everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Accessorising with Animals

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I love finding quirky gift ideas to help you with presents for those tricky-to-buy-for people in your life. And when I saw this series of items, I just had to share. Whether someone really loves animals, or isn’t allowed to have real pets in their apartment, or is a stressed-out big-wig Exec VP GM CFO OMG, or just needs a funky carrying device, I present to you some of the highlights from Ben Tsang’s etsy shop: BENWINEWIN. (And I have to say that any shop that has wine and win in its name has already got me.)

"Brown Cat Bag" includes cat-like straps.  [image from BENWINEWIN]

Well, hello kitty! “Brown Cat Bag” includes cat-like straps, apparently.
[image from BENWINEWIN]

I feel like this Panda Purse would help to save money. The guilt trip from those sad eyes will keep the zipper closed tight. [image from BENWINEWIN]

I feel like this Panda Purse would help to save money. The guilt trip from those sad eyes: do you really need those expensive shoes? Will you really wear that hat again? Are the sequins really a wardrobe staple? Got bamboo?
[image from BENWINEWIN]

This owl cushion is basically the soft furnishing equivalent of a menacing whisper: YOU'RE ALWAYS BEING WATCHED.

This owl cushion is basically a menacing whisper: YOU’RE ALWAYS BEING WATCHED.
[image from BENWINEWIN]

The Pomeranian. Happiest dog-bag in the world. [image from BENWINEWIN]

The Pomeranian. Happiest dog-bag in the world.
[image from BENWINEWIN]

And my personal favourite…

Because everyone needs a giant raccoon by their side. [image from BENWINEWIN]

Because everyone needs a giant raccoon by their side.
[image from BENWINEWIN]

I hope you like these as much as I did – and please feel free to share this post with any friends who might also like what BENWINEWIN does. And if you needed another reason to visit the shop, Ben Tsang also takes custom orders…so you can carry your little Pixie or Spot or Roger (the raccoon, obviously) everywhere you go. You’re welcome!

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Amigurumi? Yes!

Hello again. It’s been a while since my last post. For a whole heap of reasons, I’ve been finding it a bit tricky to find my way back after my extended Camino break late last year. But what better way to come back than with some teeny tiny crocheted (if that’s a word) animals from Vietnam. Thuy Mai Thu is the genius behind LamLinh – a ‘mini crochet amigurumi world’. And now that I have googled it, I can tell you that amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. Uh huh.

I am not sure what you’re meant to do with these little guys, but I think the detail is incredible. And I admire anyone who chucks in their office job to pursue their passion – in this case, their passion for crocheting unbelievably tiny characters that can sit on your fingertips. Love your work, LamLinh!

Definitely an apartment-friendly dachshund, at a height of 1cm. [image from LamLinh, via etsy]

Definitely an apartment-friendly dachshund, at a height of 1cm.
[image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Not so scary now, 2.5cm tall crochet Hulk. [image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Not so scary now, 2.5cm tall crochet Hulk.
[image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Favourite 'room-mates' of all time & probably my most favourite piece in this shop.  [image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Favourite ‘room-mates’ of all time & probably my most favourite piece in this shop.
[image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Everyone needs 'Ugly Black Cat' tapping across their piano keys. Or guarding the milk in the fridge.  [image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

Everyone needs ‘Ugly Black Cat’ tapping across their piano keys. Or guarding the milk in the fridge.
[image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

And a 1.5cm Kung Fu Panda to finish. Just because.  [image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

And a 1.5cm Kung Fu Panda to finish. Just because.
[image from LamLinh.etsy.com]

If you would like to check out more of the LamLinh collection, the etsy store is here. You can even request a custom-made amigurumi – now that would make a winning anniversary gift / special birthday celebration / amigurumi collector’s dream…

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Stickmen

I was going through my bookshelves recently and noticed this little book, which I hadn’t looked at for a while. It’s called STICKMEN by Peter Vegas and I can’t remember where I bought it, probably one of those impulse buys at the counter of a book shop (so it must be old – remember book shops?)… Flicking through it still made me smile, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you today.

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

[From Stickmen, by Peter Vegas]

And there are plenty more where those came from – I just did a quick search and it seems that Peter Vegas is a Kiwi who works in advertising and has written a few different Stickmen books in his spare time. They’re simple, they’re quirky and I think they’re great. Hooray for Stickmen!

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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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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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Special gift ideas for your Valentine

Now that the festive season is out of the way, it’s time to move on to the next exploitable holiday in the calendar – Valentine’s Day. Now let me just state for the record that, even though I don’t have a Valentine (waaa waaa), I still think that the idea of celebrating love and giving thoughtful trinkets is a fabulous thing. But, I fear that many poor saps get trapped by savvy marketers and become convinced that if you love someone, then this is the day you must step up and show them. Preferably on a grand scale and the more public the declaration of love, the better.

I do worry about those romantic fools, hoodwinked into spending too much money on questionable jewellery, giant I WUV U bears, scent-less roses that have magically tripled in price, dinner accompanied by the soothing sounds of the piano accordion. That sort of thing. Never fear though, I have scoured etsy and come up with some great gift ideas for your Valentine – gifts that won’t break the bank, cause offence or mis-spell love. You’re welcome.

Firstly, from Crafted Cookies, a pair of very cute sweet treats for Valentines. Or for police to give to criminals out on parole. Or for teachers to give the naughtiest kid in the class. Or for creepy Valentines-from-a-distance (I think the technical name is ‘peeping toms’) to give the object of their affection. It just works on so many levels.

I love you. So look out.

I love you. So look out.

I actually really like this next one, a cool necklace from A Charmed Impression. But I do have to question their chosen model in the promo pic, given its inclusion in the Valentine’s Day collection…(To be fair, Katie’s necklace does appear to feature an ‘S’ for Suri (I presume it’s not for Scientology, anyways) rather than a ‘T’ for Tom.)

Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson's Creek.

Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson’s Creek.

And another idea that I like, but question their photo choice for the Valentine’s Day collection, comes from Jubile Jewel. They are sterling silver initial earrings, which make a lovely romantic gift for your special someone. But could result in some mis-communication or a fight if your beloved happens to be called Fred Ulrich. Or Fanny Underwood.

Not quite the romantic sentiment you were after...

Maybe not quite the romantic sentiment you were after…

Another interesting gift for your sweetheart comes from Plantables & Paper. It’s a love letter kit, which apparently provides you with 50 small cards with a typed intro on each, to get your romantic sonnets flowing. Although this one in the picture does feel more like it’s leading you to put an expiry date on it. If that’s something that you want to convey, maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the time to do it. But when the time is right, if you use this card, it will definitely seem like a smoother delivery of a much nicer message. Of course, I take no responsibility if that presumption turns out to be false and you sustain an injury.

15 February 2013. At least.

15 February 2013. At least.

And I couldn’t resist sharing this personalised ceramic mug from 39 Cups. Perfect for a Valentine who’s a bit of a geek or a word-nerd. And we all know there’s nothing AT ALL wrong with that. It’s a word search, hand-painted onto a mug, with four words circled – your Valentine’s name, plus three words that describe them. Please note that each of the three descriptive words has to be 10 letters or less though, so it’s too bad if your man is really multi-faceted, or your lady is simply extraordinary. 

This mug appears to be for Ashley - a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.

This mug appears to be for Ashley – a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.

Well, that’s plenty of Valentine’s Day fodder for you right there, so I’ll stop now. But I do reserve the right to publish some more pre-Valentine’s Day posts if I discover other gifts for your consideration. Or if you find any true gems that I can share, please email me!

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Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

My lovely friend Sophie is leaving Australia in two weeks to go and work in Hong Kong. So, what to get a good mate who is flying away, with no set return date, as a reminder of the good times we have shared here in Sydney? We caught up last night for farewell drinks and as I passed the tacky gift shop at the ferry terminal on my way to the pub, a few goodies caught my eye. I went in and, despite the crazy prices ($8.99 for a tea towel? Really?) I found it difficult to choose. Mostly because I was choosing on the basis of reducing the stock of the most hideous things so that they didn’t end up in the hands of unsuspecting tourists.

There were many interesting items, but insisting on only the best for our Soph, I settled on the following to accompany her to the East.

Professional AND educational, Soph can wow her new colleagues with this notepad and pen.

Professional AND educational, Soph can wow her new colleagues with this notepad and pen.

I am sure this shopping bag is endorsed by the elders. A nod to diversity - we love it in HR.

I am sure this shopping bag is endorsed by the elders. Just the thing for an HR lady with responsibility for Diversity.

My favourite - you can't really see the glittering sapphires. Or the action of the opera house that spins round and round. Priceless.

My favourite – but you can’t really see the glittering sapphires. Or the action of the opera house that spins round and round. Priceless.

Needless to say, Soph was speechless and a little overwhelmed by our gifts, I think. I said she could perhaps have the key ring made into a giant pendant if that suited her better – I think she is taking that suggestion on board. Bon voyage, Sophie – we will miss you very much but look forward to visiting you later in the year! And you’d better be using that fabulous (yet traditional) shopping bag when I come over, lady…

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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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Countdown to Thanksgiving

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m very lucky to be heading over to New York this week to catch up with our American family. I’m especially excited about this trip because I’m also visiting Boston (where I’ve never been before) and I’ll be with our family for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving – we celebrate it with our family here and it’s got all the trimmings of Christmas, but with none of the pressure of gifts or rushing to join other families. Just a great excuse to get together and eat too much turkey and stuffing and desserts. Brilliant. Although it’s generally pretty warm in Sydney in November, so I’m really looking forward to a northern hemisphere Thanksgiving – hopefully the turkey/stuffing/desserts program is the same, just with an open fire crackling instead of the hum of air conditioning.

And even though it’s not about gifts, I’ve bought some festive treats from Etsy – they’re little polymer reminders that we need to count our blessings and give thanks for the great things in our lives. Made by Amy Giacomelli of SkyeArt in Colorado, these are pumpkins with a message.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day crappy stuff – bills to pay, people getting sick, jobs wearing us down, people being freaking annoying, rainy days, late buses, difficult homework, shoe sales where size 7.5 always sells out too fast, neighbours who spy through the windows, cholesterol, car troubles, money troubles, boy/girl troubles…

So I’m hoping that these little pumpkins will sit there all year ’round as a reminder to stop and notice the good stuff. Like Sour Cherry Slurpees, family and friends, magpies who nest near your apartment but don’t attack you, solving cryptic crossword clues, funny work mates, ice cream on a hot day, smiles from strangers as you pass them on the street, gardenias blooming in the garden. Things like that.

Hope you can look around and find many things to give thanks for too – with or without the little pumpkins as reminders.

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EverydaySparks Gift Idea #374 – Hey, Pillow Face

Now this is a gift I really like. At the risk of spoiling this year’s Christmas present surprises, I can think of so many faces for so many cushions for so many of my family and friends – I reckon it would be a real hit. And they deliver all around the world, so it’s a far cheaper way of sending the kids to stay with Granny in Iceland. I first saw PillowMob featured on a Fab.com sale. Their tag line is “All your face are belong to us”, which sounds like the kind of slightly dodgy translation more commonly found on a Hello Kitty pencil case. Although these ‘pillow faces’ are made in Seattle, Washington.

You can choose from the range of cushions featuring animals, food items or random strangers – or you can upload your own photo and the clever folk at PillowMob will turn the face (or whatever) into a cushion. Like so…

 

 

Copyright issues permitting, I’m thinking of furnishing my apartment with a Liam Neeson, a Don Draper, a cupcake, a bowl of gelato and maybe a Sharpei puppy, because they’re funny. The possibilities are endless – and imagine the fright you could give someone by sending them a giant cushion of your face in the post…I’m off to write my list – if you’re on that list and you read this blog, please act surprised when you receive your pillow face! You can check out the Pillow Mob website here.

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