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

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

Firstly, what is a menstrual cup?

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

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

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

Reasons why you may not like it

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

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

Reasons why you may LOVE it

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

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

Which cup did I choose and why?

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

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

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Screenshot from my Less Plastic insta-story

So, what about the practicalities…

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

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

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Bubbling away peacefully in its special pot 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I buy a menstrual cup?

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

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Source: TOTM Organic

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

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

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

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

 

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

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

‘Special’ by name, special by nature: Arbennig

The award-winning Arbennig restaurant is situated in Pontcanna not far away from the well-reputed Brød Danish bakery (which I’m sadly yet to visit, but it’s on my list) and Pipes beer (a personal favourite of mine), but well worth the wander out of town. I’d heard many good things about it from colleagues and fellow bloggers beforehand and even met the owner briefly when handing out roast dinners to the homeless with the Arbennig staff and other volunteers just after Christmas, but I was yet to dine there myself. So for Valentine’s Day this year we decided to take the plunge and try it out. We were not disappointed.

The set menu was short but catered well for different tastes, we thought, and sometimes I think there’s a charm in smaller menus as it allows more focus on the ingredients themselves and can result in dishes of a higher standard (see photo below). IMG_7008 All three of the starters were chosen between us, mine being the beetroot cured salmon with horseradish, blood orange and endive. I didn’t really know what endive was but I assumed it was the baby gem-like leaves when the dish came, which presented a good texture contrast. It was very tasty, the combination of beetroot and cured (rather than cooked) salmon worked really well, however I personally don’t like horseradish so that was my only issue. My father had the same and absolutely loved it, my mother had the garlic mushrooms and said it was perfectly balanced, not too heavy and a great start to the meal and my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his lamb ragu. Happy faces all round so far.

For mains my parents shared the treacle and mustard braised short ribs and I have to say, despite not being to my taste, they looked and smelled (much to my surprise) fantastic. The presentation really was spot on throughout, you can tell this is something Arbennig pride themselves with and they do it all without compromising portion sizes or flavour. The ribs were full of flavour, cooked perfectly with the meat easing off the bone and totally delicious, according to my parents. My father just wanted more! It’s worth mentioning here that the care taken in Arbennig to source their ingredients from local, fresh and often family-run suppliers really shines through in the quality of their dishes, these ribs being no exception.

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The braised short ribs

My boyfriend and I opted for the roasted cod loin where the quality of the fish was also very noticeable, heightening the overall dish which was so bloody tasty we’d have it again any time. The ingredients complimented each other perfectly in every way, the zing of the lemon purée marrying with the fresh fish yet contrasting with the scorched baby gem. It’s such a good feeling knowing that you’re supporting local suppliers, within a local family-run business and the meals taste all the better for it. I love that supporting local is such a big thing in Cardiff and long may it continue if these are the results!

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Roasted cod loin & Israeli cous cous etc.

Several glasses of wine and many comments on how fantastic everything was later, it was time for dessert. Again, all three of them on the set menu were chosen between us: my mother’s blood orange, biscuit crumble and almond meringue combo was another perfectly balanced combination, the meringue (my favourite) was just crumbly enough without breaking apart too easily and tasted incredible. My father’s rhubarb and almond tart was also impressive looking, well-balanced in flavour & texture and very satisfying. But the star of the show for me was the warm chocolate fondant with honeycomb and sorbet… Oh. My. God.

I’ve seen many a fondant go horribly wrong on Masterchef but, from that, I’ve got a good enough idea of what they’re supposed to be like; this was absolute perfection let me tell you. Held its own on the plate just until you dipped your spoon in to gently tear it apart and then out came the oozing, gooey, warm and gorgeous chocolate. I’m a huge chocoholic anyway and honeycomb is one of my favourite things to pair with it, so I can honestly say this is a serious contender for my favourite dessert ever. Perhaps even taking the top spot. The sorbet was the cherry on top, presenting that brilliant contrast between warm and cool, sponge and smooth and just all-round awesome-ness. I’d have it again tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that… (Except I’ve given up chocolate for lent ☹ *cries*)

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The work of art that was the chocolate fondant…

The service at Arbennig was just as fantastic as the food, too. The staff were very attentive, seeing to our every need or request, happily explaining anything we asked about and were genuinely interested in how much we were enjoying our experience. The place was a little chilly when we first arrived but warmed up when the other tables started filling up (and once our wine had kicked in). All in all, everything was perfectly balanced, very well flavoured and prepared and presented to a high standard. I can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait to go back to try the normal menu; by which I just mean not a set menu, as the restaurant menu itself changes weekly in line with what’s fresh and in season – isn’t that brilliant? Exactly how things should be, not to mention always keeping it interesting. Have you tried Arbennig yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: this post was not sponsored, we paid for our meal in full and all views are my own.

Tasty Tapas at Cathedral 73

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always found it hard to share. Fortunately, not when it comes to tapas. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cathedral 73 to try out their new tapas taster menu, following management changes back in November; I was informed that some of the options have been designed as sharers so brought a friend along for the ride.

We arrived not quite sure what to expect but were greeted kindly on arrival with some very nice Bloody Mary’s and took a moment to enjoy the décor around the place; funky, chic and interesting without seeming tacky, this place has truly been decorated to a high standard. It was a very warm welcome from both the staff and the establishment; it was so nice to walk into a hotel lobby and not shudder at the excessive use of air-con! Before the food began, we were treated to a tour around some of their unoccupied rooms: the bridal suite, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment.

The Bridal suite is spread over two floors and is cosy yet very comfortable, with extra little luxurious touches such as a stand-alone bath within the lounge area itself to soak in bubbles and watch your favourite TV… Or just enjoy the freedom of a separate bathroom to send your partner off to rather than let them interrupt your relaxation time! The apartments are more focused towards business guests for long stays, who may prefer to keep to themselves and cook rather than eat in the restaurant each night. They are, however, also suitable for couples or even small families, each containing a small but functional kitchen area (I say small, about the same as my own one-bed flat kitchen to be fair), lounge area with TV, and bedroom with generously-sized ensuite. I’d happily live in one of these if it were an option! Overall we were very pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms in Cathedral 73, all with a very professional finish, and it’s now definitely on my radar should we or any relatives ever need a place to stay in the centre. Grand tour over, it was high time for a bite to eat.

On our table waiting for us were some delicious garlic breads to whet our appetite and keep us ticking over whilst the food was being freshly prepared. Needless to say; they were gone in a flash. First came some well-presented faggot balls atop mushy peas and sporting a single parsnip crisp, which although I couldn’t eat I was told were hot but tasty. My veggie option was a thick slice of goat’s cheese atop a leafy salad, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a zesty jus. I thoroughly enjoyed and the cheese slice was just the right size so that I still had room for more, as goat’s cheese can sometimes be too filling as a starter.

Fish pie then came in cute little pans and tasted and smelled delicious, yet their handles were very hot to the touch so approach with caution when trying to scoop out onto a side plate. The individual components were also cut into small chunks for ease of consumption, which actually felt like a really nice touch. There was then a cottage pie for the meat-eaters, which again looked and smelled very good, yet at this point we began to think that ‘small plates’ may have been a better description than tapas as we were beginning to get very full. My alternative was a porcini mushroom wellington, which is not something I would usually go for as I’m not keen on the mushroom texture but the jus was delicious and the pastry was perfect, all together a very satisfying dish actually.

Finally, full to the brim we just managed to squeeze in some Welsh rarebit with a poached egg on top to finish. The egg was perfectly runny and as my first taste of rarebit it was delicious. I would definitely go for it again!

All in all, it was a really good evening with generous hosts, a lovely venue and very tasty (very filling) food. Despite unfortunately not catching the details of the full menu or prices, I would very much like to return for dinner some time (I did eye up their Valentine’s menu but haven’t decided yet) as well as try out some of their cocktails; plans were mentioned to expand their gin collection in the near future, starting with an event tomorrow evening (Friday 26th) that I sadly can’t go to, but I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more.

Have you been to Cathedral 73? What did you think?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx