Giving Thanks

Earlier this year, I wanted to take direct action in helping those less fortunate. After some research, I decided to participate in a Build with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is a charity that works with volunteers to build homes for those without one.

The Mekong Big Build starts next week (Please check out my earlier Blog to find out more about this:  and I wanted to highlight some of the people and companies that have contributed towards this wonderful initiative.



When I first sent out the call out to find donors – the first person that responded IMMEDIATELY was Jourdan Younis of Alpin Limited Masdar City (  I was touched by the generosity of Alpin and wanted to share with you a little about this company and its founder.

Alpin Limited are a provider of sustainable green building consultancy services headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi ( They’ve worked on a number of impressive projects in the UAE and the US with rating tools such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the Pearl Rating System for Estidama.

What I have since found out about Jourdan is that he has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for the past 10 years as a volunteer himself travelling across North America building homes for the disadvantaged. Therefore for Alpin, they have a personal connection to this Build.

Alpin believes not just in sustainability consultancy, but also in giving directly back to the global community either through  financial donations or by encouraging its employees to offer their technical skills as a gift to those in need. We wish Elham all the best on her charitable adventure and commend her for truly being a role model for the rest of the team.

I say a BIG thank you to Jourdan and the team at Alpin.

Some of the others that I must thank are:

Holley Chant: Holley is an award winning sustainability professional and close personal friend. She is an Executive Director at KEO International Consultants, one of the leading sustainability professional service providers in the Middle East.

Thank you also to Treffyn Koreshoff, Fakhereh Veshkini, Michelle Frey and my husband Tim Brothers!

To find out what the Mekong Big Build is about, check out this clip and all the volunteers and the lives they change:

Gardening lessons learnt

Over the last year I have been growing vegetables. Last summer I enjoyed zucchinis, tomatoes, spinach and all sorts of other goodies. During winter I enjoyed Kale, carrots and snowpeas. So I’ve been looking forward all winter to spring when I can start to plant my summer vegetables. After preparing my vegetable beds and finally adding my compost (which I’ve had ‘brewing’ for many many months), I thought I would grow my seedlings to then plant into the garden beds.
This is when things started to take a downward turn. I feel that as well as sharing my successes, that I have to share my failures too.
I had seen something in my organic gardening magazine about using toilet rolls to plants seeds into. The idea is that once the seeds have grown into seedlings that you could plant the whole thing and that over time the toilet roll would break down.
This idea had me excited. This was a great reuse idea and an upcycling one at that. I could reduce waste to landfill and grow my vegetables organically!
For months I saved toilet rolls and the odd biodegradable takeaway coffee cups. When the time came, I cut each toilet roll in half and created bases for them. I happily planted my seeds into them. I placed them in a sunny spot and watered them regularly. I waited and waited….weeks went by….oooh a corn seedling …..ahh no more…..nothing……seedling died…..hmmmm, nothing grew!

My toilet roll collection
My toilet roll collection

Up to 1 October 249
Up to 1 October 250
Up to 1 October 251
Up to 1 October 253
Up to 1 October 254

I have thought about why this was such a dismal failure. There are a number of potential reasons:
• The rolls were in a very sunny spot – maybe it was too hot. Certainly the soil seemed to be quite dry a lot of the time;
• Spring seems to have skipped Sydney this year altogether and we are straight into very high summer temperatures. Maybe it was too hot for the seedlings to grow;
• My seeds are from last year – maybe they are not so ‘fertile’ as they have been in a cupboard for a year;
• Maybe there were chemicals in the toilet rolls that didn’t allow the seeds to grown.
Perhaps if you are willing to undertake this experiment, I would love to hear how you went.
For now, I decided to plant some seeds directly into the soil. Let’s see how I go….

Making a difference

It is scary how spring like winter felt and how summer like spring is feeling in Sydney. Yes, lots of people are probably enjoying this unseasonally warm weather, and while I’m enjoying it too, I am a little worried.
Many people in the developed world can get by by having access to water and by turning on our air conditioner, but others including our flora and fauna have to manage with these changes somehow.
While a global solution is needed at the government level, I truly believe that individual action can have a big impact.
Here is an article I would like to share, hoping that it inspires you!

September 2013 140

How to entertain during the school holidays on a budget

As I sit here resting after another school holiday day, I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve been doing with my children during these holidays. Usually school holiday time seems to be the perfect opportunity for prices to go up – double or triple. So holidays away always seem to be quite pricey, as do most activities. 

But one thing that I have done for the last two holidays has been cheap and fun. Essentially I take my kids on what I call a ‘treasure hunt’ through the City. I work in the CBD of Sydney, so before the ‘treasure hunt’ I usually scout for some ‘clues’ to help us on the way to funding our treasure.  

The day starts with a bus ride, which for my children is the ‘most fun ever’!  We get to sit on the bus as it goes across the Harbour Bridge and see the Opera House. 

Once in the City, the treasure hunt begins.  I print them off a table with various landmarks and points of interest which I hope to see. Usually I have a route or destination in mind and along the way as we see our ‘clues’ they get a stamp once they’ve spotted the clue.

This time around ‘Art n About’ was on in Sydney, so there were a few more fun things to see like giant snails. My route usually takes me from the bus stop in Wynyard, to Hyde Park where we eat a home packed lunch.  then on the way back to the bus stop we stop at David Jones’ where we go and get chocolate dipped fruit. This is about the only thing I spend on the day and after a few hours of walking, the kids are more than happy to get the bus back home.






This is an idea which I think can work on so many levels. Already I’m thinking of doing this at an art gallery, bushwalk or overseas ‘cultural’ holiday. 

I hope you enjoy your treasure hunt with your children as you point out things that they would have otherwise missed.