Upcycling Denim Jeans

01.30.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One pair of denim jeans

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

So recently I started going auditing my traveling items such as my bath bag, travel accessories as well as my sport bags. I wanted to find 3 pieces of clothing to donate, but I also noticed that my bath bag wasn’t containing my bath items comfortably.

So I had the choice to go buy/find a new bath bag or find another solution. Out of the items I decided to donate, I found a tank top, sweater and a pair of jeans. Denim is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love upcycling denim into new items. The idea of donating the pair of jeans wasn’t exactly what I thought I would do, so I decided to make a stand up bath bag for myself, or at least a few stand up bags.

I’ve owned bath bags before, but the material was with a polyester or nylon blend. Over time, my bath bags would have soap or toothpaste residue stains. I figured that with a denim bath bag, I could simply throw it into the washing machine and it would clean easily.

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I divided each leg in half by folding it in half. I then cut the legs off from the pair of jeans and then divided each piece in half.

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I turned each of them inside out and designated the wider end of the pieces as the bottom of the bag and the smaller ends as the top of the bag.  I folded the top of the bags down to create the drawstring tube. This is where I wanted to install the drawstring later.

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I hemmed the bottoms of the bags by simply sewing a sew line across the bottom. I then sewed the drawstring tube. I measured 2″x2″ squares on the corners on bottom.

I marked these white dots on BOTH SIDES OF THE BAG, near the bottom section of the bag. These white dots will be used as guides of where you will sew in the next step.

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I then flipped the bag upside down, and so that the right side seam was facing up. I then folded the bottom of the bag to create a diamond shape. You should be able to locate all four dots that were created in the last step, when molding the diamond shape.

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The dots are guides to sew where you will sew horizontally across the diamond. After sewing the two lines, the diamond should look like this.

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Since I was initially thinking of making a new bath bag, I wanted to sew a small pocket inside of that bag. I had this extra pocket left over from my Handmade Handkerchiefs project, so I added it on the inside. To find the opposing edges of the box, you can locate it by finding the perpendicular lines of the top and bottom hemmed lines.

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If you want to make a small pocket inside, you can sew a piece of material to the inside of the bag, as long as you leave to top of the material open.

In this case, because the pocket was more than half of the height of the bag, I placed the pocket towards the bottom of the bag. I also knew that I would be folding the bag down when in use, so placing it towards the bottom gave me room for the top to be folded down.

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Once I pulled the drawstrings through the bags, this is what they looked like. They stand up pretty well, and I can fold them down to create a top frame for the boxes.

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This is what my bath bag looks like now.

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I like the fact that I can simply fold my bag down and be able to access everything I need inside. I also have the habit of attaching a ring to the interior of any bag. So I attached a metal ring to the inside seam of the bag, because I wanted to hang small bath items for easy access.

So there you have it. This was my solution to my travel bath bag issue. I genuinely love denim and to make these stand up drawstring bags with this material is one of my favorite kinds of sewing projects that I like to get involved in.

I used my other bags for some camera gear and for another bag I use for traveling. The denim creates a nice thickness for the bottom of these bags, which is why I like to use them for electronics.

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As a bonus…

I made a bag out of the top part of my denim jeans. I simply flipped the top inside out and hemmed the pant leg openings.  Due to the nature of how the jeans were cut and sewed, I folded the outer edges of the jeans inward when I hemmed them.

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I then sewed a zipper to the top opening of the jeans using sewing pins to hold the zipper in place and then sewing it to my pants. I used the same sewing steps to attach the zipper as to when I  Created Slim Hanging Organizers.

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Since my zipper wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the jeans, I closed off the jeans by sewing the top together.

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I used an extra tie to create the handles of this bag. This was a simple choice but some people may prefer to use a belt or something more to their taste. I chose the tie because I wanted to be able to throw everything into the washing machine.

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And as always, I attached a metal ring to my zipper for a slightly easier access.

I use this bag to hold some smaller items that need a bit of cushion like camera gear or smaller electronics.

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How To Daisy Chain Your Long Ropes

12.26.2017

0600

Storing long ropes can be a hassle, but if you know how to organize the ropes, unraveling them each time won’t seem as daunting. I like to wrap my long ropes in a daisy chain so that when I open the rope, it’s a quick process and it doesn’t get tangled.

A daisy chain is a simple method to store long ropes. It’s also known as a chain sinnet. It’s a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine. Rock climbers, concert stage workers have used this method in their professions. I’ve found that wrapping the ropes up in a daisy chain can be just as quick as unraveling it once you nail the method down.

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First find the middle of the rope and tie a knot to mark the middle point. It’s easier to create a loop while making the knot to make it more distinguishable.

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At the ends of the rope, tie knots to keep the rope from fraying.

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Before starting the chain pattern, it’s easier to step on the two loose ends of the rope so that the chain is taught when you’re creating it.  Take the end with the middle knot and loop the other end over it creating a loose loop.

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Then bring the rope through the loop you just created.

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Pull the new loop through the opening and bring it downwards so that you can see the hanging rope through the new loop.

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Grab the rope through the new loop and bring it through, towards yourself.

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Once you grab hold of the rope, bring down the chain so that the loop pattern is more taught. Once the pattern is tighter, you can bring the chain back up and repeat the process. DSC_8310DSC_8311DSC_8312DSC_8313

Once you get towards the end of the rope, just grab the leftover rope and pull it through. Make sure the ends of the rope won’t slip through the opening by tightening the last loop.

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When you need to use this rope, simply open this end of the daisy chain, give it a little tug and your rope will unfold quickly and easily. I’m sure there are other methods of storing long rope, but this is my favorite way of storing my own. I usually use these ropes in my Sport Emergency Kit, so it comes in handy when I’m in the snow. This method also allows for a quick unravel for my gloved hands.

I hope this blog post helps you store your long ropes if you choose the Daisy Chain Method.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

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I wanted to calculate my carbon footprint because I haven’t ever done so. I know that I watch what I buy and how much energy I use so I was hoping it would be low. There are aspects of my life I could probably change to reduce my carbon footprint, but I wanted a base number to start with. There are a few different carbon print calculators available, but this is the one I used. Also, I’m located in the United States of America, so I used the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator, from the Nature Conservancy.

Because these calculators consist of a lot of smaller chunks of information, I thought I would at least list out the information needed for this calculator. I had to go searching for a large chunk of information to input, when I filled out my survey. So here is the the many pieces of information I needed, that you might need as well if you choose to use this carbon footprint calculator:

  1. Get Started: A QUICK CARBON FOOTPRINT ESTIMATE
    1. Zip Code
    2. City
    3. County
    4. State Country
    5. How many people live in your household?
    6. What is your approximate gross annual household income?
  2. Travel:  HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?
    1. Car(s): (Miles per gallon)
    2. Public Transit: (Miles per year)
    3. Air Travel: (Miles per year)
  3. Home: HOW MUCH DO YOU USE IN YOUR HOME?
    1. Electricity ($/year)
    2. Natural Gas ($/year)
    3. Heating oil & Other Fuels ($/year)
    4. Square ft. of living space
    5. Water useage ($/year)
  4. Food: HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSUME OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
    1. Simple Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Meat, fish, eggs
      2. Grains & baked goods
      3. Dairy
      4. Fruits & vegetables
      5. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    2. Advanced Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Beef, pork, lamb, veal
      2. Fish & seafood
      3. Other meat (processed, nuts, etc…)
      4. Poultry & eggs
      5. Grains & baked goods
      6. Dairy
      7. Fruits & Vegetables
      8. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    3. Shopping: HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
      1. Simple Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
        2. Services  ($/month)
      2. Advanced Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
          1. Furniture & appliances
          2. Clothing
          3. Entertainment
          4. Paper, office & reading
          5. Personal care & cleaning
          6. Auto Parts
          7. Medical
        2. Services  ($/month)
          1. Health Care
          2. Information & Comunication
          3. Medical
          4. Vehicle Services
          5. Personal business & Finance
          6. Household Maintenance & Repair
          7. Organizations & Charity
          8. Other Services

So my results stated that my Total Footprint is 20 tons CO2/year, which is 59% better than average person. This is a good standing to start from. I’m actually quite happy with it. I could try to adjust my daily decisions to see if I can reduce my footprint a re-take the survey, but it’s a good starting point.

The last section in the calculator allows you to sign a pledge to stand with Climate Action. There are a few different carbon footprint calculators. I encourage you all to take a look at how large or small your carbon footprint is. It’s amazing when you see it written down in a calculated measure of your daily decisions. Here are a few other websites that also have carbon footprint calculators that might be of god use as well:

  1. Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator
  3. EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator
  4. WWF Footprint Calculator 
  5. Carbonfund Calculate 

TheNatureConservancy- Household Footprint

 

 

Car Hack For Cell Phone Calls

09.19.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Cotton Rope

Tools:

  • Know your knots
  • Scissors

This is a very simple hack and I use it when I put my phone calls on speaker mode. I simply tied two ropes around my car visor where it was tight enough to carry the weight of my cell phone. The ropes still don’t interfere with my visor mirror use as well.

The rope loop on the left side of my visor was tied as it was placed on my visor, then tied off. The rope loop on the right side was actually measured by gauging how much rope I needed to wrap around the visor and then I tied a knot to close off that piece.  I slid it over the visor and because it was a tight squeeze, I knew the knot would naturally tighten more as I was trying to stretch the rope accordingly. I wanted this lop to be tight because it would carry more weight compared to the other one.

The right rope loops is tight enough to hold my cell phone in place in a vertical position. Sometimes I’ll write down my directions if I know I’m going somewhere, where I know I won’t get good reception and place the paper behind the left rope loop. These are good for lists too (ie. grocery lists, errand stop offs, to-do lists, etc).

If I’m driving long distances and I need to swing my visor out to block out the sun from the driver’s side window, I’ll usually slide the phone in on the other side of the visor. It will still hold it in place and technically, the microphone will be even closer to hear and speak into. If you do use this method, just remember to not swing the visor too aggressively. If you do need to use your visor for a short time, keep in mind which side of the visor your phone is on.

So there you have it, my very simple car hack for cell phone speaker mode.

Please don’t text while driving.

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Backpack Hacks

08.15.2017

0600

 

With all of my backpacks that I have ever owned, I hack them the exact same way as I always have. Going back as far as middle school, I always had to hack my backpacks. It was my way of customizing my carrier to my exact needs and over time I would edit it as my needs changed. Within each compartment I always created some type of hanging or attachment mechanism to hang my water bottles, extra bags within the compartments or hang something I needed access to immediately. most of the time I hung items that I needed access to so that those items weren’t at the bottom of my bag, where I had to go digging around to look for them.

 

Front of the backpack

  • I always attach extra reflectors so that in low light, vehicles or any type of light can bounce off of my backpack and I can be visible. These reflecting straps are for bikers, but I took two of the straps and weaved them through my exisitng strap set up.

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  • For all of my zippers that open to significant compartments, I always sew a section of the zipper, so it limits the access to that compartment to only one direction of movement for the zipper. I prefer to only have access in one direction for the zipper movement so it’s easier to watch over and maintain. I also attach metal rings right below the point of the sewing block (through the exposed zipper tape) so that I can use this ring to lock my carabiners from the outside but to also hang items on the inside of the bag.

 

 

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  • On the inside, I hook extra interior metal rings with carabiners to the exterior rings that are popping through the tape so I can hang items on the inside. I’ll hang my water bottle from these interior rings (when my external water bottle pocket has my coffee tumbler in it) or small bags so I can keep items separated in the same compartment. These interior rings are there for anything that needs to be hanged or utilized.

 

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Sides of the backpack

  • I also sew blocking for my smaller compartments and create a locking system for these pockets as well. For the smaller pockets, it really just depends how and where you want to secure the pocket. I chose to insert an extra ring so that I could attach an extra carabiner to it and lock the zipper with it.

 

 

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  • For my external water bottle pocket, I usually take one of the extra backpack straps (that I trimmed off)  to create a safety strap for the external water bottle pocket so that it can hold taller water bottles more securely. There have been a few incidents where my external water  bottle pocket wasn’t deep enough and due to the fact that I had so much stuff in my backpack, my water bottle managed to get squeezed out of the pocket.

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Back of the backpack

  • I usually trim the extra strap slack that comes with the backpack straps. I don’t like any loose hanging straps so I will measure how high I want to carry my backpack and trip, then hem the straps accordingly.
  • For my backpack straps, I like to keep my smaller items very close to me. So I will attach some type of pocket (large enough to fit my “wallet” items and my cell phone) to the front. This backpack didn’t come with a pocket for those types of intimate items.

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  • I also ALWAYS, ALWAYS attach an extra carabiner to the other strap, so I can hook my keys onto my strap quickly.

 

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So there you have it, those are the hacks I made for this backpack. This is my day to day back pack, so I’ll run to the store or go hiking with it. I do have another hiking backpack that’s a 65 gallon capacity for traveling and I’ve hacked that accordingly as well. Hopefully you may see a hack i described here that you would like to use on your own backpacks or carrying bags that you may want to use.

 

Creating A Locking Mechanism For My Carabiners

05.16.2017

0700

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I’m a big fan of carabiners. I have all different types and designs, however, I tend to favor the Asymmetrical D-Shape. On a whim a few years back, I bought two S-Binder carabiners. I really liked this design because the items I would place on the bottom half of the carabiner were separated from the top half. The top lever was the lever that I would use to hook and unhook the carabiner to other objects.

This also lead to an issue with the way in which I used it. Each time I would wrap my hands around the carabiner to press open the top lever,  I would inadvertently press my palm against the bottom lever and the objects had a very good chance to slide out. This involuntary action happened a few times and I had to come up with a quick solution.

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First, I wrapped a small piece of Velcro around the bottom lever, but over time, the Velcro started to become weaker and would become unattached, which left the end flap of the Velcro unattached. I knew I had to come up with a more permanent solution. I knew other carabiner brands sold their Asymmetrical D-Shape carabiners with locking mechanisms or had an external accessory that helped lock their levers in place. I had to make my own locking mechanism in order for me to not drop my keys all over the place.

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I took a old piece of an iron on elbow patch (I had bought a set years ago and never used them all up), and I cut the length to the distance that it would take to cover the lever and half of the basket of the carabiner. (If you don’t know where the ‘basket’ is, I labeled all of the parts of a carabiner in the first image).

With a few sewing needles, I marked the locations of the fabric of which I would have to sew the fabric together. I removed the fabric from the carabiner and sewed it up. I needed to create a snug fit for the locking mechanism so that the fabric didn’t move easily when in use. When I sewed my second locking mechanism, I sewed it a little too snug, but with fabric, you have a slight chance to stretch the length and width of any product due to the material. This was material for iron-on elbow patches, so it was a very, very slight stretch .

Once I was finished sewing both the locking mechanisms, I slid the pieces on, moved my key rings over them and then slid it back over the levers. It’s a simple solution to a very basic tool I use everyday.

If you use any other kind of fabric, perhaps 100% cotton,  you may have to sew it a little tighter because cotton tends to stretch more. And, you may want to extend the length of the locking mechanism so that it can’t slide back and forth on the basket as easily. The idea is to make the fabric slight “stuck” on the spine of your carabiner. If it has a hard time sliding around the basket, then it most likely won’t slide around when in use.

I hope this might give any of you some ideas as to how to approach design problems such as this one. Happy sewing and don’t loose those keys!

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A Climber’s Guide To Carabiners

A Minimalist’s Short Business Trip

12.15.2016

0800

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So once in awhile, I will take business trips, usually short ones, so that makes me happy. I prefer to leave the long trips associated with personal vacations. Because it’s a short business trip, I thought I would share what I packed. Here is my list:

  1. Clothes:
    1. Day (Business):
      • Tops: 2 dress shirts, 1 jacket
      • Bottoms: 1 pair of black pants
      • Shoes: 1 pair of low heels
    2. Day (Casual):
      • Tops: 1 shirt
      • Bottoms: 1 pair of jeans
    3. Sleepwear & Intimates:
      • Tops: 1 shirt
      • Intimates: 2 changes of intimates
  2. Daily Tools:
    1. Dining:
      1. Reuseable Water bottle, Coffee tumbler
      2. Straw, bamboo fork + spoon (to get through the security check at the airport), napkin
    2. Bathroom:
      1. Travel bath bag
        1. For the sink space area, I pack my:
          • Bamboo toothbrush
          • Dental pick
          • Dental floss (packaged in a paper container)
          • 1/2 bar of soap (I cut my normal sized bars and bring it along)
          • Deodorant crystal
          • Collapsible stainless steel cup
          • 2.0 oz. bottle of lotion
          • 2.0 oz. bottle of baking soda
        2. For the shower area, I pack my:
          • 3.0 oz bottle of concentrated Shampoo/conditioner
          • Pumice stone
          • Empty stainless steel water bottle (not pictured)
        3. For the “Just In Case” situations, I pack my:
          • Diva Cup
          • Shewee With Extension
      2. Make-Up bag
    3. Entertainment:
      1. iPad, Cell phone and charger cord
      2. Workout Stuff
        • Running Shoes, shirt, sports bra
        • Armband

I tend to pack multiple tops and wear the same bottoms for most outfits. My bottoms don’t get very dirty so I don’t mind wearing them for a few days. This list is for a short trip to a warm area so I don’t have many long sleeved items. Also, since I have such a small wardrobe and very few possessions, I tend to already use what I’ll need to pack. I have to grab certain items right before I leave such as my:

  1. Make-up bag
  2. iPad and charging cord
  3. Running shoes, clothes, accessories

I keep my wet items out of my travel bag in case they dry up, or if i don’t travel often enough during time periods, the products won’t expire. I keep these item containers in my bathroom  grouped together, this way, I know where to look to find them when I do need to travel again. These items include:

  1. Body sunscreen
  2. Face Sunscreen Moisturizer
  3. Body Lotion
  4. Shampoo/Conditioner

These items are also the items that I’ll probably use on the same day as I leave so I keep them by the door so I can pack them really quick before I jet off. Also, this pile by the door also varies in items depending on the time in which I’m scheduled to leave. If I leave straight from work, I’ll usually wear at least half of my business clothes that I count in my business attire for the trip. If I leave from my home, to jet off, I’ll wear my casual clothes during the trip there.

This is a simple overview of what I pack based on my 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe. Admittedly, having a capsule wardrobe makes packing for trips much easier as well. There is a select handful of options for me to wear business attire and casual attire and even what I’ll wear to go workout. I hope this post helps in giving you ideas of how you may pack if you have a capsule wardrobe or want to pack lightly as well.

Check out these post from some other bloggers about traveling:

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.