everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Life after the Camino

It’s so hard to believe, but it’s already one month since our Camino family arrived in Santiago. At that time, I think the magnitude of what we’d done was only just starting to sink in – I do remember wanting to blurt out to some of the day trippers crowding the streets of Santiago “HEY, I WALKED HERE FROM FRANCE”. It was such a great feeling to be fit and relaxed and happy after our month on the road.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

And now I’m back at home and it’s been really lovely to catch up with my family and friends and tell them a bit about our great adventure. I have found it a bit tricky to explain though – it really is one of those ‘you just had to be there’ kind of situations. And the return to the pace of ‘the real world’ has been a challenge for me – every day, it seems there are so many different decisions to be made, timetables to follow, commitments to meet, things to do.

I miss the simplicity of just getting up when the alarm goes off, getting dressed in one of only two available options, packing up everything I have and walking, walking, walking. I haven’t forgotten about the heat, the bites, the flies, the tendinitis, the shower without a door – but even at the time, all of those things just felt like part of the Camino experience.

And an incredible experience it was too (captured in the following YouTube clip by our resident rapper, Idol C).

So now I am home and I feel a bit restless. My work situation as a consultant means that I didn’t have to rush back to an office or a workplace routine – I think that is both a blessing and a curse though, as it means that I have had a lot of time to think and try and work out what to do next. And I feel like I should do something BIG after doing the Camino, as I try to hold on to the things that I learned about myself and the world when I was walking. But I am not entirely sure what that is yet.

And I am reminded of when I first moved home after living overseas for a couple of years – it felt like everything here was pretty much the same, but I felt soooo different (not in a lah-di-dah, I-am-so-awesome kind of way) and there was definitely a transition period to work out how to fit back in to everything. Maybe it’s like a snow globe – things are settled and look a certain way, then when the globe gets a shake, everything turns upside down and gets covered in large white flakes – or preferably glitter – before it settles again.

Stepping out at the end of the earth - morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

Stepping out at the end of the earth – morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

So, after the Camino-shake, I am sort of upside down and covered in large white flakes (metaphorically, not from another Camino skin condition, I assure you). I am more active, walking a lot and even completing my first timed 5k run last Saturday (more on that in another post) and trying not to get sucked back in to the rush of doing all of the things. I watch less TV and I do less shopping – after carrying every single thing I required in a bag on my back for a month, I definitely have a different perception of how much stuff I really need.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

But I don’t want to make it sound as though I’m now all woo-woo-woo herbal and alternative and changing my name to Starchild – I am not a totally different person and am sure that most people don’t notice any change at all. Maybe the snow globe has just settled in a slightly different way this time. And I am sure there are countless scientific studies that agree it’s a good thing to have your snow globe shaken every now and again, just to see what happens.

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Taxidermy with a difference

A recent sale at Fab.com shared the work of C.G.Sparks (no relation) with the caption ‘artful animal-free taxidermy’. A niche market, to be sure. But I do like these wall trophies, celebrating someone’s skill with recycled rope and creative accessories rather than someone’s skill with a powerful weapon aimed at an animal just chillaxing in the woods. And although I’ve not yet seen a bear or lion or elephant in the wild, I’m tipping these ropey versions come in much cooler colours.

The C.G. Sparks version of a deer.  [image from fab.com]

The deer, according to C.G. Sparks.
[image from fab.com]

The mountain lion. Still scary, even in rope form. [image from fab.com]

The mountain lion. Still scary, even in rope form.
[image from fab.com]

Say what? Nah, it's not ivory - it's 'medium density fibreboard'. Phew. [image from fab.com]

Say what? Nah, it’s not ivory – it’s ‘medium density fibreboard’. Phew.
[image from fab.com]

You can check out other cool things via the curated sales at fab.com here – and although I can’t find these taxidermy friends on the C.G. Sparks website, they do have lots of other pretty great stuff (they call it ‘furniture with soul’) for your home here.

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In the hot seat

Gizmag is a fantastic site full of innovation and interesting ideas – some more practical than others. I’ll let you decide which camp this design falls into, but after I saw it last week I knew that I had to share it with you…

Firstly, do you remember those Hypercolor t-shirts that changed colour with your body heat, so you could do something totally crazy like leaving your coloured handprint on someone’s shirt, only for the shirt to return to its original colour minutes later? Just in case you’ve forgotten (or you never knew the magic of Hypercolor back in the day), here’s a pic and a link to the Wikipedia site. (This also shows that there really is a Wiki for almost everything, yes?)

Oh, Hypercolor - you so crazy!

Oh, Hypercolor – you so crazy!

Anyways, back to the Gizmag find. It’s a variation on the Hypercolor theme – furniture for your home that changes colour when heated. Yep, if you put mugs on your table, they’ll leave a mark (which will then disappear when the area cools). If you are someone who insists that everyone uses a coaster, this concept may really freak you out – I’m sorry. Of course, it also means that your body heat will leave its mark – a handprint, your arms leaning over the table and, of course, your bum when you sit on the bench.

Thermochromic is the technical name for it, apparently. The mugs and hand prints are cool and fun to look at, but I really don’t want to be taunted by the size of my bottom, highlighted for all to see after I get up from the bench. Especially if I had a second helping of tiramisu for dessert. But I think the idea behind it is very clever and I like Jay Watson’s work very much.

Your mugs will leave their mark. [Pic from Gizmag]

Your mugs will leave their mark. [Pic from Gizmag]

Handy. [Pic from Gizmag]

Handy. [Pic from Gizmag]

It's almost spooky - there you were. [Pic from Gizmag]

It’s almost spooky – there he was. [Pic from Gizmag]

You can check out the Gizmag post here and the ‘Linger a Little Longer’ collection (amongst others) on the Jay Watson design site here.

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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.

Quackers.

Quackers.

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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Inspiring stuff, Sydney

Hello. I’m back. Nice to be with you again. Thanks to those of you who asked OI, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOUR BLOG? I appreciated the nudge and it’s really lovely to know that you noticed my absence. In truth, I’ve been home from my travels for a week and a half now, but I hadn’t really been inspired to get back to blogging. Maybe it was the cold that I picked up during my last days in NYC; maybe it was running around catching up with family, friends and work stuff; maybe it was getting through the shows that TiVo had thoughtfully recorded while I was away; maybe it was just a bit of a slump because the holiday is over & December is bearing down with all its festive fury (don’t get me wrong – I love love love the festive season, but there’s always so much going on).

Whatevs, I’m back now. And I owe the inspiration to Sydney. Yesterday was such a perfectly sunny summer’s day and as I wandered around the harbour, I was struck as I sometimes am by this pretty city, so thought I’d take some snaps and share the sunshine with you here.

No, I really do not miss catching a bus to work.

No, I really do not miss catching a bus to work.

Just for the calcium, I swear.

Just for the calcium, I swear.

As far as a view from public transport goes, it's not too bad.

As far as a view from public transport goes, it’s not too bad.

The bus stop. So to speak.

The bus stop. So to speak.

It is a pretty city.

It is a pretty city.

Best seat in town.

Best seat in town.

SydFlowers

And sometimes you even catch Cinderella just hangin' out, eating an apple.

And sometimes you even catch Cinderella just hangin’ out, eating an apple.

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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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Trick or Treating

So, yesterday was Halloween – the one night of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up at your neighbour’s door and demand lollies. I was lucky to be invited by some of my nieces to join them as they toured their neighbourhood and collected a bizarre assortment of candies in big buckets shaped like pumpkins. Good times.

The main unofficial rule of the evening are that you can only stop by houses that have decorations outside, showing that they’re on board with the whole idea. Although even the decorated houses participate in different ways – some welcome you to their door and personally hand out treats (with a few even making their own lolly bags), while others leave a basket outside the door or gate with a sign that optimistically suggests that you take ONE ONLY, and then there was the man who didn’t even open his security gate as he struggled to pass the kids their chocolates through the bars of the fence.

We had a good time and got a great haul of jelly body parts, eyeballs, jelly pizzas, sherbets and even some sugar-free lollies from one of the houses. A lot of people in the neighbourhood made a huge effort to make their homes spooky and really got into the spirit of the day. It was lovely to see so many kids of all ages (even the dreaded teenagers spraying their silly string) dressed up and walking around the ‘hood. Wandering around in the late afternoon sun, it was a really nice community feeling as people admired outfits and decorations while sugar-filled kids squealed and laughed – I think Halloween is a great excuse to make that happen. ‘Til next year!

OK, so these were actually our decorations – spooky eyes peering out from behind the gate. With horrible, sticky, fake spiders’ webs all across the gate, of course.

Scary stuff. This house also had grave stones and body parts scattered around the otherwise beautiful garden.

You’ve got mail.

A friendly Halloween house.

One of our skeletons, just chillaxin’ in the bushes.

Our witch – she has a frightening cackle when touched. But still not as scary as the skull hung on our verandah, which drops down from the ceiling when you clap – its horrible wail freaked out many unsuspecting people who followed our directions to clap loudly if they loved Halloween & wanted to meet our skeleton. And then they screamed. (Then they laughed, I promise – it was very funny to hear them as we sat inside eating our lollies.)

An amazing witchy pumpkin, hand drawn and carved by the girl across the street – looked even more incredible as it got darker…

And one of the highlights – my niece (7) had prepared notes for 60 Halloween potions (‘posions’). I was impressed by the range of ingredients – from monkey fur to cocoa to screws to garlic to wool to bananas. Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Countdown to Halloween

Halloween is next week. It was never a thing when I was growing up in Sydney, but now it definitely is becoming a big thing here. You can tell because the $2 shops are full of pumpkin-shaped buckets, wizard dress-up kits, bags of spiders and webs – and the price of the humble straw broom has tripled. Last year, I went trick-or-treating with some of my nieces, in the streets around their neighbourhood. It was a great community set up and people really got into it – of course, I was there just for supervisory purposes and to enforce good manners…but I did manage to sneak a jelly rat and a sugared skull or two into my pocket. Some of the residents were delighted to come out and meet the kids and admire their costumes – others must have felt compelled to join in, as they just left buckets of lollies at the very perimeter of their property, presumably so they could barricade themselves inside and not be interrupted by the neighbourhood goblins.

I’m not sure if we’re going again this year, but I really feel like I should make up for the lifetime of trick-or-treating that I’ve missed. I need to find a costume though – the danger of turning up without one is that the kids will say, “Oh, you came as a witch – good one”. And it would take a lot of sugary treats to get over that…

Jack the pumpkin (2011)

Milly the dog wasn’t keen on wearing her costume.

A monster arrived straight from tae kwon do (hence the outfit and un-monsterlike shoulder bag).

Witches and devils on the hunt. For lollies, not souls.

Some neighbours went to a huge effort. At least, I don’t think these guys are here all year.

Happy Halloween, one and all. And please feel free to share any pics or tales of your Halloween festivities!

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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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