everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

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…

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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!

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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.

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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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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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Well hello, kitty

I was trying to avoid another Valentine’s Day post, but then I came across this shop in a Valentine’s Day gift collection on etsy and thought it was just kooky enough to share with you. Who knows, but your Valentine may even have four legs – no judgement here, my friend. Or perhaps your furry pal has been invited to a fancy dress party, or has a job interview or an X-Factor audition coming up. Whatever the case may be, I am tipping that this place will be able to help.

Notso Kitty is the shop, stocked with accessories created by Wendy in Boston, USA. Wendy makes a range of festive hats, glasses and headbands. For cats. In case you don’t believe me, here are some photos – the models are Wendy’s cats, Fluffy and Notso Fluffy.

And even if you’re not in the market for cat-wear, it’s always a good idea to start the week with pictures of funny looking animals, right?

Glasses for your furry Valentine.

Glasses for your furry Valentine.

O'Kitty all ready for St Patrick's Day.

O’Kitty all ready for St Patrick’s Day.

Good ol' pumpkin head, ready for Halloween.

Good ol’ pumpkin head, ready for Halloween.

The cat in the (royal) hat.

The cat in the (royal) hat.

And I have nothing more to add. Inspired? You can check out Notso Kitty on etsy here.

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EverydaySparks, Herb Gardener

Last year I was part of a group of bloggers who posted about Hope and what it meant to them. Amongst the pictures that I included in my post was a picture of my herb garden in its infancy – I had hope that the teeny tiny basil, parsley and coriander plants would grow into impressive market gardens. Well, the coriander got knocked over and eaten by a possum or bush rat or some other weasel-type character in a daring night-time raid on my balcony and that was the end of that.

But I am pleased to report that, largely due to the herb-sitting efforts of my lovely folks and sister-in-law Jo, I now have a basil tree and a parsley patch. I have even become the herb providore to my ancient neighbours – I may soon open a roadside stall, EverydayHerbs. Life on the land is very satisfying, so I wanted to share it with you – hopes and dreams can come true, my friends!

The way they were, back in the day...

The way they were, back in the day…

The Basil Tree.

The Basil Tree.

The Parsley Patch.

The Parsley Patch.

And I don’t actually really like coriander anyway, so HA HA HA to that thieving possum / bush rat / weasel.

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In the hot seat

Gizmag is a fantastic site full of innovation and interesting ideas – some more practical than others. I’ll let you decide which camp this design falls into, but after I saw it last week I knew that I had to share it with you…

Firstly, do you remember those Hypercolor t-shirts that changed colour with your body heat, so you could do something totally crazy like leaving your coloured handprint on someone’s shirt, only for the shirt to return to its original colour minutes later? Just in case you’ve forgotten (or you never knew the magic of Hypercolor back in the day), here’s a pic and a link to the Wikipedia site. (This also shows that there really is a Wiki for almost everything, yes?)

Oh, Hypercolor - you so crazy!

Oh, Hypercolor – you so crazy!

Anyways, back to the Gizmag find. It’s a variation on the Hypercolor theme – furniture for your home that changes colour when heated. Yep, if you put mugs on your table, they’ll leave a mark (which will then disappear when the area cools). If you are someone who insists that everyone uses a coaster, this concept may really freak you out – I’m sorry. Of course, it also means that your body heat will leave its mark – a handprint, your arms leaning over the table and, of course, your bum when you sit on the bench.

Thermochromic is the technical name for it, apparently. The mugs and hand prints are cool and fun to look at, but I really don’t want to be taunted by the size of my bottom, highlighted for all to see after I get up from the bench. Especially if I had a second helping of tiramisu for dessert. But I think the idea behind it is very clever and I like Jay Watson’s work very much.

Your mugs will leave their mark. [Pic from Gizmag]

Your mugs will leave their mark. [Pic from Gizmag]

Handy. [Pic from Gizmag]

Handy. [Pic from Gizmag]

It's almost spooky - there you were. [Pic from Gizmag]

It’s almost spooky – there he was. [Pic from Gizmag]

You can check out the Gizmag post here and the ‘Linger a Little Longer’ collection (amongst others) on the Jay Watson design site here.

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A festive farewell

I love Christmas. I love everything about it – the lead-up (yep, even the crazy shopping times), the traditions, the family time, the thoughtful gifts and the eating and the drinking. But I don’t like the post-Christmas slump that inevitably follows – washing up, putting away decorations, taking down the tree, trying to fit the lights back into their box without strangling myself, watching what I’m eating and drinking. All that stuff.

If it were socially acceptable to keep my tree up as a standard home decoration all year round, I would do it. I have a bizarro collection of ornaments that I have picked up on my travels (whether those travels be to Prague or Florence or just a dodgy shop in North Sydney) – it’s a tree with personality, I tell you. From the disco balls to the glittering butterflies to the razzle dazzle stars, and everything in between. Some Waterford crystal, some precious metals, some felt and some Chinese plastic. Come to think of it, the tree is probably a pretty good reflection of me in many ways. A mish-mash of different styles and moods and ideas and a lot of quirky stuff that is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it makes me smile every time I unpack the Christmas collection.

So, this post is a festive farewell to some of my faves – ’til next year, my Christmas crackers.

 

Decoratin' my door no more.

Decoratin’ my door no more.

Fly away, spongey faced fairy (who appears to need a comfort break).

Fly away, marzipan faced fairy (who appears to need a comfort break).

No more lies, man.

No more lies, man.

Auf Wiedersehen, golden sheen pickle.

Auf Wiedersehen, golden sheen pickle.

Quackers.

Quackers.

Hit the slopes, crazy monkey  trapped in an Australian summer Christmas.

Hit the slopes, crazy monkey trapped in an Australian summertime Christmas.

Sayonara, Christmas glitter sushi from my sister Jo. Every tree should have one.

Sayonara, Christmas glitter sushi from my sister Jo. Every tree should have one.

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The Simple Things

Yesterday, I discovered a new magazine after looking at a photo on Instagram. It’s pretty amazing how that can happen, I reckon. Someone snaps something or mentions something, it catches your eye and when you investigate further, you discover something very cool that you would otherwise never have found. That’s why I like to read blogs and magazines and subscribe to a range of email newsletters – you never know when you’re going to come across something amazing in the virtual world that will make a nice addition to your life in the real world.

And so it was for me yesterday, when I found The Simple Things magazine. It’s a relatively new mag from the UK and its tag line is “Celebrating the things that matter most…” – sounds like a good idea to me. It’s pretty to look at (even the version for ipad) and amongst the beautiful photography, there’s cooking and design and craft and travel and all sorts of stuff. Even a “How to” guide to cutting your own hair. (Although that particular piece closes with the line, If it’s an absolute mess, reach for a vintage headscarf and remember hair grows half a millimetre a day. Caveat emptor.)

There are some interesting articles – although the seasons are out of whack, which you only really notice when you’re reading about preparing for a snowy Christmas in the UK and outside it’s a humid Sydney day with a thunder storm threatening. And they have recipes for cocktails, which makes any magazine a winner in my book. You can even download a free ‘The Simple Things’ soundtrack here.

Anyways, I don’t want to sound like their marketing team, but thought I’d share it in case my cup of tea is your cup of tea too. Or if this cup of tea might suit someone on your Christmas gift list. In a nice floral cup, with some chocolate biscuits on the side. Obviously. The Simple Things website is here if you want to have a look.

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