Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Long Lost Summer

This week we're all sick. Mim came down with a virus last week that gave her high fevers and red cheeks that rivalled the heat and redness of Mars. At least I think Mars is the hot planet, right? (Likening her cheeks to the sun seemed a little over the top..) She has also had bad cold and flu like symptoms and as I watched her streaming nose and eyes, and as the house filled with used tissues and the coughing began, I knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of us succumbed.

Jonathan came down with it on the weekend, and the rest of us followed suit. As we propped ourselves up against the side of the cubby house yesterday, trying to catch the last remnants of afternoon sun, him sneezing and me totally sleep deprived, he said: "I think what's making me feel worse is that we hardly had any summer."

You see we were staring at our modest backyard pool, that in the last six months became the local area's favourite bird bath. In our general moroseness, that abandoned pool seemed to sum it all up. I grunted (one does that when sleep deprived) in agreement. Yes indeed. What happened to summer? There were hardly any hot days - the kids, usually living in the pool through the hottest months, hardly dipped their toes in. As I packed up the summer clothes and got out the jumpers (months ago it seems like now) I couldn't believe how much of it hadn't even been worn. Ah the waste.

So, amidst our sneezing, snuffling, headache medication and cough lozenge sucking, I thought I'd revisit last summer's hottest day. It'll cheer me up, and maybe you too.

Mollymook Beach Markets - Australia Day, 26 January 2012  
temp: approx 38 degrees celcius
(cooler in the shade, but unfortunately there wasn't any)

On arriving at the markets, we discovered that in our rush to get there, we'd all forgotten our hats. Great. First 20mins was spent therefore combing the numerous stalls for cheap and cheerful headware that would keep the sun off - and be wearable after the day (not that that turned out to be necessary, since the sun disappeared on January 27 and hardly came out again..).
Eleanore's hat took the prize for best price ($2) and super stylish (in a space shippy sort of way)!
As soon as we'd bought the hats, I had to distract everyone from moaning about wanting drinks and iceblocks, so everyone chose a toy from the junk toy stalls.
Jesse and Eleanore chose bow and arrow sets (which started to break straight away, but still got plenty of use in Lord of the Flies holiday games) and Mim chose a whirly flower (so her!), that is still adorning our garden back home!

Vintage cars are a feature of the market - this was our favourite
The weather went hazy in the afternoon, clouds were bringing rain. But for the duration of the market (a yearly highlight/tradition) we enjoyed the sparkle of the sea while slurping iceblocks and watching the crowds of people and sea gulls.

 Anyway, on the rainy trip home from the school run this morning, I saw this winter's first budding magnolia tree. Woo hoo!
See, for every rainy cloud (of which there just has been way too many) there is a magnolia coloured lining..

Friday, 22 June 2012

Nurseries are nice, but..

There is no shortage of amazing nurseries and kid's rooms on PINTEREST. I've spent countless, um, lots of hours dreaming over researching nurseries, baby rooms and kid's dream rooms to gather inspiration and ideas.
All tastes are catered for, whether you're in to fairytale cute, industrial chic, scandinavian minimalist or romantic victorian, neutral, pastel or multi-coloured schemes.. there are photographs aplenty to excite, amaze and create the ooh ahh moment(s).

I would love to own one of those nurseries with the perfect colours on the wall, the amazing architectural details, the exquisite furniture (if you have a huge antique armoire in your garage that you're not using, please do call me) and the ooh ahh fabrics... but sadly, it's not to be. So instead, I'm mastering the art of 'making do'. But that's okay - I rather enjoy it. Anyone can do perfect, on an unlimited budget. But doing special on a tight one, is well, something pretty special in itself!

The closest I ever got to that perfect room was nine years ago when we brought Jesse home from the hospital. The 1920's weatherboard cottage we lived in had polished floor boards, picture rails and lovely timber windows - all we needed to do was lovingly paint the sunny front room a periwinkle blue and pale yellow. I was so thrilled to find a 'classic pooh' wallpaper border (self-stick!) to hang above the picture rails. What could be easier? Jonathan was less than thrilled when the self-stick border fell down three times in the first six weeks. Normal wallpaper glues failed to stick it. We ended up using something I think was cement based to make it stay up - and man I felt sorry for the new owners (no kids) when they moved in two years later.

A few houses down the track, the room we brought Arch home (pics below) was already painted a sort of murky blue. I've been intending to repaint it, and probably will, before he reaches highschool. I've used books (in an ever-changing array) as a main way to provide the decoration - balanced on top of the rail above the sliding door and piled into and on top of a small bookcase Jonathan had for years before we got married. Decals are on the door, and vintage golden book pages made in to bunting (www.etsy.com) was a cute and cheap adornment for a wall I didn't want holes in.

An existing pinboard (covered in carpet would you believe, so no close up) has been an easy way to display everything from plates, to toys and calendars. And favourite colourful stuffed toys balance nicely on top of the cot.

And in terms of artwork, while I've always intended to buy that original Mary Cassatt, the short lifespan of a nursery has meant finances had to be diverted elsewhere (like to eating).

Here's a few ideas that have worked for me with Arch's room:
a) hanging a gorgeous paper bag that came with a gift when Arch was born (yes, this is cheap chic I know);
b) a retro fabric washer inside a shabby chic frame;
c) a greeting card with scrapbooking paper as the background in a gold timber frame ($10 from a homewares shop); and
d) the cover of a vintage (but falling apart) edition of Peter Pan, mounted on some wrapping paper again in an inexpensive timber gold frame.

So I cannot tell a lie, I will continue to swoon at the perfection I see on PINTEREST. But I'll also take quiet pleasure in the bits that work in Arch's room. It's not the perfect nursery by anyone's standards (the change table is a foam mat and I can't get all the cupboard doors to open..) but we've made it work and we've made it cute.
He likes it, and so do I.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Nature's Palette

When the sun comes out in winter, the bleakness of the season is banished, at least temporarily. As you can see, not all the trees are naked, yet. So I've tried to capture a few of the colours we're currently enjoying. Particularly love this maple over next door's fence, it and a plane tree gift us with crispy orange leaves to decorate our grass. If only all litter was so attractive!

Our yard has a number of established camelia trees that thankfully we haven't managed to kill yet. They are heavy with flowers and these gorgeous stripey pink and white flowers are my favourite. What girl doesn't have a soft spot for this romantic colour combination?

It made me delve around in my cupboards for china that reflects these colours, the autumn leaves and pouting blooms. Look what I found:

How cute is this little cruet set found on a specials table in Anthropologie? The kids are fascinated by it. It is so tiny and perfect, and looks like it's been lifted from the pages of a Beatrix Potter tale.
This beautiful fabric is an old throw rug I found while op shopping years ago. It conjures up images of cavernous sitting rooms with log fires and Carter serving me tea on a silver tray. Oh how I long for Lady Mary's wardrobe!  
Meanwhile, I've been making apple crumble and other comfort foods for the family. If only I could make myself get on the exercise bike during the day..

Enjoy the sunshine folks!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Cocktail Party

My dear friend Michelle has won a competition this week, that among other things has given her a VIP ticket to a cocktail party where famous people and authors will be in attendance.
Our excitement has been immense! We both realised we had got to our collectively impressive ages without having attended such an event before. Ever.
I know...  humour us here. Our air of worldly sophistication obviously has some ozone sized holes.
So of course our first reaction after the excited screaming had died down was, "Oh my goodness, what to wear?????"
And where else to start looking but pinterest? It wasn't entirely sucessful - there were alot of barbie dolls dressed in 1950s style dresses, not quite the look we were hoping for. American prom dresses were also popular. Not quite our style either. I mean we like enhanced cleavage and fake tan, just not on ourselves..
This was the dress I liked the most:
Proving that we are both practical as well as super stylish, we found the perfect dress right in Michelle's wardrobe. A quick trip to a department store found some great shoes with enough detail to be snazzy but still wearable, you know, in case the next cocktail party is several years away.

I came home and looked inside my own wardrobe. I do have a dress I'd be happy to wear to a similar event. It's an opshop find I made a few years ago, from the Zara Couture range. I've lent it out successfully to quite a few friends. It's sort of flapper style and shimmery, drop waist (nb flattering for the post 4-babies waistline) and has a great neck detail of diamontes. Some are missing (hence its journey to the op shop I'd say) but it's not noticeable.

And as it's cold (cold weather must surely be the enemy of any cocktail party goer - thermal underwear is hardly conducive to swanning around in shimmery dresses) I delved further in to my (Narnia-like) wardrobe and pulled out, you guessed it, a fur coat. FAKE FUR! And lined in gorgeous rosy coloured silk, courtesy of my Mum's sewing prowess. I love it, but have to admit have hardly ever worn it. Where is my cocktail party invitation? Where? Where?

And finally, every girl needs a cocktailish bag. My bag of choice on this chilly night would be an orange (Pantone's colour of 2012 is tangerine tango - I have it folks!) tweed purse my sister-in-law bought me in Scotland. It is too cute for words, and would only slightly clash I think with the rose silk of my coat..

I'd spray on Youth Dew by Estee Lauder (found it this week in a discount Perfume store for $18!) - it's not so glamourous, but I love it and I'm sure it would calm my nerves if I was swanning around the room with a cocktail in one hand while making witty conversation with whichever famous author was dying to talk to me.


Have a wonderful time Michelle!! I'll be cheering for you from home! Have a blast - and enjoy your VIP status. You deserve it!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A Winter Flurry

Well there's been more than a chill in the air of late, and I've felt compelled to race around in what I'm calling a 'winter flurry' - a term which adds a touch of glamour/romance to what could otherwise be seen as rudimentary tasks... I've snapped up some half price flanelette sheets for the kids, as I suddenly realised I only had two sets when three are needed this year. I think someone may have declared they didn't like them last year, and that's why I got away with only two sets, but this year everyone has declared that they LOVE them and NEED them. Luckily the sales are on. I was less than impressed to find our existing winter flannels had a number of large multi-coloured texta stains which so far have not soaked out. Leading me to make rule #3586 in our house: 
No textas in bed!!
Ink stains do not come out when they were made in secret and then inexplicably stored in the cupboard for six months prior to being discovered.

There's been more big cleanouts of the kid's wardrobes leading to a mountain of too small stuff being passed on to friends and family. This was mostly necessitated by a couple of friends handing over huge bags of their too small stuff to us - I just love the cycle of sharing that kids and clothes bring about.

Then the winter flurry gave way to a lot of flopping around - which in rainy cold weather seems to be all anyone feels like doing. I've been catching up on my boosted magazine collection, courtesy of the traveller in our family - who claims to abhor my collection, and yet still graciously and generously adds to it every time he goes away! LOVE!

The kids are seriously addicted to hot chocolates - it's dairy right!? They get to choose which mix (we found way too many stashed in the cupboard!) and there has been impassioned debate over which flavour/style is best. It's a great excuse to use an array of fun china too.

Finally, bits of odd wintery ephemera keep catching my eye and begging to be displayed. I picked this piece up a few years ago and just love its Enid Blyton feel.

Just hanging around in new winter gear, thanks to generous friends

This Vanilla Pound Cake candle smells as good as it sounds
Coach bag as wall art - I love the tones of these stripes.
Three really lovely children's books picked up from recent op shop trawls - perfect for winter snuggles and book hungry kids!
Here's Arch breaking rule #3584 not to eat while walking round the house

My new "spy coat" and birthday shoes! No one picked them!


Saturday, 9 June 2012

I Spy

My seventeen-month-old is using a spoon to eat by himself! He's so pleased at his new found skill. Any mess (and there's a fair bit) is forgiven in this victory of independence.

Meanwhile, in the world of espionage.. spying is the order of the day in our house. The older three are embroiled in disguises, secret meetings, Morse code, walkie talkies and general skulking around. I'm not entirely sure where their fascination for spying has come from - although I think books have played a fairly major role - but it is generating many hours of imaginative fun, and many attempts (and this is where my interest is really piqued) at perfecting the ultimate SPY OUTFIT.
Now that's MY idea of fun!

The fab trench coat is secondhand Pumpkin Patch with red polka-dot lining, which must remain hidden, on account of being a spy and all that..
The binoculars were a present from my newly returned travelling husband, really an inconsequential item (he thought) picked up in New York's Natural History Museum. However, due to their exceptional and unforeseen SPYING qualities, they've surpassed any of the other gifts (like LEGO and Gap clothes) that a whole lot more thought had gone in to. Gift giving can be like that..

My gifts from travelling husband may not be of much use on the spying front, but I'm loving them all the same. Especially my much longed for and admired piece (I may have mentioned it accidentally sometime, um more than once) by the amazingly talented Lisa Leonard.

As a treasured keepsake, I'm finding it just too wonderful for words!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Murphy's Law of Shopping

The bitter-sweet experience of the Murphy's Law of Shopping (as I've coined it) has hit me again. You know what I'm talking about? It's when you carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a purchase, proceed with that purchase, and then ALMOST INSTANTLY find either that item or something very similar for a greatly reduced price, making you realise that you should have held off... However, I'm well aware that often if you try to pre-empt Murphy's Law, then the opposite thing will happen and you'll miss out on that item for good.
Did I say this was bitter-sweet? It's actually excruciating!!

Consider the following: Last week I decided to use my birthday money to buy new shoes. I did not make this decision lightly. I went through my shoe collection (exhausting at the best of times) and took the rare plunge of throwing out a couple of pairs that were definitely well beyond redemption. A recent new pair look fabulous but are not leather and are hurting my toes. This left me with a clear view of what in shoe terms I needed: comfortable; smart and sassy; leather; adaptable; on special. And I found them in a fabulous designer shop that started a SALE on the morning I went in! (http://www.duckeggblue.com.au/)

Sounds good doesn't it? But here is where Murphy's Law kicked in. It's less than a week since I bought my new shoes, and today I dropped in to my favourite op shop. There on the rack, sitting up shiny and bright were not one, but TWO pairs of snazzy leather flat shoes, in as new condition, in my size (EU 36) and under $10 a pair. D'oh!

I've photographed all three pairs (above) for your perusal. Humour me, and let me know which you think is the BIRTHDAY pair (40% off but still not cheap) and which are the two secondhand pairs (that cost $8 and $7) - that rendered the first purchase not totally regrettable (birthday pair are still probably my favourites, well, they have to be don't they!?) but unnecessary.

Second instance: I'd been looking for a copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I'll admit this book had completely passed me by, but the hype over the newly released sequel sent me scurrying to my local bookshop for the original Booker Prize winning novel. It was nowhere to be found. After exhausting three bookstores and being 99% certain I'd never seen one in my searches of secondhand books, I went online and ordered a new copy. It was delivered the next week. ONE day later I walked into an op shop and literally the first thing I saw was a pristine copy of Wolf Hall, for $5. Honestly!

I think this happens to me a lot. Surely I'm not the only one. You know, when you've agonised over an expensive designer silk shirt, only to find the week after buying it that cheap knock offs have flooded the stores...
What? That was just me too?

I don't know whether anyone has done a PhD on this subject, but the topic is just crying out for further research...or if others have similarly suffered from the affliction, maybe we could set up a chapter of Murphy's Law Shoppers Anonymous?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Birthday Week

This week I've been indulging in popcorn and salted caramel macarons, patchwork skirts (found on etsy), bright happy flowers (courtesy of lovely sister-in-law) and smiling children attempting to make me breakfast in bed (they managed the orange juice, but not the toast). How is this different to any other week of my life you might be wondering? Well, it was my birthday..

With my husband out of the country for the last three weeks, the fact that I actually made it to the last day of May and was still capable of celebrating, was a feat in itself. Still, miraculously (and not without the invaluable assistance of J's parents, who went above and beyond the call of duty) the kids and I have made it through, still smiling (most of the time) and still standing (figuratively speaking).

And now that the end of my solo-parenting stint is in sight, I've taken a few moments to do a little bit of cleaning and a small amount of organising and a tiny bit of decorating, in between eating macarons and buying new birthday shoes and meeting up with friends (ooh yes, life has indeed been frantic).

This display is located on top of my pigeon hole cupboard (I'm standing on a chair here) and overlooks the kitchen table. I've been inspired by today's date, June 1, and the start of winter. Hence the Winter House book by Charlotte Moss - one of my favourites with swoon worthy shots of her amazing interiors. Actually her whole 'winter house' (in Aspen, darling) is swoon worthy, and I love looking at this book for ideas, whatever the weather. 

In the shabby chic frame is the "June" picture from the 2012 Australian Country Style Diary ($2 at a Salvo Store). I love buying up picture diaries on special in Feb/March and using the great photos as artwork. My "1" for June 1, is a vintage wooden 'willow' rolling pin; next to it is an ancient bottle of medicinal french brandy (man I could have done with some of that these last three weeks) and a delightful ceramic squirrel that had me (almost) squealing with delight when I picked it up recently in an op shop, for $8! He's looking at the tealight I've put in his basket. What a nut.

Speaking of birthdays, in May my grandmother turned ninety-nine years old. We currently have all four generations in my family, with thirty years between each. My grandma (99), my mother (69), then me (now 39, sob), and my son Jesse (nine). It's no small feat to reach the age of ninety-nine. With three children, nine grandchildren and (at last count) nineteen great-grandchildren, my Grandma is loved by many. My brother Luke, his two children, and me and my four had a great time celebrating with her; and though she doesn't like to be made a fuss of, she has been a faithful christian woman who has given our family a great legacy of love and faith.
Now that's worth celebrating.