Monday, 29 October 2012

Freshening Up

Here are a few items I've picked up for not much in my trawls lately.
Really, I am trying to save $$ and declutter - so that's not really conducive to racing around op shops (which I occasionally find myself doing - okay, you know already, I do it a lot) hunting for treasures.. when I find something that just needs a bit of freshening up, I'm inspired.

These four silver plated cups with shields on the front haven't been engraved. I immediately thought of Jesse's red room and how great they'd look (with a little polish) with pencils, pens and rulers stuck in them ($4 ea).

This milk jug is by Royal Doulton, and I've loved their Albany pattern for years (a friend's Mum had the entire set and I always admired it - the jug was only $8! Can you believe that??) I love these small sized jugs, they're easy to use for any morning/afternoon tea, but look wonderful with flowers in them as well.

The Salvo's Store I go to has had 50% off books for as long as I can remember. I try not to pay more than $2 a book, and with the discount, it's hard to go over! Love this selection - such an easy way to keep up the reading excitement of the younger members of the family.

Also, met a lovely friend at a garden centre last week. There were big pots of snapdragons in reds, pinks, yellows and whites. I couldn't resist snapping (ha!) up four for $11. Hard to decide whether to keep bunching them in a group or spreading them around the house in assorted pots and things, either way it's a great way to keep the house feeling fresh and happy.

The cute pot (with the little purple flowers, not snapdragons,
is from Ikea - and was a gift. Isn't the lace top gorgeous!
What I really wanted to buy at the Garden Centre was a big potted hydrangea (actually, make that several pots, sigh). There were light blue and pink blooms that made me swoon. However, they were expensive, and I have had limited luck over the years in keeping my favourite flowering plant alive. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for any I spy on sale, and keep watering my mangy plants in the hope they'll revive, and who knows, even flower...

Speaking of hydrangea colours, when we had the bedrooms painted recently, we asked the painter to step outside with his brush and attack the cubby house. Unfortunately for him, it was a very hot day. Fortunately for us, it made us see the beloved cubby with new eyes!

Last December the backyard cubby was a major prop in our nativity play, held for Archie's first birthday. It fitted the part of run-down stable very well. Probably too well.

The makeover is not yet complete, but I'll give you a sneak peek to show you that this year it definitely WON'T look like it came straight out of Bethlehem at all.

Just needs new curtains, some window boxes and a couple of hydrangea bushes to make it look really fabulous and fresh. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Turning Eight

This week Eleanore has declared that when she grows up she wants to be a scientist. Last week she  turned eight and none of her gifts had ANYTHING to do with science or experiments. If only she'd told me sooner, I whinged to Jonathan. I could have found gifts to really encourage that goal. She didn't have that goal two weeks ago my husband reminded me.
He's right. I distinctly remember her telling someone only a month ago she wanted to be a teacher or swimming instructor. Hence I bought her new swimmers (school swimming lessons this term so that was two birds with one stone) and of course we couldn't go wrong with books.
The milestone of Eleanore turning eight last week was celebrated with family and friends. Yet again we were pleasantly reminded that simple things can be just as fun and memorable as bigger to-dos - which is lucky when life is busy and you find yourself (as I did) waking in the middle of the night fixating on unbought gifts, unmade cakes and unplanned outings.
Baking cakes for classmates allowed the kids in the kitchen (relatively) free reign. Thanks be to cake mixes stashed in the back of the cupboard complete with patty cases and icing decorations. Measuring, mixing and icing were all enthusiastically undertaken by the birthday girl.

Speaking of fickle, a couple of months ago Eleanore wished for a unicorn pillow pet (around the time Mim got her ladybug) - and it was with some self congratulation that I was able to go on line and buy the item that night - safely stashing it high in the cupboard well in advance of the birthday.

Hence my horror when in the last school holidays I overheard Eleanore declaring that she was far "too old" for pillow pets and didn't really like them anyway. You know that moment when parental smugness turns to hopeless inadequacy? Tick.

I agonised for 24 hours over the gift. I didn't have the time to trawl the shops for city lego or who knew what else an eight-year-old might like.

Then I saw my panic for what it was - stupidity.

We gave Ellie the pillow pet. Perhaps she chose not to remember that she'd said she didn't like them - either way, she loves the unicorn and I'm glad I didn't give in to my temporary insanity and sell it on ebay...

A good friend procured for us the latest edition of the cute Alice Miranda books, signed by the author Jacqueline Harvey. An umbrella, Famous Five DVDs and a stash of notebooks (three for $10 from Typo) a sticker book and five sparkly pens made the eight-year-old very happy.

I was also very happy because my chocolate cake (thank you Nigella for another fabulous recipe from your Kitchen book) was absolutely delicious!

So what have I learnt in eight years?
That eight-year-olds are changeable.
That parents need to be flexible, or not, depending on the situation.
That favourite things and aspirations come and go.
And that for many of us, this is a life-long condition!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Women's Brunch

Our church held a women's brunch on Saturday and I was asked to help with the decorating. This is sort of my dream invitation. Give me a venue/event and I'm there with bells on. As with most decorating, it's the challenge of producing something lovely within the existing limitations that turns something ordinary into something special. Anyone can produce something amazing with unlimited resources. (I certainly could - though am obviously still waiting for that dream client..). So instead, it's in doing something awesome with very little that is where the most fun can be.
So the task? A women's brunch in a dining hall.
Number of women? Aim for 40-60.
Theme: Seasons (from Ecclesiastes, hence seasons of life, rather than weather patterns - otherwise, just a snazzy morning tea..)
Budget? Not really.. 
So it wasn't going to be a big production. With just $50 for fresh flowers/and some fabric, the challenge factor was high. My friend Kat offered to go the flower markets on the Friday morning, no small feat with a baby and toddler accompanying her. I meanwhile, headed for the fabric store.
I knew what I wanted. Something bright and sophisticated, perhaps with a "high tea" theme. I figured if the fabric roll was around 1.2 mtrs wide, that would give me around 50-60 cm lengths to act as table runners, over the centre width of each table. Hence, with good white table cloths as a base, the coloured fabric would jazz it up.

There was a whole rack of quilting fabric on special the day I ventured to Spotlight. Another lady, accompanied by a toddler was rifling through the same range. We exchanged conspiratorial glances. For a fleeting second I considered admitting to her that I was not actually a sewer. Sort of a shameful confession in this crafty mecca. Just as I was discarding the urge to out myself (why not just pretend to be proficient in this exclusive world?) she burst out with: "I'm not even a sewer! I just love material!" "Ha!" I laughed loudly before checking myself, "I'm not either!" I whispered excitedly. "I just love fabric too!" Turned out she was buying squares with the hope/dream of one day making a quilt. "Good luck!" I whispered as I passed her some rolls of fab autumn coloured rolls.
I was thrilled to find the last of a roll of bright pink ikat fabric that was reduced to $4 a metre. More rifling through the pile produced a cute patterned roll of high tea pictures. Perfect.

Then it was just a matter of returning home to rifle through my cupboards, staring in to the depths for suitable treasures. Rows of teacups was an option, but tricky to transport and too easily broken. Similarly with cut glass and crystal. I liked the idea of single roses in tiny Italian soft drink bottles lining each table, but with 8-10 tables to adorn, I was going to have to drink a lot of soft drink in a week. Each place setting was going to have a gift bags and printed note, so it seemed better to stick with the less is more principle.
Ahh, SILVER! It's gleaming olde-world feel adds instant glamour to a table setting, and is unbreakable. I asked around some of the church women to see who had stashes of family silver to draw on. The answer was not many. Many women I asked seemed amazed (or even a tad disdainful) that a silver teapot could be seen as a necessary household item... Who knew?

After a few productive hours of polishing (I felt I was channelling Downton Abbey very well) my teapots were gleaming. Together with some china versions, we had enough to use as vases for the gorgeous old fashioned large coloured roses Kat got at a great price (they were seconds) from the markets. Placed on silver trays, the effect was simple yet lovely.


I took a bag of my silver pedestal bowls for the buffet table. As soon as women arrived with their (mostly) plain white bowls of fantastic brunch food, I deftly slid it on to a more glamorous platter. Downton Abbey eat your heart out!

Is there anything more enjoyable than a brunch with other women? It wasn't overly glamorous, the hall was too big for us to worry about the ceiling decorations I would have loved to pull off in another life. We heard a wonderful talk on the seasons of life. How God is in every part of our lives, and of how the necessary seasons of sadness and loss can be followed by richness and joy. That God is sovereign and that it's all about trust.
Our hearts were nourished.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bits and Pieces

My decorating style is a bit bitsy. There is no overriding grand theme. I just buy bits and pieces that catch my eye, and then add them to the existing collection of ephemera.
Stuff I find at op shops is always a thrill. It is the excitement of the discovery, mixed with the (hopefully) bargain price. Someones trash is literally another person's treasure at these places - it's recycling/up cycling/reusing and re-loving! I just love to see what trawling through my favourite op shops can turn up.
Did I mention that I always try to drop a few bags of 'stuff' back to the op shop each week or two, otherwise you'd be seeing me on one of those hoarders shows on cable! What goes out is usually pretty standard, toys the kids have grown tired of, clothes the kids have grown out of, or books we don't want to keep... The 'stuff' that comes in though could be just about anything! Often it's the little things that give me a decorating boost - lead to other ideas and bursts of new inspiration.
Here's a peek at what's come in lately:

I've always liked these little figurines from Willow Tree. They're simple and sweet. This one is called "WISDOM" and it made a nice addition to Ellie's birthday gifts this week when she turned eight. I wrapped it in tissue with a new set of books and she loved it immediately.

Okay, this was not from an op shop, I got it at Hot Dollar (one of those crazy chains that stocks just about everything, and always at crazy discount prices). I've admired similar "art work" in designer stores, but it's not something I'd want to spend $50 on. This canvas was too good to resist at $9. It will make a nice backdrop to bits and pieces on my sideboard or kitchen bench, and if I get sick of it (or decide it's too kitsch, it can decorate the cubby house!)

Here is part of the lounge suite I STILL don't know what to do with. Upholstery quotes have been eye-wateringly excessive, and new lounges that are the right size/fabric/comfort etc have proved elusive. My indecision is annoying, even I'm sick of it. In the meantime, I've felt strangely comforted by covering one of the (threadbare) armchairs in this gorgeous pink blanket I picked up for $12. It is by the Australian Waverley Mills and would be very expensive new. Okay so yes it is coming in to summer (thank you for pointing out the obvious) so a blanket covered lounge is not a long term fix. One day I will decide what to do re: the sofa conundrum. Just not today.

Finally if all else fails you on the decorating front, you can't afford decent artwork (see my $9 example above for one option), your rooms are lacking in interest and your house feels devoid of character... Frame some scrap booking paper.  It's a simple easy option that can brighten up the dullest of corners. This sheet cost 50 cents. As you know I love to DECORATE WITH LETTERS and I liked the industrial edge to these cutout fonts (axe murderish suggested someone - honestly!) and I just tacked it into this old vintage frame I caught my husband trying to throw out.

Victory indeed!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Sun, swimming and strawberries

Back from holidays and straight into term 4 has been a shock to the system. I did a FB status update on Monday morning mentioning that we had a nasty case of back-to-schoolitus... just neglected to mention it was mainly felt by me! Second day back and I felt better but the kids felt worse. Jesse stayed home with a bad cough (coughing from 4am = a torrid time for all of us) and Mim decided to have the mother of all meltdowns in the car drop off line, that involved screaming, hollering, thrashing and being physically dragged out of the car by me, multiple times. All witnessed by a constant line of school cars/families. Not one of our better family moments. My face still feels flushed when I relive it (over and over) 24 hours later.

What happened to our holiday glow? Everyone is home today with a varying range of coughs, sore throats, temperatures and lethargy (okay, the last one's mainly me) so I'm hoping we'll recover our good health and spirits with some enforced rest. Every so often I glance at a few holiday snaps, to remind myself that this time last week we really were having fun in the sun, with no school lunches, coughs and colds or public tantrums...

This was our view from the balcony. It was sparkly and spectacular and I could have sat and stared at it from my banana lounge every darn day for at least a year!!

We swam, ate ice cream, lazed around, read books, stared at the sea, played in the park, walked the streets and drank coffee and milkshakes day in, day out. Just what holidays are supposed to be.

Arch developed a pathological fear of the ocean (what? the water's cold??) but quickly became confident, moving from clothes and paddling into swimmers and swimming in the (semi-heated) pool. He loved the water and in the end it was hard to get him out!
A holiday highlight was picking our own strawberries from a farm we stumbled across in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. We'd gone for a drive, and taken a wrong turn (Queensland road signs were the bane of my life!) so suddenly found ourselves heading for Brisbane when we'd intended to head north. It took us three times of driving up and down a highway-to-nowhere before we turned into the driveway of the farm - stress levels between the driver and map reader were soaring.
However the signs/map debacle was worth it. The farm had a little shop with great coffee (to soothe adult nerves), smoothies, fresh fruit and veges. Picking from the specially designated strawberry beds was a delicate operation. Can you believe ALL four kids obeyed the sign not to eat the strawberries before buying? True. Only J (who was paying) deemed himself official (illegal) taster - and all photo evidence of his rule-breaking has mysteriously disappeared!

No it's not a rude means "PICK YOUR OWN" strawberries

What is a farm without a cat? And yes, we did wash
our strawberries well before eating...just in case...
happy memories that are a great anecdote to the
slightly rough start to term 4!

Friday, 5 October 2012

My year of blogging

It's been a year since I took the plunge and started BLOGGING, something I'd been thinking about but hadn't been brave enough to start for some time. Like a lot of things, I realised at some point that if I was waiting until I was profound enough, accomplished enough, trendy enough or articulate enough I'd never be able to start. And sOme time previously I'd lost the joy of writing, and it's been wonderful to find it again through LOVEDECORATELETTERS. I'm amazed that in a year I've never been lost for words. Mixing in a little photography, pinterest, books and ideas have only added to the fun!

Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read some of LOVEDECORATELETTERS - and to comment or let me know your thoughts. Your time and feedback is much appreciated. I have no idea what the future holds, but am happy to keep doing this for as long as it works.

Here's some of the borders (not in order) I've used over the year:

Would love to know which of these was your favourite.
Me? Maybe the summer one (with only 2 pics, third from the bottom) - it's minimalist, which is really not me at all, but it looked great! So as for a favourite?
I love them all..

Monday, 1 October 2012

Colour Choices

Over the years my family lived in a number of houses as I was growing up. My parents let me choose wall colours in several of my rooms. When I was ten years old, I chose a green room. I still remember the painter telling me I'd turn in to Kermit the Frog (ha ha, not). When I was twelve I chose a blue room. In case you haven't realised, I was a deliberately non-pink girl. When I was sixteen I chose blue again (new house), this time we added a tiny blue and yellow floral border under the ceiling line. I'd bought it myself from Laura Ashley.

So does that make me a hypocrite to admit that when it came to painting the room of my girls, I overruled their suggestions and chose PINK?

Okay, probably yes.

When we first talked colours, my husband thought it would be cool to ask the kids for their colour choices, just like mine had done for me. I quickly realised that I was not this kind of parent. Okay, I probably knew this information about myself already.

Jonathan employed this same technique before Arch was born. For a period of about six excruciating months he persisted in asking the older three what they wanted to call the new baby. This discussion would invariably lead to long list of COMPLETELY USELESS names, that we were never in a million years going to use (apologies if your name or favourites appear below). Frankly I couldn't see the point.

Leading examples (I'll keep the identities of the suggesters anonymous):
Snow White
Robin (yes, as in Hood)
Sung Yee or Kim Jong (anything Korean was the suggestion)
Fanny (thank you Enid Blyton)
Frank or Joe (as in Hardy)
Alfred (as in Hitchcock)

Needless to say we went with Archie James - and so far haven't regretted it.

So, back to the colour choices. Jesse (aged 9) asked for black, brown or blood red. Eleanore (aged 7) wanted aqua; and Miriam (aged 5) wanted purple. Currently the girls share a room. Trying to imagine a room half aqua and half purple gave me nightmares. Similarly the black and brown options did not feature in my top two hundred.

I had a picture in my mind of the rooms I imagined for them. I wanted imaginative safe havens. Cosy nooks for reading and fun places for playing. Restive rooms for sleeping and places that reflected them. We discussed other elements they wanted, such as bookcases, pictures and mirrors. We talked themes: Fairy tales, Harry Potter, Wizard stuff, Knights and Castles, Enchanted Lands and gardens...

I wrote about the colours we did end up choosing in my previous post La Vie En Rose - the girls got pink, Jesse got red, and Arch (thankfully not yet speaking) got blue. Even though they may not have been the first or personal choices, it  was a discussion that included everyone, and everyone was happy with the end result.

the red room (3rd choice) with war pictures

the pink room (Mum's choice) with fairy castle mirror
Maybe when we do the "teenage update" I'll be more flexible. I can see that at that stage it would be pretty important for the emerging adult to feel like they were having a say, being heard, taking ownership and loving where they live. I'm just praying that Jesse still won't want black or brown. I figure I've got four to five years to talk him out of it..and I'm starting now.