everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Being four

I don’t really remember being four. I’m sure it was a fun time though, before school started for me, but was well and truly occupying my three older brothers. I guess I hung out with my lovely mum and grandparents a lot. I think I must have gone to preschool part-time (maybe 3 days per week) and I do remember that place a little bit. I swear that War Memorial Preschool had front gates with black jail-style bars, but will need to fact check that (if the building hasn’t yet been bulldozed to make way for an apartment block).

Anyway, enough reminiscing. I’m currently enjoying a little holiday over in WA, where my middle brother lives with his lovely wife and daughter. Milly is four. And I’d better keep spell-checking as that gets autocorrected to Milky. Which would be slightly too wacky as a name, even for WA.

It’s fun to catch up with Milly, and I’m learning a lot. For starters, I didn’t know there were different varieties of Vegemite; or that tiaras make surprisingly practical headbands; or that the free Playschool app is actually really clever. In return, I’ve shown Milly the genius of the funny filters on Snapchat; introduced the celebratory fist bump; and generally complemented an already impressive repertoire of wackiness. We’ve watched some movies and read some books and done some shopping. Good times.

We highly recommend this book.


Spoiler alert: the book is mostly a hit because of funny sounds like these. Inducing snorts of laughter.


And you can never have too much bling. [Disclaimer: I actually bought this one.]


We recommend this movie – it’s like Barbie meets James Bond. With weapons like a glitter bomb, lipstick that turns into a tazer, a robot dog. Usual spy stuff.

So, I never saw the original, but this sequel was ok. The age old tale of the struggle between being a mermaid and a girl. Featuring the worst fake Australian accent I have ever witnessed.

Because four is the perfect age to rock a gold puffy vest around town. #gangstalyf

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Soup-er winter dish

So, I know this isn’t a food blog, but it is a blog about everyday things that add sparks to our lives – and in winter, I say that includes tasty soup. And when I was sent a new flavour of Pitango organic soup to try, I told myself that it could only really count as an everyday spark if it was delicious. It was, so here we are.

I really like soup in winter – preferably when it’s cooked by other people. My mum is an excellent soup-maker, even if she can’t be completely trusted about the ingredients. She recently gave me some allegedly meat-free minestrone and, when I detected something chewy halfway through and said “um, is this bacon?” she looked genuinely puzzled for a moment and then said, “oh, yes, sorry – I didn’t put that much in there, so I forgot”. Now, if the surprise ingredient had been chunks of lamb or beef, things would not have ended well, I tell you.

A quinoa & black bean salad made by my brother Jimmi. He threatened to release a cookbook called "Listening to Quinoa".

A quinoa & black bean salad made by my brother Jimmi. Ever in tune with the market, he threatened to release a cookbook called “Listening to Quinoa”.

I also like quinoa (‘keen-wa’) – sometimes known as the rich man’s cous cous (not really, I just made that up). Quinoa gets a bad reputation because a lot of fancy pants hipster types have adopted it as the grain du jour. Which is kinda funny, since our South American friends have been using quinoa as a key grain in their diet for – like – ever. The Incas even considered it sacred, apparently. Long before our local organic store started selling it at extortionate prices.

As recommended by EverydaySparks.

As recommended by EverydaySparks.

Anyways, I digress. Back to the Pitango soup that I tried – it’s organic, gluten-free and made in New Zealand (a description that actually reminds me of my blogging buddy Jo at This Sydney Life), but please don’t let any of those things put you off. The new flavour that I tried was vegetable & quinoa and it was very tasty – with enough of a hint of Mexican flavours to make me add a dollop of guacamole to my next serving. I could be a Masterchef yet, my friends!

Yes, those chives are from my balcony herb pot. And I made that toast. So I feel like I contributed something here (but thanks for the gifted bowl and spoon, Pitango people).

Yes, those chives are from my balcony herb pot. And I made that toast. So I feel like I contributed something here (but thanks for the gifted bowl and spoon, Pitango people).

I was just looking on the Pitango website (it’s here if you would like to check out their range) and noticed the claim that the United Nations has declared 2013 ‘International Year Of The Quinoa’. Maybe you keep track of these things better than I do, but I totally missed that – and it’s already mid-July. Must talk to my brother about that cookbook: “Listening to Quinoa” could be an unexpected global hit! In the meantime, this Pitango soup is definitely a winner. The proof is below.

Yum.

Yum.

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Slipper-y slope

It’s winter here in the southern hemisphere and, although the Sydney sunshine can sometimes lull you into a false sense of security, the colder nights definitely call for blankets and candles and Snuggies and slippers. Or just central heating, I guess, if you’re a bit more sensible. Anyways, slippers can often be a bit boring or make you look old before your time. So, I have searched high and low for some slippers that will keep your feet warm and your street cred intact. You’re welcome.

These “Men with Mustache” wool/felt slippers are hand made in Lithuania by the clever Egle at Felting By Eglut. And they don’t just look cool, they are built to last: “the soles of these felted slippers are coated with ecologic natural latex (liquid rubber)”. Which apparently means the Men with Mustaches won’t go slipping and sliding all over your floors. You can check out these Men and other great designs at Egle’s etsy shop here.

Or perhaps you prefer your slippers with a pun. In which case, it’s difficult to go past these Freudian Slippers (get it?!) at Find Me A Gift. And there’s a creepy surprise as you “slip your feet in and wiggle your toes to move the bright red tongue.” Uh huh. You can find them here.

And from the fantastic range at Monster Slippers in the UK (“for the animal in you”), these Brightfeet Slippers are pure genius. Gone are the sore toes from walking into walls when you’re roaming around the house in the middle of the night – these clever slippers feature lights in their soles, activated when your foot is in the slipper and the room is dark. These cool slippers and many more are available here.

If you or a lady friend are into hand made goodness, crochet, or just swept up in the current owl craze, you might prefer like these custom made Owl Mary Janes from Erin in Florida. They’re for sale at her Sweet Cheeks Gift Store on etsy. They’re bright and colourful and those beady eyes will no doubt see well in the dark (though they probably won’t be quite as helpful as the light-up slippers mentioned above). You can check out Erin’s fabulous wares here.

And now I’ve convinced myself that I need to upgrade my stripey slipper boots – though I never realised there were so many options…

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Some Sydney Sunshine (and a turkey)

Looking back to Manly Beach [EverydaySparks]

Today was a lovely day in Sydney – sunny and pretty warm for the middle of winter. The clouds were hanging around but not really getting in the way of the sun. This is probably my favourite kind of weather – and it’s even better if you are lucky enough to spend time out and about soaking up the sunshine, as I was today. So, for something different for this blog, here’s my morning in  words and pictures.

Winter sun at Manly [EverydaySparks]

First, I met my lovely friend Stef at Manly beach for coffee. We went to a cosy cafe next door to the legendary Adriano Zumbo Patisserie. It’s closed on Mondays, by the way – so it’s the safest day to be in the neighbourhood if you can’t resist the famous ‘Zumbarons’ (a range of very interesting macaron flavours) or other amazing cakes. If you’re not familiar with this Sydney icon, you can check out the website here. (I especially like Mr Zumbo because he has a Willy Wonka tattoo on his arm. Uh huh.)

Ocean pool, Manly [EverydaySparks]

On the rocks [EverydaySparks]

We went for a walk around the ocean path, which was full of mums pushing their babies in sporty looking prams – what a great way to exercise, chatting to your mates while you power walk around the beach on a sunny day, pushing around 15kg (of pram and baby).

We weren’t power walking though – just normal walking – and it was such a nice day that I couldn’t resist some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the way back. They had no customers, so really it was more about lending my support to the struggling retail sector. And charity never tasted so delicious.

Brush Turkey taking the high road [EverydaySparks]

Shortly after I arrived home, I went out for a walk/run (I’d be lying if I said I ran the whole way) in my new hot pink shoes that make me go faster. As I was running around the bush path to Mosman Bay, I noticed something on the path ahead. For a minute, I worried that I was hallucinating (maybe due to my pre-run ice cream). Then this brush turkey jumped out of the way and scurried into the bushes.

On the road again [EverydaySparks]

I’m sure I wasn’t running that fast – maybe it was the shoes that put him off. Whatever, he politely jumped up from the path, through the bushes and back down on to the path behind me. And then went on his way to do whatever it is that a brush turkey does with his day.

And that was my Monday morning.

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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.

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Hats off, dogs

Look, I’m no Dr Doolittle or Cesar Milan (I think that is the Dog Whisperer guy’s name), and yes, my own dog Goldie is in fact made of synthetic fibres. But even I can work out what the pug dog in this picture is saying. He is saying SAVE ME. This ‘custom snuggly dog hat’ is knitted by a lady in America, who has a shop on etsy dedicated to dog hats of various styles, colours and levels of humiliation.

From the mildly disturbing football-fan look on the left to the Parisienne style modelled on the right, this shop has a fabulous collection of photos that are just waiting to be made into a coffee table book. (Honestly, I found it hard to choose the pics for this post – there is an aviator hat complete with knitted goggles, a piglet hat and a flower child hat, to name just a few.) I know that people love their dogs (or ‘fur children’ as they are sometimes called), but I’m not sure that this is the way to show your affection for your pooch. Although maybe I’m totally wrong and there are fierce walk-offs at dog parks all over the world, with fashionista pups strutting down the (ahem) catwalks, vying for the attention and approval of other dogs and their ‘fur-less parents’. Maybe dogs love fashion as much as some humans and maybe they also like to look glamorous while keeping their heads warm. Maybe.

But I suggest that the Punk Rock Mohawk Hat is a step too far. Although, I shouldn’t judge – maybe dogs love robbing banks and starting fires and punching on in riots as much as some humans. In which case, when you stock up on this balaclava-esque hat for your fur child, you might want to check out the range of doggie suits for the Court date that surely awaits…

Jessica’s knitted hats for pugs (how’s that for a niche market?!) are on etsy and her shop is definitely worth a look. Even if you don’t have a (real) dog.

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Wild and woolly

When I first saw this photo, I was curious. Why is a guy dressed like Santa asleep against a tree, with a snake crawling over him? And what kind of product is this actually trying to sell? But the clever marketing ploy worked and I clicked through to find out more. I’m still not sure what to make of it. I don’t live in a particularly cold climate, so maybe this scarf is actually a really good idea and I just can’t see it. (Now that I know it definitely is a scarf, and not some sort of snake.)

The design is based on the story of Rip Van Winkle – a story that I probably should know, but am afraid that I do not. Something about a man falling asleep for 100 years, but I’m not sure who he was or why he did it or what the message for kids would be (get enough rest?) so I hope you are better informed than I am.

Anyways, this scarf beard is knitted with a wool/acrylic blend yarn and changes colours from black to grey to oatmeal to white. I take it that Rip Van Winkle wasn’t a particularly colourful chap. The designer claims that it can be worn at full length or wrapped around the neck for extra warmth. Um, I don’t mean to be picky, but this scarf beard IS 8.5 METERES LONG. I am not sure how you could wear that at full length, but if you do, please don’t catch a train. Or ride a bike. Or go through one of those revolving doors. Or get in an elevator. Look, if you are wearing the scarf beard at full length, best you just stay at home, weirdo.

The designer says this is a great gift “for the man who has everything or for the lady who complains of a cold face.” And presumably a great gift for people who like the challenge of carrying woollen tyres around their necks. If you know someone who fits any of those categories, you should check out Alexa’s shop on etsy.

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On fire

I like fire. Not in a call-the-police, lock-up-your-matches kind of way, but I do like being around fireplaces, especially in winter. The problem is that I live in an apartment, so any fire here is probably not going to be a relaxing, toasting marshmallows kind of affair. More like a mad dash to grab the photos, grab the icecream-maker, grab some chocolate and run. So I was excited to see these bizarre looking fire bowls on Fab.com – they’re made by Lumacast and they cost around $3,000 for a 32 inch ‘fire wok’. I like the idea of carrying the bowl over to the dining table to scare guests who think that you’ve overdone the Masterchef flambe and burnt their dinner, but apparently these handcrafted concrete bowls are meant for patio use only. Though since my balcony isn’t gigantic and already features one gas-powered fire machine (which also cooks delicious food), I think this will have to wait til I’m grown up and living in my dream house. With a hi-tech sprinkler system installed, just in case.

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A beanie, to be sure

Given that it’s the week leading up to St Patrick’s Day and we should be celebrating all things Irish, I thought I’d continue the theme with another great find from the treasure trove that is etsy. This “St Patrick’s Day Inspired Beard Beanie” is extraordinary and would make the perfect gift for any child, or person with a small head who wants to disguise their face. Created by Jamie in the USA, this is a practical way to keep children warm in the cold weather. And to scare their little friends and confuse their teachers and aging grandparents. Order your beanies from Momma B’s Hat House & More on etsy.

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Totally Foksy

Wherever you stand on the whole animal fur debate, this Silver Wolf Foks (yes, that’s how they spell it, they’re from Poland) is a-ok. Whether you’re inspired by the recent Liam Neeson scary movie or you’re just an animal loving fashionista, this is surely a must-have addition to your wardrobe/menagerie. Part pet, part scarf and all felt, with a special clip so that you can curl ol’ Foksy around your neck or leave him hanging free. From the new Felt Fokses range by wacky Polish designers Celapiu, you can pick one up via their fabulous etsy store for around $150.  The designers claim that the Long Foks version is “long enough to wrap himself around you in hundreds of different ways”, which sounds at once creepy and impossible. Whatever, I am very tempted to carry one of these around Sydney this winter. And I will sidle up close to people on public transport and in bars and tap them gently with one of Foksy’s paws. And wait for the screams.

If you must have a Foks, check out Celapiu’s etsy store.

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