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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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?

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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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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Disney Fashion for Grownups

I am a long time Disney fan and visiting the theme parks was really a dream come true. When you visit the parks you feel like you’re in a ‘Disney bubble’. In this bubble, you are so emersed in this magical world and there is so much merchandise that you feel like you need to have. A lot of this stuff I didn’t really need as much as I felt like I did in those few magical days (eg. Minnie Ears). However, there are some items that I cherish and are happy I bought.

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Since visiting the Disney parks in Tokyo, Florida and Paris, I am more of a fanatic for the Disney merchandise. At the parks, there are some exclusive items that you can’t get anywhere else, such as Minnie Paris Collection or The Cherry Tree Lane Collection. However, there are some other brands that sell very cool Disney inspired clothing and accessories for adults, that aren’t tacky and still inspires your Peter Pan complex. These are some of my favorite brands with Disney inspired clothing and accessories.

By the way, if you are interested in visiting Disney parks or want to reminisce with me, see my photos and guides for the Disney theme parks here.

 


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Como: panoramic lake views and splendid villas

After staying Milano it was time to go further north to visit my family. On the way, we stopped at the north Italian town of Como. This idyllic town sits on Lake Como and the Swiss-Italian border. The amazing panoramic views of mountains and the lake is a little piece of paradise and is known for its’ rich and famous residents.

I’ve always wanted to visit Como, but for some reason or another never got here while I was living in Milano. Luckily we were able to drive to Como and up through Switzerland to visit my family in Luino, Italy. This took roughly the same amount of time as it would be to drive directly north. So we made a stop for a couple of hours to see the majestic lake and have some lunch.

 


 

Our first impressions of Como was the gorgeous old architecture and bustling narrow streets full of shops and cafes. Nearly every directions you look had a beautiful mountainous backdrop.

 


 

Like every Italian town, there was a beautiful Duomo in the centre of the city. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a very special duomo because it is last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It was built between 1396 to 1770.

 


 

The Lago di Como (Lake Como) is a huge body of water and is the third largest lake in Italy. Many wealthy people have built and resided in homes along the shore of the river, as far back as Roman times. It really is so spectacular to see in person and feels like your looking into a beautiful landscape painting. The lake is actually shaped like a wishbone and the city of Como is situated on the bottom left of the fork shape.

 


 

We continued walking around the Giardini del Tempio Voltiano and up to the Aero Club Como to see new perspectives of the lake. The garden itself is quite beautiful and plush and has many war memorials. If you have the time, you can take a small water plane from the Aero Club and see even more amazing birds eyes views. You can also visit the museum Tempio Voltiano, which is dedicated to the inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta.

 


 

The Passeggiata Villa Olmo is a scenic pedestrian road along the river. This walk will take you past the splendid villas, all the way to neoclassical Villa Olmo. Unfortunately on our visit we were not able to walk all the way to the Villa Olmo, as there was work being done on the grounds and the garden beds were all taken out. I wish the tourist office had mentioned that after they recommended we visit it. I imagine doing a tour of these villas would be amazing, to learn their history and see their interiors.

 


 

After all that walking we were really hungry. So we walked back towards to centre and headed to a hidden gem. L’Ora della Pasta is a small fast-service lunch bar that serves fresh pasta and ready made meals. They use organic and high quality ingredients and offer vegetarian and vegan options. You only need to choose your pasta and sauce and they will whip you up a lovely authentic meal that is reasonably priced and really delicious. We ordered Gnocchi al pesto and Ravioli con mozzarella di bufala.


 

So that was my short visit to Como. I hope you enjoyed revisiting it with me. If you would like to know more about this beautiful town, see Visit Como website for more information.

Pottery Barn Kids eco-friendly finds

I just love hunting for homewares and home decor. I could spend hours looking in showrooms and pinning my favourite furnishings and decor. Since having my daughter I am always on the look out for pretty eco-friendly, organic or non-toxic furnishing and manchester. Brands that carry these lines are usually hard-to-find, expensive or only sell online (imported). Big retailers usually don’t carry these kinds of goods. When I have asked questions about the products they sell I usually get a blank stare and the (imaginary) Australian compliance lines. One big retailer that I have found that carries beautiful interior goods for kids, which offers eco-friendly options is Pottery Barn Kids.

Pottery Barn Kids is part of the American parent company Williams-Sonoma, along with Pottery Barn and West Elm. Over the past few years, they have opened stores across Australia. These three brands are mostly housed in the same locations. Their products vary from reasonably priced to expensive. However, I do find the quality of the furnishings are quite good compared to large Australian retailers and the website gives plenty of information on materials and certification. In saying that there a lot of terrible MDF furniture and a bit of green washing, but if you know what your looking for you can find some great products. I have noticed that many eco-friendly products lines on the American website are not offered in Australia stores. However, I was assured by a store manager that these products will make their way over in time.At the end of this post, you can find the information of different certifications that most of these products carry.

These are some of my favourite eco-friendly finds that are available in store at the moment:

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Bergamo: a medieval marvel

While visiting the Lombardia I wanted to see some of the smaller towns. So off we went to the beautiful medieval town of Bergamo. It is less than an hours drive by car (or train) from Milano, so it’s a perfect day trip outside of the big city. There is also an airport in Bergamo, which is about 20 minutes from the city center.

Bergamo can be divided into two halves, Alta città (upper city) and Bassa città (lower city). The upper city is the older part, which dates back to around 49 BC. They have quite an interesting history and if I could go back (without a toddler) I would do a historical tour. The local cuisine is also amazing, so make sure you arrive hungry.

 

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Milano: amazing food and beautiful architecture

In my last post, you saw some a few of my favourite places in Milano. However, there is so much more to this city. I spent a semester studying at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me on my favourite eats and places to visit.

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