Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Today was a Fairytale

I was in the car last night, on my own, which hardly EVER happens, and Taylor Swift's Today was a Fairytale came on the radio. I sang it at the top of my voice (windows up) and had a ball. Had a ball - get it!? Surely that line comes from a fairy tale? Once I started thinking of other fairy tale links I could hardly stop. I'd also been to the movies recently (hardly ever happens either) to see Snow White and the Huntsman (loved it by the way. Charlize is one scary step mum!) It made me realise how timeless and appealing the whole fairy tale realm can be..

A quick peruse of our bookshelves and I lost count of the number and versions of fairy tales we owned. Arch is currently obsessed with a little book of Cinderella. His attention span isn't great and he actually prefers holding the book upside down while I try to read him snippets, but hey, it beats Mr Men.

Two books currently on my MUST READ list, which have elbowed out several other titles for their place at the top are:

BITTER GREENS by Kate Forsyth

An exquisite retelling of the Rapunzel story, this is a fairy tale that has always fascinated me. I would much prefer this romantic and dark telling of the story than say the Sesame Street version, which contained a shrieking girl atop a tower and a hapless prince trying to get her down. If it ever comes off the reserved list at the local library I will endeavour to review the book more thoroughly for you here.

And I heard Jodi Picoult interviewed about her recently released BETWEEN THE LINES co written with her daughter and taking the idea that fairytale characters may come to life and have different ideas about happy endings. I love the premise, one we've probably all considered at different times, and it will be great to see how the Picoult powerhouse has dealt with it..

When I checked my Kids Clothes and Stuff board on PINTEREST, I found it awash with fairytale paraphernalia. I'm trying to get serious about decorating my girls' room (the painter is on standby), and fairytale decorating ideas abound. Frankly I have no idea how to fit all my ideas into one room. But if I could just get Jonathan to agree on the small addition of a turret I'm sure my visions would become much closer to reality..

A few ideas so far:
  • Framed book covers on the wall (like the vintage ladybird readers posters I've blogged about before)
  • Fairy lights, or butterfly/dragonfly lights hung along canopies and draped from the ceiling
  • If I'm going to decorate with letters I'll choose words like: DREaM or ImAGINe
  • Room Seven cushions, which I've been buying off ebay for a few years have wonderful designs including castles, carriages and princesses
  • a turret
Mim was invited to a little friend's party on Saturday. That morning I spotted her studying the invitation with a worried look on her face.
"Is it a princess party?" she asked.
"Well," I said, taking the invitation and noting the pony pictures and non-mention of a theme. "It doesn't say it ISN'T a princess party. Why do you want to know?"
"I want to wear Ellie's purple princess dress." I saw desperation in her eyes, and knew this was one of those times to embrace the fairytale magic.
"Well then you should. And I'll paint your nails with glitter and draw a sparkly heart on your cheek."
And then because sometimes when you're a mum there's a practical element always struggling to assert itself over the romantic one, I added:
"But you'll have to wear your purple vest, cause it's cold outside."
Mim's face darkened, I could see a Charlize moment coming on.
"Don't worry," I said quickly, "it has a furry hood and that is perfect for a winter snow queen princess."
She smiled and all was well.

and another favourite picture of mine from PINTEREST and the final word (for now) on fairy tales:


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fab Finds

This week I tried to take Arch to a junior jivers group. It's grooving for toddlers. When the kids put music on at home (God Rock by Colin Buchanan a current favourite) Arch is up and twirling straight away. I even detected signs of an 80's stomp there, which was my favourite move for many years, so that was kind exciting.

Anyway, due to a few miscommunications (update your website people!) we couldn't get in to the class (Arch's dancing will just have to stay private for a while longer.) But my spirits were buoyed by the existence of a favourite op shop right next door.

I went straight for the glassware as I was hoping for some vintage jars with lids for making snow domes. I didn't find any of those, but was pretty excited instead to see some thick green glassware. I know Kosta Boda when I see it/pick it up!

Not everyone is keen on Kosta Boda (since 1742), although didn't every family in the 1970s/80s own one of their snow balls to hold tea lights in at Christmas? Whenever a wedding invitation arrived in our letterbox when I was growing up, my Dad would rush out to buy the happy couple some of the Swedish glassware.  He loved the grape design, and I have some of the grape plates. They are quite organic, with irregular sides and thickness. Just lovely.

Amongst my platters, plates and bowls, in recent years I've added some of the more modern "MINE" range.  With brilliant bright colour swirled through the thick glass the vases and glasses are pretty popular. I have some of the glasses in pink and black/purple picked up in after-Christmas sales. They look amazing filled with fruit punch or strawberry parfaits. They are the cast iron pot equivalent of glassware, and not for the faint wristed.

These five light green glasses were a steal at $3 each. Woohoo!

My happiness continued when I discovered these yellow gingham ballet flats in my size for $8.  I know I've been trying hard to revel in winter but I picked these up and thought: Yoo hoo, summer here we come!

and the sadness of missing dancing was almost forgotten when I picked up this esprit faux patchwork summer skirt that complemented the shoes so well. All I'll need is a crisp white shirt and my trusty denim jacket to top it off for a more than cute summer outfit.

This bracelet was $2 and I love it too. I'd better stop or you'll be getting annoyed with me for ignoring Arch while I cleaned up on the bargain stakes...

We came home and after a coffee (me) and milk in a real mug (Arch) we agreed the day hadn't been a failure, thanks to our fab finds. Now just have to find a new dancing class..

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ecstatic in Snow

I've only been skiing once. I wasn't very good at it, but I'd like to think that after a day of concentrated efforts, I got vaguely competent enough to experience the thrill of it. How gliding down through the pristine whiteness seemed so effortless (hardly!) and exhilerating (totally!) - and when it snowed I felt I was in snowy heaven. The world was so beautiful.

On Sunday night I saw the final episode of Downton Abbey (season 2) where amidst delicate snow falling, Matthew proposes to Lady Mary. It was a swoon worthy moment. It was hard to believe that Mary wasn't suffering from frost bite as she stood serene in her rather filmy 1920s burgundy dress to await Matthew's declaration of love. What mattered was the snow..

After that, I felt like decorating with snow. Which made me unearth our snow globes. However, in two days both were broken (culprits shall remain nameless). I'd displayed them as a tribute to the snowy season, against snowy scenes (actually 1970s placemats of New Zealand). But their time was short lived (unlike the placemats..) Now they're just a tribute to the fact that anything breakable in our house, inevitably gets broken. Sigh.

Above, smashed - below, cracked and leaking..

Anyway, because I refuse to let the destruction of my tribute to snow affect my demeanour, I discovered via PINTEREST that it is possible to make your own snow globe. And unsurprisingly Martha Stewart can show me how. I'm so excited. Will keep you posted on my efforts.

And if for some inexplicable reason like severe tiredness brought on by too much exposure to Martha's sub human levels of creative productivity, I could always make a snowy winter cloche like this one below. So lovely.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Warm Winter Wanderings

We did our usual holiday dash to the mountains this week. The first chance to see my parents in almost three months,  which was way too long a break for my liking. A big overseas trip was unintentionally extended due to my Dad getting sick but now that they're home there was plenty of happy memories to share. It was an added bonus to land there on possibly the two warmest days in July! The sky was a perfect blue and while the air was crisp it was nowhere near freezing (at least until the sun went down). I was only slightly disappointed we didn't get to wear our big coats, because lolling around in the warm sun drinking endless cups of tea was a luxurious way to wile away the time.

We made one visit to the lovely Leura to check out the toy shop and lolly store, where the choices were seemingly endless. Small but carefully considered decisions were made and there is something satisfying about seeing happy kids with $2 each well spent on Zappo Bars.

For most of the days Mum, Dad and I sat and talked, while enjoying the garden and playing board games with the kids (Two new favourites, a Wind in the Willows board game with gorgeous painted figures, Mum picked up in a London op shop, and another fabulous one that kept the older kids enthralled was called Say Cheese).

Both inside and out, Mum and Dad's house is the perfect Mountains home. The gardens are full of interest with towering trees, fluffy wattle and the first daffodil standing proudly. Crunching around on the gravel paths Arch was fascinated by everything and didn't even tip into the fish pond despite his best efforts. Inside there are dressers covered in china and stacks of books on shelves, handmade treasures (Arch loves the handmade sheep) and photos and pictures propped and hung everywhere. It gives me a happy endorsement (not that everyone thinks I need this) that my aversion to minimalism is genetically endowed.

Sipping tea out of the Villeroy and Boch winter mugs while nibbling on chocolate biscuits is not part of the diet plan, but when coupled with precious family times it works wonders on the soul!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Ladybird Love

We've only made it to a few op shops these holidays. The usual winter holiday bugs have been sticking close to us - meaning that just as one person recovers from some affliction, someone else goes down with the same thing, or something new. Either way, we've spent a lot of time at home. So on the rare clear days when everyone seems to be well, the cry has gone out: "Quick! Get in the car, we're going to an op shop!"

This announcement is always met with a mixture of happy and agonised groans, depending on who is currently addicted to Harry Potter and doesn't want to be disturbed, and who thinks all their toys are "boring" and is hoping for something wizz bang secondhand new.

Our best discovery was made last week, in a little op shop I visited with the two boys, while the girls were safely enconsed in holiday club #2. At first, it didn't appear promising. The clothes were scrappy and the toys were junky. Jesse had to repeatedly stop Arch from throwing used cricket and tennis balls down a small flight of stairs, which was not endearing us to the elderly volunteer staff. I was about to admit defeat (so galling!), gather the boys and make a hasty exit when I caught sight of a fat red and black object high up on a shelf.

"What is that?" I asked Jesse, pointing to the object.
"Dunno. I think it's a pillow pet." He added casually. "That's Mim's favourite toy, isn't it?"
Ha! This big brother doesn't miss much! As a tribute to watching way too much television this holidays, we'd all had to listen to Mim chanting as if on a loop: "Is it a pillow? Is it a pet? It's a pillow pet!"

I grabbed the ladybird from the top shelf. The price tag said $3. I checked him over, there was a small hole near the velcro tabs (that make it a pillow. Or is it a pet?..) but even I could sew that up. It was a no brainer. But still I hesitated. Did we really need another soft toy in our house?
Did I think Mim would love this toy?  Oh YES!
I grabbed it before I could think of more reasons for and against, but mostly against.

Was it worth it? Oh yes. Over the last two days, I have heard "I love you Mum."
"Thanks for buying me a pillow pet Mum."
"I love my pillow pet!" and "Has anyone seen my pillow pet?" more times than any of us could have thought possible.
I think I'm muttering "Is it a pillow? Is it a pet? It's a pillow pet!" in my sleep.

P.S. After checking the web, we realised our latest furry addition to the family is actually a fake. The real PP's have black eyes. Mim says she knew this straight away. But she's okay with it. She says her ladybird's eyes are more interesting, cause he's always looking up, and it makes her want to look up too.
Which kind of makes sense, because if I hadn't looked up, I never would have found him...
This one's the real deal (http://www.toysparadise.com.au/pillow-pets-ladybug-ladybug-pillow-pet-45cm) but a tad more expensive than we paid.

T o o   c u t e .

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Living life to the luxe

Most of us are okay with NOT living the high life. Anyway, I'm sure the chateaus in France are badly heated, and a wardrobe from Fifth Avenue would still leave you with those tiresome "nothing to wear" days.

But occasionally, while flicking through a magazine in the doctor's surgery (where I've spent some time recently, due to a bruised but thankfully not broken finger on Master Nine) or when watching something on tele that makes you sigh (yes, the Hamptons House on Revenge does hold some appeal) there can be a twinge of 'hey, my life lacks glamour'... which doesn't have to lead to a dark cave of despair, or worse still envy. No! We're not saying our lives are rotten, but just that once in a while we'd like our lives to feel a tad less ordinary, or a smidgen more glam, or a, well anyway... here's some ideas...

... of a few ways you can add that something special, without breaking the bank, and while staying true to self. Whether you're a run-down Mum with too many others to look after and no time for yourself (HELLO!) or a waning career girl who's not sure her path is taking her where she wants to go (um, surely I'm not the only one who's been there done that too??)... these ideas could appeal to you...


Now I love this play on words, don't you? Expressi, nespresso... what, you don't get it? Never mind. Maybe the comparison of an $89 machine to a $400+ one resonates... or the fact that the ALDI coffee pods are about a twentieth of the price of the um, nesi.. ones. So okay there's no warm fuzzy sense that a little bit of George Clooney has come in to your home with this version, but hey, try wiping the smile from your face knowing that your latte cost you 35 cents and not $4 from your local cafe.

Oh and did I mention its ease of use? If one is faced most mornings with getting four children breakfast while at the same time finding their uniforms and packing their lunches, plus trying to get out the door while looking vaguely presentable yourself, one needs an easily made coffee! Tick!

Now recently I had the VERY RARE occasion of finding myself in a department store sans children. Goodness, I felt quite giddy! So giddy in fact that I found myself seated at a beauty counter and getting a mini makeover before I could yelp: FREEDOM! A lovely lady named Rebecca proceeded to make over my face with a brand of cosmetics I had often admired but never had the confidence to try. I discovered foundation had come a long way since my previous favourite was discontinued about five years ago (and no, I hadn't got around to finding a replacement - what can I say? I'm low maintenance!) Forty minutes later and feeling quite glam (with, as usual, nowhere to go) I walked away with a new face, some new knowledge and a new product that made me feel I'd bought something a little luxurious for me that didn't even slightly resemble nappy wipes or nipple cream (which some members of my family insist on using as a lip balm, I kid you not).

ALSO, and I'll say this quickly, in case any of you have a problem with it. I came home and looked online at a few of the products Rebecca had shown me that day that I hadn't had the nerve/funds to buy. I know many rave about www.strawberrynet.com and other online cosmetic meccas, but can I just say that EBAY for me, beat the others hands down. While I'd balked (understandably I think) at buying a branded foundation brush for AU$40 (which probably would have ended up being used for the next kids craft project) I found the very same brush from a UK seller, for AU$12.

Once I got on a roll, I found some other impressive items like this great brows kit from Benefit (I generally get mine professionally sculpted once a year, and then spend the next 12 months wondering why something that appears so easy, is actually so difficult) which was AU$20 as opposed to AU$55.
Benefit Brows a-go-go
Anyway, enough on the online bargains/death of retail scenario, there's a great deal currently available here in Australia, where if you buy just 2 cartons of Peters Light & Creamy Icecream (from Woolworths), you can get a FREE magazine subscription (six titles) for six months. Of course, ahem, the icecream is for the kids, but the magazine subscription is MINE ALL MINE!!!!!!
Hurry, stocks are limited! 

There's something about a magazine arriving in the post that can brighten any droll day. Then you'll just have the challenge of finding the time to sit down with some icecream an expressi coffee to read it!

And finally, if you have the chance to check out an opshop or two, give it a go! They are full of winter coats at the moment and whether vintage or new(ish) the choices can be amazing! You'll give your winter wardrobe a boost and have recycled at the same time. Over the years I've picked up a fabulous royal blue military style woolen coat by AquaScutum and a handmade berry coloured 3/4 length woolen coat that fits me like a glove! I paid $40 for fabulous quality that will last me a lifetime!

If op shopping is not your thing, try www.modcloth.com for fabulous vintage finds online.

Here's some great vintage coats I found on Pinterest:

Both coats from ModCloth.com via Pinterest.com

I'd like to hear of any ways you might have to add a little something to jazz up your life, or why you don't need to (although residents of French Chateaus need not respond...Merci).

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Winter Magic

It's school holidays. Three long weeks of school holidays in winter. If there are any people from the Northern Hemisphere out there who care to share their ideas for entertaining children on dark wet days, I'd love to hear from you!

I didn't go into the holidays with a massive itinerary - other than booking them in to a school holiday club for the first week, and buying three paint your own plaster money boxes ($5 each from Aldi). The kids had painted their money boxes by 10am on the first Saturday after school broke up. Great.

So this week we've attended the holiday club and it has been fabulous. Wonderful creative and dedicated leaders with a superb program for the kids that captured their imagination while sharing a strong message of  Jesus' love for them. And, there was a parents cafe - with proper cappucinos and muffins and slices served to us while we listened to a parenting talk each day. One on the joys of reading, one on connecting with your children, one on the busyness of life... I came away feeling totally nurtured and uplifted.

I met some lovely people, had some meaningful conversations and learnt some great things. I even heard myself telling one person that this week had been a highlight of my parenting year. Really!

Here is the link to the talks if you'd like to check them out:

So now we are staring down the barrel of week two. We've been to the library and borrowed 22 books. We've arranged a play date mid week and even have the possibility of attending another kids club for two days. I gave the kids the option of buying a movie (criteria: cheap but educational, ha ha) to watch or choosing a ball from the sports shop - they all chose a ball! Now we're just hoping for some fine weather...as big balls inside (near my growing glass cloche collection) aren't a great fit.

And I've even found a few minutes to curl up on the lounge with the first Harry Potter. The last time I read them was when Jesse, now nine, was a baby. A bit of winter magic..

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Embracing Winter

I am officially ready to embrace winter now. I'm done with staring back longingly through the archives of our summer photos. The summer clothes are securely packed away and the house heating is turned up to high, well, except when certain members of the family go around muttering about 'cost cutting' and turn the thermostat down or (horrors!) off!

And there's lots to love about winter, from cosy fires, tasty hot chocolates and ugg boots to rich coloured jumpers, flushed faces and pots of soup - inspiration is everywhere, adding a certain sense of rustic heartiness to your home, your wardrobe and your dinner table.

So I thought I'd start with some of my favourite winter books. Hope it inspires you to add a little winter cheer. Happy first of July!

Winter House by Charlotte Moss

This book is just too gorgeous for words. Charlotte Moss is a high end interior designer in America. This book is based around her "Aspen home" that she shares with her family in the winter months. Okay, so the lifestyle is obviously beyond our reach, but I can still find many ideas in her rich style and ability to bring homely warmth and character to diverse spaces. Her rooms have an exquisite balance of luxury and the every day mixed together. She piles books on tables and cushions on chairs. Thick paisley curtains are draped over windows and from door frames. Warm lamp light highlights jewel coloured flowers reflected in the gleam of shining silver and mercury glass. Framed art, pictures, postcards and maps cover the walls. And she subscribes to this dear quote:

"Ah, there is
nothing like
staying home
for real comfort."

Jane Austen 

I can only agree.

But if one wasn't at home during the winter months, then certainly there are some fine alternatives to be found in this little tome HIP HOTELS SKI.
Featuring ski hotels in North America and Europe, there are wild isolated rustic retreats through to modern and eclectic venues. You may not be a skiier yourself (I'm not) but even I can see that the skiing vibe is way cool (ha!).  
And as for some warm winter reads, when you do find yourself lucky enough to be curled up under a mohair blanket (mine was a 21st present from my grandma in blue and white, and I love it) with a beautiful mug (try the Kate Spade range) of hot chocolate (any kind will do - my pantry is overflowing!) - then peruse your bookshelf for an old favourite. Hmm, so many books, so little time....

p.s. If the thought of starting, let alone finishing a book is just enough to send your head spinning at the moment (school holidays are not holidays for EVERYONE, that's for sure) then perhaps you're better off with a magazine? My favourites to flick through at the moment, include DELICIOUS for its luscious comfort food and Australian COUNTRY STYLE: