shopping

Middle aged?

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PA026249Please add two more items to my list of Things My Parents Did That I Thought Were Really Boring But Now I Like Doing Too: 1. Looking at other people's houses, and 2. Going to garage sales.

I remember traipsing around Berowra Heights with my mother while she delivered pamphlets for a part-time job in the 80s, and she would get SUCH a kick out of looking at the way people designed their front gardens, the facades of their houses, even their letter boxes. It was kind of interesting but kind of boring and I never could quite understand why she found it so compelling… until I owned my own house.

On Saturday, as we strolled through the perfect spring sunshine and in and out of unexpectedly cool spring breezes, hand in hand with two pretty adorable children, through Carlton North and into the back streets of Brunswick, I could hear my mother's 1980s words coming out of my 2015 mouth.

"Look at what they've done there - I like the gloss on the paintwork on their fence," I said, without a hint of irony or sarcasm. And, "Hanging plants like that would look good on our balcony, too," and, "I don't like this street as much as ours but imagine how amazing it would be to have a big front yard like that."

Maybe home ownership makes us all middle-aged, whether we are six or sixty.

And also, garage sales. Oh my gosh. Garage sales were so bo-o-o-o-oring when I was a teenager. By this stage we were living in the bush without electricity and Dad was building our house, so my parents would scour the newspaper every weekend and circle garage sales, then off we'd go, looking for second-hand floor-boards and fence-posts and old generators. It became a truly monotonous way to spend the day, weekend after weekend.

But now! Apparently Mr B and I are little old ladies because there is nothing we love better than a garage sale, full of miss-matched teacups, old books, kooky clothes, 70s glassware and ceramics, and enamel just about anything. One of our favourite things is when the warmer weather comes about and all the students in our street host impromptu garage sales on the grass strip that divides our street.

Our walk on Saturday, through the sunshine and the breeze and past all the houses we admired, had a purpose. Our goal was to visit one or 10 of the several thousand garage sales being held in Melbourne that day, as part of the Australia-wide Frankie and Friends Garage Sale.

What we bought:

1 x quirky painted enamel cat-brooch 1 x succulent plant and pink-painted concrete pot from Pop Plant 2 x sweet, vintage little fruit-embellished glass bowls from Pip Lincolne 2 x chocolate and hundreds & thousands doughnuts from All Day Donuts 1 x jingly jangly (but a bit smelly) gold necklace for Scout 1 x truly hideous gold-glitter purse, also for Scout 2 x lucky-dip parcels (resulting in glitter transfer-tattoos and stickers, plastic dinosaur, rocket-ship pencil) 2 x adorable edible teacups made out of biscuits and lollies

What we resisted:

Seriously, you will never know what it cost me (other than money I didn't have) NOT to buy some of the amazing handmade stoneware, super-fine gold rings, limited-run letterpress prints, vintage Little Golden Books and beautiful vintage clothes also on sale that day. Budgets. Le sigh.

And so it came to pass that spending the day with the people I loved, doing things that my parents used to do that I once thought were quite boring, turned out to be one of the best kinds of days a weekend can throw out there. I guess I'm middle aged.

Or old.

Tea auction: tea + travel + home

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Stop the Press. The Travelling Samovar tea house is having a tea auction! Have you ever heard of such a thing? They will be auctioning off beautiful hand-crafted and vintage tea-cups, tea-bowls, tea-pots, trays, an honest-to-goodness vintage samovar and a host of rare and unusual teas, all collected personally by the owners during their global tea-travels.

The reserve prices are ridiculously low so if you get lucky, you could pick them up for a major bargain, just in time for Christmas.

The event kicked off yesterday and will run as a silent auction until the evening of 15 December, when they'll announce the winners at a special event with tea-infused drinks. You can bid via phone or in person any time between now and then. You will probably see my name on a couple of items (I've got my eye on that samovar!).

I popped by yesterday to see what was on offer and snapped some photographs for you, but the pictures really don't do them justice so if you can get to Carlton North in the next week or so, I recommend you go in and take a look for yourself. I really can't show how feather-light and delicate was the antique Japanese stoneware tea-bowl I cupped in my hand - it didn't feel real. Or the wholly satisfying weight and texture of the ornate silver Moroccan tea pot, or the stunning beauty of four porcelain Chinese tea cups, each with a hand-painted figure inside that seemed, honestly, to glow.

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* You can see each auction item here (if you can't make it into the shop to place your bids, they'll take them for you over the phone).

* If Travelling Samovar sounds familiar to you, you can read what I wrote about them when they first opened, and take a virtual tour, here.

And now for a gratuitous shot of the photographer's assistant wearing nectarine on his chin and a pink bowl on his head. Because, those chubby arms!

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Have a wonderful weekend friends.

 

To market, to market

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Do you have a local market? A growers' market has just started up around the corner from us, though I haven't had a chance to visit it yet. We love markets large and small at our place: the hustle and bustle - and fresh produce - of the Victoria Markets; the amazing ring of food trucks at the new Batman Market; the sheer colour of the Rose Street Artists' Market; and the handmade goodness at Northern Regards… just for a start.

Markets can inspire fierce loyalty, and I think that's kind of lovely, don't you? My friend Arrayah Loynd, an award-winning photographer, and her friend Jo Skuse, an anthropology student, are so passionate about their local St Andrews Community market that they have produced a stunning book celebrating the market and the people who bring it to life.

Called "Meet Me at Market," the book is richly populated with gorgeous photography and wonderful stories. The friends have a Pozible campaign running at the moment to raise enough funds to produce, print and distribute the book. If you'd like a copy, you can pre-order one in time for Christmas, here (there's one week left to the campaign so you'll have to be quick).

So tell me: what are your favourite markets?

All images are from the Meet Me at Market Facebook page, used with permission

Melbourne gift guide

Melbourne-gifts A good friend of yours is visiting your neck of the woods. What cheesy souvenirs do you give them? Here are six ways I'd like to welcome someone to my wonderful (adopted) city, or say "thanks for visiting" as they leave. Clockwise from top-left:

Toy Melbourne tram // Hook-turn mug // Melbourne skyline watercolour // Adorable greeting card // Pellegrini's tea-towel // Melbourne Precincts book

Melbourne dispatch - Das T-Shirt Automat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you like my new shopping bag? I sure do! If the design looks familiar, that's because it's a picture of my old typewriter that I once drew on a napkin, which later became the logo I use on this website (and elsewhere around the traps). I got the bag at Das T-Shirt Automat on Johnston Street in Fitzroy, my new go-to place for unique and thoughtful gifts (you have been warned). You can get pretty much anything you like printed here: they have bags, t-shirts, hoodies, baby onesies, cushions and all kinds of other things, but you can also bring along anything of your own and they'll do their best to print on it. Likewise you can bring your own design, or choose from the rather awesome illustrations in their books. It's all printed while you wait and the quality is fantastic! They'll even help tweak your design for you. Here's how it works:

Step 1. Just stop off at the t-shirt window on Johnston Street and choose a design or give the man your own...

automat1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Step 2. Wait patiently while the man prints what you've asked for. He will also manage any design tweaks you need while he's at it (he deep etched mine, and placed it properly on the bag)...

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Step 3. Et voila: your new bag, T-shirt, cushion or whatever else you ordered is ready! (FYI the bag was $20)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlso I can't wait to try out their other printing service: records! You can bring along a recording for them to press, or record something on the spot. I think it would be pretty special to send a spoken message to someone I love, on vinyl. Yes?

And another thing I love about this place? The "Das Vending Machine" looks like a gigantic bubble-gum machine. It costs $2 to have a go, and down will pop a big plastic ball. Madeleine loved it! Much more fun than those moving toy cars at the shopping centre.

Twist the ball open to discover if you've won something to be printed for free. If not, don't worry: there's a consolation prize in every every ball. Madeleine was given the choice of a plastic banana or bubbles, which was a tough one for her until I explained that the plastic banana could not be eaten. Bubbles it was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA big thanks to Live North for sponsoring our little jaunt down Das Automat lane! Just another reason why I love living in Melbourne's Inner North.

My very hungry caterpillar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hungry2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hungry4 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Summer afternoons with this little caterpillar are spent lying on the floor, face to face, smiling at each other. They are spent wandering around the back courtyard, looking at the plants and bees that cling to life in the edges and cracks alongside the tiles (we are yet to build a real garden). Summer afternoons are hiccups and spit-ups and tight little fists. Fat-folds and curly toes and dimples in the elbows. A big sister, one shoe gone, racing like a whirlwind around our little baby-mat of calm. Summer afternoons... and mornings, evenings and nights... are the slow minutes ticking through the nursing, just me and Harry and the sound of him greedily sucking. My hungry little caterpillar LOVES to nurse. All. The. Time. But that's ok with me. Those adorable, kissable fat-folds and dimples don't come cheap: they are hard won, out of pain and exhaustion and love, and they are my prize. You could say, if you wanted to, that all those long hours of feeding my hungry little caterpillar are turning him into a beautiful (chubby) little butterfly.

Wait for it...

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In case you're wondering, Harry's Very Hungry Caterpillar tummy-time mat in these photographs came from Target, part of an Eric Carle range that makes me want to buy All The Things. Harry has this lovely caterpillar jersey wrap, too, and I confess I also have my eyes on this play-mat, a box of socks, and the world's sweetest caterpillar-in-a-box toy. We are not merchandising-averse in this house (just ask Madeleine and her Peppa Pig collection).

Target was never somewhere I thought of shopping before having a family. But while I still love to buy local, hand-made and unique things for my children, finances and our specific needs don't always make that practical or affordable. Target has become my go-to place for a broad range of cute, hard-wearing clothes and nursery and kitchen items that I use for Madeleine and Harry every day.

So when Target Australia approached me to work with them on this post to help promote their upcoming Everything for Baby Sale, I jumped at the opportunity. They gave me a voucher to go shopping for Harry, and I put my Sensible Hat on, purchasing this video monitor so that we could keep both ears and eyes on our precious littles when they were sleeping upstairs and out of earshot (because it's not at all creepy to watch your children sleep. Erm). But then I saw the Very Hungry Caterpillar range and Sensible made way for Spontaneous. So anyhow...

Here are some more of my favourites from Target's baby range:

* Such a stylish, modernist crib (and the matching change table). Love! * Gorgeous knitted blanket in triangles * If I had another baby girl I would dress her in this and about 100 other rompers from the Catriona Rowntree collection * Adorable knitted rattle * This sweet little fox reversible quilt / play-mat

The Everything for Baby Sale starts on 30 January, and there are some big savings so if you need to stock up for little ones in your life OR find gifts for friends with babies, now is the time!

A simple Saturday

IMG_5648 IMG_6107 IMG_6113 IMG_6116 IMG_6121 IMG_6122 IMG_6128IMG_6125 This day happened a few weekends ago but I am so far behind on this blog it's amazing we're still in the same season at all. This day was a warm spring Saturday and it started out as I'm sure many Saturdays do for families all over the world, with a trip to Ikea. But when we arrived at Victoria Gardens we discovered Ikea didn't open for another hour, so we stopped for mall coffee (mall coffee! Why can they never get it right?!?) then took a wander through all the other homewares shops, looking for inspiration for our new house. Somewhere during the course of that hour, Madeleine managed to take BOTH of her shoes off and toss them away so, while Mr B went and got a haircut, I spent another 20 minutes retracing our steps and asking in all the stores if anyone had found one or two teeny, tiny neon-orange plastic sandals.

We made it to Ikea five minutes before opening time and, seriously, it was like the start of a race up there! Hoards of families and pregnant couples milled around the entrance with barely-concealed anticipation, before SIRENS sounded (I kid you not!) to signal the imminent opening of the store. Next minute we were off and running and following those bossy floor-arrows as though our lives depended on it. Time gets all warpy in Ikea so I don't know how long we were in there but, when we finally emerged, it was time to get on with the 'real' day.

Madeleine was as grizzly as only she can get when more than an hour overdue for a nap. So While Mr B took the car back home and organised our purchases, I pushed the pram all the way from Little Audrey to Carlton Gardens, where we were meeting up with our friend Tonia to check out the Finders Keepers Markets in the Royal Exhibition Buildings. Madeleine was asleep before I'd made it half a block. During that walk the day transitioned from freezing to positively balmy, and by the time we'd all met up at the markets we were starving and ready for a late al fresco lunch.

A quick walk through the park and a spot of illicit flower-picking (by Madeleine), across the road to Lygon Street, and we hit up our favourite dumpling central. I've always enjoyed dumplings, but both my pregnancies have sent me into dumpling overload. I dream about those babies! Afterward Mr B ordered Madeleine a baby iced chocolate to go (I knowwwww), and it was HUGE, but that didn't stop her going absolutely to town on it. By the time we got home she was soaking wet and coated in chocolate milk from head to toe.

Mr B and I disagreed on her need to change but I won that round so, a quick wardrobe adjustment later, we joined up with more friends and all headed up to the Travelling Samovar for iced tea and a second spot of illicit flower-picking (again by Madeleine) in their pretty little courtyard. (The courtyard is also pictured at the top of this post from a separate visit, because I couldn't resist showing my little gardening angel and Oliver the dog, so happy about his invitation to the tea party). Nobody was hungry for dinner that night.

And there you have it. A simple Saturday.

How trends start

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you noticed that so many trends these days seem to start with blogs? I'm not trying to toot my own horn here; I'm most definitely just a trend-noticer and not even a trend-follower, let alone a trend-setter. But I do read a lot of blogs and I have been noticing. Take chevron stripes, for example.

Oh look, this blogger has made a chevron picnic blanket, this one has a chevron throw draped over her couch, and that one has made herself a maxi skirt in bold chevron stripes. Suddenly, chevron is all over the Internet, and everybody loves it. Fast forward a few months, then open up a magazine like In Style or Vogue Living. What's on the runway? Chevron! What's that new trend that will "add a bold splash to liven up your living space"? Chevron! Wait a few more months, maybe a year. Oh hello, clothing chain stores and discount department stores, is that mannequin in your window wearing chevron stripes, par chance?

When you think about it, it makes sense. Before blogs, designers went to markets and explored other cultures and turned to artists for inspiration. They still do that. Only these days, a lot of those market stall-holders and artists and people from thousands of different cultures also have blogs. So designers can take a look at what they are doing, online. And for anyone who works in trends (fashion and interior design for example), this is a fantastic opportunity. Because not only can they see what creative people from all over the world are doing, they can also watch - almost in real time - how a decent-sized body of readers responds to each new idea.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was part of a group of bloggers who had the opportunity to hear from a Target Senior Stylist last week, a lovely man by the name of Ti who talked to us about the process he and his team would take when it came to designing new lines for Target's nursery range. And that process was almost bang-on with what I've just described.

They looked at blogs, of course, which Ti said were particularly helpful. "Because parents put lots of pictures of their babies on their blogs, so we can see what the babies are wearing, how their parents style their nurseries, and what's popular." They also visited markets, all over the world. Then of course they read the popular magazines, watched the TV shows, and so on.

It was really quite fascinating to hear what Ti had to say. For a big retailer like Target, they're not ever going to push the envelope or be first with the trends. But what they are going to do is try to read the trends and stay up-to-date with them, providing consumers with a mix of more traditional lines alongside those that are a little more contemporary.

Ti also gave us a sneak peek into what we'll start to see in Target's nursery range during the coming months. Would you like a hint?

Triangles are the new chevron (go figure!). Sweet, quilted-style blankets that double up, on the reverse side, as bright and vibrant play-mats. Bold and beautiful clouds printed onto super-soft blankets, in blue, pink and grey. Cute-as-pie dachshund prints and splashes of neon accents. Prints that pay homage to vintage toys like tin robots and rocket ships. Owls and pussy-cats. A colourful jack-in-the-box toy that, when it finally bursts open, reveals a Very Hungry Caterpillar.

As for colours, look out for new nursery things in teal, lavender, lime and coral, alongside the traditional blues, pinks, yellows and creams.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP1184359Some of these will be all over every store in Australia. Others will be tested in just a few places at first, to see how people respond to them. Based on consumer responses, they'll revisit, rework, and try again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne more thing:

I was not paid to write this post. At the end of the event we did receive a goodie bag, which was very sweet and generous. However, there was no expectation or requirement that we blog about this (although I'm sure they hoped we would).

I've been to similar events in the past, and chosen not to write a post. I blogged about it this time because I thought it was quite interesting to learn about the creative process behind designing a range of homewares or clothing for a big retailer, as well as learning about what's up-and-coming for the future, and I thought you might think so, too.

Melbourne dispatch - Rose Street Markets

P1124119On any given weekend throughout the summer months in Melbourne, you will meet this guy on the corner of Brunswick and Rose Streets. He spends his days ushering passers-by into the Rose Street Artists' Markets, a former junkyard just around the corner. Not wishing say no to a be-leathered, be-studded, double-hatted 'Tin Man' in a kilt, we dutifully took a turn into this haven of all things designed, crafted and handmade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP1124120OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis market has been around for close to a decade, and the Tin Man is such a dedicated supporter he has become a bit of a Fitzroy icon himself. After I asked if I could take his photograph, we stood and talked for a good 10 minutes while he crooked a little finger at Madeleine in her stroller, and she grinned her gummy grin back up at him.

The markets themselves are a combined indoor-outdoor space, dedicated to artists and designers who want to hone and sell their wares and ideas. I love seeing the fabulous things the stallholders create. Trippy fish sculptures suspended in resin, in tuna and sardine cans? Why not? Jewellery made out of vintage postage stamps? Why, thank you. Tiny planters made out of neon dinosaurs? Don't mind if I do!

There's also a rather cute little cafe, which I'm yet to test out but I'll be sure to let you know about it when I do.

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Home renovation for toddlers

White1WPlaying1Puppet1Puppet2The day will come, all too soon I fear, when Madeleine will want to move into her own place. To ease the pain of separation that day is guaranteed to bring (to me), I may invest in real estate on her behalf to ensure she continues live nearby. Very nearby. In the family room, in fact. And the real estate will be of wonderfully-affordable cardboard construction.

Brand new Aussie company Tinyfolk makes creative and rather beautiful little indoor cubby houses and puppet theatres out of responsibly sourced, PEFC certified, and 100 percent recyclable cardboard. They come flat-packed so you can build them yourself (with not an allen key in sight), and the version called the "white playhouse" practically begs the kids to scribble and paint and glue glitter all over it.

Theatrical set designer and mum Genevieve Dugard heads up the company. "We love thoughtful products that create a space for children to make their own decisions, that encourage open-ended play," she says on her blog.

I'm actually quite looking forward to seeing Madeleine become Lady of the Manor, decorating her little home just like the utterly adorable toddlers in these photographs.

WPlaying2White2WPlaying3All images used with kind permission from Tinyfolk.