Gill Stannard

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stress-less present ideas

When I was in primary school we got some exotic new neighbours. They were an American family, straight out of a 70’s sitcom – two perfect, smiling parents and three golden-haired young children. They had access to all sorts of exciting things – sugar laden cereals, kids games we could only dream of and were indulged with barely any discipline. The first Christmas they lived next door, they had a tree so tall it touched the ceiling and an ocean of gifts brightly packaged piled around it. Before they were unwrapped on the morning of the 25th, almost 1/3 of the presents were broken – from squeezing, rattling and other maltreatment. By the end of the day, barely 1/2 of the goodies were functional. We had never seen anything like it before. This forever stays in my memory as an example of utter holiday wastage!

Organisations like Adbusters entreat us to have a “buy nothing Christmas”. With the millions of dollars spent on useless gifts, shrouded in non-biodegradable plastic – this might be a good idea.

But “buy nothing” doesn’t mean you become a miser. Here are some healthy alternatives – which make a great present to pamper yourself or to place under the tree.

Goodies for the bath

Bath salts: Epsom salt and sea salt are soothing to muscles and soften the bath water for a luscious bathing experience.

Collect jars, remove labels and dry thoroughly.

Combine in a bowl:

1 cup Epsom salts
1/2 cup sea salt
2 Tbsp. Bicarb. soda.
6-8 drops of essential oil* such as lavender, sandalwood. Geranium.

Stir the salts vigorously until all ingredients are thoroughly combined (or alternatively mix together in a dry, clean plastic bag and shake together. Fill jars with bath salts and decorate as desired.

Directions: Use about 1/4 cup per bath.

Bath Bombs: there are lots of different recipes on the net. A caller told us of one using distilled witchhazel – avoid that one or you will have a fizzy mess in your mixing bowl!

1 cup baking soda
1 cup citric acid
1/8 cup Epson salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup light vegetable oil
10 to 20 drops essential oil*

Combine the dry ingredients with the oil, mixing well. Add a 10 to 20 drops essential oil of choice. Form into balls approximately the size of golf balls, and store in cellophane wrapper. Store in a separate container for each scent you make.

A note on essential oils: Good oils are not cheap, but more abundant flowers like lavender tend to be very affordable. Don’t stint on quality. Get only 100% pure essential oils, not cheap synthetic blends.

Easy Bath Bags – too good for Nana! Fine oatmeal – or instant, ground oats soften the skin and the saponins in the grain make them soapy. A great substitute for someone who’s allergic to regular soap.

Ribbon/string – or stitch together
Fresh or dried lavender (easily ‘wildcrafted’ around Melbourne suburbs!)
Finely ground oatmeal

Cut a 6" diameter circle from muslin, place the herbs in the centre and add the oatmeal. Gather the muslin into a bundle and tie with ribbon, or sew together. Add the bag to the running water as you draw your bath. Use it as a soap bag to wash with.

From the kitchen
Lemon cordial
Traditional Italian ‘red sauce’ (or draw the jar you will give them when the tomatoes are harvested in the new year)
Chutney, relish and jams
Biscuit dough (can freeze in logs, the thaw, slice and bake) – write out the recipe and mix with love.

Those incredibly talented craft bloggers make me envious with their gems, but anyone with access to a sewing machine can whip up a heat pack – a rectangle of material stitched together and filled with dried buckwheat. For the more adventurous, try making a bean bag!

Photo sharing sites like Flickr have nifty add-ons where your uploaded photos can be transformed into calendars and other photo art.

More pampering
“Japanese washing grains” – grind aduki beans in a clean coffee/spice grinder. Store in a nice recycled jar. Directions a small handful of ‘grains’ moistened with water makes a skin softening face wash.

Peppermint foot lotion – sorbolene cream (cheap and easily sourced) mixed with peppermint essential oil. Plus a promise of a cooling foot rub on a hot summers day.

…and also
Some seedlings in a pot for an instant garden
A promise of time – to iron, clean, garden, de-clutter, organise or make a home cooked meal.

Still stuck and have a few dollars spare – local charities like The Smith Family helps people in our community change their lives. They are a personal favourite being one of the rare non-religious charities.

Oxfam unwrapped and their fairtrade stores are a great idea to help others far and wide.

There is also a unique raffle, with greater odds for winning a prize than Tatts – perfect for the foodie at heart. A food blogging tradition, the menu for hope is raising money for the UN Food Program (helping those with no turkeys on their table, or actually no table at all). Each (US)$10 donation buys one ticket to go into the draw for local prizes – like a slap up meal at Gingerboy or Tetsuya (hint hint Santa!) and an amazing array of worldwide, food oriented goodies. Note: ticket sales close 22 December 2007 and winners are notified in mid January.

Most of all – don’t stress, take care of yourself and those around you. A hug is always free :)

Am back on the airwaves on January 15th 2007 - have a safe and happy holiday. Gill

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