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"And autumn garner"

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA "I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time." ~ Robert Browning

Keeping within yesterday's botanical mail art theme, here are some links "of beauty and utility" that you might enjoy:

* Decorating with houseplants - Taipei style

* Lovely fern-pressed jar DIY

* Gorgeous gift: seed bombs!

* The most beautiful self-watering pot I've ever seen

* How to incorporate plants into your home

* Make a mini green wall out of old jars

* One plant three ways

* How to keep your house plants alive

* Good idea for Mother's Day? DIY marbled hanging planter

* Love this forest-on-a-cake!

* Plant your herbs in old teacups and milk jugs

Stunning art made out of petals and leaves

The right plant for your home

* Invites you in: urban jungle in Antwerp

7 indoor plants that are tricky to kill

plants-1 Recently I read one of those “5 surprising habits of happy people” type articles, and one of the five “happy habits” was keeping plants in your home. No real surprises there, of course. Plants are good for your physical and psychological health: they filter and purify the air inside your home, they give you something (low maintenance) to care for, and they make your home look and feel lovely!

I know the trend is all for succulents and and their cacti cousins these days but, actually, most succulents need full sunlight, or at least more sunlight than the average room can give them. They are happiest outdoors. But there are plenty of other plants that love the partial-shade atmosphere you can give them in your home. They will survive and thrive, and help make you happy in the process.

I've taken the camera for a walk around my house and here are seven of my favourite indoor plants. So far I have failed to kill them which is an excellent indication of their hardiness!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Fittonia: It has stunning, patterned leaves and gorgeous green “blooms.” It grows gently and sways and thickens beautifully. I have a couple of these, one propped up on an upturned cup inside a tall, narrow vase; and the other in a repurposed stationery holder beside my bed, to make the air sweet for me as I sleep. Where to put it: grow in a warm, humid position with indirect light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Super Atom: This plant has glossy, lovely, fat leaves. Do you remember the old “elephant ear” plants we all had around the house when we were kids? Imagine a miniature version with leaves in the same shape, but without the “shredded” look of the elephant ears. That’s not describing it very well. Just look at the photograph above (it’s the one in the apricot planter). Where to put it: ideal for well-lit areas indoors

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Magic Bean: (It's the one on the right, in the gold pot). How great is the name of this plant! I love it when people who name plants have imaginations and childhoods and they combine the two for the joy of the rest of us. Also, the bean-like thingumies at the base of this plant that clearly gave it its name are quirky and pretty and fun! The rest of the plant is like a rainforest canopy, if you happen to be the size of an elf or fairy. Where to put it: tolerates low, filtered light OR full sun

plants-7↑↑ Zanzibar Gem: I love the look of this baby. It’s so glossy and dramatic it doesn’t quite look real. Sometimes when Scout is playing she likes to pretend she’s going to “The Lost City,” and I think when she gets there she will find lots of Zanzibar Gems. Apparently, this plant also “thrives on neglect” when grown indoors, and is almost impossible to kill. Where to put it: just about anywhere. It will tolerate low light and cope when you forget to water it (I don't have a pretty pot for mine yet so it's just on the floor)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Sago Palm: Beautiful little fronds curl out from the centre of this palm, a bit like a fern. I like how compact and “designed” it looks, quite classy and predictable (at least my little one is). On the other hand, according to my mother (who knows pretty much everything there is to know about plants) the leaves can be toxic so keep it up high if you have babies in the house. Mine is on the hearth. Where to put it: tolerates low light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Air plants: There are about a million different types of air plants (ok 650), so describing them is pretty tricky. I have some spiked ones and some fluffy ones and a weird curly one (in the little yellow pot next to the Super Atom above) and some clumps of moss. They look pretty in terrariums, and in decorative dishes, vases... just about anything! People say they don’t need watering but you do have to look after them. I give mine a bath by submerging them in water for an hour once a week, and mist them if the weather is particularly hot or dry. Where to put them: a bright room but not in direct sunlight

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA↑↑ Parlor Palm: The name of this plant is instantly old-school to me. It reeks (the name, not the plant) of Great-Aunt-So-And-So’s sitting room, complete with Iced VoVos and proper teacups in saucers and ceramic ducks on the walls. It’s also graceful and frond-y and looks pretty just about anywhere you choose to place it. Where to put it: anywhere you like, except direct sunlight. Tolerates low-light areas

Some tips about keeping house plants

* If you keep the plants in the plastic pots they come in, that will give you a much wider choice of "pretty pots" to display them in - you don't have to worry about drainage or anything like that. You just slip the plastic pot inside the bigger, pretty one. That also lets you change your mind as many times as you like. If your pretty pot is cloth or porous like some of mine, line it with a plastic bag so it won't be ruined by any moisture

* Rather than walking around the house with a watering can, once a week I take all my plants to the bath or out onto the balcony and give them a big drink together. That way all the water can drain away without risking my floors and furniture. Once the dripping has subsided, just pop them back into their pretty pots

* When I bring each plant back from its bath I try to rotate it around so that different leaves are facing the light. That way it will grow evenly.

* The weekly bath is pretty much all I do for my plants. Apparently some will benefit from liquid fertiliser or something, and I really should read up on that but, generally, if my plants can’t survive with just a watering and a bit of rotation, I don’t have them in the house. I’m busy!

How about you? Are you a plant person? What do you like to grow and what are your top tips?

 

Weekend links

gingerbread+terrariums-16 Do you have plans for the weekend? We are going to a black tie thingy on Saturday night and I need to buy a dress and buying a dress is no fun at ALL when you are a) on a budget and b) under significant time pressure. Am I right?

#firstworldproblems

Right now I'm looking down the barrel of a fairly good weekend-balance between being social and enjoying some family down-time. I hope. We are notorious for over-committing around here, but maybe just maybe this weekend we'll get it right.

What I WANT to do is to spend time doing the everything and nothing that so often make up the best of family time: playing exploring cuddling baking dancing tickling painting eating reading laughing gardening kissing. You know, just... stuff.

What are your plans? I've collected these links for your weekend reading/viewing pleasure:

Before there was Google, this is what people searched for (and how they did it)

These indoor clouds are breathtakingly beautiful

(Dear Santa) I am in love with pretty much everything in this store

How to stop yourself from crying, on any occasion. Have you tried this?

Turn your smartphone into a polariod camera

Can I live in this home please?

This is for all the photographers: magic hour

You've heard of street art. This is forest art

Charts outlining how we live and think, before 30 and after 30. Hilarious!

Molly Yeh is my new blog crush. The photo at the top of this post? Those are her edible gingerbread terrariums

A whole day for free flowers in the city

I love this art on the wall of a building. It's like we all have x-ray vision

Dress your baby in Week 1 (summer baby)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was approximately seven-and-a-half months pregnant with Scout before it began to dawn on me that this beautiful bump I had been cherishing for more than half a year was actually going to have to come OUT. And aside from feeling mildly nauseous with terror, and narrowing my eyes at the suddenly-enormous-looking circumference of Mr B’s head, I also started to panic about what I would need to have ready for the baby.

After several hours of Google searching, during which each new page left me even more confused than the last, I called my Mum and between us we did our best to create a “new baby checklist.” Two babies later I’ve honed that list and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could save YOU some Google-related anxiety and share some of my discoveries.

Today’s tips are about baby clothes for a baby born in the warmer months. This is a short list, just designed to get you through the first week, after which you will probably need to buy more clothes. Why such a short list?

* It’s hard to estimate what size your baby will be, so if you buy too much you could end up with a lot of clothes that just don’t fit * Babies grow incredibly fast (Scout moved up a size at the end of her first week), so if you buy too much of any size your baby will probably grow out of them* before they get a chance to wear them

This is the part where I say every baby is different and every family is different and what worked for me might not work for you, and all that. Which is true, but I still HOPE my list helps. Here it is:

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1// Short sleeved onesies x 6

Your baby will probably live in these. They’re better than t-shirts and nappies because they still keep your baby cool but will also help keep the nappy in place (you can probably imagine but it will become abundantly clear that this is rather important)

2// Light cardigans x 2

If you step out at night, or if the weather turns windy or cool, you might want to layer your baby and that’s where the cardigans come in handy. I know those little knitted cardigans that people make you when you’re pregnant are adorable, but they’re probably too hot and bulky for a summer baby. You want something a bit lighter weight but still long sleeved

3// Bibs x 3

These are handy to catch dribble and spit-up. Without them, your baby will quickly end up with a soaking-wet top and you’ll end up having to change (and wash and dry and fold and put away) even more clothes

4// Nappy-covers x 2

These are cute little bloomer-style things that fit over the nappies. On really hot days when your baby is dressed only in a nappy, or just a nappy and a t-shirt, they look quite sweet and more “dressed.” They also go a little way towards holding the nappy in place (again, more important than you ever want it to be)

5// Long sleeved onesies x 2

Mostly for a warm weather baby you are better off layering short sleeves with little cardigans when it's cold, rather than having to get them completely changed. But it’s good to be prepared just in case (as was the case for my summer baby Ralph) the weather is so unseasonably cold that you need proper long sleeves in that first week.

6// Long pants x 2

Again, while little blankets may serve to keep your baby warm enough, if the weather is unexpectedly cold you do want to be able to cover their little legs, especially when they’re out of bed such as when you’re feeding them. (A little tip: you can get onesies with the legs included, but in my experience those are a LOT harder to change in the middle of the night - all those press-studs! argh! - and if your baby gets spit-up all over his or her top, you'll only have to change and wash and dry and fold and put away HALF the outfit)

7// Socks x 2

Just to keep those little toes cold in the night (or unseasonably-cool day) air

8// T-shirts x 4

As I’ve said, I prefer short-sleeved onesies for newborns because they hold the nappies in AND they don’t hitch up, exposing tummies or making backs uncomfortable while your baby sleeps. But t-shirts are still good to have around as backups, to swap over soiled onesies, or to add an extra layer if necessary

 

So there you have it. My Week 1 "dressing bub" survival list. After you’ve made it through this week, you’ll have a much better idea of what size your baby is, how fast they’re growing, what the weather is doing, and the kind of clothing/blanket/cot/pram/baby-wearing schedule that suits you, so you can go (or send someone else) shopping to buy more clothes. Have fun!

* Ralph was a summer baby and I’d bought a whole lot of adorable little newborn singlet-tops and shorts ready for his arrival. But when he was born the weather was unseasonably cool, and Mr B had to rush to the shops to buy him some little pants and long sleeved tops. By the time the summer temperatures returned, Ralph no longer fit those cute little singlets and shorts. We gave them away never-worn.

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.)

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.

Inside Sarah Jessica Parker's NYC apartment

Apartment-SJP copyCan you believe it has been 10 years since Sex and the City the TV series finished? What a fantastic show that was. Boundary-pushing (at least in the early years), clever, witty, oh-so-stylish and, despite the often risque subject matter, heart-warming. It could just as easily have been called Fashion and the City. Or better still, Friendship and the City. But I doubt that last title would have garnered it quite as much attention. My friends and I used to say there was a Sex and the City episode for everything that happened in life. (And if there wasn't, there was sure to be a Seinfeld episode to fill in the gap). Of course that was before I got married and had children.

And now: please indulge me in some of my favourite Carrie Bradshaw fashion moments...

Carrie-Bradshaw-Fashion2Carrie-Bradshaw-Fashion1Carrie-Bradshaw-Fashion3If you're feeling nostalgic, like I am, you might enjoy this little tour through Sarah Jessica Parker's amazing New York apartment, while she speed-answers 73 questions from Vogue that range from odd to, well, more odd.

Yes yes I know, SJP is not Carrie Bradshaw. But that distinctive voice, that impeccable style, so many of those mannerisms... she gave them all to her character and they are so very familiar. I think it could be time to watch this show again.

Were you a fan? Who was your favourite gal?

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...

Hungry9

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!

Out of print baby

My gorgeous friend Sonya sent Harry this onesie in the mail last week. It makes me so happy. I can't wait until he's big enough and chubby enough to wear it! OnesiePigeonThe folks at Out of Print Clothing say they "scour library stacks and dusty bookstores" to find the "classics and curiosities" that end up on their clothing. And they have a conscience, too: every purchase makes possible a donation of one book to a community in need, via their charity partner Books for Africa.

What book would you most like to see on a T-shirt?

I'd wear this edition of I Capture the Castle with pride. And of course we need to find Madeleine something with this. And then, well I just can't help myself...

Renovation inspiration - living and dining

Small spaces are tricky to furnish and decorate, aren't they. For example a combined lounge and dining area that isn't entirely teeny-tiny but certainly isn't spacious, like the one in our new house... how would you fill it and make it yours in a way that worked? For us, the big challenge is designing the rooms so they look great and function practically, but don't feel overcrowded. Here are some ideas I've gleaned from the Internet so far.  

Dining↑↑ The dining area has to visually fit in with the lounge area, so the decor needs to work on a broader scale than just "eat here." I love the pop of these yellow chairs, or this amazing cross-stitch chair (which unfortunately is a DIY, so let's face it I'm stumped). I also thought putting open shelves above the dining table was a lovely idea that was both decorative and space-saving. Meanwhile, those pendant lights? I LOVE them and think they would be perfect above our dining table. Mr B disagrees. Cue sadface.

Clockwise from top left: open shelves in the dining via Design Sponge; cross-stitch chair via My Poppet; yellow dining chairs via Living Room TV; pendant lights via Marz Designs

 

Sidetables↑↑ In a small space, furniture that shares wall-space or serves multiple functions is great, because you get maximum use and appeal while taking up minimal space. My favourite? This stylish fold-out wall-desk. I think it would be fantastic in our hall, to dump keys and mail and Mr B's ties on as we walk in, before folding the mess up and away.

Clockwise from top-left: wall-desk via Swiss Miss; low bench and mini-gallery via Old Brand New; mid-century-modern style pet boxes (so stylish they can double as coffee tables!) via Modernist Cat on Etsy; wall-leaning side-tables via Kenyon Yeh

 

Sofas↑↑ We've decided to splash out on new lounge chairs to go with our new house. Our existing lounge chairs were around before Em started school (she's 15 now). They have taken a LOT of family-related love and rough and tumble and wear and tear. They're threadbare on the arms, and seem to have magical talents when it comes to collecting dirt and food and cat hair and goodness knows what else. It. Is. Time.

Clockwise from top-left: leather armchair via Design Sponge; granny-square covered mid-century couch (I love this so much!) via Zakka (originally seen on Meet Me at Mikes); the after in a 'before & after' upholstery project on a small sofa via Design Sponge; super comfy-looking antique-style sofa via Home Life

 

Walls↑↑ For these small rooms, Mr B and I have somewhat reluctantly reined in our love of colour and opted for fairly neutral bones: white walls, pale floorboards (the original colour), simple sheer curtains. So we're relying on all the finishing touches to add character and interest to the rooms. Walls are a great canvas to start doing that, and I've been searching around for creative ideas.

Clockwise from top-left: gallery wall via Poppytalk (I've been thinking of these a lot lately but I'm nervous about doing it right, I'd love your tips); a classic 1950s Eames Hang It All coat rack; eclectic mix of ornaments, recycled objects and plants on the wall via Old Brand New; gilt mirror (for above the fireplace) via English Muse

What are your top tips for decorating in a confined space? What do you dream about having in your lounge room, or dining room, or both?

Want more renovation inspiration? These are my kitchen ideas.