Posted in Arty sparks, Home sparks

An EverydaySparks Christmas – the nativity

I am having a feeling of deja vu, so apologies if you have been with my blog from the start and are hearing about my Christmas things for the second time. But that’s not going to stop me from sharing my nativity scene with you today – it’s another part of my collection that is guaranteed to make me laugh every year, as I release the players from their 11 month bubble wrap storage.

I can’t remember where I got this set, but these guys have been part of my family for many years now. They are so clumsily painted and bizarrely formed that I can only hope that I bought them from a charity shop. Whatevs, they fit my purchase requirements: a non-traditional nativity scene.

The gender of most of the gang is ambiguous, baby Jesus appears to be wearing lipstick, and I just don’t know about that shifty looking angel. The sheep look like clowns, there are two cows (not pictured, because they pretty much look like larger versions of the sheep + horns) and one of the politically incorrect wise men lost his head in a tragic accident last year (he made a run for it and fell off the display table). But my Dad fixed him right up with super glue and he’s back in action for the 2013 season.

See what I mean about the ambiguous gender? (Joseph, I'm pointing at you.)
See what I mean about the ambiguous gender? (Joseph, I’m pointing at you.)
Look at that fine detail - there's even a tear!
Look at that fine detail – there’s even a tear!
An angel, in disguise?
Even with your wings and basketball hoop, I’m still not sure about you, Angel…
Oh, the clown sheep. And the shepherd man could be a member of ABBA. Just realised I've arranged them to look as though shepherd boy is whispering plans of a mutiny...
Oh, the clown sheep. And the shepherd man could be a member of ABBA. Just realised I’ve arranged them to look as though shepherd boy is whispering plans of a mutiny…
I'm saying nuthin' about these guys...
I’m saying nuthin’ about these guys…
Posted in Home sparks

An EverydaySparks Christmas – the tree

Let me start with a bit of a heads-up: I looooove the festive season. From Thanksgiving through to Christmas and then the wind-down after that, when it feels as though everyone slows down a bit to enjoy the summer (here in Australia, that is). Oh, the thrill of getting a parking spot when the shopping centre is packed; the smell of the fruit cakes baking in the oven (my mum’s); the playing of the Christmas tunes (at this time, I even accept Mariah Carey); the wrapping of the gifts; the popping of the champagne corks; the squeals of delight from the little people; and, of course, the decorating of the tree.

I love decorating my tree. It’s a fakey-fake tree, but its creators have tried hard to make its ‘trunk’ and ‘branches’ look as realistic as possible. Which is pretty funny, because there are large brackets along the trunk where you need to insert the branches – that kind of gives the game away. Although they have painted the brackets brown, like the trunk, so I do appreciate their efforts to keep it real. I have a fair few decorations that I have collected over the years on my travels, so I’m pretty much in a dream world as I crank up the carols and take the memories out of their boxes.

Most of the decorations make me smile, some make me a bit teary, others blind me with their bling (ok, so I have some small disco ball decorations on the tree, just because). But there are two decorations that make me laugh out loud every year (or LOLEY, the cool kids might say) and as I put my tree up yesterday, I thought I would share them with you here.

The Christmas sushi was a gift from my sister-in-law Jo a few years back – a sign that she knows me well (I really dislike sushi, but I love crazy glittery decorations, the more ridiculous the better). And the Christmas pickle is from New York – I couldn’t resist its bright green colouring, with a mysterious golden sheen. It just looks so bizarre. Apparently it’s based on a German tradition to put a real pickle on the tree. I’m not sure about that tradition and so, especially in the summer heat, I’ll stick with this more magical version.

Here they are…

This pic doesn't adequately capture the true sparkle of the sushi ingredients, but you get the idea. LOLEY.
This pic doesn’t adequately capture the true sparkle of the sushi ingredients, but you get the idea. LOLEY.
The pickle (and a bit of a disco ball on the side there). Every tree should have one!
The pickle (and a bit of a disco ball on the side there). Every tree should have one!
Posted in Home sparks

Escaping the silly season

Sometimes, it’s nice to get away from it all. Especially as we come into the silly season, when we can be hit with invitations and wish lists and Mariah Carey and sunburn (or frostbite, depending on your hemisphere) and mixed nuts and cards and shopping and people. All of the people. It can be tough to find a place just for yourself  – where you can chillax and regroup, before rejoining the madness. Well, have I got a treat for you, my friends!

I present the clever gals from Striped Coast in Lithuania – their range is designed to ‘keep your home and soul warm’. And, although I’m actually more interested in keeping my home cool at this time of year, I do like the idea behind their work. But not as much as I like the work itself. Which is this: TABLECLOTH HOUSES. Uh huh. Such a clever idea – chuck an oversized tablecloth over your table and create a peaceful oasis underneath. And they make such pretty houses too.

Little Rain tablecloth house [image from Striped Coast]
Little Rain house
[image from Striped Coast]
Cou Cou house [image from Striped Coast]
Cou Cou house
[image from Striped Coast]
Flowered Summer house [image from Striped Coast]
Flowered Summer house
[image from Striped Coast]
See what I mean? No alarm code to remember, no garbage bin to put out, no windows to clean – this could be the perfect house to escape from the business of busy-ness. The only real downside I can see is if people start using the roof your tablecloth house for their dinner – then you might need to watch for stray kicks, pieces of broccoli or stinky feet intruding on your oasis…

If you’d like to check out more tablecloth house goodness (or some cute homewares) from Striped Coast, they are here.

Posted in Food sparks, Home sparks

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!

Posted in Home sparks

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.