Thursday, 25 August 2016

National Op Shop Week 2016

I couldn't let National Op Shop Week pass without the opportunity to again state how great it is to support charity shops in their good works in the community. If supporting them means getting rid of some clutter, or by nabbing a FABULOUS bargain along the way, well how good is that?!! It's actually a great way to shop without spending too much. It's making your dollars count. 


Some people seem to have no idea how to op shop. And yes, if you don't have the patience to trawl though loads of stuff in search of a treasure then it's not going to be your happy place, that's for sure. While some op shops are set out in a highly organised manner, many prefer the more chaotic approach. Either way, you'll need a bit of time and fortitude to give it a red hot go.

FIrstly, think about what you are looking for. If it's kid's clothes, there's usually a section set aside just for this. Shoes, likewise. China and glass, tick. Records/CDs/DVDs and books might be somewhere else. Kitchen stuff - yes. Furniture - usually in the bigger stores. Sometimes the sheer volume of stuff can be overwhelming - in which case sticking to one category can help you focus and avoid running screaming from the premises. 

Some op shops have special deals on different days of the week. The Salvo's Stores offer cut prices on clothes with certain colour price tags between Mon-Wed. Many Vinnies stores have a colour coded tag each day that is 50% off. If they don't advertise a deal on an item, don't ask. It's annoying for the (usually voluntary) staff when people try and bargain what is already selling at discounted prices. You might think something has been way over-priced (yes, guilty of this myself - well-used girls' Nike sneakers at one of my locals were $30 and I found this a total joke!) just walk away..... deep breath.... let it go....

Here's a few of my latest finds to give you some inspiration!

CLOTHING: My working wardrobe has been dormant for over a decade now. Luckily, thanks mostly to op shopping, I had a good amount of quality items to draw on - but it definitely needed a revamp this term when i got a 4-day a week real job (as opposed to my op shopping job, which as you know, wasn't a real job). 

So what did I look for? Some versatile dresses that can be dressed up or down - work suitable but fun too. I don't have many prints - but that's the beauty of op shopping - you find yourself trying on things you would never spy in normal shopping land. 

One of these is a homemade dress, fully lined and fits me perfectly, bar the sleeves which are a little tight. One dress is vintage and made in France. The third dress is a high-end Australian brand that I could never afford new. I love them all - can you pick from the descriptions which is which?

The leather shoes appear to be brand new. Again, not what I'd look for normally - but fit beautifully and I just love the colour. They are leather with a rubber sole so super comfy too. They cost $20 which is quite a bit for me in op shop dollars, but would hardly buy you anything in normal shopping land. 

These red leather sandals are made in Spain and give me hope that when winter (finally) ends I'll be strutting around with a definite spring in my step! They were $7.50.

CHINA: I love these little floral Made in England butter dishes. Perfect for keeping coins/jewellry/soaps in. I never pay more than a few dollars for them and they make lovely little birthday gifts for friends when the budget is tight. 

ARTMaybe your mantle lacks a regal touch? I was chuffed to find this vintage print of the Queen in a gilt frame complete with a (slightly cracked) gold crown. 
When I saw this I knew I was a monarchist and that it is a keeper. 

CHINA AGAIN: Sometimes you just want a nice mug for hot cocoa. This beauty was made in Copenhagen. 
But I bought it from an op shop. 
Come to think of it, that's not as fun as going to Copenhagen to buy it, but still - op shoppers can't always get everything they want. 
That takes patience.   

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Parent Fails - Real or Imagined?

A friend recently posted on Instagram an (obligatory) bottle of wine pic with the caption: That moment you get your kids eyesight checked in grade 1 instead of kinder and find they need immediate glasses and an eye patch 🍷

Made me laugh (A lot. It's always funnier when it happens to others, but it could have been any of us, right!?) and think about all the oh-so-many ways we never manage to get it quite right when parenting. It's often just the little things that add up to that general feeling that we're somehow failing at the most important job in the world. Most of the time, we're doing a lot better than we think. Truly.  

At least that's what I told myself when these random moments happened: 
  • You realise the shower your kids use ran out of soap days if not weeks ago, and no one has bothered to mention it. Or notice.
  • You made a big effort to cook a wholesome and delicious Moroccan chicken dinner, and your five-year-old cried because he wanted two-minute noodles.
  • A class teacher casually mentions that your child declined to tell news at the start of the term because "our family didn't do anything fun all holidays". Yep that's us, the no-fun family.
  • You get a note in the diary to say your child has been reprimanded for making "inappropriate noises" - and you can't stop laughing!
    So if your parenting-fails (real or imagined) are getting you down, remember, you are so not alone. So here's some tried and trusty pick-me-ups! Yep, scientifically proven to work. Every time.

    Give yourself a treat. Preferably something with icing sugar and cinnamon. (Check out @scrollies on Instagram)

    Buy yourself some gorgeous in-season flowers. They'll brighten your day, your table and your mood.

      Find a place of serenity and lie down on a gorgeous and comfortable couch. 
      Warning, if you do this in a shop, eventually someone is going to come and tell you that they're calling security if you don't leave..

Thursday, 14 July 2016

6 Perfect Picture Books to Wipe Away Winter Blues

Part of our efforts to enjoy the winter holidays with kids, and distract us from the facts that:
a) we have cabin fever
b) we are a long way from anywhere warm 
c) I have a cold, and
d) the whinging has (occasionally) reached fever pitch
is to pull out the WINTER THEMED picture books. I have chosen some titles that, like all good picture books, have a story that resonates with readers of all ages. The illustrations fire up the imagination with winter scenes that instantly transport you in to their world. And there is something that will capture a small piece of your heart in each of them. I promise!!

So straight after a big bowl of porridge in the morning, Arch and I curl up on the couch, sip hot chocolate and read a few favourites. It doesn't generally snow in Sydney, but the icy winds are enough to take us there...

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson (illustrated by Axel Scheffler) warms the cockles of your heart (whatever they are) by taking you on the wild wintery (mis)adventures of Stick Man who has become separated from his Stick Family. Lonely and lost, Stick Man tries his best to get back to his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three...  Whether you had a pet stick as a child or not (I did!) the multiple uses of sticks, will ensure you never look at them with quite the same disinterest again. Julia Donaldson has a true gift for rhythm and rhyme and characters that entrance and delight. This is definitely one of her best. 

This book along with some of my other winter-pics does tie in with Christmas - but this story is an all-year favourite. 

It's Snow Day by Richard Curtis (illustrated by Rebecca Cobb) is another heart warmer on a chilly winter's day. Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I have no experience of snow days, when (bliss!) school is called off due to icy weather. But in this book, it happens! However, one boy, Danny, and one teacher, Mr Trapper, turn up. So what happens when the strictest teacher and the worst student are left alone together? Well needless to say, things don't look good. Slowly over the course of the day, things start to change. Bonding over building a snowman two lonely people find that their unhappiness starts to thaw... Get this book quick. You'll love it.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (Illustrated by Christian Birmingham) is an abridged version, which would never be my first choice for this epic story. Definitely read the full version to your kids. It will grab their attention and imagination with a glowing heart of gold and life-changing allegories that touch hearts of all ages. That said, the beautiful pictures by Christian Birmingham are a glimpse into the world of Narnia that complement the story perfectly. Enjoy.

Don't Call Me Little Bunny by Gregoire Solotareff has been one of my favourite picture books for years. Written and published originally in France (1988) with used copies available on Amazon it is a quirky and edgy tale about a little bunny with 'tude. Living high up in snowy Alps, Jack Rabbit, affectionately known as "Little Bunny" by friends and family alike, is frankly, sick of his nick-name. In an effort to show that he is not cute and cuddly, Little Bunny (sorry, Jack Rabbit) takes to a life of crime. Making a true friend along the way, Jack realises there's more to life than being angry about a nick-name that doesn't change who he really is. Pictures are fantastic, and the humour is top rate.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner (Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal) showcases a beautifully detailed and illustrated secret world of what lives in and under the snow. It's a little like a documentary in picture book form - who knew there was so much going on in a world of white? My five-year-old loves this and never tires of it.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle is my last choice, and yes again it is a Christmassy story. The wonderful and whimsical illustrations and creative extra extra bits (clear plastic overlay pages add snow to the scenes) bring to life the magic of the snowy sneason (sorry, season). You'll find more to love with Carle's colourful characters and gently funny tale. Kids will squeal with delight at the vibrancy and special surprise on the last page. It is a timely change before spring hits and you have to start reading the very hungry caterpillar again! 

Happy Winter Reading!!!

Here's a link to my post this time last year on The Top Ten Holiday Tasks to Keep Everyone Happy. Check it out!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Botanical Style - Book Review

I spotted this book on a recent foray in to Note To Self in Epping, and knew instantly that this was a piece of gorgeousness that would have me swooning at every page. Firstly the gorgeous green on the cover is the colour of my bedroom walls. The pictured botanical prints and gleaming glassware could have been taken from my mantlepiece - only there's less clutter. Most of us have some elements of botanical style in our homes, maybe without even realising it. Once you start to notice, flowers, plants and nature are the inspiration for beautiful things everywhere, and that is what Selina Lake showcases in this lovely tome.

Botanical Style will appeal to any one who has ever stuck a bunch of flowers in a vase, admired fallen leaves on the ground or lovingly tended to a house plant or two. And whether you have a favourite floral tablecloth, a ferny wallpaper, or a shiny vase of something on a windowsill - it's all about bringing a touch of the outside indoors. The benefits, Lake enthuses, include creating calming effects, healthy vibes and goodness for the soul. 


The book is divided in to five themed sections: Vintage, Boho, Industrial, Tropical and Natural - Lake's styling prowess make every decorating theme pop with inspiration and beauty. You might be more minimalist than shabby chic, or more modern than vintage, but Lake shows the benefits of introducing the richness and freshness of foliage, florals and nature in to every setting. There's lots of paint-flecked surfaces and rustic textures for the more gritty gardening types. Lake also layers romantic looks without too much chintz or formality. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Simple touches like berries on a mottled green plate, through to bolder moves like wallpapering or stencilling leaf prints onto walls can help you channel your inner flower fairy/garden gnome. There's plenty of ideas for those who don't want to make big changes (or who rent) and still add a botanical twist to their interiors. Lake advises keeping it simple - for example, garden cuttings displayed in gleaming glass or oversized pots can be pretty and striking. 

While I particularly loved her chapters on Vintage, Industrial and Natural Botanicals, the rich visual imagery - courtesy of the wonderful photography of Rachel Whiting - makes choosing favourites extremely difficult! 
Actually impossible!

Lake's advice is practical and imaginative. She offers numerous style tips that make achieving her looks happily possible. For those with a crafty bent, there are DIY techniques that will have you reaching for your hot glue gun. Fancy sewing a silk cushion cover? Whipping up a Botanical Pinboard? Or making a hanging light-bulb vase?
Yes. You can.

So if you've ever expressed love for lupins (I have!), or coveted your neighbour's camellia (okay, also me), Botanical Style will have you throwing open the windows, fanning yourself with a palm frond, stroking a succulent and humming your favourite flower song (yes there's a list!) in no time. You may even find yourself painting a wall in a rich deep hue or filling that empty corner with an amazing aspidistra! 

This book along with many other things too beautiful and numerous to mention can be found in one of my all-time favourite stores: NOTE TO SELF at Epping in Sydney. They know how to rock Botanical Style better than anyone I know. Do drop in or check them out on Facebook.

Note to Self Epping
Note to Self Epping

 Botanical Style can also be ordered from Booktopia.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Autumnal Antics

Sydney's Autumn has been pretty special so far. The weather has been fabulous. There have been weekend trips to picturesque parks, summery temperatures, spectacular sunsets and a crispness in the early morning air that has returned my favourite accessory - the scarf, back to its rightful place: strewn all around my room and hanging from every door knob. I love scarves more than I can say. (Check out my Pinterest board) I have quite a few. Besides warding off scratchy throats they are a small fashion item that packs a punch.

Fear not if your jeans are too tight, your top has toothpaste marks, your shoes hurt and your hair is blah - a scarf can give you the confidence to stride stylishly through your day.

Seriously. Remember when pashminas were all the rage? Super warm they provide an instant shot of warmth, a shawl, blanket for the knees or even, I recall, a fashion fix for split trousers (Gwyneth P!)

Which brings me to Sophie Digard. Have you discovered her scarves yet? They are the bomb! Check out this website for a glimpse at her range - truly works of art. A french designer who works with linen, silk and wool, colouring her threads with natural (glorious!) pigments. She then works with a team in Madagascar, using traditional methods, to crochet and work them in to wondrous creations. The end results are (expensive!) and unique.
There's a new stash in a shop near me. I joined a flash mob of women all swooning at the sight and feel of theses beauties:

Here's some pics of our Autumn fun. The leaves haven't dropped in our usual haunts, but here we found a great collection.

And then there's the sunsets.
Words fail.

From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.
Psalm 113:3

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Being a Mum

As any Mum can tell you, MOTHERHOOD is a learn-on-the-job role where joys and sorrows abound and where the challenges ebb and flow without ever really stopping altogether. Like the waves of the ocean they keep on rolling in.

This year, with my eldest starting high school I feel I've had to step up a notch as Mum. I'll admit, the sea had been placid for a while. I was floating out there, catching the odd wave and (mostly) remembering to reapply sun cream as needed. In other words, I was all over this mothering thing.

However, the placid seas were about to get a little choppy. Nothing too serious. But enough to make me stop floating on my back and start wishing I'd paid more attention in those learn-to-swim classes.

Great moments in Mothering for 2016 (so far..):
  • Last term I attended a snazzy coffee morning for new Year 7 mums. I met many lovely women and was impressed with the style and nice hair of so many there. When I finally got back to the car and flipped down the sun visor mirror, I was horrified to see that my trusty (okay, probably cheap and yes it may have been in the bottom of my handbag since 2002) eyeliner had smudged into impressive dark circles under each eye. Great. Can't believe I'm in my 40s and still clueless about makeup. #pandaeyes #sonotfair
  • This term I've become a "Soccer Mom" for the first time. We've only had three games. I distinguished myself on Saturday by yelling from the sidelines (not too loudly, mercifully) "Good Shick!!" It's a mix of Good Shot and Good Kick. Sounds like something else entirely, but there wasn't much I could do about that once I'd said it... #redface #imnewatthis #whyiseveryonelookingatme #help
  • This week my precious soccer player was injured on the field at practice. The coach rang me to tell me that the ambulance had been called and that the shoulder was possibly dislocated. (Luckily it wasn't, but we didn't know that then). I took the news calmly and asked appropriate questions. He told me that unfortunately they had had to cut my son's soccer shirt off him to make a sling out of it. "Oh no!" I exclaimed. "That shirt was brand new and cost $60!!!" Cue awkward silence by coach. #priorities #sonisfine #itsonlyashirt
Okay, I could share more, but then I'd have nothing to post about next week.

I know so many inspiring Mums it would take forever to tell you their stories. They're not celebrities and they don't all have great hair. Some of them are dealing with challenges that would make you gasp. Others have fail-stories (my favourites) that cause snickering through to weepy hysterical laughing! Whatever the challenges, these women are not just staying afloat (and sometimes that's all we can manage) but they are swimming with finesse. Maybe even doing a twirl here or there. Like those synchronised swimmers with the pegged noses. Yep sometimes motherhood is ALL about pegging your nose and keeping that dogged smile on your face while you twirl. 

Know what I mean?

So Mother's Day is almost here and for those needing last minute gift ideas, here's a few that could take their/your fancy. (And no, pegs are not on the list!) (See my Gift Ideas from 2015)

Incidentally, I won't be asking for much. Well just a few things. Maybe a candle and some peanut brittle. A new scarf never goes astray. And perhaps a non-smudging eyeliner pencil!? 

In the meantime, check out these lovelies:

Yamaha have outdone themselves with their Lifestyle Audio range: 
snazzy blue tooth speakers that also light up like a candle.
I experienced their prowess at a blogger's brunch, swooning at the look and sound!

The Circa Home GRATITUDE range is just lovely.
Honeyflower and Sandlewood - yes I'm just going to say it: I WANT ONE!
The perfect way to say thanks to Mum.
You're welcome.

These mugs are soon to be released by ROBERT GORDON and are so gorgeous
The current range includes dipped gold and gold spotty hug mugs that are lovely too.
Sold in Myer and gift shops or check out their website.

In keeping with my ocean theme - a pool toy seemed kind of fitting.
Okay it may not be the season for it, but trust me, there aren't many mothers who haven't
fantasised about floating peacefully alone in the middle of the ocean (on an iced donut),
especially at tea time, bath time, feeding time, any time..
Buy one here.

Or buy your Mum a book - yes that's right, a real book. Maybe an old favourite in a vintage edition - like this precious copy that belonged to my Grandma who turns 103 this month. 
Or you could buy yourself one to help celebrate the Mum's who are no longer with us. 
Wishing you peace, love and memories that make you laugh!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

School Holidays: Enough to drive you Hatty!

Check out MaryandSally on Etsy for gorgeous paper designs

Ahh, the school holidays.
Can't live with them. Can't live without them.
As I sit here at my lovely (okay, messy) desk contemplating the last two weeks of me and the kids spending our days together 24/7 the voice of one of my girls floats in the window: "Arch! Jesse has stuffed your blankie down his shorts!! And he's not wearing undies!!!!"
This kind, thoughtful provoking little message is then followed by blood-curdling screams from the five-year-old.
Thanks Big Sister. Mission accomplished.

Oh we do love a break from the school routine. No packed lunches to prepare. No instead some days I get to prepare food for what can feel like 12 hours straight. 8am: After being awakened in bed by, "Mum!! Can we have pancakes please Mum? Please!!!!!" through until, 8pm: What's for dessert??

Then there's not having to drive everyone to school. Instead I drove for a couple of hundred miles to visit a much loved friend and her family and give the kids a taste of country life. It was worth it to be out of city traffic. My city driving exploits over the past fortnight have sadly, not been as happy. They have included, scratching mine and another car in an unsuccessful parking manoeuvre; going through a red-light camera (fine will be horrible); and having to replace the car battery. My next post might quite well be, how to spend money without really trying and then having nothing to show for it... Sigh.

Okay, concentrating on the good times, when the kids have been happy and contented and we've basked in idyllic autumn weather, made and eaten homemade soup, read and relaxed - not having to rush everywhere... Here's some happy holiday snaps:

I do love a five-year-old in a decent hat! Why aren't bowlers compulsory for all five-year-olds? Master Arch often assures me that he will wear dressy hats regularly, but alas, it is usually only the more practical cap that is's too short to force the issue.

Reading in shops. Love it when chairs are provided. Love it when siblings read happily together. Oh and also love it when there are no tantrums when it's time to leave without (always) buying the books too.

Taken at a stopover at our favourite bakery on our country sojourn. Am still lamenting that I did not take a photo of the salted-caramel cupcake covered in edible glitter that we fell in love with and ate so quickly that NO ONE had time to shout STOP! That's insta-worthy!!!

And then I've done a spot of seasonal decorating, partly inspired by some Instagram challenges. 
Hope you're enjoying the changing season too.

Candles spotted in West Elm

Here's a link to one of my Houzz stories on Autumn Decorating that you might enjoy.