Origami Money Gifts

origami money heart

I used to buy kids presents in advance and have a little ‘present box’ so that i wasn’t dashing to the shops every time my kids got an invite to a party. As I’ve moved towards Zero Waste I’ve given up on this. I no longer feel comfortable supporting the production of non-recyclable plastic toys by multinationals based outside of Ireland. So I’ve started to give cash, and when i say cash I don’t mean those nasty non-recyclable gift cards that expire. I mean cold hard glorious cash. Let the birthday girl or boy buy themselves exactly what they want, or better still save it.

I know I could source ethical sustainable gifts but i don’t feel comfortable forcing my values on someone else and truth be told most recipients just wont appreciate them, plus i don’t really have the budget or time. But I don’t want to take the joy of getting a present away so I’ve found a happy medium, origami money.

I’ve done a couple so far including a little doggie tenner like the one shown in the instructional video above from a German woman by the name of Yvonne. I would have preferred one in English but couldn’t find one using Euros and I thought seeing a similar looking note was more important than English instructions, which aren’t really needed really. This video might seem long but it includes a novice doing it along side the instructor so it doesn’t actually take 16 minutes to fold the doggie. Plus it’d take you longer than 16 minutes to go to the shop and buy an actual gift!

The same woman has instructional for many different shapes, including an instructional on how to make an origami money heart   – shown at the top of this post.


Planet Positive Tokens for Teachers

Summer cupcakes

Okay, I’m going to admit straight out that I think giving teachers gifts at the end of the year is a joke! If everyone got a gift for doing their job well the world would be drowning in crap that no-one wants. I think a verbal thank you or simple handwritten note is more than enough to show gratitude.

That said, the gift culture in Ireland is so strong that opting out can be social suicide in some circles, particularly those of school-aged kids. So I’ve come up with a compromise; I bake and donate money to an education / children’s charity instead of adding to the mountain of ‘best teacher’ crap out there.

Given the problems with fraud / mismanagement in the charity sector here I only donate to charities that post their financial details online and that don’t pay their CEO’s more than i think is reasonable.

On the issue of baking I am a big fan of simple and easy so here is my go-to recipe for buns and buttercream icing and some do-able ideas for decorations.

Fairycakes / Cupcakes / Buns
Cupcakes are just the American term for what we call fairycakes or buns in Ireland, although cupcakes tend to be piled high with buttercream whereas fairycakes tend to just have icing poured on them. The easiest and most foolproof recipe I’ve found is this one.

  • 100 g (4 oz) softened butter
  • 100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 g (4 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract / almond extract  or tbsp lemon rind / orange rind / sprinkles


  1. Heat the oven to 200C fan, 180C fan, gas 6. Place fairy cake cases / reusable silicone moulds into a 12-hole bun tin.
  2. Mix the softened butter with the sugar until well blended.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until the mixture is well blended and smooth. At this stage you can add in almond lemon or orange rind for flavouring
  4. Fill each paper case / silicone mould evenly with the mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes. When the buns are starting to brown around the edges, insert a skewer / knife into the centre of the centremost bun. If it comes out clean take the buns out of the oven, if not wipe the skewer / knife clean and repeat in another couple of minutes until it comes out clean. Try not to open the door too early, too often and for too long. If you do the hot air in the oven will rush out and your buns might collapse.
  6. Once out of the oven leave the bun tin to cool somewhere. When cool, lift the paper cases / reusable silicone moulds out of the bun tin and finish cooling the buns on a wire rack.
  7. Once cool decorate as desired.


Simple Buttercream recipe

I’ve tried tons of alternatives to buttercream and none are as easy, stable or as tasty as traditional buttercream. This is the recipe I use and the trick with it is to whisk it for at least 10 minutes to get it to double in volume. This makes it lighter and reduces the calories per serving. You can flavour or colour buttercream or sprinkle it with popping candy or sprinkles.

  • 100 g (4 oz) softened butter
  • 200 g (8 oz) icing / powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract or other flavouring
  • 1 tsp of food dye if using
  • tiny amount of milk


  1. Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and start whisking, first on a low-speed and then gradually increasing it to a high-speed.
  2. Add in vanilla extract and tiny amount of milk
  3. Leave to whisk for 10mins
  4. If you think the buttercream is too thick add a tiny bit more milk. If you think the buttercream is too soft put it in the fridge to harden for a while before using. If it’s too stiff it won’t pipe smoothly and if it’s too runny you won’t get any definition with it.


If you fancy trying your hand at a bit of buttercream decoration but don’t have any icing tips, here’s a handy video on how to do it using a plastic bag. I’m not advocating the use of plastic bags but let’s get real, who doesn’t have one of these bag boys lurking in the house. This video was made by an amazing cake maker in Australia, by Ann Reardon from HowtoCookThat.com. Check out her How to Cook That Youtube channel for some cake porn!

Because I’m always aiming for maximum impact for minimum effort I’ve included a few ideas for what I consider to be do-able cupcake designs.

doily decorated cupcake

To make these just swap the 100g of plain flour for 75g plain flour and 25g of cocoa powder, and once cool sprinkle with icing sugar (powdered sugar in the US) through a section of lace fabric.

watermelon cupcakes

To make these add pink or a small bit of red food colouring, and some chocolate nibs to your bun mix before cooking. Once cool decorate with green buttercream icing and dot with some more chocolate nibs. Tip: If you mix the chocolate nibs with the flour before you add them into the mix they’ll be more evenly distributed in the buns.

flower cupcake

This is just a simple chocolate bun (see recipe above). Decorated with a small blog of buttercream, some white chocolate discs and a red jelly.


Sustainable Ethical Nightwear

Ethical Silk Company

Considering that we spend approximately 1/3 of our day in our pjs (I wish) it makes sense to me that they should be considered carefully. I have a thing for pjs. No matter how bad the day nothing beats a shower, followed by clean comfortable pjs and fresh bed linen. Everything just seems so much better after a nights sleep started this way.

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Zero Waste – Just Doing your Best

Second Hand Furniture

The Zero Waste movement seems to be exploding across the world, which is fantastic. Our own Zero Waste Facebook group in Ireland has grown from a few hundred last year to over 5,000 now! Our group focusses on very practical advice on where to buy things sans packaging or good quality, long-lasting items to invest it when replacing items but this doesn’t always tally with portrayals of Zero Waste that i see in the media. Often articles on Zero Waste focus on the aesthetics of the movement; labeless mason jars, cloth produce bags, stainless steel water bottles, and increasingly a sense that there is ‘right way’ to do Zero Waste.

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Sustainable Ethical Yoga, Active & Leisure Wear – Updated 26th May 2017

Asquith Lounge Wear

This is another blog entry under the theme of ethical sustainable clothing brands, this time in the realm of yoga, active and leisure wear. I’m hoping that seeing all these loving items will inspire me, one day, to start exercising again. I could garden or do housework or DIY all day long but actually setting time aside to do ‘exercise’ just doesn’t float my boat. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong!

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Homemade Card

A dear friend of mine was departing these fair isles for her home country of Australia and I was asked by the other members of our knitting group to make her a card. Here is the end result. It’s simply a circle of cardboard, wrapped in wool with two wooden skewers – capped with strips of paper – pushed through it to represent knitting needles. Simple!

I rarely get time to be visually creative, something I really miss from my days as an Interior Architect. When I get the time to make cards it’s a nice, inexpensive, low-waste way to design and make something visual and it helps to put a smile on the faces of those I care about. Win, win.


Food Waste

Lilia Siedel Hugging Pears

I was recently filmed for the news on our National TV station RTE. The segment was about the use of brown bins (compost bins) in Ireland, which apparently is on the decline. The piece equated food waste with brown bin usage but i made the point (which was edited out) that if someone is doing an excellent job of reducing their food waste they may not even need a brown bin!

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