There are some things that we just couldn’t stop talking about because they are so great. Here are my top three favorite things I think everyone should know about.
Thermos Shuttle Chef I got our Thermos Shuttle Chef serendipitously. Someone offered a slow cooker on Freecycle and I immediately signed up to get it — a plugged in slow cooker has been on my kitchen wish list for quite some time. When I got home and opened up the box, I frantically looked for the electric cord. There wasn’t any, nor was there a socket on the outer pot to plug any cord in! It turns out, the Thermos Shuttle Chef works pretty much like a slow cooker but without using any electricity. Now that’s even better than what I wanted.
Recently, when I opened the Amazon homepage, there was an article on the Wonderbag, an insulated cooker resembling a big cushion that continues to slow cook a previously boiling pot of stew (or soup, or rice ,etc.) for up to 12 hours without any electricity. The Wonderbag is inspired by a common practice in olden times of using blankets and cushions to keep a pot warm. The Thermos Shuttle Chef applies the same principle of insulation but is much much more compact than the Wonderbag.
In the summer, using the Shuttle Chef minimizes time I have to stand in front of the hot stove, thereby also limiting the heat collecting in the kitchen (and the rest of the house). In the winter, the Shuttle Chef keeps our curries, stews and soups warm no matter how late my husband comes home for dinner. As a slow cooker, it works nicely — hard vegetables cook thoroughly without getting mushy or losing their shape from stirring and meats are tender. But the best thing I love about it is how much money it saves us on gas and electricity. I was able to make kuri-no-shibukawani (candied chestnuts), using the stove for only a total of 15 minutes, thanks to the Shuttle Chef. (It normally takes 2 hours and 30 minutes stovetop time. This includes the 3 times you have to boil the chestnuts in baking soda water, and the two hours you have to simmer in sugar water).
The Thermos Shuttle Chef is a must have in every kitchen.
Nellie’s All-Natural Laundry Soda I must confess that what attracted me first to Nellie’s All-Natural Laundry Soda was its vintage packaging. Its retro look fit perfectly in our 1950s house. For such a nifty little can (measuring only 11 cm x 11 cm x 18 cm and fitting nicely into my palm), I found it hard to believe that the package contains 100 loads worth of detergent. I skeptically stuck a post-it note to the can and tick marked each time I did laundry to check whether there were indeed 100 loads worth. I made it to 93 but was nonetheless satisfied. I knew that I could have made it to 100 had I leveled the scoop each time.
Opening up a can of Nellie’s, I was greeted with the scent of clean – just plain, honest-to-goodness clean – and I instantly liked it. It’s refreshingly different from the contrived fragrances of other laundry detergents whose scents are too dizzying for me. Nellie’s is made up of exactly five ingredients:
Coconut oil based surfactants
Sodium carbonate (soda ash)
Fatty alcohol ethoxylate
For a regular sized load, Nellie’s recommends just one thumb-sized scoopful (scoop included) of laundry soda. As I poured it into the washing machine, the granules instantly dissolved with the water. There was hardly any froth or soapsuds — the exact opposite of what we see in laundry commercials where more foam somehow corresponded with a cleaner wash. The water did feel soapy despite the absence of bubbles, but I was curious whether the wash (which included stinky cloth diapers) would come out clean.
Result: The laundry I pulled out from the machine smelled clean and smelled of sunshine, if sunshine had a scent. There were no lumps of detergent anywhere and the clothes felt stripped clean of any residue. I remembered what an uncle said about laundry: it’s the water that does most of the cleaning and you need just a little detergent to help water do its job.
My husband recently gave me an opportunity to test the power of Nellie’s. He completed an Ironman race in Malaysia and packed all his sweaty sportswear into a plastic bag and kept it fermenting there for about two days as he traveled back home. He warned me not to inhale when I opened up the bag. I reckoned I would need to wash them twice to get them clean. But no, Nellie’s did the job in just one wash. Nellie’s Laundry Soda – small and powerful.
Ever since I had my first period, I have always dreaded the monthly visitor. The use of the menstrual cup has marvelously eliminated almost all the discomforts I associated with periods. This is by no means a comprehensive review of all available menstrual cups. I ended up getting the Diva cup as it had one of the highest ratings and best reviews.
It took me about three cycles to get used to using the cup. It took a while to get the hang of inserting it but – just like contact lenses – once it’s in, you can pretty much forget that it’s there. I have always used pads and hated how hot and irritating they felt, regardless of what material they were made of or how thin they were. With the cup, there’s absolutely no chafing or drying. I am even able to run with the cup on (last weekend, I ran 12K on my first day of my period – something that would have been uncomfortable with pads). The cup makes periods during long-haul flights so much more bearable. It might be argued that tampons work similarly but unlike tampons, the cup has no chemicals or carcinogenic byproducts associated with bleaching and the cup does not absorb the natural protective moisture of the vagina.
I use the same cup for light or heavy flow and have stopped worrying about leaks – it is absolutely liberating not to be worried about this when going out. The cup helps me know my body better as I’m able to see how much blood is collected in the cup. Because they’re 100% reusable, they are 100% more eco-friendly. Single use pads and tampons have huge environmental impact both in their production and disposal.
The only downside to the cup is emptying and cleaning it in public toilets. So far, I have learned that toilets for the disabled are the best as they have a sink or wash area within easy access.
Read about how menstrual cups are making a difference in East Africa. (For those under 30 years old who have never delivered vaginally or by c-section, Diva Cup’s Model 1 is a better option. The cup featured here (Model 2) is for those above 30 years old and/or who have delivered vaginally or by c-section).
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