Monday, 29 July 2013

Worst Thrifting Buy Ever!

The kids got obsessed with op shopping in the last week of the school hols. So much so that I was the one begging for mercy. I know. Moi!?
Being the final week of three weeks of holidays with four children and me having a cold the whole time may have had something to do with it. I can't really be over the whole op shopping thing, can I?

We visited some biggies over in Sydney's inner west, where I was once a local and a regular. One old fave is a depot - where all the stuff for that charity is delivered and distributed from. Their attached shop has great clothes. It's where I found a Zara cocktail dress, way back before Zara had darkened our shores with their mega-stores! I also bought two of my favourite sparkly skirts, both by French Connection and one of which I wore to my sparkling soiree back in June.
Sigh, now that seems like eons ago.

It's also where I got a truly fabulous vintage set of Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven 2 in 1 books that were some of the first chapter books that both my older kids read and adored .

This depot sells bags of toys for $5 each. In the past I've bought them for playgroups and Sunday Schools. It is a great way to get an assortment of kids playthings that would otherwise be pretty expensive to buy separately. The only risk is that though the items are checked, sometimes there are pieces missing or things broken.

Jesse spotted a bag that sent all four kids in to raptures. I was initially keen. I could see the board game Trouble (already have 2, but hey another one is okay), a travel set of Connect 4 (lots of itty bitty pieces, but I'm a relaxed Mum, it'll be good for car trips), some matchbox cars (Arch's current fave) and then I saw what was making them all jump and down while shouting, "Please Mum can we get this bag? PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Oh. No.

This would be the toy that we spotted in Kmart last Christmas and I said
N E V E R   E V E R
are we EVER EVER going to get that toy in our house,

And so here it is, on our rug at home...

And here are the kids, pretending to be scared. Note that Arch isn't in the photos, because he (and I) really are scared, and refuse to go anywhere near the thing. And yes, in case you're wondering, he is furry, feels real and scurries along the floor (when radio controlled), just like a real gigantic horrible spider would.

(scary photo special effects to emphasise the horror, not that we needed it)

Definitely my worst op shop/thrifting buy ever. Even if he did come in a mixed bag that only cost $5. Some bargains are best avoided.

Hmph, not sure I ever thought I'd be saying that!

I've gone strangely humourless over the whole thing. Have totally banned the spider from being anywhere near me (amazingly the kids and Jonathan are obeying me, and the spider has not appeared in my bed, in my wardrobe or anywhere I might unsuspectingly come across it...
So far...

And strangely enough I haven't felt any desire to take all the kids back to an op shop since.

Which isn't to say that now that the three older ones have returned to school Arch and I haven't had some nice little forays back to our local op shops. But we've only bought a few books, a Thomas train clock and a shirt or two.

No arachnids in sight!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Bridesmaid wannabe

I was a bridesmaid wannabe. All through childhood I was desperate to be asked by someone (anyone!) to be their flower girl. Alas, it never happened. I remember staring long and hard at the glorious photos of Princess Di's beautiful entourage. Remember Clementine, with her gorgeous yellow silk sash and tiara of flowers in her hair?

Photo: Getty Images
Here's a lovely article the now grown-up Clementine wrote in 2011, in the lead up to William and Kate's Royal Wedding:

When I got married myself I had an aversion to big weddings, or anything too over the top. Seems abit silly now, as I was gaining an adorable niece, Miranda aged 5, who would have made the perfect flower girl.  But for whatever reason, I just asked my best friend Miriam to be my bridesmaid and kept it at that.

Fast forward sixteen (ish) years, and my little Miriam found her very own perfectly fitting bridesmaid dress at the op shop recently, I could see the excitement and longing in her eyes to wear something so special.

When she swept (and I mean swept, not walked) out of the change room everyone in the shop turned and gasped, Oooooooh!

Mim's eyes sparkled. The dress, in the traditional style of glistening white heavy satin with a full skirt had tiny diamantes around the bust.
"Are they real diamonds Mum?" Mim asked, breathlessly.
"Um, probably not."
Spaghetti straps in true Cinderella style with a satin ribbon criss-crossed up the back. Obviously it had been handmade for a real bridesmaid, and I'm guessing, worn once for the big event and then donated... I surreptitiously tweaked the price tag. Oh. At $25, in op shop dollars this was BIG money!

"But where will you wear it Mim?" I asked, in a half-hearted attempt to put her off it. She gave a tinkling laugh (you  know, like a real princess would)  and did a twirl as she faced me excitedly. "At Miranda's wedding!" she said, clapping her hands with glee.

I laughed. Miranda my lovely now twenty-one year-old niece, does have a boyfriend. But there has certainly been no mention of an impending marriage. She has an overseas trip planned and I imagine plenty of other plans for after that, which as far as we know don't include a wedding.

I check the fit. The dress fits Mim just right. For now. In six months she will be taller and the dress will be way too tight around the bodice.


I could text Miranda and politely enquire as to whether this boyfriend is "the one"? That's not a rude question, is it?
If she wants to know why I'm asking - I'll send her a couple of photos by way of explanation.

No pressure of course!

So yes, as you can see, we bought the dress. And no, we didn't spend much time (actually any time) on fixing her hair.
But who was I deny Mim a fairytale moment? (Although now that I think about it, she has had some Today Was a Fairytale moments before.)

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to buy a beautiful size 6 flower girl's dress from me please text.
It's yours for $20.
Unless Miranda texts back with happy news, and soonish.

Here's a link to a website with the most beautiful little girls fairy/princess/flower girl dresses I've seen. The Victoria tutu in mushroom is so lovely. Would definitely spend more time on Mim's hair if she was wearing it!

Just saying..

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Winter hols

Winter bargain of the week: These lovely glass jars with shiny silver bird adorned lids were marked down at Target last week to a 
c r a z y
$3 each. I showed great restraint by only buying two, don't you think?

Well we're in the midst of our three week winter holiday - at home - always a mixed blessing in my view as the challenges of keeping everyone entertained whilst not getting winter ailments always seem to prove too much for us.
I did point out to Jonathan that some people go skiing in Whistler during this winter break. He pointed out that none of us can ski.. True. Holiday brochures for tropical islands in the sun seemed pretty compelling I thought. But next year I may have to start my "let's have a holiday we can't afford" campaign sometime prior to the actual start of the winter holidays...

With two weeks down we succeeded on the entertainment side. For four days in the first week the kids went to a local church kids club for the mornings. They had great fun finding old friends, making new ones and learning great things about Jesus. I'm always in awe of the great enthusiasm and energy shown by the people who run these programs.

Kids each chose a pansy plant to cheer up the house - holidays at home can be fun, truly.
Last week we went to stay with Grandma and Grandpa in the mountains. My mum had booked the kids into a week of intensive swimming lessons, so I had to have them up at the heated pool at 9am for their hour of instruction. Hard as this was (most morning the car's temp gauge sat at around 3 degrees) the temp was a balmy 25 degrees plus in the heated pool room. And the morning sun poured through the windows making it definitely the best place to be as I sat with my book and soaked up the warmth.
My hopes of rugging up and sipping hot chocolates in cosy winter cafes were thwarted as my cold got progressively worse throughout the week. Arch got it too so we spent many nights coughing and days tired and head achy huddled on the lounge in front of some very bad television. Ugh.
I can't tell you how many boxes of tissues we've been through..
On our last day I got a takeaway hot choc for the car journey home, dashed in to my favourite French inspired homewares shop to buy a tablecloth (had to cheer myself up somehow, this seemed the best way!) and attempted to get the kids to pose in front of the picture wall... with mixed success. 
Hoping we'll be healthy and ready for some relaxing fun in the third and final week.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sheets as sofa covers? Why not!

When I mentioned to my Mum a while ago that I was planning on holding a swish soiree for my May birthday this was her reaction: "Oh good, maybe you'll be able to take all those coverings off your sofa now?"

Not quite the response I was hoping for.

When we bought a King sofa a few years ago, we knew that it was an investment for life. Heck, the cheap and nasty things we have bought have mostly turned out to be with us for life, so I have no intention of parting with this perfect piece!  It is so comfortable and versatile and can be configured about twenty different ways apparently. More than fulfilling my  urge to regularly change things around. The sofa is big, but low and compact - so doesn't ever feel too bulky or like it's overwhelming our space. (And no, King Furniture hasn't paid me to write this - sadly..)

In a household with four children under the age of ten, covers on my chairs seem like a no-brainer to me. My kids are not often raging lions who jump on, scribble on or ruin everything they touch and we've managed to weed out most of their friends who are (joke people!). Covers provide a layer of protection that means I don't have to stress about leaking textas or mashed pieces of cake on the microsuede. I plonk down on the sofa to relax, not to obsess about whether the fabric has been sullied. (Love that word by the way, sullied.)

Sofa covers or throws or sheets are another way to decorate a room with exciting fabrics. I'm not talking ugly things that will make your sofa look like you've thrown your dirty washing on to it. Finding a fabric with patterns and colours or textures you wouldn't or couldn't use anywhere else is an opportunity not to be missed. I use the seasons as inspiration. I can change the look of the room from summer to winter depending on what I use to throw over the chairs. I don't spend up on big expensive throws, that would defeat the purpose of not having to worry what happens to them.

I mostly use sheets. And this brings me to my AMAZING FRENCH SHEETS FIND where the department store angel literally stood in front of me and said:

Here is a never to be repeated opportunity.
Don't stuff it up!

One day, many years ago I was browsing the children's books in a department store. A sales assistant appeared (Australian readers will know what a rarity this is, however this is not the miracle I'm writing about). She asked me if I needed any help, and I said no thanks I was just browsing.
"Have you looked at the sheets?" she asked. This seemed like a pretty weird question, since I was browsing books and all. When I answered in the negative, she smiled and urged me to go look, as there were some great deals.

My curiosity got the better of me, being a bargain hunter and all. I wandered over towards Manchester and came across one of those island tables, choc full of packets of multi-coloured, multi-patterned sheets. On closer inspection my excitement rose. Actually I think I did a small dance and high fived a passing old lady. These were high end designer sheets. French made sheets. 80% reduced!!

Discontinued stock. Discontinued patterns. These were the most divine burgundy, blue and tea-stained French paisley designs I HAD EVER SEEN. There were king and queen sized fitted and flat sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases. They were marked down hundreds of dollars. There was nothing that cost over $50. I think I rang everyone I knew - hardly anyone was interested. (Why? Why??) One friend agreed to take a blue set. I bought some for my mother. I bought some to put away for later. I bought as much as I could without going into major credit card meltdown.  Now I  wish I'd taken out a bank loan to buy it all - it was one of those retail moments where I happened to be in the right place at the right time (thanks to the department store angel) - and I'm not sure it's ever going to happen to me again. Sob.

Anyway, I use some of these sheets on my King sofas. They look amazing. They've faded a little from the wash and from the sun. I'm too scared to check the linen cupboard to see if my stash has run out. I fear it has. I've searched ebay for years but never come across anything else like them. I like to think they give my living area a cosy French feel of warmth and sophistication. I know they are only sheets.

But I love them.

Did I say that already?

Not a great photo - and yes, I know my windows need cleaning. You can see the fabric though, can't you? Try squinting..
You probably won't see a picture like this in a decorating magazine. Sheets thrown over sofas probably are not everyone's idea of cutting edge style.. I'm okay with that.

So just in case you're wondering, I did take off one of the sheets/covers on my sofa for the swish soiree.

No one mashed cake into the microsuede.

Since the soiree I've given some of the sheets a rest and replaced them with some wintery blankets that are cosy and warm.

I found a fabulous Italian blanket in an op shop in yellows and pinks with a floral design that I'm loving.

More on that another time..