everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

This Owl Party Was A Hoot.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. It really was a hoot, though. My fabulous niece Lauren (one of Pirate James’ lovely sisters) turned 5 and chose an owl themed party to celebrate with her family and friends on Saturday. And my clever sister-in-law Jo, fresh from the Pirate Party Extravaganza only two weeks ago, created another incredible party, with beautiful props and delicious food. Oh, and 1000 screaming little people. Ok, maybe not exactly 1000, but there were a LOT of excited girls and boys enjoying the party. Well, except for that little girl who started crying hysterically when her water balloon popped before the old school water balloon egg & spoon race even started. (Don’t worry, she recovered in time for the Musical Statues game.) Here are some pics from the festivities…

Balloons and flowers - the cornerstone of a great party...

Balloons and flowers – the cornerstone of a great party…

Stylin' it up with owl party props.

Stylin’ it up with owl party props.

Fairy Bread - one of my contributions to the festivities. Not to brag, but it is one of my culinary specialties.

Fairy Bread – one of my contributions to the festivities. Just call me Nigella…

The canvas (hand-painted by Jo!) for Pin The Owl On The Nest.

The canvas (hand-painted by Jo) for Pin The Owl On The Nest. X marks the spot.

After the owls were all pinned. Methinks some of the kids could see through the eye mask...

After the owls were all pinned. Methinks some of the kids could see through that eye mask…

Some of our cupcakes with handmade fondant owls and flowers.

Some of our cupcakes with handmade fondant owls and flowers.

The fruit cups looked great, but weren't a big hit with the kids. The scary dragon guard might have had something to do with it, though.

The fruit cups looked great, but weren’t really a big hit with the kids. This scary dragon guard might have had something to do with that though.

A table of treats. Hoot hoot.

A table of treats. Hoot hoot.

Oh yes, did I mention THE CAKE?

Oh yes, did I mention THE CAKE?

So there you have it – an owl party fit for one of my favourite people on the planet. The best storyteller I know, an incredible little lady with crazy curly hair, a brilliant sense of humour and fun, an amazing imagination, incredible energy and such a social butterfly.

Happy birthday, lovely Lauren. And well done to your amazingly clever Mum!

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Countdown to the Camino

I am excited. REALLY EXCITED. I have just booked my flights for a European trip later this year. But it’s not just any European holiday – no sunning it up in the Greek Islands, no David Hasselhoff gigs in Berlin, no Portugese tarts in…um, Portugal. Not this time. Not for me and my friend Steph (you may recall her as one of the Color Run Stephs). We are going to walk the Camino de Santiago – starting in France, popping over the Pyrenees and then trekkin’ across northern Spain. Because, why not?

The modern sign of the Camino - this shell marks the path. It's hard to get lost, they say. We'll see.

The modern sign of the Camino – this shell marks the path. It’s hard to get lost, they say. We’ll see.

If you’re not down with the Camino (a.k.a. the Way of Saint James), it was a super-important medieval pilgrimage – with many different ways to walk (as in different paths, not different walking styles) to reach the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are reported to be buried. Apparently, the route was very popular in the middle ages, but numbers dropped due to things like the outbreak of the Black Death pandemic and the Protestant Reformation. Pesky little things like that.

But in the late 1980s, the Camino was declared one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and the tourists came back – undoubtedly a lot of religious and spiritual pilgrims, but also a lot of people looking for a unique physical and psychological challenge. Apparently tens of thousands of peeps walk the Camino every year (with an increasing number of cyclists too), generally starting from somewhere in France, Portugal or Spain. If you walk at least 100km (or cycle at least 200km) of the Camino, as evidenced by stamps collected in your Camino passport along the way, you get a special certificate when you reach Santiago de Compostela.

The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.

The spectacular Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Also known as THE FINISH LINE.

Steph and I are walking the Camino Frances, which starts on the French side of the Pyrenees. Reports vary, but from start to finish, it’s approximately 800km. We’re hoping to walk it in around 30 days. Which means getting up and walking every day with our backpacks, regardless of the weather, regardless of our mood, regardless of our aches and pains. Needless to say, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really excited about the challenge ahead. We will get into training shortly and I’m looking forward to getting my walking poles and hiking boots like a real trekker. Well, like a real trekker or like the 250 year old man who uses walking poles to walk along the path near my home. The countdown has begun!

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Edible Art

I’m not an artist, so I’m frequently left in awe of people with artistic talent. And when an artist uses some wacky materials in their work, so much the better, I say. Which is why I was so excited to discover the work of Malaysian artist-architect Hong Yi (nickname Red) via one of my favourite sites: designboom. One of Red’s latest projects is ’31 Days Of Creativity With Food’. Sounds good. Looks AMAHZING! Here are some of my favourites…

Hong Yi's foodie version of 'The Scream', via designboom.com

Hong Yi’s foodie version of ‘The Scream’, via designboom.com

Hong Yi's chickens, via designboom.com

Hong Yi’s chickens, via designboom.com

Now these are the kind of balloons that I like, along with Hong Yi's soy sauce people, via designboom.com

Now these are the kind of balloons that I like, along with Hong Yi’s soy sauce people, via designboom.com

Grrrr - eat your radish, carrots and prunes, says Hong Yi's tiger, via designboom.com

Grrrr – eat your radish, carrots and prunes, says Hong Yi’s tiger, via designboom.com

Incredible Oreo art by Hong Yi, via designboom.com

Incredible Oreo art by Hong Yi, via designboom.com

You can check out more great pics on the designboom site here and there are more amazing projects on Red’s official website here. Such incredible talent and imagination, I’m truly in awe.

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Keep Calm.com

I know I posted about meditation last week (on that note, the Deepak & Oprah 21-day challenge started yesterday: so far, so good!) but clearly the universe is trying to tell me something as I have come across another sort of meditation site with one of the coolest domain names ever: calm.com. I really think it’s worth having a look if you get a chance – especially if you’re having a not-so-great day and need a virtual getaway.

You can choose either a 2 minute, 10 minute or 20 minute ‘guided relaxation’, then you select your ‘scene’ from a whole range of images and background sounds (that go together). You can pretend you’re relaxing on a deserted beach (without any pesky seagulls), or chillin’ by a mountain lake, or watching the rain come tumbling down (without getting your hair wet). The moving image is accompanied by gentle sounds that really do take you to another place. Until that annoying colleague taps you on the shoulder or that pesky person next to you on the bus starts to eat an egg and tuna sandwich.

Stay calm.com!

A good excuse to reuse my calming photo of the Dublin sky from September...

A good excuse to reuse my calming photo of the Dublin sky from September…

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A Pirate Party

And so my lovely nephew James turned 3 last week. Yesterday was his much anticipated Pirate Party – the invitation won me when the RSVP section asked Arrr you coming to my party? It was another extravaganza from the party mastermind, my amazing sister-in-law Jo. Countless hours were spent getting everything ready, with almost everything made by hand and with a whole lotta love. On a perfectly sunny Sydney day, there were plenty of cool pirate outfits, crazy pirate shenanigans and some delicious pirate food. A fitting way to celebrate the best little pirate I know – when they sang, “you are my sunshine”, I’m pretty sure they were talking about this guy. Anyways, here are some of the party pics, me hearties.

Strict entry criteria.

Strict entry criteria.

The treasure map for 'Pin the Flag on the Treasure'. Yep, painted by Jo.

The treasure map for ‘Pin the Flag on the Treasure’. Yep, painted by Jo.

Hats and eye patches for the pirate guests.

Hats and eye patches for the pirate guests.

Cupcakes from the high seas.

Cupcakes from the high seas.

Awesome.

The awesome cake.

Arrr, there be the cupcakes, jellies (in a pirate ship), chocolates and cake.

Arrr, there be the cupcakes, jellies (in a pirate ship), chocolates and cake.

Amazing, huh? Yes, ok, I made these chocolate guys - under direction from The Boss!

Amazing, huh? Yes, ok, I made these chocolate guys – under direction from The Boss!

Bags of loot for all of the little pirate guests.

Bags of loot for all of the little pirate guests.

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Friday Foto – On the Bus

This is a sign on Sydney buses. I’d never really looked at it closely before, but now that I have, I say welcome aboard, Man with 1.5 legs, Wobbly person with a bag and stick & Lady with wide hips singing “I’m a Little Teapot”…

BusSign

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Thankful Thursday – love ya, Sydney

Last night I went to the opera with my mum (Falstaff; very good) and we spent some of the twilight hours of a perfect Sydney evening sitting in front of the Opera House watching the world go by. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend that you do. It made me think of that Dr Seuss book DID I EVER TELL YOU HOW LUCKY YOU ARE? Yesterday, we told ourselves again and again.

That sky isn't fake. Neither are those birds or the people. Or those giant shells.

That sky isn’t fake. Neither are those birds or the people. Or those giant shells. Sorry ’bout the glare.

The ship was getting ready to leave as it blocked the setting sun. What a way to start a cruising holiday!

The ship was getting ready to leave as it blocked the setting sun. What a start to a cruising holiday!

It's still a very weird looking building, but I love it.

It is a very weird looking building, but I love it.

Ahhh...

Functional (mostly) and pretty to look at…

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Hello, Dolly

Sometimes I get lost in the great online marketplace that is etsy. An email link here leads to something else there and before you know it, I’ve found this shop called Josmund from Oregon in the US of A. Josmund’s tag line is ‘miniature madness and funky finds‘ – I’d also add disturbing dollies and possibly crazy crap, but I appreciate that doesn’t necessarily have the same broad marketing appeal. Nonetheless, I wanted to share some of the madness and finds from this little etsy treasure trove with you here. And the arrangement of the pieces in these photos has a definite artistic quality, I reckon.

"Set of 7 Barbie and same size doll heads"...I do not like the way that one in the middle is looking at us...

“Set of 7 Barbie and same size doll heads”…I really do not like the way that one in the middle is looking at us…

"Doll parts"...just look at those jazz hands...

“Doll parts”…just look at those jazz hands…

"8 individual Kelly and Tommy size doll shoes"...I don't know who Kelly and Tommy are, but presume they are one legged dolls...

“8 individual Kelly and Tommy size doll shoes”…I don’t know who Kelly and Tommy are, am only guessing that they are one legged dolls…

Uh huh. You can check out the Josmund shop on etsy here, if you dare.

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Meditate with me…and Oprah and Deepak

I really like the idea of meditation. I struggle with the execution, but I really like the idea. So many people swear by it as a key to happiness, health and wellbeing – and I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely a key that I’d like to have. As with a lot of people, I have one of those ‘monkey minds’ that finds it a bit tricky to slow down and focus (or not focus, I guess) on meditating.

A few years ago, I was doing a course at the Happiness Institute here in Sydney (where the unhappiest person was actually a nun, whose convent-mates sounded like a pack of she-devils – but that’s another story for another day) and one week the class was about meditation. We had to sit there and meditate – on cue, sitting on the uncomfortable hard chairs, under the glare of fluorescent lights, tired and distracted after a day at the office (or convent). I tried, I really did. But all I could do was hear sounds from the outside world – oh, there’s a garbage truck; hey, that’s a bird; aha, the door just opened; what a crazy ringtone. That kind of thing.

MeditationInvite

I was optimistic that I’d be a star meditator when I was rested and relaxed during a week at the fabulous Gwinganna health retreat in Queensland a couple of years ago. After dinner one night, they brought in a monk (I think he was a monk) to lead us in a meditation. It was a freezing cold night, we were sitting on a hard wooden floor, we hadn’t had caffeine or alcohol or sugar for days and nearly everyone was twitching. And throughout the meditation session (we weren’t meant to close our eyes), the monk kept CHECKING HIS IPHONE. Uh huh. Not sending messages or playing Angry Birds or anything like that, but leaning over and touching the button to check the time. I wondered if he had maybe booked back-to-back meditation sessions on that cold mid-week night up in the remote Gold Coast hinterland.

MeditationPic

But I’m not giving up on meditation – I’m trying again. With the big guns, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, no less. They’re offering a free 21-day Meditation Challenge through the Chopra Center, including daily emails with guided meditations and inspirational bits and bobs from Oprah and Deepak. It kicks off on 11 March and if you’d like to get on board, you can sign up here. I don’t know much more than that, to be honest, but it’s gotta be worth a try, right?

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