Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Party Time! Zero Waste style.

This weekend, I threw a cocktail party to celebrate my becoming an author. Our house's size limited our guest list, nonetheless, forty people RSVP'd. My full time work schedule did not give me much time to get ready. On Friday, I tackled the grocery shopping armed with a shopping list and a basket full of jars; Saturday, I worked from morning till 6:45pm, just in time to take a quick shower, take a few pictures to share with you and welcome our first guests.

My book describes Zero Waste entertaining, so this post is to show how I put some of my tips into practice.

Here is how we managed to make our soiree a Zero Waste event:

Glassware and plates

As mentioned before, when we host parties bigger than our table can sit (10) we serve a buffet of finger foods with our stack of cloth napkins (I only have 32, but was not worried about running out for our 40 guests, as I have learned from previous experiences that only half the guests actually use a napkin for finger foods). Our everyday glassware (two full shelves, about 50 pieces) eliminate our need for disposables. Our everyday (white ceramic) and camping (polished stainless) plates served as platters, a handful of turkey lacers as reusable toothpicks, and jars of plant trimmings as decorative items.

Reusable Ware


To simplify my cooking, I took full advantage of items sold loose in my grocery store (one stop shop), including the salad bar, olive bar, prepared food counter, meat counter, fish counter, and cheese counter using jars; the bulk bins and bakery using cloth bags; and, the produce aisle using mesh bags. I also used home-grown and foraged (neighbor) herbs. Our menu consisted of:

  • Pistachios (bulk bin)
  • Black olives (olive bar)
  • Green olives (olive bar)
  • Leo's breadsticks: He rolled leftover dough (onion tartlets) in a beaten egg, then in grated parmesan cheese (salad bar)

A few snacks

Veggies and Cheese
  • Zucchini (produce aisle) slices topped with a chickpea mixture: Marinated chickpeas (olive bar), blended with an immersion blender and seasoned with ground cumin (bulk bin) 
  • Mini Skewers of mozzarella balls, asparagus and cherry tomatoes: The ingredients consisted of a salad (prepared food counter), which we then separated and skewered onto turkey lacers.
  • Onion tartlets: Homemade using bulk ingredients
  • Eggplant spread and blinis: Homemade using bulk ingredients
  • Marinated chili peppers (olive bar) stuffed with a mixture of feta cheese (salad bar) and cream (reusable bottle), then tipped in freshly ground pepper (bulk bin)
  • Celery sticks (produce aisle) filled with a blue cheese (salad bar) mixture and a pecan (bulk bin) 
  • Goat cheese balls: I rolled the mixture used to stuffed the chili peppers in 3 different ingredients, including chopped celery leaves (discards of previous appetizer), chopped herbs (home-grown), and chopped almonds (bulk bins). I hid a snap pea (produce aisle) for extra crunch in the first two types.
  • Veggies (produce aisle) and hummus dip (salad bar)
  • Three types of cheese (cheese counter) on a platter and toasted baguette (stale baguette)

Veggie and Cheese Appetizers

  • Pate with toasted baguette and cornichons (recipe and origin of ingredients here)
  • Chicken and Quinoa meatballs (prepared foods counter) with their honey-mustard dip (homemade using the recipe provided in the book by replacing sugar with honey).

Pate and Baguette

  • Smoked Salmon (fish counter) and lemon rind (produce aisle) on Blinis (homemade using bulk ingredients)
  • Salmon Sushi: Homemade using fresh salmon (fish counter) on sushi rice (bulk bin, using a mixture of bulk apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt to season the cooked rice), and a drop of homemade horseradish (recipe in the book).
  • Baked cheesy (grated, salad bar) shrimp (fish counter) toasts (stale baguette): This appetizer was my only hot item; once guests arrive I want to join the party and give them my full attention!

Smoked Salmon on blinis, topped with lemon  rind.

  • Five types of cookies (bakery self serve)
  • Malt balls (bulk bin)
  • Sugar coated peanuts: Homemade using salted peanuts (bulk bin)
  • Fresh strawberries (produce aisle)


  • Revive Kombucha, sold in reusable growlers at our grocery store (the bottles are returned to customer service to be reused by the company)
  • Two types of beer, the growlers of which we get refilled at our local brewery
  • Red and White wine, the bottles of which we get refilled at a local winery
  • House Cocktail: Vodka (360 brand, available in flip-top bottles which we reuse for wine refills), French pomegranate lemonade (the bottles of which we also reuse for wine refills) and orange juice (I reuse and fill our milk bottles from the squeezing machine in my grocery store)
  • Flavored water: Rosemary and Lemon, simply squeezed into flip top bottles and then filled with water.

Cocktail and Flavored Waters

These accompanied with beautiful weather, great music and our favorite people, made for a successful and memorable event. And even a couple of days worth of leftovers!

Have a party scheduled? Questions? Ask away!

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Wardrobe Inventory in Pictures

After a month dedicated to our new Bulk app, back to our regular blog schedule...

First off, let me thank those of you who thought of posting a review for my book on Amazon! I am humbled by your response and excited about your positive feedback enticing new readers to embark on this incredible lifestyle! Your time is well appreciated; its ripple effect will change the world (literally), and I feel motivated to share more of the lifestyle with you...

As many of you already know, I have vouched to only buying secondhand clothing and my bi-annual clothes thrifting was a month ago. Many of you have asked for a post about it, so here are the highlights of my inventory changes:
  • Exchanging my white button down shirt for my girlfriend's chambray one (for extra color), my grey shorts for sparkly black ones (for extra texture), and my pink skorts for a gold skirt (for extra fun)
  • Introducing a tube type piece in each of these three categories: Tops, dresses, and bottoms for maximum versatility (they can all be worn as tops or bottoms)
  • Swapping my nude pumps for black pointy toe heels, large sunglasses for a funkier style, and all my jewelry pieces for fresh ones - including a locket ring which now keeps my lip balm handy. 
I bought a few "extras" for me to test the first couple of weeks and to then narrow my inventory down to my set number of pieces by choosing those that fit me best and are most versatile. By now, the not-so-good options that did not make the cut have already have been donated -so have the extra pieces that I purchased for the boys to allow them to chose their favorite styles from a selection (they were not able to come with me to the store  this time).  I wish I had a bit more color in my inventory, but I am pretty happy with what I found in the thrift stores within the limited time I had, and I sure scored on deals... I even found a $10 bill in one of the kids' jeans that I purchased for $2!

I am now set for the next 6 months and ready to REUSE and explore my minimalist secondhand wardrobe as much as possible... and here it is in pictures! - pardon the white on white items;).

Questions? Ask away in the comments!

Tops and Sweaters






Note: I purchased an "extra" piece that I will unveil before my annual trip to France;). Can you sense a new summer challenge coming on? ;)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bulk App Update

A post by my husband, Scott, who has spent way more time on this app than I have (and still does): He is the technical brain in our home and I love him for it! 

Thank you everyone for trying out our Bulk locator app!

So far we have had over 1400 people sign up, almost 600 locations added to the app, with over 600 reviews of those locations. 

Also, thank you for your patience as we work out some of the bugs in version 1.0 of this app...there is nothing like having 1400 people use the app, in order to find out what works and what does not work! And we greatly appreciate your suggestions.

Clearly this first release was targeted at just the US & Canada - but in fact, people were able to successfully add locations in Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

Our initial release was constrained by available time and funds - but we would like to build on the functionality to include:
  • International mapping support
  • Additional platforms besides the iPhone and Android (e.g., PC, Windows mobile)
  • Ability to check for duplicate locations (right now, unless users check if a location has already been entered prior to adding it, I have to "delete" duplicates sorry about that!)
  • Ability to add comments
  • and more...
We have exhausted our funding from the Green Awards for this project - so we are now looking into raising funds possibly through Kickstarter to be able to enhance and support the Bulk app further.

For us, the best part of releasing this app was finding a new Bulk location on a weekend visit to Santa Rosa, 50 miles north of our home, and discovering a great store (the Community Market), with an incredible bulk selection. You should have seen the sparkle in Bea's eye;)

This location also happens to be one of several locations that have received the most ratings:
  • Whole Foods in Pasadena, CA
  • Sacramento Natural Foods Coop in Sacramento, CA
  • Community Market in Santa Rosa, CA
  • The Refill Shoppe in Ventura, CA
  • Refyll Home and Body at the Mar Vista Farmers Market in Los Angeles, CA
  • MOM's Organic Market  in Alexandria, VA
  • Town and Country Market in Bainbridge Island, WA
So thank you for continuing to share and rate your local bulk suppliers! You are the force behind this app, the locations that YOU add (and rate) make it a great resource for the entire Zero Waste community.