Monday, 31 October 2011

Fairy dust

Fairy dust, shiny treasures, sparkly dresses, and flowery frippery...there is something instantly appealing about these things. Not everything in our lives has to be pink or girly (the three males in the house, make sure of that), but little touches of it here and there should be embraced and encouraged. I've always thought life is too short not to have at least a touch of glitter in your hair!

I love the girls in these dresses (Eleanore's is from elodie & elvis, and mim's is gap). We don't "do" ballet, but put them in a twirling dress and mad twirling usually follows! And if you know any little girls you've probably seen the prolific range of fairy books out there. They often have glittery covers and pretty, inane but harmless stories inside. One range, better than some, is the Delphi series by the real prima ballerina, Darcey Bussell. Occasionally I've reluctantly given in to the pleading and paid $10 (gulp) for one of these cute books. They're hardly literary gold, but I do love the way Mim, who isn't even reading yet, proudly carries them around with her, intently studying the pictures and words. So you can imagine how excited we both were to find a boxed set of Delphi books (28 to be exact! for $50) on one of our recent shopping trips. I've put it away for her upcoming 5th birthday. It might be her only present! A bit of fun and frippery, but hopefully a valuable stepping stone on her beginning journey of loving reading and books.

Another fairy thing for the girls I may not be able to resist this Christmas is a personalised pewter wand. I may even get one for myself (do you think it might help me with cleaning up?). As an 'artwork' for their door or above their beds.  Made by the gorgeous Lisa Leonard, check out her website: http://www.lisaleonardonline.com/  Jonathan met her husband last year when he was studying in St Louis, they have a great story and she is one gifted woman!

And now a book with a bit of sparkle for me is Treasured Notions: Inspiration and Craft Projects using Vintage Beads, Buttons, Ribbons and Trim from the Tinsel Trading Company. (https://www.frenchgeneral.com/)
Jonathan bought it for me last Christmas and I've swooned over every page since. Who wouldn't love to work for the Tinsel Trading Company? Pick me please, pick me!

Friday, 28 October 2011

A few of my favourite things..

Spring is in the air and fresh bright colours are everywhere. Jacaranda trees are emerging - and like the wonderful blossom trees a couple of months ago, my kids and I enjoy counting how many we can see on the way to school.
So with all of the wonderful colours outside, I'm looking at colours inside my house with new eyes.

One exciting opshop find this week was a new box of multicoloured Laguiole french steak knives. They have a little metal french bee at the base of the handle - swoon! Still with their $50 price tag, the $15 I paid definitely wins my "bargain of the week"!

I've had four new cushions made out of the leftover fabric from my new blinds. While there was pressure to go with a plain (or striped) neutral, I was determined to get a floral. I'm really loving the duck egg blue background and burgundy/pale yellow/green design. Is there a nack to choosing a floral that is timeless and won't look like a 70's shower curtain in a short time? Botanical style prints always look good. I'm hoping my choice looks very good for a long long time, as Jonathan is not keen on the idea of changing them. Ever.

The great yellow art deco teacup was an opshop find. It has a chip out of the rim so I'm displaying it on my coffee machine, rather than using it. The yellow clashes a bit with my darker yellow walls, but I don't care. The wooden bird ($4.95) comes in black and white and is from the TYPO shop. I like popping them in unexpected places.

These cheap coloured frames were only $6 each from Myer, and were part of Eleanore's birthday gifts. I've framed some early photos of her + her birthday card from us. 
The gorgeous heart ramekins are a new lower-priced (chinese-made) range from Le Creuset. I love anything heart shaped and can't wait to use them at Christmas time.  I'm thinking they'll be perfect for my panettone bread and butter pudding.   As this is a favourite things post I had to put in a pic of my favourite china design: Victorian Chintz by Burleighware. It was discontinued a number of years ago, though there are occasional rumours of a reissue. I search for well-priced pieces on ebay when I have nothing else to do (which is not often these days).
Finally I've taken a picture of my favourite mug (by children's illustrator Anita Jerram for Whittard) which a lovely friend bought me after Archie was born (New baby gifts should ALWAYS include something lovely for the mother!). Some roses on the table, and coffee in the plunger... bliss!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Fun for one, fun for all?

Do you ever beat yourself up wondering whether you do enough fun things with your kids? Maybe it's just me..but I have a funny feeling I may be part of a big group of secretly guilty parents who dread one day being told: "Hey Mum/Dad, you know when we were little? You were no fun at all!" I know life's not just about having fun, but heck, I don't want to be remembered as well, not being fun. Would you?

At the beginning of the mid-year school holidays I asked my kids to write down a list of the fun things they'd like to do. This seemed like a good way of keeping track, for them and me. You know what my eight year old son said in response? "That's a good idea Mum, 'cause we're a family who often talk about things, but never actually do them". Bear in mind this is the same boy who told Santa last Christmas that he was the only eight year old in Sydney without a Wii or DS. (Overly dramatic - yes; underprivileged? Hardly!) So okay, we've never made it to Disneyland or had a jumping castle in our backyard, but were we really that boring? Were we really people who were all fun talk and no fun action?

As it's not a good idea to shoot the messenger, I tried to take this helpful comment from my son in the manner it may have been intended - as constructive criticism. Here was my chance to show our kids that it was possible to do the things we talked about, just for fun. I told them to make a  list of at least eight fun activities, realistic please (so no, we wouldn't be buying a Wii or DS) that everyone could do (except Dad who would be at work. Lucky duck).

Writing the list became a source of much discussion. Ideas were tossed up and then discarded as being not fun enough, or too old for one or too babyish for another. The list was finally agreed on and contained things that even I felt, with some relief, we could carry off. Jesse and Eleanore wanted to play putt putt golf. Mimi wanted to cook cupcakes. Everyone wanted a movie night; a sleep-over at their Grandparent's home; a trip to the local library; a meal at McDonalds; to do some craft; and to do that pseudo-scientific experiment of putting a mentos in a coke bottle and sending a geyser of fiz ten feet into the air.

Here's Eleanore enjoying her craft. I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of craft. While hardly a neat freak (ahem, that's my husband choking in the background), bits of stuff everywhere drives me crazy. Glue or paint smeared over hair, clothes and surfaces, is not fun in my book. French knitting proved a hit with minimum supervision required. Note the nifty use of a toilet roll and paddlepop sticks to make the frame. What's not fun about this?? Now we just have to find a use for the wooly snakey things.

Mim's our little masterchef. She loves breaking the eggs (and has got quite good at this, sometimes even getting them in to the bowl), sifting, mixing and then, you guessed it, licking the bowl. Strangely enough, she's not fussed about eating the end product. However the others make up for this.

Finally, one thing that didn't make the list but proved hours of fun, was autumn leaves on the trampoline. Okay I wasn't an entirely fun mum when the leaves made their inevitable way inside the house (the bed, the washing machine..) but it was great to see that fun things don't have to cost heaps of money or involve exotic locations! You'll be pleased (as I was) to hear that at the end of the holiday, everyone agreed that they'd had a great time! And I felt happy in the knowledge that we'd made some good memories of activities that everyone had enjoyed, even me! And yes, I was glad that we were one of those families that didn't just talk about things, but sometimes did them too!

p.s. Actually we didn't do the coke bottle/mentos thing - um, maybe next holidays..?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Department Stores without Borders

I'm quite chuffed with this title. It came to me during one of my semi-regular laments (okay, rants) to Jonathan on the sad demise of the BORDERS bookstores (hopefully with this post it will be OUT of my system for good). So okay, I know there were a lot of criticisms of these mega-bookstores, their anti-competitive nature, high prices, bad business model, uniformity blah blah blah.

Jesse opening a treasured Tintin
on Christmas morning 2010
($28 in Borders, $11 on Book Dep)
But there were some good things too. Firstly, they encouraged browsing. Frankly if one does find oneself in a shopping centre with children (never ideal at the best of times) there aren't many places you can go and know that everyone will find something to keep themselves happy. Actually there's nowhere like this. In Borders I could say to the kids "right, off you go!" and they would make a beeline for the kids books. Jesse would find the Tintin stand, Eleanore would quickly surround herself with 4000 copies of the Rainbow Magic series (each one a separate title) and Mim would be lying on the floor with a mix of Dr Seuss and Charlie and Lola while cuddling a big stuffed 'green sheep'.

I loved the large scale of a Borders store. It enabled browsing without bumping into ten other people and twelve strollers every time you turned around. And once you'd found what you were looking for, or had made a new literary discovery, there were comfy chairs to sit in and read it, indefinitely!

The decorating and interiors section was one of my favourites, closely followed by cooking and craft. Interior design titles usually fill one shelf in a smaller scale bookshop, but in Borders there was easily half a dozen shelves. I loved the magazine section, it had the best international range. I loved the music section when they had cds. Heck I even loved the quirky stationery and giftware! I also loved the fact that there was a coffee shop and a bathroom, so when there was the inevitable "I'm tired/thirsty/busting" we could take a break from the books without having to walk three miles in the other direction to find what we needed.

Okay so the book prices were prohibitive. I'll admit I was one of those people who would occasionally copy down a title and then go home to find it on the Book Depository site. I knew at the time I was probably helping to put Borders out of business, but buying three books online for the price of one in the store was kind of hard to beat. But how would I have known what to buy online if it wasn't for the range I'd carefully studied in store? The range and sheer number of books meant that we pretty much always found something good that we hadn't seen elsewhere. (For all their good points, of which there are many, small independent bookstores are just that: SMALL.)

I loved the fact that the bookshop became a 'destination' for our family, and that when the weather was bad, or we needed to get out, a bookshop was an obvious place to go. My kids love books and I'd like to think that the positive and conducive atmosphere in Borders contributed to this. We are a book-loving family and we are missing the BIG bookstore.

And now I'll leave you with an unrelated quote that the Parramatta Borders store (RIP) had printed up on a wall, it always made me laugh:

"I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon."
                                                                                               Ronald Reagan.
Our littlest reader


Friday, 21 October 2011

A Good Shoe is Hard to Find

I wanted to write about favourite shoes today. Now that the days are warmer, and the cold and rain is starting to fade from memory, I've been delving in to the back of dark cupboards searching for that elusive item: an attractive and comfortable summer shoe! One problem  with shoes is, that by the time you know you've got a really fine pair (and by that I mean ones that look stylish, are comfortable and go with many of your favourite outfits) they're half way to falling apart, and there's no chance of finding another pair like them! 
Check out a pair of my current favourites: wedge heels that are made of canvas with rubber soles (like a sneaker!). In fab black and white and the flattering mary jane style, they've been my staple pair for the past 3 months. They were a walk-by find in a department store, reduced to $30 from over $100! My only regret is that I wasn't brave enough to also buy a pair of red and white ones, because, you guessed it, they've all gone now!!
The smaller shoes in the photo are of some cute silver leather sneakers I bought for Archie. They look great on him and were warm in winter - until he worked out how to pull them off. So now I'm paranoid about losing one. They'll probably only fit him for another month or two, and then will definitely go in to my bag of "treasured" baby items.
The red pair (above) are some I was bidding for on ebay before being sniped at the last second (doh! don't you just hate that! unless you're the sniper of course..) This shoe company from Spain makes character shoes for kids that are just too adorable for words! Eleanore has some pink spotted princess ones that make any outfit look special and when Mim was a toddler she wore out a pair of red and white bird ones. I also have a fantastic pair of red and blue pirate sandals tucked away for when Archie is walking. They are one of the things I keep an eye out for an ebay. I just wish they came in adult sizes!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

There'll be days like this..

I've delivered the kids late to school every day this week. Not monumentally late, but not in time for the bell or for lining up or, cringe, in time to file in to assembly. And today I forgot Mimi's library bag and card, which means she visits the library, but is not allowed to borrow a book to bring home. And then I was all set to go and help out in reading groups with Ellie's class. So despite being up multiple times in the night with the baby, I arrived outside her class room at 10.20am on the dot! Only problem was, as her gorgeous teacher kindly informed me, groups was at 9.20am. Doh. Must admit I had a short cry in the car after that as the list of this week's failures started to add up in my mind.
Got home with my 2nd takeaway coffee of the morning and tried to recall what had gone right this week instead. Mim had crazy hair day at preschool and I was quite pleased with my efforts (it involved glitter spray, cake decorations and pipecleaners); made a chicken risotto (using homemade chicken stock, not the bought stuff) that Eleanore described as "magnificent Mum!" and even Archie (with his 2 teeth) enjoyed; sold 2 items on ebay; had enough red velvet cupcakes left over from Ellie's birthday to put in everyone's lunchboxes; met two friends for coffee and a laugh, despite being over tired and emotional! Both friends were an encouragement, and reminded me that I'm not the only one who sometimes struggles to keep it all together.

It's true that some weeks the things that work out well, the next week will go inexplicably pear-shaped (and vice-versa)! So for all of you struggling to tick items off your to-do list without feeling like an abject failure, remember not to forget about the successes too, however small they might be.

Other things making me happy: roses from our garden; good books and lovely objects on my bookshelf.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Keeping time..

I have a thing for diaries. I love the look of them, the feel of them, the order of them - which is sort of funny, cause I'm not a super-organised sort of person. I've used many different sorts over the years, I keep notes in them, write appointments obviously, but for each year, whichever diary I'm using becomes a part of me. I've had the more business style ones, arty ones, large and small sized ones.
Earlier this year I just happened to visit a closing-down Borders store..Okay I was staking out a closing down Borders Store, well three stores actually, although I mostly went to one, that was my favourite. I had my eye on the filofax cabinet and was determined to nab a bargain. I'd had a bookish sized red one in the '90s that I'd used till the binding all split, and I'd tried one of their soft cover ones which fell apart before the year was even through. This time I wanted to try the smaller pocket sized model, in leather and in a groovy colour. As the closing day drew near, the discounts rose. 25% off, became 50% off, then 60% off, oh the agony! Finally it was 75% off everything, and for once in my blessed life I was in the right place at the right time. I elbowed my way through aimless shoppers to the now not so sparkling glass cabinet. I was abit surprised more people weren't looking, if you've survived a post-Christmas shoe sale this was a piece of cake! And there they were, the pocket sized leather Finsburys in swoonish raspberry or antique rose snakeskin patterned leather. Zip pocket-check, pen holder-check, to-do list-check, plastic ruler-check. Heaven! As I stood deliberating over colours, a woman was remonstrating with her bored looking teenaged daughter. "Look Brittany" she said, "they're leather!" The teenager could barely raise an apathetic eyebrow. "You can use them for years and years", the mother persisted. "It's a diary!" The girl smirked. "I have my phone Mum."
The mum threw up her hands and off they went, empty handed.
I did abit of smirking myself. A phone! I thought, fancy using your phone as a diary when you could have this beauty! I mean what is the world coming to I ask you?
And a couple of photos from Eleanore's birthday day!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Eleanore's turning 7!

Eleanore came in to the world 5 wks earlier than expected, and her arrival followed me being admitted to hospital at 33wks for enforced bed rest. ("enforced bed rest" why do those 3 words seem so attractive I wonder?) While obviously this was a stressful time, my (dimming) recollection is now strangely serene. I remember watching lots of tv; reading magazines (kindly delivered by a steady stream of girlfriends who visited - thank you!); lattes in the hospital cafe; I even got my hair done at the hospital salon. I had the biggest room with the best view and ate through the entire hospital menu (which was strangely good, probably cause I wasn't the cook).
Jonathan on the other hand during this time was at home with our 16mth old son, juggling work, babysitters, house cleaning, eating peanut butter toast for dinner and trying to visit me. Not so fab for him! 
Meanwhile we were praying our baby would hold off being born and when she did finally arrive, be safe and well. It wasn't quite the scenario I'd imagined, though thankfully everything worked out fine. When Eleanore did finally arrive home I remember looking at this tiny baby with an angel face and feeling such love I was awe struck at the wonder of it all.
And even though this tiny bubba was so small, when she looked at you, there was a real glint in her dark and determined eyes. As one of my dear friends announced on holding her: "This girl has spunk!" And she was right. This girl did, and does, indeed have spunk.
Maybe it's having an older brother so close in age to look up to (and catch up to), maybe it's something to do with starting off life abit early and small. Maybe it's just the inbuilt personality God has given her, but with Ellie there is never a dull moment. She is full-on and fiery, fun and frank. She is a great big sister and an enthusiastic, competitive, sensitive, tough and loving daughter and friend. I admire her already and Jonathan and I are praying she'll take her strength and determination in to the future, maybe learn to do things a bit more quietly, and love the Lord with all of her heart, soul, strength and mind. We can't ask for more than that.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A few of my favourite things..

I thought I'd give you a glimpse in to my treasure trove. It is a slightly battered but character-filled old administrative cupboard, currently residing in my kitchen. It may not look like much from the outside, but the doors open to reveal 24 pigeon holes: Collector's heaven! Some of the shelves have old typewritten labels still stuck to them. My favourite says: Naval Documents. Who owned the cupboard before me? Maybe a retired ship's captain, or an anally retentive pirate? I'll never know. But as you can see I've had no trouble in filling it with my treasured collection of cups, saucers, teapots, bowls and assorted bits of china and glass that makes up my ever evolving collection. I've long held the view that life's too short not to drink your tea from wedgwood china.


..and today's fabulous bargain is: A book by Nigella Lawson KITCHEN: Recipes from the Heart of the Home found in Target for $12!
http://www.nigella.com/books/view/kitchen-33
I was actually searching for Lego - we have 3 out of 4 children's birthdays between now and Christmas (a ridiculous planning error on Jonathan's our part) but I picked up this heavy book and in tribute to my eternally optimistic state gave it to my 4 year old to scan. $12!!! Mim announced. That can't be right!" I stated authoritatively. "It was only published last year, it must be at least $30" I strode to the do-it-yourself scanner (love those by the way) and sure enough, $12!!
Now I would urge you all to rush to your nearest TARGET to scoop up this wonderfully luscious cookbook yourself, but I have just the smallest fear that my bargain was due to some scanning glitch that was instantly fixed by an appalled management the moment we left the store. However, if you're an optimist like me, you'll ignore that last bit and already be on your way! And now I'm off to attempt some new recipes:-)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Today's Op Shop Bargains

I just have to skite share - some days you can visit an op shop and find nothing of note. That can actually be a relief if you visit them as often as I do. Hoorah I've found nothing to buy - my purse will thank you. However, on other visits my purse is not so lucky. Today's great finds:
  • Men's Camper shoes in my husband's size ($12) - he has 2 other pairs of Campers also from op shops, and all have been in 'as new' condition;
  • A lovely silver plated covered butter dish ($4) - you can never have too much 2nd hand silver pieces in my opinion. They make your table setting look instantly glamourous in an old world sense (think Downton Abbey) are usually practical and full of history/character. Somehow ikea plastic doesn't have the same effect.
  • The August issue of Australian Country Style for 50c - contains a wonderful article on a gorgeous small house in Bowral; and a heart pattern for cross-stitch so basic even I might try it!
  • A great range of kids's books. The pirate picture book comes with a storytime cd - my kids love listening to stories this way. The Spiderwick Chronicles are one of Jesse's faves at the moment. Some great Walker picture books for Mim and Arch, and a Judy Moody Journal (unused) for Eleanore. ($11 total)


I'll try to stay away from op shops for the rest of the week. My budget for bargains is almost exhausted (and so am I!)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Decorating with Letters

Decorating with letters gives you the chance to be profound or funny, either way, you can prove you are literate and stylish. A great combination if ever there was one! Some decorating mags use letters made out of real zinc or genuine fake ebony. You can expect to pay about $200 - $500 per letter. Hence they'll display one letter alone on a mantlepiece or stuck on a wall. I've never understood this. It doesn't seem profound to me to have an "N" above your fireplace, or a lonely "A" on your wall. It just seems silly.

Recently I've discovered some great little shops called TYPO http://www.typoshop.com.au/, they have a fabulous range of letters, in numerous styles and they are not expensive! I especially love the red letters, which are made out of metal, and the smaller square letters that are like scrabble pieces. I'm currently displaying "READ" on my bookshelf (double layer decorating I call this) and "LOVE" (on top of a cupboard, next to my favourite holiday photo and fave cookbook - love them both!), and have "JOY" ready to bring out at Christmas time (though may bring it out earlier if term 4 is getting me down). I've bought gifts of "EAT" for a friend's kitchen and "FUN @ HOME" for my brother.  The possibilities are endless..

Saturday, 8 October 2011

2nd last day of holidays..and counting!

I think we made the most of our second last day of school hols today. J took eldest son Jesse bowling. They had a great time, and no he didn't remember to take any photos..
Eleanore (6) went to a dinosaur party. It was raining but they managed to play most of the dino-games successfully inside. She was chuffed to come home with a bag of dino lollies and 2 prizes (dino stickers and a puzzle).
I took Mim (4) and Arch (9mths) to a near-by shopping centre. We ate from a well known fast food outlet while watching other people iceskate. Arch had a meltdown in a shop and i scooped him out of the stroller, which unfortunately tipped over with my takeaway coffee emptying on to the floor. I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but can I just say for anyone left in the world who doesn't already know this: Tired children and shopping centres do NOT mix! Stay home people. I certainly wish i had. That said, it's been a great 2 weeks and I'll be sorry when it's over.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Why I opt to op shop..

Okay this is a topic I get really enthused about. I don't mind admitting that I'm addicted to op shops. There is something about the thrill of the search - finding that one perfect thing you'd been searching for for so long - or perhaps coming away with a PILE of great things at an amazing price! When you're clothing four kids, this is a real bonus!
Some might say, but aren't these shops just for the disadvantaged? A fair point, but i think you'll find that the organisations running the op shops would dare to differ. Firstly they take a proportion of their donated goods and give them to people in need directly. Secondly, the op shops have a vital money making role for the organisations. The shops also rely on a high turnover - as people donate huge amounts of stuff, they need to get rid of it and quickly! It's also a great way of recycling used goods (less landfill) so is actually promoted as an ethical way to shop. I try to donate all our good quality used items so that others may benefit, and in my eternal quest to declutter... So what's not to like??
Today's bargains: Men's Country Road Linen Shirt (as new) $12; 2 girls's summer dresses $8; Baby Gap trousers + shirt $7; 2x girl's winter coats $16.
Kids also chose some great books, a digital alarm clock and ceramic santa candle holder $11.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Am I going dotty?

After 2 nights of interrupted sleep I was explaining to my dear old schoolfriend on the phone why we wouldn't be making the 3hr car trip to stay with her family as I'd planned.
"I don't know what's wrong with the baby! He was boiling in the night, he wouldn't lie flat, he's grizzling non-stop, and all snuffly!" I moaned.
"Any teeth coming?" she asked.
"No not that I know of, oh wait a minute - agh! Just two of the biggest front chompers I've ever seen! One's poking through, the other's just under the surface...Right, well, that answers that question then..."
I may be on my fourth child, but that does not mean I know what I'm doing! As I lay awake between 2 and 5am with a restless hot baby in my arms I reflected on the last 8 years of parenting. Actually, I was fixating on getting my old sofa recovered. I've seen some hot polka-dot material and I think it would look FABULOUS! It's good to keep perspective through these precious parenting moments...