Saturday 31 March 2012

Earth Hour - switch off and help our Planet

Earth Hour is celebrated on 31st March (the last Saturday of March) and you are asked to participate by switching off the lights for 60 minutes, between 8,30 and 9,30pm wherever you are in the world.

Last year over 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries switched off their lights in support of action on climate change. With the power of social networks spreading the message, this number is expected to be higher with more countries and more cities joining in with a commitment to change to create a sustainable Planet.

This yearly event originated in Sydney, Australia in 2007 (of course planning and talking about the concept started a few years earlier), when World Wildlife Fund and Leo Burnett Sydney (an advertising agency) took the concept to Fairfax Media to back the event and they agreed.
Sydney residents were asked to show support for climate change, and 2,2 million people and more than 2000 businesses turned off their lights for an hour.
In 2008 the rest of Australia followed, then Canada and before long 35 other countries were part of the event. In 3 years it went from 35 to 135 participating countries!

In 2011 it was the first Earth Hour to go beyond the hour, when supporters were asked to think what else they could do to make a difference.
To find out more about Earth Hour, share your stories and pledges go to

I remember two years ago, the first time we participated, we actually had a power failure due to something blowing up in our "junction box", so we actually had no lights for about 4 or 5 hours until our electricity provider came to fix it!  Last year we organized a candlelight dinner.
This year we will not be home for a few hours as we are attending a friend´s birthday, so our lights will be out for a few hours. Not sure whether my friend´s dinner party will be lit by candles only...

So, even if you only switch your lights off for 1 hour, every little bit helps.
Enjoy your evening, under the stars or candle light!
Does your city or town take part in Earth Hour? Are you planning to do something different?

Perth City centre before Earth Hour
Perth city centre during Earth Hour

Tuesday 20 March 2012

2012 Sculpture by the Sea

This year marked the 8th "Sculptures by the sea" exhibition in Cottesloe beach, which opened on 1st March and closed today 19th March.

I love going to see the artworks set out in a relaxed outdoor environment, with people sunbathing next to them, families wandering around the sand from piece to piece, explaining the artworks to the kids, school excursions... and of course I enjoy seeing the different types of materials used for the sculptures, from bronze to wool, and recycled materials, the variety is fascinating.
Caliban - this scary 2mt high aluminium statue overlooks the beach

This particular free event was expected to attract over 200,000 visitors to visit its 70 artworks made by local, interstate and international artists. I wonder if more people visit this type of exhibition being outdoors than if it was held in a museum?

This year´s winner was Western Australia´s artist Paul Caporn, who won a $15,000 Sculptor scholarship award, that helps local artists further their careers, with his "yellow dump truck" made from rubber mats used in children´s playgrounds.
The winning entry - Yellow Dump Truck - by Paul Caporn                                                                                                                                                                                    
His truck with the accompanying statement "overloading a system eventually leads to its failure" is a metaphor on the thriving WA mining industry. "It´s a plaything for the kids, but they carry the burden of the future" - said Caporn in an interview.
It was certainly the children´s favourite judging by the amount of kids who wanted to climb on it, when I was there.

This year a most unusual thing happened, a few days ago, for the first time in the events history, a statue was vandalized and stolen, but luckily a few days later the young culprit was found. (This must have been a prank and he might have had help, as the bronze statue is heavy, and he wouldn´t be able to carry it on his own, but Police are investigating). "Childhood Morning", by Chen Wenling, who last year won the People´s choice award with another huge Red statue, was the targeted statue. The theft has exposed the risk of not insuring the artworks with an estimated value of $2,5million.

Childhood Morning - by Chen Wenling
Vehicle - by Jean-Marc Rivalland
Ship of Fools - by Deborah Halpern,
One of my favourites covered with mosaics


Just another conversation  - Robin Yakinthou

Thought Process

Oh my God - by Lucy Vader

Another one of my favourites, a granite piece "Oushi-zokei"  by Keizo Ushio

Cottesloe beach with Indiana Tea House

Most pieces are for sale with prices ranging from $1300 to $145,000!!
Some artists will now have their work exhibited in "Bondi´s 2012 Sculpture by the sea" in Sydney, to be held from 18th October to 4th Nov this year, and then they will head to Denmark in June 2013.
Looking forward to visiting it again next year as it´s a lovely day out on the beach.
Hope you enjoyed this visit too. 
Which was your favourite piece of art?

Saturday 17 March 2012

Winners of the 100th post Giveaway

On my 100th post I wrote about giving away 2 wooden boxes painted/decorated with the winner´s chosen colours.
I put all the names in rolled up papers in a jar and picked the two winners.
Here are their names and lovely blogs. If you don´t know them yet, have a peep as they are both very enjoyable:
- Carole from Piglet in Portugal  (life from an expat living in Portugal).
- Amanda from Not a Ballerina   (a travel blog)

Congratulations to the winners, who have been notified by email.
I will start crafting soon and will post photos of the finished boxes. Piglet wanted a box with "pigs", so I have to put my thinking cap on and see what I can come up with!
Thanks to all that participated, and hope to have a lot more of my readers participating in some future giveaway.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

A - Z of Australia - H is for Housing

Since salaries and cost of living is higher in Australia than in Europe, housing here can be quite pricey, and every time there is a mining boom, property prices seem to go up as well...

After 3 months in a furnished rented apartment paid for by the company that sponsored my husband, we moved into our "renovators dream".  For about 1 month we had searched for our dream home by going to various "open homes" on the weekends ranging from units to houses, old and new in various suburbs South of the River* but we had a maximum amount we could spend, as we had to put down 20% deposit, due to our type of visa, and of course that restricted our choice, as we hadn´t yet sold our house in Portugal, so we had limited funds.

Perth was in the middle of a boom, so everything seemed quite expensive to us, and all we could afford to buy was a used property, which meant the house would not have all the mod cons of the ones in the newly built areas, one advantage was it was just 7min by car to my husband´s work and 15min to my work.
Now that our house is "almost" fully renovated (by us), I think I quite like where I live, not too far from the city centre, close to work, walking distance to a Primary and High school, 5min drive to a shopping centre, a bus stop in the street behind, train station 7min away by car...

Prices vary of course depending on the suburbs, the further from the city or from the sea or river, the cheapest it is of course. But with over 500 suburbs, from "Two Rocks" in the top north to about 140km down to the southern town of "Mandurah" to chose from, it´s no mean feat deciding where to live.

*South of the river - refers to all suburbs south of the River Swan that flows in front of the city. People here always distinguish between living South or North of the River. The Northern suburbs are newer (apart from the ones surrounding the city), and the southern suburbs have older properties with bigger blocks of land, except for the new suburbs popping up further away.
From the southern suburbs it´s easier to get away to the South of WA where a lot of the most popular holiday spots are, and it´s closer to the airport if you happen to have a FIFO (fly in fly out) job.
The northern suburbs have better beaches. As far as I am concerned I find the infrastructure and transport more abundant in the southern suburbs, but I could be wrong!
The Hills, the area to the right of the Perth airport has some lovely farming type communities, with big blocks, lovely views and lots of green areas and fresh air.
Surrounding the rivers Swan and Canning are a lot of the most exclusive suburbs with beautiful mansions or pricey smaller townhouses or units. You pay of course for the views and for the proximity to the city centre.

In the weekend newspapers you get a section with Properties for sale in each suburb and also the times you can visit the various "open homes", land for sale, various property developers advertise their homes and home plans to choose from, etc. Visiting the new estates popping up everywhere is also a good idea when looking for property, as generally it´s cheaper to buy land and build to your taste, than it is to buy an established older home. The only advantage of an older home is that the size of the land is generally bigger and you usually already have an established garden that can be quite expensive to set up as Perth is built on sand, so you have to put down plenty of good soil to start up a garden.

View of one of the newer suburbs with a man-made lake
The show houses are fully furnished and with inviting small outdoor areas
An entrance to one of the new open homes
Various show houses built by the various property developers
According to REIWA (Real estate institute of Western Australia), in December 2011, the median house price in the Perth metropolitan area, was $465,000, which was up by $5000 from the September quarter, while units and apartments had increased by $2000 to a median price of $395,000. A typical block of land costs around $240,000.
The number of days needed to sell a property had fallen by 4 days to an average of 77 days.
As for rentals, in the metropolitan area the median price was $420 per week, while for apartments, units or townhouses the price was $380 per week.
The above Reiwa link has some interesting calculators so you can see how much you can afford to borrow and what property taxes you have to pay, like stamp duty, etc.

Of course if money is no problem you can always buy a luxury 290sqm, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, double garage, river front apartment right next to Kings Park Botanic gardens and within walking distance to the city centre for $2,950,000.

Crawley apartment - isn´t the river view just amazing?  (photo from Reiwa)
Or what about the $10,86 million just paid for an yet unbuilt luxury penthouse apartment, (as per The Weekend West newspaper March 10, 2012) on the Esplanade in South Perth (also right across the river), with 400sqm living space and 100sqm balcony, 3 car garage and infinity pool,  in a four level building with just 1 apartment per floor.
Now that is luxury!

If you happen to be moving to Perth or anywhere in Australia, my advice would be to probably rent for a few months, look around, visit a lot of suburbs, choose somewhere close to your work if possible, close to good schools if you have kids, close to public transport is also a good idea, and of course choose according to your wallet, as you will be paying it off for quite a few years...
If you rent, you are subject to rental inspections every 3 months, just to make sure you are looking after the property, but you get previous notification of the visit.

As for the quality of the houses, I find them not to be as well constructed or as high quality as the ones in Germany or Portugal (this is in my experience from where I lived, South African houses are also not of a high standard of construction). Maybe when you pay above a certain amount you might get better quality, such as double glazed windows, solid wooden doors, better finishes, etc. Or at least I would expect so!

My street

Wednesday 7 March 2012

A to Z of Australia - G is for Gambling and Generosity

Gambling is a very big part of the Australian culture, it´s said that almost 90% of Australians gamble!
On average each person loses close to 900$ a year on gambling. They seem to gamble on everything from "horse-racing", to "which club will win the footy", or "how many years will Kate and William be married for", "frog jumping" get the idea!
Most forms of gambling are legal in Australia, and it can be done in Casinos, hotels, clubs, TAB (totalisator agency board), machines in pubs and bars (pokies), online, lotto, scratch cards, etc.
A lot of pubs have gambling licences and have separate rooms full of Pokies (or poker machines), and some have live TV coverage of live racing that you can bet on, which helps keep these bars in profit.
Thankfully the State of Western Australia does not have them, I do not think drinking and gambling should be mixed either!

On a single Saturday, gamblers will spend around $80million in gambling, with the individual State governments in turn earning millions in revenue from taxes. In fact gambling brings in more income than car registrations. Lotterywest reinvests 34cts from every ticket sold, into the community, so anytime there is a huge jackpot millions of dollars are donated to the various charities by the Government. So it´s not all that bad!

According to Australian Government statistics released in Oct 2011, there is one Pokie machine for every 108 people (10th in the world - Monaco being the first with 1 machine for every 22 people), with a total of 200,057 machines in pubs and clubs, the 7th highest number in the world (behind Japan, the US, Italy, the UK, Spain and Germany).
I have visited a few casinos, just out of curiosity, take photos of the buildings and see the atmosphere,  and have noticed there are posters and pamphlets everywhere for people with gambling addiction, even in various foreign languages...Hope they make use of them.
What amazes me the most is whenever I take visitors to the Burswood complex, I see loads of retirees coming out of buses (possibly they were picked up from their respective Nursing homes or retirement homes where they live) being dropped at the Casino´s door for a few hours of gambling. Wow, is this for real?
Another open mouth moment was watching some people gamble at the Melbourne Casino, they would just hand the croupier wads of notes to buy gambling chips or to bet at poker!
What a waste, especially when I would then see them lose it all!

Gambling Poster with foreign languages

In Perth the Casino, is inside the huge Burswood Entertainment complex which comprises of two hotels, spa, various restaurants - some quite exclusive and expensive, others reasonably priced, bars, some boutiques, convention and meeting rooms, ballrooms, outdoor cinema, theatre and The Dome where international entertainers perform. 
This complex is surrounded by huge grassed areas next to the river Swan, where families can  picnic or play in the grass, cycle or walk or wander around admiring the numerous status and the river views.
So even if you don´t gamble, there is plenty to do outside the Casino doors.

Burswood complex at night.

Playing hop-scotch in the Burswood park
One of the lakes and Swan statues in the vast gardens
Playing in the park in front of the Burswood complex
Changing from Gambling into Generosity - Australians are known to be one of the most generous people in the world when it comes to contributing to world disasters and other charities.
According to 2007 (couldn´t find anything more recent) figures Australian taxpayers were donating an average of 0,33% of their income, with the richer (earning over $1 million) giving 2,43% of their income.
Total giving in 2005 amounted to $11billion, with 87% of the adult population (i.e 13,4million people) donating $7,7million and 67% of businesses donating $3,3billion in money, goods and sponsorships. 
In Australia donations over $2 are tax deductible. Apart from December when Australians open their heart and wallets to charities, it´s during the months of  May and June that most people donate, which coincides with the the end of the financial year in June. 

I remember during a few of the natural disasters like the Black Saturday fires in Victoria (7 Feb 2009), the Queensland floods (Jan 2011), the Japanese earthquake and tsunami (March 2011), the company my husband works for, collected donations from the employees and matched them dollar for dollar, and I know a lot of the big companies do that.
I am of the opinion that the richer and more fortunate you are, the more you should do to help out the less fortunate in the world.
But even if you aren´t rich and powerful, you can still donate to whatever worthy cause is close to your heart, because every dollar counts!!
You never know, one day you might find yourself in the receiving end of that donation if you happen to fall victim of a natural disaster (knock on wood)!