a little bag

crocheted bag- cityhippyfarmgirl

crochet bag- cityhippyfarmgirl

A soft light of a new day outside, and I’m well into my second cup of chai. There is a streaky grey sky morning about to break through and all is quiet. With little people still tucked up in their beds, a new day lays before me.

It’s 5.30 am and the day was going to be a busy.

Biscuits to make, boys to take and a check list that needs crossing off one and a half pages long; but my mind is only half on it. I want to make a little bag. A little bag with colours and tassels, a little bag for a little girl.

Colours were chosen, scraps of wool divided out and the bag already finished in my head. But it wasn’t to be. That bag lay dormant for another whole month until finally, there it was, finished. Not exactly as I had imagined it, (but things made by me rarely are.)

She loved it, and I was happy to make her something out of bits I already had.

crochet- cityhippyfarmgirl

top ten eco friendly gift wrap ideas

wrapping with cloth- cityhippyfarmgirlmap-wrapping- cityhippyfarmgirl

I watched an ad recently where the recipient ripped open their carefully wrapped present to get to the item underneath. I winced, I really did. It seems crazy in todays day, that so many people are still doing this at gift giving time. Sigh… what an incredible waste of paper.

I’ve written about this once or twice before, but here are some wrapping ideas for the festive time of year, (or any old time of year.)

Top 10 eco friendly gift wrap ideas

old maps– I would imagine with technology jumping ahead maps might be a thing of the past in times to come. (I’m still using my old atlas that I saved from the rain on the side of the road.)

newspaper– be selective on your pages used, you can make it look good!

children’s art– if you have a little one at pre-school or just a pint sized Picasso, you may be swimming in craft and paintings- share the love, the grandparents will adore it.

fabric– retro fabrics, tea towels, scarves… the choices are endless. The art of wrapping with fabric goes by the lovely name of furoshiki and you can learn how to do it with these step by step instructions here.

old movie or music posters

how about crocheting a gift bag

chocolate wrappers– yep chocolate wrappers.

maybe a recycled box

or ditch the wrapping altogether and just go with a lovely reusable ribbon and handmade card.

There is no need for sticky tape for any of these options. Wool makes a great pull-it-together-and-make-it-look-pretty gift giving addition if you need to hold things in.

chocolate wrapping paper- cityhippyfarmgirl

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* for more furoshiki instructions, see here.

How about you? Any green tinged wrapping ideas to share?

top 12 eco friendly christmas gift ideas

a little succulent gift- cityhippyfarmgirl

Nearly the end of the year again, which means there could be a little gift giving to be had. I love this time of year, but I don’t like the ridiculous amount of spending that usually goes along with it. You don’t have to spend oodles of money, you really don’t. Here are a few ideas to help with a greener tinged Christmas at your place this year.

1/ Tiny presents of tiny succulents in tiny tea cups, (or espresso cups as this little fella is.) You can easily do this with a little cup that may have a chip or a crack in it- stalk op shops, church fetes, roadside discards for succulent holding inspiration. The options are limitless, (have a peek at google images.) Think green, think succulents.

2/ Something for the inspired reader in your life- Changing Gears: by Greg Foyster

3/ Assistent Original– now this is a pricey gift for Christmas, but if you are serious about a kitchen investment that is going to cater for every kitchen whim you have- it’s a worthy investment, as cooking from scratch is a commitment and you want to make it as easy as possible. For bread baking nerds, look no further.

4/ Digital Subscription to a ‘green’ magazine- inspire someone with some idea thumping pages- There are oodles to pick from, and then even more.

5/ Subscription to your locally based farmer friendly fruit and veg box. Foodconnect– Whole Larder Love– Local Harvest etc.

6/ Sign a bloggy friend up to do Blog with Pip– they will love you to the moon and back, (and probably back some more; this course is AWESOME.)

12 eco friendly gift ideas- cityhippyfarmgirl

7/ If you don’t have a crafty hand yourself, have wander over to etsy– Buy direct from someone who does and support a small time crafter with a passion for handmade goodness.

8/ Sign a loved one up for a Milkwood Permaculture course, (or a locally grown Permaculture course in your area.) They will be brimming with inspiration afterwards, and that…is always a good thing.

gift cityhippyfarmgirl

9/ For the tea drinker- love chai, love tea, enamel cup and a little ginger bread bites for dunking in. A simple present that is 542 times better than buying something bland in a generic department store.

ginger bread gift ideas- cityhippyfarmgirl

10/ Or using the same gingerbread recipe, kid version style.

11/ Put together a little handmade food hamper. Jam’s, biscuits, brownie, cake, pesto, bread- the options are endless. If you team that up with a little second hand store basket (50c church sale thank you very much!) and you’re in Christmassy business, (always nicer than a gifted pair of synthetic, made in China, novelty boxer shorts…promise.)

12/ And if you still aren’t sure of what Uncle Roo and Aunt Bilby would like, make a donation on their part. There are so many charities to choose from in our collective corners of the world- choose one and your recipients will be so very thankful.

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For previous years eco Christmas gift ideas and wrapping see

eight eco friendly Christmas gift ideas

twelve eco friendly Christmas gift ideas

 

The Better Block

Changes happened this weekend in Clovelly Rd, Sydney, Australia. Small, community inspired changes with a hopefully massive impact. Going from this…

clovelly better block

to this…

clovelly better block

The first Sydney Better Block project was the occasion- a community driven event that from everyone’s accounts, was a huge success.

cityhippyfarmgirl

The inspiring man behind it all, Phill Stubbs.

Clovelly Road Better Block transform a street for a day. The aims are to: 
– bring the community together 
– encourage people to re-imagine their street 
– invite them to add their ideas 
– show civic leaders the need for action 
– get improvements made permanently 
– inspire others to push for change in their street. 

clovelly better block
clovelly better block
Our goal after the event is a permanent liveable street. We will be going back to Council with market research from the Better Block day and pushing for permanent changes. In fact we’re keen to see this rolled out at the other little villages on Clovelly Road. 
 
Our vision for 2025 is to connect the villages on Clovelly Road and create a green corridor that runs from Centennial Park to the Pacific Ocean. (Yes it’s a bold vision, but if we, the community, don’t really think about our street, who in government will?)
– 25/10/13 CLOVELLY BETTER BLOCK MEDIA RELEASE
clovelly better block

Blink and you would have missed the very popular burrito’s- a sell out!

clovelly better block

Making the block, “greener, safer, more human

clovelly better block

Everyone’s favourite green man, Costa.

clovelly better block

‘The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that rebuilds an area using grassroots efforts to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center. The project acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the “complete streets” buildout process and develop pop-up businesses to show the potential for revitalized economic activity in an area. Better Blocks are now being performed around the world, and have helped cities rapidly implement infrastructure and policy changes.’           – THE BETTER BLOCK PROJECT

This video explains the concept and how they did it in San Antonio, USA.

For more details on other projects, or how to start your own see- The Better Block

For Clovelly Road’s Better Block Project full media release see here

For a recent article in The Age and The Better Block in High St, Coburg, Victoria.

packaging, landfill guilt and sweet music

rocket

Collecting all of my kitchen wrappers and packaging for a whole week eh?

On the one hand the idea captivated me, and on the other hand the idea utterly repelled me. Why? Not because I felt our family was particularly overly enthusiastic with tossing out of household garbage. On the contrary, I tried to be incredibly mindful of how much came in and out. However combine our seemingly smallish amount, combined with your smallish amount and their smallish amount, and suddenly that sort of smallish amount was not so damn small at all. All getting joined together and going in as a huge fetid mess into land fill.

Even if everyone was like minded and was particularly mindful of all the packaging that they used,  monitoring all that was entered into the household; on a global scale the sheer amount we are talking, I find that frightening. Hideously frightening.

A few weeks ago I had felt a pang of guilt when my boy wanted to take for recess a small chocolate bar left over from a party. My pang of guilt had meant there would be a wrapper in his lunch box. His first wrapper in nearly three years of school and one year of pre-school. Several weeks later and his school had a “waste free day”. No wrappers to be taken in at all on that particular day of the year*. My pang of guilt seemed laughable.

Looking at all the plastic packaging on bread recently, I was appalled adding up in my head how many packets that would be binned in a year if our family ate regular supermarket bread. My effort in making all of our bread was renewed. Well and truly renewed. Aside from the health, cost, and taste benefits, the fact that I’m skipping putting approximately 208 plastic bags in the garbage a year (that’s 5,200 bags over a 25 year span) is certainly something to think about.

I asked Mr Chocolate what he thought of the challenge of keeping everything we would normally throw away in our kitchen (or repurpose) for a whole week. He didn’t seem overly keen.

robot

I eyed my recycling box off and pondered a little further. Living in a small inner city space certainly has benefits in this regard, but drawbacks in others.

We benefit by having regular curbside recycling trucks come and take our binned empty packaging away, (along with regular rubbish and set council clean up days.)

For bigger items we also benefit by people often leaving unwanted things on the street for others to take if they would like.

Drawbacks are that we have a limited living space. Something that may be beneficial in time to come, and worth considering keeping, quite often is just not possible. When every one centimetre of space is already accounted for.

Another drawback is in fact one of the benefits, we DO have regular recycling trucks that take away our excess packaging, but does that make us blase? Is that enough? Would we be more considerate as a community if this option didn’t exist and instead had to dispose of things ourselves?

And then there was this video, which ultimately just left a tear in my eye and my heart that bit bigger….please watch it.

So tell me, would you be willing to collect all your garbage for a week?

Some teeny tiny ideas that also may help

Keep a cardboard box on top of a kitchen cupboard and slowly add to it with other small cardboard or plastic packaging pieces that can be used for raining craft days with kids. (If you don’t have children see if your local pre-school would like it, they generally have a lot of craft activities going on.)

Repurpose Reuse Recycle Reclaim- Pinterest ideas.

Waste free school lunchboxes

Reduce

Recycle

Re-claim

Repurpose

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* It’s now been rolled out as a once a week, “waste free day”.

Thanks to Living a little Greener for that awesome link.

Where do you find your inspiration?

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

The inspirational hour.

That time when darkness still lurks on the corners. Soft greying light gets slowly pushed out of the way for bright orange and pink streaks. The sun is yet to emerge, and my chai sits steaming before me. The rest of the household sleep on. This is my time. Quite often far too brief, but my time non the less. This is when ideas sprout, words seem clearer and inspiration is welcomed. I love this time of day. For me, it truly is the inspirational hour.

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Some wonderfully inspiring things going on at the moment that may tempt you just a little.

Crowd farmed catered event at TEDx Sydney– Saturday 4th May. Inspiring, a truly inspiring day. I’m not going to the event, (unlike this incredibly lucky lady) but do plan on going to one of the satellite events.

Three day Strawbale Building course- Mudgee, NSW. Strawbale houses would have to be at the top of my most oohed and aahhed over houses.

Bhutan- the first country in the world to go 100% organic. This is truly inspiring.

If you’ve ever considered eating locally before, but haven’t quite had the courage to start, this maybe the challenge to help you. Local Harvest encourages individuals, households and communities, to take on bite sized, meal sized or feast sized challenges. The annual challenge week has already passed, but you can do your own at any time. I’m really tempted by the feast sized challenge, it would be hard….anyone else want to do it with me??

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Tell me, what’s inspiring you at the moment? Person, place or thing?

three years on

apple shortcake

apple shortcake1

Funny to think this little blog is now three years old. It’s also funny to look back on some of the things I’ve posted about in that three years. Somethings I feel exactly the same about them as I did then, and others, well not so much. I’ve moved on a little, and things have changed round a bit.

I was looking back on my first month of blogging in 2010 and was considering what I had to say back then. I had to chuckle. It was a funny way to start, and while I cringe at some of those first photos I put up, I do like them being there, if even just for my own comedy value.

I also still stand by that very first paragraph I wrote.

“New to the blogging world. I thought I might start one, just to watch my own progression on living as sustainably as possible in an urban environment.  Finding out what works for me and my family and maybe achievable by others also living in a city environment.”

The blog has dipped and weaved a little over that time with topics and content, but living as sustainably as possible for my family and I, is still top priority for me. It’s just as important now as it was then, maybe even more so.

Knowing where my food comes from and what goes into my family’s mouth is just as important.

Being mindful of the choices we make as consumers is also just as important.

Trying to make as many things as possible rather than relying on someone else to do it for me (and is usually a whole lot of fun) is also still really important to me.

Looking back over the last three years, I thought I might revisit one of the first few dishes that I blogged about in my first month. Matthew Evans’ Apple and Blackberry Shortcake. The recipe is here if you are interested in trying it, and I’m hoping my second time picture gives it a bit more credit than the first time I did it. 

DSC_0237 copy

Still thinking on the last three years of blogging- if I hadn’t continued with my blog, I probably wouldn’t…

1/ Have made my sourdough starter

2/ Have continued on the always amazing bread journey that is sourdough

3/ Taken as many photos as I do these days

4/ Have one particular spot to put all my ramblings and musings. Instead there would still be lots of scrappy bits of paper filled with recipes, thoughts, quotes and ideas about the place.

5/ (and best of all…and I know there are still oodles more) I probably wouldn’t have been a part of the wonderful community that blogland can be.

heart

Three years on it was also time for a little shake up on the look of my blog. My theme I had stuck by had long since been retired from the theme options and it seemed there weren’t too may of his clinging on to the blix theme these days. We’ll see how this one works for a bit….

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Now, I was trying to think of something little I could do celebrate that fact that it’s been three years flitting about in the land of blog. So what to do?

Send you all a piece of the Apple and Blackberry Shortcake?…but it probably wouldn’t arrive in the same condition that I sent it.

Put together an awesome sponsor given hamper full of all things groovy and gifty….damn, it’s not that kind of blog.

Something beautiful and whimsically handmade?…hmmm, most of my stuff is still kind of on the learning end.

Still thinking, I thought about a card. Most people still like getting a letter, a card or a post card, and I thought, well I can do that!

So if you would like a card or postcard sent from me to you (or to your little people-if you have them- as they loooove getting mail too!…well mine do anyway.) I would love to send you one. Where ever you may be….Alaska, Argentina, Italy or Dubbo. Doesn’t matter where. Just drop me a line at cityhippyfarmgirl at gmail dot com, leave me an address and a card will be on it’s way. (say first five-ish?)

So a big thank you from me to you- the readers and commentators, as without you…well this blog just wouldn’t be the same.

a little slow living round here


 

 Nourish- My little kitchen has been churning out quite a lot at the moment. Including the ever reliable Anzac Biscuits for when things are called for at a last minutes notice. Make these and I know I won’t turn up somewhere empty handed. Rhubarb recipes have been enjoyed, the ever present sourdough and I’m still playing with cardamom buns. So many doughy variations to play with!

Grow- My mint was finally looking reasonable once more. I had conquered it. I would now have a steady supply of delicious mint infused meals. Then, I didn’t look at it for several days… a big mistake. Someone else had also decided it quite fancied some delicious mint infused meals.

I found the culprit, a big dirty caterpillar, then I found another, and another. Needless to say, those minty meals will have to wait…again.

Create- I’m happy to say there has been quite a bit of creating action going on round here lately. My Wednesday group’s blanket is growing, and things are slowly getting stitched together. Bunting had been planned for far too long, and finally I decided enough was enough and I just had to do it. A fine example of some shonky sewing, but I did it and I’m happy about that. Advent calendar plans are still being mused over. I wanted to do one last year, hell I think even the year before as well and I still haven’t started. Time is tick tocking, but I’m still hoping to get it together… hopefully.

Discover- I was very happy to see that my local library had ordered in Whole Larder Love. Such a wonderful book and stunning photography by the very talented Rohan.

Prepare- Eeek! Not a lot happening here. I can’t think of anything I have done to preserve this last month. I’m actually having jamming withdrawals at the moment so, I suspect some preserving is just around the corner. Stone fruits are slowly trickling in too, just the thing for a little jamming action.

Enhance/Connect- Beautiful little Tasmanian wooden buttons sent to me from the lovely Mel @ Coal Valley View. Now what shall I make with them?

A gathering yesterday that was so much fun, I just wanted to rewind the whole thing and press repeat- Food, lots of people big and small, all in an open green space.

I also swapped some sourdough starter and some bread to another mama from school. She in turn gave me some kimchi. So much nicer than what I had bought recently, absolutely delicious. As for the starter, I love thinking about how many kitchens those little tubs of starter have travelled to.

Enjoy- the year is galloping along, and this time of year finds a whole heap of enjoyable things happening round these parts….and that is a whole bunch of happy.

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For more slow living action, pop over to the lovely Christine @Slow Living Essentials.

evolution of the cityhippyfarmgirl

Some people launch themselves into an entirely different lifestyle, and some slowly evolve. I think, I’ve been more the evolving kind.

Some things have been a conscious decision to change based on greener ideals and others a mere progression, and an almost surprisingly sneaky shift.

While I would definitely say my roots were always deeply imbedded in a less mainstream society, I can still look back on the last ten years and track how my life and my growing family’s life has changed to a lifestyle less within our consumer conventional one. Each new corner that we have come to, has been met with choices. Choices, that I’m incredibly grateful for them being there. Choices that have allowed us to grow, change and evolve.

As I’ve gotten older my values have changed, my priorities shifted. With a third baby now, while in some ways this is the busiest I have ever been, in other ways things also feel a whole lot more simplified as well. Things could certainly get more simplified and I still really hope that we can do that down the track, but for the moment… I’m happy with how things have evolved.

These days, my life changes are heavily influenced by my children. Those moments when I’m watching my kids run around outside, without restrictions, testing their own boundaries and easing themselves out of their own comfort zones. It’s incredibly fulfilling. Watching them do it with a smile on their face fills me with gratitude for that moment and their ability to do it. That’s their evolution. Watching them, encourages me to strive for more.

While we live in a flat, I can’t easily say run out the back and go exploring kids, we do have to make an effort.

To make that extra effort to visit the park with the jungle trees to explore in. To stay that bit longer playing in the water, slowly gaining the confidence that was hiding from them before. To take the time to read and explain something that could easily be ignored and diverted by switching the tv on. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it feels so worthwhile.

Food has been another change over time. The way I have bought, the things I have cooked, the mentality behind what I’m eating, and even those old taste buds. I now eat raw celery, Mr Chocolate eats jam, Monkey boy eats lettuce and Little Monkey eats meat.

Evolution of a family of taste buds.

Mr Chocolate and I were looking at a yogurt tub a while a go. A 99% fat free fruit yogurt. Once I would have bought it without hesitation and eaten it with a whole bundle of enjoyment. Now, all the tub got was raised eyebrows and mutters of I don’t think so. Yes, it was an Australian company, (that’s a tick) and that’s about all it had going for it. Anything stating it’s ‘low in fat’ immediately sets alarm bells off for me now. It still tastes good so how is that taste in there if there is no fat?

Sugar. A whole bundle of it. Five teaspoons of it in 150g to be exact. Mix that in with a whole bunch of thickeners (maize, tapioca, gelatine) and you’ve got yourself a low fat yogurt. 250mls of lemonade has less sugar than that little tub of yogurt. Now if you are a long time reader of this blog you will know I clearly don’t have issues with using sugar. I love baking sugary things. What I do have a problem with is sneaky sugar. Things that you wouldn’t automatically presume would have a whole bunch of sugar in, like the low fat yogurt. I like my sugar to be upfront, with a little tah-daaah action if you please.

So no, I’m not buying that low fat yogurt tub. While I once would have, now I don’t and I can make my own. Then if I feel it needs a little sugar, all I have to do is put my own amount in (in the form of home made jam.)

To look back on other ways I’ve changed both unconsciously and consciously, there have been a lot. For the most part I think they have all been for the better, and I’m looking forward to the continuing evolution of this city hippy farm girl.

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I’m interested. What greener/slower/less mainstream changes for you have come about- that have been for the better? Do you feel differently to 5 years ago? Was it a dramatic shift in lifestyle values or a slow progression? Where do you see yourself sitting in your society?

Or simply, how have you evolved?

reconnecting with nature…city style

How much of a part of being human, is it to want to reconnect with nature in some way?

Is that reconnection slowly being bumped off and ignored for noisier, flashier city lifestyle options?

These questions have been rolling around my head for a while now, and I don’t think they have rolled to a conclusion. More rolled on, created conversations and sat still on pondered thoughts.

It seems rather funny to be typing this post at the moment as all I can hear from outside my apartment windows, is the sound of a revved up chainsaw, slowly but surely taking down a well established tree in the back of a neighbour’s yard… Fitting.

This reconnection that I’m thinking of, could be as simple as having an indoor plant in your kitchen, while living in a 40 story city apartment building. A tiny corner of green that requires very little attention, but is there in the background in all it’s greenness.

For someone else, it could be growing your own vegetables in the back yard. Bushwalking, or swimming in the sea…

I’m still working out how exactly I fit in with this one and how I like to reconnect with nature. I know I feel better for it when I do. Calmer, more at peace, and a lot less likely for worry about the smaller things to take hold. I also know I would like to do more, and am aiming for that down the track. While I love living where I do, and think there are some truly wonderful benefits to living where I do. I also want my children to know more of the different aspects of nature there can be. To not feel totally engulfed by a consumeristic-lights flashing, plastic driven kind of lifestyle. I don’t want to feel I have a boxed in life, without any aspects of greenery around me. Those moments of reconnecting with nature make me feel more grounded.

Is that faster, fluorescent lighting lifestyle in some ways just inevitable to living in a large city?…Or does everyone in some way, still yearn for that tiny piece of nature that reconnects them? Maybe they are not even aware of it?

Sitting under a tree in the park…. cooking up freshly plucked homegrown fruit.

A trying afternoon recently, and all I wanted to do was go out to my backyard and lay on the grass looking up at the night sky. I needed to feel the earth beneath me, reconnect. Breathe in, breathe out… 5 minutes later and I could have righted myself. However I didn’t have that back yard, and I didn’t have that grass. So I sat on the kitchen floor… I invited Mr Chocolate to take a seat too. We talked, I felt a bit better, but it wasn’t a backyard with grass beneath me and I can’t help but wonder whether it would have helped a bit more if it had been.

How many people would say they have no connection with nature what so ever and have no desire to? I wonder, I really do… Is this a number that will keep on growing?

I was excited for a friend once, to find that her newly bought tiny apartment was directly opposite a community garden. She was disgusted at the thought of sticking her fingers in dirt, so no, she wouldn’t be signing up for a small patch. Instead, her down time was to spend hours upon hours window shopping in the city at any given opportunity. I would rather fork my eyeballs then spend a whole day doing that.

Restoring weekends away out of the city used to help keep the balance. These seem to be getting less and less as time goes by and various family members take on more weekly commitments. When we are out of the city though, time slows down. My breathing becomes deeper. Mind more focussed… or is that simply less distractions. Less need to multi task, and fit 100 things in to the day?

As the noisy chainsaw continues I’m musing here, and I’m curious…

If you live in the city do you feel a need to reconnect with nature in some way? Do you feel better for it?

I would think it would be slightly unlikely someone who felt no need what so ever to feel drawn to some aspects of living with nature to be reading cityhippyfarmgirl, but on the off chance there is or you know someone who is like that. I would love to know your thoughts.

If you don’t live in an urban area what are your favourite things to do? Tease me.