Posted in Travel sparks

Five thousand words

No, not really, but five pictures instead. Here are some snapshots from my day in Dublin.

Just doing my bit for Dublin tourism / PR – another beautiful sunny day. Well, the morning was, anyway…
A parking spot specifically for a family, outside a supermarket. Well, it’s either a family, or an image from the movie ET.
An ad for a nursery – the baby on the right appears to be thinking WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU SO CLOSE? (And is it just me, or does he look a bit like Mr Bean?)
Latte art by Dublin’s own Ruslan, Irish Latte Art Champion 2012, at the Art of Coffee.

And one of my favourites – my lovely friends found this on the street near some fairly rough apartments here in Dublin (not today, but I couldn’t resist including it in this post). As you can see, it’s a comprehensive list of some kid’s enemies…hopefully he or she isn’t lost without it…

Posted in Arty sparks

Bonjour, monsieur

Yann is a professional photographer based in Paris. Yann claims to specialise in many things: portraits, products, landscapes, reportages… But today, I wanted to share some of Yann’s prints that are for sale on etsy. Because I really like what he’s done here and I really LOVE the thought that there might be a teeny tiny chap in a top hat doing his thing without us even knowing.

The Threader
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Macaroons Hatter
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Seed Gatherer
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Snail Tamer
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Morning Ringer
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Shell Renter
(c) Yann Pendaries
The Coffee Stirrer
(c) Yann Pendaries

These are just a selection of Yann’s amazing work for sale in his etsy shop Photography Dream. I can’t decide between The Seed Gatherer, The Snail Tamer and The Shell Renter. Now if only Yann could find the guy who hides the socks in the washing machine, or the car keys when you’re in a hurry to leave, or your ringing mobile phone buried in your bag…

Posted in Home sparks, Sparky gifts

There’s a creature in my cup

I first saw these Creature Cups, made by Yumi Yumi in Brooklyn, on etsy a few months ago. I wanted to write about them, because they are a little bit different to your standard mug. But then the etsy shop disappeared and I could find no trace of Yumi Yumi or her Creatures.

Until they appeared on sale recently at and I realised that Yumi Yumi (I’ll keep using both Yumis as I’m not actually sure if it’s a person’s name or a shop) has become bigger than etsy (imagine that!) and started a website to share these cool mugs with the world.

Whether you need a unique housewarming gift, have a friend who’s a vet or a zookeeper, or just want to scare your visitors by serving their coffee in cups filled with creatures, this may be the collection for you. Featuring an alligator, octopus, sea otter and lobster, these Creature Cups are sure to liven up your morning coffee. And I’d keep my eye on that lobster – he looks like he’s planning an escape…

You can check out the Creature Cups here.

Posted in Food sparks, Home sparks, Sparky gifts

Willy Wonka’s World

What a wonderful world that would be, right? With Mr Wonka’s passion for all things sweet and magical, it could be a kid’s dream come true. Not that you’d necessarily want your home or office decorated by Mr Wonka, but if some Wonka-like touches here and there appeal, you might want to check these out…

Ice cream lamps. Sure, why not? They come in a delicious range of colours and are over two feet high. They come with a bulb, but you will need to resist the urge to lick the giant soft-serve (even if the cone is marked ‘Safe-T Cup’) as I don’t want you getting zapped.

Or how about a cupcake cushion? With coloured sprinkles. It looks really cool in this picture, but I should warn you that there was another picture of it on a lounge…where it looked like a squished old piece of cupcake, rather than a fresh and tasty treat. You’ve been warned.

And if you want to listen to some sweet tunes while reclining on your cupcake on a lazy Sunday, you might like these Gummy Bear Earbuds. They’re scented. Uh huh. It does seem a little bit wrong, especially if your Grandma ever told you not to stick jellies in your ears. Although these are attached to a cord, so I guess it’s ok.

This one isn’t in keeping with the dessert theme, but Willy was a fan of messing with people’s heads via distorted sizes and shapes, so I think he’d approve. And I am tipping he liked his caffeine (amongst other things) to keep him so perky. For you, or perhaps to prop up that guy in the office who always seems to be sleeping, I present the giant coffee cup. It can hold 20 cups of coffee. But I am not suggesting that you drink them all at once. (Unless you record it and put it on You Tube.)

Whether you’re looking for a gift or something to make your home a little bit Wonka, you can check out all of these things, and a bzillion more, at fredflare.

Posted in Food sparks, Home sparks

The Cult of Nespresso

Mostly, I blame George Clooney – that slick advertising campaign, the giant photo of his beautiful face in the Nespresso store. I also blame the designers – the pretty and clever machines, the gorgeous coloured pods of coffee. And I blame the friends at work that took me into the store and whispered about the life-changing impact of these coffee makers and the world of Nespresso. You’ll never buy another cup of coffee again. Even the decaf tastes nice. Look how easy it is, you poor simple. Here, try a sample of the coffee. And I was hooked.

I think I am a bit late in jumping on this particular bandwagon, but I can be easily influenced when it comes to gadgets. I love them and never stop admiring the clever design and engineering (probably to the point of being a wee bit annoying). And now that I’m part of the cult of Nespresso, I appreciate my little Pixie every time I make a cup of coffee. She is a stunning bright indigo colour, which was another thing that sucked me in. And the milk frother (which I like to think looks sort of like a glossy black beehive) is separate so as not to take up too much precious bench space.

Water here, coffee pod there, pull the lever and the aromatic energy boost is dripping into your cup. Quicker than you can make a cup of instant coffee, surely. Now, I am not trying to pass myself off as a sophisticated barista, or even someone who can recognise the difference between floral and refreshing or fruity and balanced. I like coffee, but am definitely not a connoisseur. (Just as I love wine, but am not a connisseur. When it comes to chocolate however, I am surely a world-leading aficionado.)

Anyways, this cult has its own secret language (which would sound even more romantic if you imagine it whispered by George Clooney): intenso, lungo, vivalto, finezzo, arpeggio. People speak in code, “I’m an 8, my husband’s a 6” – not in terms of attractiveness, I discovered, but in terms of coffee strength (how the cult classifies the different capsules). And you can only get your fix (of coffee capsules) from the Nespresso dealer (online or in ’boutique’). They produce a newsletter that looks like the coffee maker equivalent of Vogue and regularly sell out their limited edition special flavours, with some people hoarding them to re-sell at an extortionate price on ebay. I confess to having recently sold a kidney to buy some limited edition ranges on ebay (no longer on sale in the boutique) – Cherry; Almond; Vanilla Blossom; and Dark Chocolate (to keep world-leading aficionado status).

The capsules (or as we cult members know them, hermetically sealed capsules – by hermits?) are made of aluminium and Nespresso have organised a recycling program (they call it Ecolaboration). Or, you could always turn them into brightly coloured metallic bugs, like this upcycled collection from Switzerland-based artist Alex Aebi (thanks

It could be your subtle sign to visitors that they are entering a home that belongs to the cult of Nespresso. But I’m sure they’ll already know, when you answer the door all a-jitter, saying “Vivalto! Fortissio Lungo!” (cult speak for “Welcome! Come in!”) and introduce your children, Roma Espresso, Decaffeinato and Ristretto. Then it might just be time for an intervention and some herbal tea.