Friday, 27 February 2015

Fashionably Worn - Trawling for Vintage Treasures

My love of vintage started in high school. Maybe the vintage fairy happened to wave her magic (tarnished but still slightly sparkling pre-used) wand over me one day because I developed a heartfelt longing and appreciation for old books, old china and old clothes. Pretty soon my modestly sized bedroom was filling up with all three. Pretty soon I couldn't imagine life without these things!

Then over the years of trawling through opshops, scouring markets and styling what others (not kindred spirits obviously) might describe as junk - has been an at-times seemingly full-time and always enjoyable past-time!

So when I had the opportunity to review a decorating book for I dived straight into my bag for this gorgeous tome! 

Leigh-Ann Pow is an ex-associate editor at Australian Vogue and definitely a kindred spirit - she shares her secrets and tips on the best way to find, use and display vintage treasures. And probably because of Pow's extensive magazine experience, this book is a visual feast. It's as if we've been allowed to borrow her Filofax (remember those? The paper diary is probably considered to be vintage these days) and luxuriate in her anecdotes, notes, witty quotes, pics and collected cards from her favourite haunts. 

It would also make a great gift - who's thinking Mother's Day?!

So click here to read my review - I'd love it if you liked it and shared it with your friends!

And just last week I did something Pow would be proud of. It was council cleanup. In our suburb the Council allocates a week four times a year where householders can put their unwanted goods/furniture/junk (yes rubbish, but not the sort you put out weekly in your ordinary bin), out on the footpath. Sometime during that week big trucks will come to collect and crush the piles and take them away. Until that happens it's pretty much a free for all. Those of us who love rifling through other people's stuff look forward to this week like others might look forward to a birthday. We have been known to screech the car to a halt beside a promising looking pile, jump out, find something and do a small victory dance before hopping back into the car and zooming off. I'm sure I'm not the only one..

I spotted something a few houses away. It caught my eye because we have a lovely old table  in my room that we use as a dumping ground work desk. The chair we use with it is not that old, certainly not comfortable and most importantly, not that attractive. 

The girls and I carried it home (the timber and metal base is dead heavy - thank goodness we didn't have far to go) and we have been admiring it in the back room ever since. (It's actually not the first time I have found a chair on the side of the road - the last one was an arm chair I adore! Read more here.)

My husband was cautiously pleased. It does needs a little bit of work however, and his pleasure is likely to diminish if I don't get it fixed up before, I think he said Christmas.
I'm sure he said Christmas. There's no way he said Easter. 
Unless he meant 2016? ... 

And then, because Arch and I always like to keep an eye out for cute new stuff to add to and integrate with our vintage treasures, here's a few things we've found in our travels.

Okay, I am thinking Easter decorating here. Rabbit cushion anyone? Currently on sale in Myer.

Or these lovely cushions, in white and peachy pink with gorgeous gold foil spots. Only $10 each at Kmart. I actually added these to a spot-themed wedding gift I was giving to friends. They match the Robert Gordon china perfectly, don't you think?

Arch, who has inextricably taken a strong liking to Freedom Homewares shops, particularly liked this (on sale) Armchair, which looks to be straight out of Alice in Wonderland in my humble opinion. Personally I'd change the colour of the legs to walnut, or metallic. Just saying... 

And then, to end with vintage, I found this sweet gold banded etched glass jug for $5 in a local Vinnies, that fits in very well with the beautiful gold banded glasses we inherited from Jonathan's Grandma. 

Because life is too short not to sparkle!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Five Sweet $5 Valentine's Gifts

Cute 3D Card $2 @ Reject Shop

I set myself a little challenge - five cute Valentine's Day gifts for $5 each. I've had success with $5 gifts in the past so it didn't seem to much of an ask. I didn't mean to give myself a headache, I thought it would be easier than it proved to be...

I knew it could be done with sweet and stylish results. I was determined not to let it degenerate into something cheap and nasty. 

Firstly, I did what I always do and headed to the Op Shop. When your budget is tight (and with a $5 limit it's hard to get much tighter!) thrifting is the way to go. Here's a selection of the cute things I found:

I spied this ceramic brooch under the counter. $4. Woo hoo! I attached it to a chain, I love that it's kind of oversized (okay, it's actually a whopper!) and the heart makes it the perfect Valentine's Day piece! It came with the maker's card and her Etsy shop details. She's a Katoomba-based jewellery maker with some really lovely pieces. You will have to pay more than $5 (average price is $39 per piece) but I'm the only one sticking to this ludicrously minimal amount of cash, so you should definitely take a look!
Check out Mrs Peterson Pottery.

Then I found this pristine picture book complete with sealed cd inside the back cover - for $4!! The illustrations are so lovely (worth framing!) and any child of the 70s (hello!) can sing the song whether a BJ fan or not! I must admit to having a small BJ thing going at some stage in my high school years…
I have a friend who just visited New York at Christmas time. I'm going to give her this book and if she wants to give it to her husband (or herself!) for Valentines Day I'll be even more pleased! 

All of these vessels plus the tray were under $5 each. The white one is vintage Wedgwood so I was pretty happy with it. The silver jug is a great shape and works just as well as a vase as it would as a milk jug for high tea. The little red ceramic bowl is a french-inspired design that I've seen in homewares shops before. I added some pot pouree but now I'm thinking heart shaped cookies would also look pretty good.
Give one or give a few - little bowls and vases are perfect for storing bits and bobs, rings or flowers. Frankly the more the merrier!

Then in my quest for $5 treasures, I tried the supermarket chain Aldi and found these totally gorgeous potted roses. They were originally priced at $5.99 so I was prepared to fudge it a little. At the counter it scanned for $2.99 so no fudging was required. I call that a win!!

Then I tried DAISO where everything is, that's right, $2.80. There were a couple of heart shaped bowls that weren't too bad. And the little tea light glasses were totally cute. I guess the thing is, when you've managed to find vintage Wedgwood at the op shop for under $5, Daiso looks a little, um, cheap. And I am trying to keep this classy. So if in doubt, stick with their notebooks, which are totally sweet and good value for money. Japanese stationary is definitely a WIN! The floral pegs are lovely and I bought those straight away because you can never have too many floral printed pegs, for bunting and pinboards..

The Reject Shop is always good for bargain, but I was a little disappointed that nothing stylish seemed to be on offer for Valentines..

All I could find with my budget fixed tight, were these kind of cute Jelly Cup Pigs (you can sense my desperation) that were on special for $2 and then these little bird and butterfly wooden hanging things for $5. When the Wonka Big Boxes of Rainbow Nerds caught my eye I knew it was seriously time to get out..


Do you have a place where you know you can get great cards for a good price? I discovered a chain of tobacconists years ago were stocking supplies of English and European printed cards and selling them for $1 and $2 each. Over the years I've bought stacks from them (yes Mum, propping up the evil empire I know, um sorry about that) and used them for every occasion, including as invitations for my Swish Soiree a couple of years ago. Actually that card range by ZoZo the Magic Queen are still my favourite, and would work perfectly for Valentine's Day too. Don't just send them, frame them! They're so sparkly and snazzy and I just love them!

Here's a selection of what I found.

Other gift ideas for $5 and under:

  • Chocolates - a little boring maybe, but pretty much universally liked! Try little tins or boxes (Lindt and Ferrero Rocher have some nice gift packs) that are stocked this time of year in the supermarket. Better still buy a bag of your Valentine's favourite sweets and put them into a nice jar (I keep the french Bonne Maman jam jars with their red and white lids just for things like this!). Tie a ribbon around the lid and it's practically a home-made gift!
  • Try a plant nursery for a little pots of colour (sometimes 3 for $5 is on offer) - pansies are always gorgeous or even a little fern - wrap in brown paper and tied with a bow - will look wonderful on somebodys desk.
  •  Make cupcakes - gorgeous cake wrappers can be found in $2 shops for $2 (!) and you can ice them in rainbow colours or in pink, red and white for a traditional heart-felt gift. Add a card with a quote such as: Romance is the Icing, but Love is the Cake - Julia Child.
  • Cookie Cutters - birds, hearts, crowns, moustaches.. put a few in a bag and a heart-shaped tag saying: "People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People. Julia Child" or, my personal fave: "When You're Down and Feeling Worse, Keep a Cookie In Your Purse."
Love this Houzz Story for more ideas: Easy Valentine's Day Touches (Even the Unromantics Can Do)

So I'm hoping you're a little inspired to buy or make someone you care about a little $5 something, or even shout yourself (cause that's funner)? Tell me what $5 got you!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to School They Go...

Okay, I'm not really singing about the fact that after almost eight (eight, yes, EIGHT!) weeks of summer holidays the kids are finally (yes, finally!) back at school. I may have whistled once or twice, inadvertently. But that could have been for any number of reasons. Truly..

Everyone was very happy to go back and then of course I was struck with a moment of guilt at the fact that not one out of four children seemed sad to see me go. Possibly because they knew they'd see me again a mere (I repeat MERE) six hours later (is that normal? Was a school day always this short?) but I decided to drown any feelings of fruitless mother guilt in coffee straight after drop off and that helped a lot. (more on the coffee in a bit)

I would have put the cute video of this familial scene below up on the blog, but unfortunately the moment this was taken, Arch dropped his sign and when Ellie tried to help him pick it up he hit her, screamed (I kid you not) "Leave my sign alone sucker!" and then it pretty much all went pear-shaped.

Sigh. Eight weeks..

So let's just enjoy the moment of happy serenity captured in this shot and be forever thankful that technology hasn't reached Harry Potter standards yet and that therefore NO ONE IS MOVING!!! (or hitting, or crying, or screaming..)

And speaking of serenity, anyone might think all I've been doing since school returned, was to sit in coffee shops on my own savouring the peace and quiet, talking to no one, taking no one to the toilet (50 miles away), mopping up spilt baby chino and, well, they might just be right.  I will admit that I have sat occasionally drinking caffeine (bliss) and taking stock and reflecting on all that has been (8 weeks..) and all that will be in 2015.

Before rushing off to write my next Houzz story anyway. (More on that later too.)

My array of floral tunics seems endless, I know.

note that cup says OB not OD!

So here are my latest happy decorating discoveries. I'm only just getting back in to the swing of things - you know taking it slow, didn't want to shock my system too much (8 weeks….)

I'm kind of going crazy for Kmart at the moment. Their decorating range is well, pretty good. And if you're on a tight budget, you'll have plenty to get excited about. 

These dear deer cushions are $7. There is matching bed linen, and I forgot to take a photo because I think I must have been hyperventilating. Who doesn't love a deer? 
So here's the one that didn't get away, safely back at my house. Sooooooo cute. 
I may have to go back for the rest of the herd….

And then I had to pick up this wooden box sign for $9. It's a saying I like to remember (may have even chanted it through some of the past eight weeks) because frankly when the house is a big mess and that friendly game of monopoly you foolishly suggested as a way of promoting sibling bonding has turned into flying accusations and high-pitched wailing (note, the sign says "little things" not necessarily "little kids" - just thought it was worth pointing that out), remembering to enjoy the small things - like, a cup of coffee…makes a whole lot of sense.

And seeing it in snazzy gold lettering makes me smile.

And then if like me, you love decorating with letters, and symbols, and all things typographical, you'll be just desperate to get your hands on one of these:

It's $15 and available online

And then there's these gold circle pots which would make any indoor plant sing!

It's $10 and available online
And then these on trend side tables (yellow sadly not available online as I write) are just so happy and handy I kind of want to put one everywhere..

$29 and available online in white

So, if you didn't catch my Australia Day article on 30 Sights to Make You Proud To Be An Australian, I'd love you to click on the link and have a read.

This was one of my favourite pics from this year's Australia Day festivities (read about previous years here). The weather wasn't great and we missed the great ferry boat race entirely - but we spent the day with dear friends and Mim wore Aussie flags on a headband and a cute bandana and we all had fun together. 

Enjoying the little things...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Summer Holidaze

I dragged the kids to our local book exchange the other day. Actually they don't need dragging. There is a lolly store directly opposite, so even #4 who is least interested in the books (on account of not being able to read yet) is happy to go - as the promise of being able to choose something for $1 has everyone bouncing with anticipation and excitedly discussing just what they will choose.

The state of their teeth after this holiday is another question..

The book exchange is run by an older lady with strong opinions. Opinions she is not afraid to share. I remember when 50 Shades was at its height of popularity (I'm assuming, no hoping, that has abated - I mean no one's going to see the movie, right?) a sign was posted above her counter - I think it was a printout of the book cover, which she had amended to say: 50 Shades of SMUT! NOT WELCOME HERE!

Its nice to know some people out there aren't willing to sacrifice their principles for the sake of a quick buck.

So anyway, we went to the book exchange because I was in search of earlier thrillers in a series my husband and I had begun to read on our beach holiday.

"He can't write you know!" The shop owner declared loudly as I perused the shelves exclaiming over how many titles this author had produced over the years. (Note I'm refraining from saying the author's name here - they're spy thrillers, so I'm sticking with the mystery theme..)

"Yes I know," I replied, giving her a small smile. "But after seven weeks of school holidays all I want is something formulaic and a little bit thrilling to keep me going. You can see where I'm coming from?"

"I do". She said, smiling.

So here we find ourselves at the tail end of approx. seven weeks holiday. It is two weeks since we returned from our beach holiday and it is two days until school goes back. I've only just managed to restock the pantry (actually it's a cupboard but pantry sounds a bit loftier don't you think?) with Earl Grey tea bags for Jonathan and Russian Caravan for me... So maybe that will help me handle the approaching whirlwind that will surely be term 1.

Here are some of the highlights of the last 2 months (because my posts have been few and far between, I know):

In between what at times felt like constant shouting and crying (I've given up worrying about what the neighbours must think) I've been watching my kids grow up. Sometimes it happens without you realising it, and you look back at some old photos and get a shock at the changes. Other times the changing seems to be happening right before your eyes. 

My just turned four-year-old has started to write his own name, and to tread water in the pool. He is still sniffing his blankie so that is some consolation to me. 

My eleven-year-old has joined the tweenies. All it took was a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas and an I-tunes card to download some (vetted) music on his e-reader, and behold: 

He wore the headphones everywhere. Even when they weren't plugged in to anything.

Why didn't I ask for noise cancelling headphones for Christmas???

Meanwhile summery treats = happy children. At least until the gelato was gone.

Arch's birthday (the December birthday phenomena made slightly less painful when a pre-made and decorated supermarket cake entered the equation). Yes that's Lightning McQueen. $20 and worth every cent.

Christmas culinary favourites (old and new) made the festive season filling.  

A panettone coffee and berry bread and butter pudding was pre-prepared with ease, perfect for our large family gathering and totally scrumptious (I'll put the recipe up on my notes page, eventually.).

Even breakfasts get snazzier over summer. Crunchy cranberry and almond granola from our favourite holiday cafe (yes they sell take home packs!) served with natural yoghurt and frozen berries. 

And after the Bundaberg Spiced Ginger Beer sold out (before Dec 25th in most supermarkets, possibly thanks to me) we smoothly moved on to this lovely brew. Fruit is healthy, right!?

Days and weeks of chilling out, seeing friends, down times and up times have left us with plenty of happy memories and much to laugh and smile about - and I will. Smile that is, once I've forgotten the supermarket tantrums, early morning fighting, exhausting struggles to keep the house from falling into utter chaos and feeling like I haven't had five minutes peace in living memory!!!! But that time is coming....

So overall not a bad way to start the new year.

Is this Arch on a date? Sure looks like it!

Thankfully no occupational health and safety officers in sight.

I wish there were more random chalk boards in the world. Kids find them irresistible.

Sometimes you just have to settle for three out of four kids smiling...

And Happy Australia Day for January 26th! I'll try and post more on that prior to Easter, I promise!

I have a new Houzz story up now on 30 Sights to make you proud to be an Australian
I'd love you to have a look and like it for me!! We really would love to know your comments on what (if you are one) makes you proud to be an Australian.

And if you haven't already joined then you're missing out on stories such as:

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the Kids Go Back to School - super ideas on how to get organised and stay on top of things

Houzz Quiz: What Style of Kitchen Should You Have - I'm addicted to this quizz. The questions are insightful and even intriguing. The answers are inspiring!

The Move to a Well Stocked Clutter Free Home - as someone who struggles with the stuff and clutter issues, this was great food for thought. May even help me to stay off starring in the Hoarders program in 2015!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Cruising through..

Some years I cruise through Christmas in a happy flurry of festive food and cheer, cooking and shopping and decorating and wrapping. 
Other years the essential elements remain the same, but I handle them differently (like last year..). Small setbacks that would usually be laughed off instead cause sleepless nights and tense moments. 
Luckily this year was not one of those years!

Sign from Bed Bath N Table, gifts from Apple Core Living

Which isn't to say it was entirely stress-free.. But it was manageable, and much fun was had by all. 

This was Christmas night. Oh the serenity!

Prior to that, was the traditional period of cooking chaos. 

I found myself doing ridiculous things, like roasting and shelling hazelnuts. At 10pm at night.

But after coating them in a whiskey sugared glaze I knew the efforts were worth it.

The gingerbread cookie and decorating assembly line swung into action, with the prettiest results being eaten on the spot. Oh well.

I did rocky road in miniature (foil cases from Daiso, for $2.80).

And I made a chocolate meringue to die for! 
A minor Christmas miracle in the big scheme of things, but still one worth celebrating!

I rewarded myself by making a big batch of hot cherry sauce over honey and cinnamon yoghurt - a meal fit for any time of day in the Christmas season!

Here's a few of my favourite pics from the round of celebrations: 

I set up a hot chocolate station on a side table, that became everyone's favourite place to stop.

Here's how:
  • Group some of your favourite mugs (go with a colour theme like my pink/red/white or Christmassy styles if you have them) on a silver or decorative tray. 
  • Add some teaspoons (I used art deco ones I just happened to have). 
  • Place mini marshmallows in a serving dish, sugar swizzle sticks or any other food items that go with hot chocolate. (Hopefully you don't have ants… just saying).
  • Add a couple of tins of your favourite hot chocolate powders and mixes. 
  • If you have a Christmas pic you love (mine's from an old Zo Zo the Magic Queen calendar) why not frame it and place behind your arrangement to add to the look. 

Jesse as Santa at my parent's place.

Holly from the garden adorning tables.

Arch with his toy soldier cushion - love this.

Tea lights everywhere..

Cheap plates from Target that I fell for big time.

Handmade cards from my girls.

And a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Celebrating the birth of a Saviour never gets old. 
May you know His peace this Christmas time.

I'd love it if you liked my story!!