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

Global Guardian Learning Capsules Giveaway

Hippie in Disguise Rideau River Ottawa Canada

I’ve teamed up with my friend Rebecca to *giveaway* a 6-month subscription to the new Global Guardian Learning Capsules. You can read all about them in my post here.

In a nutshell, the Global Guardian Project is a monthly online subscription focused on global stewardship for families and children, home educators and anyone who loves to learn about the world and help make it a better place. Each month subscribers receive a learning capsule by email focused on a country and its wild life. The first capsule was Brazil (released August 2016), in two weeks the Rwanda capsule will be released. Future capsules will feature other countries including India, Australia, England and many more. Each capsule includes beautiful photography, facts and information about the country, it’s wildlife, global change makers and inspiring people, recipes, vocabulary and much more. There are also art projects and free digital downloads, podcasts, videos and guided meditation recordings.
Global Guardian Project Rwanda Capsule Homeschool

The capsules are both informative and inspiring, helping us understand how simple, small actions can make a big difference. Most importantly, the capsules highlight some of the things children are doing around the world to make a difference, showing us that there is no need to wait to for adulthood to make a positive impact.

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the giveaway photo, and make sure to:

  • Sign up by email for the FREE sample capsule by visiting this link 
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo to let me know you signed up for the free capsule
  • Tag a friend in the comments who is a fellow global guardian, and if they sign up for the free capsule and follow @globalguardianproject too, then you’ll both win a subscription if your name is drawn the winner. Pay it forward!
  • For an extra entry: Share my Facebook post about this
  • For an extra entry: Repost my Instagram post about this with hashtag #ggpgiveaway

Contest closes Thursday September 8, 2016 at midnight (Pacific Standard Timezone) and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

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

Plastic Free Living: 9 Ways to Get Inspired and Informed

Plastic Free July Zero Waste Plum and Sparrow Market Basket

This past July our family participated in Plastic Free July, you can read about it here. To update you, we are continuing on with our project to eliminate plastic from our lives, still making poor choices some days, but all in all doing much better at keeping plastic to a minimum in our home.

There are a lot of great resources on the web to get people motivated to eliminate plastic from their lives, both practical and funny. Here are a few places you might want to check out for more plastic free inspiration, resources and entertainment:

  • This video by Tim Minchin Canvas Bag – watch it to the end, it’s worth 3 minutes of your life.
  • Litterless Blog, a great resource for making less waste, practical and achievable. And read my interview with Litterless blogger Celia here.
  • A great post for beginners is over on Less Makes Happy where you will 5 tips for getting started.
  • The Beauty in Simple, another great blog with practical tips for how to live a busy life with kids and make zero (or close to) waste. You can also read my interview with Juliehere.
  • Resource: The book ZERO WASTE HOME by Bea Johnson is a resource I refer to every week to solve simple zero waste problems, so far I haven’t come across a problem the book couldn’t offer a solution to.
  • Real talk: I have been really enjoying the Petalplum blog lately, Ellie has been sharing her month of plastic free in a funny, practical, humble and achievable way. Read this post and this one too.

On my site:

  • How To: A simple tutorial for wrapping gifts with fabric instead of paper and plastic tape.
  • Inspiration: The original source of my inspiration to live zero waste was the amazing Devine Family from Australia. Read about them here.
  • DIY: How to make your own milk, the recipe is for cashew but you can use oats, almonds, sesame seeds, rice, and it works just great.
What websites, blog posts and other resources have you found funny, helpful and inspiring? Please share in the comments below!

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

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, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code:HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off and read more about it here.

Bamboo toothbrush charcoal bristle Gaia guy Plastic Free July living roof succulent garden

Giveaway: Bamboo Toothbrushes by Gaia Guy

Bamboo toothbrush charcoal bristle Gaia guy Plastic Free July living roof succulent garden

This month is Plastic Free July and to help celebrate I have a giveaway for 4 bamboo toothbrushes from Gaia Guy. Find out how to enter at the end of this post.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Plastic Free July “aims to raise awareness of the problems of single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to do something about it.” People are encouraged to refuse all single-use plastic for the period of a day, week, month or longer. Either that or refuse the top 4 single use plastic items: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws. Sadly, it is estimated that by 2050, “there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Most [of this plastic] comes from land and was was once in our hands.” Together we can refuse single-use plastics and keep oceans and waterways clean.

Toothbrushes aren’t single use items, but they are daily use items that are easily replaced with a non-plastic equivalent. Bamboo toothbrushes, with charcoal bristles, are recyclable and biodegradable. That means that even if you don’t have local recycling facilities your toothbrush will biodegrade and nourish the earth over time. Plastic toothbrushes will only breakdown into micro-plastics, at best, and will degrade the health of the planet over time. Not to mention toothbrushes prove deadly to sea animals who often mistakenly eat plastics and die as a consequence. Bamboo toothbrushes are affordable ($4-5) and last just as long as the plastic equivalent.

The bamboo brushes by Gaia Guy:

  • are made from 100% natural bamboo – truly sustainable
  • are vegan friendly, BPA-free, lead-free, phthalates-free, guilt-free
  • have bristles that are biodegradable nylon-4 infused with bamboo charcoal
  • are light, yet solid and are a naturally antimicrobial toothbrush
  • have packaging that is eco-friendly with recycled cardboard and no glue that is recyclable, compostable and biodegradable
  • last as long as conventional plastic toothbrushes
  • are a great eco-friendly gift

Imagine the amount of plastic you will keep out of the environment by choosing to use a biodegradable toothbrush. One simple choice can create a powerful positive change for the environment. What’s more: small simple changes encourage us to make more small simple changes over time that really add up and have a ripple effect with our friends and family.

So, the next time you need a new toothbrush go find a bamboo one at a local shop or order one online. Gaia Guy sells them here.

  • By the way, if you aren’t making your own toothpaste I would recommend that you check out Truthpaste – they make a superb paste that is free of plastic microbeads (yes, conventional toothpaste has plastic in it that you swallow and spit down the drain. Horrendous!)

I would also encourage you to visit Gaia Guy’s website to read about his passion for regenerative enterprises. (He didn’t ask me to share any of this or the facts on his toothbrushes, I just loved what I found on his site and wanted to share with my readers). As he explains “regenerative enterprises are about partnerships with living systems,” that is, business in harmony with the planet and its ecosystems. As he explains this is not an oxymoron. I truly think regenerative enterprise should be the model for business going forward. Thank you for your energy and inspiration on this Ian (Gaia Guy)! Everything Gaia Guy stocks is biodegradable, reusable and bio-based.

To enter the giveaway for 4 bamboo toothbrushes, visit my Instagram account and look for the photo above, and make sure to:

  • Follow @higaiaguy on Instagram
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • Bonus entries:
    • Tag friends in the comments on the Instagram giveaway photo, separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots ???? No limit to the number of friends tagged. Each friend counts for an additional entry.
  • Get 5 extra entries: post a photo of yourself, your children, family or friends doing something good for the earth, like planting a tree or doing something in a more sustainable way. Use the hashtag #hippieslovegaiaguy so we can find your entry
  • Get 2 extra entries for putting @hippieindisguise and @higaiaguy in your Instagram post
  • Bonus entry if you follow Gaia Guy on Facebook

Contest closes Sunday July 31, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!


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

Wilde Asher Mala Sacred Jewellery

Giveaway: Wilde Asher Malas for Women and Children

Today I have a beautiful giveaway with Wilde Asher over on my Instagram account! My friend Sophie is one of the owners of Wilde Asher, a small online shop stocking lovely handmade and ethically sourced goods, including sacred jewellery and home decor. The lovely women behind Wilde Asher would like to giveaway two malas: one women’s Chakra Mala and one children’s mala. By the way, you can read about Sophie’s beautiful creative, earth-centred life in Australia in my interview with her here.

Wilde Asher Mala Sacred Jewellery

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the photo above, and make sure to:

  • Follow @wildeasher
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • For extra entries: Tag friends in the comments, separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots 🙂 No limit to the number of friends tagged. Each friend counts for an additional entry.

Contest closes Friday July 15, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

But wait, there’s more! Wilde Asher would like to offer my readers and followers a $30 AUD discount on their Chakra Malas. Quite generous! Find their collection of malas online here.

  • You can use the discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for $30 off your mala.

Slow Fashion by Eco Label Four’eMki

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Four’eMki designs women’s and children’s wear. Show above is the Shape Dress and below the Poncho Dressboth for women. All garments are sewn to order.


I started a new blog series over on the Enfants Terribles Magazine blog today called ‘Eco Label Love’. For this series I will share interviews with small companies who produce clothing and other products in a sustainable and ethical way. The fashion industry can be pretty terrible in terms of labour practices (for example, this). And, fast fashion is sorely contributing to landfill.

We need another way to clothe ourselves. With care. Slowly. Ethically. Mindfully. Sustainably.

While the most sustainable choice is always to buy second hand or thrift, thrift is not an option for everyone. This is why I want to celebrate companies who are leading the way toward a more sustainable and fair (or more than fair) industry. When it comes to sustainability, this means the fabrics are organic and renewable, locally sourced and sewn, or eco-dyed. In terms of ethical production, this means the garments are sewn and produced under fair conditions, as locally as possible.

For the first interview and feature I spoke with Polish slow fashion brand Four’eMki, which produces their designs end-to-end in Poland: from fabric to final garment. With their current collection designed in a vegan spirit and called Natureholic, this little label, and the lovely woman behind it, stole my heart.

Please skip over to see my blog post and interview on Enfants Terribles Magazine here.

You can find Four’eMki‘s online shop here, follow them on Instagram here, on Pinterest here, and on Facebook here.


You might also like my post:

Ethical Wool: Love Your Mother in Luv Mother

Slow Ethical Fashion: Dreaming with Little Creative Factory

The Slow Living Project

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Celia of Litterless Blog

I always say that minimalism isn’t just about our possessions. It can be about minimizing all sorts of things like our social calendar, our electronic communications, the number of decisions we make in a day or the garbage we produce.

Today, I have an interview with Celia that I’m excited to share with you. Celia is a recent graduate who, upon finishing school and setting up her first home, seized the opportunity to craft a home space and home ethic founded in simplicity and anchored in her environmental values. This led her to set up a minimalist space and zero waste life. Zero waste can seem, at best, intimidating and, at worst, impossible, but Celia has a way of sharing her lifestyle that is humble and practical – which you can read about on her awesome zero waste blog known as Litterless. I encourage you to bookmark her blog when you visit it, she is always posting very simple, useful, implementable tips for living garbage free. We can take a big leap or small steps but we should all be working towards making less garbage each and every day. Less is best. Aside from writing about and inspiring others to live more lightly upon the earth, Celia loves walking, yoga, reading, cooking, traveling and exploring cities. I hope you enjoy the read and are inspired to share!

Litterless zero waste celia

Hi Celia! Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I’m in my twenties, loving my first few years out of college and the freedom that comes with them – to travel, to have time in the day to spend as I wish, to build my life exactly as I want. These are really good years.

What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the United States, in Chicago, which I love. It’s big enough to have really great public transportation but still be very walkable – both things that help streamline my daily routine.

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

I want my home to be filled with simple, useful, beautiful things that I love and that are well cared for, so that I can spend my time and money on pursuits that matter more to me than possessions, like hanging out with family and friends, heading outdoors, reading, relaxing. I want to make sure the objects I own support rather than hinder these activities. Additionally, it’s important to me that my home is a calming, relaxing place that isn’t crammed with stuff; I want it to be a place where I live life, not where I store an overabundance of things.

Litterless Zero waste minimalist bedroom

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?

When I graduated from college and moved to my first apartment, I was faced with so many choices about how to live my life, how to set up my daily routines, how to do these adult tasks I’d rarely done before. I knew that I wanted my life to reflect my environmental values, and part of that meant reducing the amount of trash and recycling I made. To start, I set up a composting system so that I didn’t have to throw away organic waste, and began trying to reduce the amount of trash I made while grocery shopping. Now I don’t even own a trash can! An unexpected benefit of zero waste is that it’s made my life so much more efficient – I purchase what I need without packaging, and I no longer have to deal with a constant influx of disposable products into my home that I must then sort/donate/throw away. Not surprisingly, I don’t miss taking out the trash one bit.

What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle? 

I came to minimalism hoping to free up resources from an environmental perspective, and also to save time in my own life by simplifying my home and daily routines. As I moved towards becoming zero waste and thinking more about how to reduce my environmental footprint, I wanted to make sure that things I wasn’t using could be used by someone else while they still had life in them – so I began donating them. At the same time, I was feeling the pressures of my first job and wanting to find more hours in the day, and I thought that simplifying my home would help with that. And it has! I spend much less time cleaning and organizing now, which is such a boon.

Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet in general, but one thing I do wholeheartedly love about it is the fact that it introduced me to minimalism and zero waste in the first place. The beautiful blog No Trash Project provided my initial impetus for going zero waste – I love how thoughtfully and carefully its writer, Colleen, thinks about the objects she owns. A few (of many) more favorite inspirations – Zero Waste Home, Reading My Tea Leaves, and JaneJoJulia.

In what ways/areas do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

I have what some would consider an absurd number of books – but it works for me. I read constantly, am a fast reader, and often re-read beloved books many times, so having a well-filled bookshelf is a must. However, I no longer purchase books (even secondhand books!). Instead, I lean heavily on the library and swap books often with friends.

What have been some unexpected experiences, positive or negative, you’ve had with minimalism?

Parting with objects at first was hard and absolutely did not come naturally to me; I unconsciously associated my possessions (even unused, unneeded ones) with a feeling of security. But, unexpectedly, the more I downsized the more I came to really love minimalism and to be able to really see its benefits – how it helped me have more time, a more lovely and calming home, a feeling of lightness. The deeper I got into minimalism, the easier it became to identify and let go of excess, and now I know I’ll never go back to living with clutter and things I don’t love or need.

Litterless zero waste wool dryer balls

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

Some people (like Marie Kondo) advocate getting rid of everything you don’t need all at once, in one giant marathon session. That approach works for some people, but I kind of think it’s crazy! Going slowly and getting rid of things over a longer period of time has allowed me to to be more thoughtful about what I keep and what I pass along. Slowly decluttering (truly, over a period of several years) has also been a big help in making sure I’m donating each item to where it will best be reused or recycled (instead of dumping a huge load of random things on overcrowded local thrift stores or, worse, in the trash). I’m a big believer that the downsizing process should be approached with an eye to sustainability (here I’ve shared a few tips on how to do that!), and going slowly has allowed me to stay focused on that.

Litterless zero waste wrapping furoshiki

Thank you Celia! Readers make sure to check our Celia’s blog Litterless it is a great resource for living simply and garbage free. You can also find Celia on Instagram @golitterless and on Twitter @go_litterless.


You might also like my post:

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family on Living Garbage Free

How to Get Started with Minimalism: Assess your Personality

Talking about Minimalism and Sustainability with Robin Kay

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These 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

Label Love: Mikoleón Sustainable Shoes + Clothing — and a Giveaway!

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Growing up our family always had what it needed, but certainly there was no money to spare or to spend on being fashionable. Our clothes were most often second hand or sewn by my mother, and when we did buy new things we had to be price conscious.  Shoes, however, were one thing that my mother would not spare expense on. She always said her children had to have good shoes — for the health of the foot, not for the sake of fashion. She bought us sensible shoes that fit well and since we only had one pair of shoes at a time, they would be shoes we could do anything in: climb trees, walk to school, play sports, and so on. When my sister, who was the fanciest little toddler you will ever meet (she went through a phase where she couldn’t be seen in public without a bridal veil), wanted fancy shoes my mother found a local shoemaker who made my sister Mary Janes that were functional and fancy (of course this was long before the online shopping era, so my mother had to locally source shoes, a good thing for sure).

I carried my mother’s concern for healthy foot development forward as a parent and have always done my best to outfit Ro and Sen’s feet with quality shoes that would let their feet breath and develop in a healthy manner. With Sen and Ro growing like weeds over the winter (I love weeds, by the way) I needed new shoes for both of them this spring. I had the good fortune of getting them handmade shoes from Mikoleón, which, by the way, have proven to be exceptional quality.

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Mikoleón is a small company making children’s clothing and footwear. The production ethics are outstanding: their clothing is made from up-cycled fabrics, 100% cotton, chemical free, dye free, fair trade, reduced CO2, sustainable and handmade. Their shoes are handmade by cobblers in traditional slow production methods. The leather is processed in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. With all this production goodness I wanted to share more about the company with my readers (this is not a sponsored post!), so I asked Cony, the woman behind the company, if she might indulge me in an interview. She said yes and offered to do a giveaway too — yay!  I don’t encourage frequent or conspicuous consumption, but do take note of Mikoleón for the next time you need to buy some beautiful ethically made children’s clothing and footwear. And make sure to read to the end of the post to see how you can win something from Mikoleón.

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Cony, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, the person behind Mikoleón. What is your background?

I’m a mom of 5 and now grandmother to 14 beautiful grandkids including triplets! I’m an entrepreneur at heart! I love the idea of creating something and watch it blossom…I like to figure things out; I’m fascinated and obsessed with anything related to textiles and natural fibers; and I’m committed to living a green life as much as I can!

How would you describe Mikoleón in 5 words?

A brand with a conscience.

Why did you choose Mikoleón for your brand name? What does it mean?

A Mikoleón is a Kinkajou also known as “honey bear,” but not an endangered species…yet. They are native to the jungles of Central and South America, they eat fruits and live among trees. Mikoleón in Spanish means monkey-lion, and for us, it was the perfect name to describe the soul inside our company.

What inspired you to start designing shoes and clothing?

I wish I could say that my dream was to be a fashion designer! But the real reason is…I saw an opportunity to help people in Guatemala with sustainable jobs and that combined with my love of textiles sealed the deal! I was in awe of their craftsmanship and desire to have a better life. I couldn’t deny the opportunity.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be a mom. Now that I’m one, I want to someday write a children’s book about love.

Craftsmanship and sustainability are important to you. How do you translate these into your designs and their production?

Even though we have skilled artisans, there’s always a learning curve to produce high quality products for them. Training our employees to understand the level of quality we want is imperative and essential to our production. We strive to make products that are simple in design and that showcase our specialty fabrics.


Where are Mikoleón shoes made and clothing is sewn? What is your relationship with the seamstresses?

Our shoes and clothes are made in Antigua, Guatemala. Our seamstresses and cobblers are skilled women and men that were in great need of a job to provide for their families. We were just lucky to find them…and have the chance to help them.

Our fair wage policy goes beyond what the local Guatemalan government considers a fair wage. Our in-house employees enjoy all the benefits the laws in Guatemala require, such as medical, social security, maternity leave, and vacation benefits. In addition, Guatemala laws require that you pay your employees for 14 months of wages but they actually work only 11 months! Twice a year they get paid for two months of work while working only one.

We take much pride to say that we pay fair prices for their goods.

What’s special about the materials you use? And your production methods?

Our denim is up-cycled. Basically, we collect new waste materials from the denim factories in Guatemala, and transform it back into threads; we then use the up-cycled threads to make new woven and knit fabrics. This saves a tremendous amount of water in the manufacturing process compared to traditional new fabrics.

We consider ourselves a slow fashion company, meaning, each piece is done in small quantities as needed. We don’t have a factory, I like to think of it more as a sewing shop, and much like a seamstress or tailor shop would be here in the USA. We buy raw materials from ISO certified factories (ISO 9000), and we are always mindful of the environmental impact of our production methods.


What has made you the most proud of what you’re doing?

Being able to empower our employees to believe in themselves and their worth; and second would be, knowing that we are providing our customers with products that make them feel good while making conscious fashion choices.

Do you plan to expand the line?  What’s next for Mikoleón?

For now, we just want to educate consumers about the beauty of natural fibers, up-cycling, and the negative impact on our environment and the real cost of fast fashion.

When you are all caught up on work, what do you love to do?

I love a cup of chai tea, sitting on my back porch and staring at our beautiful Rocky Mountains, reminding myself how lucky I am for the chance to love my little tribe!



Thank you Cony! Readers you can find Mikoleón’s online shop here and follow them on Instagram @mikoleonkids

Mikoleon wants to giveaway a $100 gift card and a Nena & Co Mini Clutch to one of my readers! …Details below

6042 mothers day giveaway flatlay

Example of a Nena & Co Mini Clutch shown above **If you are curious about Nena & Co, you can read about them here

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Sen calls his Mikoleon shoes his “Adventure Boots” — according to him the side pocket is meant to hold treasures collected while adventuring, I’m pretty sure he’s got that one right!

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and make sure to:

  • Follow @mikoleonkids
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo to confirm your entry
  • For extra entries: Tag friends in the comments. Please separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots:) No limit to number of friends tagged.
  • For an extra entry: Sign up for Mikoleón’s mailing list (and BONUS you’ll get a 20% off coupon sent to your inbox!)

Contest closes Sunday May 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm NYC standard time and is open worldwide. The winner will be announced on Instagram on Sunday May 1st after 4:00 pm. Good luck friends!

You might also like my post:

Reincarnating Traditional Fabrics into Modern Bags: An Interview with Ali from Nena & Co

A Thoughtful Guide to Women’s Gifts for Any Occasion

Glimpses into our Home: Slow, Mindful, Minimal, Nature-Inspired Decor

Want to find me in other places?

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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Artist Profile: Kara Rane and her Cosmic Circles

Sen, by our bedroom window, enjoying the colours shine through two layered cosmic circles by artist Kara Rane. Such a fun, creative, open ended play thing. I always wonder what he’s thinking about. [ Sen’s necklace is from Tribal Dreaming “Earth Warrior” and his leggings are organics from Mabo ]

I remember well what my passions were when I was a child: drawing and arranging things artfully, dancing, playing in the forest, and (as crazy as it sounds) I was passionate from as early as I can remember about environmental protection. But I also remember thinking from very young that none of these passions could be an adult pursuit. (How wrong I was!!) I somehow thought that happiness came from things, from comforts, and that I couldn’t have those things (and thus happiness) without money. Since the statistical likelihood of earning money as an illustrator, artist or tree hugger seemed quite slim, I decided to be practical and enter a traditional, remunerative profession in order to find myself in a context that would afford me things, and thus enable happiness. Well, surprise ending: Things don’t make you happy. Passions do. People do. 

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of a woman who knew and followed her passions throughout her life and has been able to provide for herself and her family what they need to sustain themselves and their happiness. Kara Rane is an artist, world traveller, and mother of one, who makes beautiful artwork inspired by her deep connection and reverence for the earth. She and her partner have a small homestead nestled in supportive community committed to sustainable living. What a beautiful environment in which to raise a child! I put much hope in children raised in such an environment for their future contributions to community and sustaining our planet. But I know that us urban dwellers living in the mainstream can also play our part in raising our children differently, it might just be a little harder to drown out the distractions, noise and clutter. But we can do it too!

Whether you are living rurally or in an urban setting I think Kara’s passion for art and sustainability will inspire you to find ways to nourish yourself and your family with creativity and the natural world. I hope so!

Dear Kara, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I grew up at 6,000 feet in the mountains of Southern California, in a log home.  Nature was a huge part of my childhood, and I found my favorite places to be were among the trees, streams, lakes & wilderness.  I also love the ocean so I decided to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara (studying Environmental Science and Art studio) where I could live by the sea.

I am deeply connected to the natural world, but my curiosity compelled me to explore urban life and I lived in San Francisco and New York City.  Having a passion for travel, I also lived for a time in the Caribbean on a tiny remote island, trekked the Himalayas of Nepal, returned to my native Nordic countries, explored Thailand and Vietnam and have road tripped throughout parts of the United States.  All of these experiences I was able to manage on only the money I earned. At times it was a daunting task as often I found myself with nothing other than my creativity to survive.

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California on a 6 acre homestead. We have an organic and heirloom orchard of 44 trees, an organic hop yard and small gardens to grow our food.  We love the community, as there are many ‘back to the Earth’ folks. It is common practice for us to trade with one another for goods and this is truly a delightful way to know your neighbors.

at the Farmers Market Kara Rane Cosmic Circles

How do you spend most of your days?

Recently, most of my days and nights are spent caring for our baby.  I have learned to incorporate him into projects via baby wearing, so work continues on. We also make a priority to hike at least a couple times a week, often with other mamas and their babies and children.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from the great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” -Chief Seattle

This quote resonates so strongly with me as I feel that I am trying to recover a part of myself that has died due to the loss of so many animals, trees, and the myriad of life forms who are now extinct, or are at risk of extinction due to human caused perils. In honoring these beings I feel wholly united. It is my hope to draw, paint, create them back into the world of the living. In nourishing this wildness, I too am trying to resurrect my soul.

Eco-Art cards - Kara Rane
What are you passionate about?

Our capacity to change as individuals and a collective global society gives me hope. Without this, it would be impossible for me to be passionate about anything as I have a lot of concerns for the future of the environment on which we depend. Hopefully, the work I do as an artist can help bring about this change.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist?

Using vibrant, neon, and rainbow colors to layer sacred shapes and patterns, the vision is revealed to me as the lifting of a veil.  Into a dimension of light, a familiar yet brighter and more alive Universe is known. I see a place of harmony, peace and happiness. Through nature and ancient symbolism I glimpse the Divine.

Returning Forward © Kara Rane

Are you able to support your family financially with your artwork?

My art sustains me as a whole person. Throughout my life it has also been a source of income in various ways. Often times, I have been forced to get creative in how this might look. For example: I worked as a studio artist in NYC for a corporate art making company. Although, I was not making my own art I was given a lot of freedom. Currently, I am a full-time mama and have created several eco-friendly product lines featuring my art. They are sold in retail locations, at local festivals and farmers markets and via my website.

Can you talk about your cosmic circles?

The ‘Cosmic Circle’ designs are a kaleidoscopic portal allowing light, color, energy and beauty to fill your Life. I hand create the original designs and Greenerprinter, a business based on the highest standard in environmental printing, reproduces the images. These colorful, transparent clings adhere without adhesive, so they are easy to use, remove and re-use. Better than stickers!!

More ℃osmic ℃ircles © Kara Rane

When you aren’t drawing, what do you love to do?

Working with my hands, in all things!  I am very dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle, to supporting and growing organic food and to understanding how to best care for the land and creatures we depend on.  This requires a lot of work outside on the land and that is where I love to be, with the trees, birds, sun and sky.


Thank you, Kara, for sharing a glimpse into your world and creative vision and purpose. How beautiful visually and soulfully! Readers you can find Kara on Instagram @kara_rane and you can read more about her art and visit her shop at www.KaraRane.com.

This interview is part of my Creative Mothers series, you can find the rest here.

You might also like my post:

How to Make All Natural Temporary Tattoos from Real Flowers

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

How to Make a Mother Nature Leaf Dress from Real Leaves

Drawing a Day: A Summer Drawing Project

How to Make All Natural Bath Bombs with Dried Flowers

Want to find me in other places?