Petalplum

Slow & Sustainable Living

in the garden - gathering flowers and plant dyeing and feeling abundant

Slow & Sustainable Living, Botanical DyeEllie BeckComment
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Every year we try to plant a garden, of some sort or other. Some years we’ve had flourishing garden, picking veges and flowers, other years barely anything at all. Some years it’s determined by the floods or the lack of water. I’ve done a lot of hand watering, carrying buckets from the creek to the garden over the years (especially when we first moved here to this land, and didn’t have water plumbed in yet). Some years I’ve watched all the soil and the plants washed away by a giant flood. Or the seedlings eaten by possums or wallabies, or the fruits picked off by bush turkeys.

But this year I have this. Three raised beds (metal frames) and a raised no-dig garden bed. And a whole lot of flowers that are blooming and thriving - despite our low-quality soil, but perhaps due to all the love and watering and conversations I am having with the little plants.

The dahlia tubers were gifted to me, from my dear sister-in-law and also a dear woman who I met recently, and makes magic with flowers. The cosmos keep getting taller and taller, and gifting us new blooms each morning. The tomatoes have grown past the bamboo teepees we built for them, and are giving us sweet little pops of deliciousness every day at the moment.

Having a small space right outside out home, that I can see from my kitchen window, makes me so so happy. The pure joy and pleasure of waking each morning, to water or tend or talk to my plants begins my day with a nourishment and uplifting feeling of possibility.

We planted more seeds this week past, including some woad and indigo. Next year my dye garden, flower garden and even perhaps vege garden will grow and expand. But for now it’s helping me to grow and expand, to nourish myself in simple small slow ways.

A feeling of abundance & garden metaphor for creativity ~

My garden, for me, is a very visual representation of the way we can feel about ourselves and the world, and how we can respond and react. Tending baby seedlings is like tending to the creativity inside us, the more we watch, water, talk to, nourish, spend time with the better the plants grow. Same as giving yourself the permission to nourish your self - giving yourself good soil (materials or time or simply kind words), and time. Watering a garden everyday is necessary in our climate here. When I’m watering, I’m also watching for weeds or bugs that might each the plants.

If I spend time with my creative practice, I am noticing the things that guide me towards blooming more openly, more rawly. I can start to spot when something is wilting or something is getting ready to bloom.

Tending weeds, in the garden, or choosing to pull them up is a lesson, for me, in allowing things. Some weeds are good (especially for my dye pots), whereas other weeds I don’t want to encourage at all. If I encourage weeds in my creativity I have to look at what they’re bringing to me - do they nourish my soil in a way I might not have imagined, but actually need. Or are the weeds taking away from other things growing more happily. So.. looking at this - letting some plants develop is like letting some ideas develop and grow. Pulling a weed out is like saying no to the wrong things in my life.

You can choose, in life, in creativity, in the garden, to be happy and content with one small simple garden bed and help it to grow and bloom. Or you can wish for more, constantly spreading yourself thing tending many things, many garden beds… and nothing quite blooms the way it could.

GO plant some seeds. A tiny pot is all you need. Some herbs or flowers. Sometimes to bring a joyful feeling when you water it, watch it, pick from it, eat from it. Plant a herb pot to gift to someone else, or a little patch of sunflowers.

I’ll be sharing my new dye garden journey over the coming year - from seedling to plant, to the colours they make on my fabric… but for now I wanted to share these photos of our little garden and this tumble down tea-house that will one day be a studio space, and extra bedrooms for my kids.

PS - If you’re looking for some books* to help in your garden… these ones are on my book shelf, and I refer to them often - for different reasons. I’ll do a separate review of them in the coming weeks, if you’re interested.
Milkwood by Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritat - so much excellent info about tomato growing, as well as foraging, wild foods, seaweed, mushroom growing and bee-keeping. I can’t wait to see what their next book might be about.
Grown & Gathered by Matt Purbrick & Lentil Purbrick - this book has SO much info about gardening, growing, eating locally.
Floret by Erin Benzakein - I am referring to this regularly at the moment. Mostly to work out at what stage of bloom should I pick a certain flower, and how best to help it last longer in the vase. A beautiful book for any flower grower.

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  • If you purchase through these links I receive a small commission from Book Depository. It doesn’t cost you any extra, it simply means a small contribution to my family income - which can go towards paying my internet bills. I thank you for your support.

Simple gifting ideas for an eco Christmas

Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
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Let’s be truthful here, if we wanted to have a truly eco Christmas we’d probably not even celebrate at all… but I love giving gifts, and I love any excuse for family to gather around a special meal together. And if once a year we all make the extra effort, perhaps it’s worth it. Also - it’s absolutely and totally possible to celebrate without forgetting the ethos that you live with the rest of the year, and also a great time to share that with others in your family through your choice of gifts (that you either give or ask for).

I thought I’d share a few ideas of what we work through each year. And to be truly honest here… every year is different, some years I get it more right, other years I throw up my hands and let some things go. Every year is a learning lesson for me, in being more humble in my opinions, guiding my children through the crazy drama of the world, and their expectations, and other people’s expectations. In learning what to push my ideals and wishes on, and what to step back on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you might work through it too - in a gentle way…

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Gifting:

  • Make something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you make, it’s the made item that really matters. That fact you took the time to create something with your hands and heart, rather than picking something off a shelf. It’s a good way to talk about your environmental, political, socially-responsible ethos with friends or family… perhaps a simple note on the gift, so they could look into it later, rather than heated discussions on special days.

  • Gift special food items - jams, chutneys, pickles. If you can’t make your own, don’t worry, there’s lots of little markets around at the moment where people are making lovely things to share like that. This way you’re also supporting someone else in their making. Imagine a whole box of cherries, mangoes or stone-fruit gifted - something that might be out of the financial reach of your giftee.

  • Buy handmade, from a local market or artist or gallery. Or find a local online person - searching on Etsy local is a good way to find your community.

  • Gift an experience or a voucher to help them around the house or garden, or the commitment to take them somewhere special - even a picnic at a local creek might be something they don’t do very often.

  • Plants are always a beautiful gift, in my mind. Think about the space they live in, and what time they available to care for the plant. Sometimes a pot of living herbs is enough, or a fruit tree and the promise to help plant it.

  • A family photo or art work by your children - framed perhaps. Older family members often don’t need more things, and artwork is a beautiful and special memento for them.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The best gifts, in my heart & mind, are the ones thoughtfully gathered for that person, rather than the mad dash to a shop to meet a specified budget. (I used to work in retail, and saw way too many people on Christmas Eve doing that horrible mad rush - it made my heart sigh and huff while I tried to guide them to the best options on the almost empty shelves).

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Gifts to ask for:

While it would be ideal sometimes to not have to give gifts, I know my children would not be happy with that option. And my in-laws love giving gifts too. And, actually I love gifting things as well. So.. if you know you or your kids will be receiving gifts, then pre-empt the plastic throwaway junk, by getting in early with some suggestions.

  • Beach towels

  • New sheets - send links to beautiful organic or thoughtfully made items, rather than a vague suggestion

  • An experience or membership to somewhere.. local art gallery, museum, music, drama or sports lessons for a year (or a term), a ticket to a concert or live performance

  • A voucher to an art or book shop - let them know the details of your local shop, so you can support local businesses

  • While it’s not entirely personal, teenagers often seem to want vouchers for music downloads

  • We asked for a tent as our family gift one year - so think about one big purchase that would help your whole family

  • And if you know they’ll want to purchase a toy or a ‘thing’ let them know about easy options for places that fit your ethos. Biome* is a great online site with so many options for everyone in the family. I particularly love many of these wooden toys.

  • Or suggest something very practical, from a shop they’re more likely to feel comfortable shopping at, such as a trampoline which will last for years and be a great addition to any family garden.

Wrapping gifts:

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I’ve shared a few ideas here, that will guide you along a more sustainable path, but also make for unique and beautiful gifting. And it’s likely you or your children will receive cheap throwaway wrapping paper and cards - a few options are to try and save the paper to reuse (talk with your children about how to carefully unwrap gifts prior to Christmas Day), or make sure that it’s recycled rather than lumped into the rubbish bin with everything else. A few extra moments to remove sticky tape and plastic ribbons, and put them in the right recycled boxes or bins depending on your local council. Sometimes you doing this, quietly in the corner on Christmas day, sparks a conversation that might make a small change in others.

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Food Waste:

I suppose the simplest I can say about this is; if you’re part of deciding what food you’ll have for your family or friend celebrations remember that less can be more. Choose locally grown where possible, less packaging, order organic meats from your local butcher (we don’t eat meat - but I know that lots of butchers have this option, if you keep on asking them), make less food.

Make a menu plan, and talk with your family about who will bring what. Don’t over cater - children seem to eat less when they’re running around playing, and adults seem to overeat when there’s too much food sitting in front of them.

If you do have left overs, keep in mind the excess plastic that many people use for putting food away, and look into these alternatives - beeswax wraps (buy these beautiful handmade ones here, or learn to make your own here), or invest in some reusable containers. Or simply put things in the fridge, in a bowl with a plate over the top. Or I love the idea of these linen covers.

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Simple Days & Slow Moments:

The lead-up to Christmas and the final weeks of school term, and even the year, can be full with events, gatherings, stress of things to buy, places to go, things that we need to do. Try to look at your diary, and say no to some things. While there might be some guilt around not going to the neighbourhood party, it’s also important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself and your family quiet down-time. A Do-Nothing Day really is the best thing for everyone in these full and busy days. Especially if you live anywhere near me, where it’s hot and tiring and the weather seems to sap all energy from you.

Choose what feels most important to you, and work with that. Don’t be forced into a full 24-day Advent Calendar of events, perhaps try a simple tree of moments instead (I’ll share more about this soon… my girl is making one this weekend). Write letters and cards, rather than needing to drop in on everyone in your address book.

Hop off devices for a little while, and spend time in the garden or looking through books for inspiration. Sit and make some gifts, instead of spending every weekend at the shopping malls - I promise that you can make gifts almost in the same amount of time as it takes you to drive, park and trawl the aisle of the shops… And you’ll be much saner for it.

And if finding / making / creating time just isn’t happening - remember to breathe. The simple, yet often rushes past, practice of deep breathing nourishes our bodies in the best way. Breathing through your nose, gently and deeply slows our bodies and minds down, and allows us to think clearer and be a little more peacefully in the moment. Exhaling, though your nose (not mouth) in a mindful intentional manner let’s go of so much pent up stress and energy. Try it at the supermarket, when you’re in the middle of a busy stressful morning or  ‘negotiation’ with children, or when life is making you feel overwhelmed and anxious. It’s the simplest way to reset yourself.... I’ve been practicing it more than usual lately and feeling the benefits immediately. 

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 *I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link; it doesn’t affect what you pay, it’s just a way for Biome to thank me for spreading the word about the good that they do. Thank you for supporting me in this way. 

quietly, slowly, simply, gently - finding ways amongst the noise {slow living}

Slow & Sustainable Livingellie2 Comments

I realised quite recently that the slow down that I thought was what I wanted isn't exactly what I want.need.

I realised that quietly is what I'm aiming for.wishing for.needing.

Quietly quietly.

The slow living of the country life isn't as a real a thing as is imagined. Oh yes, in a certain way, for sure. There is a slowing - and not just the internet or the Sunday driver in front of you - a slowing of a lot of things.

But I'm finding my mind is moving at the wondering speed it always does. Jumping and flittering and mercurial. The way I am. The way I always am. always will be. That's my mind. My body has slowed, but my mind wants lots. And that's ok.

So - it's quietly I want.

Some days I find that I have three people talking at me all at once. Yes. Three people wanting to have conversations with me with, needing answers and responses and thoughts and ideas and opinions and .... I suppose all mother's know that. Some days all I want is no-one talking to me, no-one needing me, wanting me, calling me, asking me, demanding of me.

So. In order for me to find this quiet amongst the noise of life I decided that firstly I need to want it. To know I wanted it was the best direction in finding it and having it. If you're after quietly in your days, you need to realise that's what you want.

Say the word in your head. 

Say it softly over your tongue. 

Maybe, if no-one's listening speak it, whisper it.

Is that the word you want? Really? 

Know it before you find it.

For me to find quietly throughout my whole day, I've found that I need to make it happen in small pockets of time. To actively seek quiet. And then to bring it into the other noiser aspects of my day. For me to be better equipped to have three people talking at me.to me, wanting and needing me I need to find quiet amongst that; within that. To know the quiet spots in my mind, my heart, my soul.

The first ever so tentative steps are to spend 10minutes being quiet. This, for me, doesn't mean meditation, as that's a different sort of quiet. For me, this means boiling the kettle and making a pot of tea. Real leaf tea in a tea pot. There's the quiet moments of rinsing the tea pot and waiting for the kettle to boil. Of finding which cup I will use today. And listening to the sound of the water as it heats in the kettle on the stove, the gas on the metal, the water moving in the metal kettle. And filling the kettle.

Sometimes my quietly might include some crochet or stitchwork, or putting fabric in jars for dyeing. Sometimes it might be sitting, with the sun across my shoulders and my tea cup in my hands.

Always just me being within and without whatever is around me. Actively hearing the sounds around me. And really tasting the tea as I drink it, feeling it, thinking about it. Not rushing.

No phone or computer or reading or music. Those aren't part of my quietly moments. You must actively make quietly happen to start, to find it.

This is my journey to find quietly. It began with the last ten minutes, and now I will try and share quietly over here too. 

Ellie Beck Petalplum Finding Quiet within the noise raindrops on flower head

A little honey .... a recipe for when you're sick

Recipes, Slow & Sustainable Livingellie2 Comments

There's colds and coughs here at the moment. And rainy coolish days. Perfect weather for gathering lemons from our trees, lemongrass from my friends garden and raw honey and organic ginger from the farmers market.

A remedy my mama used to make for us to nourish our bodies and warm our hearts. Holding a cup of warm lemon, honey & ginger is almost like a hug.

{a recipe} 

You'll need:

•fresh lemons, any sort will do. At least 1 per person or more if you like it tangy.

•honey, about 1-2 teaspoons each. Please use raw and local honey - it's better for your body as it still contains all the real nutrients (not stripped bare like from the supermarket), and supports a local farmer and his bees.

•a small knob of fresh ginger.

•some fresh or dried lemongrass (optional).

Squeeze the lemon into a cup, smash the ginger to release the flavour and add along with the cut lemongrass. Pour over not-quite boiling water and add honey to taste.

Cosy up with your favourite handknit or crochet blankie and snuggles with your little ones.

Crochet string bag - how to make your own : perfect for plastic-free living

Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck2 Comments

Crochet string bags are perfect little additions to a simple living home - useful for taking to the farmers market, when visiting the library, carrying kids extra everythings about, finding scrunched at the bottom of your handbag when you get a few extra supplies at the supermarket. Simply put - they're sorta useful for a whole lot of things. Throw one over your shoulders full of Summer's beach supplies; carry wet towels and swimmers home, while the sand falls out the bottom of the bag on your walk back home. Load it up with fruit from your own trees, or while borrowing some from that roadside tree that everyone's been spying.

Make your own with my FREE crochet pattern.

Plastic-Free or Low-Waste Living : Is it expensive or hard?

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

Today marks the beginning of Plastic Free July, a worldwide challenge to encourage us all to minimise our plastic usage, look at our daily habits, and make small but significant changes. It's not about overhauling your whole life or home, but about making actionable changes to your days, that can carry on easily through the year. 

Like any trends, starting on a plastic-free, zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle could be expensive, but let me tell you it doesn't have to. I suppose it comes down to your way of living and the way you choose to action on certain plastic-free ideas. Of course, to make some changes might cost you an outlay to begin, but sometimes this counterbalances by making savings in the long run.

Here's a few simple tips on how to begin your plastic-free journey without it costing the world (or your wallet):

plastic free July : simple easy ways to start your low-plastic journey now

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

Are you joining in Plastic Free July this year? Even though we live a relatively 'plastic-free' lifestyle "compared to regular people", I know that there's so so much more we can do in our family. Little changes to make big differences.

The aim of #plasticFreeJuly is to reduce or refuse all single use plastic during July. Of course, the hope is that you'll start on a new journey of seeing how easy it is and continue on. But having one month to reset your ideals is pretty cool - cause I find despite my best best intentions we still end up with single use plastic in our shopping and home.

I've got some really cool and easy tips to share with you

it's almost Plastic Free July again.... are you ready for the challenge?

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck3 Comments
Ellie Beck Petalplum butterfly in hand

Plastic Free July has been the catalyst for many people to change their whole (plastic-free) lives, or has simply been a wonderful and easy way to create small change within your life. For me, I grew up minimal-plastic (not zero or free), and live with less plastics than many but more than some. I enjoy using Plastic Free July as a great way to reset some of our ways, to challenge ourselves to take a step further along our journey and also to spread the word about how easy it can be to start the plastic-free / low-plastic living.

As everything, it's a scale of what feels right for you and what fits into your life, your family, your home, your work. It's about doing what you can without feeling guilty that you're not doing more.

This year it's good to remember to start slowly and simply. Often it's super overwhelming trying to do it all at once - so choosing 1-2 (or 3-4) things is a really great way to ease into what can be a big change at the time, but soon will feel simple and everyday. Rather than trying to do it all at once, choosing one or two things for you to reduce will make you feel like you've succeeded rather than failed the challenge.

Remember that every small action has a reaction - your small tiny steps create a revolution in your life. The little (environmental) things you do DO add up. I know. And when you start this journey, you're likely to talk about it with people - and spreading the word is the best form of environmental revolution, isn't it!

A few myths about going plastic free:

  • You need to throw out everything you own that's plastic! Nope, don't do that.. that's silly. Going plastic free is about making small changes over time. Replace things with a non-plastic option as they break or wear out, but don't throw it all out at once.
  • It's expensive. Yes I guess it can be, in some ways, but it can be cheaper in other ways. It depends on how you look at it, what products you choose to buy or not buy, and how you generally live. I'm going to talk about that next week.
  • People will think you're crazy! Maybe they will - that's ok "all the best people are crazy" - Alice in Wonderful (spoken by Alice's father). But maybe they'll be inspired to make changes themselves.
  • It's hard and you'll fail. Like anything it can be as easy or hard as you make it. With the right attitude and mindset it's not hard, with the right help and advice it's not hard. Some aspects might be hard, but you won't fail.
  • Your kids will hate you for it. Hmmmmm perhaps there'll be a few times they're a little disappointed that you said no to their usual plastic toys / packaged food / etc, but it's our role as parents to guide our children and show them alternative ways of living. Ultimately they'll come to agree with you and happily convert. Read this to give you hope.

I've talked about simple plastic free tips in the past here, so today I wanted to open the idea of starting the challenge and seeing if you're up for it. And most importantly what hand-holding help you might need. I want to work directly with you - via email or Instagram or comment below - as a helping guide for you along the way. So, please reach out with any anxious thoughts you might have about starting a plastic free journey.

To begin choose just one thing you're going to give up. Of course you can choose more if you feel comfortable with that.

Anything from the "top 4 plastic baddies" is a good place to start:

  • Plastic Water Bottles:  Buy yourself a a reusable drink bottle and take your own water with you. Not only will you be saving the money, but you'll be saving thousands of plastic bottles from landfill. My kids all have their own, including River, who loves having his own special bottle. It also seems to make us remember to drink more water. Choose from any of these pretty designs available. We use stainless steel ones, but Ari recently got one of these glass bottles and he takes it to school everyday. Make sure you choose stainless steel or glass, or if you do choose a reusable plastic one check that it has no BPA - and please don't reuse the throw-away bottles because the plastics in them leach out and aren't designed to be reused.
  • Plastic Shopping Bags: This is one that drives me crazy. How many times do you see someone buy something from a shop, walk outside then throw the plastic bag in the bin! Why didn't they say "no thanks, I don't need a bag". Or you get home and unload all the shopping - simply throwing the plastic bags into the rubbish (straight into landfill). What it takes is a few simple tricks for reminding yourself: + Put your shopping bags straight into your handbag, car, pram or bike basket as soon as you unpack your shopping. + Put a reminder notice at your front door so you don't forget as you're walking out the door. + Practice saying NO to plastic bags - if you only have a few items carry them in your hands if you've forgotten a bag. + Remember to say No bag at the start of the shopping transaction, and often you'll have to remind the sales person again at the end (especially at clothing or boutique stores more so than supermarkets). + Use reusable produce bags as well as shopping bags.
  • Takeaway Coffee Cups: There's so much about our takeaway coffee industry that makes me mad and sad. When did we become so busy that we can't sit down to sip our coffee? Did you know that takeaway coffee now accounts for almost 40% of coffee sales? Woah hey! What can you do?! Firstly plan to sit in and use a proper cup, and really take time enjoying your coffee not having to sip it on the go (or re-heat it in the microwave as I keep hearing people doing). Secondly if you do need it takeaway then get your own reusable coffee cup and use it. Keep it in your handbag or with your car / house keys so you never forget it. Many coffee shops actually offer a discount if you use your own cup, so ask your local barista to join the War on Waste by supporting the use of reusable coffee cups.  I particularly love these glass coffee cups (and have never broken one in my bag!), and these glass tea flasks are excellent for taking your own tea from home.
  • Plastic Drinking Straws: This to me seems outrageous that such a tiny and so briefly used item can create such a massive impact on our environment. These, out of any of the top 4 baddies, are simply laziness, habit or appearances. I mean everyone wants to look like the cute girl in the soft drink ad..... Say no to plastic drinking straws, and put the cup up to your mouth! Or if you do really like using a straw, and sometimes they are handy with a small child, you can get sweet stainless steel ones here or these fun bamboo ones (we've tried these are a market stall once, but don't have any ourselves - though I really like the idea of them). Make sure you also get a straw cleaner at the same time.

If you've been on a plastic free journey for a while, these might already be on your no list - so I'd love to hear what plastic you're saying no to this year. We're aiming to cut down even further on our food purchases - particularly cheese and tofu packets, and other things that mostly occur when we're not planned or prepared. Most of our plastic purchases seem to happen when time is stretched or we're out of the ordinary - such as camping or we're sick and running low on parenting energy.

A Few Plastic-Free things you might choose to give up this month:

  • Toothbrushes - try these bamboo ones instead.
  • Biscuits in packets - make your own
  • Individually packaged chips or popcorn
  • Individual mini yoghurts or cheeses
  • Soft drinks in glass instead of plastic (or give up soft drink altogether!)

Let's do this together, help each other out and create the change we want our children to grow up watching. One of my favourite quotes is:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals will make a difference, Indeed they are the only ones who ever do" - Philanthropist Margaret Mead

* some links in this post are affiliate links - that means I earn a small percentage if you purchase anything. Biome is a shop that I wholeheartedly love supporting, purchasing from, and recommending. They walk the talk in a way that many businesses don't - right down to sending their postage orders with as minimal plastic packaging (and lots of recycled boxes); which just feels right to me. I love that they have an affiliate program to support bloggers as well. Thank you! {Even if you're a returning customer to Biome, they still give a slightly smaller % to me - so I truly value you using my links to buy your lovelies}.

Tools & Materials: thoughts on using only sustainable fabrics & what to do with the "other stuff" in the craft cupboard

Creative Process, Botanical Dye, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

One of my ecourse students recently emailed asking me this:

ok, I'd like to share a personal questioning and reflection

REFLECTIONS ON Natural or synthetic materials

Between my visual art materials (gathered for years and years) and my textile materials (gathered mostly during the last 10 years), I have a lot of natural, ecological and sustainable stuff and a lot of synthetics too. The thing is, I have always this eco-living-thinking philosophy and it's getting very hard to use non eco-sustainable fabrics and threads.. At the same time, keeping all that in boxes and shelves is neither useful nor ecological or Feng-Shui attitude. So, what to do? Just thinking aloud.... 

 

I'm glad you asked this, because it's something that I ponder a lot too. And I'm pretty sure we're not the only ones. There must be many others who start their creative journeys, which then evolve through to deeper meaning. And while we're learning we use more and different materials than we might today. 

I myself have boxes and cupboards of materials and tools and.... stuff.. that I used to use. I even have books that I've bought over the years, that I no longer need or want. And piles of fabric that no longer fits my aesthetic, or needs (either personal, creative or business). I have boxes of threads and zippers and tags and labels... All the things I've thought I might need, or used to use long in my other creative outlets. I have tubs & tubs & tubs of screen printing paint / ink from when I used to make and sell homewares.

I think one thing many of us creatives most often have in common is that we like to dabble and discover new things, which means new tools and material required. Am I right?  

So... now the ethics of it all. 

What I personally think is this:

  1. If you keep it stuck in boxes, piled into your storage shed or garage then it's doing two things - a) being wasted and hence adding to the environmental problems by not being used or re-used. and b) making you feel overwhelmed and guilty by the fact you've spent money on it, it's taking up mental, physical space.
  2. If you get it out and use it in any way possible the environmental factor doesn't come into play, because the product already exists and needs to be used, not become landfill (even if not for another 30 years... it's still landfill).
  3. If you don't want to use it - due to changes in your aesthetic - that's absolutely totally ok. Makes sense to me. But I know that there is a big probability that there's someone out there in the world who might be able to use it. Or perhaps you can re-think a way to re-use it.. to change it, alter it to fit closer to your personal ethics, creative looks. 

Here's what I'd do:

  • Sell it or give it away - consider (before sending it to an op-shop) places like pre-schools, primary or even high schools (who have a small art budget), GumTree or Craigslist or Facebook buy, swap & sell groups for your region. I recently sold a heap of beautiful craft books that I no longer needed and were taking up space in my home, through an Instagram page I set up - I made over $200 and other people got some fabulous books at excellent prices.
  • Use it! Is it horrible fabric that you can't imagine using or wearing? Perhaps you can cut it up and weave or crochet it into a new fabric. Perhaps you can overdye it or print or paint it. Or turn it into fabric gift wrap. Or tear it up into strips of fabric and weave with it, or crochet or knit.

I don't think you should guilt yourself about what you have, but rather find a solution for moving it from your life. And most importantly, learn the lesson from it (whatever lesson you want to learn).. think clearly before you buy new supplies, look at those same places to see if you can buy someone's cast offs, and research your new purchases to know if they fit your current ethics. 

I'd love to hear what you're hoarding in your art, craft cupboard (shipping container, garage, loft..)...... 

gift wrapping - environmental impact and sustainable (beautiful) options

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck2 Comments
hand painted fabric Websize.jpeg

When we were growing up wrapping paper was a special thing in our house. By this I mean - we didn't buy endless rolls of wrapping paper just because, my parents bought beautiful special paper and we made it last. Every gift that was given was wrapped with care (often without sticky tape), and unwrapped with even more care. There was none of that tearing paper open on Christmas morning; we'd gently unwrap and then fold the paper ready for it's next use. I remember one particular special piece of paper that lasted in our family - being gifted around and around - for years, and by years I mean more than 10 or 15 years. 

This is just one small part that makes my family different to many other families, but it's something that my siblings and I appreciate and respect (then and now), and now our own children follow the same 'care for the wrapping paper' ways. Yay for that!

It's these small, and often un-thought-of environmental changes that you can make in your daily life. They don't take a lot of extra effort, just a new way of thinking, training your brain in a different way. Change like this is good, slow and small, but hopefully long lasting and trickles down to the next generation. 

Another way of wrapping your gifts with a sustainable and environmental underpinning is the Japanese art of Furoshiki. Those Japanese are super clever aren't they - with their origami ways, their artful ideas, their simple beautiful thoughts.

Furoshiki is, in essence, a piece of cloth used to wrap and tie around an item. We have a book in our bookshelf called How to Wrap 5 Eggs! Fabulous. Basically using the right size you can wrap a present for a friend, lunch for your kids, a bottle of wine to take for dinner, a pot plant, even make yourself a handbag or a new top to wear. 

I will admit that gifting special fabric to everyone in your life might not work, especially school friends who won't even know what to do with it; but if you re-think the whole gift then the wrapping can be part of the present. 

Gifting environmentally thoughtful presents sparks a conversation. It allows you to educate your friends or family on how small things can make a big difference. I did a little googling, just so I could shock you a little.... 

            Environmental effects of wrapping paper - The UK alone uses more than 8,000 tons of wrapping paper a year, that equates to 50,000 tress being cut down. In the USA about half of all paper products consumed is wrapping paper, which is thrown away after one use. Consider also that many gift wraps (especially cheaper bulk buy ones) come wrapped in plastic wrap, and many gifts are secured with sticky tape and plastic bows and ribbons, while some wrapping options aren't even paper but cheap foil that isn't or can't be recycled. Attach a gift card and you're looking at more than 100,000 trees being cut down (in USA) each year just for throw away gift wrapping. (I'm not even going get into the environmental impact of the gifts that come inside the wrapping paper!).

But it can be different. t's estimated that the average American gives 42 gifts each year, if only 3 of those are wrapped in recycled options it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! This shows that small change is effective and powerful. That your actions do in fact help. And that as a community - or country - we can make change.

Here's a few simple alternatives for gifting:

  • A scarf and use that as the wrapping for some chocolates or flowers
  • A sewing kit and use a piece of linen as the wrapping and also as the project
  • A toy and use the wrapping as a play mat or a doll blanket
  • Homebaked biscuits in a upcycled jar with a tea towel as the wrapping
  • A bottle of wine with a tea towel or linen placemat as the wrapping
  • A bunch of flowers with fabric wrapping that can be reused for flowers again
  • A book or CD (remember those things?!) with fabric that can become the book bag

 

You don't need to use expensive linen or beautiful silk scarves, but can indeed op-shop (thrift-store) some sheets, tea towels or fabric pieces for very little money and cut it into sizes suitable for various objects. You could pre-make some furoshiki wraps or make them as needed to match the size of the gift. 

Here's some ideas to customise the fabric - art it up perhaps:

  • get the kids to paint a giant sheet before you cut & hem it, or leave the edges raw
  • dye it - simple kitchen scraps make beautiful dyes. (I'll share my onion skin dye recipe in a few days, once I get all the pictures finished)
  • do some fun random stitching on the fabric - either by hand or machine. Random machine stitching in bright colours is super fun to do and very effective
  • find some of that crazy funky fabric you'd never use for clothing; I bet it's perfect for gift wrapping
  • make sure you include a printed instruction sheet for people to pass on the wrapping tradition to someone else. Here's a great downloadable from the Japanese government website. (until I find or make a better one). 
  • If you want to learn how to make some like I have pictured here, I share the how-to on my fabric printing online course

The Kids are Alright :: Living a low-plastic lifestyle & not feeling deprived

Motherhood, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
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For years I've been guiding my family on a low-plastic journey. Taking small steps, but in the fashion of being my mother's daughter, being passionately forceful at times. Often my family - husband including kids - tolerates it slightly more or less so depending on how desperately they wanted the plastic (or throw-away) item they asked for.

But the past few months have brought a change, a shift. And yesterday I asked the kids "do you feel deprived not having certain things in plastic"? Both of them answered without hesitation "No!". Whereas previously they'd said things like couldn't we have normal things like normal people.

(You can probably guess my reply to that!). Why would you want to be normal! We're not normal people, normal is boring... blah blah blah.

So when they answered that, with such emphasis and assurance - that they didn't need the biscuits in the plastic, the cereal with twice the packaging than necessary, the extra treats, the individually wrapped cheeses or special breads in plastic - I smiled.

I probably would have jumped up and down and danced with joy, except I'm sick and that sort of movement would hurt my head. Instead I kept on nibbling my homemade pie; of course you guessed it made using homemade pastry and homemade filling.

How did the kids became swayed - or my husband for that matter? I'd like to say it was all me and my incessant influencing and constantly reminders. But I actually think them watching The War on Waste (on iview catchup) was a massive help. Showing those visuals of plastic towers, even though they'd seen them all before - somehow that sunk in deeper than the rest. I'm sure my years of moaning have worn them down.....

And you know. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how or why, what matters is they're now ok with me saying no. They now agree. And don't feel denied of all the things "normal" kids get. They've stopped asking for certain things. They know I'll say no, and they don't want them any more anyway.

As a mother, I suppose what I always hope is that my kids will learn the lessons I'm teaching. But I keep being reminded the lessons are learned not by force but gentle reminders, by offering an insight and way forward, while still allowing them to make up their own mind. By being educated but not indoctrinated.

The kids have been asking for corn flakes lately, and one day at the supermarket (when we were shopping for the camping trip that never eventuated) they got to get corn flakes from the supermarket. In plastic packaging, and yes one of those brand names I don't love. I told them I wanted to get it bulk from the health food shop, which they agreed to. Alas our health food shop only has corn flakes that aren't organic and say nothing about being gm-free or not. Their organic ones were in a big plastic bag too.

We can buy organic popping corn bulk, but not corn flakes (maybe I'll have to roll my own!). Anyway - I asked the kids and they were happy to compromise and get something else entirely that was organic and bulk. Part of not feeling deprived about giving up plastic means being happy with compromise. Having the kids be happy with this is a big big step forward.

Last year all Ari kept asking anytime he had some pocket money (thankfully not very often), was to spend it on another Dr Who Pop. Uh-Huh! Those ugly things that mean nothing, plastic trash sitting there looking cheap and made-in-China-ish. I hate them. Earlier this year he decided that he wanted a camera.

He saw the real value in saving his money and not spending it a Pop here a Pop here. Now he has a beautiful second-hand camera and a healthy new habit of learning to be a photographer. And he doesn't want to buy all those trinkety little anymore. (Of course the trinkets for cameras somehow are way more expensive!). {Proud mama moment: you can check out his Instagram account here: A Discovered. Also, even prouder moment - his photo has been selected to be part of this year's Olive Cotton Photographic Competition.}

Anyway - what I was saying is that sometimes when we're trying to get people to join us in a new way of thinking, living, being it can feel hard, and tiring. It can take time. And sometimes we wonder if we should give up. Don't give up. People will follow if you're passionate about it, if you guide them and don't push them.

We're about to start Plastic Free July again officially. And I'm consulting with them on what we should do, how we should keep challenging ourselves, how we can educate others around us without guilting them or creating rifts between relationships. Which can somehow happen around family and shopping / cooking / food. Somehow being plastic free seems a religion on it's own, or opposing political opinions, and creates animosity. But it needed be..... a few simple, yet gentle approaches can help. And also ( as I keep learning in regards to extended family) sometimes you have to let others walk their path while you walk yours.

Are you joining in the Challenge this year? I'd love to know if you are - is this your first year, or is this (like us) a chance to delve deeper and look closer at how you live. What have been your biggest challenges in the past, and what about your biggest wins?

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what does simple living mean to me? and how you can bring it into your life

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum blog simple living

My simple slow life does not look like what I've seen on Instagram or in a Kinfolk magazine. Mostly it's a mundane-ness that just happens and exists, and while extremely beautiful isn't always particularly photographable. But I think we need more of this to show the realness, the rawness, that the messy creates beauty. I thought I'd share some of the things that mean slow & simple to me; perhaps you've been wanting to move towards a simpler way of living but unsure how to move past the busy and messy and overwhelm.

Firstly - simple living doesn't mean white walls and minimalist furniture. It can, but it doesn't have to. Our home is rich and full of patterns and texture and colour, and anything but a minimalist home.

Simple living to me means a mindfulness and a slow way of being. A connection to the rhythms of life and our days, a slowing down of our outside activities. It's about our buying habits and purchases. About our eating and composting and disposing of waste. About our spending time as a family more importantly than wasting time being something that people expect us to be. It's about the things we choose to do instead of the things we feel obliged to do.

Some of The practical things of simple living are:

  • Choosing our purchases wisely, and not buying things just because. Before you buy something new see if you can find it from your local op-shop, buy-swap-&-sell group, ebay, gumtree / craigslist or perhaps your friends or family have one they no longer need. We haven't bought a new toaster for quite a while - I found an excellent and perfectly working toaster on the council throwout pile one day, and when that stopped working we found someone giving away quite an expensive toaster through buy-swap-&-sell facebook group. We've recently purchased 2 kids' beds from this online local group for much much less than the cost of a new bed. Before we buy anything new we make sure it's going to be used regularly and is needed in our home.
  • Clothes shopping is not a weekend hobby. Before we go shopping for any new clothes we make sure there's no hand-me-downs packed away, or hidden extras at the back of the cupboard. And we talk about if we really need it, or we simply think we want it. In our family we don't go clothes shopping because we're bored or killing time or it's our weekend hobby.
  • We make do & reuse. Some of the things that I use over and over again before throwing out might surprise you. For example baking paper - I buy a non-bleached recycled baking paper from the health food shop, perhaps it's a little more expensive than the regular bleached trees-cut-down one from the supermarket. But I use it over and over again for my baking until it's no good any more. Then it goes in the compost. I don't ever buy plastic wrap - these beeswax wraps are great to use or metal containers that can be used over and over again - or if for some random and rare reason plastic wrap comes into our home we fold it up and use it again. Once my daughter brought home a paper bag she'd had popcorn in from school canteen for us to re-use : that made me smile big time! I make washcloths for the kitchen myself either by crocheting the cloths or cutting up old worn out towels / tea towels.
  • We stay home. For me the best weekend plans are no plans. Staying home and working in the garden or pottering about in my studio will pretty much out weigh a whole lot of activities that many people seem to do all weekend long. I'm happiest being slow and quiet. Friends or family for lunch or a picnic by the beach is often less stressful and more fun than going to a cafe.
  • We spend less money. Means we work less. I love that balance. We've chosen to work less hours so we can spend more time with our children or working on our art practice. Things we don't buy very often - magazines, new books, dinner & the movies, clothes, weekly flowers, new jewellery, cushions, ornaments & trinkets.
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Part of the journey of simple living is realising that it's not always simple. Sometimes it's tricky and you have to walk a fine line of wants & needs - especially with children. But when we come back the mindfulness of our Self I realise again and again where I want to be putting my money, my time, my thoughts. I want to actively choose how I spend my days - and you can too.

Ways for you to start a simple living journey:

  • Say yes to the things that bring you joy. Say no to the things that society (magazines, social media, your colleagues or family or school friends) tell you you should be doing.
  • Re-think the way you re-use what you have. Simple living means carrying a bottle of water with you everywhere you go and a re-usable coffee cup rather than buying & throwing away that plastic every day. Simple living means taking your own shopping bags rather than using plastic bags. These things take a bit of getting used to; re-wiring your brain and being a little bit more organised, but it won't take long if you're eager to make the switch.
  • Stop buying things! Yep - I mean it. Try a week without buying anything except food and transport needs. No magazines, no takeaway coffee, no pretty little scarf that you just needed to have. Just try for one week and see how that feels. You don't need to quit buying everything, but this might reset the way you think about what you do buy.
  • Stay home for one day this weekend. Give is a go. The kids might complain that they're bored, you might start to get a bit itching that you need to go something. JUST DON'T. Don't get in the car, don't walk down the street. Just see what it's like not doing anything much at all. That's part of my simple living.
  • Go to a farmers market for your weekly vege shopping. It's much more enjoyable than the supermarket, often cheaper because things are in season & local and also because you're not swayed to buy all the other things at the checkouts. It's less stressful and more mindful. And you could even manage a pretty sweet Instagram snap from a farmers market visit!
  • Cook more food from scratch -but with simple ingredients. Try using no cans or packets (less packaging and less cost), or minimise what you do use. I'll be sharing our delicious humous recipe in a few days - I make it from dried chickpeas no plastic in sight, yet it's an enjoyable process that doesn't take too long. Simple cooking is about wholesome meals, cooked with love, but they don't need to take up all your day to create them.

I'd love to hear how your simple living journey is going. You can read more here on my slow simple living posts.

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slow & simple Christmas traditions : hand stitched Christmas stockings

Motherhood, Craft Tutorials, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment
Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9333.JPG

Part of my slow & simple seasonal Christmas was to make some new traditions. Or more like - redefine and place more ritual around them. Something like that. With my little one now big enough to understand all the Christmas magic, the big kids have been talking to him about a lot of how it all works. And we're bringing it into our everyday for these weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided to do away with the pillowcases and make some hand stitched stockings for the kids - hopefully next year we'll be able to find them to keep the traditions going!

I must admit I did take a little longer to come around to the Christmas magic this year, but then with a few twinkle lights in our life, and going out together to collect a tree (really it's a fallen branch, with no leaves filled with our special decorations). The kids made treats to gift their friends - which I much prefer than just buying a packet of candy canes, I must admit. It makes me happy seeing them in the kitchen baking for other people, and then packaging it all up and writing notes to everyone.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9023.JPG

So, this week I pulled out some felt fabric scraps and some strands of embroidery thread, and sat down to stitch the stockings for my three babies. I thought it would take a whole lot longer, but I kept it simple and these only took a few hours - with many get-up to see what Little One wants to read, eat, play, do, show me….. My girl is on holidays already, so she sat beside me and stitched her own; which made me immensely happy. Because really Christmas isn't about stockings, or things, it's about the creating of those things, the time spent together, talking while you're making, thinking about the joy of reaching your hand inside on Christmas morning. Hanging them up along a beach-found branch. And nibbling on chocolates while you're doing it. That's why I love using felt. These are actually made with some organic cotton quilt batting I had little scraps of. It's soft like lambs wool, but perfectly easy to sew and won't fray. Felt, old blankets, anything like that is great for kids to do their own stitching with, because you don't need to worry about the edges fraying, so you can simply sew the sides together. And is it's a little bit wonky, and some stitches go astray it doesn't matter. One day in 3, or 5 or 10 years you'll look at those stitches with the biggest smile and a pang in your heart.

Ellie Beck Petalplum web size Christmas traditions tutorialIMG_9332.JPG

Make your own HandStitched Christmas Stockings:

You'll need: 

  • Felt or an old blanket

  • A needle not too small, not too big

  • Embroidery thread in assorted colours

  • Ribbon or string or wool to make a hanging loop

  • A scrap of other fabric - we had some bird fabric, you could use flowers, Christmas trees, or even hand embroider whatever shapes you want. Stars, snowflakes...

What to do:

Draw the shape of your 'boot' on scrap paper - make it bigger than you think, because a) the edges take up seam allowance, & b) more space for Santa's gifts!

Trace the pattern piece onto your felt and cut out two pieces. It doesn't matter with felt which side is the outside/right side and which side is the inside/wrong side, but if you're using something with an obvious outside/inside then make sure that you place the two layers together when cutting, with the wrong side facing each other.

With a light pencil draw the child's initial on the front side of the stocking - if you have space their whole name can be lovely too. I'm working with simple and finished before Christmas! Using whatever stitch you like - mine is a simple running stitch - hand stitch the name letter. Fancy lettering is pretty. Have you seen this amazing stitched alphabet? Again, I'm working on a time-frame + toddler-time… so simple letters still look beautiful and work well.

Cut out and stitch on the design. I used running stitch that you can see, but you could also stitch it on with a hidden stitch. Once you've added all the decorations you want to the outside pieces, lay the front and back pieces together and pin. Then blanket stitch around the whole edge. Make sure you stitch in the loop as you're going. Maybe a few extra stitches on that part to make sure it doesn't come out when the kids are enthusiastically pulling at their stockings!

Now - put on some twinkle lights, light some candles and hang those pretty stockings up ready for Santa. We leave home baked biscuits, some milk for Santa (who am I kidding, Santa gets beer in our home!), and of course some carrots for those hard-working reindeers who need as much energy as we can all give them!

foundling ~ conversations with fashion

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

I first stumbled upon foundling in the way we do nowadays on internet land & Instagram… following lovely trails here and there, and coming across beautiful places to stop for a while. Whenever I find something that catches my eye, I often screen-snap (you can't tell me I'm the only one!), but then I delve deeper into finding out a little more about it. I love to discover and connect and seek more than just the one picture on Instagram. When I first saw foundling, the face they were locals to me was even more interesting because I love to check out the amazing talent in our Northern Rivers region.

I had a little chat with Kim, one half of the sister duo, and love the way their lifestyle and upbringing shows in their clothing. The fact the cuts and fabrics are trans-seasonal fits well within my fashion ethos of wearing clothing for many years. These pieces are designed and made to outlast and become a vintage item in your wardrobe - which sounds pretty good to me! I am totally drooling over all their pieces - I love my long kimono and wear it numerous times a week (eeekkkk I just noticed it's on sale too!), but am also coveting this indigo tiered skirt, this maxi dress, martinique button down maxi dress (great for breastfeeding), and I wonder if the kids would let me lounge if I wore the lounge pants!

Can you tell me why you started Foundling? Where did the initial ideas come from? My sister and I both have a passion for design and having grown up locally, our favourite styles are often influenced by genuine vintage prints, patterns and cuts.  We felt that what was available in the marketplace had become too disposable, the quality that used to exist in garments was no longer evident in all but the most expensive clothes, which are out of reach for most women.  I guess we believed that we could put our own twist on vintage, with an emphasis on tailoring and manufacturing so that our pieces would one day hang alongside the vintage classics.

 You were raised in Byron Bay - hi local peeps! - did your upbringing in this uniquely beautiful place have an influence on your business and your designs?
We actually grew up in a few places ranging from Oberon near the blue mountains, a fairly remote part of New Guinea and then Lismore where we were schooled, which at the time was very alternative and yes, it most definitely influenced the designs and patterns that we gravitate towards.  We also spent alot of time (and now live & work) in Byron, so the surf culture must have been influential as well, the combination of which has resulted in a pretty laid back take on vintage, a love for loungewear and pieces that are perfect for this type of climate.  I think lots of our customers buy their holiday wardrobes from foundling as the fabrics and cuts are just perfect for travel and beach destinations.
You talk about being beautiful on the inside as well as the outside - tell me what this means to you, and to the Foundling business, and how does this affect your business practices?
We are both mothers of children who range from 7 years old to 14 years old and the thought of sweatshop labour is abhorrent to us.  So when we started the label, we spent a bit of time investigating where we could manufacture our range safe in the knowledge that the process would be ethical, hence our enlisting a sedex accredited facility in India.  India was also our choice because of their long and beautiful history with textiles, its a country that celebrates the art of attire, pattern and colour.  Our factory is a family run business with a long history in the industry - interestingly, three years in to our partnership with them, we are now their longest standing client, albeit we are still their smallest by quite a big margin.  Fashion labels dont generally develop long standing relationships with their manufacturers because they shop the business around based on pricing, but we are very committed to growing a relationship and we know that we get the very best from our supplier rather than haggling over small amounts which ultimately results in the manufacturer trying to cut corners.
We also sponsor a number of children in developing countries including Syria and Cambodia.
Can you share a little more about the ethics of Foundling? Why was it so important for you to create a label that cares as much about the environment as the people making the pieces? Was this hard to set up, or to continue working with? Or have you found it easier with time?
I have to be honest and say that we haven't focussed on environmentally accredited fabrics, albeit this is something we are trying to explore with our manufacturers.  The difficulty we find is that manufacturing ethically naturally comes at a higher cost, a cost which is difficult to amortise over a relatively small production run.  If we then add organic certified materials, the price point will become prohibitive however as the label grows and we can invest in larger production runs, that will definitely change. 
Where do you find your design inspiration? You visit India often, this must be an amazing source of ideas, colour, patterns - do you soak it all in and design when you get back to the relative tranquility of Byron Bay or do you sketch and design wherever you are?
The inspiration seems to come from all over the place, one of our prints for Summer for example was inspired by a very old batik remnant a friend used as a tablecloth, whilst another came about after we both read a book about colonial life in the tea stations ofIndia called 'coronation talkies'(which was a great book BTW).  Not long after, I visited the tea stations whilst holidaying in Sri Lanka then together my sister ('Lee') and I talked about how the pattern should look and what colours would feature.  Lee is a classically trained illustrator so she then brings the idea to life so that we can brief our team in India.  However India is definitely an ongoing source of inspiration - they have a seemingly haphazard use of colour that just works every time. Every time I stroll through markets, you can't help but be inspired. That often manifests itself in styles like our Namaste pyjamas which is our own block print inspired man-style lounge set, with a pop of neon to give it our own twist.  I also absolutely love their traditional jewellery and we often stop and ask people if we can photograph it so we can replicate the design with our jeweller in Udaipur. 
What's it like working together as sisters - any tips on collaborating and working with family?
We have pretty much always worked together with the exception of a time when I was working overseas.  I used to work in advertising management and often worked alongside Lee who was at the time, an art director. When I later relocated to Byron and we spoke about 'foundling' as a concept, she not long after bought a house in my street...so our kids play together every day and we work together every day.  Of course its not always plain sailing, when we travel we argue over the temperature of the air conditioning or who gets the window seat...nothing insurmountable.
What's your favourite piece in your current collection - why?
I have to say our St Malo lounge set because I wear them every night (I have a few pairs on rotation) and without fail, they make me happy every time I climb into them after a shower.  I guess when you wear something so much, it has to be a favourite but aside from that, I love my quilted hippy bindi blouse because its my go-to with jeans and I love the classic print and colourway. 
Anything else you'd like to share with the Petalplum readers about your special brand? Yes, I think lots of people who choose foundling wouldn't realise that what they are buying is pretty unique.  Our print or embroidery runs are sometimes as small as only 100 garments total worldwide, which is probably about one tenth the size of even small australian labels, so if you like unique, we'd love you to check out our site foundling.
*all images used with thanks to foundling, from their website & cookbooks. I was gifted some beautiful items of clothing to wear, but this post is written with full love for the foundling brand & clothing range.

a slow & simple seasonal Christmas - how to tips

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck3 Comments

  ideas on Slow & Simple Seasonal

With "the big day" less than a month away, I'm seeing a whole lot of Christmassy fuss on Instagram. I must admit, my social media circles are very lovely and probably don't even represent the full craziness of the modern world. Which scares me even more. I used to work in retail, and it horrified me the amount of money people spent on stupid things; things they neither needed nor actually wanted, much less couldn't actually afford; but there's this perception that a certain amount of money and certain size & quantity of gifts equates love. I'm more interested in letting my children know I love them by spending my time with them……. but I get the feeling that's not the norm in our societies.

If you're wondering how to bring some simple slow living ideals into your Christmas month day, I thought I'd share some of ours.

Make the opening of gifts a special time - As a child, each year our parents would gift us meaningful thoughtful items - a new beautiful outfit (not Christmas themed, but something to last for years and years), a book or some music, and one-or-two other special things. Our gifts were always wrapped amazingly - we would save the paper each year, and re-use it again and again and again. I can probably find some wrapping paper at my dad's house from my childhood days. Us kids loved the specialness of wrapping as much as my parents did; my dad is quite the expert at not needing to use sticky tape (which means your paper doesn't get torn). Christmas morning was a time for special togetherness, not tearing paper from plastic toys the second we woke up. We'd wait for everyone to wake up, make fruit salad and coffee, and then gather around our potted plant tree and open gifts one by one by one. This is what I love doing with my children now; reminding them that the giving of gifts is as special and magical and the receiving of gifts. Watching the person's face as they open the present you've made or thoughtfully purchased for them. Not intent on tearing your own gift apart and not caring what anyone else is doing.

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Talk about what giving gifts means, have an open conversation with your children - We are open with our kids about the cost of Christmas, how much all the gifts cost financially to our pockets as well as to our Earth. If they want a certain something that doesn't fit within my ideals of what I want to see in our home, or spend our money on; we talk about it. Do they really need it, or want it. Why do they want it? Will it last, or break in a short while? What can they maybe have instead? Without denying our children all the joys of childhood, we guide them sometimes gently, sometimes a little more emotionally, towards a different way of thinking. This is harder some years, easier other years depending on their ages, their friends, what their list is…. I go over my own way of parenting again and again each year, making compromises and asking them to make compromises. Our ideals don't always overlap, but we work through it. Begin now with smaller children how you want to continue = they won't build the expectations of large expensive gifts if they haven't been raised that way. Remember, that spending time on your children shows love in different ways than spending money. Money is time - choose where you want to spend your time.

Encourage home made gifts within your extended family, or request certain gifts - In a lot of the online forums, and social media groups I'm part of one of the biggest challenges to slow simple living can be extended family and friends. They look at us and shake their heads, pondering why we're denying our children all the good toys, and make up for what we don't give our children, by over-gifting. My advice is to be clear and honest, but also understand that we're all living different journeys. Sometimes emailing or texting in advance about your gift wishes helps rather than having to talk in person. Often suggesting an item helps. I've found over the years, friends are keen to fit into your wishes, but sometimes don't know where to start and where to buy, what they could possibly make. Give them clues, hints, ideas or even be very specific and guide them to websites or products. Remember that not everyone has the time or skills to hand craft something, just because you think it's a good idea. Giving enough time for friends and family to look at your options will help immensely, and not they're stressing because you're forcing your ideals on them last minute. Subscriptions to magazines, art centres, museums, etc are great gifts to give and ask for.

Petalplum - Slow & Simple Seasonal Christmas ideas

Keep it simple - seriously, this should be the easy one… but it seems our society loves to complicate and over-do everything. By simple I mean: your Christmas tree. Truly a tree made from a fallen branch decorated with children's home made stars and angels is truly more beautiful than a perfect cut down tree adorned with every single bit of tinsel possible. Let go of copying someone else's Pinterest idea, and let your kids guide you in how to use what they have to create something beautiful. Toilet paper rolls do really make fabulous tree decorations!

Learn to say no over the coming month. Don't take on having to cook or bake for someone else if you truly don't want to do it. It's ok to say no, with a smile and no guilt. When friends visit you, they really are coming to spend time with you. Make your home beautiful, and your food delicious, but pare it back - spending the whole party in the kitchen isn't slow or simple; it's stressful and you miss all the meaningful conversations and special times with friends and family. Ask everyone to bring something along, to lighten the cooking, make simpler meals and less of them. Food waste at Christmas time (and all year around in fact) is a massive strain on our environment and our farmers. Australians waste $8-$10billion of food each year, while many people are going hungry. Christmas can be a time to change your ways of wasting food - thinking about slow living every single day, not just when it suits.

Write a list of your priorities - what do you love most about Christmas, how does that make you feel, why do you love that? Include those into your days, but don't worry about having to need other people's over-the-top expectations. Train yourself and your children into wanting a different way of living, but simply starting it. Choose this year to NOT go to any shopping malls. Do gift shopping at local craft markets, or online with indie makers, or make your own gifts. I truly think most of us have more than we need, so making something small and special rather than spending money just because is our way of saying no to the consumerism of Christmas. After having worked at shopping malls for many years, I don't go anywhere near one during the whole Christmas period. To be honest, I don't go to one during the year unless absolutely necessary. That piped Christmas muzac and the tacky cheap decorations are enough to keep me away, let alone the hoards of people carrying plastic shopping bags.

Make new traditions - ask your kids, your partner, your family what they want from your new family Christmas. What would be special to them? While I loved the whole morning of family breakfast and opening gifts with my parents and siblings, that looks different with my kids; but I have made the decision for us to be home each Christmas morning so we can begin our day with the slow quiet magic of Christmas, not the hyped up tear-open-everything that it could be. This does mean we have to drive on Christmas day to be family, but it's important to me (and us) that we have our own traditions and ways of making the season meaningful to my children.

Don't take on guilt & don't give guilt - Oh families and Christmas and any big seasonal times seem to come with stress, heated discussions, fraught tension and a lot of guilt. Learn to not take it on. Oh, I don't say that lightly at all. It's super hard. But if you think clearly about it, it is a journey you can move towards. Minimising guilt in family situations. I'm not saying be a doormat and let your siblings/in-laws/whoever take over on Christmas Day, but if you don't let it get to you, then they don't have the power over you. Remind yourself it's their deal and not yours…. Walk away and breathe if need be. The streets are often quiet on Christmas Day, so go for a walk and enjoy some time alone away from the stress of family.

Simplify your home - In these coming weeks, the last weeks of school, and the build up to end of year, if you have less mess and piles of need-to-do around your home you'll feel lighter and more carefree. You'll possibly have more time to say yes to taking the kids out for a walk, or standing in the garden watching the moon rise (rather than stressing that the food isn't cooked yet). If our large kitchen bench is piled up with things I wake up every morning feeling tight and wound up - when I remove the mess, and keep it clean I have a lighter head, and more likely to be a happier person to be around.

Don't buy into the consumerism, but don't be the Grinch - You can have a beautiful balance of the joys of Christmas, without the need to spend a fortune, or be the opposite and not spend anything. It's ok to find the balance that suits you and your family. Having an Advent Calendar filled with chocolates isn't the end of the world, buying a Barbie doll won't destroy your daughter's feminist ways, and the rest of us won't look at you with disdain. Take small steps towards the way to want to live, but do it with meaning and truth for yourself, not to be living a hashtag. But step back sometimes and remember to prioritise what you want. i.e. - don't go to the supermarket with hungry children because they're always going to ask you for things, and you're always going to be worn down to buying it. Be gentle with yourself, plan and prepare in advance. Start now, rather than a week before Christmas.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas. This is just a few from me. I think everyday we can make small changes, but also everyday we have to remember to be gentle with ourselves and not guilt too much that we've made mistakes.

Petalplum - SLow & simple seasonal Christmas Ideas

always seeking simplicity

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie Beck1 Comment
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Life has been crazy lately. I know I keep saying, or at least I feel like I keep saying this. Ahh. It's a whirlwind of all things all the time. All my stupid talk of breathing and slow living and intentional - it seems beyond useless when the everyday reality is doing the school run, spending all morning feeding Bubba at nap time, washing the dishes and then thinking about what food we need takes up all the brain power I have. I have no more space. I'm like those horses you see with blinkered headpieces on, where I can't see beyond my nose, can't think past this single one day's events or activities. How can I plan what I'm doing next week when I barely even get through one whole day with any focus or thought power left over.

Coming up to these last weeks of school, and the lead up to what ends up being the busy hectic stressful time of year I'm re-thinking lots of things. How my days drift away, pulled mostly by a 2yr old who just wants to play and explore, and have his mama by his side at all times. How it seems I'm in the car more often than not, driving here and there for different events or reasons that I can't barely fathom fit into what I thought I wanted. Not in a bad way, just in the way that you end up tumbling down a different path than planned or even vaguely thought about.

I know a lot of this currently has to do with be mentally and physically exhausted, breastfeeding full time takes so much out of my body. All day all night. He's not drinking as much during the night, but he's still there right beside me asking for me, holding on and needing me 24hrs a day. I know that'll all change soon enough and things slip into a different version of how the new is.

But until then - I'm working out ways to save my sanity, and to make sure I actually get my to-do list in a rational manner, not rushing to deadlines constantly and screaming at my kids because the house is always a mess. Usually I try to do everything all the time; half an hour on the computer while Sam drops the kids at school (and has Bubba in the car with him), or a few minutes here and there while River tries to drag me away… neither of which leads to real thought-processes. Fitting creating work into moments around family.. while sipping coffee before the school rush, or while River is playing for 3 minutes on his own, or in the car while we're driving somewhere. None of this leads to real dedicated creative artistic practice. It's excellent for getting my craft on - oh golly yes, so good to work within the family days… but in terms of artistic personal development it doesn't leave much room.

How do you do it? How do you make it work, fit it all in? Squeeze the extra moments out of the days?

Here's how I'm going to try:

  • Set regular days for regular activities - i.e. every Monday is home-duties day
  • Narrow down what I work on each week, set structure for my creativeness where I flip and change each moment / each day what I'm working on. One thing per week. Will that work for me and my multipotentialite personality? Probably not. Maybe let's say one 'project' each week.
  • Schedule days without the children - a whole day just to myself. To not have to make breakfast, or scurry them out the door, not have to make dinner or think about the time all day long.
  • Spend 15 minutes each evening writing my thoughts on the day and my list for the next day.
  • Work on simplifying the house and the daily mess that seems to build up.
  • Go with the flow….. I must admit I'm fairly good at this generally, but at certain times when I've got lots on my mind it becomes harder - but last week after my daughter's circus class during the weekday we decided a picnic dinner by the river was just what we all needed. Saying "yes" to the right things is sometimes so simple and I forget that.

It's an always journey, I think/feel - there's not final destination… the more simple we become in our daily life the more I long for, aim for, wish for. To bring it down right to the bare minimum of nothing - but is that possible if I'm also actively part of society and those complications (family, friends, school, money…..).

Tell me, if you will - what are you doing to tread your simple path…. how do you navigate the complicated challenging times, the 'unsimple' parts of life…. ??

live with intention by Petalplum :: on simplicity

Gathered Treasures : Forest Finds

Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

I've been making photos of some of the treasures I gather up around our forest home. I'm enjoying doing this a lot. Taking the pieces from the scattered forest floor, where they often times get lost amongst the brown of leaf litter. And putting them against a white background. Showing off these simple moments in a new environment. I've been sharing them on Instagram, but thought some of your who don't play over there might like to see them too.

I have been finding more feathers over the past few months than ever before. Gathering up their soft fluttery-ness makes my heart soar and my head sigh. They have come from all sorts of birds - emerald forest pigeon, white cockatoo, moor hen, lorikeets, parrots and more...

What treasures have you been finding and enjoying lately?

Ode to my library

Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

Dear local library, Thank you for your shelves of cookbooks to ooogle over, thank you for your art & reference sections to help with my kids' school assignments, thank you for your '90s & '00s daggy craft book (oh some of them are the best ever, for real!), and thank you for ordering in the modern crafty books I spot on Instagram (so I can borrow them 20 times in a row).

Thank you for having a semi-decent dvd selection, so we can have 3 whole weeks to watch all the bad drama and action movies we want. Thank you for having an excellent kids section, and sticking with th Dewy-Deci system so my kids can learn how to find their own books. And for having friendly librarians who talk to my kids like the intelligent interesting they are.

And dear library, thank you for having strong and solid shelves, for my toddler to climb onto. And for your lovely staff to turn a blind eye to his antics - shelf climbing, pulling dvds from shelves & re-sorting them, throwing all the stuffed toys from the play section around and lining the chairs up in a row across the walkway. And for not ever once shushing us.

Sweet lovely library, looking out over the fishpond (will the turtles come back soon we wonder), from my childhood. Thank you for updating yet staying nostalgically as special as I remember. And thank you for wiping out overdue fees when you see how flustered I am that books got lost under the kids' beds again.

Dear library. I really do love you! And I love that if I can't make it in to borrow books for my voracious book-eating children, we can borrow them on audio for free as well. Have you discovered talking books? I seriously didn't believe my kids when they first told me how good BorrowBox was - perhaps I should read more parenting books that will remind me kids know lots of excellent and great stuff, and listen to them more!

Do you library visit? What's your favourite current read? I've just built a bedside table from my favourite tomes - hopefully there's no overdue library books hiding in there!

Skinmade - natural beauty care (& a discount).

Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

A few years ago I was introduced, via Instagram, to a beautiful and local-to-me skin care small business, Skinmade. I've been loving using their organic and natural products each day. These are products made with thought, intention, care and a commitment to bettering the environment as well our skin. The simple packaging appeals to me - I don't need (or want) excess packaging or gimiky products, I prefer to use products that have pure simple ingredients and are easy to add to my daily routine.

My boy has also been using the oat & lemon myrtle scrub, which you combine with the castile & lemongrass cleanser to create a gentle yet very effective and lovely to use face cleaner. His skin (and mine as well) looks and feels so soft afterwards. I can't decide which moisturiser I like best - I'm using the rosehip & cucumber serum for refreshing daytime use, and the vitamin E & balsam as a night time cream. Both are nice and rich, yet not heavy - which is perfect for the coming Summer.

When I was younger a friend of my mum's started a skincare range, and my sister and I helped her sell it. We learnt a little about the products and the ingredients, and got to enjoy using beautifully made natural skincare. Finding Skinmade has been a wonderful way for me to use something that fits within my lifestyle and environmental ethics, while supporting a local business as well. It's important to do each little thing we can in our regular purchases to make differences in our environment, our economy and our personal welfare. Choosing a skincare company who doesn't test on animals, uses organic and local ingredients and makes a conscious decision to support the environment in their manufacture and packaging is an easy way to make such a change. Next time you go to the department store to purchase your new moisturiser and a million cleansers and such, have a think about the what you are actually putting on your skin, where and how it's made, and what happens with the excess packaging afterwards (Skinmade has a fabulous program where you can return your glass bottles for reuse - just another way they are actively committed to environmental consciousness).

I asked Claire and Genevieve to share a little about their beautiful products and their business. They've also shared a 10% discount code (find it at the end of the questions) so that you can try out their range yourself - you'll find their products very reasonable before the discount, so this is an added incentive! And make sure you add one of their super soft bamboo facecloths to your order.

Why did you start Skinmade?  

After having children it really opened our eyes to what we were using on our skin - especially our babies skin. (Did you know that a leading brand of baby oil has only two ingredients: mineral oil and fragrance. Mineral oil coats your skin like glad wrap so it can’t release toxins. It also interferes with the skin’s natural immunity barrier. And unspecified fragrance is usually synthetic which can cause major skin irritation and even cause dizziness. It horrifies me to think we lather this on our new born babies).

So we started Skinmade - making up our own plant-based oil blends using recipes passed down from our mother in-law. We felt like there was a gap in the market for affordable, good quality, plant-based skincare. There is no shortage on the market, but most if it is very expensive.

What makes it special?  

We use really good quality, mostly organic, plant-based ingredients, subtle earthy scents - nothing overpowering and we keep our products as simple as possible. They feel really clean and light on the skin so they can be used by the whole family.

What's your favourite product and why? Claire: I have fair, dry skin so my favourite product is the Vitamin E + Balsam cream. Sometimes when I run out(yes that sounds crazy as I am the maker) I will use pure rose hip oil until I make a new batch. When I get finally get my hands on a new jar my skin feels so supple and nourished.

Genevieve: My favorite product is the castile and lemongrass CLEANSER.  I have normal kind of skin that can get a bit oily at times.  This cleanser feels so nice and gentle and the smell of it is very fresh and light.  I use it with an organic bamboo face cloth and the scrub.  It was very hard to formulate this product as there is nothing natural that foams, except organic liquid castile soap, which is what makes this cleanser so special.

Tell us a little about the making process, and what you love about the ingredients you use. We spent a lot of time with a local naturopath learning about oils and herbs, and perfecting emulsification etc. I think for both of us two of the most exciting parts of making skincare is seeing the cream emulsify. It really is amazing. And secondly when we come up with new essential oil blends. Our first priority is to make a product that is 100% natural, second is to make a product that is nourishing, healing, and rejuvenating. Affordability to our customers is really important to us, so you won’t see us using exotic ingredients such as gemstone crystals from brazil, caviar or snake venom. Instead we use the highest quality ingredients that are more sustainable and readily availablesuch as jojoba, rose hip, essential oils, shea/coco butter, vitamin e and aloe vera. We source organic and local where possible.
How do you work together - what are your roles in your partnership? We mostly do everything together. At the moment Genevieve is pregnant so Claire has taken over making the product and Genevieve looks after ordering, shipping, online enquiries etc. I think we really compliment each other in our business partnership. We both bring unique skills and ideas to skinmade, and when one is having a busy week with family or work commitments the other steps in and picks up the slack. We have a good laugh when we are together.
What are the challenges of having a small handcrafted skin care business?
We both have busy families and work part time, so it is often a challenge to find time.  One of our biggest challenges is getting skinmade out there.  Once people try it, they love our products for life, so we are constantly thinking up ways to promote the brand and reach as many people as possible.

Skinmade has been around for just over a year now, how are things going? What are your plans for the future of your business? We hope to grow the skincare range to cater for more skin types and also develop a range of natural remedies for children such as a breath easyessential oil mix, chest rub, natural insect repellant and, head lice repellant. We are very committed to minimizing waste and are working behind the scenes on developing 100% compostable packaging. Our beautiful skin tea range comes in 100% compostable containers, so we aim to extend this across the range.

What's the 'secret' to beautiful skin, in your opinion?
Never believe the marketing ploys from commercial skincare brands about getting rid of your wrinkles or making your pimples disappear over night. The secret to beautiful skin extends well beyond what you put on it. Firstly HEALTH. Good health including diet and exercise… Secondly HAPPINESS. Balance in your life and finding happiness and mental strength. These are the building blocks for beautiful skin. Finally skincare. Your skincare should always be plant-based with no harsh chemicals. It should leave your skin feeling clean and nourished. It should basically be edible.
Why is local and handcrafted so important to you, personally and for your business? Can you share with us some other local makerswho's work you love? Buying local is reducing environmental impact, creating more local jobs, investing in the community, buying something unique and encouraging local prosperity. But most of all you are buying something from a real person who has made the item with love. 
We have a huge crush on handmade pottery at the moment such as thrownbyjoHarvest ClaySusan SimoniniKanimbla Clay.

We are loving the vege died clothing range from Vege Threads and the up cycled kids range from Alfie Children’s Apparel.

We get weekly veggie boxes from Farmer Foster (Murwillumbah) and make food for our kids from Jude Blereau whole food cookbooks. 

We are saving up for some recycled furniture from Simply Recycled Furniture.  

Anything else you'd like to add, please share ~ We would love for you readers to have the chance to try our skincare. Use the code: petalplum to receive 20% off Skinmade.

Check out the website, and make sure you read the blog with some really interesting (and scary) info about beauty products and ingredients. 

Connect with Skinmade on Facebook

*all images by me, except b&w one of Claire and Genevieve from their website. 

raising global children - guardians of our future

Motherhood, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

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Raising conscious, thoughtful, considerate children can be hard. Raising my children to grow into free-thinking, emotionally aware, environmentally active, socially conscious humans sometimes feels impossible. Sending them out into the world with all my ideals shoved down their throat isn't the answer, but letting them only listen to their teachers or peers isn't the answer either. It's finding a balance of sharing my own ideals and ways of living, while also letting them discover their own ways - their own thoughts, expectations of themselves. Letting them discover their heart-felt way of living in the world.

Guiding them gently is my way. Being clear on who I am, but giving them the space to discover who they are, how they fit in. Education, in my mind, is one of the best ways my children see what's going on in their world, and can choose to be involved or how active they want to be to make changes. But education itself takes time to find the right learning tools, the best resources, the accurate information. Luckily they know that not everything on the internet is the right answer, they know to question things, dig deeper, find more answers, ask another expert. We talk about that a fair bit - how just because it's written (in a book or on the internet) doesn't make it real or right or the only solution. How they have to use their brain and their heart to come to their own conclusions.

Being children of this generation my kids love using online resources to learn. Videos and moving pictures, clicking to the next page, being able to quickly search something else….. THOUGH - Let it be known loud and clear - they love love love reading real paper books, and flipping through a giant resource book (bird books, art books, world maps, etc etc). For us it's finding a balance of real paper books combined with online resources. Our home library shelves simply aren't big enough to be filled with all the everythings they want to learn about, information they want to devour. But sometimes, do you think finding online resources can be hard? Scouring through to find accurate information that's not filled with ugly photos, or strange references, or clickable popup adds.

Recently my lovely online friend Danielle, from Hippie In Disguise, (find her beautiful life here on IG as well as on her blog), told me about a new online project she's been had the pleasure of watching a friend create. And when I saw it I got a bit excited too. I can't wait to see all the future resources that my kids can access. It's called Global Guardian Project, and is a monthly zine / resource guide featuring a different country each month. It focusses on environmental, social and humanitarian aspects inspiring children on how they can become change makers in the world. With stories of local families, ideas for making change in our own families, beautifully stunning photography, recipes, projects and so much more - this is a resource to welcome into your inbox every month.

Global Guardian Project

My kids aren't homeschooled, but my idea of educating my children means that their learning doesn't stop once they leave the classrooms. For me to be able to off them some beautiful resources to educate and inspire them means we can extend their learning while empowering their concept of how they fit into the world, and how small changes they make can have a giant ripple effect.

There's a beautifully inspiring mini-zine about the Oceans, showing the quality of the issues, so you can a sample of what you'll be receiving. The first issue is all about Brazil, and is available for pre-order over here - there's so much excellent information and beautiful photos, as well as inspiring downloadable artprints / projects. Future issues will also have cooking and more art/craft projects as well.

The lovely Global Guardian Project founder, Rebecca, has given me a discount code for you to use to receive 10% off each monthly learning packet - use PETALPLUM to receive the discount. If you subscribe you'll receive a beautiful looking world map posted to your home, so the kids can see exactly the region they're learning about. The first issue is Brazil, and I can't wait to find out more about this colourful vibrant country. {For the whole of Thursday 11th August there's a 20% discount by using my code. So go try it out now.}

*I receive a small affiliate % from your purchase using my discount code. I only ever work with businesses whose ethics and ethos fit within mine, and who I think you, my dear reader, will benefit from. I thank you for supporting these small businesses, and for supporting me in this small way as well.