The Sparrow Collective Guest Post: My Simple and Effective Tips for Taking Better Photos


In the news! I guest posted over on The Sparrow Collective sharing my very simple and effective tips for taking better photos of children and photos in general. Find the post here.

So, please visit the site and have a read, you’ll learn simple photography tips that anyone can apply. There is no need for a fancy camera (it’s all mobile phone based), fancy computer or software (it’s all mobile phone app-based editing). The tips are especially helpful for taking photos of wiggly children, but also can be applied to photographing anything.

Thank you very much to Shadae, the woman behind The Sparrow Collective, for the opportunity to share on your site. The Sparrow Collective is a lovely handmade children’s clothing and teepee line with a blog about crafty, creative and business stuff.

xo, Danielle

[ Sen’s adorable overall shorts are designed and hand sewn by Shadae, his tank top is from Goat Milk NYC ]

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Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise in flower garden

In the News: Natural and Intuitive Parenting on Bondi

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About a month ago I received a lovely email from Tom in Israel. Tom had been following our family for a while and asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing my favourite educational activity with him — in one sentence.  Well,  being me, I wrote back with a long winded email about how I think that book learning and traditional academics are over-rated (not to say they aren’t important) and also that I’m not a fan of screen time (sorry, Tom!). I explained that I focus on two things when it comes to teaching my children: social skills and nature play. My long email wasn’t exactly one sentence (again, sorry Tom!). To my surprise Tom wrote back and said he loved my email and wanted to feature us on his app — Bondi Bedtime. Cool! Thanks, Tom!

So, Tom just launched a really cool (and free!) educational app for parents and children to use together, to promote bonding through learning and to provide better content for screen time. When I checked it out, I breathed a sigh of relief — the content was great! I have to admit that my children do not live without screens and it’s quite nice to find quality screen content, and not something that simply transfers book learning into an app or game format. Bondi Bedtime offers learning that is unique to the app format and encourages curiosity. I also really like that the lessons are only about 5-10 minutes long so children aren’t sucked into long periods of time with a screen in their face.

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If you are interested in the app it is free and available for download from the AppStore or GooglePlay. You can also find his website Bondi | Bedtime here.

I would love to know what you think about my ‘Activity and Parenting Tips’ and ‘Educational Activities’ that Tom included on the app.

  • What do you think of nature and intuition based learning?
  • Am I crazy to think social skills are so important to success in life?
  • Do you think that nature play cultivates a respect for the planet and an understanding of the importance of nurturing that which sustains life?

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Tribal Dreaming with Heidi and Kimberley

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In late summer Sen got a special package in the mail, it contained an Earth Warrior necklace from friends in Australia, Heidi and Kimberley. Sen put it on immediately and has not gone a day, or even a moment, without it since. I initially got this necklace for Sen as a reminder of his connection with the earth and the rhythms of nature inside him and around us. At this time Sen was also starting to verbalize his care for the natural world and I thought the necklace would be a nice ‘thank you’ for his thoughts and serve as an embodied reminder of the importance of stewardship. It did both of these things, and more.

Sen also started school around this time and he was very apprehensive, to say the least. Sen is an introvert and so the thought of a room full of new people and new routines was worrisome for him. We supported him through this transition in a variety of ways, but one thing I said that seemed to resonate was that his warrior strength and care for the earth could be directed toward himself when he needed it. I started noticing that when he showed signs of nervousness he would pause and place his hand on his necklace. It seemed that after these pauses he felt some peace and confidence and could move on. I would never have guessed that his necklace would be such a great support in this way. The energy put into that necklace by Heidi and Kimberley has helped my little boy immeasurably.

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After experiencing such positive outcomes from the necklace I asked Heidi and Kimberley if they would share more about themselves and the necklaces they make (under the name Tribal Dreaming). In the interview that follows, Heidi and Kimberley have shared a wonderful glimpse into their hopes and dreams and how these intertwine with their daily rituals in their home and with their children. It is inspiring to see two people live such an integrated life where their values and passions are lived and breathed every moment. Thank you Heidi and Kimberley for sharing your way of life and for putting such good intentions out into the world.

Heidi, Kimberely, what part of the world do you live in?

We are from Brisbane, Australia.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

We have five gorgeous children between us. Heidi has two boys Archer (4) and Rafael (18months) and Kimberley has 3 girls Estella (5), Ellula (2) and Elsie (4months). Our children, like us all, change from one day to the next so holding the space for them to discover and experience every part of themselves is something really important to us. It’s a daily challenge especially since we are rediscovering lost parts of ourselves every step of the way. They are all spirited individuals so it’s quite the juggling act meeting everyones needs in our homes. Our kids really are our greatest teachers aren’t they?

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What are your core family values?

We are committed to conscious living and try our best at incorporating this into all aspects of family life. From what we eat, wear and speak, this is strong throughout our days. We are actively involved in non violent communication education which we have found an invaluable tool to nurture our relationships. The spoken word has so much power so we set an intention of mindfulness around what we say especially to our little loves.

How do you spend most of your days?

Our days are spent immersed in life. Constant demands of the varying ages of our children. Both of our husbands work shift work so we are the home-makers. It’s busy and intense and has it’s ups and downs but we love it all at once. We are always striving for ‘balance’ in all aspects of our lives, we never quite manage to achieve this perfectly but we find that just being aware helps.

Being a stay at home Mama in our modern society is quite isolating so we have both placed great importance on finding our own village to keep our sanity while raising these pure little people. We love to get out first thing and explore the neighbourhood on foot to ground us into the new day and create a strong connection with our surroundings. The children witness the small changes as the seasons change and form relationships with neighbours. We both feel a connection with the Steiner philosophy on daily rhythms so we try to stick to a light flow of breathing in and out throughout the day and weave play dates and outings within. The afternoons are usually at home for rest and then pottering in the garden, climbing trees, being dinosaurs or fairies, acrobats, digging holes and for us Mamas just trying to stay present and mindful as best we can.

We always finish our days with nourishing food, stories and cuddles and then if we are lucky some time to unwind and breathe out for ourselves before the new day begins. Yoga and meditation is also an important part of our week and we try to get this in wherever we can.

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Ro has a Puka Bells Necklace from Tribal Dreaming

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

We both love being out in nature with our families. Everything seems easier when we are all outside and where there is only mother nature to play with. We do a bit of camping all together and these are some of our most treasured times. We always comment on how enjoyable it is and how at ease the kids are. Lovely to get back to our true nature, needs and desires as humans.

What are you passionate about?

We are passionate about conscious living, slowing down, random acts of kindness and living in harmony with Mother Earth and the universe. As we have entered motherhood, one of the biggest challenges we have found is finding balance in our lives. Self love and taking the time to be present has slowly become a priority for us. When we give first to ourselves, the love flows out into all areas of life and everyone benefits. We are learning to quieten all the noise and check in more regularly with our hearts and faithfully following its guidance and wisdom.

We believe in abundance and the power of our own magic, creating a life we love, an authentic life; one of togetherness, connection and community. Then, to weave this into our lives to nourish and provide for our families and the greater community. We both truly believe in the need as woman to create and make alongside our sisters and since starting this project together we can feel a fire inside us burning bright.

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What inspires you?

The world around us is so full of inspiration we both get quite overwhelmed at times. When we are together planning and creating we both bring lists of all the things we have read/seen/watched/imagined to help us keep some order. We are passionate about life and everything that surrounds us. It is a blessing and a curse which never leaves us bored!

What is Tribal Dreaming and why did you decide to start your own business?

We have both been on our own individual journey of healing, self discovery and transformation to move further into our own light, truth and authentic self . Our souls had been craving a channel for the inherent creativity that was bubbling under the surface, and as we continued to make choices to follow our dreams down wildly unconventional paths, Tribal Dreaming was born.

A common interest we have always shared are pieces of beauty that can be worn for healing, balancing and the expression of who you are at that moment in time. We are especially passionate about finding unique, healing and soul inspiring pieces for our children. Our Children being the true beginning of Tribal Dreaming.

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What are your dreams for your business and for motherhood?

We created Tribal Dreaming to be a part of our parenting journey, it’s much more than making jewellery, and so far seems to have a life of it’s own, evolving all the time.  What started as making jewellery for our children is now so much more. We have lots of exciting plans that we’re working on. One thing we are really good at when we meet up is getting carried away talking about our ideas and plans for Tribal Dreaming. We both get all giggly and excited and feel inspired and then realise that the season of our lives at the moment is so intense, with our families, that we can’t action all these ideas as quickly as we’d like to so we take a big breath and try and calm down…We’re certainly not lacking in the ideas department!

Our dreams for motherhood and our business are connected. We are totally open to being the best versions of ourselves and living a life we love, trying to stay aligned in ‘love’ all the time and reflecting this message in our business. Motherhood has been transformative for us both. We both had the most wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences with all of our children and have chosen to ‘unschool’ our children. Our husbands are supportive and believe in us and our dreams.  Our business allows us to do what we love, stay at home being the ‘home-makers’ for our families, and work doesn’t feel much like work at all. We feel like we are children in a sense too, undoing and learning about who we are in this crazy world. We strive to make our homes secure and loving for all, a place where our children are free to be who they are without unnecessary limitations. We want them to feel and have freedom in life,  to know and live their truth, feel secure in who they are and be connected to mother earth and her rhythms.

Could you tell me more about your decision to donate funds to support women in developing countries?

We are so excited about this! We have just recently launched our new ‘Rock Your Chakra’ range and have made a commitment to provide the funds for 3 Birthing Kits per necklace sold through Birthing Kit Foundation Australia (BKFA). The BKFA works to provide a clean and safe birthing environment for women in developing countries to reduce the incidence of infant and maternal morbidity and mortality. These packs are very simple but provide the essential items for a hygienic birth which makes a huge difference for these women. We had the most amazing birthing experiences and truly believe every woman should enjoy the right to birth safely. It really is the least we can do for our fellow sisters and we plan to get more involved with this association as we grow. We have set a very big goal of donating 3000 before the year is out!

Thank you so much, Heidi and Kimberely for sharing your way of life and your projects. Friends: you can shop the Tribal Dreaming collection online here and you can follow Tribal Dreaming on Instagram @tribaldreaming.

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I love how Sen gently holds his Earth Warrior necklace

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Love Your Mother in Luv Mother

“We wanted a name to represent more than just the collections we put out, something that truly defined the spirit, integrity and intention behind the brand. The two words ‘love’ and ‘mother’ are packed with positive meaning and we tip our hats to all moms, mother earth, the mother of invention and the idea that with a little luv anything you put your mind to is possible.”

Kevin, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Luv Mother

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We were fortunate to receive samples from a new Canadian brand, Luv Mother, just before our trip to the United States, where we travelled to big cities, small towns, a peninsula, an island and beaches. I know, from my husband’s experience that merino wool is a very versatile and a durable material for clothing, and that it also transitions well from cold to warm weather. So I was excited to test it out with the kids, especially for our beach days when the warm sun would give way to cool windy evenings on the beach, best enjoyed with a bonfire, s’mores and good friends.

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Luv Mother makes merino clothing for children. My husband, Matt, has worn merino almost exclusively for his tops for the last decade. Having read about the durability of merino wool, and some of the amazing stories of people wearing a single piece for 40 or more days straight without washing (or 100 days in a wool dress shirt), he was sold on their light environmental touch (imagine how much water and energy are saved when you can wear something 10, 20, 100 times before washing it!), which was only made better by the durability of wool. Add to all this, that being a natural fiber, wool is biodegradable once there is no life left in clothing, it gives new life by nourishing the soil.

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Luv Mother’s clothing is designed and sewn in Canada, and the merino is sourced from Australia and New Zealand. As many of you know, I am very particular about bringing animal products into our home. But I also consider the durability and environmental impacts of my purchases. This is why we opt to buy durable leather shoes over plastic or foam ones that may be kinder to some animals, but breakdown more quickly from use and yet ironically live on in landfill forever (plastics will eventually breakdown into plastic ‘dust’ but they don’t actually biodegrade), thereby harming many animals in the long run. Wool is another animal by-product that we include in our home, on occasion, when we can be assured that it is from an ethical source, where the sheep are free roaming, are treated well, are not mulesed, and are from farms that are monitored and certified to treat their animals according to animal welfare principles (RSPCA and the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act). Fortunately Luv Mother is a company that sources exclusively from ethical producers.

It makes sense, then, that Luv Mother’s tag line is “sourced in earnest.” For them this phrase is all about being conscious about every decision they make. And they really do follow through on this, every aspect of sourcing and producing their clothing is done sustainably and ethically. For example, Luv Mother: has carbon neutral shipping (they purchase carbon offsets/credits for the emissions resulting from shipping their clothing); all paper products and hangtags are printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper; working with their clothing factory to reuse and upcycle fabric scraps through creative partnerships.

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In addition to the sustainability and great usability of the clothing, I love how “packable” their merino clothing is. The clothing is  very lightweight and easily packed into my minimalist travel bag (an oversized purse from Nena & Co). What little wrinkling occurred while the clothing was in the bag fell out quickly as the children wore it. Great, because fussy clothing is banned while on travel! (Merino is machine washable and can tumble dry on low, but really it dries so fast it’s easy to air dry it and save some carbon emissions). Oh and did I mention the merino is soft? The kids didn’t complain of itching at all. Win-win-win-win.

The merino proved itself to be an exceptional fibre. But, then again, nature doesn’t often get this stuff wrong. Thousands of years of evolution has led to smart hairs growing on sheep. They are able to keep you warm when you need it, but keep you cool when the sun is out. We used the tops to transition from afternoon to evenings at the beaches, on windy ferry rides, and even an impromptu dip in the ocean — I forgot Sen’s swim suit on one occasion, so he went in with his merino top on. I would have let him swim naked, but he was too quick to run into the waves. I was delighted to find that his top had completely air dried within about 30 minutes, his cotton pants, on the other hand, were still soaked hours later. It was a good lesson for me: on those occasions when the kids might get sweaty or wet, dress them in wool!  While I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve since learned that wool is also considered a firesafe fabric and is self-extinguishing, it won’t melt or stick to your skin. Winning!

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All in all, we loved the clothing and found the brand name quite apt. The children played in  the sand and sea, climbed rocks and dunes, enjoyed the wind on a blustery ferry ride, enjoying the elements mother earth offered them in this part of the world. While their spirited childhood hearts would have fueled the fun and enjoyment no matter what, I’m pretty sure comfortable clothing helped them extend their fun a little longer.

Clothing details: Ro wears top and skirt from Luv Mother; Sen wears top from Luv Mother and organic cotton leggings from Mabo; best, most durable and stylish sandals around Salt Waters from Mini Mioche.

Find Luv Mother on Instagram @luvmthr

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Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and their families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activites, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code:HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off and read more about it here.

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family

Photo by @thedevinetribe Geraldine Devine Bee Eco Wraps Butterfly

As I said in my first post in this series, I think there are many ways to be a minimalist and many ways to focus and apply minimalism in our lives. At the same time, one area of focus tends to radiate out over time and influence other aspects of our life.

For me, minimalism started with a strong urge to have much less stuff in our home. I am a mother working outside the home at least 50 hours a week. I am also an obsessive tidier, I like my spaces neat and sparse, because it is calming to me. After a day of hustling around at work, I want a serene, low stimulation home environment to welcome me, not a trail of toys, socks, odds and ends. However, being away from my children for so many hours a week, thousands of hours each year, I cherish my time with the children, and so I have a rule that I won’t tidy and clean while the children are awake. (Confession: I’ve broken this rule a few times). When I was off on maternity leave it was easy to sneak in some tidying while the children napped, but once I was back to work, my only opportunity to tidy was late in the evening after the kids were asleep. This wasn’t a healthy situation since I was robbing myself of downtime, time with my husband, and time to myself.

One evening when I was rushing around tidying up before I went to bed it hit me like a tonne of apples: the only solution was to have way, way, way less stuff. Because less stuff equals less tidying. It’s pure math. I also knew it wasn’t fair for me to push my own clean freak ways on my husband and children, it’s not their comfort zone, it’s mine. I shouldn’t nag them to tidy constantly and I shouldn’t waste my downtime on cleaning. So I decided to immediately start giving away things that we didn’t need. Things the kids hadn’t played with in a while. The extra muffin tin. The back-up rain boots. The spare cutlery. The college books gathering dust. As time went on, I felt lighter and more at ease, the children focused their play on a few toys rather than aimlessly going from one toy to another, and overall there was a greater sense of calm and focus in the home.

A few years later I started hearing about minimalism, not the minimalism I had studied in art history in university, but minimalism as a lifestyle. I was curious, so of course I went to trusty Google for answers. There I found that there was a small “movement” growing around living minimally. I also read about people who had taken a more broad approach to minimalism. For them, minimalism wasn’t just about less stuff. Minimalism could be applied to our lives as a mode of operation. For example, friendships and relationships, cultivating close, connected friendships with fewer people, rather than having dozens of friends that we see a few times a year, it’s just quantity, not quality. I also heard about how minimalism started in different ways for people, some it was financial loss and the requirement to part with most of their possessions, and the realization that they were fine, and even better, without the burden of things. For others, it was a reaction against the fast pace of life and constant communications, the now, the instant, the quickness, and wanting to return to slower, more meaningful ways of relating and communicating with people.

Since then I’ve been intrigued to hear from people about how they got started living minimally, what their initial focus was, and how it has evolved. When I came across the Devine Family, who live off-the-grid in Australia, and are focused, by matter of circumstance, on minimizing their waste and not producing any garbage, I was immediately fascinated. Their minimalism started from a very practical life circumstance: no garbage collection in their part of the world. With their zest for life and excitement about living simply, close to the earth, and renewing older ways of living, they took the challenge head on and haven’t looked back since. I hope you’ll be inspired by this amazing family and their commitment to live sustainably, simply, close to the earth, and in a very minimal way.

Bee Eco Wraps the Devine Family

*Please make sure to follow the Devine Family on Instagram @bee_eco_wraps and visit their webshop www.beeecowraps.com where they sell beautiful, handmade food wraps from organic fabrics and bees wax. This is not a sponsored post! I just love what they do and want to support their great efforts.

Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time? 

Farm, markets, Steiner school, organic cafe, beach. Press repeat!

Nature, community, music & gatherings of like minded people. Craft, cooking, sewing, gardening, homesteading. We embrace Permaculture, Biodynamics, and Sustainability with a goal to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Ocean is the medicine of our souls. Sun, Salt & Surf heals all for the Devine Family! Becoming parents brought us from being environmentally aware observers to active participators in making a difference. We are conscious of the current issues society faces and are serious about creating a sustainable future.

How many children do you have and what are they like? 

Archi, 10, is the family comedian, acrobat, entertainer and the best big brother the girls could wish for. Arjuna, 8, is the sweetest soul, gentle, artistic and caring. Mirrah, 4, is an ethereal treasure, a pixie with the wildest of imaginations. Soma, 1, is our little Lion Cub. She is raised by the Clan, participates in every aspect of our lives and never misses a beat. She is pure love, humour and has emanated peace and tranquillity since birth.

Devine Family Children tree house zero garbage waste

What part of the world do you live in?

Our Farm is on the subtropical Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia.

You live off the grid in a completely self-sufficient home. Can you tell me about your dwelling and your way of life?

Simple, natural, soulful. A treehouse with enormous character. It was a 1920’s Tea House with a rich local history. Put back together by craftspeople that came at just the right times! Every piece of timber is recycled. It rattles, shakes and evolves with us. We took out the walls other than one big gorgeous family sleeping space, a big other worldly bathroom & a big cellar/ pantry space. Our kitchen is the epicentre. Massive decks amongst the bamboo were constructed out of the old railway timbers. We have treehouses, forts and fairy gardens galore!

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A Spiral Vegetable Garden fills our kitchen & Mama’s whimsical fantasies. Fruit trees provide an abundance of subtropical fare. Mangoes, lychees, avocados, guava, over 100 Tahitian Limes. A 3 acre spring fed dam full of silver perch and yabbies. We are very secluded and completely surrounded by State Forest, yet fortunate to be close to the amazing Noosa beaches and thriving Markets.

Your lifestyle is, in part, focused on waste, that is, not creating any. Can you tell me more about your journey to a zero waste lifestyle? How did you get started minimizing waste? And how far have you come?

Slow life, Zero Waste, terms often used for this lifestyle, yet we are so very busy and love waste and the fabulous compost it provides! Our goal is to minimise the impact of our choices. Plastic is very heavily woven into this society’s supply chain. Every day we open a new door to achieving a deeper level of disposable waste free living.

Our waste consciousness was accelerated due to our remote location. We do not receive a garbage disposal service and are subsequently responsible for all rubbish that we generate. With the consequences of waste to personally deal with an awareness of the absurdity of single use disposable items came to the forefront of our attention.

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We get busy with baking bread, cucumbers to pickle, kefir to brew, pumpkin seeds to dry out, compost to turn. The very action of these humbling tasks brings about a consciousness & presence. Somewhere along the way, the concept of single use plastic becomes outdated. An appreciation for the beauty of a sturdy fermenting jar, a pair of shoes that feel like they will last a lifetime, a hand knit woollen jumper….. a beautifully smelling, aesthetically pleasing wrap for your food…. just became essential…. a daily reminder of a state of mind that values and respects what matters.

Garbage is a somewhat recent phenomenon, historically speaking. Have you had to find creative solutions to minimize your waste or do you find yourself turning to older methods that most of us have abandoned? 

Yes! We get creative, plan ahead and study the masters of reusable. What we’re talking about doing here is not just part of a Green Revolution… It’s a Renaissance. People have been working with nature this way for eons. It seems that we’re just learning to do what society has unlearnt and forgotten. Historically, many cultures sealed jars with wax and our Outback Drovers traditionally used oiled cloths to protect their food. Homesteaders have been wrapping up food in waxed cloths for centuries. Bee Eco Wraps became our passion as we delved into the wisdom of yesteryear.

Any food we don’t grow is bought at market. Trade and commerce is a pinnacle of culture. Geraldine particularly loved this & studied Anthropology at University, exploring the daily lives & rituals of cultures worldwide. In our travels we have lived amongst market cultures and fell in love with this as a source of social interaction. We all thrive and feel nourished with our interaction with the stall holders. With baskets and jars in hand, market life has provided our waste free immersion into this bustling and enriching cultural family experience.

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I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

We don’t want to fear our future, nor put our head in the sand. We want to gain momentum, excitement, faith & confidence in paving a future that will work. And give ourselves the tools to live in beauty in the face of the adversity that will come our way in this current society. To minimalise it. What matters. For us, love, family, nature, health. To be bold, humble, conscious.

Minimalism for us has become our state of being. A daily choice to minimalise the chatter in our minds, our possessions, our interactions with anything that depletes us.

What is your story? How did you get started on a minimalist path? What motivated you to live a minimalist and sustainable life?

As we learnt to slow and pay attention to the details of daily life we expanded and moved into a deeper connection with ourselves others and our place in the world. To find a real sense of meaning and purpose.

Family is the pinnacle of it all. We have both lived quite exuberant, excessive, wild & opulent lives! Diverse existences. For Geraldine the highlight of childhood was my time spent on a farm. Pure, slow, beautiful. Defining my very being & influencing every part of my journey. A determination was etched to make this a reality for this family. For Matt the time spent in Japan infiltrated his soul & defined his minimalist existence. He focuses on the natural world. He accepts the impermanence of life and seeks to remain humble. He is actively involved deepening his knowledge. He retains simple practices that allow him to remain focused amongst the turmoil!

Devine Family Garbage Free Bee Eco Wraps

In what ways do you struggle with maintaining your lifestyle? Have there been any struggles with the other people you live, friends or family with about living in the way you do?

When the children get lured into the trappings of consumerism, we have learnt to see it as an opportunity for growth & learning. To extend ourselves to offer a better natural option. To grow our imaginations as well as theirs.

The children are technology free. People often ask how how we have the time. Take away television, shopping centres, time opens up. Children are helpers, participatory in daily life. The children’s imagination is their greatest gift. We push through boredom barriers. Steer them away from quick fixes, immerse them in nature, saturate their souls with the raw & natural opulence & beauty of nature. Simplicity. Attainable goals. Gently allow them to witness the perils of plastic, sugar and the harsh realities in an age appropriate way. Make it an exciting mission to be on board the coolest train in town. The kids feel they have the magic golden ticket. The good cause.

As we said no to plastic, sugar and technology we took it as our responsibility to offer a better option. To be creative in enthralling and enticing them with delicious organic food that they took part in sourcing, growing, preparing, serving. Or by surrounding them with fodder for their imaginations. Tree houses, wooden toys, craft, animals, books. I have put boundless energy into creating self motivating tools for the kids. To nurture their minds to think for themselves and weave in and out of magical wonderlands in their imagination. To offer tasks that teach them the practical skills of cooking, weaving, building, cleaning. To minimise their lives, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming and so they don’t shut down through fear. Nature offers the best tools for learning.

It has been a journey! A minimalist point of view has been hard for well meaning friends and family! I give our family and friends enormous credit in supporting us in upholding our values and complex criteria for each purchase. To embrace our choice in stepping away from consumerism. We all have quite a laugh at our different choices and paths in life! Love and a great sense of humour conquers all!

What have been the benefits of your lifestyle?

As we tune in to and get excited about the rhythms of Nature’s bounty we feel grounded and a part of a whole. We delight in the company of local farmers and growers, market stall holders and local artisans. We feel inextricably connected to the cycles of the Seasons, the rhythms of Nature and from this comes a deep sense of purpose, simplifying our understanding and acceptance of life. The children also emanate peace and stability. It is a world that they can see, feel and understand.

We have slowed and channeled our energy toward specific tasks with intent and positivity. To impose order on our wandering minds through the acts of gardening, cooking, creating, singing.

Devine Family Bee Eco Wraps

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a more minimal, sustainable lifestyle?

Get excited. For us it has been the best journey of our lives. We found as we were strengthened by the inherent benefits of the lifestyle we were able to face the challenges with greater confidence. The research and preparation is fun! The information out there is limitless! Learn from your elders. Visit the dairy with your own pail to make our own cheeses, butter, yoghurt. Many Farmers offer butchering to your specific requirements. We have found local butchers love the idea of wrapping meat plastic free and lament the loss of butchers paper. Buy in bulk with your own jars or baskets. A little preparation yes, but when you see the beauty of your produce in a wicker basket and jars, you will know and feel that this is the way it should be!

Allow yourself a gentle awakening to the perils of plastic! Create a list. Step by step challenge the disposable parts of your life. Sustainable toothbrushes, shampoo bars, henna, beauty products. As you get healthier through this lifestyle you need less! Equip yourself with the tools to reduce waste. A mason jar each, a favourite op shop spoon. Lots of wicker baskets. A great dishwashing cloth, scrubber, soap nuts for laundry, solar power, tank water.

Look at ways to trade goods, or delve into the magical world of vintage!
It doesn’t necessarily have to be land driven. We have lived on a standard block & embraced an enriching & sustainable life. So much to learn about fermenting, felting & sewing tapped into a local like minded community.

Are there people you look to as role models in terms of your lifestyle?

The market families, each other, our family, the other cultures we have come to know on our travels, the cultures that have retained a minimalist sustainable life with a reverence for nature.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

To remain simple, minimal and inspired as we traverse a sustainable life with four children a farm and growing business. To strengthen our goals and daily rhythms to encompass a broader gathering and flourish in the inspiration and energy of makers, growers, bakers, artisans, families and community. To maintain the serenity that comes from slowing down and paying attention to all we find meaningful. To connect with moving slowly and treating things, people and ourselves gently. To have gratitude and reverence for the beauty of life. To feel empowered to make a difference. To harness a consistent, grounded and authentic Eco business that is a subtle tool in a burgeoning change toward a minimal, conscious and sustainable way of life. Bee Eco is a simple product, a daily change of habits that might spill over to other areas of life as it becomes apparent just how easy and beautiful reusable items are! In turn a broader attitude change may envelope our collective habits!

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An immense thank you to the Devine Family for sharing their life, words and images with my readers. Readers: you can find the Devine Family on Instagram @bee_eco_wraps and read more about their life as well as purchase their Eco Wraps on their website www.beeecowraps.com.

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What if you fly? an Interview with Erin Hanson

Last week, a long time Instagram friend, Stephanie Matthew, asked me if I could help her promote a project. She told me about how she had recently read an article about self-esteem in girls, stating that self-esteem peaks at nine years of age and only goes down from there. Stephanie’s thoughts went immediately to her seven year old daughter, who only two hours earlier had been dancing in the driveway with no self-consciousness whatsoever and earlier that same day had worn her plastic princess shoes to the store without a moment’s hesitation. Whether or not the article’s conclusion was perfectly accurate or applicable to all children, Stephanie knew she wanted to do something for her daughters, but also more broadly to help other children and to raise awareness around this issue.

Thinking back on a recent occasions when a few perfect words – “We can do hard things” — had been the motivation her daughters needed to stick with something challenging, like learning to tie shoes, the popular phrase “What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” came to mind. She pictured the words as a dialogue between parent and child. But she also knew these words would suit a nursery as much as a boardroom wall – they felt universally relevant. Stephanie decided to design a print to hang up for her girls, but she wanted every child to have these motivational words hanging in their home, so she talked to her friend Rebecca who runs Children Inspire Design.

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If you haven’t heard of Children Inspire Design you should check them out. They are an online art shop that produces modern, eco-friendly and culturally diverse wall art, inspired by children. Rebecca believes in the importance of global responsibility and in cultivating a love for art and the world’s many cultures, which is why her shop always pairs art with giving. Throughout history art has been a strong and important force for social change, so while the prints Rebecca sells help teach children about important issues, such as caring for the earth, the sales help support women and children around the world by sharing the proceeds with a variety of charities.

While working on the design for the print, Stephanie’s research led her to finding out who had written those 12 profound words. Erin Hanson, is a 19 year old Australian poet, who wrote those now famous words, as part of a longer poem, when she was just 18. Impressed and intrigued by the fact that the words had been written by such a young mind, I sought out contact with Erin and asked her a few questions.

What do the words mean to you?

They mean a lot, as I’m the kind of person who can quite often back away from the things that I want purely because I’m scared of trying really hard for something and then not reaching it. They’re as much of a personal reminder for me as they are for the other people who read them.

When did you start writing poetry?

I started writing silly little poems when I was around 11, but I didn’t take it seriously until I started my blog in 2011.

What are you inspired by?

Everything! If I had to pick something in particular it would be nature, or more specifically how if you watch it for long enough you realise that its patterns can be related almost directly to the patterns and emotions etc. that exist within a human being.

What motivates you to share your art?

Everyone who’s ever told me that it’s helped them in some way. I know how much words can help people, so if mine have the opportunity to then I’m happy.

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Stephanie and Rebecca have partnered to offer a print of Erin’s motivational words. The print is only available for purchase until February 25th. All of the proceeds will go to Free2Luv, an anti-bullying organization dedicated to empowering youth, celebrating individuality and spreading kindness. The limited edition 11×14 print is available for purchase here, and as a thank you Children Inspire Design will include a free 5×7 print with your purchase. The prints are made with eco materials and inks, and the packaging is biodegradable. Check marks all around!

With this project Stephanie hopes to remind her girls and the rest of us that life is magical and that we should always think big – what if  you fly? I think most of us have witnessed the social media community come together around crises and social issues, and I hope Stephanie’s project will be another beautiful instance of community engagement and support.

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Ashley Williamson Piperandpoppies

Inspiring Mother Ashley: @piperandpoppies

Ashley Williamson Piperandpoppies

My blog has been a long time in the making. I spent many hours thinking and dreaming about all the things I could do with it, all the topics I would love to write about and projects I would love to use it for. One thing I knew I wanted to do from the beginning was to share the stories of people who have inspired me. Generally, these are people who live close to nature and connected to family, they are artistic and creative, loving and adventurous.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Ashley, who I follow on Instagram as @piperandpoppies. Ashley takes beautiful photos of her life in Australia with her two gorgeous girls. But, her gallery is about more than surface beauty. Rather, she captures a much deeper beauty: the beauty of living connected to family and place. I had a chance to ask Ashley a few questions about her way of life, and was delighted to find that my intuition about Ashley was spot on; she is a kind, caring and thoughtful person. I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little more, as I did.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in Western Australia in a little seaside town. It has a massive tourist trade but the locals are mostly nature loving, surfing, and happy souls. It is a community of love and connection. We are so lucky to have ended up raising our family here. I grew up in Canada and travel brought me here. I do miss my family and the distinct seasons of home but I have planted myself here and am learning to embrace this as my home. My girls are small town kids and I love watching them play outside and explore all that a tiny forest and seaside town has to offer.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have been blessed with two beautiful girls. Piper is 4 and Poppy is 1. Piper is an old soul. She is gentle and caring but shy and fiercely overwhelmed by strangers and attention. Poppy is a wild child! She is so much fun, a character that loves to make us (and anyone she comes across) laugh.

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What are your core family values?

Love and empathy. I want my girls to know how to care for others and themselves. How to accept people and themselves and the power of love. I am also a firm believer in providing a foundation for children to harbour their creativity and imagination. I know the joy I get from daydreaming and being creative and want to help my girls discover their gifts. We try to provide calm and compassionate parenting for our girls. To use peaceful approaches to problem solving and model this in our behaviour towards each other.

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How do you spend most of your days?

I am a primary school teacher part time. I am a mother full time. My role of mama is my prized role, I didn’t always want to be a mom, but am so blessed motherhood found me. I spend my time playing with my girls, teaching them about the world and experiencing life by their side. I am learning through them to slow down and savour the little things. Childhood is magic and as mothers we actually have the opportunity to do it again! We spend a lot of time exploring and playing together.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

An ideal day would start at home, as the sun rises, with hot coffee and the girls playing. Then a trip to the beach and bush walking. Lazy lunch at home, a family nap, painting/drawing/gardening and a laid back dinner outside. Sitting under the stars with a wine. I am a homebody but also love being in nature. I usually do this with my little companions and no one else. They are the perfect explorers.

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What are you passionate about?

The environment and education. As a teacher I have the opportunity to engage children in our world and teach sustainability and ethical choices. They are clever and adopt things much more easily than grown ups. I love art, making things, creating. This past year I have started taking my photography more seriously. I love seeing life through a lens and capturing moments.

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What inspires you?

Clouds, the ocean, flowers, people, places, things…I am inspired by everything really. Everything and everyone we encounter has something to give. Truly.

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Thank you for sharing your words, photos and way of life Ashley.

Please visit Ashley’s Instagram gallery, there’s much more to discover. And I hope you have enjoyed this first feature, I will try to post one every week.

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