Intimate portraits released to mark Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle

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Prince Harry and his American actress fiancee Meghan Markle have released a series of intimate official portraits by a New York-based fashion photographer to mark their engagement.One of the photos is an intimate black-and-white portrait of the couple embracing.The other is a more formal picture of the two sitting together holding hands.Both show off Ms Markle’s engagement ring. External Link:

Kensington Palace tweet: Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle, December 2017
The photographs were taken by fashion and celebrity photographer Alexi Lubomirski earlier this week on the grounds of Frogmore House, a royal-owned country house in Windsor.Lubomirski is a former assistant to Mario Testino, famed for his photos of Prince Harry’s mother Princess Diana.”I cannot help but smile when I look at the photos that we took of them, such was their happiness together,” Lubomirski said.Tweets sent from the official Kensington Palace Twitter account thanked the public for their “wonderful comments” following the release of the photos, adding the couple was “so grateful for the warm and generous messages”.The palace released an extra, candid picture “as a way to say thank you”. The couple, who announced their engagement last month, will be married next year on Saturday, May 19, in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.The Prince, fifth-in-line to the throne, and Ms Markle, who starred in US TV legal drama Suits, have chosen to marry in Windsor, west of London, because it is “a special place for them”.Windsor Castle is one of Queen Elizabeth II’s main residences and the 15th-century chapel is as historic but more intimate than Westminster Abbey, where Prince Harry’s older brother Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011.AP/Reuters External Link:

Kensington Palace: As a way to say thank you…
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Meghan Markle's engagement ring has a special link to Diana
(Twitter: Kensington Palace) Updated

December 22, 2017 06:21:59

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One of the photographs showed the couple sitting together, holding hands.

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Snakeskin tinsel? Rethinking our Christmas tree traditions

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Country flavour

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This Christmas tree in Yarram, Victoria was made out of hay bales. Vintage charm

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Merrin McTaggart delighted many with her vintage ladder Christmas tree. (Supplied)
Trust Melbourne to come up with the goods.ABC Radio Melbourne listeners Kianna and Emily say they will settle down in front of this stack of novels draped in lights on Christmas Eve.The best thing about ditching the traditional tree is not spending your first days of 2018 cleaning up mounds of real, or fake, pine needles. It’s decorated with skulls, black baubles and topped off with a large black star. Nightmare material.” — Sandy Brouard”There’s not enough fairy lights in the Southern Hemisphere to disguise that.” — Kim Dodwell”Out searching the yard for my snakeskin tinsel right now.” — Niki WilloughbyThe snake tree inspired plenty of tongue-in-cheek banter too.”Do the pet snakes get their skins back after Christmas?” — David Tasker”They must have gone to Slytherin House.” — Greg ScottRecycle and reuse

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ABC Radio Melbourne listener Suzie Letzing’s pallet tree shows that sometimes simple is best. (Audience submitted: Suzanne Tucker)
Red is a fitting colour scheme for this makeshift tree, oozing with rustic charm.ABC listener Suzanne Tucker said the wood she used to build it was nicked from her slaughter shed.It’s a macabre start to life for a cheery Christmas tree but a great way to repurpose old wood that would have otherwise gone to waste. (Supplied: Stewart Lalor)
Festive or foul? But not all trees are created equal.A handful of people have gone above and beyond in 2017 to bend the limits of creativity and, at times, part with tradition.Book nook

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Kianna and Emily built their own Christmas tree out of books. I love it, so inventive and adorable.” — Rachel Brooke BrayShe used a vintage ladder to display her favourite Christmas things.It’s a one-stop shop for displaying knick-knacks, ornaments, lights and stockings. This tree takes the cake for a dark take on Christmas. Those of us who observe the Christian holiday often spend their hard-earned cash setting one up, decorating it with ornaments and piling presents at its base every year. ABC Radio Brisbane listener Cat Saunders shared her Nightmare Before Christmas-themed tree. Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree. Brisbane snake catcher Stewart Lalor decked the boughs of his Christmas tree with snake skins shed by his collection of reptiles.The snake lover collected 25 complete skins from pythons, death adders, taipans and king brown snakes during the year to make the skin tinsel look complete.His creation was met with a mix of horror and intrigue when it was shared on ABC Brisbane’s Facebook page.”I wouldn’t be happy to have that in my house. (Audience Submitted: Suzie Letzing)
Upcycling is a trendy way to find value in old and broken objects.Sustainability certainly doesn’t end during the holidays, and plenty of people this year searched their homes for bits and bobs to decorate.Melbourne’s Suzie Letzing gave this wooden pallet some TLC and a fresh coat of paint to give it a second life as a two-dimensional tree.Slaughterhouse cheer

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Some boards which fell off Suzanne Tucker’s slaughter shed so she made a Christmas tree out of them. Nightmarish Christmas

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Cat Saunders shared her nightmarish tree, complete with skull ornaments. (Audience submitted: Andrea Barlow)
Head to the country and you’ll find an abundance of materials to inspire holiday cheer.Andrea Barlow said her local community of Yarram in eastern Victoria put the call out to farmers to create hay bale art for Christmas.Her family responded by creating this hay bale tree.Slither into Christmas

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A Brisbane snake catcher traded tinsel for snake skins this Christmas. (Supplied: Cat Saunders)
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house glittered skulls glowed and a black star shone above. (Audience submitted: Merrin McTaggart)
Bringing out antiques and old family treasures is a must-do at Christmas time, so why not make one of them your tree?Followers of ABC Radio Melbourne’s Facebook page were quite taken by Merrin’s “tree”.”Fantastic job!
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How to avoid a Christmas tree cat-astrophe
(Supplied: Stewart Lalor) ABC Radio Brisbane

By Hailey Renault and Simon Leo Brown

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December 23, 2017 09:53:46

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Skins from taipans, king browns and death adders adorn Stewart Lalor’s tree.

The gift economy: Giving gifts as a way of life

Three people explain how being part of the gift economy has changed their lives.For Meg Ulman, gift giving is not just at Christmas time — it is a way of life.An advocate of the gift economy, she prefers to eschew an economy of exchange, preferring to largely live her life by giving.She said whereas the monetary economy was all about how much you owned and earnt, the gift economy was about sharing and giving away.”One is based on generosity and one is based on selfishness and competitiveness,” Ms Ulman said.A decade ago she and her partner, Patrick Jones, had full-time jobs, but now they are only 40 per cent reliant on the monetary economy, with the remaining portion made up of gifting, bartering and exchanging.When pressed on how much of a percentage of their household economy was comprised of gifting alone, Ms Ulman said it was difficult to gauge because it was not centralised and monitored.”When it’s gifted you don’t keep track of it — it just goes out and it just comes in,” she said. Photo:
Teacher Emily Wilden volunteers at the Daylesford community garden, which has been established on reclaimed vacant land. Inside every gesture is a gesture.”The gift of food

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Former flight attendant Sarah Hines loves giving the gift of food to new mothers as part of The Meal Tree. I’m learning all new things,” he said.Ultimately, he said gift giving was about relationships with people and how that act of kindness travelled.”If I can do something here that allows someone to do another gesture here, it’s really circularity,” Mr O’Mara said.”Inside every kindness is another kindness. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
One of the biggest gifts to the community of Daylesford given by Ms Ulman and Mr Jones are five guerrilla-style community gardens scattered throughout the town.”It’s just a gift, a free-for-all, for people that can’t afford to grow their own organic food at home,” Ms Ulman said.The non-gated, non-membership gardens were created on reclaimed vacant blocks of land, and eventually supported by the council after some initial resistance.While Mr Jones acts as the gardens co-ordinator, they are organised with community working bees.As a keen gardener and cook, Ms Ulman holds free workshops for the local community in fermenting as part of her Culture Club, covering topics from sourdough-making to krauting.”I love it. Imagine if every day was like Christmas. I call it community immunity because it’s keeping us all healthy. It’s building up our physical resilience but also our emotional resilience,” she said.”What I make out of it is so much more valuable than money.”The gift of knowledge

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Teacher Peter O’Mara works privately with many students for free. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
When Sarah Hines first became a mother, it was a struggle.Her son took five weeks to regain his birth weight, during which time the new mother became stressed and anxious.”I remember a couple of times sitting on the couch when my husband went to work in the morning and I’d still be sitting there when he came home,” Ms Hines said.But when someone offered her a meal tree, which she initially refused, her pride eventually yielded, and people from “all over” arrived with food and to do the dishes.Now the former flight attendant is one of about 30 women involved in helping out new mothers around the Daylesford community with organising and cooking meals.The Meal Tree, as it is known, is about cooking for others in need without any expectation of return, and with the amount of food prepared dependant on the mother’s needs.”I love to cook and I think it’s a beautiful way to nurture people, especially new mums,” Ms Hines said.”It makes me feel good to give to people and it sets a really good example for my son, who is really generous and really kind and really considerate, so that is a really big reward.”Giving increases connectedness and generosity in others Central to gift giving that all three talked about was the increased connection with people synonymous with acts of kindness.Ms Hines said when she moved to the area, giving was good way to connect with her community.”There is also that feeling of connectedness that you’re part of something and you’re actually helping that family and that child to thrive by doing something kind,” she said.Mr O’Mara described giving as playing a smaller role within a much larger sphere of life.”It’s about belonging, and giving gives me a sense of belonging to something outside of just me,” he said.”If you are a part of a cog of that wheel, then that’s kind of enough.”Ms Ulman said one of the biggest noticeable changes was the flow of gifts, particularly in the generosity of people.”I think generosity breeds generosity, and it’s definitely contagious,” she said.”I think that’s how we’re supposed to live — we give things away and we get things in return.”When you hold onto things and when you have too much of one thing, it’s not healthy.” (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
School teacher and youth health worker Peter O’Mara defines the gift economy as a place of “small, kind gestures” between people without any idea of reciprocity.”At its heart is kindness,” he said.While the teacher said his work was a combination of paid teaching work, volunteering and exchanging teaching for goods, a substantial part of his time was spent gifting.”Anyone rings me with a concern, I’ll meet with them, always,” Mr O’Mara said.”To be able to read and write is one of the most primary needs we have in society.”If someone is struggling with that and I can help, I’ll do that.”Visiting people at home, Mr O’Mara said he had learnt far more about teaching in people’s homes than in the school — or “teaching factory” as he referred to it.”I find out what the home can bring to the school.
One man's trash is another's treasure for Buy Nothing community

ABC Central Victoria

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Larissa Romensky

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December 23, 2017 09:56:31

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Meg Ulman holds free workshops in fermenting, and says generosity breeds generosity. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
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Naughty or nice, Adelaide zoo residents get early Christmas gifts

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Keepers say there was sawdust inside the Santa because pandas love to roll in it. Photo:
There was honey to lick from a fake candy cane hanging in a tree. (ABC News: Sarah Hancock)
Fu Ni was artificially inseminated back in September, but at this stage keepers are still not sure if she is eating for more than one.”Fu Ni could potentially be pregnant I guess, we don’t know. (ABC News: Sarah Hancock)
Lioness Armani enjoyed her presents, but lion Mujambi was not in a festive mood and chose to ignore his.As ever, the meerkats were inquisitive about the gifts put in their enclosure. Keeper Jaimee Foote said the pandas were excited when something different appeared in their enclosures.”Our pandas love exploring new things, especially when there are tasty treats inside,” she said. Photo:
A meerkat pops up to check out an early Christmas gift. (ABC News: Sarah Hancock) (ABC News: Sarah Hancock)
In Fu Ni’s enclosure, there was a fake candy cane coated in honey to lick and a sawdust-filled Santa, along with some fruit and a cake made of panda-friendly ingredients.”Panda cake is a bit of a favourite — and the sawdust they like to roll in,” Ms Foote explained. It’s a huge guessing game for us,” Ms Foote said.”We just have to go by her behaviour and see if she starts to display anything [unusual] in the coming months.”

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The lioness showed interest in her early Christmas present. Christmas has come early for the animals at Adelaide Zoo, including for giant pandas Fu Ni and Wang Wang.Zoo volunteers created the array of gifts.
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December 22, 2017 16:07:03

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The closest thing to a smile from Fu Ni as she checks out an early Christmas present. (ABC News: Sarah Hancock)
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