Posted in Home sparks

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.
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.
Posted in Musical sparks

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours – I hope that you have a wonderful festive season, full of everyday sparks, and the time to enjoy being with your family and friends. And also some time to enjoy being by yourself, maybe to look back on the good things that happened in 2012 and look forward to the exciting adventures that await in 2013. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Christmas sparks today – we’re lucky to share our family lunch with seven little people plus grownups, so I’m sure there will be plenty of sparks around!

I came across this flash mob video this week and thought you might like it too. It is from earlier this year, but it feels very festive. It also makes me want to organise a flash mob in 2013, so if you’ve got any ideas – please let me know…

Posted in WWWhat?

It’s me, Aunty PANK

I do love a good acronym. Especially when it lumps a whole category of society under one blanket, as if they are identical. Like those young, urban, professional ‘YUPpies’ or those double-income, no kids ‘DINKs’ or, possibly my favourite, those pesky ‘KIPPERS’ – kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings. Anyways, I was delighted to read in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday that there is a category just for me (and quite a few of my blog readers, that I know of) – I am a PANK. Professional aunt, no kids.

A proud PANK - last Christmas, my nieces and nephew made these giant gingerbread people.
A proud PANK – last Christmas, my nieces and nephew made these giant gingerbread people.

Apparently, we PANKs are “a high-earning and fast-growing group of women who advertisers have identified will be among the most generous gift givers this Christmas”. In fairness, as I’m not working full-time at the moment, I’m probably more of a SPANK these days (semi-professional aunt, no kids). Whatevs, according to a PR lady from a global firm that published a report The Power of the PANK, as quoted in the article, ”PANKs have time, income and a passion for purchasing for the kids in their lives. It’s a perfect marketing trifecta”. Oh, Leslie Gaines-Ross – if that is your real name – I am so much more than a perfect marketing trifecta.

Slurpee PANK
Slurpee PANK

I’m in good company – apparently that report stated that “one in five women in America are PANKs, with an average age of 36.” And we even have our own website: was developed by Melanie Notkin in 2008 for ”cool aunts” and ”any woman who loves a child-not-her-own”. Uh huh. I had a look at the website, in the name of research, and must confess that I couldn’t get past the homepage. To me, being an aunt is my favourite thing in the world and somehow, it is the thing that I am probably best at – without study or guidance or even good role models from childhood aunts. I don’t feel that I need a list of suggested “stuff to do” or things to “learn and share” or a place to connect with “people just like [me]”.

Cupcakes by PANK (the sheep and the chickens)
Cupcakes by PANK (the sheep and the chickens)

Different strokes for different folks, but as an aunt, I keep it pretty simple. I just show up, prepared to act like an idiot, and I tell stories, get down on the floor, give piggy back rides, spell words, play Wii games (badly), sing, dance, chase, colour in and generally pal around with the little people who are amongst my best friends in the whole wide world. They don’t care that I can’t sing or dance or juggle. They like that I’m silly and funny and able to help with their homework and rhyme words like Dr Seuss. I watch soccer and tennis and dancing, listen to singing and re-enactments of events at school, jump on the trampoline and play totem tennis. I share the excitement of a new toy, app, book, certificate or previously undiscovered ability. I am (mostly) still greeted like a rock star when I appear at the door or in the school playground (at pick up time, not to hang out at lunchtime), which doesn’t happen when I show up at the office or the dentist or the supermarket.

PANK breakfast - chocolate pancakes with melted marshmallow
PANK breakfast – chocolate pancakes with melted marshmallow

So, to the marketing gurus no doubt plotting on how to best target us PANKs and relieve us of our professional or semi-professional cash, just remember that there are lots of different types of aunts out there and most of the PANKs that I know are about the fun of spending time with our little friends, not about spending bundles of money on our little friends. That being said, my eldest niece becomes a teenager at the end of this month, and from then on, I suspect the rules of the game may change quite a bit…

For now though, let us PANKs, SPANKs, PLANKs and PRANKs of the world unite and say a big woohoo for Aunts. Woohoo!

(Oh, and the Sydney Morning Herald article about PANKs is here if you’d like to read it.)

Posted in Home sparks, Sparky gifts

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.

Posted in Home sparks, Sparky gifts, Travel sparks

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.