Posted in Arty sparks

Aye aye, Captain

This isn’t a political post – I’m not flying the feminist flag and trying to rally the sisterhood or anything like that. But I recently bought a print by Amanda Visell and just got it back from the framing shop. And now it’s on the wall, with its shiny silver frame and its cute drawing and its awesome message. I am my own captain. I reckon it makes sense whether you’re happily coupled, or a single gal, or a self-doubting chap, or an indecisive kid, or a black cat in a sailor hat. Or anyone in between. Since I can’t seem to take a photo of it without some strange reflection of my head or the lights or the ghost of Granny May, I thought I’d go back to the source for a photo. Then I was reminded of how amazing Amanda Visell’s work is, so thought I should share some of it with you.

I also like I am a maverick, from the same print series, but since I am really more of a goose than a maverick, I didn’t think it was quite right for me. There is also a chick in chain mail on a horse, with the message I can save myself. And then a crazy looking hairy monster that says I am wild. I’m happy with my choice because I like what it says (to me, anyways) – essentially, you’re in charge of you.

But Amanda doesn’t just paint quirky stuff, she also makes quirky stuff, out of metal or vinyl or wood. Like this incredible sea horse (with passenger), which I love. Or everyone’s favourite pet, the pterodactyl (flying a kite). Or limited edition elephants or crocodiles, each with a BIG  personality and a story to tell.

Amanda has a website and a blog, but she sells her stuff on Switcheroo – it’s well worth a look!

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.

Posted in Fashion Sparks, Sparks in the wild, WWWhat?

Foul Weather Friend

I am lucky to work with Jo, a lovely lass who shares my interest in all things wacky. Last week, we were talking about the amazing Samurai Sword umbrella that I wrote about here recently. And Jo started reminiscing about a special sort of umbrella that she had seen somewhere. I listened politely, thinking that it surely couldn’t be as good as the Samurai Sword. Then Jo sent me a website link. And I was momentarily speechless. IT’S A HANDS FREE UMBRELLA.

Nubrella Inc. is a New York company that has patented this space-age looking ‘weather protection device’, which they claim takes over where the traditional umbrella stops! And there are more exclamations where that came from: Nubrella blocks windchill! A far safer and more reliable product! Can be used completely hands free! All supported by fantastic photos of the Nubrella in action – in the snow, in gale-force winds, in torrential rain: look ma, I can talk on my mobile phone AND wave to a passerby AND stay dry all at once!

Although we all know that nothing this great comes easily – there are tutorials on how to open your Nubrella and how to close your Nubrella. And the man in the photos does appear to be concentrating quite hard as he sorts out his weather protection device.

But once your Nubrella has popped open, you just drop it over your head and adjust the shoulder straps and supports. It’s transparent, so you can just walk straight away and see where you are walking all of the time. And according to a slightly bizarre comparison on the website: The result is an eye catching new aerodynamic design that many are saying is simply a better “mousetrap”.

A better mousetrap it may be, but I think it’s so much more. Wouldn’t the world be a better place – a funnier place, at the very least – if your neighbourhood was full of Nubrella People? At around $50 per device, it’s a bargain: umbrella, hat, stylish personal-space-preserving-bubble and mousetrap in one. If you’re tempted, the dream starts here at Nubrella HQ.

Posted in WWWhat?

Thanksgiving, every day

“Leah Dieterich’s mother always told her to write thank you notes. So she does. To everything. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude.”

Leah collects the notes on her website, which is a nice place to look every now and again (or every day, if you’re so inclined) for reminders about the little things that are good.

The happiness / positive psychology experts say that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness, but I like that Leah’s website doesn’t get too deep or preachy about that. Hers is more of the quirky thank you – to the people, things, places that you mightn’t normally think about. Like using your toothbrush, three day weekends, coffee and Mariah Carey. Leah’s website is here if you want to have a look.

Posted in WWWhat?

Face it

I stumbled across this guy on a Sunday afternoon stroll through the virtual world and thought it was a story worth sharing. Essentially because he has a cool name and a funny face and a crazy idea. An irresistable combination!

Jack Blankenship is a student at the University of Alabama and he recently became something of a late night talk show celebrity in the USA due to his genius idea of bringing a giant cutout of his face (twisted into a pretty kooky expression) to college basketball games to distract the opposing team. Not sure where he puts his Face when his team is scoring (cos that Face will take everyone’s focus off the game) and I haven’t seen stats on the University of Alabama’s success rate, but I really like this idea.

And I see such potential beyond the basketball court… Babysitting troubles? Bring out that giant cutout of Cranky Daddy and that should do the trick! Productivity issues in the office? Hello giant CEO Face hanging from the ceiling panels! Worried about amorous teenagers on a date? Not when Grandma Annie’s frowning face is towering over them from the next row in the cinema! And if you could hook the giant Face up with eye-cams and speakers, teachers wouldn’t have to set foot in the classroom.

Nice work, Blankenship – am sure your funny face has a big future. I’m thinking of a “Just say no” sort of tie-in with giant billboards for an anti-drugs campaign or anti-speeding campaign. Or a new Happy Meal at McDonald’s. Something like that.

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