Monday, 30 January 2012

Getting Organised

I know I've said before that I don't "do" new year's resolutions. And I don't. Well, not really. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that every year I HOPE to be just a tad more organised than I was the year before. I have a dream, of a year where I don't send the kids to school without library bags, or in the wrong uniform, or without their lunch box... and if I could tick off a whole to do list, without losing it first, and if I could manage to send birthday cards out on time rather than 3 weeks after the event...actually I'd even just like to have unpacked all of the January holiday gear before Easter comes around...

So while we've been looking forward to the start of school year with eager anticipation (kids too, not just me) - I've been a tiny bit dreading the whole onslaught of: homework/sport days/library bags/carnivals/camps/reading groups/playdates/... to keep track of. Aghhhh, my brain can't cope!!

So I've taken some steps to head off the insanity:
1) A wall planner - it's simple, it's straightforward, it's big enough to fit everyone's activities on. I even purchased the special non-smudging coloured gel pens to write on it with. I'm just praying I remember to look at it!

2) I'm going to use the filofax for personal stuff. I can't go past my divinely compact POCKET RASPBERRY FINSBURY (bought last year from BORDERS RIP). The Filofax cover page tells me that it is "the most satisfying way of organising your life..when you feel in control you're free to enjoy life to the full." Excellent. I just know that'll work for me. And I'm loving that it will fit so neatly in to my new COACH satchel. If one's husband does have to go overseas straight after Christmas and leave one with ALL of the children for ten long days, the very LEAST they can do is return with something so FABULOUS that all is forgiven and forgotten (and it has sequins!).

3) Every year I so enjoy choosing a calendar or two (at least) to spread some visual joy around the house, while giving us all the chance to remember what day/month/year it is. In the late 90s I worked for a few months in the stationery section of the Myer Department City store, and so was in prime position to grab all of my favourites when they went on sale (+ staff discount). I bought a dozen. It was too many, I can admit that now. However, I did use many of the pictures in crafty ways, for many years afterwards: in frames, as wrapping paper, decoupage etc. So it wasn't a completely wasteful experience.
This year I bought the Flowers of Friendship calendar, which I've used before. The illustrations are whimsical and lovely.
and Jonathan bought me two lovely LANG calendars, back from the USA. So if I add them together with the flowers calendar, and wall planner, plus the LANG school calendar I bought for the kids already, that comes to 5 + my filofax.

So if I don't succeed in being more organised this year then I will have no one to blame except all of the above represented companies for not doing what they say they will do. So there.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Notes to friends

I found these cards in an old junk shop years ago. There was a shoebox stuffed with old postcards, and they were obviously from the treasured collection of the one owner. It covered years (c. 1911-1915) and there were cards from relatives, friends and what I think were romantic interests. I can't remember how much the shop owner was charging per card, but at the time it was more money than I wanted to spend. So I plucked out afew favourites and left the rest.

Only later, upon reading the messages, did I realise that as a collection, these cards had belonged together. Oh the regret I felt for not having somehow bought ALL of them. Sigh. Anyway, I am determined to enjoy the ones I have. They remind me of a time (not that long ago) when people sent a card to someone they cared about, as naturally as we might now pick up the phone, text or email. While I love the benefits of new technology, in the future there's not going to be much to find buried in old shoeboxes to tell us about friendships or romances from long ago...

I've always had the thought in my mind to use these cards in decorating, but haven't yet come up with the ideal solution. Tucked into the corner of mirrors, tacked on to my notice board, or occasionally inside a photo frame is the most I've done. Mounted on fabric or decorative paper would suit them. But if anyone has any ideas for a better way of displaying these treasures, do let me know. 

..and perhaps a last minute new year's resolution (before January is over and the time for such things is well and truly passed), I want to send more cards this year: to friends and family; to say hello, or thanks, or to encourage..

Friday, 20 January 2012

Crowns, craft and sewing skills

I love the way Eleanore just whipped up this crown for Mimi moments after she announced she was going to be Cinderella today. Mimi had put on 'the dress' (mine from like 50million years ago) and suitably made up her face with glitter and greasy lipbalm. And suddenly there was Eleanore presenting her with a personalised head piece. Oh to be so capable, focused and efficient. I can only dream of such creative achievements.

My Mum is of a similar creative type. So that when I turned up at her house with material and a pattern (and a live 7-year-old model for measuring purposes), within 24 hours Mum had produced this gorgeous reversible dress. And this was even when the pattern (which the lady who sold it to me swore was dead easy) turned out to be only suited to girls half Ellie's age, and hence much extra measuring and calculations had to be made. My mathematic skills are even worse than my (non-existent) sewing skills so I found Mum's efforts doubly impressive.

But I do take consolation in the small part I had to play in this creative triumph (stay tuned, there's hope yet if you can't sew on a button) because I think I do have a gift for walking into the chaos of a fabric store (Spotlight at Birkenhead Point - if you've been to a Spotlight (any will do) you'll know what I'm talking about) and finding perhaps the ONE quality fabric - and I'm talking the elusive combination of pattern and actual material (med weight) - in possibly the entire store! This is me. I found this fabulous fabric/design, in red, purple and blue (pictured) and it looks so good. I'm seriously thinking about racing back to snaffle the rest. And it was CHEAP! So I was pretty excited with myself, and Eleanore and Mimi (okay, not Arch, but he's only 1) were even excited enough to forget how annoyed they'd been 5 minutes earlier at being dragged into a boring chaotic fabric store...

Oh, and did you notice those fabric covered buttons at the top of the dress? Well I did those. The lady in the shop was right, they were dead easy.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Colour Me Beautiful
I bought 2 of these pillowcases in the sales. While the dots are a bit hectic, the colours made everything else in the shop look dull. I'll put them together with red, blue or yellow sheets on the kids' beds. They'll add a new lease of life to the previous colour combinations I was using. Sometimes a bold use of colour, can make the old seem, hey, just like new again!

So why are we often afraid to use BOLD colour in our home? On our walls? In one magazine's 50 best rooms issue last year, over 35 of the rooms were WHITE! I can't give you the exact number of white rooms (I'm sure it was more than 35) because I threw out the issue soon after in disgust. Sure neutrals have their place, and white can make a great background if you've got a few contrasting pieces/fabrics (like a rug, sofa, a group of pictures, even a tablecloth) that anchor your things and draw your room together. Most often it is our use of colour that gives a room its personality and character.

So if you can't change the wall colour, don't despair. Look around. Use objects or details where you can make a statement with colour. It doesn't have to be a brash or showy sort of thing. Just whatever will give your room a look or feel, a ZING! that says it's you. Maybe you already own things that compliment each other, certain tones you were collecting without even realising it. Look for ways to link them more. Sometimes picking a theme can make it easier. A romantic look usually means softer colours, pinks and mauve. Crisp nautical style will equal red, white and blue. Work out what suits the purpose of the room and reflects the occupants tastes, and use it to say this is 'your home'.
It's easy to be blind to blandness,  but it doesn't have to be that way. Take the opportunity to liven up your living space - to not just make it comfy, welcoming and attractive (we all want this, don't we?), but to make it a place that says you care.

My parent's house has a large main living area. When they moved in the walls were a pale yellow (it was actually a painted over embossed wallpaper) and it felt anonymous and dull. After a year, Mum knew she was ready for a change. But her hankering for a red room was a BIG and SCARY decision. An interior designer was able to provide advice on just the right red, and the results were more AMAZING than any of us had ever imagined. Check out this Christmas photo taken there to see the result.

If you're still not convinced, or maybe think that a red room will be too overpowering or suffocating (Jane Eyre fans can nod here), then at least try this:
Decorate your rooms with books (so again I say, e-books be gone!); and place similarly coloured books together (so a block of red, or blue) or multi-coloured spines if you prefer, to give your room a splash of vibrancy, a swathe of volume. Something that says: TA DAH! (and yes I have sacrificed the Dewey decimal system in favour of the visual aesthetic. Oooh, scary!)
Speaking of red, I couldn't resist this gorgeous strawberry themed box of goodies from LUSH for my cousin's birthday. I hope she likes strawberries..
(Happy Birthday for Sunday, Kirst).
And finally, this gorgeous school-themed LANG calendar for the kid's bedroom, is giving me great decorating ideas. I'm imagining strong wall colours (RED! and maybe BLUE) and blackboard paint panels for their visual relief and entertainment value, framed posters of some favoured book covers, and of course the real deal: books, books, and more books!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Summer Fun

The weather has been a mixed bag for quite a while now. December was more wet and dull weather wise than the sparkling sunshine we were expecting. And while we've had slightly better weather so far in January, everywhere I go people seem to be muttering things like: "It's just not summer".

Nowhere is more up and down in weather terms than the beautiful Blue Mountains. Packing to stay there is always a challenge as one could just as easily experience a big freeze as a hot bake... and we had almost the full gamut over the last five days.

So apart from the rainy, cold and stormy days – which were enjoyable in their own way, we got out and about on the fine ones. And even I (not a huge fan of parks) had an excellent time, soaking up the sun, admiring the ducks and feeling a great sense of satisfaction as the kids ran themselves ragged for many hours.
Last time we came to the lake, we took a whole loaf of bread and could not find ONE hungry duck.
This time around we took a few crusts and ducks came from everywhere to devour the measly morsels.

Flies were a bit of a problem but annoyingly no one has yet worked out how to totally eradicate them from the great outdoors.
Possible reasons for our success (not that I want to over analyse the day or anything):
  • Summer sun and shady spots to sit
  • Snacks and water for the kids (no coffee cart for the adults, but I'm trying to remember it's not all about me)
  • Nature and animals that the kids could commune with
  • Excellent play equipment that fired up their imaginations
  • Great friends to meet up with
And this pirate ship left the swings for dead! Ahoy me hearties! Prepare to fire! Was heard for many a mile thanks to my foghorns!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Year's Stuff

New year's resolutions are not my thing. It's not that I don't have aspirations, hopes and dreams...but I'd rather save myself the disappointment of setting them in stone, and then realising (by November if not February) that I'm not going to travel to an exotic foreign destination this year, or sing a duet with Cliff Richard (unless his people call my people), or publish my first blockbuster (unless, well, you get the picture..).

I have come to realise over the years (and yes, I am getting on) that many of the 'ambitions' I used to have for myself don't matter so much in the big scheme of things. Life is short and every day is a gift from God. So with that in mind, I'm thinking of ways to make a difference to the ones I love best. (However, if Cliff's people do call, I am sure I could fit the duet into my busy schedule.)

Making the most of every minute of our annual family summer holiday:

Remembering to cuddle the kids, and not just when they're crying: 

Encouraging imaginative play (no electronics), even when it does start to resemble Lord of the Flies:

Enjoying the silly times with kids instead of just enduring them (because life is NOT JUST about the serious stuff, like using the correct cutlery): 

Getting back in shape this year (hahahaha) AND mastering the art of some spectacular desserts, like this divine raspberry and cream meringue cake:

Writing letters to each of our sponsor children every month (why is this so hard for me? if Eleanore can do it, then so can I!):

Letting my kids know they are loved, every day:

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

R e l a x !

There's much to do: the house is still pretty messy from the Christmas bomb that went off here. The kids rooms need a complete makeover - I'm supposed to be getting quotes from painters and bidding for bunks on ebay and sorting stuff..and yet there's something about this time in January that screams:
 R E L A X !

I must admit, I'm not trying too hard to fight it.

Books from my Christmas pile keep calling me. I'll just read the publishing credits I tell myself, and then an hour later I'll look at my watch and realise that no one's eaten and it's way past a meal time, or there's washing to be hung out while the weather is fine...

I love the influx of new books into our home that this season brings. When we're staying on the South Coast we troop down to the local library and happily grab a large pile, which lasts us about three days before we go back for more. And my kids have caught the bug of scouring the coastal junk shops for old books. Jesse (eight year old) was thrilled to discover a selection of pristine vintage HARDY BOYS! Woohoo!
There's something about these 1970s editions that leave the modern day versions for dead! I'm instantly transported back to myself as a twelve year old reading similar copies.

In the end we had so many new/old books to take home with us that  major repacking of the car was required just to fit the kids back in! Lucky for them, we managed it.

My new Christmas literary stash covers a broad spectrum of subjects, from the literary to cookbook, decorating and general knowledge. Two new Australian titles, All That I Am by Anna Funder and The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman - both deal with Holocaust survivors/experiences/history/identity -received excellent reviews in 2011, so I'm hoping they live up to the hype. Am also looking forward to seeing how P.D. James has pulled off her murder mystery with Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth Mr Darcy, in Death Comes to Pemberley. I bought a copy of this for my sister-in-law who has just returned with her family from a fabulous holiday in the motherland (UK) where she retraced many of Colin Firth's Jane Austen's footsteps. My neice (now 18 years old) was obsessed with Mr Darcy when she was about four years old. Courtesy of the BBC videos, she could say "She is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me!" in a voice dripping with contempt, which from a four year old was quite something. Complete with a 'darcy costume' that included a riding crop that she rapped against her legs as she walked, Miranda later excelled at english. I fervently hope my children emulate their cousin in this way!

These wonderful new editions of Puffin Classics by Penguin are as gorgeous to display as they are wonderful to read. I have other versions, but have to admit to coveting as many of these as I can lay my hands on. (A big thanks to my lovely sister-in-law Jane for these two!) Displayed in my girls' room, I'll place them high enough to admire, but low enough for little hands to pull down and discover the literary gold they hold!

And with so much reading to do, what could be better than Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals to get us through January? It's about all the time I'll be able to spare for cooking, so I'm pleased no one should suffer as a result of my divided priorities. Oh and there is a special treat I found in the sales that will assist in my reading/relaxing mode (cue groaning from Jonathan!):

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Big Clean Up

I've been loving the Christmas paraphernalia strewn ALL over the house for weeks now. There's been scented candles of pumpkin and winter spice wafting down the hall as I've kicked aside the last remnants of wrapping paper; candy canes peeking over the rims of bowls as I've searched the kitchen bench for the phone recharger (still lost!); flashes of tinsel and wire-edged ribbons sticking their ends out of boxes I've rumaged in for last ditch effort christmas card addresses; and cards I love too much to send out into the world tucked into the pages of books I'm struggling to cram on to already full shelves.. But I'm over it!The glorious glittering paraphernalia is starting to take on magic pudding qualities (ie. it's expanding!) and what was fabulous is now just a big mess that is crying out to be cleaned up. And, horrors (!) I'm starting to crave some clean surfaces and (gulp) less clutter...
So it is time for the decorations to go back under the house. This time I won't pack the spare taper candles into the bottom of the crate, as last year's collection had melted in to one big ugly unusable tablet of wax. I'm also intending to cull the broken or damaged ornaments that (hopefully) don't have sentimental value. And I am finally going to op shop the large hard fake gold molded ball thingos I bought over ten years ago that I can't stand anymore. Maybe someone will love them for their tree next year...

And I'll look at all my newly wiped and dusted surfaces (hopefully, depending on energy and enthusiasm levels) and start some new arrangements. It's time to break out old collections of bits and pieces that haven't seen the light of day for a while, add some favourite books and a plant or two to make a display that will give my heart a lift every time I walk past and see it.

I'm using these two books for ideas, as they show  wonderful ways to display a great range of objects. I don't read them and feel inadequate or like nothing in my house measures up. Instead I suddenly see things with new eyes, like the rustic pot I had outside with a dying lavender bush that I could put inside for a while and top with cuttings from the hydrangea bush (pic below).  Plates placed vertically can be admired on a sideboard or table, much better than if they stay buried in a cupboard.

Stack some favourite books together and place a related object on top. Try detective novels with a magnifying glass, or cooking books with a favourite wooden spoon or a vintage measuring cup. Using glass like a tall vase (doesn't have to have flowers in it - try some sticks or reeds or even some fun scrunched up material) gives your display height and reflects the light. Lamps and candle sticks will also add interest.

I'm going to put some new photos in to frames (to replace the Santa shots) and group them together. Summer shots will brighten things up - the beach and blowing bubbles in the back yard. The best place for the kids to be when I'm packing up the decorations.

Too small for bubble blowing so (wrapped) chocolate coins were a temporary distraction
and goodbye to Christmas paraphernalia 2011..