Category Archives: Gift Ideas

Charity begins at home: an alternative giving guide to help ‘save the world’

Charity Begins at Home. Blog Post Talina Edwards Architecture Sustainable design Ballarat

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ ANNE FRANK

[UPDATED 01.12.14]

Well as the year draws to an end and with the smell of Christmas is in the air already, it engages our spirit of generous giving to loved-ones… But I do hate the over-spending and over-consumption of so much non-ethical and non-sustainable “stuff”!  But this post is not a gift guide (you can find one of those here or here), THIS is about extending our generous spirit beyond our loved ones, to our wider community… to help out others at this time of year too.

Here’s some little ways that don’t have to cost much (if anything!) that might just make a big difference to someone, and if that doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, then perhaps you’re missing the point of the Christmas season. ;o)

Show Gratitude

This is the cheapest and easiest one! Just taking the time to say thank-you and letting someone know they are appreciated. You can tell them face to face, send a gift-card, post a comment publicly on social media… Taking this time to be thankful not only brightens someone else’s day, it will improve your wellbeing too!

Partake in Random Acts of Kindness

One of my favourite films of all time is Amelie! If you don’t know it (I highly recommend it!), it is a quirky art house film set in France, about a woman who does cute, odd little things to help influence the lives of the people around her, for the better.  If everyone was a little more kind, imagine the world we could be living in! Some like to see this as “Pay it forward” – or Good Karma – that the kindness you show others now, will be returned to you in a time of need. Maybe you could pay for a coffee/meal for the person in the queue behind you at the cafe, or fill up a parking metre as you leave, donate blood, let a car in front of you in a traffic jam, offer babysitting to parents, walk a friend’s dog, pick flowers from your garden to take to an elderly neighbour….  there are hundreds more ideas online if you’re stuck.

Volunteer Your Time

More than a third of Australian adults are already involved in voluntary work – are you? It also happens to be International Volunteer Day #IVD2014 on December 5th, and the theme for this year is “Make change happen: volunteer“. Helping make a difference in your community at a grassroots level is what it is all about… just by helping in a small way, you are in fact helping to change the world! Often giving your time, is more valuable than giving your money.

Donate with ‘Shout For Good’ App

I first heard about the ‘Shout for Good’ App at the Big Hearted Business Conference, and thought it was such a fabulous idea  – by changing the way we donate to charity in the age of the smart-phone. It is so easy – when you shout yourself lunch, how about donating the same amount to a favourite charity. With a tap on our phone it is that easy! No more being hassled by cold-callers asking you for your bank details for recurring monthly donations to the big charity organisations. Check it out here.

Support a Crowdfunding Campaign

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of supporting these. It is a very different feeling to say, giving money to the Guide Dogs or Oxfam – and please don’t get me wrong, of course each and every charity is worth supporting and I have given to these organisations many times, but I do love that with “Crowdfunding” you are supporting a person or a cause or a big idea that you feel more connected with. You can support, and share in their journey,  and more often than not, you  also get a “reward” because you’ve helped kick in the funds upfront toward capital for their project – so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I’ve loved receiving some artwork, a CD, or knowing that a tree’s been planted all due to some very worthy ‘pozible’ campaigns. Two that are close to my heart at the moment, and still really need your help, are firstly, a local art and design collaborationCollidescope  where a total of 22 Ballarat visual-artists and fashion designers are working together to create wearable-art as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival – but this is much more than just ‘fashion’! It is about celebrating creativity, community and collaboration! I’m fortunate to know many of the amazing creatives involved in this project, and I can’t wait to see the outcomes. Please see more here.

The other fabulous initiative that you may have heard about isThe Nursery Project‘ by two inspiring local creatives: blogging-royalty and author Rowan Anderson (Whole Larder Love) and his partner – photographer/blogger/cook “the lunch lady” Kate Berry. You may know that they are passionate about simple, wholesome, healthy, down-to-earth living, eating sustainable, and growing your own food and making it from scratch. I love their philosophies and share *most* of them (but, err, as someone who eats predominantly vegetarian, I must admit,  I’m not quite so fond of the raise/hunt/butcher and eat the WHOLE animal – as sustainable as this scenario is!). They “want people to get their hands dirty, minds thinking and bellies and hearts full”. They’ve chosen the Daylesford area for the location, noting “We’re also basing The Nursery Project a short drive from one of the unhealthiest regional cities in Australia – Ballarat – where food and lifestyle choices are at their worst. It’s here that we hope to encourage some positive change.” If you can, please do something to help change this fact, by finding out more here.

UPDATED 01.12.14: I felt compelled to add an update to this post, as I overlooked another fabulous fundraising initiative that is dear to my heart. My lovely friend Gemma is currently in India, working as a pro-bono architect on a very special project which is renovating and building pre-schools for children in the slums of Ahmedabad. This a very big-hearted project, to help improve the lives of these families, by providing well-designed buildings which have adequate light, ventilation, and sewerage (a rare luxury in these parts), which will be used for education, vaccination, and for the community. The project is also very much about affordable eco-architecture, with a big emphasis on reduce, re-use and recycle. I spent time in Ahmedabad, on a four-month stay in India back in 2006, and when I was there I wished I could do more to help… now I can. Please click here to read more about ‘The Anganwadi Project‘, and if you can help contribute a few dollars, know that it will be making a big difference to many lives.


I’m sure you’re already giving generously to others in your own unique way, I just thought I’d put a few more ideas out there. I think this is especially important to set a good example for kids at this time of year – that it is not about receiving gifts from Santa, it is about giving to others.

And in this spirit of giving, I want to show my gratitude to all of you – my wonderful family, friends, clients, colleagues, consultants, supporters, readers, fellow-bloggers, creative tribes-folk, followers and “likers”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Without all of you, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing! 

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our news!

Happy 1st Birthday to our blog!

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. 


Hey, Guess What?! It’s our birthday! Yes, its been one year whole since this blog began! So to celebrate, I thought I’d share a few stats, and a recap of the posts…you never know, you might’ve missed out on something you’d like to go back and check-out. Grab yourself a slice of birthday cake and a glass of bubbly (or a cuppa tea!), and settle in for some reading!

So this post is our 28th. Which means on average, a new post goes up about once a fortnight. There are 15 main categories for the posts: Architecture, Ballarat, Creativity, Design, Environment, Folio, Food, Gift Ideas, Green Building, Inspiration, Musings, Newsletters, Recycling, Sustainability, and uncategorised. According to the site statistics, there’s been over 4000 views of the blog, and 130 comments, which sounds pretty good to me, for a “new kid on the blog” ;o)

Here they all are (in chronological order):

The first day of the rest of my (amazing) life! (The reason behind why this blog began in this first place, or what kicked my butt into action!)

“You are what you eat” (In answer to a question I often get asked)

When I grow up, I want to be… (the answer is obvious, isn’t it?)

The self-doubting creative soul… sound familiar? (You too? Or perhaps not)

“So, what is your blog about?” (An old fave)

Transform: Altering the Future of Architecture (Review of Women in Architecture seminar in Melbourne)

Five ways to acknowledge World Environment Day (Relevant for every day!)

The secret recipe for great buildings! (Do you know what it is?)

What is democracy? Visit M.A.D.E. to find out (Review of one of Ballarat’s newly renovated public buildings)

The future is ‘green’ for big roofs (Review of Ballarat Green Drinks event + more)

Talina Edwards Architecture FOLIO project: “Miller and Co Studio” (A little project we did last year)

Spring has sprung! (Seasonal musings)

5 Ways To Celebrate World Architecture Day! (Or if you’re at all interested in Architecture and Building Design, take a peek!)

Design is not a dirty word! (Truly, it’s not. But it has does have a bit of a bad reputation!)

5 Recycling Ideas When Building Your Home (reduce/re-use/reclaim/salvage/up-cycle) (Love some recycling tips!)

5 Architecture Gift Ideas for Kids (For christmas or birthdays, these are for all kids to encourage creativity!)

5 things to buy an Architect for Christmas…(*hint hint*) (Hmmm, this was a very popular post, yet I didn’t receive ANY of these gifts last year…?!)

My big-hearted tribe (A shout-out to Big Hearted Businesses)

Our *first* Newsletter! (Well, we wanted to share it here too)

A Creative Conversation (Review of a fabulous workshop I attended here in Ballarat)

Season’s Greetings! (The obligatory Xmas Card)

Talina Edwards Architecture February Newsletter (Another update from the studio)

Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions (Felt like I needed to!)

World’s Biggest Green Drinks Ballarat (Review of local event and insightful speaker)

Folio Flashback: Sustainable House, Malvern (Still love this house!)

Starting out on your green home journey? Ballarat’s ‘Smart Living and Building Expo’ (& we) can help! (Review and some pretty pics)

WHY do sustainable design? (Why do you think?)

So I’ve covered some local Ballarat (and Melbourne) events, talked about design and creativity, given advice in the form of “top five tips”, showcased some folio projects for Talina Edwards Architecture, written about seasonal events, talked a bit about who I am, and of course the posts are always somewhat related to architecture and my practice, sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.

The future of the blog is going to take a slightly more focused path for a bit as I concentrate on the “Sustainable Design” series of informative articles where I aim to help answer your questions, starting with our recent post on WHY do sustainable design?  I’ll of course also be covering what, where, when, who, and how…plus much more detail into the “what” and how sustainable / eco / green / energy-efficient design can benefit you and your home. (I’ll still continue to post some other topical news too).

Looking forward to sharing some of this with you all – as this is what I’m passionate about, as an Architect who specialises in this field.


PS I LOVE reading your comments, and responding to your queries…so please, say something in the comments box below. Do you have a favourite post of ours? Is there a topic you’d like us to cover? Maybe you’d just like to say hi, and happy birthday! Just you stopping to by to read is THE best birthday gift of all – so a big thank you – I really appreciate it! x

5 things to buy an Architect for Christmas…(*hint hint*)

Ok, so following on from my previous post about the five best architecture gifts for kids, I thought that you may also be interested in five best architecture-related gifts for adults (not just for architects!) although yes, these are all on my wish list!

1. Lego Architecture 

So you know that Lego isn’t just for kids, right?! There is a great “Architecture” series of Lego, with many world-famous buildings.  I love that they’ve even done a ‘Sydney Opera House’ as it is such an iconic masterpiece, however the model is simplistic with rectangular Lego bricks and larger curved sections, that the model doesn’t really do justice to the actual form. I think my fave would be ‘Falling Water’ but hey, if you’re feeling generous, the whole collection would be great, thanks!!

Lego Falling Water

Lego Falling Water

2. “New Suburban” book by Stuart Harrison

This is the third book by Melbourne Architect Stuart Harrison, and it explores way architects are re-defining what it means to live sustainably in our suburbs. There are 30 homes showcase from Australia and NZ, with some emerging architects featured too (not just all the usual suspects). The Design Files recently featured and interview with the author here if you want to learn more about the book – before rushing out to buy it (for me)! His previous book about houses with a smaller footprint that maximise efficient use of space: “Forty-Six Square Meters of Land doesn’t normally become a house” is also on my wish list!

"New Suburban" by Stuart Harrison

“New Suburban” by Stuart Harrison


3. “Grand Designs Australia” DVD

I love a good TV series on DVD – because I just don’t get time to watch TV. Catch-up TV online is great too, but I do like the idea of owning my own copy of Grand Designs Australia to watch whenever I fancy. There are 3 series now actually. Or of course the Box Set of the original UK would be most welcome too – not just for me, but would make an awesome gift for anyone interested in unique homes! Never watched an episode? I’ve written previously here about why you should!

Grand Designs Australia

Grand Designs Australia

Grand Designs BOX SET!

Grand Designs BOX SET!

4. “Green Magazine” Subscription

I love this Australian magazine about sustainable architecture and landscape design. It features diverse inspiring projects, has informative advice, and some great products. You can get an online version, or have it delivered to your door. Perfect for some inspirational summer reading…

5. Eco Design Playing Cards

This cool game is designed by Melbourne’s Eco Innovators and are designed to inform and inspire designers about the sustainability of their products. You can buy a boxed set, or download a printable version for FREE (how cool is that!). Combining education with fun – gotta love that!

Design Play Cards

Design Play Cards

Are any of these on your wish-list this year? What would you give an Architect? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

If you want to learn more about all things design, architecture, sustainability and healthy homes, please sign up to follow my blog by email (top right hand corner of this page).

Talina x

5 Architecture Gift Ideas for Kids

Do you know a little creative person who loves architecture? They might love building cubbies and forts, constructing sand-castles or making dolls-houses for their toys out of cardboard boxes! However if you need a few MORE ideas for what else they might like for Christmas, here are my top five gift ideas for encourage your budding little Architect! (Or for ALL children really!)

1. Kids Architecture Books

There are some fabulous books about Architetcure for kids! Some of my faves (and the ones my kids love too!) are “Iggy Peck, Architect” where young Iggy is passionate with architecture and manages to save the day, or “Roberto: The Insect Architect” which is a very humorous tale about a termite that loves building with wood (instead of eating it!) with clever references to world-famous architects, or “See Inside Famous Buildings” a flip-the-flap book by Usbourne.

2. Wooden Blocks

Every kid should have a set of wooden blocks! I love the texture of the wood, I love the open-ended play (meaning kids use their imagination and creativity to use the blocks in any way possible through exploration and discovery) and I love that kids are sub-consciously learning about science while they play (physics when constructing a tower, and then the law of gravity when the blocks come tumbling down!). Whether they are home-made or shop-bought, blocks are a great toy for all ages. And world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright  said his inspiration for Falling Water came from his love of playing with blocks as a child!

3. Lego

Lego was always my favourite toy as a child! I’d spend hours designing and building houses, and then keep them for months – not wanting my masterpieces destroyed! I kept my big box of lego, and my sons now love it too! Yes its a plastic toy, but it is so durable and lasts for YEARS, and still always fetches a high price if you’re willing to part with it! They even have Architectural lego sets for the grown-ups now too… I might put that on MY wishlist for Santa this year!

4. Architecture 3D Puzzles / Models

My son was given some of these great sets as gifts, and he loved constructing these world-famous buildings, and then being able to look up images online of the real deal! They’re made of cardboard/foam-core so are lightweight and the pieces just punch out and slot together with no scissors or glue required. They look very impressive once built, and were a big hit at school for “show and tell”!

5. Sketchbook and Pencils

Every little Architect loves drawing! So provide the materials they need to maintain their passion! The gift of a special sketchbook that can be used as a “Visual Diary” to be creative daily with their drawings is sure to be gratefully received. Stay away from colouring-books where the pictures are already drawn, and provide a blank canvas instead with no preconceptions about what ‘should’ be on the page. As a child, I desperately wanted a box set of Derwent pencils for a gift… finally one year I got the prized set and I finally felt I was a ‘real’ artist! I still have them (although some favourite colours are on the stubby side now), and my kids now use them too!



I think these ideas are great for fostering creativity and imagination for ALL children – not just those who have shown an interest in building and architecture! I’d love to hear your thoughts – don’t be shy – comment below.

What was your favourite toy as a kid? What do your kids love playing with? Do you think you may have a little architect in the making?

If you want to learn more about all things design, architecture, sustainability and healthy homes, please sign up to follow my blog by email (top right hand corner of this page).

Talina x