Waiting for the Right One: Our Essentia Organic Mattress

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise

We recently got a new bed mattress and to honour this special item (simple things are special to us) we bought some flowers, a rare indulgence. I had planned on letting the children cover the bed in petals and bounce around, since we’ve never owned a mattress that has bounce I figured they would enjoy that. But, my little boy, Sen, had other plans. The photos that follow depict the making of his “flower sculpture”, which turned out to be the most perfect, organic way to appreciate our new mattress (which happens to be made from plants and infused with essential oils). The dried flower sculpture now sits on the shelf above our bed.

Please enjoy the photos and I hope you’ll read my post about how and why this mattress came into our life and why I feel so strongly about it as a product. But first, let’s start with the back story.

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

About 8 years ago an Essentia mattress store opened in Ottawa, the city we live in here in Canada. At the time we were sleeping on a 5-year old terribly uncomfortable futon mattress (I cannot overstate this enough). Being environmentally-minded consumers, we sourced and had custom made a futon made entirely from recycled cotton t-shirts and wool, we were assured it would be comfortable and last 10 years. But from day one it was uncomfortable. It was lumpy and slanted — I always felt like I was going to roll off the bed — a bit of an unnerving feeling when you’re trying to fall asleep. We figured it would take some time to settle and, besides, we weren’t about to waste all the materials, effort and money that went into the mattress. Months went by and the mattress never improved…it really only got worse, much worse. Being students and young parents we had no money to replace the mattress so we made do, which we are pretty good at doing. (Did you read my post about how we’ve been eating our meals at a desk for over 15 years, because we can’t afford to upgrade to a bigger, sustainable option? Ya, we make do.)

The point of the story is that after 5 years with the lumpy futon we were more than ready for a new mattress, but wanted to make sure we bought one that was ethically and sustainably made, and much more comfortable. After years of bad sleeps (I’m talking waking up every hour of every night from discomfort), we were ready for a good night’s sleep (and to reap all the health benefits that come from good rest).

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

Essentia mattresses are certified organic, plant-based (vegan-friendly!), biodegradable (!!), and ridiculously comfortable. After we walked into the store, laid on a few mattresses, we were sold on them. We decided that when we had the money these would be the mattresses we would invest in.

Years passed and our finances never really improved, so we kept sleeping on the lumpy futon. The slant in the mattress got worse. The lumps became more accentuated. It got to the point where we would take turns sleeping on our love seat because it was more comfortable (despite the obvious fact that we couldn’t stretch out on it).

My sweet sister (who is generous beyond words) caught wind of our sleeping woes and gave us a synthetic memory foam mattress topper for our futon. Many people I know use these memory foam mattress toppers for extra comfort, as they add a nice layer of supportive cushion to a mattress. But, being the health nut that I am I didn’t want to get one as I’ve read terrible things about the off-gassing, since the foam is synthetically made with chemicals and treated with fire retardants. Basically a toxic cocktail you sleep on 8 hours a night — not something I was itching to do (no pun intended).

I didn’t want to say no to my sister’s generosity (and she had let the mattress topper “breathe” for a while at her home) so we accepted the kind offer and looked forward to a good sleep. The topper was quite comfortable, but when we woke up in the morning my daughter was covered head to toe in hives, she was visibly swollen and in a lot of discomfort. She is not the allergic sort of child, she has no known allergies and is generally in good health and has a strong immune system, though she does have very sensitive skin. I quickly googled “foam mattress allergy” and found a tonne of photos of people covered in the same rash. I researched further and found that many people have terrible reactions to memory foam. So, we took the mattress out of the bedroom, disposed of it, and that was the end of foam mattresses for us.

Then, a few weeks later I happened to get an email from Essentia asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products. I couldn’t believe our luck! As a rule, I always so ‘no’ to any product sponsorships unless I already use the product (or want to use it but can’t afford it), so this was perfect: I received something I had wanted for 8 years in exchange for an honest review.

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

We got ourselves a Stratami Queen mattress and our sleeps have been truly blissful ever since! I can’t say enough good things about the mattresses and pillows that Essentia makes. There is nothing green-washed about their products, they are fully  organic, plant-based, sustainably made and (amazingly) biodegradable — so even after the mattress is out of use it can fully decompose, rather than hanging out in landfill indefinitely!The mattress comes in fully recyclable packaging too. I have not come across anything near as environmentally-friendly and comfortable in my research. Click here to read their certifications and eco-standards, it’s a long, impressive list.

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

Essentially the mattress is made from rubber plants (hevea milk) and is the world’s only all natural memory “foam” mattress. It has that crazy comfort of synthetic mattresses, without the off-gassing that makes you sick over night or over the long-term. As well, the mattresses are guaranteed for 20 years, which is hard to come by with mattresses these days. The mattress is covered in an ultra-soft organic cotton cover (I didn’t believe it was cotton, it was so soft!), which you can remove and wash, if required.

When we laid down to sleep that first night on our new mattress, our little boy, Senny, got into bed first and smiled, but a curious smile. He said: “Mama, I can’t believe I’m saying this but, I don’t think I’ll need a snuggle to fall asleep tonight. The bed is snuggling me!” Senny is such a snuggly child, he needs snuggles more than anyone I know, but he felt on this mattress like he was being snuggled just right. He drifted off to sleep and woke up in the morning super happy and ready to bounce on the bed!

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

If you happen to live in a city with an Essentia store I recommend you make a visit, the staff are very helpful and not at all pushy (Big thank you to Alana at the Ottawa store who let me ask every question under the sun and happily answered them all). Normally, I dislike shopping with my children because I can tell they are bored being stuck inside a store, but when we visited the Ottawa store, I had to force them to leave after over an hour in the store! They had such a good time lying on the beds and relaxing, they said “Mama, seriously, you can stay at the store as long as you want! We want to lie on these beds forever.” I don’t know if there’s any science behind it, but the mattresses seem to calm my children down. (Essentia also sells direct online if you aren’t in a position to visit a store).

Although I would have liked to have a comfortable mattress sooner, I’m glad we waited to get an Essentia mattress because it is ethically and sustainably made and I know I won’t have to replace it for a very long time, if ever. When Matt and I first got together we made a pact that we would always buy things that last, even if it meant waiting longer to be able to buy something of quality. Long-lasting things are more sustainable for the planet and ultimately cheaper in the long run. Waiting to buy things also teaches you a lot about what you can live without, and while we lived a long time without good sleep, it’s not something I would advise. A good sleep is something that gives back in terms of health and quality of life, and is worth investing in.

essentia organic vegan sustainable natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise flower rose sculpture

essentia organic natural memory foam mattress hippie in disguise

Matt has a whole list of reasons why he loves the Essentia mattress that are different from mine. He’s high-performing athlete competing in elite and pro cycling races almost year-round, so for him the mattress is about good recovery from training, getting deep sleep so he can perform again the next day. In addition, as someone who has long suffered from insomnia, his mind was blown by the fact that the mattresses have a signature smell (from the essential oils and plant ingredients), so that people can develop a strong olfactory association with their sleep space and fall into a sleep that much more quickly. He thinks its pure genius, and I have to agree with him.

All in all, we are thoroughly impressed with the mattress and will surely be investing our money in another one for our kids — so we can get them out of our bed! But for the time being, it hardly seems fair to not let them sleep on an Essentia.

You can follow Essentia on Instagram @essentiagram

You can visit their website and online shop www.myessentia.com

The Baby Bird and the Snail: Nature Storyboarding Acts of Kindness

Collected natural treasures nest story of bird and snail

Today is International World Wildlife Day, last year I shared some ideas about how we can help conserve and protect wild plants and animals. I hope you’ll read that post when you’ve got the time.

This year, in honour of World Wildlife Day, I am sharing a story Ro wrote and storyboarded when she was 8. It is a story of a baby bird who lost her mother and made a new friend, the snail. The image she created that inspired the story is shown above (my photo, her arrangement).

During the warmer seasons, when snow and ice do not cover the ground we are always picking up little pieces of beauty as we walk about the city from one place to another. We are, as many of you know, pedestrians by default. Being walkers, slowly moving through the city, we always come home with a variety of pretties: feathers, shells, pinecones, flower petals, and so on. One day when we came home Ro decided to story board with the treasures. Ever since she was quite young she had played with a felt story board, which she loved. On this summer day, she decided to translate this activity into a new context using natural treasures. To begin, she used some white chalk to make a framed background on our porch and then went to work creating. When she was satisfied with her creation she called me over and shared her story.

The beauty she had created visually, and more significantly the beauty of the story itself, was so touching I had to take a few photos and transcribe the story. It’s been 3 years now, and finally, the right day has arrived to share.

Here is Ro’s story:

The Baby Bird and the Snail

“One day a baby bird’s mother went out as usual to find food, but did not return. An accident took her life.

The baby bird was heartbroken and cried in the nest for many days.

Others heard the cries and figured out what happened, so they began bringing gifts of food and beauty to sustain the baby bird.

The nest became surrounded in gifts, but still the baby bird did not emerge.

And so, a young snail decided to risk it’s own life and go into the nest to comfort the bird.

The bird was so touched by this (risky) act of kindness that she realized others cared for her and that she would have a friend to go through life with.

The end.”

I hope this story will touch your heart, inspire acts of kindness and connection across species and ways of life, and that you’ll be inspired to create beauty with natural, sustainable materials.

Today is World Wildlife Day, so hug a tree, kiss an animal, and love all life. Find, make and share the beauty of the natural world and simple acts of kindness. Raise yourself, raise others, raise positive change. Together we can raise a generation of global guardians.


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In the News: Project Calm, Mindfulness through Making


A few months ago I was approached to contribute to a new magazine titled Project Calm, a mindful magazine for creative types. Project Calm is all about “mindfulness through making”. It was an honour to be asked to contribute as mindful creativity is to close to my heart and soul. It’s also serendipitous that the magazine was launched during the Slow Living month focused on nurturing, given the magazine aims to help busy folk slow down and nurture themselves through craft, encouraging us all to channel our energies into creating mindful beauty.

Bringing mindfulness to craft and creativity is so important (which I wrote a little about here, in relation to picking flowers and making flower crowns), both in terms of the personal, spiritual and mental health benefits of mindfulness, but also the environmental benefits of being mindful about how and what we create. I am always inclined to create from natural materials as much as possible, so that our projects have no waste from packaging and is fully compostable (for example, Ro’s halloween Mother Nature costume, made from real leaves, or our holiday Botanical Advent).

For this first issue of Project Calm, I contributed my Real Flower Temporary Tattoos tutorial. It is so exciting to see my work in print!

GIC_08_p8-9_naturenews_72dpiCopies are almost sold out, so if you’d like one order soon. They are available for purchase here.

Here’s a little sample of what you’ll find in the issue among the four sections covering Home, Nature, Travel and Mind & Body:

  • Paper-based crafts to make, colour & create
  • Positive features to inspire and enrich
  • Case studies and profiles of successful creatives
  • Travel, retreats and courses to try
  • Papercutting template on card
  • Paper animal kits
  • Poster with floral illustrations

Or, you can take a look at the preview here…


Thank you to my friend Erin, the florist, who collected discarded petals and flowers for my tattoo project. And, thank you to Kate for connecting my work to the folks at Project Calm.

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Happy Earth Day: 10 Ways to Live a Greener, More Sustainable Lifestyle

HIppie in Disguise Gloucester Maine Luv Mother Nico Nico cLothing Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! A day late…but truly, it is earth day every day in our family. After a busy week of work and travel I didn’t have time to make an Earth Day post, so I’m catching up today.

In my experience, I never see my children happier,  freer,  more connected to the moment as when they are playing together in the great outdoors. So, my Earth Day indulgence is to share some of my favourite photos of my children connecting with the wild earth and enjoying themselves playing in nature. I’m also sharing what our family does each day to live lightly upon the planet, see our list at the end of this post.

Hippie in Disguise Cristina Rohde Clothing Earth Day

Hippie in Disguise Gloucester Mass Earth Day

As a family we do a lot to try to minimize our impact on the earth, to live a green lifestyle, to live lightly and respectfully upon this planet that sustains us and gives us life. Above all else I try to find ways each day to ensure my kids feel connected to nature and the health of our planet. This means lots of time spent outdoors enjoying life and connecting with the elements, whether it’s walking or cycling to the places we go, running bare foot on the grass, or eating snow.

Here are the top 10 ways our family lives lightly upon the planet:

  1. We follow a vegan diet to minimize environmental damage associated with animal farming
  2. We eat and buy local products as much as possible to minimize emissions associated with delivery transport. If not local products then responsibly manufactured, organic and small scale guide our purchases
  3. We live car free and either walk or cycle almost everywhere we travel within the city, year round
  4. We use reusable cloth shopping bags (these ones are great because they fold up really small to fit in your pocket or bag) and we use reusable produce and bulk shopping bags (these ones for produce and these ones for bulk)
  5. We package litter-less lunches with reusable containers. Our favourites are stainless steel lunch containers (like these for main dish, these for snacks and dips and these for drinks) and our newest love is for beeswax food wraps (truly amazing product! they may seem pricey but I guarantee you they are worth the investment, you can completely stop using all plastic wrap)
  6.  We wear things out before replacing them
  7.  We recycle and compost like there’s no tomorrow
  8.  We put on a sweater (or two) rather than heating our home and drink cold water instead of air conditioning
  9.  We plant indigenous plants in the garden that don’t need overwatering or chemicals to thrive and support bee populations
  10. We spend lots of time outdoors to cultivate love, enjoyment and respect for the earth in hopes that our children will make the best choices

Over the next year we are working towards a zero waste lifestyle having been deeply inspired by the Devine Family and by Bea Johnson (her book Zero Waste Home is a must read and share!).

Earth day, every day.

What do you do? I would love to hear. Please leave a comment below, no need to sign in or make a profile.

River Picnic Ottawa Hippie in Disguise

Hippie in Disguise Nico Nico Clothing Earth Day Childhood Unplugged

 You might also like:

Garbage Free: How to Make your own Delicious Raw Cashew Milk

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family *** A family of 6 living in a treehouse

World Wildlife Day: What you can do to help conserve and protect wild plants and animals

Love Your Mother: The Most Sustainable Clothing by Luv Mother

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How to Make All Natural Flower Tattoos for Children

Read dried flowers for temporary tattoos

When flowers are blooming over the spring and summer, the children and I are constantly picking up fallen petals and blossoms for little projects. We press them, dry them, make mandalas and do all sorts of creative things. Something both kids love to do is wear flower petals as an alternative to face paint. I’m fairly particular about what goes into and onto their little bodies so I generally discourage face painting and temporary tattoos because I’m not sure of what’s in them. A fun, easy and beautiful alternative has been using flower petals applied to the skin with a little coconut oil or a salve (I used this one). We just apply a little to the face and then the petal adheres easily. Depending on the rigidity of the petal they stay on for longer or shorter periods of time – but no matter what they have fun with it! We’ve found that more supple, flexible petals work best because they can easily ply to the contours of the face.

When I was on Pinterest a few months ago I came across a photo of an arm covered in flowers. The tattoos looked so realistic I clicked through the link and discovered that a makeup artist, named Verity Cumming, had in fact used real flowers as temporary tattoos. For her process, she had dried flowers and then applied them to the arm using synthetic glues, such as eyelash glue, to keep the flowers in place. I knew a glue would not feel great on the skin, especially for children who tend to be more touch sensitive, but also that glue isn’t the healthiest on the skin, so I decided to develop my own technique to affix the flowers as temporary tattoos.

Real dried flower temporary tattoos soft star shoes

Real Flower Temporary Tattoos Soft Star Shoes Hippie in Disguise

First, there were a few failures. (I thought I’d share them here, so you don’t repeat my mistakes) I tried using some flowers that we had pressed and dried and no matter what we tried they were simply too brittle to hold together on the skin – they crumbled. I realized they were too dry. Next I tried using some fresher flowers and petals, but these were either too heavy (from water content) or not supple enough/too rigid (from water content). They needed to be drier. But, have you ever noticed that if you let flowers air dry they tend to dry from the outside to the middle? I knew that if I let them dry naturally they would still crumble at the edges from being unevenly dried. So I tried to accelerate and even out the drying process. I adapted Verity’s technique of drying the flowers with paper towels in the microwave (using fabric dish towels instead of paper towels, because zero waste is a good thing right?).

Through trial and error I figured out the best way to make all natural temporary flower tattoos. Here’s what worked:

1)      Gathering: Gather fresh flowers and petals of any and all sorts available to you. We don’t generally buy cut flowers or pick them, but we still have an abundance of sources of fresh flowers. Do not pick! Be resourceful! You can find fallen flowers and petals in gardens all the time. In the winter I visit the florist and ask if I can pick up blooms from the floor or use their floral “waste” from bouquets. They are always happy to share and curious about what I plan to do with the flowers. An opportunity to have a conversation about using flowers creatively!

2)      Preparing: Cut as much of the stem off as possible, this is easy with flowers like hydrangeas and pansies. You want to end up with a very flat flower for application. For flowers that have a hard or thick stem I recommend pulling the petals off and drying them individually.

3)      Drying: Lay a fabric dish towel over a large plate. Lay the flowers out on the dish towel. Place another dish towel on top to sandwich the petals between dishcloths. Then place a second plate over the dish towel. This will help to flatten the flowers. (The layering is: plate, towel, flowers, towel, plate). To dry them evenly I heated the plate and flower stack in the microwave for 40 seconds. I found that some flowers needed longer. If you are using many different types of flowers I recommend drying similar flowers together, they are more likely to require the same amount of time, and therefore you have less risk of over- or under-drying some flowers. To know that they are dry enough, just lift up the plate and towel and do a visual check, you will probably see some wet spots (flower sweat!) on the towel. Touch the flowers: if they feel limp and look flatter than before they are good. If they still seem rigid, then heat them a little longer. Once they are flat and limp, lay them out to finish drying in the air. They will still feel somewhat soft and moist, but I found they can’t be completely dried, they need some moisture for them to stay intact when tattooing. It sounds complicated, but once you try it I think you’ll see it’s pretty easy.

  • Warning: Some flowers will transfer their colour to the dish towel, so use a towel that you don’t mind getting a little stained.

4)      Applying: I used a beeswax salve with lavender oil in it (because I know it’s soothing on my children’s skin and they love the smell!), I applied it to the skin where the flower would go, then gently applied the dried flower, gently smoothing the flower onto the skin and letting it adhere to the salve. For most flowers and thin petals this is enough. In some cases you might want to add a little salve to the exposed part of the flower (the part facing out/visible) to help smooth the flower onto the skin more.

The flowers and petals stay on pretty well like this. The smoother the petal is to the skin the longer it will stay in place. These are certainly not as long-lasting as a temporary tattoo that is glued on but it’s still lots of fun for the kids (and yourself!) and provides a fun way to decorate your child that is natural and encourages them to learn about flora. You could try experimenting with using natural glues like honey, agave, or syrup, I’ve heard these work well too. The advantage of salves is that it’s good for the skin.

Flower tattooing is a great opportunity to learn about flowers with your children, for example:

  • You can teach them the names of the flowers as you apply them
  • You can talk about which flowers retain their colour through drying and which change
  • You can feel and talk about the different petal textures

As with all of my “how to” posts and DIYs please feel free to ask questions in the comments or share your feedback, there’s always something I’ve forgotten to include in my explanation!

UPDATE: This tutorial was recently included in the publication Project Calm: A magazine for mindful creatives. You can read more about it here!


If you are interested in Ro’s shoes they are from Soft Star and are available through this link. Soft Star is an American shoe maker (men, women, children and baby shoes). All Soft Star shoes are handmade, using end-to-end environmentally friendly processes and materials. Ro’s shoes are the Hawthorne model (adults). Sen has the Swift model from the children’s range.

You might also like:

Garbage Free: How to Make your own Delicious Cashew Milk

Ecominimalism: Minimalism and Sustainability Talking with Robin Kay

Top post: Any Occasion, Sustainable Gift Guide for Children

Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise in flower garden

In the News: Natural and Intuitive Parenting on Bondi


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.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

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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Join us for a Botanical Advent

Around this time in 2014, my friend Emma (on Instagram as @takeapicturelady) invited her friends and followers to participate in a botanical advent. She had started one, somewhat spontaneously, the year before and, as is often the way with Instagram and other social media, it’s more fun when people join in.

The idea of the botanical advent is to work with flowers and plants (or other natural / botanical materials) to make an arrangement each day of the advent. For example, many people arrange petals and leaves in the shape of a number (the day of the advent). I personally was challenged enough by the idea of coming up with an arrangement each day, that I didn’t need the added challenge of making a number. Instead I enjoyed playing with colour (as I do!), texture and pattern to come up with a botanical arrangement to mark the advent each day.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

I soon realized making an arrangement each day was even more of a challenge than I expected, with very little daylight in December (and me away from home for all but about 20 minutes of daylight) it was hard to get an arrangement done and photographed in so little time — each day. Then there’s the fact that we don’t buy cut flowers or pick plants; we only collect. We soon realized we had not sufficiently collected enough natural materials over the fall to have a lot of variety to work with in making the arrangements. And then there are those days, when you don’t have creative inspiration. Some days I pushed myself through and made something anyway, and other days I asked Ro or Sen to make an arrangement for me. (Of course, I gave them full credit!)

botanical advent flower art

Botanical heart advent in process

botanical advent flower art heart

Botanical Heart Advent, by Ro

It turned out to be an excellent idea to ask Ro and Sen to contribute to the botanical advent making. Ro loved having a fun early morning project to wake up to, and Sen was very proud to do as his big sister and make “beautiful flower rainbows like Rowee.” He loved, too, that he was trusted to handle the delicate dried flowers. I was particularly delighted to see how gently he handled the fragile dried flowers and the fine motor skills he used to arrange tiny dried berries, the patience required to move a berry back to its place 4, 5, 6 times when it rolled away. After the advent was done they both continued to ask to play with the flowers over the course of the winter. (Previously we had mostly done this outside in the summer making nature mandalas and natural story boards.)

botanical advent flower art

botanical advent flower artSo this year, having learned from last, I’m involving the children from day 1, we’ve gathered more natural treasures (pinecones, flower petals, dried leaves and so on) and are ready to start our botanical advent on Tuesday, December 1st. Please join us! And, feel free participate even if you can’t do an arrangement every day.

Visit the posts that were tagged #botanicaladvent to get an idea of the arrangements people shared last year.

botanical advent flower art rainbow

Flower Rainbow, by Ro


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


Mother Nature Leaf Dress Hippie

Make Your Own Mother Nature Leaf Dress

Mother Nature Leaf Dress Hippie in Disguise Danielle Chassin

Ro’s finished Mother Nature Leaf Dress, not perfect, but we learned from the process how to make a better one next time (see instructions below). But we did have a great time innovating to make a costume that is completely garbage free and compostable!

Halloween is Ro’s favourite day of the year. Her love for imaginative play and dress up, in combination with her outgoing personality make it far more fun than birthdays or Christmas. She just loves dreaming up a costume and then bringing it to life.

Ro is fortunate to have two grandmothers who are talented artists and very handy in the sewing department. Matt’s mother is a visual artist, she illustrates, paints, sculpts, sews, makes fibre arts, and gives an artistic flair to everything she touches. My mother is multi-talented, she went to school for fashion design, so she can design and sew up a storm of beauty. She has also put her talented hands to pottery, knitting, furniture, gardening and many more projects of beauty over the years. With these two creative grandmothers not only capable, but interested, in helping bring Ro’s visions to life, she has had some pretty extraordinary costumes over the years.

I should mention that I can sew, and while I’m not nearly as capable as either of them, I can certainly sew a Halloween costume. But, I loved that Ro and her grandmothers had a special project each fall, starting with a chat about her idea, maybe some sketching, a trip to shop or gather materials from a thrift shop, and then sewing and assembling the costume. It was a lovely tradition and a great bonding experience. At the same time, I didn’t want Ro to think that we were not capable of making her costumes ourselves — self-sufficiency is an important thing to me. I hoped the time would come, naturally, when we would make her costume ourselves.

Ro starts thinking seriously about Halloween in late summer, when her mind turns to the return to school and she sees the signs of fall start to show in the natural landscape. Last summer, we had beautiful weather and spent nearly every full summer day outdoors enjoying nature in forests, by the river, and everywhere in between. While both children have an innate interest in the natural world, I was intentionally trying to cultivate their interest by, not only spending time in nature, but also encouraging them to use natural objects for art. Ro loves fashion, not for the sake of trends, but for the creative self-expression. My mind hadn’t turned to Halloween yet, when one day in late August Ro announced that she wanted to make an ombre dress out of leaves and be Mother Nature for Halloween. To say my heart was singing to hear her say this would be a modest statement. She had, unknowingly, married her interests and mine and I knew this was the perfect year to shift to the two of us making her costume.


Many people have since asked us how we made her dress and so I thought I would share our method here. This is just one, very simple way to make the dress, by using a braiding technique and affixing the braids to the base garments using safety pins, but I thought some process photos might help those of you who may need a visual guide. I hadn’t expected to be asked how to make the dress, so I didn’t take any photos when we made it, so I’ve recreated a few below for the sake of this post.

Without further ado, here’s how we made the dress:

  • After sketching the dress she wanted (a full length, tank dress), we found a suitable tank top and long skirt from her existing wardrobe to use as the base to pin the leaf braids onto.
  • In the weeks leading up to Halloween, we tried a few techniques, braiding and tying with string, and found braiding to be the least fussy.
Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

  • On the day of Halloween, we spent about 3 hours walking around our neighbourhood gathering leaves, trying to find a range of colours to get the ombre effect. Especially looking for leaves with long stems, which makes braiding much easier. I highly recommend maple leaves. We used some oak leaves, because Ro loved the colours, but they were very hard to work with for braiding, and in some cases I had to pin the leaf itself to the garment. This can be avoided by using leaves with longer stems.



  • It is important to gather your leaves freshly when you make the dress, because they will not last more than 12-24 hours before drying and becoming very brittle and crumbling off. We did not pick leaves fresh from trees, but rather gathered from the ground, so if you are someone who picks leaves then they may last longer. Although, I’m sure you can find plenty of leaves without the need to pick live ones from trees!
  • Next, we organized the leaves into colours: purple, red, orange, peach, yellow, lime, dark green, brown. Ro wanted a fade from purple to red through to green and brown, so we arranged the colours to make braids in this order.

Just a simple example shown above, our leaf chains changed colour more gradually as the garment was full length.

  • Once we had a braided chain of leaves about the length of half the shirt, we would stop and pin it closed to keep the braid from undoing. Chains longer than this tended to pull apart with wear. We continued to make chains and lay them on the shirt, until it appeared to be enough to cover the top. Keep in mind the garments will stretch when worn, so allow space for the braids to overlap.

Leaf braiding using simple three strand braiding technique, closed off with a safety pin, which is used later to affix the braid to the garment.

  • I was set on making the costume in such a way that would not create any garbage, so we used pins to attach the braids to the top and skirt. None of the pins opened while she wore it, but if you are concerned you could tape over the pin on the side that contacts the body, or wear a second garment underneath as a barrier.

Try to pin through and around the braided stems. You can trim off the extra stems or tuck them under another braid.

  • We repeated the same process of braiding and laying out the braids on the skirt, and then pinned them in place. Note that the direction of the braids was reversed on the skirt, meaning the braids pointed down to the ground. This helped to have a smoother, more comfortable waist.

Leaf braids on the tank pointing up, leaf braids on the skirt pointing down. Separated here to show technique, but you would want to have the ends of the leaves touching to hide the stems.

  • The braiding and pinning for the top and skirt took about 5 hours. Partly because we were developing the process as we went and partly because Ro wanted to try the top on at every step of the way!

  • The last piece we made was the hair piece; Ro wanted a fascinator. So we took a left over chain of red maple leaves and braided them. I closed the braid with a regular hair elastic. When the braid was laid over the top of her head, draping down, the leaves fanned up for an interesting look. Held to the head with a few bobby pins.

If we’d had more time, I would have filled in those peeks of white fabric with some shorter braids, but time and patience ran out. Ro wanted to skip around the neighbourhood in her dress!

By the end of the evening, Ro’s dress was dried out and starting to crumble. We had a trail of leaf crumbs all around the house. As I swept up, I noticed that the most beautiful pile was gathering at my broom.

A leaf heart made from the crumbled leaves from Ro’s dress. The rest went into the compost.

Please feel free to ask any questions about process or technique if my guidance wasn’t clear. Good luck and have fun getting creative with natural materials and please share your results with me!

You might also like my post:

How to Make All Natural Temporary Tattoos from Real Flowers

How to Make Easter Egg Shaped Bath Bombs with Real Flowers

Ecominimalism: Minimalism and Sustainability Talking with Robin Kay

Top post: Any Occasion, Sustainable Gift Guide for Children

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