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July 2013

Raising a creative contributor

Raising a creative contributor

I’d like Little Eco to be a contributor – not a consumer. I strive to teach her that she is defined by how she contributes and what she creates and not by what she consumes.

My greatest wish is that her life is less about stuff and more about living.

I'm writing about 'Raising a creative contributor' in my third and final Voices of 2013 post over at Kidspot. Head on over there to read more. 

Clear the air with indoor plants

Many houseplants are easy to propagate. Spider plants shoot off teeny plants which can be planted individually. Little eco footprints

Air pollution inside our homes can be worse than the pollution found outside. As most of us spend a lot of time indoors, improving indoor air quality is worth considering. Thankfully, all it takes is a few indoor plants to clear the air.

Our homes can be polluted with a mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted as vapour from plastics, cleaning products, carpets, paint, cosmetics, and electronic equipment. Gas cookers and unflued gas heaters can also elevate carbon dioxide levels (the reason why you should use your exhaust fan when cooking on a gas stove and open a window when using an unflued gas heater). In high concentrations VOCs and carbon dioxide can be toxic and carcinogenic and even at low levels may impact our health.

The humble house plant offers a solution. Houseplants absorb these indoor air pollutants, making our homes a healthier place to be. You don’t need a forest of pot plants to enjoy the benefits. Research has found as few as three pot plants in an average sized office can reduce VOCs to an extremely low level.

Quirky and unique pots for house plants can be made from old teapots and casserole dishes. Little eco footprints.

You don’t need to spend a fortune at a garden centre on houseplants. Instead propagate plants by collecting cuttings from friends’ plants. For an idea of plants that are especially easy to propagate, reflect back on the house plants your grandmother or an old aunt had. My gran had plenty of african violets which are very easy to propagate from leaf cuttings; spider plants that shoot off teeny plants which can be planted individually; and peace lilies that can easily be divided.

Casserole dishes and ceramic containers can be turned inot house plant pots by drilling a hole in the bottom. Little eco footprints.

Nor do you need to spend a fortune on pots. Quirky and unique pots can be made from old teapots and casserole dishes by drilling a hole in the bottom for drainage. If the container is terracotta or lightly glazed clay, to drill a hole soak the pot in water, place masking tape over where you want to drill and use a masonry drill bit. If it is heavily glazed or glass, for example old Pyrex casserole dishes, you’ll need a fancier diamond-coated drill bit. Expect a few breakages, so don’t try this on anything too precious.

Originally published in my 'Less Is More' column, Newcastle Herald 27th July 2013

Retreat from monotony {and a recipe for damper twirls}

Campfire damper twirls

I'm over at Kidspot Village Voices writing about retreating from the monotony of weekdays. Do you find weekdays a tad monotonous? I do. I feel a much needed sense of escape and renewal if we break up our routine by doing something out of the ordinary.

Head on over to kidspot to find out what our 'out of the ordinary' is. I also share a recipe for these delicious damper twirls. 

It's the second of three posts I'll be writing for Kidspot as part of the Voices of 2013 competition. Thank you to those who popped over last week and shared your favourite childhood memories. As I mentioned last week, the judges are watching - so if you feel like leaving a comment do so over there ;-) Thank you. x

Making the most of orange season (& why you shouldn't toss your orange peel)

You can pick your own oranges from Hillsdale Citrus Orchard Bulga

Oranges are at their best in winter. Delicious sweet navels have just come into season and I recently visited my favourite orchard to pick a bucket of delicious Bulga oranges*.

Oranges are at their best in winter

We’re enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice with breakfast and orange jelly has become a regular treat. I haven't looked at the ingredients on a packet of jelly lately - but I'm certain it would include loads of sugar and a few artificial colours and flavours. Jelly can be easily made using only juice, honey and gelatine (or agar agar for a vegan version). I just sweeten the juice to taste and simply follow the instructions on the gelatine packet.

Home made citrus cleaning spray

Enjoying this seasonal bounty has left my compost bin overflowing with citrus peel, so I’m exploring useful ways to use it. My favourite is homemade citrus cleaner. I fill a jar with peel, cover with white vinegar, pop on the lid and leave in a dark cupboard. After brewing for a couple of weeks I strain the vinegar into a spray bottle. Citrus peel contains a natural solvent, making it a powerful, inexpensive, all-purpose natural cleaner.

Dried orange peel fire starter

Given its high oil content, orange peel also makes a good fire starter. Dry the peel on a tray in the sun or by the fire and a few weeks later you’ll have a pile of sweet smelling fire starters. I dry our peels on top of our pot-belly stove and as an added bonus our home smells delicious.

Hundreds of other ways to use citrus peel are revealed by a quick search of the internet. Orange peel chutney, chocolate-dipped candied peel and cooking an egg in an orange peel over a camp fire are next on my list. I might even rub peel all over my face, as apparently the citric acid in the peel will make my face ‘glow’.

*Betty and Harold of Hillsdale Orchard, Thompsons Road Bulga, welcome the public to come and pick their own oranges. To arrange a visit phone 02 65745173. You’ll also find their oranges at Lake Macquarie City Farmers Markets each Saturday and Newcastle City Farmers Markets each Sunday. 

Originally published in my 'Less Is More' column, Newcastle Herald 20th July 2013

If you are looking for even more ways to use your orange peel - click on the link below to find out how to make these cute citrus beeswax candles.  

Handmade citrus beeswax candles

Time for meaningful memories

Time for meaningful memories

I'm over at Kidspot Village Voices this week writing about making time for meaningful memories

Do you feel like your 'to-do list' distracts you from creating meaningful family memories? 

This is the first of three posts I'll be writing for Kidspot as part of the Voices of 2013 competition. I'm in the top 5 for Personal and Parenting blogs. The judges are watching - so if you feel like leaving a comment do so over there ;-) Thank you. x