everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

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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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. Gangnam style.

I’m always amazed by how quickly the market can respond to trends. Not the stock market, but the market for clothing and accessories that are quickly produced and often sold cheaply to take advantage of something that’s very now. And since now can be so fleeting – yesterday’s “Team Aniston” t-shirt is tomorrow’s rag for dusting – I am in awe of people and companies who can produce trend-based products, getting in and out of the market before people move onto the next big thing.

And the current ‘big thing’ seems to be that South Korean rapper/dancer/jockey PSY and his song Gangnam Style. The song was released in July this year and it seems to be spreading around the world. And, like a fluffy koala that bites you, or a delicious apple with a worm in it, this song seems cute and innocent at first, but progresses quickly to SUPER ANNOYING on the richter scale. Yes, that is a measure on the richter scale.

I knew it had gone too far when I saw Australia’s Today show this morning – they crossed to a school playground full of little kids dancing around to Gangnam Style. On the face of it, I say good on them for dancing – getting away from their ipods and high sugar cereals and torturing passengers on public buses. But there’s something kinda creepy about 6 year olds shouting along to the song, “HEEEEY, SEX-Y LAY-DEEEEE” and making strange moves that must be mimicking the video clip. Still, I think most of the other words are in Korean, so I guess they can’t be blamed for going with what they know. Although I do like that one of the kids at my niece’s school has changed those words to, “Heeeey, steak and gra-vy”. Much more age appropriate, sonny.

Anyways, if you want to impress your friends and family with your very own Gangnam style, check out these finds from etsy – I couldn’t believe the range of options. But you’d better get in quick, as there’s probably an obscure rapper/dancer/jockey from a tiny village in Botswana putting the finishing touches on his latest dance hit and getting ready to launch it to the world…

Only $9.99 for this Gangnam Style bow tie from TessaROXX.

I feel like there is a giant “Keep Calm” factory out there somewhere, cranking the handle day & night to produce more “Keep Calm And…” products. This one is from appleholic.

For a trendy baby. Not sure what the deal is with the pearls though, but whatevs. This is from Sassy Kat Boutique.

And I just found this shop – Impressive Steps. You can customise flip flops with your own message, so that you can leave a trail of advertising, or messages of love, or just plain nonsense across the beach.

Taking it to the beach. Gangnam Style. From iStep.

And if you have no idea what this Gangnam Style is all about, here’s the You Tube clip that started all the madness. And fuelled an industry producing heaps of stuff with a very short shelf life. Which is surely another topic for another day…

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Very Cross Stitch

I’ll be honest – I’ve never really understood cross stitch. I know there are people out there who love it and find it therapeutic or wholesome or blah blah blah, but I’ve always thought it was a little bit pointless. Until now. I have found my kind of cross stitch, created by Julie Jackson at Subversive Cross Stitch. I’ll let Julie explain: “Subversive Cross Stitch began in the spring of 2003 as a form of anger management therapy when I was dealing with a cruel bully of a boss. At my wit’s end and in dire need of some art therapy, I stopped by a craft store on the way home from work one day…”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Rather than sticking to the pattern of pretty little pink roses, Julie freestyled and added an expletive (it’s a family blog, so I won’t spell it out here) to better capture how she was feeling. The expletive was of course neatly cross stitched into the centre of the circle of pretty pink roses, which got Julie thinking about the benefits of cross stitch with attitude. And so it began – you can now get kits, tips and supplies from Julie’s website. Perfect for a home made gift with a difference, or perhaps for someone who’s cranky about having a bit of time on their hands. Probably not quite right for Granny’s 85th birthday though.

I can’t show too many examples of Julie’s fantastic work here, but I assure you that the Subversive Cross Stitch website is well worth a visit!

I really do.

The modern ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’.

Perfect for the office.

So wrong that it’s right.

One of my favourite pieces of HR advice.

That’s just a taste of the amazing things you’ll find on the Subversive Cross Stitch website here. So much inspiration, I love it!

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Honey, I’m home

First of all, a big shout out to my virtual pal Emma of the fantastic blog Out of the Birdcage who first told me about this amazing shop in London via a post on her blog. Even the name suggested that I was going to like it immediately: Drink, Shop & Do. Located near Kings Cross Station, it’s a combination of shop, cafe, bar and craft workshop. And it’s incredible. I want to live there. Although, when I told the girl at the counter that, she just laughed nervously and glanced towards the door.

Started by two high school friends, it’s pretty much the place I would love to open if I had the courage and cash to open a place. Set in a large open space, with a shop selling funky designer crafty stuff and a range of sweets (painstakingly weighed out on an old fashioned scale). And then there’s the cool cafe/bar area – with an extra function room at the back, complete with some sort of tents and a giant disco ball. There’s a sky light and some colourful fiesta-style paper chain action on the ceiling. There are also colourful kites all over the walls. And some crazy furniture. I’m sure you’re getting the idea now. During the day, they offer a wide range of cakes as well as afternoon tea. And the staff are all very pretty too.

For breakfast, we chose a caramel macadamia cheesecake. As you do when you’re on holidays. We figured that with the calcium, protein and all-round energy provided by this breakfast treat, it was practically the same as a bowl of Special K with skim milk.

They also offer afternoon tea – and there’s even a special ‘manly’ afternoon tea, if scones and darjeeling just aren’t your thing. (It features beer and pork and some sort of pie, I think.)

For the ‘do’ part of the shop’s promise, they offer a range of activities including musical bingo, adults only scrabble, colouring competitions and other creative options. Most of them are based around cocktails, which sounds like a pretty clever idea.

I really could go on all day about this incredible place, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so will leave it at that. There are more photos and info on the Drink, Shop & Do website here. I highly recommend a visit (and the caramel macadamia cheesecake) if you’re in London.

 

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Bunny with a Toolbelt

Yes, that caught my eye too. Bunny with a Toolbelt is the very cool name of Hilary Pfeifer’s business in Portland, Oregon, where the focus has been ‘making you smile since the late 20th century’. Hilary creates sculptures, animals and wedding cake toppers from recycled wood and other materials. And they are brightly coloured and very quirky. Hilary has also written a couple of books and sells t-shirts and mugs adorned with her work. This Bunny is busy.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

I’ll start with my favourite. This dog is made of painted, upcycled wood and stands about 4 inches tall and 11 inches long. The piece is called ‘Oh Happy Day’. And with this brightly coloured piece of magic in your home or office or classroom or shop, I’m tipping you’ll have a very happy day indeed. If you’re a deep kinda person, you can probably read something into the placement of the clouds, or the fact that the dog is happily supporting three animals of another species, all of different colours. But I just like it because it’s bright and cute.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

If you’re looking for a customised gift for that certain someone, you can help Hilary to design your own Mini Me. You send photos and thoughts about the subject to Hilary and she creates a mini version of them. In brightly coloured monster form. Uh huh.

And then there are the elephants that Hilary created to illustrate her first alphabet book – Elephabet. As you might expect, it’s no ordinary alphabet book. Y is for Yippie-ki-Yayiphant, S is for Sushiphant, R is for Radiophant. But my favourite is probably this guy: V is for Vice Versaphant.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

Oh, and the wedding cake toppers – not normally even remotely my kind of thing, but these have a quirky style. Granted, they won’t suit every couple, but for some people, I think they’re probably just perfect…

Like that really tall couple that you know.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

Or those two IT geeks who fell in love in the server room.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

Or that couple that took forever to make it down the aisle.

(c) Bunny with a Toolbelt

And with more than 60 varieties, there’s plenty more where those came from! You can check out the Bunny with a Toolbelt website here and the etsy shop here. Love your work, Hilary!

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Willing Andable

Launched in Sydney earlier this month, Andable is a new online marketplace to buy and sell unique products. But that’s not all. Their motto is: When you buy, we share – and they donate 10% of each purchase price to help fund a Kiva micro loan. (If you’re not familiar with Kiva’s ‘loans that change lives’, you can check out their website here.) But that’s not all. The Andable site uses a classification system – FRESH – for sellers to mark their products as Fair Trade (or better business practises); Reborn (recycled, upcycled, found objects); Eco-friendly; Supports local business; and/or Handmade. And they sell some cool stuff – from art to clothing to beauty products to accessories to homewares to baby toys.

If you or someone you know has a sweet tooth, but is trying to kick the sugar habit, this might be just the thing – the Strawberry ‘n’ Cream Pendant by Minnette. Handmade in Adelaide, Australia, Minnette’s range also includes jelly babies, raspberries and milk bottles. Just make sure that everyone understands that they’re not real – they’re resin.

Still on the sweet theme, Sophie Farquhar of Bed Toppings in Byron Bay makes amazing sheet sets for kids (little and big). Apparently, Sophie created her range in response to the boring and predictable bed linens that were available in most stores. As a child, Sophie dreamt of sleeping on a giant piece of toast with tin spaghetti doona and buttered sheets. I love this chocolate block sheet set – very Willy Wonka.

And in keeping with the FRESH principles, Marlandia doesn’t sell ordinary footwear – these items have been made in Brazil, from recycled materials, by local women in the slums (favela). Teaching women sewing skills and empowering them to make a living from their craft, this is an inspiring business model. And these shoes will help you to run like a cheetah. (I just made that bit up – it’s not actually specified in the product blurb.)

So, although it’s early days for this new online venture, I have high hopes for Andable. As someone who is always on the lookout for different and interesting gifts, these are made even better by the focus on FRESH and the support of microfinance projects through Kiva. Win-win. Or, as that wise manager Jerry Maguire once said: Help me help you. You can check out the range of gifts at the new Andable site here.

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Puppet People

Puppets aren’t for everyone – some people are a little suspicious of their hollow centres, beady eyes and lack of a voice. And, you know, the fact that there’s a human hand inside. But I think there’s a lot to love about these puppets, made by Erica in Florida and sold at her etsy shop Sublimations. Erica’s specialty is customising puppets to look like their owners – so you can get a pair of lookalike puppets as a wedding gift, or a mini-me puppet for a friend. Erica reminds shoppers that she makes puppets, not photographs – she encourages people to ‘close their eyes and imagine they’re a puppet on Sesame Street’ to get an idea of what to expect.

Erica’s website features lots of pics of puppets & their people, so you can see just how closely they match. But since we don’t know those people, I thought I’d stick with some of the more famous faces (and half bodies) that Erica makes. Like Jimi Hendrix here. Down to the detail of making outfits for the puppet that match famous photos of the singer from back in the day. Brilliant.

And I’ve written before about the love that some people (not me) have for bacon. From toothpaste to bandages to wallets and everything in between. We can now add finger puppets to the list, as Erica includes a rasher of bacon in her range. Six inches tall, Erica says it’s the perfect gift for anyone who loves bacon so much they want to “BE bacon”. And I have no doubt that those people exist.

Here’s an example of a puppet couple. All you have to do is send a photo and a description of the couple in question (to get a sense of wardrobe, jewellery etc, I guess) and Erica will turn a couple of people into a couple of puppets. Such a great gift idea, especially for people who seem to have everything. Bet they don’t have small versions of themselves made from felt and wool and stuff. Yet.

Your furry friends are not forgotten – Erica is happy to turn your beloved pet into a puppet too. If you’re not into taxidermy, this could be a more fun and slightly less creepy way to ensure that the memory of Fido or Kitty lives on…

These are just a sample of the fantastic puppets available at Erica’s shop – you can check out Sublimations here. You’re welcome!

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A Tale of Two Kitties

Helena is the talent behind Tokyo Inspired – selling ‘lovingly handcrafted’ cases for your iphone, camera or pencils. They are very cute and more than a little bit quirky. And they remind me of Zippy from Rainbow. I discovered Tokyo Inspired on etsy and although I can’t claim to be down with the mysteries of the animal kingdom, I am really not sure about the photos that Helena has used to sell her wares…

Take this lovely image of a cute snoozing kitty. The cat looks so happy snuggled up against her soul mate there on the rug. Except – it’s not her soul mate, IT’S A PENCIL CASE. And it has a fairly maniacal-looking zippered smile on its face. And eyes that never sleep. But then, I think there’s probably no harm as long as the (real) cat is happy, right?

Then there’s this pic of a grey cat laughing with his arm tucked around his equally delighted companion. Oh, he’s so chuffed that his partner mirrors his wide smile when he tells his favourite joke about that time with the saucer of milk. They are so happy and in sync and meant to be together. Except – hang on, that’s not a smile, that’s AN OPENING TO STUFF PENCILS OR A SMART PHONE THROUGH. And I start to feel like this is getting a bit out of hand.

And these two grey cousins, caught in a never-ending battle to see who can ‘freeze’ the longest. It’s just not right.

I love your work, Tokyo Inspired – the cases are very cute and I can think of lots of people (myself included) who would like them. But I’m just not sure that it’s fair to the real cats to keep up this charade. Because one day, maybe a zipper will break, or a sequinned eye will drop off, or an ear will unthread, and there will be heartache in the litterbox.

You can check out these very cool cases (and cats) at the Tokyo Inspired shop here.

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Puppy love

When you live in an apartment, it’s not always possible to have a dog or cat. A real, live dog or cat, at least. But that leaves plenty of options for fake furry friends – they’re low maintenance, cuddly and look cool on your lounge or bed (without leaving any hair behind). If you’re in the market for a new pretend pet, then consider Cuore (it’s Italian for ‘heart’) your online pet shop. Made by Mika in California, these cute dogs with a quirky back story could be your new best friends…

Here’s Boris, the English Bulldog. Apparently, Boris lives in Tacoma, Washington. His favorite activity is eating – especially molasses doggie treats, and he loves to chase plastic balls with his buddy, Oliver the Cat!

And then there’s Lola, the Boston Terrier. According to the website, Lola is deaf, loves to eat apples and likes to head-butt guests. You’ve been warned.

I know he’s not a dog, but Grayson the Fox needs to be part of this post too. A nomad who travels the world, Grayson loves to munch on pretzels and peanut butter, and dance to soul music. He has an amazing sixth sense for good people, and loves to study astrology and universal law.

Billie Jean the Chihuahua is a performing dog from Indiana. Billie Jean travels the world in her one-dog show, performing everything from the moonwalk to singing Michael Jackson covers. On her down time, she loves to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, and relax with doggie yoga.

And then there’s my favourite – Barbeque the Dachshund. Barbeque lives in Chicago and is a stand-up comedi-dog. Apparently, his favorite foods are corn dogs, and he loves to play Uno with his other dog buddies.

For these and lots more cute felt pets, you can check out the Cuore shop on etsy here.

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