Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The occasional rainbow

There has been more rain in the past couple of weeks, than in (my) living memory (which admittedly, isn't good at the best of times). I know it must have only been a month ago I was revelling in crisp sunny autumn days, but now the bleakness of winter is all encompassing.

Not that it's depressing. The sun has persisted in making sporadic but welcome appearances through the dark clouds and rainbows have popped up in the sky. Sometimes two. Once even a full one - which sent the kids and I into fits of delirium. Lucky I didn't crash the car!

Each morning, thanks to the wind and the rain, the camellias and other winter flowers are thick on the ground. Our gumboots are getting a good work out wading through the mud which is our driveway. Winter coats, jumpers, vests and tights are a must, which is great, but I could do without the kids constant complaining about having to wear warm underwear.

Meanwhile I'm still cleaning up bits and pieces after the soiree. The gift table was laden with so many lovely things it seemed a shame to put everything away and out of view. Here's a few things I've kept out for display..

Lovely Robert Gordon china - gold rimmed in a yesteryear yellow tones that looks like an instant antique. It has fitted right in perfectly and the oversized cups are perfect for toasty hot chocolates with a few marshmallows bobbing on top.

Aren't these little glass bottles just adorable!? The insect pics just add to their loveliness. Can't decide whether to fill them with something (spices?) or just keep enjoying their sparkle on a window sill some where..

Gorgeous gifts from gorgeous friends who have showered me with so many swoon worthy things: tea mugs, cook books, jam and ceramics. Who would have thought these dear girls would have known so well what I like??

So apart from half-hearted attempts to clean up, it's been hard not to succumb to the elements and just climb under a warm blanket with a good book. Here's a pile I'm working my way through (loved the Sue Grafton and Amy Plum novels - perfect winter escapism), when the cleaning schedule allows...

And here's Arch who has no cleaning schedule, but has taken a well earned break from playing and messing to snuggle up with milk and biscuit.

The knitted blanky was an op shop find, perfect Cornish colours and now Arch's favourite way to keep warm. It's only bassinet size, but perfect for covering little legs.

Oh and after my previous lament about not being able to find any decent blankets in the op shops for a friend, another friend texted through some pics she'd found of some that day. Some furious texting took place and friend #1 hot footed it over to the op shop where the blankets had been discovered. They'll now be heading to the USA to keep some American toes warm.

A heart-warming result.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Swish Soiree

Turning 40 can freak some people out.
I was one of those people.
But nobody likes a whinger, and the best way to avoid turning in to an unbecoming spectacle of self-obsessed panic attacks, is to focus on something bigger than oneself. Something like a party, or to be more precise, a

an evening party or social gathering, especially one held for a particular purpose: a musical soiree.
 Also, soi·rée.

1810–20; < French, equivalent to Old French soir evening (< Latin sērō late (adv.), orig. ablative of sērus ) + -ée < Latin -āta, feminine of -ātus
-ate1 ; cf. journey

Invitations were sent out. Thank you ZoZo the Magic Queen for your wonderful cards, which perfectly captured the feel of the sparkling night with girlfriends taking shape in my imagination.

Next came the decorating - what fun. Why haven't I been holding soirees for years? I raided party shops and $2 shops for paper lanterns and puffball flowery thingos. Hanging chains of these from the ceiling really added to the cheerful, colourful, celebratory feel.

Candles, everywhere. Scented large, tea-light small and everything in between. I wrapped some plain glass vases in a mix of fabric swatches and ribbons. Then added an inexpensive pillar candle to the middle - and the effect was rather thrilling.
Fairy lights and floral lights added warm gleaming emphasis to darker areas needing highlighting - and by sticking to the rule for good mood lighting (no down lights, only up lights) I added lamps to side tables and in high places. It worked a treat. On my vintage cupboard I stuck pictures from my 2010 ZoZo the Magic Queen calendar - to tie in with the invitation cards. The glittery art works were a perfect addition to the laughter and magic of the night.
Some wonderfully gifted friends offered to bring delectable food, so that my menu was full of specialities, mixed with my own contributions - I felt almost guilty at how relaxed my preparations were!
I was even able to ask my cousin, who rang the night before, "How do you cook a Camembert? Can you do that for me?" and she did - amazingly so.
Go to
for the recipe

Other yum stuff included homemade mini quiches and sausage rolls, tomato and goat's cheese squares, sushi and Turkish bread with guacamole.

It was such a treat to be able to use the china, glass, silver and serving ware from my (not quite 40 years in-the-making) collection. I loved seeing my plates, glasses, cups and saucers, forks and spoons parading their finery for my friends. From the dinner set my Grandpa and parents bought me for my 21st (Wedgwood Countryware - still my all time favourite) to the glittery goblets I snaffled from Target in the after-Christmas sales this year. The table gleamed!
And so did my friends. Earlier in the week I was regretting my sparkly dress code (Jonathan did point out that the person setting the dress code usually knows how they themselves will fulfil it. Yes okay, point taken) but through slight trial and error I found the right amount of gleam to get me through. And yes, the error part of that equation did involve buying a number of things that I didn't actually use or wear... um, next soiree is?

 My outfit:
  • skirt - Silver rivers of sequins on grey netting, op shopped French Connection (really lovely and last worn by me at a wedding five years ago)
  • tank top - black wool (bought too long ago to remember details)
  • silver cardigan  - on special @ DJs (fine line between Harry Potter and sophisticated sparkle, but i think I got away with it)
  • green crystal/bead necklace from an outlet store
The highlight of the sumptious supper was obviously the dessert - it's the sweet treats that get the heart racing!
My gorgeous friend Nic is multi-talented and can whip up macaroons in the time I might take to butter  toast. She brought along luminous pistachio, rich raspberry and sultry chocolate/passionfruit creations - the flavours were sublime. Piled high on platters and trays they were works of art. Light-as-a-feather strawberry  mousses (meece?) in shot glasses with a fresh raspberry on top and lemon curd in chocolate cups were other bite-sized delights. We dusted pretty much everything in edible silver and gold glitter. Ooh la la.
I also made choc/coffee mini cheesecakes, choc/rum mousse and mini pumpkin pies. My sister-in-law  Anna absolutely blew me away with a selection of decorated shortbread biscuits (we're talking hand painted fans, glitter bombed bonbons and 3-tiered birthday cakes) and tiny butter cream iced fairy cakes. So sweet, almost too lovely to eat!

Then, in a wild act of impetuosity, I tempted fate by making my own birthday cake - following a Donna Hay recipe, that I had NEVER tried before! I know - talk about living on the edge!!!
This was the result:


It worked! I know, I'm still in shock :-)
Such a wonderful sparkling night of friends old and new. I will look back and remember this milestone feeling so grateful and blessed to have been surrounded by such caring wonderful people, who I am fortunate to count as friends.
It will remind me, next time I'm whining about the lines on my forehead, or a day filled with drudgery....
Life is indeed good, thank you Lord.
I might even be tempted to hold another soiree sometime soon. 
Because life is too short not to sparkle,..

Monday, 10 June 2013

Finding things..

There was some good news this week when Target and Kmart announced that they are signing the international accord to protect workers and uphold safety conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh. I've sent messages via facebook and email thanking these companies for taking this stand, and urging them to keep vigilant in maintaining integrity in their purchasing processes.
Still no word from Big W or Cotton On - I'll keep you posted.
Lately I've been trawling op shops with purpose, well, a bit more purpose than usual I mean. A friend asked me to keep an eye out for good quality Australian made wool blankets. She is moving overseas and wants some for for her family. No trouble I said boldly. I've had quite good luck in the past with vintage blankets. So how many do you think I've been able to find so far?? That's right. None.

This is one of the fantastic vintage blankets I found last year, when I wasn't even looking for one. It's hot pink with red and white stripes and looks totally fabulous on one of my girl's beds. Vintage, Tasmanian-made and in perfect condition. Oh, and did I mention there were two? - a perfect match. They were around $25 each, and for some insane reason that seemed wise for a milli-second, I only bought one.
One day I will post about all the mistakes and fails-to-buy that have peppered my op shopping experiences. I can't right now, it's too painful. 
My other purpose has been looking for snazzy serving dishes, platters or cake stands and glassware for an upcoming event I'm holding, sort of a belated birthday party for myself (more on this later). I've found a few pieces I'm really happy with.
Firstly, this large Maxwell and Williams Cake Stand. Looks unused. $10. The recipe book holds the secret to making the cake I hope to bake and place on this stand...fingers crossed.

I've never been sure how to determine what is real lead light crystal and what is lookalike cut glass. Can you tell just by the weight? (I know, I should google this.) I've found two lovely items that could be the real deal. Both are heavy. The bowl is large and will be great for serving fruit salad with a bit of style. The tiered cake stand is a lovely shape and its height will be fantastic in an array of serving dishes. It has a tiny chip on the decorative edging but no one will know except me.. and um, you. (Both cost under $10)

Then I found a jug, definitely not crystal. It may be vintage. It reminds me of that yukky yellow glass found in 1970s front doors. I  couldn't decide whether it was ugly or attractive. In the end I decided to get it for practical reasons - I don't own a jug that pours without dripping. It cost $6 and was worth the risk.

I still haven't poured with it to see if it drips or not. But the design is growing on me. I think I like it.
Finally, because the thrill of op shopping is always in finding something you weren't actually looking for, I found two things that made me punch the air. A world globe. Love globes. Arch saw it first and yelled, "EARTH!" How could we resist?

Then I found this set of four anodised aluminium tumblers. I'm pretty sure they're vintage. Quite thick as opposed to the more common thinner edged cups. Aren't the colours fantastic!? The kids love them and especially the way that drinks feel so cold in them.
$3 each! Yes!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Melbourne Vibe

Have just spent a fabulous four days (well, 3.75 days, but close enough) in the great southern city of Melbourne. It was rainy, cold and dark, quintessentially Melbourne and perfect weather for holing up in uber cool cafes, staring at the impressive array of winter coats worn by passers-by. I marvelled at the sight of one dashing fellow in a 3/4 length burgundy coat - and silently admired the bravery/style of a women strutting by in a stunning yellow coat and matching ankle boots (Yellow, yes, yellow!).

After arriving in the late afternoon we set off from the hotel in search of some good bookstores (hard to come by in Sydney these days). The Hill of Content Bookshop is a wonderful combination of cosy classics and wide-ranging new titles from an array of international publishers. It's Balmain branch in Sydney is one of my favourite haunts especially when I'm looking for something special as a gift.
We came out of the bookshop and my eye was immediately drawn to the dark and sultry window of a cafe nearby. "Is that pumpkin pie?" I asked incredulously. "I don't know" replied Jonathan, feigning interest. "I don't know where in Sydney you can get pumpkin pie in a cafe!" I declared. "Let's go in".
We were not disappointed. The Self Preservation Cafe on Bourke Street lived up to all of my expectations of Melbourne. So trendy it hurts. The pumpkin pie was melt-in-your-mouth gorgeous (cooked fresh every day the waiter confirmed as I swooned) and when I'd come out of my blissful trance and drained the last dregs of my lovely coffee, we perused the art work and jewellery displayed along the walls and in long glass cabinets. I spied a gleaming antique diamond-look floral brooch in the vintage jewellery cabinet. It screamed Great Gatsby. It screamed buy me. But alas, its price was rather astronomical. Maybe it looked like diamonds, because it really was diamonds? It was a Melbourne mystery..
The rest of the long weekend went by in a flash as we happily dodged puddles, trawling through the myriad of trendy and stylish shops. We stopped for lots more coffees, explored laneways, ate luscious italian dishes, and tried on some gorgeous coats (knowing we'd never get enough wear out of them on our return home). I also met up with a lovely old friend for lunch and visited the impressive Monet exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria
Claude Monet, Roses (Les Roses), 1925-26
The paintings were vibrant and beautiful, often beyond words. My  skin prickled at a vivid coastal scene with waves crashing against cliffs. The accompanying description stated that there were actual sand grains in the paint, as Monet had been standing on the beach as he painted it. Wow.
Meanwhile, the kids were being minded by favourite family members at home. After me practically suffering from insomnia in the lead-up, worrying about how they would survive without us (Arch at 2.5yrs hadn't been without me before, ever), they had a ball. Once I realised this (with "I told you so" ringing in my ears) I had a ball too. 
Pictures from this most excellent mini-break are few. Leaving my camera's memory card at home didn't help. Having a non-functioning phone added to my inability to capture the magic on film. This is a sad confession from a would-be blogger..
Hopefully I've captured a little of the fun and refreshment we had from our brief change of scene. Thanks to my Melbourne friends who have shared their favourite haunts with me over the years, so that on a flying visit I knew roughly where to go for good coffee, food and ambience.
Looking forward to another exciting trip, and secretly hoping I won't have to wait another three years for the next one..