time around, the poor guy did look a little confused when it wasn’t one of the more recent ones they had on sale at that time, but didn’t hesitate to fill it up once I’d explained it was already mine from years ago. Second time, the server seemed unsure what size drink it represented so insisted on pouring out a usual, plastic cup and tipping it into my reusable one and yes, this does defeat the point. Third time (was not lucky), I was flat-out told that it would not be refilled and that if I wanted to use it I’d have to tip from a normal plastic cup myself. On this same occasion, my own bamboo coffee cup lovingly featured in my first post (which was refilled without any hesitation – why the difference?!) went missing after the film so, all in all, I feel a bit defeated by this sustainable cinema quest! I’ve raised the issue with Cineworld via twitter where all of these attempts took place but so far haven’t had a clear answer. I will continue to be a pain in the arse and take my cup with me, however, so this line of enquiry is to be continued…

Cuppa, anyone?

In other news, as you may have seen it turns out that a lot of teabags are actually sealed with plastic. Slightly heart-breaking, I know. The good news, however, is that the Loose Leaf pyramid teabags from Twinings are plastic-free and fully biodegradable, or there’s always the option of loose leaf tea and a cute little strainer, such these I picked up in Madrid IMG_7308last weekend and now keep in my desk at the office (pictured right).

Moreover, this is something you could buy in bulk similar to pasta, rice, coffee etc. at the new Natural Weigh store in Crickhowell which opened last weekend and which I am dying to try out! For the time being I’ve been using up the teabags I currently have – which are still recommended to be composted at home or in the food waste bin, despite the small amounts of plastic currently in most – but will thereafter be switching to more loose leaf and making sure to buy fully compostable or biodegradable* brands when necessary – here’s a list below:

  • PG Tips pyramid bags (recent change but should be on sale now, see article for more)
  • Twinings Loose Leaf pyramid tea bags (specifically these, the rest are not yet plastic-free)
  • Pukka Herbs – fully compostable
  • Teapigs – these are confusing; the tea bags are compostable but must be put in your food waste not home compost because they need to be broken down industrially. The plastic bag the tea bags are packaged in is, however, compostable at home
  • Aldi’s premium Specially Selected range
  • Waitrose’s Duchy range
  • Coop [coming soon] – their own-brand 99 teabags are set to become plastic-free by the end of the year

*I just learned there’s a difference between compostable and biodegradable; call me foolish but my mind is now blown.

Zero Waste washing-up: Tabitha Eve Co.

I’m revisiting this subject from part 2 because as I feared, my microfibre cloths idea isn’t quite as plastic-free as I’d hoped. At the moment, I am still using them for cleaning and dusting until they get past their best, at which point I’ll invest in some reusable bamboo cloths or cotton muslins, but when I saw Tabitha Eve Co. at Cardiff’s Riverside Market I couldn’t resist her ‘none sponge’s!

IMG_7053This mum of two started by taking the no straw stand with her much-beloved cocktails, then began to wonder where else she could make a difference around the home. Debbie decided to begin working from her studio in Cardiff with the aim to provide beautiful, handmade zero waste products that can convert people to living more eco-friendly and plastic free ways and has only been trading since December of last year, so it was a real bonus that I was able to support a new, local business as well as get some great products!

The ‘none sponge’s are simply bamboo material and cotton sewn together carefully (sourced from the UK as much as possible but otherwise Debbie scours the ‘net for sustainable alternatives, such as hand woven organic cotton by a cooperative in Kerala), these resemble washing up sponges without the unnecessary plastic and work great. They can be cut up and composted once done with, though it’s worth noting that fabrics do take longer to decompose than food so should be tucked into the middle of an actual compost heap rather than the food waste bin [what can go in the food waste bin can be found here]. Composting is something I’ve been meaning to look into further so I’ll come back to this point another day, but for now I’ll be using my parents’ compost heap as and when I visit home.

The point is, you need to check out this lady’s products because they’re gorgeous, natural and plastic free. [Her etsy is here in case you don’t have chance to catch her at the market!] I’ve also started using the cotton produce bags to store my loose fruit & veg in the cupboards, as a means of keeping potatoes apart from onions etc. in line with Love Food Hate Waste’s recommendations.

Wrapping it up

One of my closest & dearest friends was kind enough to send me some beeswax wraps IMG_6969after reading this series so far (I know, she’s a keeper) and I’ve been avidly using them as much as possible as I’ve heard good things – they even came with a lovely little note from Beeswax Wraps UK. So far I’ve tested them out for wrapping sandwiches and covering bowls of leftover food, they’ve worked a treat! Much better than nasty old clingfilm; natural, reusable, available in lots of pretty patterns – I urge you to invest as soon as your last roll of clingfilm runs out. They can also be home composted once worn out or you can even have a go at making some yourself, either using online tips or one of Tabitha Eve Co’s special kits which were on sale at Cardiff Market.

And finally, two things I’ve found to be absolutely key in sticking with sustainable changes:

  1. Investing in or rediscovering an old, larger handbag or small backpack is a great way to ensure you remember all your eco bits when out and about. As long as it has room for a reusable coffee cup, your bamboo straws, bags for life, a Tupperware container for those leftover bits at the end of a meal (or even for fresh fish or meat you get at the market), a refillable water bottle and ideally some reusable cutlery, you’re good to go. I’m yet to make a cutlery pouch myself but I’ve been keeping an eye on Zero Waste Cardiff’s Instagram how-to and am definitely keen to try!
  2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It might at first feel like you’re being a pain in the arse, but if you don’t ask the awkward questions you’ll never get a straight answer. Ask for the straw to be left out of your drink. Ask if you can have your water bottle refilled (this is actually your legal right in most premises). Ask if you can have your fresh fish/meat in your own tupperware instead of wrapped in plastic bags*. And what’s more, the more people ask then the more this kind of movement will grow and opinions begin to change.
    *I’m told Cardiff Indoor Market have answered yes to this question, though if you can’t always make it local I asked Asda and was told it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you have the sticker to scan!
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My backpack/handbag with (almost) all my eco essentials 🙂

Change really is happening guys, especially with new drinking water fountain/refill plans and a potential plastic straw ban following Scotland’s success, so don’t be afraid to get involved…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx