Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Babbits, Balloons and Birthdays

A friend texted me to tell me that Bed Bath and Table now has 50% off its Easter decorations. I keep getting drawn back there like I'm caught in a tractor beam. I really have to stop - yeesh! I mean how many cute china rabbits and rabbity things can you have!!?? (I'm fearing the answer is, for me, quite a few more, if post-Easter I get caught in the tractor beam at 75% off.)

Also found this 'broken egg' vase which is a lovely size for holding mini chocolate eggs as a table centrepiece. Of course the problem with putting this out a week before Easter is that the contents mysteriously keep disappearing, rapidly...

And speaking of bunnies and china, I'm also enjoying decorating with favourite Bunnykins pieces by Royal Doulton. We even have some that belonged to Jonathan as a baby. I still love giving it as baby gifts myself, and have picked up some lovely pieces in op shops too.

Over the weekend, we celebrated Jonathan's birthday with a family dinner and other assorted activities. I couldn't find my camera for most of it, so there are limited shots with people. Actually there are no shots with people. Sigh, maybe next year.
I spent ALL SATURDAY in a mad flurry of getting things ready: racing around buying gifts (I meant to be organised, but just wasn't), picking up food items and filling the cars with helium balloons from the party shop (I've learnt to call and book them early, as had a horror trip once when half the balloons popped on the way home - kids and me crying - apparently the balloons need time to 'just be' after being blown up. I think I know how they feel..); then cooked a rather massive birthday cake and did chocolate mousses for everyone in vintage glasses - it was great fun and worth the effort and exhaustion.

The chocolate mousse recipe is from one of our favourite dessert books Indulgence Coffee, which I happened to notice ALDI are selling from tomorrow for a measly $7.99 (or you can get it on line from Booktopia for only $9.50)! The pictures are gorgeous and the recipes are mouth watering. Makes a great gift for someone so go buy two!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

fashionable finds

I love fashion. Some may see it as a character failing, but to me it makes the world a bit more interesting and fun. So when I came across this book THREADS in an op shop recently, I snapped it up (it was only 50cents, so my risk/loss factor was low). The story follows three fourteen-year-old girls, Nonie, Edie and Jenny - best friends in London. Nonie's passion is fashion; humanitarian Edie wants to save the world; and Jenny has a small part in a Hollywood movie. The girls meet a young African refugee girl called Crow, who wears a pair of pink fairy wings and sketches dress designs. Each girl must evaluate their own priorities and goals as they face some tough issues, pool their talents and do something truly wonderful.
I'd heartily recommend Threads by Sophia Bennett to most tweenie/teen girls. They will enjoy Bennett's good humoured and grounded view of the fashionably frivolous, as she mixes it with the need for a social conscience and recognition of some of the harsher realities of life. There are now two more books following the same characters and I'm looking forward to reading more of their stories.
Op shops, consignment and outlet stores are my favourite destinations when it comes for finding fashion inspiration. You may not find cutting edge, new season goods, but it doesn't hurt to look! It is far more interesting to mix and match from a range of places and vintages, than to channel an entire outfit from the same place - whether it be Chanel or Big W (okay if it's all from Chanel you  probably don't need to be reading this..) However if bargains/recycling/re-using give you a buzz - we understand each other.
Recently I picked up a lovely soft as a cloud Oroton Scarf with silver threads through it. The tag said $240, but in the outlet store it was $20. (Check YouTube for a million ways on how to tie a scarf if you need help.)
The cardigan has metal sequins and fulfils my 'life is too short not to wear bling on the school run' mantra. It's light grey and will go with pretty much everything (except pjs). It was $9.
The bangles were from Sussan (keep going back there for pjs, jewellery and their excellent gift ware). On special after multiple reductions, I paid $3.68.

I love t-bar heels, they make your legs look longer, which isn't a bad thing when you're 5"1. The heels are high, but I walked around the opshop in them for 20mins without overbalancing once. By ASOS they appear to be brand new - I guess someone got their size wrong when online shopping. I paid $15.

This is a detail of a Jigsaw lace top I picked up for $6. It is peachy in colour which is very flattering to most complexions. As summer is pretty much over, I'll wear it in winter over thermal underwear.

And speaking of thermals under clothes, here I am in a (admittedly rubbish attempt at a selfy) photo of a french petally top thing, that admittedly is a bit big, and a little summery for an autumn morning. But I've stuck a thermal top underneath and I think it works (doesn't it?)! (and yes, I do need to clean my room..)

the detail of POM POMS on the straps is so cute. This makes me want to sew pom poms on to other wardrobe items too. Watch out family!

Where are your favourite places to shop? How much fashion shopping do you do online? What do you wear that could be improved with the addition of some pom poms? Have you ever worn pjs on the school run?

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Afternoon Tea

Pikelets are our favoured afternoon tea of choice of late. Served hot out of the fry pan and then covered with melting butter and raspberry jam - just thinking of them makes me hungry, and I've just eaten dinner!
If we do have any left over (rarely but occasionally it happens), then I save them until the next day and pop them into the lunchboxes. Win Win!

Here's the oh-so-easy recipe (can't recall where it originated sorry):

1.5 cups Self-Raising Flour
2 tbsp Caster Sugar
60g melted butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk the butter, egg and milk together and add to the dry ingredients. Use a large serving spoon to dollop into the fry pan - turn over when the mixture bubbles.

And of course I always serve the pikelets on a china plate - because I'd like the kids to look back and remember that the fine china wasn't considered to be too fine for them (as tempting as that stance can sometimes be). Have taken a picture of my everyday stack of plates that I (mostly) won't cry too hard over if the kids were to break one...

Which brings me to my latest op shop find. One that has kept me up at nights and fixated on during the more boring parts of the day.. (Did I hear someone mutter first-world problems?)
The kids and I discovered a new op shop - the old style sort that has a narrow walkway through towering piles of cluttered objects that almost reach the ceiling. And everywhere you look objects of every description are spilling out of boxes so that you hardly know whether to squeal with excitement (me!) or put your head between your knees while fighting an instant burst of nausea (my husband).
I used to love this sort of op shop the best. The thrill of the find was amplified by the degree of difficulty in finding anything at all, let alone something good. Usually in these shops the prices are good, really good, because the harried owner is so grateful you're taking something off their hands..
However, I'll admit to a lessening of my affections for this style of shop in recent years as my trips are invariably accompanied by babies/toddlers/children and strollers. Trying to navigate four wheels through the crush of chaotic ephemera is next to impossible. Trying to stop grabbing hands from upsetting the delicate balance of secondhand goods IS impossible.
Anyway, against my better judgement, we braved it - all four kids and me. Who knew what we'd find in that cave of chaos? But I spied a shelf against a wall piled high with something that made me stop in my tracks (dangerous with everyone lined up behind me) and literally GASP!
It was my favourite discontinued dinner set: Burleigh's Victorian Chintz in Pink. Yes it was like new. Yes it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to source. Yes it was six fully intact place settings... A M A Z I N G ! ! !
I've collected bits and pieces of this romantic setting over the years, mostly with the help of ebay. I mix and match it with my Wedgwood country ware. I  love it.
Happily, I have a birthday this year, so I went home with my plan to acquire firmly in place... 
In one of those unfortunate timing issues that life can cruelly throw at you, I was just about to bring up the subject of this must-have, never-to-be-repeated opportunity to own such a spectacular dinner set, when what should come on the television that night? The Hoarders program.
And before I could splutter, "I think there's a great Arnold Shwarzenegger movie on Seven!" the introductory spiel authoritatively declared that there was, quote: "A FINE LINE between collecting and hoarding."
I mean, as if!!
"I think we should watch this," said Jonathan, staring meaningfully at me.
"Really?" I answered, with a careful mix of disinterest and disdain.
The propaganda continued. "There is a suspected 1.2 million hoarders in the UK alone."
"Honestly, those Brits!" I scoffed, carefully avoiding eye-contact.
Anyway, blah blah, it turned out the hoarder in profile had been a mad collector of English china and had reached about 1600 pieces before his hoarding troubles all began.
1600 pieces?!! Am so obviously
 n o w h e r e   n e a r
the danger zone of collecting slash hoarding hell.
On reflection, I decided to defer my conversation on the Victorian Chintz to another night.
I'm still hopeful of a positive outcome.
After all, that hoarder had been a collector of the Blue Willow pattern.
True madness indeed!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Little Gifts

In the last week two friends have presented me with little gifts. No it's not my birthday, but I'm still feeling lucky.  By way of explanation, it's not always easy to catch up with friends when young children are involved. Civilised venues like coffee shops can be unsuitable - too cramped, too expensive, too frowny cause you're making too much noise/mess etc. Parks are no good if the weather's bad and play areas almost always end in tears (kids AND adults, or is that just me?)

So I've been inviting friends to come over for a coffee, or lunch or whatever suits us both at the time. And two friends brought me little gifts.

Little gifts make my heart sing! I may be over-reading it (a common tendency of mine), but to me little gifts that appear out of the blue, speak to me. They say things like: Thanks for having me over;  Thanks for being a friend; I was thinking of you; Knew you'd love this as much as I do; You're a kindred spirit...

One gift came in a little brown paper bag with handles and it had a gold ribbon and a silver star pinned to the top. I love brown paper bags that can appear austere, minimalist or dashing with touch of opulence, depending on how you decorate them. I have a stash behind a kitchen cupboard (eek!), and I've used them for party favour bags in the past.

I loved making these for Arch's first birthday:

Back to the little gift in the brown paper bag. The little gift-giver had stopped by the supermarket, and this is what she picked up for me (along with that night's dinner for her family): A packet mix of Easter Lemon Cupcakes, a packet of small chocolate blocks, and a gift box of Easter Cupcake decorative paper cases and toppers. It was so kind, thoughtful, and out of the blue. 
The other little gift from a different friend was a piece of delicious home baked chocolate cheesecake brownie (I'm getting the recipe, it was fabulous), and a nifty shopping list grabbed as a freebie from a local shop. (I am always hunting around for pieces of paper to write lists!).
Found this one on pinterest that looks just as tasty - yum!
It made me think about the power of little gifts. Little gifts ideally should not cost you much in money or in time/preparation. They can literally be something you've picked up in the supermarket on your way to a friend's house. Here are some other ideas:
  • A small posy of flowers and greenery from your garden.
  • A little notebook/shopping list 
  • A tea towel (preferably new and not used/wet/dirty)
  • A gift wrapped soap
  •  A small box of herbal teabags
  • A magazine your friend would like, with a packet of their favourite biscuits - something that says, put your feet up, relax, enjoy!
A posy like this from my own yard? Sigh, if only..
If you don't know their fave magazine, buy them your favourite -
hopefully they'll lend it back to you sometime..
Little gifts are not dependent on a special occasion. They can be delicacies you've whipped up yourself, or little treasures you've had stashed away, or some thing you just happened to spot when you were doing something else entirely...
They are meant to bring instant enjoyment and are not to be kept forever or add to your clutter. They are a temporary injection of pampering, deliciousness, usefulness or luxury to an otherwise ordinary day.
Little gifts don't demand reciprocation, and they definitely should not elicit embarrassed overreactions of gratitude or guilt.
I love giving these sorts of little gifts because they can provide such an unexpected bright spot in someones day. And I love receiving these sorts of gifts because they are a tiny bonus to the main pleasure of having friends with shared likes, who share parts of your life journey just as you share parts of theirs, who have taken just a little moment out of their day to show they care...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bits n Pieces

Life's been a bit bitsy of late.

There's been a little bit of Easter inspired decorating going on:

Bed Bath and Table has cute Easter/Rabbit decorations

And a little bit of Easter inspired craft taking place (it rained all Saturday and decorating some paper eggs made a few hours fun):

And there's been a little bit of op shopping, with a few finds I've been happy with:

A china napkin holder by Crown Devon that had me swooning
A Helen Kaminski raffia bag with leather handles $3

The kids and I discussed decorating with letters with Easter approaching. Jesse suggested "death" and "grave", which though relevant, thankfully didn't need to be our main focus. We happily settled on "ALIVE" and "NEW LIFE" instead.

Is Easter on your radar yet?