Sunday 15 December 2013

DIY Christmas Gifts

This weekend I made some of the DIY presents for the ladies, and a few days before Christmas I will make a few jars of spicy or candy nuts for the men, so they are nice and fresh. 

One of the blogs I follow for Paleo recipes has some recipes for natural cosmetics and I made Foot Balm from Elana's instructions and from another blog I made Body Lotion Bars and Lip Balm.

All quite easy and rewarding to do, I just had to go and buy beeswax, that I found at an Art shop, and Cocoa butter and essential oils at the local health store.
I found some small plastic containers at Red Dot (a cheap novelty store) for $1 and a travel pack for $3 with among others, 3 tiny jars ideal for the lip balm.

Travel jars and Lotion jars from Red Dot
Here are the recipes:

1 part beeswax
1 cocoa butter OR olive oil OR coconut oil
A few drops essential oil
Melt beeswax and cocoa butter in a double boiler, remove from heat and add a few drops of essential oil and pour into small containers.

The blue metal container held mints and was a gift from Iris, the German blogger I met with (see Penguin island post)

30gr beeswax, grated
1/4 cup cocoa or shea butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 drops essential oil of vanilla
10 drops essential oil of peppermint

In a double boiler melt beeswax and cocoa butter, add coconut and olive oil and stir well.
Remove from heat and add essential oils. Pour into small containers.

Melting beeswax in a double boiler
Ingredients for the Foot balm

Cocoa butter
Coconut oil
Optional - Vitamin E oil (2 teaspoons) and Grapeseed oil (2 tablespoons)
Optional - Essential oil of your choice

Melt a 1:1:1 ratio of the first 3 ingredients in a double boiler (small pan inside bigger pan with boiling water).
Stir well, and remove from heat
If you are using them add the Vitamin E oil (I didn't use it) and the Grapeseed oil. Add about 25 drops of the essential oil of your choice.
Pour into silicone moulds. Let the bars cool for a few hours and unmould.
To use them rub the bars between your hands to soften the bar enough to use over your body.
They are good for people with eczema and very dry skin.

I made 6 heart bars and 2 round bars of Body Lotion.
I also have some beautiful almost good to eat soaps made by Mamie Fidler which I bought from her site to supplement my home made goodies. I usually made my own soaps, but just plain ones, nothing as fancy or colourful as these ones below.

Soaps from

At this stage of my life I feel I have far too many possessions and have no need for much of anything, so it's a bit difficult when people ask what I would like for Christmas, as I really don't need anything, and I would rather people donated their money to Charity. 
At Christmas time I always donate to "Cat Haven" who do a great job of saving cats from euthanasia, and they were the ones that helped me adopt 5 out of the 8 kittens that were born from the two stray cats that adopted us, back in 2007.
Another charity I like to help is "World Vision". In Australia you can find representatives in some shopping centres and from as little as $5 you can help buy pencils for students in poor communities.
I like to give a gift of "goats" for $40 or "piglets" for $50, which I know is going to benefit a community somewhere in the world!

Do you make your own gifts?
Do you think the gift recipients appreciate home-made gifts?

Have a wonderful Christmas in the company of your family and friends. 
xxx Sami

Friday 13 December 2013

Perth Christmas Pageant 2013

Last year I went to the city to watch the Christmas Pageant, but went too late and landed up hanging from a statue with a friend to be able to see some glimpses, and halfway through the parade my camera's battery went flat...

This year I was better prepared! I convinced my family to be in the city by 5,30pm so that we would be able to sit on the edge of the pavement - first row seating, and my battery was fully charged!

The 42nd Perth Christmas Pageant was held on Saturday 7th December, on St George's Terrace, over a 1,4km long stretch of road. Starting time was 7,30pm lasting for about 1 hour.

At 5,30 the pavements were already getting crowded
Even arriving at 5,30 we only got a second row "seat". There were 4 of us, and we had taken 2 beach chairs and a picnic blanket and a small "esky" (cooler box) with food and water.
There was a cool breeze, and halfway through our wait my husband and I decided to go to Target on the next street and buy some polar fleece bed throws for all of us. 
When we returned the pavements were all so blocked up by people that we struggled to return to our seats, and people were wary of letting us go past fearing we were just trying to get to the front and cheating them out... Crazy!!

We ate and chatted, and watched the street entertainment until the much awaited parade started.

Street entertainment before the Pageant started

WA, TV stars parade in a fancy American car
Lisa Scaffidi (the Lord Mayor of Perth) and Samantha Jones (X-Factor 2012 winner)

Close to us some celebrities were being interviewed - the Lord Mayor of Perth - Lisa Scaffidi (in the violet jacket) and Samantha Jade, the tiny Perth singer who won X-Factor 2012, and who was the Pageant's start attraction.
Just before the start of the Pageant you can see the crowds
Just after 7,30 the first floats started coming our way and the crowd perked up.
The parade was made up of floats representing children's stories,  of dancing schools, gymnasts, some communities like the Chinese, South American, Taiwanese, etc were also represented.

This giant watches over the buildings of the city centre

This rotating candelabra was a popular float

Remember "Thomas the Tank engine"?
A float for the Swan River Boat

This huge "My Little Pony" delighted the kids

We all enjoyed the show, the only downside was that we sat near a rubbish bin and once in a
while the wind would blow the awful smell to our side....not pleasant! I don't think I will convince the family to go again next year... And we also had a lady that although she was sitting "front row" insisted on standing up most of the time while taking photos and blocking my view...

When Santa's carriage came by, it was the end of the parade, and everyone suddenly got up and started running towards the nearby Esplanade train station. 
The crowd moved quickly though, as there was no need to pay for tickets. The trains were coming every 5 minutes, and my husband and I managed to get onto the first train that stopped, but we lost sight of our son and his wife, who only managed to get onto a train 15 or 20 minutes later.

Apparently there were 200 thousand people watching the Pageant. Can you imagine 200 thousand people, 8 to 10 rows deep, crammed on the pavement, stretching their necks to have a view of the pageant going by?

The crowd rushes to the station...
Do you have Christmas pageants in your city? Do you watch them or do you feel they are just fun for the kids?
I had fun, and I think the atmosphere is half the fun, but I don't think my family was too impressed with the time spent sitting there, so it might be the last time I have their company...

Saturday 7 December 2013

Penguin Island and meeting up with other bloggers

It's been a very busy couple of weeks....Where does the time go? Is it me or does everyone feel that November and December just fly by in the lead up to Christmas?

A few weeks ago I got to meet two bloggers for coffee at the iconic Indiana Tea House in Cottesloe beach. Iris was coming from Braunschweig, Germany to Perth to get married to her sweetheart of 19 years and I offered to meet up with her and Grace, another Perth blogger that I also follow but had yet to meet. We had an enjoyable couple of hours getting to know each other.
Grace, Iris and her partner Ingo
From one of my first posts you might remember that I lived in Braunschweig for almost 6 years in the Eighties, and both my kids were born there. It was while looking for photos from about Braunschweig, that I came upon Iris blog and I read that she had also spent some time living in Perth a few years ago.

Iris had traveled around Australia and been to Perth a few times already, but she had yet to visit Penguin Island, so I offered to take her and Ingo there the following week.
I picked them up at South Perth after my morning working shift and drove about 48km to Shoalwater, near Rockingham from where the ferry to Penguin Island departs.
Tickets cost $22 which entitles you to the short 10min ferry ride and entry to the Penguin Discovery Centre to see the penguin feeding.
The Penguin Island ferry awaits

People crossing to the island on foot

There is a sand bank from Shoalwater to Penguin Island and many people crossed the short distance on foot (about 700mt) but a few years ago some people were caught in the high tide when returning and died, so there is a sign saying not to cross, but I see some people still take chances.

We were in time to watch the last feed of the day at 2,30pm, and eagerly awaited while watching the antics of the penguins. Some just looked at us with curiosity, others swam rapidly around the pool....
The "Little Penguins", "Blue Penguins" or "Fairy Penguins" in this island are the smallest of the species with about 33cm height, and they are found in the southern coast of Australia and New Zealand.

The island has around 1200 penguins that go out to sea to fish before sunrise and when they return after sunset they hide in burrows in the island. They are very shy creatures or maybe just cautious.

There are 17 species of Penguins
Hello there - these two penguins look at the people watching them
These penguins playfully swim laps around the pool
There are about 12 penguins in the Discovery centre, which were rescued due to injury. Some of them when rehabilitated are returned to the wild, but they have discovered that others get so used to the feeding of "dead fish" that when once they introduced live fish to the pond, most were actually scared to go into the water, and the ones that went in, actually swam away from the fish. So they certainly wouldn't be good candidates to be released into the wild as they wouldn't know how to catch their food.

Little Penguins can live up to 20 years in captivity, but only around 8 years in the wild.
The island is closed from beginning of June to middle of September, when the penguins

The little cream "house" like structure to the right is where penguins hide. There are loads of these through the island

Aren't I so cute?
The island is a protected Marine park, with lots of wildlife, such as over 50 species of birds, sea lions, dolphins, pelicans.
Swimming and snorkeling are allowed, and there is a shaded picnic area with tables and benches close to a small beach ideal for children to swim, while the parents relax. There is no coffee shop in the island, so bring your own food or get a supply on land next to the ticketing office in Shoalwater.
There are other longer tours available, such as a Penguin and Sea Lion tour, dolphin tour, sea kayak tour, and tickets can be purchased at the Shoalwater counter.

The picnic area at Penguin Island (photo from net)
The island is covered by wooden boardwalks and you should not deviate from them to protect the environment. There are some fabulous lookouts too over the ocean and towards land.
The boardwalks and quiet beaches
At the end you can see the pier from where we catch the ferry

We saw a lot of recently born birds still with soft down, and the Pelicans were also breeding at the top of a cliff, with the access to them boarded up, so that they wouldn't be disturbed.

Leaving the island on the way back to Shoalwater

Iris and Ingo got married on the 30th November, here in Perth. I was also invited to be a witness to their commitment, but I was unable to go as I was flying to Adelaide to spend a few days with my husband, also to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary on the 30th November.

I'm back in Perth and trying to catch up with preparations for Christmas.
I baked a Paleo Christmas Cake yesterday, have done all the invitations for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, have prepared a menu and what I need to buy to cook it, and have managed to buy one single present! There won't be many presents to buy either, as I usually give some hand-made goodies to my friends and the presents are mostly for the kids.

My husband flew back to Perth yesterday, and we have a full weekend - Friday was the last "Cod Fish" dinner of the year at the Portuguese club. The club was packed to capacity with over 350 people. Today, Saturday is the Christmas Pageant in the city centre. It will be the second time I attend it and I loved it last year, but my husband hasn't been so I convinced him to accompany me. And on Sunday, we are attending the Christmas breakfast  given by the Clinic where I work, for us and partners.

Hope you are having a great weekend too.
Are you on target with all your Christmas shopping and preparations?