10 Simple ways to get greener: Tip 2# Grow something

Growing your own food and keeping indoor plants is quite rewarding. You nurture a little seedling and eventually, with the right care, it will pay you back in delicious produce or better air quality.

Many years ago I started my own small raised garden bed to grow fruit and vegetables in hope of producing my own organic food. Although I had some successes I also learned that some plants only live for a season and others can attract many exotic bugs that made my garden their home. Probably the most important lesson I learned is how much better my own produce tasted and how easy it can be too grown some staples.

When we bought our home we realised our soil was not the best, so again we set up raised garden beds, garden troughs a variety of potted dwarf fruit trees. Additionally, we added many potted indoor plants to liven up our home.

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Book Review: Disney Lovely Coloring Lesson Book

Besides being a compulsive colourist, I am also a big Disney fan. So my colouring collection wouldn’t be complete without a Disney colouring book. When I visited Disney Paris I didn’t find any colouring books that I really liked. The ones that I saw were more aimed towards children. However, I saw a couple of book reviews of these wonderful Japanese colouring books, which are more for adult colourists.

Disney Lovely Coloring Lesson Book (07/16) is by Japanese illustrator and knitting artist, Inko Kotoriyama. This book is part of a series of Japanese Disney colouring books that include lessons on how to colour the characters and scenes in a variety of styles.

This is actually the first of three books of the series. The other books have very similar names, but the front cover and the line art inside are all unique from each other. The other books in the series are Adult Disney Lovely Painting Lesson Book to the world of dreams (12/16) and Adult Disney Love’s gift Lovely painting lesson book (Full of love scenes) (04/17). Inko had previously illustrated two more Japanese colouring books, which are very different to the Disney themed books. They are Romantic Journey (09/15) and Happy Birthday (02/16).  According to Amazon Japan, she also has another colouring book due this November, called Nice dream of beautiful Coloring ruby with a storyColoring Queen has done fantastic reviews and flip-throughs of all of Inko Kotoriyama’s colouring books, except for the book I am reviewing for you. Her reviews were actually the reason I bought this book. So if your interested in Inko’s books I recommend checking them out on Coloring Queens website or youtube channel.

The book has a soft cover with a dust jacket. The cover art is an evening scene of Mickey and Minnie, which is included in the book with tips on how to colour it. The back of the book gives you some examples of the kinds of lessons you will find in the book.

Once you get inside the book you will find examples of three chapters layout and recommended colouring material. The book is in Japanese, but it does show photos of the materials, which are Faber-Castell Classic Watercolor pencils 24 set, Faber-Castell Studio Oil Pastels 24 set, Black fine liners; white, gold and silver Uniball Signo gel pens, and Tombow Light Touch Eraser. There is also a colour chart for the pencils, which include the pencil numbers.

 

The book is then split up into three chapters. In Chapter one there are simple little lessons on how to colour the some of the Disney characters. You are invited to try to colour them using detailed Japanese instructions. These images are not reused later in the book. They are great to get a feel for how to colour the characters and the kind of colours and shading you will need to do to bring them to life. Although this is all written in Japanese, except for the pencil numbers, they are pretty self-explanatory. Chapter two gives you tips on how to colour elements that you will find in line art later in the book. These tips also give you the pencil numbers for the Faber-Castell Classic Watercolor pencils. In Chapter three are all the one page and two-page spreads of Disney characters. There are a variety of different styles from classic to more modern imagery. The thickness and the density of the colour of the line really varies. The kind of characters you will find include Mickey and Friends, Snow White and the Evil Queen, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Tinkerbelle, Ariel, Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, Aristocats, Bambi, Nemo and Dory.

When I first got the book I tried to find the similar colours in my Faber-Castell Polychromos. However, it was difficult to figure out some of them, as the colour printing in the book is not accurate.  So the next day I went out and bought the Faber-Castell Classic Watercolor pencils 24 set from Office Works. These pencils are very cheap as they are student grade. The brush that is included is pretty cheap quality, so I prefer to use them with my  Pental Aquash Brushes.

 

 


Here are some of the Lessons that I did in Chapter one. I only did the Mickey and Friends lessons, since I intended on colouring similar pictures in Chapter three. However, there are lessons to colour Belle, Cinderella and more. The first picture below I did with my Faber-Castell Polychromos. The following two were doing with Faber-Castell Watercolour pencils and black fine liner. The paper quality is wonderful and I had no bleed through or shadowing with any of these materials.

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10 Simple ways to get greener: Tip 1# Composting

Over the past few years, we have made many changes in our home to be more eco-friendly. From the kitchen to the bedroom to baby care. I believe it’s important to modify our actions and behaviours so that we can to help the planet and make a healthier environment for everyone. Like our family, you can start making small changes that will have a big impact in the long term for your own health and your footprint on this earth.

I actually started writing this blog post a while ago, however it was getting really long. So I thought I would break it down for you into a series on 10 Simple ways to get greener. The first tip and one of the first changes we made, even before we even moved out of home, was to start Composting.

Composting your vegetable scraps is one of the easiest ways to help the planet and contribute less to landfill. You won’t believe how much less you throw out every week. Those veggie scraps and wastage that we usually throw out are still full of vitamins that can feed bugs, worms and the earth. Even if you don’t use the nutrient-rich compost for your garden, the food will keep breaking down and you can keep adding to it. I’m sure a neighbour or a friend would love to put your dirty gold to good use.

You can buy compost bins at any hardware, gardening or big superstore. There are a few different types of compost bins you can buy or make yourself. These include Enclosed Bins, Rolling Bins, Tumblers, Worm Bins. For more information on these or other alternatives see this article, Compost Bins by Planet Natural Research Center. If you live in an apartment building consider asking your body corporate to invest compost bins for all the tenants.

 

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Most compost bins are really easy to set up and can be placed in your garden or in an out of sight grass area on your property. If you live in an apartment building consider asking your body corporate to invest compost bins for all the tenants. They are also pretty durable so you won’t be needing to replacing it under normal circumstances.

I first bought an Enclosed Bin from Bunnings when I set up my veggie patch.  However, I had a bit of trouble turning it. Later I bought a Tumbler from Aldi (nearly identical to this Tumbling Composter). This one has two sides, giving time for one side to break down, while we fill the other one. It’s unbelievable how quickly it turns to dust. Initially, I use to keep my scraps in a container on the kitchen bench before depositing them in the compost bin. Now I like to keep them in the fridge so that it doesn’t smell or attract fruit flies and household pests.

You may be wondering what you can and can’t compost. We have had lots of different advice from friends and family on this subject. One person, we know who grew up on a farm recommended composting cooked animal bones, but this one is a no-no.

Below I have listed some of the things you can and cannot compost. If in any doubt a quick google search from reliable websites will give you the answer.

What to add to a Compost Heap

  • Vegetable and food scraps
  • Fallen leaves (in layers)
  • Tea leaves and tea bags
  • Coffee grounds
  • Vacuum cleaner dust
  • Soft stems
  • Dead flowers
  • Old potting mix
  • Used vegetable cooking oil
  • Egg shells (wash out the yolk)
  • Old newspapers (wet)
  • Grass cuttings in layers
  • Weeds
  • Sawdust (not from treated timber)
  • Wood ash
  • Human and animal hair

What not to add to a Compost Heap

  • Meat and dairy products
  • Diseased plants
  • Metals, plastic, glass
  • Animal manures, human and animal faeces
  • Fat
  • Magazines
  • Large branches
  • Weeds that have seeds or underground stems
  • Bread or cake
  • Bones
  • Sawdust from treated timber
  • Rice
  • Cooking oil
  • Heavily coated or printed paper
  • Used personal products (diapers, tampons)
  • Walnuts

 

Do you compost? What type do you recommend?

Do you see it having a positive impact on your life, your family and the earth?

Derwent Products Review

I recently bought a couple of Derwent products to add to my Adult Colouring Materials, and I thought I would do a little review of them. These include Burnisher and Blender set and Super Point Mini Manual Sharpener. I also have the Derwent Artist Pencils 72 Pack and a Derwent Electric Eraser, which I would like to show you as well.

 

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Walking Giro del Sole

After visiting Santa Caterina del Sasso, my cousin took us to another beautiful site north of Luino. Giro del Sole can be found in the little town of Agra, Varese. It is only a 20-minute drive north from Luino (see map).

Giro del Sole translate to ‘sunshine’. It is the walking trail around the Ronchetti hills, which takes you up to panoramic lookouts. There are two balconies in which you can observe panoramic views of Lago Maggiore. This trail is quite an easy short walk, as it is very low altitude. The path is wide enough to Mountainbike and along the way you can find areas to practise gymnastics. There is a more challenging walking trail in this area, called Giro della Luna, which takes you around the Bedorè hill.

On our way through the forest, we came across many Italian families and older couples leisurely walking together. We only went up to the first lookout and the view was spectacular. From here you can see the Lago Maggiore, as it divides Lombardia from Piemonte and Italy from Switzerland.

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Santa Caterina del Sasso

While visiting with my family in Luino, we visited a beautiful heritage site not too far away. Eremo di Santa Caterina del Sasso is an old Roman Catholic monastery perched on the shore of Lago Maggiore, facing the Gulf of Borromean Islands. It is situated in the municipality of Leggiuno in Varese, Lombardia (see map).  The monastery can be reached a few ways. We took the long winding stairway by foot. However, you can also take an elevator down or by ferry across the Lago Maggiore.

This monastery was founded by a wealthy merchant, Alberto Besozzi in 1170. The story goes that after his boat capsized in a storm he prayed to St Catherine to be saved. He declared that if he was saved he would give all his money to the poor and retire a hermit. After surviving the storm he did, in fact, live in a cave as a hermit. However, when a plague struck in 1195, the local people asked for his help. He agreed to help them in return for their help in building a votive chapel to St Catherine. After his death in 1205, Besozzi was buried near the chapel and people would come there to pray for cures to ailments.

The site was later documented as a hermitage 1301 after people began coming to live there as hermits. By the 1700’s the hermitage went into decline, due to Enlightenment reforms in Lombardia. The foundations of the site also became weak over time. It wasn’t until 1914 that the Italian government deemed it a national monument. However, after major restoration works in the 1970’s  it was not open to the public until 1986.

The site consists of three buildings, the southern convent, the small convent and the main church. This church dates back to the end of the 16th century and is the artistic and spiritual heart of the Hermitage. On the altar-piece, there are scenes of St Catherine with the Virgin and child and St Nicholas with Blessed Alberto Besozzi. Besozzi body is also on display in a glass coffin.

If you are in the area, this site is worth the trip. It is truly a beautiful and spiritual place. It can be quite crowded though, as it is a tourist hotspot. You can visit it alone or do a guided tour, which would give great insight into its history. For more information on directions and opening times, see the official website.

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Wine and Olive Press
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Fresco’s outside on balcony

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Main Church
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Main church
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Alberto Besozzi, Main church
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The Chapter Room (la Sala Capitolare)
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The Chapter Room (la Sala Capitolare)
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The Chapter Room (la Sala Capitolare)
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The Chapter Room (la Sala Capitolare)

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Luino: a little piece of paradise

Luino is a charming northern Italian lake town with an amazing backdrop of blue skies and mountains. Luckily for me, the majority of my family live here. I have visited Luino a few times now and I never tire of it. It’s a very tranquil place and being able to live like an Italian rather than a tourist is also a bonus. Family dinners, leisurely walks and eating with the locals, made my experience so much more authentic.

Luino is in the province of Varese, which is situated on the Lago Maggiore and the Swiss-Italian border. The lake is the second largest in Italy and is separates Luino from the region of Piemonte. The town itself is quite hilly but the lakefront is flat. The town is well-known for its Mercato di Luino (Wednesday market), which attracts Italians, Swiss, Germans and Dutch.

Luino has become quite a popular tourist destination. I have noticed a lot of changes on the lakefront and many new restaurants. I tried a few while I was here and all were very good (see below). Luino is also very close to the border of Switzerland. We usually drive over the border for shopping trips, chocolates and to visit nearby cities. While we here this time we also visited Lugano and Bellinzona and in Switzerland and Eremo di Santa Caterina del Sasso and Giro del sole in Italy. I will share some photos and information in upcoming posts.


 

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Lugano: Swiss-Italian perfection

When I last left you on our European travel adventure we were making our way up to see our family in Luino, Italy. On the way, we made two stops, Como and beautiful Lugano. I have been to Lugano a few times in the past. It is in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland and a very short drive from the Italian border. In fact, most of my Italian family actually work in Switzerland. They are very fortunate to live so close to Switzerland for work opportunities and job security.

The lifestyle in Switzerland is still very different to Italy, despite the common language. The maintenance of the cities and towns is like night and day compared most of Italy. If you get a chance I really recommend stopping in Lugano  The drive is about an hour and a half from Milano. You can also get a highspeed train from Milan. There is a more direct route then we took, but driving through Como roughly takes the same amount of time and is more scenic.


 

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Roasted Potato Salad with Coriander Pesto Aioli

Do you hate coriander (cilantro) or just not that fond of it? I am not crazy about it myself and my partner really hates it. However, there is one way that we love it. When blended into a creamy pesto sauce, the taste transforms into something else.

We love coriander pesto drizzled over roasted potatoes. I usually serve it over roasted kipfler potatoes or roasted sweet potato mash (flesh removed from whole sweet potato).

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Book Review: Coloriage Wild

When I first saw these images of darling little girls with floral head dresses start to pop up in colouring community I knew I had to have this book. I found it they came from the delightful French colouring book Coloriage Wild. Unfortunately, I was unable to get hold of it in Australia. However, if you have been following me recently you know we went to Europe this year and visited Bourdeaux. I was able to purchase this book on Amazon France and have it shipped to my friends, who live there.

Coloriage Wild is by French artist and illustrator Emmanuelle Colin. She was originally an architect, however, her artistic passion led her to become an independent illustrator. She has since illustrated books and her designs have been used for puzzles, games and wall decals. This book is her first colouring book and she just recently published her second book, Coloriage Wild 2.

It includes the fourteen of her sketches from her Wild collection. These drawings have originally been done with graphite on paper and been reproduced in a 20 x 20 cm spiral bound book. The designs have been repeated twice, giving you 28 drawings to colour. The pages thick 250gr paper and all are perforated so they can be easily removed from the book.

The drawings in this book are in grayscale. This was my first time coloring grayscale images and I quite liked it. I did have to be careful not to completely color over the top of the existing shading so I could see where to go in lighter and darker. It did make it a lot easier to know where the shadows and light source are. I found I had to use a lot of care to colour the flora and this took me the longest in all the drawings. However, the skin and hair have been sketched so naturally that it was quite quick and easy to colour these details with realism. If these sketches were not done with grayscale I doubt they would look so realistic and three dimensional for an amateur like myself.

In this book, I decided to experiment with a variety of mediums. I used Prismacolor Premium pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Faber-Castell Water Colour Paints, Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils and Derwent Inktense. Surprisingly, I had very different results. Some materials really were not suited to this paper, while others worked really well. However, depending on your technique you may come to different conclusions. I did find I had to use a lot of layers and a bit of pressure to get a smooth finish on this paper. I also found that my pencils left quite a bit of dust and I had to be careful not to smudge colours all over the paper. Below I detail my experiences with each medium.

In conclusion, I do love and highly recommend Coloriage Wild. The artwork is gorgeous and would be lovely to display in their original form or with colour. The grayscale sketches prompt light and shadows, so even if you are a beginner it would not be difficult to colour. The paper is high quality and allows for many different mediums and experimentation.

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Vegan Tuna Salad: 3 ways

Tuna is something I gave up long ago. I was wanting to avoid BPA, Mercury and was trying to follow a plant-based diet. Fast-forward a few years later and I still remember the delicious taste of tuna but it’s not so tempting anymore. I came up with this recipe a while back I found that it really fixes my tuna craving.

This mock tuna is primarily made with chickpeas and get’s its fishy taste from the umeboshi vinegar and nori. You can enjoy it in a salad, on a sandwich or wrap it in a nori roll.

 

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Books I’m reading (Sept 17)

I go through phases where I become obsessed with one book and I have to read it in every spare moment until it’s finished. Then there are other times I just float between a few books, which I’m doing right now. There’s a few book sitting on my bedside that I’m trying to get through at the moment. So I thought I would share them and tell you why I’m really savoring every page.

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