My sustainable house renovation – Part 3, the build

If you’ve been following my renovation blog, you will have seen that not everything went according to plan! After the shock of seeing my house flattened, the construction process began in earnest. This followed what the house was prior – double brick and mostly to the footprint.

The crazy times certainly continued however. The major events marked this phase of our build:

  • La Nina
  • Supply chain issues
  • Covid lockdown 2.0 in NSW.

I recall asking at the outset about supply chain issues and the impending rain and was scoffed off. Well both came back to bite that’s for sure.

Firstly there was the price and availability of timber. Prices jumped 20% and there were delays. Thankfully my builder did not pass on the extra cost (though he tried) and had pre-ordered the timber, so we had no delays there. I know that this caused big issues for other builders.

Then, just when the walls started to go up again, the torrential rain set in.  The yellow tongue flooring was installed just before the rain and by rain, I mean crazy rain. Over that period we experienced the wettest March on record with widespread flooding. As you can imagine, that does not fill one’s hear with joy.

The result of all that rain was felt later when mould was seen on the underside of the flooring. My protestations to have the flooring replaced was met with scorn. No, my builder said that it was ridiculous to demand such a thing and that they would do a clean up before handing me the key. Well they did clean it up and as a consequence I also became alerted to this being a potential ongoing problem, which is why for an extra $5,000, I installed subfloor ventilation.

To this day, my daughter’s bedroom which was the worst affected still smells mouldy once the rain sets in. No amount of sub-floor ventilation can deal with moisture coming up from the floors. Had I known this, I would have investigated further and installed a membrane to stop moisture coming up from the floors given that my house is timber and on a sloping block. The moisture does come through the timber flooring I believe.

This is not to say that I can’t do this later, but always better to do it as part of the build. Therefore my advice to anyone doing a renovation, be really careful with how moisture is managed and speak to your builder about keeping water from outside out, and from the inside, allowing moisture to escape.

Other things I did to manage this was to have my rangehood in the kitchen and extraction fans from the bathroom and laundry vented directly out. Crazy that I had to insist on this, otherwise it is vented to the roof space to circulate there.

Linked to supply chain issues were my windows. Being on a busy street, I knew early on that I wanted double glazed windows. Through research and related to my work, I also became aware of issues related to thermal bridging () so wanted UPVC windows (being more affordable than other options). I checked out some suppliers and settled on a company which will remain name-less for now.

This became another bone of contention with my builder. He did include in his price aluminium double glazing (though he did spend quite a long time trying to talk me out of double glazing altogether), but I insisted on going with my UPVC option. This effectively meant that I took on all the risk associated with this decision.

As part of our build, the floor was lifted up, which then made all of the window openings needing to be also lifted up. Hence windows, their size and type of opening became an obsession of mine. Despite someone from the company coming out and measuring,  a few late changes meant that there were a few windows I needed to measure myself. Timing of the order and delivery also became something that I needed to coordinate.

Not surprisingly, there was a lag – so the site lay empty – all waiting for the windows to be installed. When they came to be installed, one of the feature windows (a window seat) was not the right size. The window company were good about replacing it and sending the correct one – but again, we hit trouble. The Suez Canal and the blockage which affected the world! The company asked whether I’d like to wait.  By now (April) I thought we were never going to get to lock up stage, so I declined the wait and accepted the window as it was. We added another row of bricks and that seemed to do the trick.

These windows which came from the most economical company that I had costed, still cost me $20,000 more. This was a large sum, but now that I have moved it, they are amazing and I think worth the investment.

By the time the windows went in, we got to lock up stage and the finish line was in sight. We were still living in a very small and grotty rental, so were desperate to leave. The fun part of choosing finishes was about to begin. What could go wrong?

Covid through us all another curve ball and hit Sydney again. We went into lockdown. Again. A strange time when most of the country seemed to be fighting each other, like it was a competition as to who could do lockdown better and who could remain sane under increasingly harsh conditions. Very little sympathy for Sydney folk, particularly from Melbournians who had it really tough I have to say. Still being stuck at home, not being able to go out and see family, all within a small radius of your home with helicopters and police everywhere is no fun for anyone.

This time construction sites were closed, so our site also closed up- this was literally very close to the end, so months of waiting and watching Covid numbers, then the number vaccinated further added to the stress of being back at home working and home-schooling. Again I’ll stress the tiny and grotty rental full of cockroaches and as we discovered mice – in the house – I mean finding mouse poo in the kids beds!

I did the choosing of lots of things including furniture all online. Thankfully earlier in the year to take advantage of the end of year sales, I’d purchased a bunch of things and arranged delivery for the middle of the year. This worked in my favour because supply chain issues continued for many people and are still going on.

Once construction were allowed to go back, it meant no work could really happen because Western Sydney was still in a harsher lockdown and nobody could enter or leave it (strange, strange times…).  All of the trades for me were coming from western Sydney, so I remained impacted. Then there was the fun bit where only vaccinated people could go to work and some of my trades people did not want to be vaccinated. Eventually – we limped across the finish line and by late-September the house was finished and we moved in!

No big parties of course because we weren’t allowed, but a nice feeling to be in a brand new house as it turned out in the end.

I wanted to share this build with you because sustainability was one of my main drivers. My experience was that anything deviating from the regular churn was treated as a big cost and a source of much back and forth with my builder who was not a bad guy, just wanted to get on with it and do what he usually did. It took a lot of insisting for me to get my way. Now what did I get my way and how much did it cost?

  • Abolished gas:  $1,800 to Jemena to abolish the gas connection). Now you can opt in for electric appliances without having to abolish your gas, but I chose to do this. To do so, I contacted my electricity retailer and filled in a request form which had to be approved.
  • Electric heat pump: total cost $4,890 – so about another $2,000 on what I would otherwise install). I chose the Sanden which was the more expensive option, but so far it is amazing and it also has low global warming potential refrigerants and it’s super quiet.
  • UPVC double glazed windows and doors:  total cost, about $44,000 (ALL my windows had to be replaced and I included some large bi-fold type doors too). As I stated about $20,000 more than my builder’s allowance. I went with Integra Windows, but do be careful as their after sale service is not the best. I’m still waiting on a call back (more than two weeks later) for a broken handle.
  • Rainwater tank: $6,770. I was surprised with the cost to be honest, but I needed a concrete slab to be poured and the pump, so it’s quite involved. It’s a 10,000 litre tank which thanks to all this rain fills up in a few days!  I only have it for irrigation because one of my failings amongst the Covid lockdown and busy-ness of life was I missed the opportunity to connect it to the toilets. This would have no doubt cost me even more.
  • Appliances: no specific costs here. I needed new ones, so made sure they were all efficient. I did buy a BOSCH induction cooktop which I am very happy with.
  • Electric vehicle charge point: about $300 – no biggie at all. My builder basically through this in for free. I did need to make sure there is the right wiring with capacity in place, but this was not a major cost. I have no electric car, but hopefully in the next little bit – fingers crossed!
  • Three phase electricity: $3,000. Given that I wanted to put in a lot of solar and to future proof the home, I put in three phase electricity. My meter box needed replacing anyhow, hence taking the opportunity to do this.
  • LED lighting – no extra cost
  • Low VOC paints – no extra cost
  • Water efficient appliances, taps, toilets etc – no extra cost
  • Ceiling fans – $700 extra as I wanted nicer fans than what the allowance in the contract would have allowed

So all in all, I got most of what I wanted,  but for some I had to pay quite a bit extra. While the timing for the renovation was stressful, I am lucky that I completed the works before things got even more crazy on the cost side.

Of course, one is never done. Since moving in, I have a few more updates that to write about which have made my house even more sustainable.

My Sustainable House Renovation: Demolition

We started the design process in earnest in 2017, but due to financial constraints stopped, then picked it up again in 2018. Our initial plan was to go up another storey, but we had a hard budget which meant that after spending many many thousands of dollars on plans and approvals, we had to re-start. It was obvious that the two-storey option was super tight from a financial point of view and we would have had to sacrifice all of our sustainability aspirations. So back to the drawing board (literally) it was.

I spent a long time thinking of what I could do then to maintain as much of the existing home as possible, while reducing the size to help meet budget and environmental goals. With new plans drawn up we went into full gear and looked to lock in dates for construction to begin. But something else happened in early 2020…..a global pandemic hit and we needed to pause. We needed to mentally gather ourselves because going into lock down and living in fear was not the mindset that is conducive to risky big plans. But with the situation in Sydney easing and us sensing some form of ‘normality’, we hit the ‘Go’ button in October 2020.

Moving out was hard work. We had over the years accumulated so much which I was not going to have space for funnily enough. We threw out way more than I was hoping to do, but eventually the house was ready for the builders to move it.

The first step was demolition and this was the first and most important lesson that I learnt about construction.

Bye Bye house. Note some of the 1940’s curved features. There used to be some ‘fancy’ brick work too

I went through painstakingly identifying walls to keep, walls to remove. It was this desire to keep as much of the embodied energy in the home that forced most of the design decisions. Well little was I to know that it meant diddly squat! But before I get to that, the demolition did show up some unique 1940’s features like windows which were hidden behind some joinery and a little nook in the wall for when milk was left by the milkman!

Post-war 1940s window feature

As for the rest of the demolition, well it kept going and going until I came back one day and there was pretty much no house left at all! Imagine my sustainable heart sinking.

Where did my house go?

This is also about when two big variations came in. As I am on a sloping block, the house was built on piers. Most of the brickwork was 80 years old and much of the lime mortar worn down, away or non-existent. So my builder convinced me that this was not on and that I should remove the piers and start again. I eventually gave way also because as there was no house left anymore, it allowed me to slightly alter the location of some walls to make my daughter’s bedroom and the kids’ bathroom slightly bigger.

You would have seen from my wishlist in Part 1 of these posts that avoid, reuse and recycle was really high on the list from a materials and waste point of view. The reality became that much waste was generated and while my builder meticulously separated and recycled, nothing was maintained, nothing was reused. Not that I didn’t try. I gave lists and excel spreadsheets and marked what I wanted to reuse. Things like my solid timber front door, kitchen sink, toilets, taps, showeheads. These items were removed and sat in the front yard, but eventually ended up somewhere too. So this was another lesson – if I wanted to keep stuff, I had to go myself, remove it straight away from the site and store it. I simply assumed the builder would keep  things on site until he needed it again.

It was also just as well that I had mentally let go of a lot of my garden because all of the garden beds around the house were destroyed, so a lot of money and love including a massive frangipani tree ended up in those skip bins too.

 What was I doing while all of this was taking place? I was living 10 minutes away in a pretty grotty small home, though visiting regularly to my builder’s chagrin. I was working (mostly from home because of Covid, and trying to keep on top of spiralling costs)!

With demolition finished within a few months, we moved onto construction. But then something else was been happening in Sydney the last few years – La Nina. Stay tuned for my next post on how that affected things.

The Sustainable House Renovation – Part 1

As I sit here in my renovated home, I am able to enjoy the changes I made to improve the life of my family and I.

To make it our own though we enlisted the help of family. My father in-law who has now passed away was an architect, so he set off coming up with some plans for us.  He came up with many different options. We pored over them from overseas and having never seen the house – but sustainability was always right up in the top of considerations.

This renovation was a long time coming. When we bought this 1940’s post-war house in Lane Cove we always knew we wanted to make changes. The house itself though was solid and had ‘good bones’, so we knew we wanted to renovate rather than knock it down.

We never actually saw the house as we were living overseas (Abu Dhabi) when we bought it.  My mum checked it out though and confirmed it was a ‘good one’. We were lucky at the time that prices has stabilized in Sydney somewhat and we could put in a bid that was successful.

He was able to research and came up with good options for us. Top of my wishlist at the time was solar hot water and keeping as much of the house as possible to reduce waste and embodied carbon.

But when we priced this up, it was out of our budget and reach, so we decided to live in it first when we moved back with our two children. We managed a few updates like a new kitchen, bathroom, laundry, painting, ripping out carpet, rendering and doing a lot of work in the garden. You’ll see all my gardening posts over the years.

But with a third child and growing kids, it was time to think about what came next. I spent some time looking into opportunities to sell and move somewhere quieter, but as anyone that has lived in Sydney the last ten years will tell you – that’s a pipe dream. So after eliminating that option, it came time again to re-look at the plans that we had. We realized that at the time, we were a family of four and are now a family of five, so we needed new plans.

Through a friend’s connection we found a builder who listened to us and brought on an architect he regularly worked with. Again I made sure sustainability was at the top of the wishlist and went so far as to draw up an excel of all my ‘must haves’. I gave this to the architect at the outset who seemed extremely confused and wasn’t sure what to do about my enthusiasm.

So what was I trying to fix with this enthusiasm?

We also installed solar and tried to look into efficiency measures like LED lights. BUT the house was always uncomfortable. We had tiled floors which were absolutely feezing to walk on in winter. The windows leaked like crazy. In fact some had even cracked. One of the rooms clearly had moisture issues. Our gas and electricity bills were always really high, particularly over winter. Needless to say efficiency and good designs was on the top of priorities.

Some of our wishlist items included:

  • Solar
  • Rainwater tank
  • Double glazed windows
  • Efficient showerheads and toilets
  • Low toxicity materials, paints
  • Certified timber and materials
  • Good construction waste management
  • Reused materials and reusing what we demolish as much as possible
  • Keeping as much of the house as possible
  • Disconnecting from gas – so going fully electric
  • Highly insulated (walls, ceiling, floors, roof)

You can see from this list that there is nothing too crazy on this list. My builder though listened politely, but not only saw dollar signs for variations, but also thought I was being kooky!

So there began the journey of not only educating the builder, but of the battle of realise a lot of my vision.

Stay tuned for more blogs as I take you through the year that was which included Covid lockdowns, supply chain issues and many variations.

Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear your stories and share what lessons you learnt.

Plastic Free July


A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending The Climate Reality Project’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps training along with 800 other like-minded people. It was three days of meeting and listening to inspiring people – all with the aim of tackling global heating.

I have always been quite green and have been writing about my journey as an eco-mummy for a few years now.  While I was there though, I met someone who also said they really cared about plastic pollution in the oceans. She said it like she needed to choose which issue was more urgent and pressing and thereby worth her time and dedication. Then it struck me how both issues are so inter-related.

The process of making plastic is quite complex, as I recently discovered when trying to explain it to a group of year 3 students (part of my Climate Reality presentation advocacy). One thing that isn’t so complex though is the base material that goes into making plastic – fossil fuels (crude oil and gas).  It releases many tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere during its production and uses energy too, to manufacture. So all in all a very fossil fuel hungry material.  In fact, plastic manufacturing is estimated to use 8% of global yearly oil production.  Despite all of the renewables coming online in the last year, the significant increase in plastic production has been blamed for the increase in CO2 emissions in 2018.

But plastic is fantastic isn’t it? It’s durable, light and doesn’t break.  It’s so flexible that life would seem almost impossible without it.  We love plastic so much that the World Economic Forum estimates that plastic production has sky rocketed from 16.5 million tonnes in 1964 to 343 million tonnes in 2014 with predictions that this will double by 2036!  Since 1950, humans have made 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic and despite the fact that plastic is durable and reusable, most has been disposed, so we keep producing more and more.  I remember travelling in Cuba as part of my year of backpacking before children and seeing plastic bags hanging out on clothes lines to dry. Obviously Cubans saw some value in these bags in that they reused them. The rest of the world though is in an unrelenting cycle of throwing things out.

So where does all of this plastic that is thrown out end up? Very little is recycled and most (79%) ends up in either landfill or the world’s oceans (8 million tonnes every year) slowly breaking down.  It takes plastic between 500 – 1000 years to break down.  That is many millions of tonnes of plastic waste – everywhere for millennia.  When plastic does break down into micro-plastics, then where does it go? Likely in animals and ultimately us!

plastic ocean

When thinking of plastic and plastic waste – also consider that many ‘rich’ countries offload this problem to the developing world where environmental laws are more lax and the problem is ‘out of sight’.  The health impact on those communities from our waste, is shameful. Some countries like China, the Philippines and Malaysia are wising up and sending the waste back.

Going back to the Climate Reality training conversation, I was struck by what Natalie Isaac from 1 Million women said: Don’t just talk – you must live your values in your everday life.  Now I am generally good about my plastic use and I’ve resisted going ‘full hog’ in eradicating plastic in my life because – well I’m a busy working mum trying to live life on a budget of sorts. So the idea of going to 5 different shops to get my weekly groceries doesn’t have much appeal. I have seen articles about people with a little jar showing how much waste they’ve produced in a year and have rolled my eyes about the improbability and impracticality of it all!

BUT, when I went to my daughter’s class to present on climate action, I used plastic as a way for kids to make a difference because through this action, the benefits are two-fold: reduce plastic waste and reduce carbon emissions.

After the talk a few days ago, I got thinking about my own home. Luckily Plastic Free July: is about to kick off and my family and I have decided to participate. We’ve taken the challenge to avoid single use plastic packaging and target takeaway items.  I have no idea how we’re going to go, but I will share our ups and downs every week.

I encourage you to also take the challenge and to get you started here are some resources that can help:

For me, I have started! I went to a wholefood store in Lane Cove (Source) and stocked up on some snacks for the kids that I can put in their lunch box.  Keep an eye out for my weekly blog where I’ll share tips and an uncensored take on how we’re going as a family.  Please join me in taking the challenge.

plastic free

DIY Gifts from the Heart – Christmas 2017


Another year has flown and what a year! Highs, lows, fun times, not so fun times.  For me, 2017 has been a time where I’ve focussed on my career and family.  My youngest daughter has started pre-school and while she loves it, it’s taken a little one for this spirited one to settle into the new routine of her Montessori pre-school.

2017 was also the year where my middle daughter started ‘big’ school. Going from Montessori to a public primary school was quite easy for her and she’s thrived and done very well.  She’s one of those kids that loves to learn anyway – which is lucky.

For my son, 2017 has been a year of cementing friendships and perfecting the art of lego making!  With his two closest friends moving to another school and overseas, the next year is going to bring lots of changes for him.

For me, I’ve managed to do a few things that have been on my ‘to do’ list for a long time – getting chickens and continuing my gardening around the house.  Work has rewarding with me having completed some great projects and made wonderful friends.  The year ends however with me saying farewell to my previous job and welcoming another one.

As the year ends however, I like to work with my children to give family something home-made, from the heart and special for Christmas.  This year, I decided on home-made granola!  I like it because it’s simple to make and you can be creative with it.  It also went down a treat!

Here is what you need:

  • Jars
  • Nice ribbon
  • 5 cups of rolled oats – this is the base
  • 1 ½ cup puffed corn
  • 1 ½ cup rice bran
  • ½ cups goji berries
  • ¼ cups cacao nibs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cups pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cups pecan nuts
  • 125 ml Maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt


M pecan

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160° C
  2. Cover baking tray with non-stick baking paper
  3. Mix all the ingredients except the goji berries and puffed corn.
  4. Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and mix through.
  5. Spread on a baking tray and put in the oven
  6. Once it’s starting to look golden – add the puffed corn (this is so that the puffed corn will be crispy, but not burnt)
  7. Depending on how you like it, you can leave it a little longer (it should take about 20 minutes all up) until it is more toasted
  8. Removed from the oven and mix through the goji berries. Set aside to cool.
  9. Once cool add to jars and decorate as you please.

M mixing


Enjoy – nooshejan!

May you have a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2018 full of love and joy.


Urban Farming in the ‘Burbs


Life sure has been busy of late. Three young children and their activities along with work keeps me super occupied.  I have however found the time recently to finally realise one of the items on my home ‘to do’ list. It may have taken a while. Like a really long while, but finally our home has welcomes four chickadees!  Our hens joined our family about 4 weeks ago.

My children have had some experience with chickens are part of ‘chook chat’ at their school. The four chickens at school are cared for on a roster by students, mine included.  Students collect the eggs and every now and then do a big cook up. I love this way of engaging with the kids.

So with the ice broken, I decided to get the ball rolling at home and get our own chooks.  It’s taken about a year from the time I bought the coop – to constructing the run – to finally getting to the exciting part – making the trip to a nursery to buy our hens.  It’s been worth the wait though.  Pepper, Caramel, Blackie and Tiny Ninja are now well and truly at home with us.

After some good tips from a work friend, we ended up buying two Australopes and two Isa Browns from New Leaf Nursery: They were especially selected by the chook whisperer there for our family.  The good thing about the Australope hens is that they lay eggs throughout their lives.  The Isa Browns we bought because of their good nature.


So far all are pretty friendly, though not super friendly because we’re not at the stage where they come to you and sit by your feet. We’ve had the occasional toe and leg pecking, but after holding them and spending more time with them they seem to be coming around. They especially love me because I’m usually the source of food!

Now, if a garden of veggies and some fruit and now chickens wasn’t enough, last week I discovered a new mysterious bird.  At first I thought it looked like a cross between a quail and a duck. After many misses in trying to photograph it, the bird ended stuck on the trampoline.  After taking some great photos, I sent them to my local Council for identification. They confirmed, that it was not a quail, but a Bush Turkey and while I am a friend of wildlife, I am not so sure about having a bird make itself at home in the garden I have spent some year building up.  Time will tell whether it decided to stay. So far the hens are wary, but the Turkey doesn’t seem fazed.


Now with my garden project pretty much complete, I can sit back and enjoy the years of work and planning that’s gone into my very own urban farm.   Or maybe not!  Next on my ‘to do’ list: ‘bug hotel’/ native beehive and possibly a frog pond. this space!

My tips for keeping chickens (so far):

  • Choose a spot in the garden with some sun, but not too much;
  • Talk to your local Council about what their requirement are. Besides not keeping a whole lots of hens and telling my neighbours as a courtesy, my Council didn’t have any specific requirements;
  • Buy the hens and move them in together at the same time, that way you don’t have any problems later with introducing a new hen to the flock;
  • They LOVE grain and get quickly get fussy with food if given the good stuff all the time. So balance out some boring food with something exciting;
  • Get them used to you straight away by spending time with them. Mine aren’t too excited about being held and to be honest I’m still getting used to them too, but now we’re all getting used to each other; and
  • Get the kids involved in feeding them and enjoy!

Clean and green cleaning

Image result for green cleaning

I feel as though I never have time for my Blog anymore.  If life with two kids wasn’t busy enough, with three young kids, it is off the rails. I feel that I spend a lot of my time trying to stay afloat.  Added to that is my professional job which is a source of inspiration and contentment, but also at times stress.  Also I have little time for my garden (which is suffering this summer), let alone quality time with my husband or relaxation. To ease the ‘time’ factor in my life, I have thought about getting in a cleaner or other help.  One of the things that stops me about a cleaner is my high eco-standard.  Ever since I did my Palm Oil Detox, I’ve been using natural cleaning products and I’m nervous about the chemicals that might be used by a professional cleaner. For now, I’m opting to keep my natural cleaning standards and do it myself.  The reasons to use green cleaning products are simple:

  • They’re not toxic to the health of my family or the planet;
  • They’re cheap; and
  • They’re simple and effective.

What do I use? There are basically two ingredients that I use the most, though I do also use ‘Natural’ cleaning products from the supermarket (mostly to clean my toilet and sometime the shower recess when it gets a bit too icky!):

  1. Bicarbonate of soda;
  2. White vinegar.


Bicarbonate of soda

Image result for bicarb soda

Discovered in ancient Egypt, this sodium compound which is called Natron was used in the mummification process.  Over time, European chemists discovered that another form of pearlash was effective in helping the baking process.  In 1791 a French Chemist Nicolas LeBlank turned common salt (sodium chloride) into soda ash (sodium carbonate).  This was later developed into sodium bicarbonate in the USA.

Bicarb soda is like this miracle ingredient used in so many things. I’ve used it to make natural toothpaste I’ve done this by dipping my toothpaste and then brushing. The taste isn’t the usual minty taste that I’m used to, but trust me, my teeth were super clean and shiny afterwards!

My mum’s used it as deodorant and she swears by it. I’ve not tried this though. I have also heard of people that don’t wash their hair with shampoo, and instead do a ‘dry shampoo’ using bicarb soda.

For cleaning I use bicarb soda a number of different ways.  I add a little water and make a paste. I use a toothbrush and clean the grouting in between tiles in my bathroom and to generally clean the bathroom and kitchen sink. I also use it to keep my pots and pans looking good.

Bicarb soda is also great at keeping things smelling fresh. There has been instances where my fridge will get very smelly. All I do is either keep a packet of bicarb soda opened in the fridge or even some fresh coffee grounds.


White vinegar


Image result for white vinegar

You can buy big containers of cheap white vinegar in most supermarkets. This is my secret weapon around the house. I use it to clean the tiles in my bathrooms, my shower recess, windows and pretty much any surface.

I often add some bicarb soda and vinegar to a load of washing and it brightens up my clothes.

My other tips is to pour a little bicarb soda down the drain and then add vinegar – watch the frothing action, then leave for half an hour and come back and pour boiling water down the drain. A wonderful way to keep your drains clean and fresh without the use of harsh chemicals.

Both of these products can be bought so easily and are really effective and cheap. You also won’t feel so horrible and congested afterwards and your hip pocket and the planet will thank you for it.

DIY Gifts from the Heart – Christmas Olives


2016 has been a whirlwind of a year and life doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down any time soon.  I guess that is the life of a working mum of three kids. And a mum with a garden too!

Despite all the mayhem, there has been many fun days too. My children are growing and coming into their own.  But as we got to the end of the year, we still managed our Christmas DIY Gifts from the Heart. This year, we decided to make Herb infused olives for our family.  As usual, I spend the year saving jars and then decide what to do with them.  Here is what to do in case you’d like to make your own:

What you need:

  • Old jar, cleaned and boiled to sterilise
  • Olives – we used plain olives and a mix of black and green
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs – we used the following from our garden:
    • Chillies
    • Thyme
    • Lemon myrtle
    • Sage
    • Rosemary
  • Decorations/ wrapping
  • Some helpers 🙂


What to do:

Add everything together. I filled half the jar, added some of the herbs and pressed a few against the glass to make it look pretty.  The jar was filled, I added the olive oil and decorated the jars.


The idea of the gift is also that once the olives have been eaten, the herb infused oil can be used to make salad dressing – just add lemons/ lime juice or balsamic vinegar.  This gift is so easy to make and looks special too.  Nooshejan

My own verge garden

Last year, I wrote a blog piece about verge gardens and whether it’s safe to have food growing so close to a road.  My piece showed that if you take certain precautions, that it should be okay.

So after my research, I decided to strike out and make my own verge garden.  I have a corner block and thankfully the long side is on a quiet street.  Last year, I decided to move a few things around my backyard. Rather than get rid of my timber planter boxes, I decided to move them onto my nature strip.

I excitedly and busily moved all the soil with the help of some kiddies. I added some compost and planned to extend my vegetable garden.


I then had an idea to get the neighbours involved also. To start a ‘gardening club’ of sorts with my neighbours. There are many families with children around me, so I thought it would be a great chance to get to know neighbours and for my children to meet some children that live close to us.

So I planned two weekends of neighbourhood activity.  One week to plant the seeds and the following week to paint the planter boxes.  I put together a flyer and went door knocking.

The response: a bit underwhelming!

In the meantime my children were very excited about the ‘Gardening Club’ we were starting in our neighbourhood. On the agreed day, at the agreed time we all started to plant our new garden. Unfortunately with the exception of one of my immediate neighbours, no other neighbours came to help us plant our new vegetables. My children were a little disappointed, but we got together and planted some lovely things: carrots, flowers, chillies, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, lemongrass, parsley, sage and so on.


In the immediate time after the planting, I did get a few ‘looks’ from passers by. A verge garden is not a common sight in my part of Sydney, but I think most have gotten used to it. I’ve even managed to share some of the produce with a few neighbours, which they’ve loved.

So, some tips for a verge garden:

  • Dial before you dig you should call this free service to make sure there are no utilities or any issues where you decide to make your garden;
  • Have raised beds;
  • Talk to neigbbours before planting and see whether they’d like to be part of the planning.  Even though I provided all free plants, seeds and compost, my neighbours weren’t engaged, but your might be;
  • Plant some flowers too to make it pretty and attractive and attract pollinators like bees; and
  • Enjoy.

Waste Free Birthday party?

recycle sign

Children’s birthday parties can create so much waste. The party itself is usually a very intense 2 hours of pure mania. So usually being super eco-minded is tricky. Also, my life is very busy and party planning ends up happening fairly last minute.

This year though I’m going to try and have a low-waste party for my daughter. Can I do it?

Well we’ll find out tomorrow. I will share my experiences with you – my failures and successes.