Friday 29 November 2013

a green thanksgiving fling

Happy Thanksgiving!

I don't know about you, but I love Thanksgiving. It's definitely my favourite holiday, and one American tradition that I've proudly continued in Australia. (My Aussie friends are so thankful, too.)

Thanksgiving a couple years ago - summertime feasting!

The real beauty of the holiday is that it does not focus on gifts or spending money. It's not exclusionary based on religious choices. It's just a time to get together with those you love to enjoy a feast and express gratitude.

As soon as I sit down and reflect in a state of gratitude, I find my list of thanks is limitless. A wonderful, supportive family. A caring husband. Generous friends. Freedom. Passion. Time to write and explore. A healthy body that can exercise, dance and practice yoga. The ability to travel. Accessible technology that allows me to keep in touch with loved ones around the globe. And so much more!

What are you thankful for this year?

My chalkboard wall at my last home - the perfect
spot for guests to share their gratitude!

Besides 'being thankful,' this day is really about eating. A lot. And watching football. And eating some more. Probably in the form of a cold turkey and cranberry sandwich.

Since it's not a holiday here in Oz, I'm hosting Thanksgiving next weekend. As I plan I'm hoping to make this feast-day as eco as possible. (These tips are probably too late for my American readers, but file these thoughts away for your upcoming Christmas feast, too.)

Organic, free range turkey
I limit how much meat I eat on a day-to-day basis to keep my eco-footprint low. On special days like Thanksgiving, though, I definitely enjoy my meat. For Thanksgiving I ordered an organic, free range turkey - I'm so thankful my local butcher can order this for me! This means the bird has led a healthy, humane life, free from antibiotics, hormones, and unnatural food sources (did you know that over the past 50 years the average domesticated turkey has grown by 12 pounds, causing a number of health concerns? Yikes!).

Look at this lovely scene.

Reduce Packaging
I also limit food packaging in my regular eating routine, and Thanksgiving is no different. I have a lot of fun making things from scratch that 'traditionally' are made with packaged foods (at least in my house!). These days I use fresh green beans in the green bean casserole, fresh pumpkin and homemade dough for pumpkin pie, and fresh sweet potato for candied yams. Making these treasured favourites from fresh ingredients reduces packaging waste, and is healthier, too, because I can limit the salt and sugar I use, and avoid unnecessary preservatives and food colouring.  

My first 'from scratch' pumpkin pie last year.

And of course my Thanksgiving shopping was done with reusable shopping bags.

Vegetarian options
Apart from the turkey, I prefer side dishes to be vegetarian. Historically, Thanksgiving celebrates the pilgrims first harvest with the help of the American Indians (that's the story everyone's sticking with, anyway), so it makes sense to feast upon local, seasonal produce. Keeping all the sides dishes veggo means my vegetarian friends can feast along with us, and we keep our meat eco-footprint just for the big bird.

Reusable dishes, glasses and cutlery
It's quite common during the holidays to succumb to the convenience of disposable plates, glasses and cutlery.  Using 'real' plates and glasses saves waste from going to the landfill and adds an extra sense of occasion. When I don't have enough to go around, I don't break the bank stocking up (definitely not sustainable to buy things just for a one time use!). Instead I assign someone (or a few people!) to bring their dishes/glasses/cutlery instead of a side dish. And occassionally I break out the picnic plates, too.

We can't all have a kitchen this well-stocked.

I'm hoping to end up with some leftovers so I can enjoy a few cold turkey sandwiches. Hopefully I don't wind up with too many leftovers, though.  Did you know that globally, one-third of all food is wasted? Food waste is the largest component of American landfills, and equates to 40% of Australian waste bins.

To cut down on food waste this Thanksgiving, I'll send some plates home with my guests, and look up 'leftovers recipes' to avoid wasting any of the delicious feast.

Homemade stock
After the bird has been carved and I've pulled apart the wishbone with my hubby, I'll be keeping the carcass to make my own stock. 1 Million Women recently posted this very affordable homemade stock recipe that I'll be putting into action - I particularly love that it helps me cut down on waste by using the little 'bits' of veggies that I usually toss. Genius!

Black Friday shopping
Since I'm not in America this year, I can avoid the mayhem of Black Friday shopping altogether. (Though, I have been in America the past two years and successfully avoided shopping centres on both visits.) This is the traditional kick-off to the silly season of spending, with stores promising mad discounts and special deals the day after Thanksgiving. And now it is creeping into Thanksgiving day itself, to the horror of many Americans.

No thank you! And before any Aussies get too judgmental, this is not
dissimilar to the Boxing Day craziness.

I believe that shops would not be open on Thanksgiving, or at ridiculously early hours on Black Friday (hello 4am! May as well stay up all night for that one), if there were not people willing to shop at that time. The stores are not without fault, but shoppers are also to blame, demonstrating time and again our thirst for a bargain. Instead of rushing out to try and get the so-called bargains, I prefer to vote with my wallet by not shopping on those days, and keeping my wallet shut.

If you also choose to keep your wallet closed this weekend, don't fret about the upcoming gift-giving season. I will be coming to you with eco-holiday gift tips in the coming weeks.

Until then . . .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And sending extra special love to my family up north today, missing you all heaps.

Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

a green muesli fling

I don't know about you, but I wake up hungry everyday.

I hear people talk about not being able to eat first thing in the morning and I truly cannot comprehend. As soon as my feet hit the floor, my tummy is asking for food, and most mornings that means a bowl of delicious, homemade muesli.

To be completely honest, my gorgeous hubby usually mixes up our all natural muesli. But he's busier than I am this week, so I took it upon myself to create our latest batch. 

Here's my easy 5-step method to making delicious, organic muesli.

Step 1 - make your shopping list
  • Rolled oats
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds (sliced)
  • Pepitas
  • Coconut (shredded)
Buy as many organic ingredients as possible, and mix it up! This is the recipe this week, but next week may see dates, walnuts and sultanas mixed in with the oats.

I purposely left out amounts of the ingredients because it should all be done to taste. As a guide, the rolled oats by themselves should equal between one-half and two-thirds of your muesli container, and a little goes a long way when it comes to the other ingredients.

Step 2 - visit the Manly Co-op
I am so lucky to live in a neighbourhood with a fabulous organic food co-operative - the Manly Food Co-op - which sells all the ingredients I need for my muesli in bulk bins. 

Those of you who have read my book know that I have a love-hate relationship with Co-op shopping. Since you have to bring your own container to fill, there is a level of organisation I don't naturally posses as it relates to shopping, so it can at times feel like a mission. Luckily for the planet (and my health!), my LOVE of saving so much packaging whilst supporting organic food growers outweighs my organisation frustration, and I'm a Co-op regular.

Bulk grains, legumes, dried fruit and more at the Co-op.

We have been members of the Co-op for a few years, and my hubby volunteers in the shop about once a month, so we get fabulous discounts. If you're a Manly resident (or Sydney resident!) you should definitely check it out.

If you don't have a co-op, the next best thing is a health food store with bulk bins (like Whole Foods or Sprouts for my US readers). If that is not possible, you can buy all the ingredients at your local grocery store; buy in the largest size possible to reduce packaging.

Step 3 - get organised
Gather all your ingredients, your muesli container, a knife, cutting board and mixing spoon.

Step 4 - chop ingredients
Lucky me! This week I only needed to chop the apricots, everything else was already the perfect muesli size.

Don't be alarmed by the colour. These are all-natural dried apricots, with no sulfates or other preservatives to maintain the orange colour. Okay, they are not quite as pretty, but they are just as tasty, and healthier for me, too.

Step 5 - layer and mix
Remove about half the oats and layer in your tasty ingredients.

Don't worry - this container is BPA-free!

Give it all a stir (or put the lid on the container and roll it around a few times), then add the remaining oats and give it another stir or roll.

There you have it - natural, organic, no added salt or sugar, muesli. Enjoy with your favourite milk, or over yogurt and honey, and sprinkle on a little LSA and maybe some cinnamon to get your day off to a great start.


Want to know more ways I live my life sustainably everyday? Keep up with me on Twitter and Instagram for all the bits that don't make it onto the blog.

My instagram while I was shopping!

Friday 15 November 2013

a green gumtree garden fling

Last night I attended opening night of the Gumtree Garden in The Rocks, Sydney (by the way, how amazing are The Rocks?!).

This quirky pop up bar in Kendall Lane, squeezed between Pony Lounge and the Orient Hotel on Argyle St, was created in 48 hours using items found on Gumtree.

I am a massive fan of Gumtree. Australia's free classifieds website makes my sustainable lifestyle so doable. I've bought and sold many items over the years, everything from furniture to surfboards to bicycles, and even found people seeking household compost - so helpful for apartment-living composters with no gardens of their own!

I've spent a fair amount of time on Gumtree this month as I re-settle into Sydney and need to fill my home after selling nearly everything last May. The Gumtree Garden was the perfect excuse for me to raise my glass to an organisation that enables my sustainable lifestyle.

Designer Dana Tomic-Hughes created a whimsical wonderland with Gumtree goodies for the Garden. It is a fabulous showcase of on-trend, secondhand style, and a perfect Sydney summer pop up bar.

Lots of plants, umbrellas, and lampshade-lanterns.
Photo credit Twitter

This photo must've been taken before I arrived, the bar was always crowded!
Photo credit Twitter

Beautifully-styled vintage rooms with comfy seating.
Photo credit Twitter

How great are these chairs?! And gorgeous hydrangeas, too.
Photo credit Twitter

Plants, clocks, vintage furniture - what's not to love?

I spotted a couple rugs like the below one I just bought from EcoChic, they are made of recycled poly bags. I wonder if these were really found on Gumtree? Well done if they were secondhand, but no complaints from me if they weren't used, they are still eco-fabulous.
I'm in love with my yellow Granada rug! 

You can enjoy the Garden today and tomorrow as well - open during the day to all ages, and 18 and over from 5pm onward. Enjoy!

Thursday 7 November 2013

sustainability secondhand style

I've sheepishly approached this keyboard, like a naughty puppy with my tail between my legs, because it's been nearly two months since I've written. Bad blogger!  What can I say? It's been a tumultuous couple of months in my personal life and I'm in the process of re-balancing.

A big part of that balance included moving back to my beloved Sydney, and gosh, she certainly has welcomed me home with open arms! My Aussie family has taken such wonderful care of me and my hubby, the weather has been shining, and sustainability is in the air. In case you missed it, (and who could blame you with your friendly greenie blogger absent from the scene) we just wrapped up Buy Nothing New Month.

I enjoyed two fabulous events that took place during Buy Nothing New Month - the Round She Goes secondhand clothes market and the Garage Sale Trail - and I found a number of secondhand treasures at each. I also had my first visit to the Marrickville Reverse Garbage (I've previously visited the Taylor Square location when recovering my old kitchen chairs, but hadn't made it to the original site).

Round She Goes
This was a perfect morning for me and my best gals to have a bit of fun and reconnect after my hiatus up north. We arrived at Marrickville Town Hall toward the start of the event to make sure we got the best of the fashion, and I'd say it was a huge success for the four of us.  There were at least 5 rows of market stalls ranging from serious vintage collections, to playful op shop wear, to style mavens who wanted to make more room in their wardrobes for next season. I owe a huge thanks to this last group of stylish women for keeping me on trend on a seriously tight budget. I've been living out of the same suitcase for 5 months now, and I was in desperate need of some updates.

Get ready to get some secondhand bargains!
Bargains to be found everywhere.

There were treasures abound in this filled-to-the-brim town hall.

I bought a couple bits from this stylish woman.

Beautiful vintage pieces and styled stalls.
This was my loot from the day - practically new pieces for only $70.

After all the fun we had, you can bet I'll be keeping these fabulous markets on my radar. Round She Goes hosts markets in Melboure and Adelaide as well.

Reverse Garbage
Since I was already in Marrickville for the markets, following brunch I trekked up to Reverse Garbage to see what was on offer that day.

Ahh, the big room, where you're only limited by your imagination. . .

A few lovely finished products.

Garage Sale Trail
This was the Trail's 3rd year, and I'd hazard a guess that it was it's biggest year yet. With an interactive, mobile-friendly website that enabled buyers to see photos of goods up for grabs and plan their trail, garage sale shopping has never been easier.  Many sellers added to the fun by having music, cakes and cookies, too. This was a fabulous community-building event, that happens to do awesome things for the planet, too, by diverting goods from the landfill and preventing new stuff to be made when pre-loved will do the trick.

I spent $62 on all the below goodies - bargain of the day was a $5 cast iron cooking dish that I know retails for over $300. Lucky!

I'm beyond pleased with my Garage Sale Trail treasures!

Did you have better success with Buy Nothing New Month? What's the best secondhand find you've had lately?


Okay. Full disclosure: I did not succeed in buying nothing new during the month. I have an apartment that needs fitting out and some of the items I purchased new. I wish there was a 'day off' pass you could purchase from Buy Nothing New with donations going to some awesome climate fund somewhere to appease my eco-guilt. I know, I know, we can't buy away the world's climate problems . . .