interiors

Life at mine

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Lonely gold shoe // Christmas already? // A tale of two cities: New York and Melbourne // First face paint // Mummy Pig // Celebration in stock // Typewriters in the city // Ralph is crawling now. Can you tell? // Boys' night // "Hey Mummy I writing your name" // Afternoon light

I'm taking inspiration from The Veggie Mama for this post. What's been happening at your place?

8 things I loved at the Grand Designs Live Home Show

I am super grateful to the folks behind the Grand Designs Live Home Show in Melbourne for sending me tickets to this event on the weekend. Here are eight things I spotted at the show that I really wanted to spend my (sadly non existent) money on. grand-designs

Clockwise from top left: This sweet set of four animal wooden spoons from Anrol Designs :: Painted geometric coasters from Amindy :: Hand carved and painted stoneware cups from Koa :: Lightweight, wooden K bowls, from Eco Wood Design :: An "eyoi yoi" table lamp (I used to have an eyoi yoi floor lamp that I loved) from Marc Pascal :: Humble milk crate tables & chairs made lovely with wooden tops, from Sawdust Bureau :: Shadowbox shelving from Cantilever Interiors  :: An image created from the text of an entire book, from Spineless Classics

(A little note about the pics: I did take my camera along to snap photos while I was there, but the combination of limited natural lighting plus the wearing of a toddler in the Ergo did not a steady hand nor pretty picture make. So to do these lovely products justice, I've used images from the makers' or vendors' websites.)

Stuff and simplicity

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At any given moment, if you were to pop around to our house unannounced, there would probably be piles of washing waiting to be folded and put away, overflowing the green chairs in our hallway. As you stepped over the plastic toys and pushed passed the jolly-jumper hanging from the door frame and waded through the various baby-bibs cultivating dribble and milk and browning banana and finally made it to the playroom, your feet would probably crunch over a thick layer of dry Weetbix crumbs. Madeleine likes to crush her own Weetbix each morning before the milk goes on and, as much as I'd like you to think otherwise, I do not vacuum every day.

If you looked inside my handbag on any given day you might find, nestled in with the purse and keys, a couple of broken crayons, a half-empty container of bubble liquid, a sippy cup, yesterday's gummed-up rusk in a zip-lock bag, and about a thousand used tissues.

The sheer amount of stuff involved in modern parenting staggers me, and accepting at least some of that stuff into my life and home was one of the most difficult transitions I had to make as a parent. (When I lived alone, I would actually take pleasure in adjusting a book on a table until the seemingly 'casually-put-down' angle was just right. Yes, I am that person.) As someone who likes everything to have a purpose and a place, and as someone whose home is also her workplace, cumulative kid-detritus can quickly feel overwhelming.

While I was pregnant with Madeleine I had plenty of noble ideas about children in "the olden days" not needing all the STUFF that our consumer society deemed necessary today, and that I would make up in interactive play for what we limited in toys and things. But as any parent could have told me, stuff creeps in. And some of it, while not strictly necessary, does actually make your life easier. Parenting two small children while working, and on extremely limited sleep, is tough. It is tempting to take the easy way, to let the stuff in because it saves five minutes here or buys 10 minutes of peace there. I'm not going to feel guilty about that.

But not all stuff makes life easier. Some stuff just gets in the way. In the way of creativity, of clear-thinking, of mental health, of the path to the kitchen. And some stuff might be good stuff but when combined with about a billion other small pieces of "good stuff" it becomes bad stuff. Claustrophobic, messy, over-crowding, unwelcome stuff.

Last week was not a good week around our place. For various reasons were were all stretched, capacity-wise, and tempers began to fray. By Friday afternoon, my subconscious had somehow centred the entirety of my own unravelling temper on all the stuff in our house. It was driving me crazy. WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF I CAN'T BREATHE IN THIS HOUSE. And so I started on a paring-back rampage.

It was cathartic in a way that probably should have been predictable. I worked until late that night on the playroom, sorting out toys to give away or throw away, putting some in a cupboard out of rotation, and bringing others out. At the end of it I'd removed two giant garbage-bags worth of toys and other bits and pieces from the room, and Madeleine's previously overflowing toy-box was only one third full. When she came down in the morning, she was thrilled. There were her favourite toys, easy to find. Here were some "new" toys she'd never discovered because they'd been buried under all that stuff. Harry had his own little cart in which to store his toys, and Madeleine quickly cottoned on to putting Harry's toys away whenever they were dropped.

That afternoon, Madeleine lined up her two dolls in chairs next to Harry, pulled a collection of books from the shelves, and proceeded to "read" to all three babies. I hid in the kitchen, sipping a cup of tea while leaning on the bench, and listened to the stories. Later we pulled out the paints, one of Madeleine's favourite activities, and it was approximately 78 percent less stressful than usual for me because with the room so much cleaner and more organised, the combination of two-year-old and brightly coloured paints didn't seem anywhere near as chaotic.

Not once did she ask where all her stuff had gone.

Little things - the cowboy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Little things in my home...

This pensive cowboy sits outside his restaurant and on my kitchen bench. I found his photograph in a bric-a-brac shop in Aspen, Colorado, when I was staying up there for a fiction writer's course (called Aspen Summer Words - if you ever get the opportunity take it - it was amazing!).

I almost didn't share the cowboy today because the whole purpose of this series is to tell the stories behind the little things in my home. Like this. Or this. Or this. And I don't know the story of this cowboy. Nor have I created a story for him since bringing him home. But I am so deeply drawn to this picture, and I don't even know why. I never tire of looking at it, or thinking about it, and wondering what is his story? What is the story of this new town?

Little Things” is an occasional series about the stories behind some of the little things you’ll find around my home. Are there stories behind the little things in your home? I’d love you to tell me about them! Or if you’d like to join in and write a post like this of your own, don’t forget to share a link to it so I can read it.

Hello and links on Monday

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Scenes from my house.

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty simple. I worked most of Saturday, while Mr B played with the kids. They did painting and went to the park and baked chocolate pudding and generally had a great time letting nutrition and nap times go to seed. I got my hair done too, back to blonde baby! We went for a walk through Carlton in the stunning winter sunshine, linking one park to the next for Madeleine's sake. We ate yum cha. We ate a nine-piece (!!) tea-infused dessert plate from Travelling Samovar to celebrate their first birthday. (We skipped dinner that night.) I tidied and sorted my office and finally cleared all my mess off the dining table (making room for these lovely flowers) and it felt SO good. I painted some more snail mail to send to you.

Here are 11 things that might make you happy today.

Giant knitting!

This drink sounds like heaven

Pattern on pattern. So cheerful

Beautiful!! This cloud lamp simulates a storm and plays your music (via Swiss Miss)

18 ways to get through winter

The world's first bike-share for kids (in Paris, of course)

Love these printable moving/housewarming announcement cards

The science behind old book smell

Exclamation points are the new smiley-faces

I really wish I'd been at this feast for 1200, at one long table stretched over a bridge

Where is everybody?

Have a great Monday!

Favourite things - loving lately

title-loving-latelyHappy Friday, friends. Oh and an extra big welcome if you're visiting for the first time from Pip Lincolne's blog Meet Me at Mikes. How awesome is Pip! Sending big love and thanks her way for sending YOU my way. I'm a Melbourne-dwelling mother of two, a journalist, an author, and a big fan of snail mail. If you want to say hi, be sure to leave a link to your own blog if you have one so I can come visit you in turn... You know what's really great about the weather being so cold you can see your breath in the air in front of you? Heaters and knee-rugs and ugg-boots and the kettle on the boil, that's what! So from the warmth and comfort of my couch, hands periodically cradled around a hot cup of tea, I bring you five things I'm loving lately.

1. For my home: hanging plants

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Lately I find I'm really hankering for plants inside my home. I long for the sense of calm they create, and the suggestion of health, clean air, and generally being a little more grounded (even when you live in an inner-city terrace house). Right now we only have one plant in the house, a beautiful terrarium that a friend gave me at Easter. And it's dying. How do you kill terrarium plants? I thought they were almost indestructible. Maybe I over-watered it, I have been known to kill plants with kindness...

Anyway, I think this mid century hanging planter seen on Justina Blakeney (via Chantelle Grady) is gorgeous in its simplicity and clean lines. Plus I love the interest and variety that hanging plants generate in a home. AND hanging planters keep soil and potentially-toxic leaves out of reach of curious little hands.

2. For my rainy afternoon: home-made crumpets

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This icy, wet and blustery weather calls for hot crumpets, dripping in butter and honey, wouldn't you agree? And tea, of course. On particularly cold days, Madeleine and Harry and I love to treat ourselves to crumpets for morning or afternoon tea. It feels all very proper and British, don't you know? One of these days, I'd really like to try making crumpets from scratch. If for no other reason than that I like the idea of eating crumpets any darn time I like, rather than only when I've remembered to buy them from the supermarket (which is not very often). I think I'll give this recipe a try some time soon.

3. For giggles: NYC survival guide

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These illustrations on how to survive life in New York have been doing the rounds of the Internet for a little while, and every time they cross my radar they make me laugh. During my time living in NYC I quickly learned that New Yorkers were short on time and space, so respecting those two things in others was paramount.

In New York, it doesn't matter how unusual or seemingly absurd your dream is: there are people who will know people, and they will want to help you. But I had to learn to make the most of every opportunity, because while New Yorkers might be generous with their knowledge and connections, they don't have time to hold your hand and cajole and convince you to go ahead. The rest is up to you.

That's the serious side. On the lighter side, you can buy the very cute and funny NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette book by Nathan W. Pyle on Amazon, or take a look at some animated GIFs of the same illustrations (click on each image to see the animation).

4. For my children: a balloon wall

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I bookmarked this fantastic balloon wall idea in the lead-up to Madeleine's second birthday earlier this month. She LOVES balloons (pronounced "baboons") and in the month leading up to her birthday party we discussed balloons at least every day. In the end I didn't create the balloon wall because I just had too much else to do for her TWO parties, and by the day of her actual birthday I think she had reached the point of celebration fatigue. Still, I am dying to do this. Maybe on another birthday. Or maybe one day, just for kicks. I can imagine the two children coming downstairs of a morning and finding a balloon wall to tear down. That could be a lot of fun, don't you think?

5. For my ride: handwoven bike baskets

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Do you ride a bike? I miss mine! It was a 1970s yellow Speedwell with back-pedal brakes and no gears, and it was precisely my speed. During the few months that we lived in Adelaide it really came into its own, because Adelaide was so flat and linked by so much green. I loved exploring the city on my little bike! I gave the bike away while I was pregnant because it wasn't the type that could be converted to safely transport little ones, and it was (and will be) a long time before I'll be riding solo again.

But the day I step across two wheels again, I definitely want one of these handwoven Asungtaba bike baskets on the front. They are made for House of Talents, an organisation connecting talented artisans in developing countries to consumers worldwide. (Also available from Anthropologie)

That's it for Friday folks. I hope your weekend is shiny and happy!

 

ps. Some posts you might have missed if you're new here...

* Melbourne: have you been to Kinfolk Cafe? * Snail mail: here are 19 fab pen pals, and here is some decorated mail I'm sending * Mothering: I won the lottery * Making: these woodland picnic party invitations are quick, easy and leave a great impression * Nesting: the story of the snow globe * Art: Aussie artist Emma Lipscombe reveals where she looks for inspiration * More favourite things

What does your workspace look like?

home-office-1 What does your workspace look like? Do you like it clean and organised, or do you thrive on creative chaos?

I love those pictures of great writers sitting at their antique desks, all slumped and drowning under mountains of paper, with pictures in scraps pinned all over the walls, and old coffee cups, stacks of yellowed airmail correspondence bound in old string, desiccated red wine in dirty glasses, dusty armchairs, and dying, drying flowers… and they are invariably writing one or another of the world's literary masterpieces, you know? That would drive me CRAZY. Which is perhaps one reason why I haven't written any of the world's literary masterpieces lately. I can't even start to work until my desk is clear and my office tidy.

I'm the same in the rest of my living and working space. I can't stand it when the house gets too messy: suddenly everything feels like it's crowding in on top of me, I feel out of control and claustrophobic. Which seems a rather melodramatic sentence when I write it out like that, but it's true. That's just me.  First world problems, I know!

Anyway, all this is a lead-up to explain why things might be looking a little different on this website lately, if you've happened to have popped in to take a look. I've been having an autumn clean. I felt like my blog was starting to get a bit cluttered, a bit old and tired. I was uninspired. Like a dingy, messy old office, my blog needed a fresh coat of paint and some creative storage solutions. Some white space to make it feel clean and fresh. And some nice pictures on the walls to inspire me when the fog of creative block descends.

What do you think? Do you like it? I renamed the blog "Naomi Loves," because this space is all about the things I love. I painted a new header in bright patterns and colours, because they make me happy. My enormously talented friend Brandi Bernoskie tweaked these things to make it all work. I've made it much easier for you to subscribe to receive updates via email, if that's your thing, with a simple box on the sidebar. And there is some exciting content in the works, not the least of which that book I was telling you about!

Now, tell me about your workspace (online or offline). How do you make it somewhere you want to be?

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ps. Photos are old Instagram ones (remember when we all went beserk with the filters and the frames after it first came out?) of my home office in Adelaide. That was the most amazing workspace. I wish there was a way to replicate it everywhere I go!

Little things - the weather house

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALittle things in my home... This dusty little German weather house sat in my Nanna's house, on a little shelf beside her kitchen table, for as long as I can remember.

As children it was the first thing my brother and I went for every time we came to visit her. It was the Nanna version of a Magic 8-Ball, so long as the only question we wanted answered was "Is it raining or is it dry, right now?" When the air was humid, the little man would come out of the house. I always wondered why he wanted to go out into the rain wearing such short shorts... On a dry day, the little lady would come out.

Despite having just come from outside ourselves, we'd race into the lounge room as soon as we'd kissed Nanna hello, to find out what the weather was doing.

My relationship with Nanna was... complicated. There was never hostility, but we were not close in the way that a lot of other people are to their grandparents. There was so much that frustrated me about my Nanna, and I don't think I was always kind to her, in my head.

But it wasn't fair. Because while I rolled my eyes at Nanna behind her back, her love for my brother and me was unwavering. In her eyes, we were golden sunlight. We could do no wrong.

Before Nanna died, she asked us if there was anything in her home that we wanted. I asked for this German weather house.

It sits in my office and, every time I look at it, I remember Nanna's kitchen table and those childhood days before I got all judgmental and superior, when Nanna was just Nanna: a funny-smelling old lady who still wore her hair in rollers to bed, told us Froot Loops were healthy (because they were made out of fruit), sang silly songs in a wavering voice, and had a room full of oil paintings in various stages of completion (oil paints and turps caused the "funny smell," I learned a lot later).

Nanna's house was a Federation bungalow with tiny windows. It was quite gloomy but, in my memory, that little barometer is always bathed in light.

Even when the man in his utterly impractical costume comes out to play in the rain.

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“Little Things” is an occasional series about the stories behind some of the little things you’ll find around my home. Are there stories behind the little things in your home? I’d love you to tell me about them! Or if you’d like to join in and write a post like this of your own, don’t forget to share a link to it so I can read it.

Little things - hand blown bottles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Little things in my home...

The Global Financial Crisis hit New York about six weeks after I moved to SoHo in 2008. It was just in time to come AFTER I'd signed a 12-month lease on my apartment, effectively locking me into a year in a dodgy, six-floor walk-up with mice and bed-bugs, for a price that could have rented me a doorman building and an internal laundry, if only I'd waited. The crisis also hit the Australian dollar hard, which was particularly tough since I was in the US on a Foreign Correspondent visa so all my income was Australian. Suddenly, I lost 40 percent of everything I earned in the exchange, and that came after tax. The meagre savings I took with me on the move that should have paid for new furniture and everyday household goods that you take for granted (like dinnerware and cutlery and pillows and clocks), was almost completely swallowed up by currency exchange. There was just enough left to cover my broker's fee.

So, like so many people before me, I started my new life in New York by furnishing my apartment with an odd assortment of hand-me-downs, thrifted finds and found objects. A dubious futon sofa-bed, left behind by the previous tenant. A desk that a client of my friend's cleaner was giving away. An unbelievably-heavy metal shelving unit, left on the third-floor landing of my building.

These three bottles were among the very few luxuries on which I splashed out during that time. They are hand-blown, and graced the window of a homewares store on Thompson Street a block or so up from where I lived. I thought they were just beautiful. The play of the three colours. The way the light flowed through some surfaces and bounced off others. How smooth and heavy they felt in my hands. I carried the bottles home and sat them the window sill overlooking my fire-escape where the sun, even during darkest winter, could do them justice.

There wasn't much I took home with me when I returned to Australia, but these bottles were among the first I packed. Carefully, tenderly, in reams of tissue paper and bubble wrap. And despite five Interstate moves in the 18 months that followed, this little glass trio has graced a table-top, a window-sill or a mantle-piece in every house I've lived since.

Our newly renovated home is still very much a blank canvas. You won't see many pictures on walls or cushions on couches or other little pieces to give it character. That's why I haven't featured before-and-after photographs or stories on this blog yet (that, and because by the time I've cleaned and tidied the house to a degree to which I'd be happy to photograph it for you, there's no time left to actually take the photographs). But my three New York bottles sit proudly above the hearth in our dining room, still gleaming like jewels after all that time and all those moves.

Until I came to Melbourne, I really hadn't felt at home since leaving New York. In each place we lived, these three bottles were my pretty little homesick tonic. Something both constant and lovely.

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"Little Things" is a new, occasional series about the stories behind some of the little things you'll find around my home. One day, I promise to share the big stories about our home renovation. Are there stories behind the little things in your home? I'd love you to tell me about them! Or if you'd like to join in and write a post like this of your own, don't forget to share a link to it so I can read it.

ps. Can you help? I'd love to know more about the artist who made these bottles. I bought them from a shop called Clio on Thompson Street in SoHo (between Prince and Spring) which has since closed down. The owner told me the artist was from Brooklyn, but that's all I know.