Bottle Brush

Recently I had to throw away a bottle brush, it was used when our oldest child was a baby. Almost 10 years ago. Of course it was plastic and had a spongy top on it. I was using it a lot in these last 6 months. I started to feel grossed out by the sponge. I did my best to keep it clean and let it dry between uses. But, like a lot of items, it was wearing out, scratching the glass of our jars and glasses. It had to go.

Just like this one, but the suction cup on the bottom was long lost.

I thought that in the near future I would get a more environmentally friendlier kind. Though, it would have to be shipped in as the local stores don’t have them. In April we are making a trip to Halifax, and I really want to go to The Tare shop.  Check it out and all. They probably have a bottle brush I am looking for. Also a Luffa sponge, plant scrubby.

Luffa Sponge
The Tare Shop
This beechwood brush features soft horse hair bristles that are well suited to clean bottles, glasses, coffee and teapots and other vessels with narrow openings. Wild minimalist

Mean while, as I always do, I make sure to keep the empty jars moist inside with the cap on so the left over product inside does not dry (making it harder to clean), after a good rinse first. Now that I am making our own yogurt and yogurt drinks, even after a rinse, I have a hard time washing the inside properly, and I don’t trust the dishwasher to do this job (low pressure at the time). So now, without the brush, how do I clean the jar thoroughly?

Since I stopped buying chemical cleaners and abrasion cleaners (donated that away), I was experimenting other abrasion products. Baking soda of course is great, especially on the stove top. Salt now, is also great!

I take about a tsp or two and put it in the jar and add a little amount of water. Like a tsp. Enough to swish around in the jar, but not enough to dissolve the salt. You want salt crystals to remove the food bits. Put the cover on the jar and shake round and round and up and down. Sometimes it takes two sessions and I find the top of the jar along the elbow does not clean easily. Luckily that area is easily reached with a cloth and fingers. I use a old toothbrush to scrub around the thread of the jar. Also a small paint brush for small spaces (for other dishes).

Dirty with yogurt. I rinsed it the best I could.
Cleaned up with salt and water.

Now I feel like I don’t actually need to buy a new bottle brush. If anything, I could just soak the jar with some vinegar, which would, surely loosen the product in the jar.

Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients:

Plain homemade yogurt
2 L milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup yogurt (I used Danone plain Greek yogurt)

Vanilla homemade yogurt
2 L milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup yogurt (I used Danone plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup sugar
40 ml vanilla

I received the plain yogurt recipe from a lady I met at a CBC event in Charlottetown in early February. Her name is Shirley Smedley. She says that she has been making yogurt for 40 years.

Here are the instructions she gave me for plain yogurt. Very simple!

“1. Put 2 litres milk into a pot and heat to scalding point or 180 F

2. Remove from the stove and cool to lukewarm or 105 – 110 F

3. Stir or use a whisk in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
– from the last batch of yogurt
– or good quality store-bought yogurt (not flavoured)
– or ask in the natural food section of the store for a package of yogurt starter (2 pkgs. cost $5)

4. Have ready: 5 mason jars/lids sitting on a cookie sheet.
Pour mixture into 5 clean mason jars; screw on lids.

5. Put the jars on cookie sheet into the oven. Turn on the oven light which provides a low heat to ferment the yogurt. Close the door and leave overnight.
In the morning, put jars into the fridge and allow to cool for a couple of hours to stop the fermentation process.
You now have homemade yogurt! When my kids were young, they enjoyed toppings such as blueberries, honey, strawberries, etc.”

I let them sit in the oven overnight for about 9 hours, and then cool in the fridge for about 3 or 4 hours. Our kids and myself like vanilla flavoured yogurt as well as sweetened. When step #2 is just about complete, I add the sugar and vanilla, stir it in well then continue with the rest of the recipe.

The Danone Greek yogurt I bought was all used up with 3 yogurt batches. No yogurt starter went to waste. My next batch will be my own starter yogurt.

I hear that these starters for fermented products and such are given a name, like a pet. The Zero Waste Chef for example has a sour dough starter named Eleanor. So I told my husband, Chris, that we must come up with a name for our yogurt starter. Olaf was a suggestion. I thought that maybe it should have something to do with Greek, as it started out as a Greek yogurt. Finally, Chris came up with a brilliant, hilarious, perfect name. None other would suit! Gertrude! Gerty for short.

Can you imagine, one opens the fridge and says, “Hey, yo-gert!
Chris’ joke! hahaha!

So now with our homemade yogurt, we can have 100% homemade yogurt drinks too!

Thank you Shirley!

Update: here is a very informative article about the starter yogurt. A good read from a friend on Waves of Change.

2 L whole milk
180 degrees. Does not take long to heat up, maybe 15 minutes. I did not time it . . . yet
Mason jars ready for a filling. I actually needed 6 for this recipe.
about 110 degrees. Takes about 40+ minutes to cool down
Add 1/2 cup sugar and 40 ml of vanilla. Stir in completely. Add 1/2 cup yogurt.
Filled and covered
In the oven for the night
Complete, ready for cooling
Cooled and ready to eat
Yogurt on the left and yogurt drink on the right.
Thomas loving the yogurt drink
Jack loving the yogurt drink

Update. July 18, 2019
Gerty is finished. I got slow and did not make yogurt when I should have. So here I am, making another batch. This one is the first starter of the new one I made last week. I used Greek yogurt again. I recently tried Yoplait, as an experiment, but the yogurt was kind of . . . slimy. Not my cup of tea! 

Homemade Play-doh With Natural Dyes

Our family has been out of homemade play-doh for a little while now. The kids ask when I can make some more. Today, I decided to make some and I had a last minute inspirational idea. Natural dyes. Turmeric, coffee and berry juice. I did not research into any other ideas yet, but these items I had on hand. I would have loved to use beet juice, but I did not have any. Next shopping trip I will pick some up. I can even prepare the beets and freeze the juice. Ice cube tray will do very nicely to get a good amount.

Here is the recipe for making play-doh. Recipe #1 is my favourite. It stays soft and pliable. It is easy to wash and comes with no plastic container from the store. I have been making this play-doh for over 2 years. It is 100% better and does not have such a strong odor as the store bought.

Turmeric, small coffee from reusable keurig pod, frozen raspberries and blueberries
I put the frozen berries in the microwave on defrost for a couple minutes, they softened right up and were easy to mash.
Strained both to separate the juice. The raspberries were much harder to strain because of the particle size. Strainer and utensil to push the juice out worked.

Jack was my helper for most of the play-doh making. He was super excited! First we made the raspberry dye play-doh. The colour came out a very light pink. Could have used more juice for a darker colour. I would say we used about a tsp worth. I will add, my camera on my tablet is not so well. The colour is much better in person compared to the pictures.

about a tsp worth of raspberry juice
Jack mixing away before the heat gets turned on
constant mix with a scraper. Don’t let it burn!
Getting thick, keep mixing and scraping all around
Almost done. Lots of play-doh residue on the sides and bottom of the pot, normal. Don’t over cook it, or it will be dry and not so good! A little moist is great!
Let it cool on a cutting board for a minute, then knead by hand until smooth. Any moist spots will work itself out. I recommend the cutting board for kneading as you don’t want the dye on the counter (Natural dye or store bought dye).
Smooth and ready for fun. It is a light shade of pink. Camera is not so good. Let cool before adding to air tight container. I recommend to roll it wide and flat for the cooling process to happen quicker. The longer it is exposed to the air the dryer it will get (as it is with any play-doh).

Next came the blueberry dye. This one turned out a light purple. It could also use a larger amount of juice for the dye. I would say I used about 2 tsp. I did not measure.

about 2 tsp of blueberry juice.
Jack mixing away.
a light shade of purple
almost ready to come out
Ta-da
Bit of a better picture for the colour difference. pink on left, purple on the right.

Next came the coffee dye. Yes the play-doh smells like coffee! just slightly though, and the kids do not eat the play-doh. That has never been a problem. Maybe a lick here and there when pretending to make ice cream. lol. Nothing for me to worry about, really. So instead of using 1 cup of water to start, I used 1/2 a cup of water and 1/2 a cup of coffee for the dye. The colour turned out a light tan. I could have probably boiled off more water from the coffee, but I was experimenting and tried just a small brew to concentrate it that way.

Light tan colour.
Nearly there.
complete with a hand print
a picture to show the colours. Pink on top, purple on the bottom and tan on the right.

Next came the turmeric. I added a 1/2 tsp to start, but the colour was the same as the coffee, or very close. I added another 1/2 tsp, and there was not a whole lot difference. So I took some mustard powder, 1/2 tsp worth and it brightened the colour a little. by the time I had the yellow I was looking for, I used 2 tsp of turmeric and 2 tsp of mustard powder. This one is my favourite. It came out bright.

2 tsp both turmeric and mustard powder
Almost done
A little gooey, must kneading it helped so much. A little under cooked is better than over.
Do you see the flower?
Top left is pink, top right is tan, bottom left is purple and bottom right is yellow.

Last came plain old white. No dye is needed for this one.

mixing and mixing.
Love it
Top left is pink, top right is purple, bottom left is white, bottom right is yellow, and the small ball is tan. Jack an Thomas already got into these to play.

For this process, I was using two pots, a whisk and a silicone scraper. As one play-doh was finished cooking, the used pot was set aside to cool. A new pot was put on the stove with ingredients added. No heat turned on yet. The cooled pot was put in an empty sink and filled with water to loosen the dried/baked on play-doh. That would soak until the new batch of play-doh was ready, which the hot pot would be set to the side to cool and the pot in the sink ready for a wash out, dry and use. The cooled pot would get a soak and repeat until finished. The utensils would get a quick rinse in between so colours would not mix.

Jack is busy trying out the new play-doh.
Busy Thomas is from toys to play-doh, back and forth and both at the same time.
The play-doh gets stored in the reused yogurt containers.

I am hoping the natural dyes will stay well with the play-doh. Chris was wondering if the dyes would stain clothing. After handling the play-doh myself (kneading), there was not stain on my hands. So I think it will be fine. I still have store bought dyes to use up as well.

Jack was asking if I could make blue play-doh. I don’t know off hand what to use to make blue dye naturally. I ran out of cream of tartar as well, so next time blue play-doh for Jack.

I would like to find natural dyes for Red, Blue, Green, Orange and Black.
Beet juice is on my list. I want to find natural dyes without packaging as much as possible.

Raspberries = light pink (need more than a tsp)
Blueberries = purple (need more than 2 tsp)
Turmeric and mustard powder = yellow (Great with 2 tsp each)
Coffee = tan (need a more concentrated coffee)

Our Month Worth of Recyclables in February

Back in November of 2018, I emptied one of the two blue bags to see what was actually in them. Its good to take a step back and look at the big picture. I have to say, since then, we made a ton of progress! We are down to one bag, keeping in mind, I am keeping good size containers for home storage. Containers such as yogurt (no more news ones though as I make my own), vinegar and oxygen bleach containers (they would make great watering cans for the kids and possible candidates for refillable soaps if I find any stores selling them).

So this day, February 19, I emptied our bag. I think we are doing quite well. 2 bags of salt for the driveway and walkways, we are on our 3rd. We bought the biggest bag, bulk is best. It would be nice to find a place where I could scoop my own into a few large containers. That will be a goal for next year.

A few balls of foil, not sure where all that came from exactly. I know one ball is from Christmas, the foil wrapped chocolates. We saved as much foil as we could in a container and then wrapped it in a used piece of foil. small balls of foil will not due, they need to be tennis size balls for recycling, so I hear . . . We rarely use foil anymore, so I will have to keep an eye out for the usage.

We have some raspberry clam shells. I do not really have a use for those. I have been keeping the strawberry shells, as they are great storage options such as puzzles. I am also currently using one to hold cleaning supplies such as rubber gloves and old toothbrushes. I must say, we have cut back on the amount of berries we buy. I am focusing on bring naked fruit home as much as possible and getting the kids to try new fruits. I would say we cut back on berries by half.

K-cups are currently still used. My husband has not made the switch to reusable k-cups. Though I know it is on his mind. To keep these pods out of landfill (hopefully), we purchase the kind that has the recyclable symbol. Though, take note, the pod itself is not recyclable. Here on PEI, Waste Watch Management can not recycle these pods as there is still plastic attached and the filter. Those will highly contaminate a recycling load. With agreement from Waste Watch Management, I cut the top off the K-cup pods. The cover goes to waste and the filter and coffee grinds go to compost. Check out this link to see my process. At least the pods have a chance to be recycled instead of put into landfill. Update April: Done with K-Cups! He switched to reusable like me!!! Yay!

Lots of milk cartons. lots of milk covers and pull tabs. I was wondering if it would be better to buy the 1 L of milk to avoid the caps and tabs, but that would result in more cartons and more money spent out of our pockets. I am not sure which is best.

In this bag, there was a body wash container from Dove. It finally got finished this past month, and I rinsed it out the best I could. I could not believe the odor from that container. So strong. I am not used to fragrances anymore and I find I am getting sensitive to them. Chokes me up and my skin gets super dry if there is contact. Today I picked that container up out of the bin, and then placed it back in the bin after I took the pictures. I had a hard time washing the odor off my hands!!! I washed 3 times and scrubbed with a cloth, but it still lingered on my skin. I don’t know how we washed out whole bodies in that stuff! My mind is blown.

I decided at last minute to keep a few bags and a vinegar container that mysteriously ended up in the blue bag. Two yogurt containers and a Nutella container will be staying as well. 

My storage space for containers. Lots of yogurt ones. I use these for powdered products from Bulk Barn as well as coffee. Cloth bags do not work very well for those. Messy and the powder sticks to the type of fabric I use. The coffee smell seeps into nearby products when using cloth bags. I do love my van smelling like coffee on my drive home, but not so much eating almonds for example and tasting coffee! Lol!!

Jack, my good helper.

Success at The Summerside Farmer’s Market

I have to give a big shout out to Clohossey Farms!

Clohossey Farms is a family run farm on Prince Edward Island, located in Nail Pond, Tignish. They grow many fruit and vegetable produce. You can find them on Saturdays at the Summerside Farmer’s Market from 9:00-1:00 and they also have a vegetable stand at their farm.

As you know, from reading my other posts, our family, of 7, has drastically cut out plastic from our house. Sometimes, when switching out plastic packaging one must switch brands or not continue purchasing certain items. Potatoes are not too bad. The kind we buy are Prince Edward Island Potatoes and they come in a paper bag with a plastic mesh window (not perfect). I can easily find naked turnips and peppers at the grocery store as well. Broccoli and cauliflower drives me crazy. They are always wrapped in plastic at Sobey’s. At Superstore they are not wrapped. What is up with that?

Lets talk carrots, because they are the reason for this post and my story with Clohossey Farms. Over the summer and fall, I have been purchasing naked carrots at Sobey’s. They still have their green tops on and wrapped with a single elastic band. Not perfect, but that band can certainly be reused at home, or donated to a vendor at the Farmer’s Market. I can keep these carrots super fresh for up to 2 weeks without a plastic bag. All I do is cut the tops off the carrot (don’t cut the orange carrot, just the green) and store them in a carrot size container wrapped in a wet cloth. Store in the fridge. I store mine on the bottom shelf as my crisper drawers are usually already full. The carrots stay fresh until used up. We go through about 3-4 pounds a week.

During the winter months, of course, these fresh carrots are no longer available, unless they are coming from the USA. So yes, I have been buying those carrots. Are they ever expensive too! $3.50 for a bunch and I will purchase 3 or 4 bunches a week. Crazy amount I know and I feel bad not supporting local.

I am just starting to get more vocal and talk to others about my ideas. I decided to contact Clohossey Farms, as I see them every time I go to the Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Wife sells great soy based soap products, candles and the like, I am there often. Clohossey Farms’ stand is straight across from her.

I sent a message to Clohossey Farms asking if I could pick up some carrots not bagged at the Farmer’s market the coming weekend (this was the night before actually). I stated that our family was cutting out plastics and that I buy carrots from the USA and I want to support locals instead. They responded to me promptly and agreed to my request.

Later in the evening, to my surprise, they wrote back to me with this response. “Hi Rachel. Thank you for your message. It has prompted us to take a look at this issue, and discuss some possible waste free options for our markets. We would like to begin offering a packaging free option to all our customers. We also see the importance of reducing plastic waste and hope that offering a waste-free option will attract more of the community to choose locally grown produce. We sincerely thank you for inspiring us to have this important discussion and hope you will keep on eye out for new options we will have coming soon!”   

I could not wipe the smile off my face. I was so excited and I actually gave myself a headache! Lol!

The next morning I got to the Farmer’s Market and Barry was there waiting for me with the carrots (2lbs). No plastic wrap! A single elastic band only. I purchased a turnip as well, all for a price of just over $4.00. Barry was very interested in the idea of no bags. It sure would save money on their end too not having to order bags. There was talk about setting up a table with loose products. Questions as to how to bring the product into the market. Using boxes for transporting was a good suggestion.

I think a key part to others purchasing loose products is re-learning how to store them at home without plastic. Some things I do at home:

  • Store potatoes out of the bag in a container in a dark cool room, like a pantry.
  • Store carrots in a container wrapped in a wet cloth, works with celery and string beans too. I wet the cloth when it dries out and change it every week.
  • Store broccoli and cauliflower in the crisper as well as leafy greens.
  • buying 1 or 2 onions at a time saves the worry about any kind of storage. Those get used quickly or store them in the fridge as you normally would. Easier to store one or 2 rather than 6 or 8. May save on food waste too.
  • Sweet potatoes and turnips get stored the same as potatoes.
  • I don’t buy bulk produce as it takes up more room than I have, leads to possible food waste. purchasing only what is needed promises it is always fresh.

There is probably lots of other tips out there as well. All we have to do is ask, because we are not alone on this journey. Others are on the same path, either ahead of us or behind. We must pass our knowledge on to help others so we can all achieve our goal. Support each other!

As a reminder, these changes take time! It may take a little while for our farmers to adjust. This is new to them too. Lets give them our support and patience! Update: Changes may take place in the Spring.

I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks will be like at the Farmer’s Market. I certainly hope that when one vendor makes a change, others will follow, domino affect! Lets get rid of the plastic, it is running our lives!

Great looking carrots!

I will also add, Pleasant Pork is also at the Farmer’s Market , and they wrap their pork products in butcher paper. I bought a pound of local bacon and It is delicious! I know where I’m getting our bacon waste free for now on!

I bought some local apples from Brady’s Farm, going to make apple sauce as I quit buying fruit cups for the kids school lunches. Brady uses paper bags to sell his products in, but I asked to have the bag of apples I bought dumped into my cloth bag. Win win. No extra waste for me and he can re use the bag for his next customer. I know I can return the bag to him, but this is easier for me when I have a cloth bag anyways!

Most recently, I bought a loaf of sour city bread from Hey Splendid. These caught my eye as they were stored in a glass case with no packaging! I requested to use my own cloth bag to for the bread, and she was very happy to do so! She also added that she will be selling cloth bread bags as well in the future. We have not tried sour right bread before, I can’t wait to try it!

I am so excited!!!

 

Bin of Returns

This is our storage bin for items to be brought to recyclable facilities, hazard facilities, and the farmer’s market.

Batteries, razor blades, writing utensils, elastic bands, Brita water filter, beauty products and cleaners.

Batteries: Sobey’s has a drop off bin.

Writing utensils: Staples has a recycling program .

Hazardous material: Waste Watch drop off centre.

Elastic bands and egg cartons: Donated to vendors at the farmer’s market .

Brita water filter: Send back to vendor (Brita).

 

 

Waste Cart

It has taken 8 weeks for our household to fill our black waste cart. December 16th to February 13th. This includes Christmas, Jack’s Birthday and family party, My Birthday, Julia’s Birthday and party as well as the rest of the household waste.

Our indoor garbage bin gets emptied between 10-16 days. As a reminder, we do not keep meat packages in the house. We have a extra large garbage bag that stays in the waste cart outside, and that is where the meat packages go once they are emptied. Straight outside. Our indoor bin gets dumped into that bag as well. I believe waste (plastic) needs to be contained so the garbage does not get blown away from the wind or out of the garbage truck as they drive down the road. Litter needs to stop and this is one way to help. Contain the garbage as best as you can. We can fit two of these extra large garbage bags in our waste cart.

Also, by waiting until our cart is full before taking it to the road side to get picked up, we are saving fuel and time for the garbage company. One less stop and time saving. Less fuel being wasted on a nearly empty cart and less wear and tare on the truck.

I am looking forward to see how long it takes to fill our cart this time round, as we will not have the extra Holiday and celebrations. Though, 2 more Birthdays are coming up in March and April as well as parties, but I am confident they will not create much waste.

Also, next week on the 20th, it is blue bag day. We will only have 1 blue bag of recyclables to go out. I just started to make yogurt at home, so that will cut out 4 yogurt containers a week. Yay!! Though, I have been saving those containers for some other use. They are still great for taking to Bulk Barn to purchase powdered products and coffee. As well, next time I make homemade play-doh, those yogurt containers will be perfect for storage. The small containers I used to use for play-doh are being used for school lunches.

Later this week, I will be emptying our blue bag to see what it consists of. Getting a visual will help decide what can get cut next.

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup milk, warm
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla

Use a stick of butter (2 Tbsp) and coat a 12 piece muffin pan liberally. No Pam spray needed!!!!

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips together and mix evenly.

In a large bowl combine melted butter, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add dry mixture a little at a time (3), gently folding until combined. Over mixing will result in flat tops. A little flour remaining or clumps are okay. I over mixed mine a little by accident. 

Fill them right up!

Bake in preheated oven at 425 for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 for 14 minutes. Let cool in pan until cool enough to handle and place the muffins on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container once cooled completely. 

No sticking and easy to wash. Butter for coating!

Unbaked Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup softened butter, not melted
1/4 cup white sugar

1 package of cream cheese (8 oz)
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Cherry pie filling (a can or about 2 cups worth if buying from a bulk store. Though I find less than those amounts are better, more like 1 1/2 cups)

Begin by mixing the graham crackers, softened butter and sugar together. I personally find that if the butter is super soft, it mixes better, but if it gets melted, the mixture is too wet, resulting in adding more graham crumbs causing the bottom layer of the cheesecake to be dense and thick. This happened to me this time round. oops. Press the mixture into a pie plate or a cheesecake pan like I have. Allow the sides to rise to give a slight curve to hold the next step.

Oops. Blurry picture. Will replace with a better one next time I make a cheesecake.

Next beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the heavy cream a little at a time. continue to beat for several minutes. The less beaten, the more runny the mixture (not good), the more beaten, the thicker the mixture (yes!).

Yummy!

Pour the creamed mixture over the graham crumbs and smooth out. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight if you like. Less time may result in runny cream cheese mixture. (extra step to keep the mixture firm)

Add cherry pie filling and chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!!!

Delicious!
Super easy to make!