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July 2011

June 2011

Our natural outdoor play space

Natural backyard playground 1

Remember that natural playground we started planning late last year? Inspired by the recent four part series on Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space over at Let the Children Play, I thought i'd share how our play space is progressing.

Natural backyard playground 4

One of the most popular parts of the new play space has been the sand play wine barrel. We cut an old wine barrel into 1/3 and 2/3, using the 1/3 for the sand pit and the other 2/3 as a container for loose parts. We added some shells for texture and a few pretty stones as treasure.

Natural backyard playground 3

The sand pit really only fits one, but when there's more, they simply sit around the outside and lean in.

Natural backyard playground 2

Our salvaged timber table and chairs are regularly used for tea parties, craft activities, and imaginative play.

Vintage umbrella play
{Little Eco and Lillian}
I sometimes bring out an old umbrella. It's actually the very same umbrella I used to sit under when I wasn't much older than Little Eco.

Natural backyard playground 8

Natural backyard playground 9

We've planted a few plants within the gravel and added a few bits and pieces that inevitably end up being used in imaginative play, like banksia cones....

Natural backyard playground 10

..a kangaroo skull....

Natural backyard playground 1 7

...a very pre-loved Tonka truck and a few op-shop sourced ornaments.

Natural backyard playground 6

And then we have the not-so-natural element of the play space - the trampoline. At least it's Australian made.
Speaking of play spaces, the theme over at Childhood 101 for July is 'House or Home.' I'll be sharing a few of our new indoor play spaces. If you have a wonderful family or kids space at your house (inside or out) that you would like to share, send photos and details to burnettmc [at] gmail [dot] com.
And don't forget to enter the Biome Giveaway if you haven't already. Entries close at midnight on Monday (4th July).

Making waste-free lunches easy {and a giveaway from Biome}

Weekday mornings are sadly rather rushed in the Little Eco household these days due to a long commute to work.

Given the morning chaos, I've been thankful for my waste-free lunch packing routine. On a Monday morning I boil five eggs; cut up some cheese, carrot and cucumber sticks; dish out five small containers of yoghurt, and sometimes hommus also; and make a few freezable sandwiches. Each morning I simply throw one of each in a lunch-box, add some fruit and Little Eco's lunch is made in only a few minutes.

I thought i'd share my love for two containers that make my mornings easier.

Kids Konserve stainless steel containers mini

I use the Kids Konserve mini stainless steel containers (and have been for well over a year) for Little Eco's yoghurt.

Kids Konserve stainless steel containers mini 2

They're the perfect size for little kids. They aren't leak-proof, but given that Little Eco's lunch box goes straight from her bag into a fridge at pre-school, we've never had a leak. I also use them to hold hummus, baked beans, dried fruit, and bean or rice salad.

Once she's a little older, and needs something leak proof and a little bigger, i'll probably switch to using the Kids Konserve containers with leak-proof lids.

I've also found the Kids Konserve stainless steel thermos solves one of my morning dilemmas.

Kids Konserve stainless steel thermos 1

I like to eat porridge for breakfast, but struggled to find the time to cook and eat it before having to race out the door. I've been saving time by using the thermos to cook my porridge for me, so that by the time I get to work my porridge is perfectly cooked and deliciously warm. I simply place all the ingredients in a pot, bring to the boil, and pour it into the thermos, leaving the heat to continue cooking the porridge. It takes me no more than five minutes. Here's the recipe:

Thermos Ayurvedic Oat Porridge

Serves one and fits perfectly in the Kids Konserve Thermos or any 10 oz/280 ml insulated food jars.

Kids Konserve stainless steel thermos 2

1/3 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon of ghee
1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger powder
A pinch each of nutmeg and cardamon
1 tablespoon of raisins, sultanas or currants
2/3 cup milk

Soak the oats in 2/3 cup of water overnight.

In the morning, heat a small saucepan and melt the ghee, then add the soaked oats (including any water that hasn't been absorbed by the oats overnight) and stir for a minute or so before adding the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and place in the thermos, closing the lid promptly to trap the heat inside.

It's a simple as that. Within 30 minutes or so you will have a warm healthy breakfast that took only five minutes to make.

The Giveaway

Biome have generously offered to giveaway a set of Kids Konserve mini stainless steel containers and a Kids Konserve stainless steel thermos.

To enter, simply head on over to Biome, browse their stock, and head back here and leave a comment revealing which product tempts you the most and why (I'll share my current favourite - the urban chic Ecococoon stainless steel cup set because it would be perfect for camping trips and reminds me of the colourful metal cups of my childhood). If you have a preference for the mini containers or the thermos share that too.

Those of you reading this by email will need to head on over to the blog (by clicking on the title) to leave a comment.

One entry per person, please. Sorry, entries only open to those with Australian addresses.

Entries close midnight (Australian EST) Monday 4th July. The winners will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced here in this post on the Tuesday morning. I'll contact the winners directly by email.

The winners are number 7 Aussie Mum and number 45 Marky Mark. Congtratulations! I'll email you both tonight. Feel free to email me your postal details if you see this before then.

Thank you everyone for your entries.

{I received a set of the mini containers and a thermos courtesy of Biome for review.}

Going green is not about buying green

Reusable bags eco shopping

I get the impression that some people believe they can shop their way to being green. They have a green epiphany and switch to buying organic, ethical, fair-trade, eco, and green products, but give little thought to how much they buy and why. It doesn’t help that so many products are marketed as ‘saving the planet’ and that it’s difficult to distinguish the greenwashed from the genuinely green. The problem is, going green is not about buying green, it’s about NOT buying.

Eco products still have an environmental impact

Irrespective of the green credentials of a product, it will still have an ecological impact. The production of organic cotton still uses vast quantities of water, many fair-trade eco toys have still been flown half way across the globe, and no matter how long a stainless steel water bottle lasts, it’s manufacture still involved a huge amount of energy.

How about becoming a minimalist or buying nothing at all?

I like the idea of becoming a minimalist, and every now and then, when feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff crowding my life, I binge on many of the great minimalist blogs out there. My favourite include Rowdy Kittens, Becoming Minimalist, and Be More With Less. But that could never be me. Second-hand shopping is recreation for the Little Eco family. I delight in collecting cute casserole dishes to recycle as pots and cannot resist small pre-loved pottery vases (despite owning over 30 already). I like stuff, yet I’m determined to find the balance between minimalism and my stuff ruling my life.

I also like the idea of buying nothing at all. I totally lost myself in the journey when reading 'Living the Good Life', a book about the six months Linda and her family bought nothing at all. But again, that’s not me. I doubt my neighbour would appreciate a goat in my small urban backyard.

We’ve tried buying nothing at all for a week, and then for a month, and learnt an incredible amount about how to decrease our consumption when doing so, but I reckon life would become challenging fairly rapidly beyond a month or so.

Besides, I enjoy working (although not as much as I currently am), and I think it’s only sensible that I share my earnings around by shopping. Shopping is also one of the ways I connect with, and support, my community (be it on-line or in real life) and I love being able to support a few of the increasing number of ethical and eco businesses out there. Of course I try and spend my money wisely by buying only what I truly need (or really, really, really, want) and by buying pre-loved when I can.

Buying new isn’t always bad

Buying pre-loved or doing without doesn’t always cut it. Buying new, for most of us, is a reality. I can’t do without at least one new t-shirt each summer and new shoes and underwear are a must (although I did score two as-new pre-loved pairs of Planet Shoes, my favourite shoe brand, a few years back). Then there’s the products that make it easier to be green: lunch boxes, drink bottles, reusable bags, reusable cups, and natural cleaning products and beauty products.  I even recently bought a fandangle expensive plastic self-watering pot. Up until a few months ago I would have scoffed at the idea of buying a new imported plastic pot to grow food in (and I still feel a little cringy about it), especially given that I could make one from a free recycled bucket, but at this particular point in time, that pot is right for me. And i'm certain the 100s of bunches of rhubarb i'll pick from it over the coming years will counteract the energy that went into creating and transporting the pot.

This was all a long introduction to what i'm really trying to say...

I used to feel uncomfortable about promoting products within this blog, given that I believe the best way to be green is to reduce how much you buy. I've run the odd giveaway, and mentioned the odd brand, but each time i've felt a little uncomfortable.

However, I've decided I actually like the idea of helping to promote good products that make sustainable living easier. Particularly now that i'm working full time, I appreciate more than ever products that make it easier for me to be green.

I used to have my own home-based teeny business and I have friends that run eco businesses (like Heather from Sun Cooking Australia and Rachel from Raid My Wardrobe), so I know how challenging promotion can be for a small business. So i've decided I'm OK with promoting the odd product within this space. I hope you don't mind? Of course, i'll only be mentioning products that I use or Australian companies that have strong ethical and eco credentials. 

And I promise to always be up front with you. If i'm provided a complimentary product to review, or a sponsorship fee, i'll reveal so.

Now that i've got that off my chest, I won't feel uncomfortable on Monday when promoting one of my favourite on-line eco stores - Biome. Pop back here on Monday for a giveaway of two products that make it easier for me to be green.

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soule Mama.

If you manage to find a few quiet moments this weekend, and feel like some simple living inspiration, pop on over to my Inspiring Reads pages.

My favourite recent additions include this roof-top garden (it's given me a few ideas for the narrow strip down the side of our house) and Let the Children Play's four part series on Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space. I'm also perusing Sarah Wilson's two lists of the best toxin-free cosmetics, because the natural mineral powder foundation I bought recently makes my *cough* mature skin feel like a powder puffed prune.

Have a lovely weekend.

Quick outdoor Winter play ideas for when it’s raining and dark

Jumping in puddles

The time Little Eco and I spend outdoors has decreased drastically since I started working full-time. We used to spend at least an hour outside together each afternoon. It was our Green Hour, and my favourite hour of the day. Long commuting times, combined with winter, has meant that by the time we find time for outdoor play it's either dark or raining. So rather than miss out on much-needed outdoor time, I've been thinking of quick and easy outdoor play ideas for when it’s wet or dark.

I'm over at Childhood 101 today sharing some of my ideas so far. Do you get outdoors when it's wet or dark? Or huddle inside and hibernate? I'd love you to pop on over to Childhood 101 and share.