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!


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.


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.



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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Good night, New York

So we all know that it’s the city that never sleeps. And while it is not sleeping, it is also the city that is beautifully lit – especially at this time of year. Here are some pics from New York City in the night time, when the winter chill has me zipping my jacket up past my chin and hurriedly snapping photos so I can put my warm gloves back on. (That may explain why some of these are a little blurry!)

Good night, Time Warner Center. I couldn’t really catch your beautiful colour-changing lights here, but you know you’re gorgeous. And you’re one of my favourite places to soak up the hustle & bustle of NYC.

Good night, random festively dressed hotel on Central Park. You look very pretty. And kind of like you’re wearing a fairy light witch’s hat…

Good night, Public Library. You are such a beautiful building and you look very cool with your fancy coloured lights.

Good night, Harry Winston. Your festive lights look as lovely as the jewellery that you sell. Like very classy diamond accessories for your building, as it were.

Good night, Buckyball. You’re a fabulous colour-changing installation at Madison Square Park and you’ve even brought your own ‘zero gravity’ curved benches, so that viewers can lie back and marvel at your cleverness. And you make the wait for burgers at the Shake Shack much more fun.


New York, New York

Here are some more pics from my New York days – a range of everyday (or not so everyday) sparks that caught my eye as I wandered around.

An important discovery – Trader Joe’s chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

The best toy shop in the world. The best.

You can even adopt a baby at FAO Schwarz. The staff in this area wear white coats, like all good dolly doctors should.

Oh, the things you can do with duct tape…

So, I found this amazing. And other people were taking photos in the Macy’s bathroom too. That’s the tap in the middle, the soap on the right…and the hand dryer on the left.

Serious table tennis players in Bryant Park.

And in upstate New York, a cool way for kids to travel (and be distracted) during the weekly grocery shopping trip…

It’s a drive thru kinda country. This is a drive thru bank in upstate New York – ATM on the left, deposits & human (voice) interaction on the right.

And if you’re tired of your Snuggie, maybe it’s time for a Footsy – the throw that’s a treat for your feet!


Dear Santa…

Well, it’s coming up to that time again. The time when the festive season and goodwill towards all take a backseat to the business of shopping. And that fabulous department store in the USA, Neiman Marcus, has just released its 2012 Christmas catalog. And if any of the ‘2012 Fantasy Gifts’ are on your wishlist, then I think you’d better write your letter to Santa as soon as possible – he’ll need time to re-mortgage his house, sell off all the other toys and lease out the reindeer. The catalog features some great gift ideas for everyone – here are some of my highlights…

Like the JetLev R200’s creator, you’ve dreamed about jetpack flight since first seeing it in the movie Thunderball. Finally, technology has caught up with fantasy! One part sci-fi, three parts British secret service agent, and 100 percent pure adrenaline rush, your water-propelled jetpack is about to send your spirits—and your self—soaring. Excitement builds as you take to the skies and experience the rush of personal flight. It’s a beautiful day for adventure. So, strap yourself in, engage the throttle, and up, up, and away you go!

A jetpack for only $99,500? Crazy, right?!

Leaping lizards! Your stomach is doing cartwheels as you wait in the wings for your cue. A nervous smile spreads across your face as you realize THIS IS IT! You made it to The Great White Way! And soon, you’ll be taking the stage in one of theater’s most beloved plays, ANNIE: The Musical. The stage manager gives you the nod, and you step into the spotlight. Your role as a walk-on performer? To help the adorably good-natured orphan and her canine companion teach the world that perseverance and unwavering hope can change lives. After your curtain call, you’ll sit down with one of the show’s producers for a celebratory five-star meal.

Only $30,000 to appear in a musical with children and animals? Merry Christmas!

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined. Your custom-made multilevel dwelling features a nesting area, a “living room” for nighttime roosting, a broody room, a library filled with chicken and gardening books for visitors of the human kind, and, of course, an elegant chandelier. The environment suits them well as you notice the fresh eggs awaiting morning collection. Nearby, you pick fresh vegetables or herbs from your custom-built raised gardens. You’ve always fancied yourself a farmer—now thanks to Heritage Hen Farm, you’re doing it in the fanciest way possible!

$100,000 so my chickens can live in a Versailles-inspired house with a library and chandelier? Yes please!

You can check out the other must-have gifts in the 2012 Fantasy Catalog here. The ‘normal’ Christmas catalog also features gifts for under $250, if you must.

I’m off to write my list now…

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