Blown away at Blue Honey Local

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Welcome back! Charlie’s next chapter…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Plastic Free July: how did I get on?

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

What went well?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What didn’t go so well?

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

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

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

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    #POINTLESSPLASTIC

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

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

 

 

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

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

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Recent round-up: Charlie’s foodie finds

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

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

Dusty Knuckle Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maria’s Greek Taverna

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

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

Restaurant Tommy Heaney (The Great House, Laleston)

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

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

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

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

Adi’s, Bridgend

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

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

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

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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.

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