Monday, 24 November 2014

Nicking Stuff from Nana's - Vintage Finds

I can't imagine decorating a room without it including some vintage finds. There is something about integrating old stuff in with your stuff that gives your decor a feeling of depth, of history, hmm, maybe even of a little mystery.

No one wants to be boring, right?

Now if that old stuff once belonged to someone you know, like say a family member, well all the better! Not only do the vintage pieces represent history, but it might be a history that directly relates to you. It's the sort of feeling and vibe that you won't find in a flat pack. Trust me.

So what are we talking here? Big pieces or small?
Well that's the great thing - it doesn't matter. Big pieces are great if you can fit them in, have access to them and want to make a statement. If you don't have any de-cluttering relatives (and there's no harm in asking, or paying them something!) then check out your local op shops, garage sales and online.

This Art Deco dresser, which came from a friend of mine who needed some more practical family-friendly furniture in her small house, had been passed down by her grandmother. Having used it for a time, she no longer felt emotional attachment to it. I however, took one look at it and felt instantly emotionally attached. We had just moved in to our Art Deco era house, and had a back room extension that was entirely empty.

This dresser, for me, has presence. It made a new room look instantly cosy, lived in and kind of grounded with the rest of the house. It has also become a mega-decorating centre - I change the displays regularly and we even managed to fit our stereo system into the centre cupboard (drilling a small hole in the masonite back for the cords). Perfect!

I have posted previously about the starburst mirror here.

Painting old furniture can be a great way of reusing old pieces and making them your own. I love following this talented lady, Fiona - who paints and restores old furniture for a living. Take a look at her blog if you're interested, she also holds classes and has many how-tos on her blog site:

Another piece of vintage furniture I love is this chair I picked up from beside the road (go to post here). I could have got the matching set if I'd been faster. But one chair was realistically all I could fit in, so I don't lay awake gnashing my teeth about what I missed. Well, not much anyway…

So many people told me after I blogged about this chair last time, that their grandparents had had a similar set. I see them in op shops regularly. They are super comfortable to sit in - and if you want to give them a modern update, here's a fabulous example I came across in a South Coast quilting shop. Isn't it superb?!!

If smaller vintage or retro pieces suit your space or style better, then there's no limit to what you can find/do. Old kitchen ware is easily integrated into existing collections - and can be as practical or decorative as you want it to be.

Tins on open shelving add instant flair and can lead to other pieces of a similar time, colour or style grouping together. Before you know it you'll have a cool display that others will be wanting to copy!

Floral china is timeless and sometimes under appreciated in this age of modern white crockery (although I am seeing more patterned china in the shops of late. Thank goodness). Mix it all up I say - add some fancy pieces to your plain set and see what kind of look you end up with. It may not be dishwasher proof, but pieces like these below are, quite frankly, a joy to wash up.

If you don't believe me, just try it. Yes it will take longer to clean up. But sometimes we need an excuse not to rush about.

You might find yourself taken with the idea of adding a little bit of vintage to your life.
It doesn't have to mean you'll suddenly be putting doilies under your teacups and serving jam rolls for afternoon tea.
But then again it might.
And that could be a good thing!

Oh YUM!!! This was NOT a supermarket bought jam roll. 
The real thing with real cream weighs a tonne and is so yummy you will be in raptures. 
WARNING: Weight gain is likely after consumption!

Tell me about your vintage pieces - big or small? Where have they come from and what do they mean to you? Have you modernised an old piece or successfully integrated something with a history into a more modern setting?

I have started writing for HOUZZ Australia! This is a fabulous website on everything to do with architecture, design, renovating and decorating your home. 

You can read my article by clicking on this link:

Join the site and download the app for all inspiration, advice, products and ideas - you won't be sorry!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Following Your Dreams


Following your dreams is something that the world tells us we should all just do. Whatever it takes: the challenges, hardships, sacrifices, efforts and pain are all going to be worth it.

Well, maybe that's true and maybe it isn't.

Either way, the earth is made up people willing to give it a try. Who don't give up at the first sign of hardship, or aren't put off by obstacles. And that's kind of encouraging.


I talked with a friend this week who is putting in a superhuman effort at following her dreams. She doesn't know yet whether it is going to turn out the way she hopes. She exchanged security and stability for an existence that is at times tentative and a little bit scary. Doing stuff without a safety net can be that way.

Another friend is following her dreams and so far it has been a hard slog. She is working hard at achieving her goals and has made inroads in to her chosen path that are impressive and substantial. Infact she's probably achieved more already than many who have gone before her with similar dreams. And yet. She doesn't know how far these efforts will take her. There are no guarantees of success.

I so admire these women for their bravery and wit and wisdom and flair and daring.

Where would we be without creative and courageous souls who leave the safe path and branch out in to the unknown?

Wouldn't the world be a sad and boring place if people only ever strived for well, nothing much?!

I saw this cute canvas in Kmart (below) and instantly wanted to buy it to put on the wall in the girls' room. I think the silver dots were what I liked about it most. The fact that it was only $9 may have had something to do with it too.

Then I stopped myself. Was it okay to tell my ten and seven year olds to dream? My cynical adult self was somewhere in my head telling me that the best way to save them from possible future disappointments would be to avoid the dreaming of unobtainable, unrealistic and just plain unreachable goals.


Then I got annoyed at myself. That cynical adult self is not me. I don't want to be that person.

I'm thankful for the inspirational people I know. For the carers, and the encouragers. For the creative hearts who bring a little sparkle in to the every day. For those who work really hard at doing some good.
And maybe others notice them.
And maybe no one does.

Here are the things I wish for those of you who are daring to hope. Who are chasing dreams. And yes, for those who have ever dared to ask themselves, "what if my dreams are crap?" but who can still laugh at themselves, and maintain perspective.
But who also keep on going. Because it is worth it to dream a little, or a lot.

Peonies are in season at the moment. Roses appear to be everywhere. Everyone should have at least one bunch.
Stop. Smell them.

ART: Something beautiful and inspirational to hang on the wall. Settle for a print if an old Master is out of your range..Visit a gallery even. It's a dream centre.

Charles Edward Perugini (1839-1918), "Girl Reading"
And take the opportunity to sit somewhere quiet, to stare out at something beautiful and to enjoy the moment. Hopes and dreams take time. Surely you can spare a moment? :-)

There are a lot of inspiring people out there. And they are not usually the loudest, or the showiest, or even the ones plastered all over the covers of magazines… Just saying!

Tell me, who inspires you these days? Have you found your dreams to be a helpful part of your life? Or something that hinders you from dealing with reality? Do you have a cynical self that tries to tell you cute motivational posters aren't worth $9? Or do you find inspiration even in the little things?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

October Is Over Folks

Is that a shark out there? It's always safer on the sand..
This last month has turned in to a blink and you miss it kind of blip on the calendar. Now I know there is lots to love about October - Anne of Green Gables said it best - but as Spring seemed to last all of five minutes before the heat of summer elbowed it out of the way… I'm kind of ready for November now any way.

Last Saturday we trekked up the coast and made it to the beach for an extended family get-together. Didn't know whether to be fascinated or appalled to watch the kids dodging sting rays in the shallows (mantra rays? sand rays? are they all the same? Somebody needs to google this and get back to me..)
I heard the same conversation going on all over the beach:
Are they dangerous?
Ask Steve Irwin…

At the end of the beach was a house. Not my ideal beach house. It was semi haunted hidden amongst the trees. Such a great spot. I couldn't stop looking, and wondering, and imagining myself up there, traipsing through the pines. Maybe even sipping drinks on that lawn.

Not the most glamourous of beach houses,  It looked a little haphazard, possibly in need of a big makeover. Suddenly I was thinking of oversized white glass lanterns, those oval shaped hanging chairs and lots of sea grass matting. Who could I get to reinstate verandahs? And new windows would work wonders.
Just saying..

In case the owners were searching for some inspiration, I'd make them look at this, just to get an idea of what they could do....

And I'd get them to buy this. It would look so great in an entrance way.


Here's the lantern I was imagining. Maybe about 50 of them scattered around.


And here's a cute toddler to live in the seaside house. With his mother. And family, obviously.

And we have ventured forth in to Department Store land to check out the Christmas decorations.
So the Myer Christmas Bear this year is called: ARCHIE!! Because I am a mean (and miserly) mother, I told my Archie we'd wait till these Archie's were on sale before buying him one.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Party time at Daiso

The Japanese dollar chain DAISO is famous for selling everything for a minuscule price (in Australia that apparently equals $2.80 - not sure whether this rather odd price represents a true exchange rate with a Japanese dollar, or not) is a mecca for finding lots of stuff - craft/kitchenware/makeup/stationery/food.

In my ongoing quest to declutter I generally go in there in a sceptical frame of mind. Telling myself I will find NOTHING there I need. It sometimes helps to stop me from filling up those cute purple baskets. 

But not always.

Last week I bravely ventured into find bits and pieces to fill party bags for a small do I was holding for Eleanore (who was turning TEN - eek! Seems like only yesterday she was turning NINE and EIGHT..) 

Daiso had the goods.

Firstly the party bag itself. There were numerous possibilities in an array of materials. I had briefly toyed with the idea of decorating calico bags myself. But as the invitations went out only days before the actual event, it was easy to remind myself that I'm just not that kind of mother…
Eventually I settled on a set of five printed plastic bags that were pretty and practical. 
Five bags for $2.80 - win!

Then, because the traditional lolly bag to take home from a party is no longer just supposed to hold lollies (after a recent trip with the kids to the dentist, this suits me fine..) I found some very cute notebooks that girls would love. They easily had 50 pages in them and are so nice I'm thinking they'd be great for school friend/teacher Christmas gifts.  

Picture from
I didn't take any more photos because, as you may have gathered, I was doing this all sort of last minute. 

Ellie made each girl a chatterbox (remember those?) out of lovely origami paper her aunt had given her. I thought this was such a sweet homemade touch.

and then in keeping with a sweet theme, I did buy a small amount of confectionary, so as not to disappoint expectations. 
What's a party without lollies, after all?

Picture from:

It was heartening  a week out to google ideas for a ten-year-old's party and find sites with so many other dud parents kindred spirits saying: Crap - my child turns ten in three days, what can I do for a party?

The answer my friend, is a movie and pizza night.

A sympathetic friend emailed me a list of "Top Ten movies for Girls" (will post the link asap) from which I googled reviews and then found one in our local video shop. It was Akeelah and the Bee, and it was great. We ordered pizza and I made a cake, which was supposed to be a flower. Enough said.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Catching Up

The last month has flown by with its usual car window blur of happy, mundane, scary, happy, headachy, and more happy moments. It's hard to keep track physically and mentally let alone in blog world, but I'll give it a go.

In mid-September we left for a three week holiday to the beach. It's nowhere flash. Just a small coastal town down South where we go to relax and play and recharge, after what has been a more manic year than most.

Except I wasn't feeling too relaxed. Mostly due to the fact that Master Three had broken his humorous bone three days before we were due to leave. The resulting two nights in hospital left me with one day to pack. Not happy Jan. Yes, I know some people are super organised and pack with lists weeks in advance (my husband does this so I know there really are people like that. Unfortunately he only does it for himself. The remainder of the family's packing falls on "last minute" me).

So there I was madly packing for myself and four children. In one day. For three weeks. And it had been freezing. So even though I was throwing in the swimming costumes and tee-shirts with gay abandon, I was also packing tracksuits, jumpers and jackets. Mid-September was feeling like mid-winter and there was every chance the three week break could be cold and rainy. So I needed all weathers.

We also needed the world's largest car luggage pod. My husband found it on ebay. He was deliriously happy with it. We joked it could fit all our luggage and the kids inside. Imagine, a car trip in blissful silence with masses of space?
It wasn't to be.

Setting off turned out to be rather stressful when my husband found that the luggage pod (we named it Big Bertha) was full, and um, so was the car. And we weren't in it yet.  I tried to hold it together while agonising about the ratio of coats per person. And would I need my raincoat from Finland at the beach? The kids tearfully agreed to cull their book collections from infinity to five. We reasoned with them that we could find new books there, and visiting the local library was a great thing to do on a rainy day.

With the engine revving we couldn't work out why Jesse still appeared to have no leg room. Ahh, that would be the stereo he had hidden under the 20 hardcover Agatha Christie novels. To loud protests and my red-faced husband looking increasingly like he needed a BIG holiday, we were off.

And we arrived to this:

Having a three-year-old with a full arm cast wasn't ideal. His balance was off and he lurched around bumping the arm, bruising knees and stubbing toes. I felt ready to book us both into the local hospital as a pre-emptive measure. Me for nervous exhaustion and Arch for an arm bone that had seemingly NO chance of healing without further mishaps.

But things improved. The sun shone. Arch got into the swing of doing everything left-handed, and the rest of the family settled into happy holiday mode.  Okay this still involved numerous arguments over cheating at Uno and general annoyedness (is that a word?) of parents trying to relax while dealing with constant demands for more food/drink/beach trips/stop-itch/new books. We concentrated on the view  and aren't ear plugs a great invention?!

But as the days stretched out to include walks along the beach, swimming (not me - I never did find my costume..) sandcastle building (with a plastic-wrapped arm - all good), bowling, ice creams, library visits and trips to our favourite cafe for coffee and pancakes. We chilled out.

We had to - the sun got boiling as spring started to feel like summer!
Dang all those useless jumpers and coats!

the view never got boring..

holidays are a hoot!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Tales from an unadventurous family

I've always been secretly happy that my kids are not particularly adventurous. They aren't that in to  sports, have a healthy sense of caution when it comes to outside activities (like climbing, riding, running, jumping) and are usually just as happy playing inside or reading a book than bugging me to take them to a park.

Did I mention I'm not a big fan of parks? I'll save that one for another day...

Arch playing near a big scary plant. 
Oh okay i know outside can be nice, what with the sunshine and the green grass and everything. But still. Anyway, I think we make up for it by all the kids loving swimming. They live for our annual (sometimes bi-annual!) beach holidays. We've got one coming up in fact and they've been talking about it flat out for weeks.

However I like to think that our normal everyday life doesn't involve everyone playing multiple sports, extreme situations or the kind of activities that would naturally lead to accidents.

And who wants those hey? (accidents I mean, not the kids..)

It was only this school term that my hazy sense of calm and well-being has been a little shaken. I posted recently about how Eleanore came off her new scooter, and  broke her wrist.
Just like that.

Now, with the end of term almost upon us, a mere eight weeks after Ellie's accident, and two weeks after the cast was removed, we have just been experienced a strange sense of deja vous.

Archie, our three year old, was playing happily on the trampoline with my eldest son. I'd been watching them. Not because I was concerned, just because it was fun to watch the two boys throwing balls and bouncing and laughing.

I stepped back inside. It was 5pm and dinner needed to be dealt with.
Cue the blood curdling screams.

Arch came inside, being half carried by Jesse. He was screaming and crying. There was confused explanations given. Apparently Arch had fallen out of the metre high safety netted trampoline. His crying continued. I could see bruising on his elbow.
I thought a bath might calm Arch down.
It didn't. I dressed him carefully, he was saying the arm hurt. A lot.
I put him on the lounge and looked into his misery filled eyes.
Oh no. I knew what this was. I had been here before. And not that long ago either.

The patient
I now write three days after the event.
We spent two nights at the Children's Hospital and Arch had to have surgery on a broken humerus. Why that bone is called something that sounds like it should be funny, is beyond me.

One thing a Children's Hospital will do for you though, which is not such a bad thing, is give you a bit of life perspective.

We shared a room with three other sick boys and their Mums. Sleep wasn't really an option.
Two toddlers had broken femurs. That meant they each had a leg suspended with weights and pulleys. Sometimes they were happy, and occasionally they were quiet. Much of the time they were wretched. Then there was the ten-year-old boy in the bed next to us. He had been diagnosed with a disease at seven that meant the ball at the top of his leg bone had slowly disintegrated, causing his leg to continually dislocate. He had just had surgery to create a platform from the hip bone to bolt the leg to. If this didn't work, his mum informed me, they would try a hip replacement.

The first morning of being in that room I was feeling pretty bad. We hadn't made it to the room till after 1am. Arch cried himself to sleep, but at least he got sleep. I curled up on the seat next to his bed and listened to the boy next to us moan and writhe. A doctor was called to decide whether he needed further stuff done in the night. The boy went hysterical. He vomited, everywhere - while I sat curled up about 2 metres away from where he lay in bed, behind a flimsy curtain. Then I listened to one of the toddlers with a broken leg scream, for over half an hour at one stage, non-stop. His Mum sounded wretched and exhausted.

Our broken arm is a pain, literally. Arch has had good moments (he actually laughed as he went under the anaesthetic!) but has also been a picture of misery. We're trying to imagine ourselves on our upcoming beach holiday with this non-waterproof cast and orders to stay away from sand.

It could be stressful. But it really isn't, well, not much.
We're blessed. I can feel that.
Okay, two broken limbs in the one school term isn't ideal.
But there are plenty of people out there going through much worse. I just met some of them. And I know on a world scale of suffering, most of us are blessed to be where we are, whatever's happening.

I bought the Mum of the ten-year-old a magazine and a coffee and told her she was doing a great job. She in turn later bought all the boys in our room a cupcake. We chatted together and found reasons to laugh. I could see that each Mum was doing her best to keep their children calm while living in a stressful environment with stressful circumstances.

When Arch and I left I wished the other Mums well.
They were all looking forward to getting out sometime soon. I sure hope they do.

Arch, earlier this year, with his best friend, in a kind of park.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Begone Winter!

Hooray for the first day of Spring.
I know winter doesn't last that long here in Sydney. But it's been cold and wet for a few months now. Well many weeks anyhow. And we're over it.
The busyness of manic August, what with conferences a plenty, National Op Shop week, and the op shop instagram (#restyle2014) challenge (which kept me tied to my Instagram account pretty much 24/7) and rounds of childhood sickness that have just kept going around, and around, and around…tied with winter rain and cold has got us all longing for a new day, a new season.

So I am welcoming September with open arms.
We have a beach holiday planned - the first chance of the year to have a real breather, as a family, and escape from
a) our house with the mouse (he's still around, I think),
b) routines, and
c) everyday life.

NOT that I am against everyday life. In fact I'm a big fan. I have no wish to spend it pining for holidays, which are escapism, and not that real. But I do find that a small break from the everyday, makes you appreciate it more when you return. So that's what I'm hoping for. A chance to escape it, and then return to appreciating it more…

Here's a few photos of things we've been doing these last few weeks.
There appears to be a "b" theme going..which I might run with…

We decorated "birthday" letters to celebrate for a cousin.

Then, because it was a birthday, we got balloons:

Then we rejoiced in the blooms that started appearing in the garden. I seriously found myself walking around the yard muttering: Winter Begone! Winter Begone!
I had to stop. I was scaring the birds.

And then it was time for the Book Week Parade.

Pippi Longstocking:

and Anne of Green Gables:

and a dinosaur, which could have come from any number of books (Harry Potter, Eragon, How to train your Dragon..).
I wasn't complaining, the onesie was definitely the costume of choice for many a child (and relieved parent..):

Meanwhile, the weather was cold enough for Arch to wear a beanie. So cute.

And I got all inspired to do some baking. Yum, applesauce and oatmeal muffins. Comfort food if ever there was some…

And now, in case you are (southern hemisphere) and looking for ideas for the upcoming Father's Day. 

This book, (published by a relative of mine), is really creating a real buzz for many would-be beekeepers out there. Find it at any good bookshop.

Maybe your dad has gone all hipster on you? 
I must say that Koorong had a striking display of the Duck Dynasty dvds, books, plastic cups (?) and assorted memorabilia. I'm not entirely sure what it's all about - the blurb says it's Christian values embedded in hilarious Southern humour. 
The beards are impressive.
Or if the hipster thing is not your dad's thing, then beard oil (or shave soap!) may be just what you/he is looking for! Loving the packaging on these great products.
Be Brave.
Be Bold.
Or just Be (happy!)