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 Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Home sparks, Sparky gifts

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.

Posted in Sydney sparks

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!

Posted in Arty sparks

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!