Celebrate Earth Day 2018

03.15.2018

0600

Earth-Day

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

This year, in the celebration of Earth Day, I thought I’d walk through my process of how to do a plastic audit in your home. But first, let’s take a look at the dangers of plastic and why it is not as recyclable as we are lead to believe.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON PLASTICS

  • What do you know about plastics? Although it is one of the most common packaging material used worldwide, it ends up in our landfill and our oceans. It eventually makes its way back to us through the foods we consume. There are also a lot of facts that are not widely known, here are some facts from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  • Although it was considered one of  the breakthrough materials discovered in 1907, only now are we realizing the damaging consequences of using this material so rapidly. How is it harmful?
  • There is a huge misconception that all plastics can be recycled, however, that is not the case. Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment. They come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems.Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue. Here is more information from the National Ocean Service, What are microplastics?
  • Why is recycling not effective? Learn about the different types of plastics

HOW TO TAKE ACTION TO REDUCE PLASTIC IN YOUR HOME

  • What plastics can you REDUCE or better yet, REFUSE in your home? Track the amount of plastic used in different rooms/areas of your home by using the  Daily And Monthly Plastic Pollution Chart (this chart is a template, feel free to customize it)
    • Keep track of items that are contained in plastic by going through areas such as your: (add or take out any items that are missing or not applicable in the chart)
      • Kitchen
      • Bathroom
      • Bedroom
      • Home interior
      • Home exterior
      • Home etc.
    • Slowly go through and keep track of each item on a daily basis or monthly basis
  • After charting each item, plan how to avoid  purchasing plastics by using the Plastic Pollution Audit Chart. What actions will you take to reduce the amount of plastic being brought into the home? Can you refuse the plastic packaged product by finding an alternative in a non-packaged form? Or would reducing the amount taken in be a better step for you? Maybe consider investing in a sustainable, resuseable product, so you eliminate the single use plastic product.
  • If you choose to keep track of your plastic use on a monthly basis, you can audit each month by recording how much plastic you use and compare your yearly results using the Plastic Pollution Tracker.

SOME OTHER ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY

  1. Around your home
    1. Change out all of your light bulbs to energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. The energy savings of cooler-burning bulbs, including CFL and LED, can have a significant impact on your utility bills and on making your home greener. An Energy Star light bulb replaces about six incandescent light bulbs because it lasts six times longer than the average light bulb.
    2. Change out your dangerous household cleaners with safer versions or make your own from vinegar/apple cider vinegar and water. Vinegar is a mild acid, which makes it a great multi-purpose cleaner for around the house. As a household cleaner, vinegar can be used to do anything from removing stains, to unclogging drains, to disinfecting, to deodorizing, and it can even be used to remove stickers. You can use it undiluted, combined with baking soda, or as an ingredient in a homemade household cleaner, and every room in your house can benefit from vinegar in some way. Check out 45 Uses For Vinegar.
    3. If you have the option of drinking tap water, switch to tap water or buy a attachment filter if needed.
    4. Stop catalogs and junk mail by signing up with Data and Marketing Association
    5. Opt out of credit card solicitations with Opt Out PreScreen
    6. Pack your car with reusable grocery bags so you won’t forget them on the next shopping trip
    7. Watch environmental documentaries to learn more about what has been researched and discovered through these films. Here is a list of some movies I found on Youtube in which you can watch for free.
      1. Home (2009 film)
      2. A Fragile World (Climate Change). Full Documentary
      3. Plastic: the Real Sea Monster (Full Environmental Documentary) I Spark
      4. China’s Wealth, Growth, and Environmental Nightmare (full Documentary) 
      5. Zero Waste in Business: Documentary on Business and Environmental Waste (Full Documentary) 
      6. A World Without Water (Environmental Catastrophe Documentary) 
      7. The World in 2050 [The Real Future of Earth] – Full BBC Documentary 2018
      8. The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning
      9. Years of Living Dangerously Premiere Full Episode 
      10. Plasticized – Feature Documentary Film 
  2. With your community
    1. Bike or take public transportation instead of driving. Instead of driving everywhere, try taking public transportation, biking or even walking to places.
    2. Schedule a visit your local recycling center and tour the facilities to understand where your trash goes and how it gets sorted. It sounds strange but every piece of trash we throw away has a different route towards recycling or on its way to the landfill.  Each county and each state has different recycling processes and so learning about your local recycling process is always helpful. You’ll be more informed and more aware of what REALLY happens when you recycle your trash.
    3. Join a local park, river or beach clean up.
    4. Plant a tree, herb garden, or even flowers!
    5. Check out your local city’s or county’s Earth Day activities

Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22, 2018 this year, so you still have over a month to decide what you want to do! Check out the Earth Day Network to find out more information. They have an extensive website that has a list of campaigns and activities for participants.

In the honor of Earth Day, check out some of these  blog posts from other fellow bloggers:

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Rollup Christmas Tree

11.28.2017

0600

Materials:

  • 8 baseboards at 28″ long
  • 15 pieces of 12″ long thin twine rope
  • Extra: Matches to melt the ends of the twine together so it doesn’t come apart over time)

Tools:

  • Miter Saw
  • Drill & Drill Bits (Need 1/8″ drill bit for all holes)

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  • Measure each base board at appropriate length
  • Organize each baseboard to it’s general location on the tree formation and mark the corners of where you plan to make the 45° cuts. I made my marks for my 45° cuts on the bottom edges of my baseboard pieces so my baseboard lengths would stay consistent.
  • Using a Miter Saw, take each baseboard and cut each end of each baseboard at 45°
  • Starting with the top of the tree, mark off each of the holes for each piece.

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  • Drill each hole to create openings
  • Using the twine pieces, start tying the pieces together. To keep each space consistent, I tied the knots towards the end of the rope and the same amount of twine end to melt later.

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It’s a simple tree where the clean up is just rolling up the tree.  When I put up the Christmas lights, I simple wrap them around the edges of the pieces. I usually go in one direction so that the lines are more evenly spaced. Same as my blog post Minimalist Christmas Tree, I hang my ornaments off of the lights. For the more fragile ornaments, I hang them from paperclips and then hang them from the cord.

This was created as an option to not use push pins on the wall, but it was an interesting take on a holiday tree as well. Give it a try if you’re interested, and you can even change out the material I used too.

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Minimalist Christmas Tree

11.21.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Christmas lights (Used a 25′-0″ length Christmas Light cord)
  • Ornaments
  • Paper clips (Used 14 for the tree + a few extra)

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape

Christmas is one of those holidays that comes with more decorating than the others. It’s not just the food that’s plentiful, but the decorations as well. Which means of course, that I was determined to minimize my decorations for this holiday.

My family has always used a fake tree so we always knew exactly how much mess to expect when decorating for this holiday. However, I wanted to figure out a way to simplify that. This lead to my Christmas tree design, made up of Christmas lights.

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I wanted the base to be 36″ wide, simply because it was the width of a standard door. For a 25′-0″ cord I was using, it seemed like a good base point. I first plugged in my cord and measured out 36″ in the direction I wanted my tree to be located, and then 6″ up. At that point, I placed a pushpin. I then hooked a paperclip to my cord so that it would reach the pushpin. This 36″ length of the cord would create the bottom branch of the tree.

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From there, I measured out 34″ of the next section of the cord and moved in the opposite direction of the bottom branch and measured 6″ up, where I placed the next push pin. I straightened my 34″ section of the cord and placed a paper clip onto it and hooked it onto that pushpin.

I repeated these steps, for each branch of the tree, where each time I subtracted two inches for each branch and measured six inches up to place the next push pin. The height of your tree will really depend on the width of your bottom branch. If you have a longer length of cord and you want the bottom branch to be wider, you can do just that. However, if you have a longer cord and you still start out at a 36″ wide bottom branch, your tree will be taller, which may look just as beautiful.

If you really want to test out how far your can push this design, link up two cords and see how tall you can make it. However, the longer the cord, the wider the base should be. The sequence for each branch will still be the same. The height of this tree ended up at about six feet high from the floor.

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I hung my ornaments around each light and distributed them as needed. If you have trouble hanging the ornaments up, hang the lighter ornaments on the lights themselves and hang the heavier ornaments on the pushpins. If you have delicate or fragile ornaments, consider double looping them around a Christmas light or using a paperclip to hang them up by securing it to the branch (the way you secured the previous paper clips to the pushpins).

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A lot of my ornaments are fairly light and I create ornaments from old keychains I’ve collected over the years. You can click on that blog post, Christmas Ornaments Hack and read about how I made them. It’s interesting when I stand back and look at the tree, because even the keychain pendants have a unique memories tied to them.

You can place a blanket in front of the tree to place presents on and it’ll still look like and regular Christmas Tree. I like to wrap my gifts in reusable fabric and reusable fabric bags and place them under the tree. I wrote about how to create a Zero Waste Christmas or an Eco-Friendly Christmas, in my other blog posts and you can check it out if you’d like any ideas.

Well there you have it, my minimalist Christmas tree. If this works for you that’s great! I hope this blog post inspires you or jogs up some ideas for you.

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Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

Keep Life Simple

11.29.2016

0800

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So we’ve officially moved into the season between ‘fighting over products while shopping’ and ‘opening said products in one swift move’. I usually don’t go buy physical objects for this season, I tend to buy gifts in the form of experiences, however, I do understand that not everyone approaches this season the same way. 

The holiday season tends to bring on another level of stress, with the year rounding out and the pressures from the holidays added to the pressures from work and family, it can be an overall anxiety driven few months. With these additional stresses, I wanted to post some tips to help everyone to remind them to take care of themselves first and foremost. and perhaps to help keep the home front a little more simplified.

Life will always get more chaotic and complicated, but as long as we recognize it, we can counter it with with a well thought out defense.  I practice a lot of these tips, so even if you can try just one tip and simplify your life, you might be pleasantly surprised. So here it goes, I hope you guys enjoy it!

For Your Mental Health:

  1. Stop multitasking – Give your attention and focus to one thing at a time to complete a long list of to-do items.
  2. Stop driving aggressively – Take the steps to stop aggressive driving habits by getting enough sleep, planning ahead and using etiquette and kindness to other drivers. Remember that if children are in the car, they learn from watching you.
  3. Stop going crazy for holidays – Stop stressing to bake/cook a huge holiday meal. If you host during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish for a potluck style dinner and there will be less work for you. Stop over-shopping for the holidays. Try the 4-gift rule for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
  4. Accept that change is in order – Acceptance is the first step to changing bad habits. Once you have accepted that you need to change your life, take the next step toward a simplified life.
  5. Program your mobile photos/videos to auto-upload to a cloud account – Never worry about uploading photos again – Try Google, Amazon, Picasa, YouTube.
  6. Use a combined social media app (Instagram)– Try Hootsuite – it combines your social media accounts and shares a post on all sites at the same time.

For Your Home:

  1. Create a command center in your home – a command center is the ultimate hub to keep your family organized. For tips to create your own, see this post.  My favorite command center item is this dry erase calendar.
  2. Create a cleaning routine and schedule it on your calendar – Schedule laundry day’s, trash days, housecleaning days, etc.
  3. Downsize – Get rid of items you don’t need or move into a smaller home.
  4. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions – Read articles for free online instead.
  5. Stop buying trending clothes – Purchase classic, high-quality items in neutral colors and you will rarely need to update your wardrobe.
  6. Eat simple meals – Less thinking means faster, easier meals. Keep it simple with simple ingredients and meals that are fail-proof. Be sure to check out our post Clean Eating for Less Than $70 a Week for a family of 4 (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks included with a shopping list!).
  7. Make freezer meals – Double your dinner recipe and freeze the rest for later. If you do this every night, then you will have 7 additional dinners in the freezer for next month.  Here are 365 days of freezer meals for more ideas.
  8. Use your leftovers – Pack them for lunch the next day or use them to make another meal – many leftovers can easily be made into a soup.
  9. Use simple recipe ingredients – Stop buying spices/ingredients for one meal. Purchase basic spices and ingredients to minimize items in your pantry.
  10. Make one-pot meals – Reduce clean up by making an entire meal in one pot.  Here are 120 one pot meals for some ideas.
  11. Unsubscribe from junk emails – Try unroll.me for bulk removal.  I did this and was able to unsubscribe from 110 subscriptions in just a few minutes!
  12. Cancel cable – Try on-demand options like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Video.
  13. Print as little as possible – Read documents, books and recipes online. Save these items online or as a document to your computer. Less paper lying around means less to organize later.

For Your Organization:

  1. Consider signing up for an Elfster account or create an Amazon Wish List feature or giving Groupon experience gifts  
  2. Keep reusable bags in your car – These bags always come in handy for stores that give you money back for bringing your own bag (like Target) or those that charge for their plastic bags (like Aldi).
  3. Telecommute, carpool, bike, jog or walk to work instead of driving – take the stress of commuting with one of these options.
  4. Stop using credit cards and pay cash for everything – Get rid of the stress of paying interest for that T-shirt. Freeze your credit cards, pay them off and start using cash only – unless you are able to pay off credit cards in full every month.
  5. If you need a credit card, consider one with rewards benefits – If you absolutely need a credit card, choose one with big rewards. Pay the balance in full every month to reap the full reward benefits – otherwise the reward is not beneficial if you are paying interest.
  6. Upload/Download DVDs/digital copies to the cloud – Try Vudo/Ultraviolet to upload DVDs, digital copies to access movies on-the-go. Download/purchase movies online and store them in your cloud account, try Amazon Video.
  7. Share cloud files with family – Share your budget spreadsheet or contact list with your spouse.
  8. Write canned emails – Try the canned email feature in Gmail and save emails that you regularly send out with the same verbiage.

Take Time For Yourself

11.24.2016

0800

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As the holidays have come upon us here in the United States of America, this time of the year can be quite stressful. I thought I would make a list of ways I think everyone can or should try to take care of themselves, this includes physical and mental health. 

Since I already posted this as you are reading it now, I plan on spending the day in my stretchy pants. Stretchy pants are great for all occasions, today just happen to be a day where I eat when I’m starving and end up too full.

Have a great holiday everyone! Happy Thanksgiving! You should do the first seven items on the Physical Health list, except for #4, today may not be the best day to start on #4. (Unless you like food burps while working out) And if you do #1, you can knock off #3- see… multitasking—> Boom.

Physical Health:

  1. Take a nap – Schedule a power nap (or longer) when you can. A 15-minute nap will provide you with increased alertness and energy. Longer napping provides the same benefits but can make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
  2. Plan a R & R day at least once a month – Try to schedule at least 1 day every month for rest and relaxation. Try a Saturday all-day movie day at home or take off work on a Monday or Friday and have an extra-long weekend.
  3. Watch less TV – The average American watches 34 hours of TV a week – almost the same amount of time as a full time job! Try reading a book, going outside for a walk or playing a card/board game.
  4. Schedule your workouts – If you don’t add fitness to your daily routine, then you won’t be inclined to workout. Add working out to your calendar and set a reminder. Check out our post with 5 Easy Ways to Schedule Fitness into your Daily Routine for more help.
  5. Meditate – Meditating reduces aging, helps you feel more connected, improves brain function, increases immunity and metabolism and helps you sleep better.
  6. Do yoga or stretch throughout the day – Yoga provides increased flexibility, improved energy and vitality while assisting with cardio and circulatory health.
  7. Go for a walk – walking prevents high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes while improving your mood.
  8. Watch the sunset or sunrise – Watching the sun rise or set will slow down time. It gets you away from digital devices, helps you appreciate life’s gifts and will inspire you.
  9. Carry a water bottle everywhere – Drinking plenty of water has many benefits including keeping you alert and energetic. Try these bottles and never worry about going thirsty again.
  10. Turn off your phone – Sometimes a break from the blinking light on your phone will serve well. If you want to focus on an important task, turn your phone off for less distraction.
  11. Unplug all devices – Unplug your TV, radio, computer, phones, etc. for a while to minimize distractions.
  12. Breathe – Remember to breathe.

Mental Health:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal – Writing in a gratitude journal lowers stress, gives you new perspectives and opens your eyes to what is most important in your life. Try this gratitude journal to get started.
  2. Try adult coloring books/pages – Print adult coloring pages for free online and take a break to color. You will be brought back to childhood memories and the activity is stress relieving. Don’t worry about staying in the lines.
  3. Learn to say “no” to events, get-togethers, hand-me-downs, etc. – It’s okay to say no in our already over-scheduled and busy lives.
  4. Set monthly goals – Start a monthly/yearly goal planning worksheet and refer back to it often.
  5. Listen to audio-books – Try Audible for Free for 30-days and refer to this post for how audible books can simplify your life.
  6. Turn off notifications from social media – Ever post a comment to a friend and then get notified with every comment thereafter? Remove notification on social media.
  7. Take a social media vacation – Unplugging from the Internet overload will simplify your life. Try a 1-week or longer social media vacation.
  8. Stop trying to impress people that you don’t like – Stop buying unnecessary items to show off and stop trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  9. Stop holding grudges – You will feel happier if you just let things go.
  10. Determine your definition of success – Success is defined in many different ways – how do you define success? Is it your “stuff” or is it your happiness?
  11. Stop trying to do it all – Don’t try to do everything on this list right away and stop trying to get everything done all at once. Take baby steps and you will reach your goals.
  12. Stop over-scheduling your life – Make sure you schedule time for yourself every day – whether it’s a relaxing activity like massage, bath, watching a movie or a fun activity like working out or hanging out with friends – stop over scheduling your life with a long to-do list.

What I Stopped Buying- Garage, Living Room and Holidays

11.10.2016

0800

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My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.

Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.

Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.

There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??

GARAGE

  1. Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
  2. Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
  3. Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap

LIVING ROOM

  1. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
  2. Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard

HOLIDAYS

  1. Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas  [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.

Zero Waste And Minimalism

05.23.2016

0800

DSC_4565As I’ve traveled along this zero waste journey and learned to design life hacks along the way, I’ve noticed that I’ve needed fewer and fewer items in my life. The definition of a zero waste life is “to live a life without producing trash”. The definition of minimalism is “used to describe a trend in design and architecture, wherein the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. This design strives to achieve simplicity”. In a strange way, these two lifestyles can become intertwined.

For myself, I think that I’ve dwindled down my lifestyle so much, that it’s become as minimal as it can possibly get, yet I still strive to live a life without producing trash. With each routine that I have, whether it’s my morning bathroom routine, my morning kitchen routine or even my evening bathroom routine, the steps in each routine have been analyzed and reconsidered to make each routine to have the least amount of steps possible.

When it comes to my possessions, I keep only what is necessary and those possessions usually have more than one use. The less possessions I have, the clearer my mind tends to function, because I have less responsibility to take care of each item. That sounds lazy right? Maybe it is. The visual aspect of my living space is simple and easy to maintain yet it is as functional as I need it to be. When I move through my spaces, my gestures and motions are purposeful and tactful. When I have to start a task, I know the limitations of my tools and materials and I know how easy it is to access them. Each task is mapped out in a clear cut list that doesn’t falter.

For my wardrobe, I have created a 30-piece (year round) capsule wardrobe in which all of the pieces I own, match to one another. I did this because I wanted to hold myself accountable for the items in my wardrobe. Each day, when I pick out an outfit, there are a set amount of choices I can make. There will be another post on my capsule wardrobe soon.

Even in my bathroom and kitchen, I keep only the tools I need and nothing more. In my kitchen, I substitute a few tools for other uses, due to the fact that I think the amount of kitchen tool designs has gotten way out of hand. There’s literally a tool for every single cooking task, yet, twenty years ago they didn’t exist- and people still managed to produce edible and delicious food. The way I see it, is the more stuff I have, the more time and energy I have to dedicate to maintaining the use of that product. If I can somehow eliminate that product, yet still find the same use from another- I’ll donate the item.

Mind you, I’m also not a gourmet cook. I don’t care about presentation of any dish, which is why I don’t care for a library of tools that one might want for food preparation.  If the food is on my plate or my bowl, tastes good and won’t make me sick- I’m pretty happy.

Simple Travel Bath Bag

 

04.27.2016

0900

Most of my travels have taken me overseas and only a few times have I traveled around the United States. My “close to home” travels usually involve a surfing trip or a snowboarding trip, which doesn’t involve too many flights. Some of these trips are day trips and some are weekend trips. Because ‘bathroom essentials’ seemed to be where I had to make the most adjustment when it came to my zero waste journey, I thought I’d go over what I usually carry in my travel bath bag.

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For the sink space area, I pack my:

  1. Bamboo toothbrush
  2. Dental pick
  3. Dental floss (packaged in a paper container)
  4. 1/2 bar of soap (I cut my normal sized bars and bring it along)
  5. Deodorant crystal
  6. Collapsible stainless steel cup
  7. 2.0 oz. bottle of lotion
  8. 2.0 oz. bottle of baking soda

For the shower area, I pack my:

  1. 3.0 oz bottle of Shampoo/conditioner
  2. Pumice stone
  3. Empty stainless steel water bottle (missing from picture)

For the “In case” situations, I pack my:

  1. Diva Cup
  2. Shewee With Extension

I use the bar of soap for the sink area and the shower area, it seems to travel back and forth during my travels. I don’t mind mostly because I shower at night anyway and so I only move it over when I need it. I actually bring along a concentrated amount of my shampoo and conditioner and I also back an extra, empty, stainless steel water bottle to dilute it into. This way, I can definitely have enough shampoo & conditioner for longer trips.

I use the squeezable travel tubes from  GoToob by Humangear. I chose these because they have built in labels that can be rotated and changed per use, as well as the large opening. These tube are made of silicone and are very durable. The large opening allows the owner to change out the product or add more product in easily . It also makes for cleaning the inside of these tube easier as well.

The other items missing from this series of images are my epilator and makeup. (I’ll post what is in my make-up bag in a later post). Those are items I just pack separately. I don’t need much when it comes to  bathroom travel supplies, mostly because this is the equivalent to what I use at home. All in all this bathroom bag is sufficient enough for me to be satisfied when I’m traveling. It’s a simple bag and definitely not many essentials, but these items seems to satisfy my needs and bathroom routine when traveling.

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Check out these post from some other bloggers about traveling:

Tết 2016- The Set Up and Food

02.08.2016

0800

So I just wanted to share the set up that my family uses for Tết. We use the alter, entryway dresser and dining table as our platforms. The alter is for Buddha (bàn thờ Phật), the entryway dresser is used for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai) and the dining table is used for my ancestors (ông, bà).

Before the Tết ceremony begins: (Day 1)

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During the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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On the alter sits a bowl of dry rice in which we have placed many incense sticks (cây nhang) over the years during each Tết celebration. On the entryway table is the set up for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai), which includes a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, water glasses, a variety of foods such as soup (Canh), Vietnamese braised pork with eggs (thịt kho), Vegetarian stir fry egg noodles (mì xào chay), shrimp salad (gỏi tôm), and fresh fruit. On the dining table, there is a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, three bowls of rice for my ancestors (one for my dad’s side, one for my mom’s side and the third is for all other ancestors), water glasses, candles and the same variety of foods as on the entryway table but in addition, there are also Vietnamese mung bean dumplings (bánh ít trần).

Tradition goes that when ceremony starts, each person always prays and greets Buddha first with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) at the alter, then we move over to the entryway table and ask the Saint of the Property, permission (xin phép) to invite our ancestors to come and celebrate Tết with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). Then at the dining table, we invite our ancestors to come and celebrate with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). After each request, we each place one incense (cây nhang) into the designated dry rice bowl. At the end of the first round of bows, each person will visit each table again to ask permission to leave the ceremony, but using the same amount of bows and prayers per table that was used in the first round. This second round of bows and prayers will release the person to go on with their day as they please.

After the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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The bows, prayers and the placing of the incense sticks are repeated each morning for three days (ba ngày Tết), during the three day celebration. At the end of the three day celebration, there will be another feast that will be the same set up on each table and on the alter in which we bid farewell (tiễn đưa) to our ancestors.

In the late evening (close to midnight): (Day 1)

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In the late evening, we celebrate the New Years Eve (Cúng giao thừa) by lighting the alter candles and  welcoming the new year. This ceremony includes three separate steps by the owner of the home. The first prayer (lạy Phật) takes place at the alter to Buddha with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). Then the owner will step outside on the front porch of the home and prays to Heaven and Earth (cúng trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) The owner will then come inside to the alter and will pray to the lord of Heaven and Earth (lạy trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). The owner of the home will then place three incense into the rice bowl at the alter after these last three bows are completed. This last set of bows will end the ceremony of welcoming the new year.

 This is an overview of what the set up is for my family for this year. There are traditional baked goods missing from this set up such as Bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients) and  Bánh tét (savoury but sometimes sweetened cake, made from mung bean or mung bean and pork filling), as well as tea in addition to the water glasses. Each family has their own variation of what foods they cook or how they set up their ceremonies, this is just my family’s set up for this year.

So,  Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year) I wish you all a healthy and happy new year with plenty of wealth and triumphs throughout the year 🙂

Recipe – (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs (Vietnamese braised pork) - great with rice and popular on Lunar New Years!

This thịt kho recipe is a low and slow braise so the meat is going to be reeeeally tender. In this recipe we’re going to use pork belly because the fat on the meat tastes awesome! If you can get pork belly with the bones, you’ll have even better results. My ideal ratio of pork for this dish is actually 1/2 pork belly and 1/2 of a leaner cut like shoulder.

Hard-boiled eggs for thit kho - boil and peel them first!

Near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon, I hear you can get a higher quality of pork belly at Quang Minh Mini Market. It costs more for the belly, but there seems to be a consensus that its worth the cost–something I need to check out soon!

Here are the brands I use for the seasoning: Rico coconut soda, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce. The thick soy sauce brand is Koon Chun, to be used in a pinch.

thit kho seasoning

As a kid I enjoyed mashing the yolk with the rice and spooning sauce over it–it’s fun! This dish is commonly eaten with a side of dua chua (pickled mustard greens) which provides a fresh and crunchy balance.

Chopped yellow onions for thit kho, to add another layer of flavorNotes:
I have tried adding slices of yellow onion too and it adds a nice layer of flavor to this dish. You can remove the onion at the end of the braise if you prefer since it will have given up all its flavor to the broth. For the seasoning in this thịt kho recipe: tinker with the soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt after the liquid has finished reducing, to taste.

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
2 hours
Total time
2 hours 10 mins
Author: Hungry Huy
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of pork belly, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6 ounces coconut soda (I use Rico brand)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or replace this with fish sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces (6-8 will be fine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar for the caramel color (nuoc mau). This is to deepen the color of the dish. Depending on how dark your caramel sauce gets, you may not need to use all of it. In a pinch, you can use about ⅕ teaspoon of thick soy sauce instead, but the caramel sauce will tastes better.
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into smaller pieces. I like 1.5″ cubes so it cooks slightly faster.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water boiling on high, or enough to fully submerge the pork.When the water’s boiling, add the pork for 1-2 minutes just to clean it. Drain then rinse the pork under running water until the water is clear.
  3. Add the coconut soda, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to the pot.
  4. Fill up the pot until the water just covers the pork. Turn the heat to high.
  5. When it hits a boil, drop the heat until you still see a slight boil, maybe about about 25% heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the softer the pork gets. Leaving it slightly uncovered lets the liquid reduce so you get a nice concentrated sauce later.
  6. Make the caramel color and add it to the pot.
  7. Make the hard-boiled eggs: add to a pot and cover the eggs with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8 minutes. Cool in water then peel. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot of pork in the last ~30-40 minutes of cooking.
  8. When there are about 30 minutes left on the timer, add the eggs. Eventually we want the liquid to reduce to about ⅓ or ¼ of the original.
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Comments

  1. SK says:

    Good job :) A good food in Tet’s Days at Vietnam, however, eating it in normal days is ok ! ^^

    • Huy says:

      Year round is definitely okay with me too :)

  2. Huy Vu says:

    Thanks! Just wish I had some Dua Cai Chua to go with this. =]

  3. daisy says:

    its so hard to find vietnamese recipes i understand and use online. more more more.

  4. Huy Vu says:

    =] sure thing.

  5. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of a Korean side dish called “Jang Joh Rim.” I wonder if they taste similar!

    • Huy says:

      Yeah it seems a lot of Asians share a similar variation of this dish!

  6. jason says:

    Huy, do i cover the pot with a lid? or leave it open?

    • Huy says:

      You only need to cover it slightly at the start so the liquid can reduce. Towards the end you can probably remove the lid entirely–adjust as needed.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really great recipe, the step by step pictures are really appreciated. Thank you for sharing, and keep them coming!

  8. Jen says:

    Similar to adobo in the philippines:) ill try this recipe..

  9. Shay says:

    A friend made this as a comfort meal for me once and I loved it!
    Now I can try making it for my family. Wondering if this needs to be simmered covered with a lid or left open to boil? Thanks

    • Huy says:

      Lid open mostly, to reduce. If the meat is still tough you can add water as needed and continue to boil uncovered until it reaches a sauce thickness you like.

  10. LT says:

    This is way better than the Filipinos’ adobo.

  11. Eric says:

    looks similar to adobo but taste way different to adobo trust me this dish is heaps tastier

  12. steve says:

    make sure you use good fish sauce, like the one pictured above.

  13. Linda says:

    I love the pictures and the steps are very similar to my notes from my mom’s cooking lesson to me. The only thing is I just cooked it today with the country style boneless ribs and I compared it to the pork belly meat. Somehow the rib meat was more tough. Is there a way to make it more tender? I cooked 2hrs as your recipe dictates.

    Also, many people asked & I wonder also, do you cook your pot covered or uncovered?

    • Huy says:

      I cook it uncovered so the liquid can reduce (evaporate) to an amount I like. If you see it reduces too much you can put the lid back on or add some water.

      As for toughness of the meat, different cuts will vary in amount of connective tissue. Just cook it longer if its still too tough. At first I was afraid to overcook it, but giving it more time has always resulted in tender results. Just check it every 15 minutes or so.

  14. Tracy Le says:

    Just tried your recipe. Turned out so awesome. Thanks!!! :)

  15. foodiegal says:

    Is that a typo? This doesn’t take 20 hours does it? If so, can we cook this in a crock pot?

    By the way, I’ve had this dish many times at parties and IT IS TO DIE FOR! I love that the ingredients are simple and so are the directions. Is there a substitute for the coconut soda, if I’m not able to find it? Thanks!

    • Huy says:

      I’m DYING, that’s hilarious!! Yeah I meant to say 2 hours–oops, that’s been updated and thanks!

      The best thing you can use is fresh coconut juice, coco soda 2nd, then 3rd is cola or lemon-lime soda. Hope that helps.

  16. TrinityTrinh says:

    Can you substitute chicken or beef? I do not eat Pork. I’m sure it won’t taste the same but thought I would ask

  17. Trinity trinh says:

    Have you or can you substitute chicken or beef. I have taken pork out of my diet.

    • Huy says:

      Hey Trinity, I personally haven’t tried it but I bet it would be pretty good too. I’ve had this with tofu instead of meat and really enjoy that version too!

  18. Amy says:

    Super easy recipe to follow, and ended up delicious! I used pork shoulder only because the local grocery store didn’t have any pork belly left, and the end product was still absolutely delicious! The meat was so tender and flavorful without being too salty. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Huy says:

      Hey Amy glad to hear you liked it! Yeah you can really use any cut of pork you want and it still turns out pretty well :)

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Tết 2016- Lunar New Year

02.03.2016

0800

DSC_3535Tết is the most important celebration in the Vietnamese culture.

It is also, one of my favorite holidays, Christmas being the other. I love Christmas because it marks the end of the year and that the new year that’s about to come. A new year brings new beginnings, new experiences and new challenges.

Tết derives from a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Đán, which is Sino-Vietnamese and it means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” and it also marks the arrival of the spring season, based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese Lunar calendar. (The Chinese Lunar Calendar is four hours ahead of the Vietnamese Lunar Calendar.)

It is a time when families reunite and visit one another. Some may even go to temple and start letting go of their troubles from the last year. It is a time when customs such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestor worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people and even opening a shop.

As a child, I really loved this holiday. It was the only time when certain special dishes, desserts, and snacks were made and consumed. I also loved receiving money because… who doesn’t love that. Heading south to meet up at my aunts house was a thrill. I knew I would get to see all of my cousins and her little Chihuahuas. Although, the house had to fit up to 6 families which included, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, the food and the room to be able to move around the food table. In total, there was always about 12 kids at these gatherings. It was still awesome, we would always gather in one room to play a board game and we’d somehow would get into arguments about it. The boys never wanted to loose and I (being 1 of the 3 girls there) never really cared. After the arguments, we would all go to the nearby park and play as we waited for to hear the jingle of the local ice cream truck.  Then we’d all bombard our parents for ice cream money. It was a great time, and by the end of the party, the cousins seemed to part ways as best friends. We always knew we’d have to wait another year to do it all over again, and it never felt fair.

Now that I’m older, and I’m on the giving end of the crisp red envelopes filled with money, I’m realizing now, that working during the year means that I have to save up for Christmas and Tết because NOW I’m realizing how much money my relatives forked out for each kid. I’m impressed that they did that for all 12 of us- EACH YEAR.

Truth be told, I don’t spend a lot of money, and the joy of receiving money and eating food as a kid is a wonderful memory that I still hold dear. Also, kids stop receiving money when they start working, so you’re really looking at forking out those red envelopes from ages 5-16- not too bad right? And now the time of the year has come again, to celebrate the new Lunar calendar and new beginnings.