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December 2012

A feast with a story to tell

Authors Dad and Sister Christmas food Shopping at Newcastle City Markets Tricia Hogbin Little Eco Footprints

I won't be slaving away in the kitchen this Christmas. Nor will I be spending a fortune at the supermarket. Instead, our Christmas meal will be simple and sourced from my favourite alternatives to the supermarket.

I’ve ordered free range ‘‘happy ham’’ from Organic Feast. I like that our Christmas ham enjoyed a life of wandering paddocks, not confined to a concrete floored shed.

We’ll enjoy a few salads, including a prawn rice salad my mum has made each Christmas for almost two decades. Each year she brings out the yellowing torn recipe and reads between the splashes from past Christmases.

The prawns will be collected Christmas Eve morning from the Newcastle Fisherman’s Cooperative. My dad and sister arrived at the Wickham store last year at 5am just on opening. Expecting to be first in line they found themselves at the end of a queue of hundreds of people. Apparently people start queuing from 3am, so this year we’ll pack coffee and make an adventure of it.

For dessert we’ll enjoy a delicious pudding from Pudding Lane. These award-winning puddings are made in Newcastle using local free range eggs and locally baked bread. The custard will be made using local Udder Farm milk, picked up from my favourite greengrocer The Fresh Ingredient, who pride themselves on supporting local farmers.

Mangoes and cherries are another favourite for our family Christmas. We’ll buy a box of each from the Newcastle City Markets. Not to be confused with the Newcastle City Farmers Markets, these markets distribute wholesale fresh fruit and vegetables to the entire Hunter Region. Each morning from 4am they’re bustling with greengrocers and restaurateurs picking up their fresh produce. Thankfully, they open briefly to the public on Fridays between 9.30 and 11am. Last year, much to my dad and sister’s delight, mangoes were only $10 a tray.

We’ll also visit the Newcastle Farmers Markets for other Christmas foods and treats, including Dennis’s delicious natural cordial. My favourite is Rose Petal & Lime syrup, which mixes well with gin.

If you’re looking for a Christmas feast with a story to tell, try to steer clear of the supermarket and instead support our local producers and small businesses.

[This column appeared in The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 08 December 2012]

8 creative & eco kids gifts for under $20

8 creative and eco kids gifts ideas for under $20 by Little eco footprints[This post is sponsored by Ecotoys.]

I've been searching for sustainable and ethical gifts for kids that encourage creativity and cost less than $20. I thought I'd share my favourite. 

1. Playdough

Playdough - My favourite frugal birthday gift.

Home made playdough birthday gift

Homemade playdough is my favourite gift for kids. Little Eco and I often frantically whip up a batch on the morning of a birthday party. I make three or more colours and put it in recycled containers decorated by Little Eco. 

2. Makedo kits

Recycling trash to make flowers using makedo flower making kit 2 by little eco footprints

Recycling trash to make flowers using makedo flower making kit 1 by little eco footprints

I love Makedo kits. They help kids create all sorts of amazing things from recycled materials like old bottles and cardboard. Little Eco recently tried the Makedo find & make flower kit. She now wants to make a 'forest of flowers'. 

3. Paints

 I particularly like natural non-toxic paints like the natural plant based Glob Botanical Paints. This would be a great idea for gifts that need to be mailed because the paint comes as small satchels of powder. You simply put some powder in an old glass jar and mix with water. 

4. Recycled paper bead kit

Recycled paper beads by little eco footprints

Cutting magazines to create recycled paper beads by little eco footprints

Here's another kit that encourages creative up-cycling - the Green Creativity Recycled Paper Beads kit. This tool makes paper beads from recycled paper. Little Eco is making her way though a pile of old magazines and we'll be gifting her friends paper beaded bracelets for christmas.

5. Paper dolls


Paper dolls are another gift idea that would be easy to post. We've made them in the past from free printables, but you can also buy paper doll kits

6. A crafternoon voucher

Gift an IOU voucher for a crafternoon - an afternoon spent creating and crafting. I know a number of kids who would love to be promised help with an afternoon of crafting. 

7. A packet or two of seeds

Gift a packet of flower or vegetable seeds and include a card suggesting you'll help them plant the seeds and nurture the plants. 

8. Colouring or activity book

I like that colouring and activity books are clutter-free. They get used and enjoyed and then recycled. They don't need a permanent home in already crowded book shelves. 

Do you have any ideas for creative, frugal and eco kids gifts?

[This post was sponsored by Ecotoys. As mentioned, I don't accept cash for sponsorship. Instead I barter for things I need. In this case I bartered gifts for my nieces and nephew. In addition Little Eco was gifted the Green Creativity Recycled Paper Beads kit and the Makedo find & make flower kit]. 

Market Marvels: Steering clear of shopping malls

I really dislike shopping malls, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Crowded corridors, Christmas carols blaring non-stop, shopping trolleys to be dodged and car parks that are impossible to park in and even more impossible to escape from.

I rarely, if ever, have a long list of ‘wants’, but as soon as I set foot in a shopping mall I feel deprived and daggy and decide I need a whole heap of stuff that I didn’t even know existed only moments before.

Thankfully, I haven’t set foot in a shopping mall for almost a year. I’m skipping supermarkets, shopping malls and super chains for all of 2012.

I’m doing most of my Christmas gift shopping at local markets, where there’s stall upon stall of unique, quirky, handmade creations far superior to the run-of-the-mill, mass-produced gifts I’d find at the mall.

I kicked off my Christmas browsing with a trip to The Olive Tree Market, well known for its eclectic array of stalls. What I loved the most about these markets is that I met the makers.

Wall art by Safety Pin Designs - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin little eco footprints

Karla MacLean and her Dandelion and Honey creations - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin little eco footprints

Handmade toys by Dandelion and Honey - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin little eco footprints

Danielle Higgins and her Grubby Princess artwork - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin

Prints by Brubby Princess - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin Little eco footprints

Knits by Juliet's Creations - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin Little eco footprints

I spoke to Dan of Safety Pin Design, Karla of Dandelion & Honey, Danielle of Grubby Princess and watched Juliette knitting away behind her gorgeous collection of hand-knitted beanies. I saw the spark in their eyes when they spoke about their creations.

Shower caps by Alile Jane - Fig Tree Markets - Tricia Hogbin little eco footprints

Hats by Ike and fly _ Fig Tree Markets  - Tricia Hogbin Little eco footprints

I was tempted by original paintings, handmade children’s toys, and upcycled jewellery and have added an Ike & Fly hat and an Alie Jane shower cap to my Christmas wish list.

In among all this browsing and chatting to the creators, I bumped into friends and stopped to chat – try doing that in a shopping mall corridor!

Thankfully, Newcastle is rich in markets.

I’ve mapped out a game plan that will see me visit my favourite markets during the month of December.

Today there’s Art Bazar (9-3pm Civic Park, Newcastle) and The Olive Tree Market. Next weekend there’s Cherry Blossom Markets and the week after there’s Sacred Tree Markets, which I’ve heard is well worth the trip to Branxton. And of course, I can’t forget the Newcastle City Farmers and Makers Market, which is on every Sunday. I’ll write more about this market next week, when I share some tips for Christmas-food shopping that sees you save money and steer clear of the supermarket.

Do you loathe shopping malls as much as I do? Where will you Christmas shop? 

[This column appeared in The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 01 December 2012]