Sunday, November 24, 2013

Go Ahead and Jump!

Unlike many of my clients over the years, I am fairly quick to make design decisions. I have learned that over time, we grow tired of colours or fabrics and end up changing our decor eventually anyway, so why lament and fret over the choice as though it were a life and death decision? If you like it, and it fits with your current scheme and tastes, go for it. This is also why I no longer choose crazy expensive things when it comes to accessorizing as I know that one day, I will want to replace it with something new and different.  

Trends come and go and there is a school of thought that avoiding trends and sticking with classic patterns and neutral colours is the way to go, but it still comes down to our inherent need for change.  So I generally advice my clients to stick with neutrals for the big ticket items in a room, like sofas, large case goods and custom draperies and then have some fun with the accessories as these are the way to add a current punch to your space. Art, pillows, throws, lamps, bowls, funky lighting, sculptural elements. These are the fun and interesting things to shop for and incorporate into your rooms that will reflect your personality.  

They are the easy come, easy go bits that can also be the jump off point for your decorating scheme. I have been influenced by any number of these over the years and as I am about to embark on another new space in a few months from now, I have been keeping an eye out for inspiration.  So far, I have found a set of everyday dishes and a couple of toss cushions that are leading the way from a colour and graphic perspective.  My last two spaces were on the girly side colour wise and since my next home will be a shared space, I needed to tone down the pinks a bit and bring in some more masculine touches without losing all feminine qualities.  So, my Dudeman Manolo Blahnik painting did not come to my new world with me, nor did my pink chair or my Lily Pulitzer style green chair with the polka dot upholstered seat cushion, but I do wish I had not sold the Surveyors floor lamp...however, we move on and begin again.

Old space...goodbye pink!

The new space will be cooler toned, more metal, polished concrete, modern and minimalist. The colours will be added to black, white and grey backdrops. I think green will be the predominant "splash" colour, which leaves room for several options above and beyond that. When I saw these dishes with their curvy, linear pattern and the exact colours that were in the back of my mind, they became the starting point for the rest of the space. An added bonus was that Aussie man liked them too.

I liked the mid-century modern feeling they evoked and at $40 for four place settings, when I tire of them in a couple of years, it won't hurt my pocketbook to change things up again. I also liked the wonky spirograph design (remember that?). The toss cushions (shown at the top here), keep the colours and graphic qualities moving through the space. Although I have been reluctant to jump on the Chevron stripe trend, this is an inexpensive nod to it without going overboard with an entire wall painted out that way or a carpet etc.

The bird cage pillow brings a softness to the hard edges of the chevron stripes and also introduces a bit of a feminine touch without being too girly. And besides, I dig birds. It is also allowing a few other colours to subtly enter the space, with an opportunity for lager splashes of the purple or yellow elsewhere.

The other important reason for me to start with these small pieces is that it plants the vision seed for me. When one is in the pre-construction phase of a project, making these small purchases grounds the plan for me. It gives all the planning a destination.  Visualizing the plates on the kitchen island or loading the mugs into the dishwasher or fluffing the toss cushions on the sofa makes the plans more real to me. Not just a bunch of drawings and budget figures. Suddenly, I see myself in the finished rooms, using them, enjoying them, creating a home...

...once again. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013


You remember that scene in Dances With Wolves when Kevin Costner crosses over? You know, the scene where he has been alone for a long time guarding an outpost that has been abandoned and over time he has changed from uniform-clad soldier to full-on native American? He comes to realize that his hot stiff scratchy woolly jacket and pants are completely inappropriate for the climate and his ability to survive and thrive? Yes, that scene.  

Well, I am currently turning native myself.  The 5 vacuum sealed bags of clothing I hauled across the world with me are for the most part useless here in small town Queensland.  Summer is fast approaching (WHAT? It is going to get hotter?) and even my coolest of cool garments from Canada are not making the cut.  Since I am not working and have no need for business attire and all the accessories that go with that, I have concluded that the main objective now is to remain as cool and comfortable as possible.  Nothing heavy, nothing form fitting, little jewelry, minimal make-up (it just melts off anyway) and no strenuous outdoor exercise between 7 AM and 5 PM. 

I used to think that gauzy colourful dresses and skirts and tops were for hippie chicks and other cultures, but lately, I have been diving into the gauze and tie-dye pool of fashion faux pas like a thirsty camel at a desert oasis.  My once coiffed hair is finding itself lifted off my neck and pinned haphazardly at the back of my head and I go no where without a large brimmed hat and a litre of cold water.  I may not be dancing with wolves, but now I am armed and ready to cavort with kangaroos and koalas, the latter has so far eluded me, but my eyes are on constant survey mode whenever passing by stands of eucalyptus trees.  Believe it or not, there are actually road signs that remind drivers to be on the alert for them.  So I wait, patiently day after day, for a glimpse of these well-camouflaged living teddy bears, certain one day my patience will be rewarded.

After all, I saw my first moose and her calf on the roadside in the BC interior this summer.  I had waited my entire life for I have faith.  Speaking of colourful wildlife...I spotted my first Pale-Headed Rosella at the bird feeder I hung last week on the back porch. He had apparently been spotted by one of the other members of this household a few days ago, but until today, he had eluded me.  I did not run for my camera.  I was tempted. But instead, I just observed him in all his glory. I spoke to him, assured him he was safe near us and he listened and ate and watched us and seemed to get over his fear fairly quickly so I am sure he will return and I will have other chances to capture him in a photo.  

I have to admit, my new look and surroundings are sitting well with me.  There is an ease and casual comfort in these lightweight garments that feel much like wearing nightwear all day long. It was fun and freeing to just select them based on the colours that appealed to me and the sheerness and cooling factor without even a nod to any fashion trend or seasonal style. No one cares, no one is judging and with any luck, the parrots will recognize me as someone they can trust since I am dressed like them!

Just call me Polly, NOT wearing Prada!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Crazy Bird Lady

Rainbow Lorikeets

I have always loved birds. Birds in the wild. Bird art. Birds on fabric. Bird jewelry. Bird ornaments. As a rule, if there is a bird on it, I will have a look. You know that expression - be careful what you wish for...well, if ever birds were to be front and centre in my life, they surely are now. There is actually a bird sanctuary across the street from where we are living. 

Forget the crow of a rooster as an alarm.  Instead, I hear a veritable symphony of birdsong starting around 4 am every morning now.  I think they have come into my life in such a dramatic fashion to force me out of bed much earlier than I would normally rise.  It gets light earlier here as well, so by 4:30 the sun is coming up and by 5:00 am, I am up now. I never thought I would see the day where I started emulating my parent's crazy sleep/wake schedule, but alas, it looks like I may be there.  With the sun heating up the world so early, it is really imperative that I get moving at this hour if I plan to do anything strenuous in terms of exercise.  Much past 7:30, it just gets too hot.

But back to the birds. It is just amazing to see the tropical parrots and colourful bird varieties here in Queensland. Last night before dusk I watched as hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets gathered at the top of a massive mature Eucalyptus tree. Standing near the tree, the sound of this choir of birdsong was like a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds...on steroids!  On another tree, a similar scene prevailed, only this time with large white Cattle Egrets, not to be outdone by the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.  The local residents think nothing of this daily spectacle of nature, but these exotic species are like wildlife eye candy for this Canuck.

Cattle Egret

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Prior to this viewing of a real life episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (for those of you old enough to have seen that show on TV), I had gorged myself on the back porch, binoculars at the ready on a pair of parrots in the adjacent Jacaranda Tree. They were so multi-coloured and different from the lorikeets and the Australian King Parrots I had seen the first few days after I arrived, I had to look them up. They were called Pale-Headed Rosellas. They were a couple and they moved in tandem from tree to tree, gracing me with their beauty for over an hour and then they flew off across the neighbourhood together, having dined on the seed pods of the Silky Oak and nectar of the Jacaranda like a seasoned old married couple out for dinner at their favourite restaurant before heading home for the remainder of the evening, where they might then have reviewed their night out and chuckled over the crazy Canadian woman who wouldn't stop staring at them all night.

Pale-headed Rosella

When I wasn't busy perving on the Rosellas, I was mesmerized by the assortment of Honeyeaters. They come in quite a few varieties and they amuse as they hang upside down draining the Jacaranda Blossoms of their nectar. They also like to chase each other from tree to tree creating a mad scene of seeming aggressive birdie tag. 

Blue-faced Honeyeater

This morning as I did my loop around the park, the evidence left behind from the hundreds of Galahs that feast on the ancient fig trees, crunched beneath my feet. There is always a bit of a risk of them leaving a not- so-sweet surprise on your head or shoulder as you walk under these trees when they are feeding but so far, I have been lucky. Note to self... I must remember to carry some tissue with me from now on. 


The ability to do this on a daily basis is enough to make my day. Like any gift of nature, it feeds my soul and makes me grateful to be alive and fortunate to witness these beautiful creatures. I always enjoyed birds in Canada. I used to feed the Goldfinches and got excited to see Cardinals and Pine Grosbeaks and Cedar Waxwings depending on what part of the country I was living in at any given time, but this is a whole new ball of wax down here. The type of birds I am used to seeing in cages or zoos flit and fly around here like Sparrows and Chickadees - as common as that. 

These are the kind of Tweets that really interest me.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Deb Down Under...Week One

A whole new world. I think that was the song.  The lyrics keep popping up in the back of my mind constantly. There is one slight difference however. That was a Disney song and my name ain't Jasmine (although there are some that may think I am a bit of a princess) and Aladdin is not whisking me off on his magic carpet...not yet anyway.

No, before there are any dazzling sights to behold, we have several months of work ahead of us to create our little paradise here down under in Queensland.  After surveying the plot of land we are planning to turn into our peaceful new home surrounded by eucalyptus forest and cane fields, the reality of what it will take to get from here to there has hit me over the head like a wayward boomerang at full speed. 

The ground is hard and crunchy and the rain is no where in sight. I was tempted to take a spade and see what happened when I tried to drive it into the ground, but I knew the answer without even trying. My organic dream garden is a way off yet. First things first. We need to get the house built and worry about the landscaping and gardening later. For now, I will have to set that part of the dream aside.  On a positive note, there is a very well supplied Farmer's Market every Thursday here in Maryborough that impressed me the other day so that will head up the Thursday morning "to do" list each week. 

There was a wide range of produce and interesting vendors participating. A number of ex-pats selling their unique food and crafts. A German woman who had found her little slice of paradise here selling a variety of olives from her own grove. She said she had grown tired of the crowds and traffic in Black Forest town she hailed from and was much happier in Oz. If her yummy assortment of flavoured olives were any indication, I would say she had found her niche.

A young Turkish fellow had a stall where he was baking fresh "Turkish breads" that looked more like foccacia pizzas to me, the aroma of the feta cheese, roasted tomato and olive toppings was impossible to resist, so lunch was decided right then and there. As it was only 9 am, it was wrapped in brown paper and would wait until later. I was elated at another stall when a young Thai woman had the efforts of her own organic garden available for sale and her veggies were so beautifully arranged and displayed it was clearly a labour of love for her. I nearly danced a jig when I spied three perfectly fresh bundles of Cilantro, every stem and leaf pure perfection. It was the one item I had set out to find that day that I was sure I would have difficulty finding. I had a notion to make a large Quinoa Salad with sweet potatoes and fresh corn and black beans and the Cilantro was a necessary ingredient. So, thanks to her, mission accomplished.

I had a little more difficulty finding what I thought would be a no-brainer - the black beans. They had navy beans, kidney beans, white beans...but not a black bean in sight. Red kidney beans would have to do. In the end it mattered not, but you can be sure I will be buying a case of the damn things if I find them in my travels.  It was also curious to me that all the canned beans had sugar added in the processing. Looks like I may have to start cooking my own from scratch, which leads me to another dilemma. Cooking. The house we are staying in presently is a classic old Queenslander style house (shown pictured above). If you don't know what that is, they are built on stilts, so the air circulates under them and they generally have big porches all around the front and back and the windows are left open (sans screens - geckos are my new friends!) for the air to blow through. Some do have air-conditioning but ours does not. So, the last thing you want to do is fire up a  hot oven or stove any time past 9 am or much before 6 pm, so planning menus and cooking time is crucial to prevent overheating the house and more importantly...yourself!

Early evening is spent with a cool drink on the porch watching the sun go down over the horizon and observing hundreds of colourful birds and the emerging flying foxes as they appear at dusk.  Dinner is enjoyed after that when the temperature goes down.  There is air conditioning in the bedroom but so far we have not needed to turn it on at night but it is still spring here in the southern hemisphere with summer just around the corner. It will hopefully give me time to acclimate before it arrives and challenges my internal Canuck thermostat.  

Lots to learn. Lots of change. It is, without a doubt, a whole new world.

A whole new world

Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

lyrics by Tim Rice