Thursday 29 November 2018

My Journey to Less Waste #5 - Home Made Beeswax Wraps

Hi there everyone 😀

One of the first things I mentioned when sharing my journey to less waste was that I’d bought some beeswax wraps and we really liked them. They really were helping us to use a lot less clingfilm and polythene sandwich bags.
They can’t be used with raw meat so there has been the odd occasion when we have used plastic wrap but I can't even remember the last time I bought any.
I decided I’d like to try and have a go at making my own so had a good scour of Pinterest and the web and found a number of different methods.

I decided to go for the most simple using just one ingredient for coating the wraps.

Beeswax ... If you want to make your wraps vegan there are lots of alternatives you can use in the place of beeswax. A quick Google search should give you plenty of options.

It’s really important that your beeswax is food grade and from reading reviews we decided to go with white beeswax pellets. You can buy yellow but some feedback said that these can discolour your fabric. You can also buy solid beeswax and grate it yourself which may be cheaper, but I didn't fancy that at all. We found our beeswax on Amazon at a cost of £13.40 for 1kg.

I had bought a set of cotton fat quarters from Aldi a while ago. I think they were less than £5 for 10 and decided these would do the job nicely.

What you will need ...

  • Cotton fabric
  • Pinking shears
  • Ruler and/or cutting mat
  • Circular template ... I used a mixing bowl and a dinner plate
  • A baking tray
  • Foil or grease proof baking paper
  • Beeswax
  • An oven
  • Oven gloves

It’s important to pre-wash your fabric to ensure that it is nice and clean and any chemicals or stabilisers used in the manufacturing process are removed. I also pressed mine so they were all nice and crisp and flat.

I would also advise that you cut all of the shapes for your wraps before you go any further. Using pinking shears to cut the shapes will ensure that the edges do not fray and your wraps hold their shape.
It’s important that the shapes you cut will fit comfortably onto your baking tray.

To give a good variety of shapes and sizes I made up sets of six, including ...

  • Two large rectangular
  • Two smaller rectangular
  • One large circle and
  • One smaller circle

Once you have all of your shapes ready you need to line your baking tin. I’ve seen both foil and grease proof paper used for this. We used a foil backed grease proof paper which works really well.
Heat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Before waxing any of your wraps it’s important to give all of the fabric a good shake to remove any loose threads as you don’t want this to be waxed into your wrap.

Place your first piece of fabric onto the baking tray and sprinkle evenly with the beeswax. Don’t worry too much on the first one as to whether there is enough. If there isn’t it is easy to add more later and if there is too much it is easy enough to remove and reuse.
Place the baking tray in your oven, we tend to do two at a time, for between two and three minutes, until you can see that all of the wax has melted, and remove carefully from the oven.

You will be able to see if there is insufficient wax as parts of your fabric will look a lighter colour. If this is the case then just sprinkle on a bit more and put back in the oven until it has melted. If you look carefully you can see in the next photo that we had some lighter patches on our first go ...
We just sprinkled a few more pellets on the lighter areas and popped back in the oven for a minute or two.

🚒As both the wax and your fabric are flammable it is really important that you do not leave your wraps in the oven for too long and that you keep an eye on them at all times. 🚒

Once all of your fabric seems well covered then pick up carefully, you can probably do this with just your fingers, and hold it up and wave it about a bit and turn it round in your hands and the wax will set.
Any excess will be left on the paper on the baking tray and this will quickly set. You can then either  scrape it off with a spatula and reuse it or just pop your next piece of fabric on top before it sets. It did help there being two of us, I can imagine it would be a bit tricky working on your own.
If you think there is too much wax on your fabric ... there may be clumps or it may feel too thick, you can pop it back in the oven, with your next piece of fabric on top of it and it will soak up any excess.

After our first attempt we over corrected and found we then added far too much wax, but it was easily resolvable and we soon got to grips with exactly how much we needed. A little wax does go a fairly long way.
Once your wraps have fully dried you will be able to fold them for storage.
Then clean your kitchen ... if you’re anything like us there will be wax in plenty of places there shouldn’t be.

We managed to make four full sets of wraps with the fabric we had and only used about 250g of wax. So for less than £10 spent on materials we made 24 wraps, which is loads cheaper than anywhere I've seen them on sale for. Obviously you need to cost in the use of your oven, but even so ...
When it comes to actually using them you basically use the warmth of your hands to create a seal around whatever it is you want to cover.

You don’t get as good an air tight seal as you do with cling film but we have found when covering bowls in the fridge they work just fine. You can always use an elastic band to secure more firmly if you feel the need. When wrapping sandwiches we also use elastic bands to make sure everything stays where it should.

After you have used your wraps they can be washed in luke warm soapy water. Not hot, or the wax will melt. Leave to dry and refold. They can be used again and again.
When they start to look a bit tatty you can reinvigorate them by popping them back in the oven to remelt the wax. We have done this and they come back out looking as good as new.

You could also add more wax if needed.

When they are completely finished with they can be placed in your compost bin.

As I am going to be including these on my craft stall all that was left for me to do was make up some packaging ...

... and pass a set on a friend to test ...
I am pleased to report that the testing has gone well and we have since made a stack more ...
... and we still haven't used up all of the wax 😀


Monday 26 November 2018

Joy in the Everyday Ordinary - November, 11-20

Hi there everyone 😀

We were away for the week last week, in a cosy cottage in the midst of the countryside very close to the Somerset/Dorset border. We always go away at this time of year to celebrate my birthday and this time we had a very special excursion planned that did not disappoint.

We are now back home and in the throes of all of those jobs that need doing in preparation for the festive season ... preparing home made gifts and advent calendars, getting ready for a Christmas craft fair and generally thinking about how to do Christmas whilst trying to reduce the waste we generate. I feel like we're doing quite well but you will have to wait until after Christmas to see how this year's gift giving was received 😀

I will be posting more about our break away and our journey to producing less waste over the coming weeks but for now, here is the last 10 days ...
Day 11 - It was Remembrance Sunday and I really wanted to see the poppy cascade that had been installed at the castle. I'd actually donated some plastic bottles for use in the project and really wanted to see what had happened to them. I was not disappointed. It was a beautiful clear day and I managed to capture this shot just before the two people in the picture fired a blast of poppy petals into the sky. It looked beautiful and there was a fabulous turn out. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful castle on our doorstep and lots of local events that go on throughout the year.
Day 12 - Monday and another dry and bright day. We decided to tackle a job which was in desperate need and spent a good couple of hours out back making a start on clearing some of the leaves. We managed to completely fill the garden waste bin before calling it a day. There's still another couple of bin loads out there but we were happy that we'd made a good start.
Day 13 - I've been wanting to have a go at making these origami stars that I'd seen on Pinterest a while ago and today was the day. I was really pleased with how they turned out and will definitely be making some more.
Day 14 - Whilst I can't honestly say that I love it when Martin has a bottling session in the kitchen, I do love the fact that he is getting plenty of use out of some of the random beer making stuff that I bought him for Christmas a few years ago. It's also nice to have a short period of time when there isn't a bucket full of beer brewing in the kitchen 😀
Day 15 - Today was Thursday and all about getting ready to go away on Friday. We did packing, cleaning and shopping and I didn't take a single photo all day, so just thought I'd drop this one here again as it is just too cute 💜💜💜
Day 16 - After a long old drive we arrived at our new home for the next week. We were looking forward to getting cosy curled up in here in front of the TV and the log burner on a chilly evening.
Day 17 - It was a lovely bright day with plenty of sunshine but a definite nip in the air. We headed off to Wells for the day, where we had a good wander around the cathedral, which was just beautiful. 
Day 18 - My 54th birthday and for this year's treat we were off to Longleat for a drive round the safari park, followed by their annual Festival of Light, which is something I've wanted to see for ages. It was amazing. Neither of us have ever really seen anything quite like it and we have lots of pictures to share but this underwater part was definitely one of my favourites ... it was just absolutely stunning 💜💜💜
Day 19 - Today Martin, who is a Yorkshireman born and bred, had a revelation. The Hovis ads weren't filmed in Yorkshire! They were filmed in Shaftsbury in Dorset and today we went and had a look. It hasn't changed much at all. 
Day 20 - It was certainly a bit duller today and we did have the odd shower. We spent the afternoon at Montacute House, a National Trust property not too far away. As usual we hit the tea room first for lunch before exploring. Now I've never really been a fan of 'Kings & Queens' history, but I was fascinated to learn that all three of Henry VIII's offspring, by three different wives, became monarch ... a fact which I did struggle to get my head round.


Thursday 22 November 2018

A Fortnight in Cornwall #5 - A Wet and Windy Weekend

Hi there everyone 😀

It was Thursday, Lesley & Tom's last full day, and there was nothing but rain forecast all day.

We all met up for breakfast at The Weir then it was off to the supermarket for us for all we needed to put together an afternoon tea for everyone back at West Holm.

We managed to easily fit the nine of us round the table in the conservatory, though we did have to resort to emergency chairs, but no one seemed to mind too much.
We had a lovely afternoon. We ate lots, were well entertained by the little man, especially as he discovered a love of pickled onions and spent the majority of the afternoon snuggling with Martin on the sofa, and played board games in the conservatory.
By the time everyone headed off we were shattered and spent the rest of the evening watching TV and listening to the sound of storm Bronagh lashing down on the conservatory roof.

Friday ... and Lesley and Tom were heading home. We were looking forward to a nice slow relaxing chilled out day, with no plans to go very far at all.

The forecast was for rain and more rain. Looking out of the back window early doors we were treated to the sight of this rainbow.

I just managed to capture it and say how lovely it was, and that it didn’t look like rain, as Martin said ... it’s chucking it down ... maybe we will just stay here. And we did, until about 3.30pm when David, Alison and Bobby swung by for a walk on the beach, so we waterproofed up and battled the wind for a bracing walk along the beach at Widemouth Bay.
The Little Man absolutely loved the beach and wasn't bothered in the least by the wind or the weather. He was happy just running about ...
... collecting shells ...
... paddling in his wellies ...
... and getting re-acquainted with Martin's stick ...
He was far too busy to be posing for photographs ...
The forecast for the whole weekend was looking grim, with plenty of rain forecast. On Saturday we had a late get up and lolled around in our dressing gowns, just listening to the rain, trying to decide whether or not to venture out.

We did get dressed ... but the rain didn’t stop all day and we only ventured out to the supermarket to get what we needed for tea.

It was a lovely relaxing day. I managed to finish my second book and we settled down to home made chicken dopiaza for tea in front of Strictly and the X Factor.

Sunday was very much the same weather wise, though the forecast looked better later on. We spent another wet and windy morning lolling around West Holm, not doing very much at all. Mid day we headed over to see David, Alison, Bobby and Mum and Dad for pizza and games, hoping that we might get out a bit later.

We ate lots of pizza and had a couple of games before the sun did put in an appearance and we headed back to Widemouth Bay beach for a bit of very windy kite flying.

We finished off the afternoon and the weekend with hot chocolate in the warmth of the Widemouth Bay cafe, before spending the evening curled up in front of the last episode of The Bodyguard ... oh the suspense 😀


Monday 19 November 2018

My Journey to Less Waste #4 - Mobilising

Hi there everyone 😀

Welcome to the 4th post in My Journey to Less Waste series.

In my 1st and 2nd posts I shared the typical waste that we produced over a couple of very normal days.

My 3rd post saw us starting to feel just a little overwhelmed with how much we both needed and felt that we could do to try and reduce the amount of waste that we are producing as a household.

Well, we've got started, we've made some changes and I'm now ready to start to share these with you.

One of the things I felt I might need to do was to actually work out what my overall goal was. Well I think that has turned out to be quite simple to define .. I want to produce less waste. Maybe as time goes on I will be able to get more specific with my goal but for now, I think that pretty much covers it.

One of the things I've come across in all of my readings and research is this infographic ...

I've seen it in lots of different forms, but I think this one is my favourite, though that apostrophe is giving me a bit of angst 😜

Simply put ... Zero Waste starts by refusing things. Whatever you still have and use you should reduce to save resources. Substitute disposables for reusable options, and instead of tossing things repair them! Separate what little trash you have left and make sure to recycle. Compost what’s left and let it rot.

I thought a good way of sharing what changes we are making would be to perhaps take a look at each of the Rs once a month so you can see what progress we are making.

So ... here we go for what we've done so far ...

♻ I have switched to paperless banking ... I don't know why I didn't do it before ... habit I guess. By doing this I've managed to save three separate statements and all the associated paper and envelopes every month. I've also saved myself the time and space that I would have spent filing, storing and finally shredding them.

♻ I have updated my registration with the Mailing Preference Service ... By doing this I can make sure that all of the addressed mail that we both receive is relevant and won't be destined to go straight into the recycling bin.

♻ I have unsubscribed from unwanted catalogues ... Every time I've received a catalogue from anywhere I've found out how to unsubscribe and made sure I've done this so hopefully we will further reduce the post we receive.

♻ I have cancelled my magazine subscriptions ... I have had the Gardeners' World magazine for a good few years ... I love reading it, but it is a bit like being on a loop. I've decided to keep the last 12 months worth of issues and cancelled the subscription, saving both on money and on paper.

♻ I have stopped using clingfilm ... Since making our own beeswax wraps we haven't used any clingfilm at all. This is great as clingfilm is not recyclable and can only really be used the once. As well as cutting out on a single use product we are actually saving money too ... win/win.
I no longer use supermarket single use bags for loose fruit and vegetables ... We have either taken our own bags or just put the 'naked' veg straight into the basket. Another single use item refused very easily.

Replaced cotton wool pads with reusable cleansing pads ... I've stopped using single use cotton wool pads for cleansing my face and have made some pretty reusable alternatives ... I will also be offering these for sale on my craft stall so, as well as not spending anything on the cotton wool pads, I may make a few pounds from selling those I've made.
♻ I haven't done this yet, but I am also planning to opt out from the Post Office door to door leafleting. This will mean that we won't get the localised leaflets being dropped through which we normally just throw straight in the bin. I guess there may be the risk that we will miss an amazing deal, but I think I can live with that.

♻ Kitchen roll use ... I used to use this for everything and we got through loads of it. I've stopped using it where I can easily find an alternative. For example I always used to use it to collect food waste when preparing meals, I no longer do this. I also used to use it to dry off after cleaning the bathroom ... I'm now using a reusable cloth instead.

♻ Polythene food and freezer bags ... We have drastically reduced the amount of poly bags that we use. We used to use these for Martin's sandwiches for work, which are now replaced by beeswax wraps. We also used to use them to portion meat up for freezing ... we've started using old takeaway containers for this instead.

Fragranced ironing water ... Whilst I know this is not a necessity I'm not ready to give up using it just yet. However, I have been drastically diluting it and this has made it go a lot further. I haven't bought any in ages and maybe ... eventually ... I will stop using it all together.

Reuse and repair
♻ Shower scrunchie ... As these cost hardly anything we always used to think nothing of throwing them out when they got a little tatty. Following having seen a YouTube video of how to repair one I thought I'd give it a go and I have to report that it works a treat. Basically you just take it apart and reroll and tie it and it's as good as new. I know there are lots of more environmentally friendly options out there but if you already have these they are really easy to repair and could last for years.

In the above infographic recycle comes before rehoming. This doesn't sit quite rightly with me, so I would always try and rehome first ...

♻ Carpet offcuts ... Instead of taking these to the tip we have provided my brother with flooring for his garage and a nice soft bed for our neighbour's bunny.

♻ Old Magazines ... I have passed on lots of different magazines to friends and neighbours for a second reading. Hopefully they will pass them on again.

CD Cabinet - Our CDs have all pretty much been uploaded to iTunes and downloaded back onto the iPad for playing through a Bluetooth speaker. The very expensive solid oak CD tower rack has been lurking about in the back porch for a good few months. I finally managed to get my ass in gear, took photos and managed to sell it for £20 on Facebook. We were both glad that we were able to find it a new home.

One of the things I have become far more aware of is what can actually be recycled and where. There are so many more options than just the fortnightly kerbside collection. Recycle Now is a fabulous website giving details of where you can recycle pretty much anything. It's certainly stopped us throwing a lot of stuff in our general waste.

♻ I have found out what can go in our kerbside recycling ... The information provided by our council on what can and can't be included in our recycling bin is sketchy to say the least. I've sent numerous emails asking whether certain items can be included and I've been surprised at how much more I can include than I originally thought. I've shared this information on Facebook with my local friends, so hopefully more people will be more aware.

♻ TerraCycle ... TerraCycle is a company that works with manufacturers to provide recycling schemes for waste that can't always be included with your kerbside recycling. I've registered for a number of schemes including toothbrushes. From December they will be offering a crisp packet recycling scheme in conjunction with Walkers, so we are currently collecting all of our crisp packets in readiness.
♻ Supermarket plastic bag recycling scheme ... I got quite excited to find out exactly how much could be included within this scheme, though I have since found out that we can include these things in our kerbside recycling ...

♻ Printer Cartridges ... These can be sent via Freepost to Tesco for recycling, as long as you have a Clubcard number.

♻ Asthma Inhalers ... There is a list of places on line that will accept used inhalers back for recycling. Our local Boots will take these.

♻ Ecobricks ... Making Ecobricks is a way of recycling the plastics that we use in our homes every day that are not normally recyclable. Things like cling film, blister packs for tablets and the crinkly plastic bags that fruit and veg is packed in. I won't go into the detail of Ecobricks in this post but we are in the process of making our first one.
Don't get me wrong ... I know that recycling is really not the best option ... but it’s got to be better than adding to landfill, though I do understand this stuff will all end up there eventually.

Whilst recycling does help reduce new materials from being mined out of the ground and it uses less energy overall than making new things and it definitely keeps things out of landfill and keeps materials in circulation longer ... it is not a perfect solution.

Recycling uses a huge amount of resources. Trucks collect our recycling bins from our streets, they drive them to sorting facilities and then heavy machinery is required to sort the different streams. The materials are then baled and loaded into containers and shipped to their final destination – which could be overseas. Then it seems it could be anyone's guess as to what happens to it.

Recycling is definitely preferable to not recycling but it is not a get out of jail free card. We need to rethink first. We need to try and refuse, reduce, reuse and repair and rehome before we resort to recycling.

Plenty to think about eh?

One of the things I noticed really early on was how much food waste we generate when we cook from scratch ...
We used to have a compost bin but got rid of it last year when we had the garden alterations done. Whilst I don't regret not having the compost bin, I do regret the amount of raw food waste that goes into general waste.

♻🐛♻ We've bought a wormery ... It's early days but we've got it set up and running and in time it should be able to cope with the majority of our raw food waste 🐛🐛🐛

So, that's what we've done up to now. All put down together it feels like a lot, but there is still so much more we can do, but I'm happy that we've made a start.

There have been a few fails along the way ...

❌ Face cleansing pads ... My first attempts were crocheted. They looked great, but ... they felt like pan scrubbers against my baby soft cheeks ...
❌ Supermarket plastic bag recycling ... In spite of Asda stating on their website that this facility is available in all of their stores ... it's not in our local one. Raising a concern about this eventually elicited a response that it was due to be replaced soon, but it's not back yet ... However, I'm not too worried as I've since discovered I can include these in my kerbside recycling.

❌ My shopping list ... This was heartbreaking. Just looking at what we needed to buy and realising that pretty much every single thing would come packaged in plastic ...
Whilst there now seems to be plastic everywhere we look, having written down the things that we have done, I am pleased that we have actually made a start on our journey to producing less waste.

There have also been lots of conversations with friends and family and it's interesting to see lots of other people are also starting become more aware of the fix that our planet seems to be in.

I really hope that the habits that we are starting to form don't fall by the wayside and that we find more and more ways of doing our little individual bit as time goes on.

I will definitely keep you posted 😀