DIY Christmas Gifts

Happy third-day-after-Christmas to anybody out there! I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas week full of festivities, food comas and family time – I know I did.

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Looking back on my last post, I realise I haven’t quite lived up to my word. While I did indeed embark on my crafty, Pinterest-y DIY Christmas projects, I did not faithfully document them here as planned. The weeks leading up to Christmas were busy – so busy that come Christmas Eve, I found myself spending eight frantic hours doing last-minute baking, making and gift-basket-assembling, with only enough time to snap a few quick blog photos in between!

That being said, I really did enjoy the few days I spent at home preparing for Christmas, decked out in a cute apron, Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Boob crooning carols in the background.

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Anyway, due to all the Christmas craziness, I’ll only be talking about a few of my homemade gifts here, but I hope they give you some DIY inspiration – even if you don’t put it to use until next Christmas!

So first up: bath salts. They’re about the easiest thing ever to make, so I did two varieties for my and Nathan’s mums: lavender & bergamot and rose, geranium & lavender.

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Following this recipe from hellonatural.co, I used a cup of Epsom salts, a cup of sea salt (substituting for kosher salt), half a cup of bi-carb soda, and some essential oils and food colouring to make them look and smell pretty.

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I got some cute little glass jars from a two-dollar shop, made labels with some free banner graphics and fonts found online, and tied it all together with coloured twine (also from the two-dollar shop – a true place of wonder for DIY gift-makers).

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Lip balms are another cute and simple gift. I found this recipe on overthrowmartha.com and bought a block of beeswax from Bunnings; some Vitamin E capsules from Chemist Warehouse; a little set of lip balm pots from eBay; and a $2 grater and mini saucepan from Kmart. (The latter accessories are highly recommended if you’re going to try this out – the wax will most likely ruin your grater and leave a gross residue on your saucepan!)

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Grabbing some coconut oil from my pantry and the essential oils I used for my bath salts, it was then as simple as boiling it all up together and pouring into pots to cool.

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Making good use of the pretty stickers at the end of my 2014 Frankie diary, I decorated the lids of the pots, and the lip balms were good to go!

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I made lots of other things that I forgot or didn’t have time to photograph – mainly food gifts, including cookies, muffins and little jars of pesto and jam. One that I did manage to record was a very simple rosemary-infused olive oil I made for my grandma.

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All it involved was drying some rosemary sprigs in the oven for a couple of hours (which made the kitchen smell AMAZING, by the way), then combining them with some oil over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a cute pourer (again, from the two-dollar shop – amazing) and you have another lovely, easy gift.

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So even though I didn’t get to document my progress the way I wanted to, my homemade Christmas gifts all turned out wonderfully – and were very much appreciated by their recipients, which, after all, is what it was all about.

Merry belated Christmas and an early Happy New Year!

C x

How Very Pinteresting.

It’s happened.

I’ve become a PINTEREST PERSON.

It all started when I finished my postgrad certificate a couple of weeks ago (YAY!). Freedom from uni couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s November, which means the shops are getting ahead of themselves, draping everything with tinsel and obnoxiously playing carols…and I love it.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. As soon as the weather gets warmer, and my calendar fills up with parties and family gatherings, and that beautiful holiday feeling starts to permeate the air…ahhh, it’s heavenly.

FotorCreatedImages via Pinterest

Yep, I’m a Yuletide fiend. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I also love Christmas shopping! But I thought that this year, with all my magical free time, I’d make some little things to fill gift hampers for Nate’s and my families, rather than buying everything. I won’t be going so far as to make ALL my presents – I think I need a few more XP before I unlock that level of DIY goddess-ness – but I’ll be stocking each of my hampers with at least two or three little handmade pressies.

Now, this is where Pinterest comes in. I’d always regarded Pinterest as one of those things I’ve tried but couldn’t really get into, like quinoa or American Horror Story. But it’s obviously the best place to go for all things crafty, so I gave it another try – and hello, new obsession! I found a whole heap of ideas and tutorials for Christmas gifts, but also discovered countless sources of inspiration and imagery that I’ll definitely be using a lot more in the future.

FotorCreated2Images via Pinterest

So in the lead-up to Christmas I’ll be documenting all my creative endeavours here. It may end up becoming more of a how-NOT-to guide…but I’m going to give it a go at least! Stay tuned for adventures in bath salts, lip balm, cupcake kits and festive foods. :)

Ten Life-Changing Albums

This afternoon I was challenged via Facebook to create a list of ‘15 albums that changed me in 15 minutes’. Despite the slight vagueness of the instructions (do I write the list in 15 minutes? Do I choose albums that took a mere 15 minutes to change my life?!), I decided to complete the challenge and, in the name of procrastination, turn it into an entire blog post!

I’ve altered the rules somewhat. To knock out a list as quickly and intuitively as I could, it was strangely easier to stick to 10 rather than 15. There is obviously so much music left out that is also hugely important to me, but the 10 albums I’ve listed all have a particular and immediate significance – whether it be that they introduced me to a future favourite band or represent a certain time, place or concept in my life. (As an interesting sidenote, I have been lucky enough to see all of these artists live as well. [Apart from the last two, but you’ll see why when you reach them.])

So, in no particular order, here we go!

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1. A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay

This is the first ever album I recall buying with my own money, and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I know everyone thinks Coldplay are a bit daggy, but I don’t care! I love them SO much and I always will. This is one of those albums where every song is so different and amazing in its own right. It’s definitely the record I would name if I had to choose an all-time favourite.

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2. In Rainbows – Radiohead

Oh, Radiohead. My favourite band in the universe. I’ve chosen In Rainbows because it was actually the first Radiohead album I ever bought! (Yes, I know Radiohead had been around for about 15 years before Rainbows came out. I’m always unfashionably late to the party – see here for further evidence.) This is such a compelling and masterful record from beginning to end, and I have it to thank for sparking my undying love for Radiohead!

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3. Takk… – Sigur Rós

If you’ve never heard this Icelandic band, you are truly missing out. Their music is absolutely something else – ethereal, soaring, atmospheric soundscapes that completely envelope you. To say this album is pure magic sounds like an exaggeration, but listen to a song like ‘Glósóli’ or ‘Sæglópur’ and you’ll know that it’s not!

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4. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

Another truly beautiful album. I can’t explain how much I love Bon Iver – everything Justin Vernon does just mesmerises me. I think that even if you didn’t know the backstory to this album, you’d get a sense of it just by listening: it transports you immediately to that lonely log cabin in the woods, where every song aches like the long winter. It’s just amazing.

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5. Neon Ballroom – Silverchair

Ahhh, now this is an early one. I went through a MASSIVE Silverchair obsession at the age of about 14 (as you do). I remember coming home from school every afternoon, putting this album on repeat and doing my maths homework while passionately singing along with all the angst of a teen with nothing real to complain about. It was a close call between this album and the orchestral rainbow that is Diorama, but in the end, I think songs like ‘Emotion Sickness’ and ‘Miss You Love’ had the most influence on me at the time.

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6. Sunrise Over Sea – John Butler Trio

This is another album I became addicted to at the age of 14 or 15, when I was first starting to get into ‘real’ music. Strangely enough, as I type this, Nate and a couple of friends have randomly chosen Sunrise Over Sea for background music, and I’m really remembering why I loved it so much. I don’t really listen to this sort of rootsy music anymore, but this album was such a wonderful introduction to the world of real music that it will always have a special place in my life.

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7. High Violet – The National

I’ve written about The National previously, so it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for Matt Berninger’s melancholic crooning. This is an astonishing album, and (we’re about to get sentimental here, folks, be warned) it always reminds me of the beautiful time at the very start of my and Nathan’s relationship. We used to listen to it a lot, and for good reason: every song is just so ridiculously, richly emotive.

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8. You Are All I See – Active Child

It’s widely acknowledged that music can be a powerful transporter, and that we often associate certain songs or albums with particular locations or time periods. This gorgeous harp-laden record takes me straight back to a family holiday through Europe in 2011. Staring out the window of trains, cars and planes as we travelled around, this album played constantly through my headphones and formed the perfect soundtrack to a wonderful trip.

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9. Inception: Music from the Motion Picture – Hans Zimmer

Speaking of soundtracks… As a film score fanatic, I couldn’t help but include a couple of soundtracks in this list! Hans Zimmer is one of my favourite composers, and Inception is one of my favourite movies. For me, the soundtrack is SUCH a huge part of the movie’s success. It’s really hard to pick a top song, but you can’t go past ‘Time’ – so simple yet so, so perfect. The emotional punch it packs is incredible and just goes to show how fundamentally important soundtracks are.

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10. Pride and Prejudice: Music from the Motion Picture – Dario Marianelli, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the English Chamber Orchestra

Again, a favourite soundtrack from a favourite movie, this time based on a favourite book! The combination of the period-perfect chamber orchestra and Thibaudet’s piano – swirling, delicate and powerful by turns – is stunning. I love listening to this album while I work or just when I want to chill out. I also bought the sheet music many years ago and had so much fun learning to play all the beautiful songs. (You can see me playing one in the clip at the end of this post, but it’s very dodgy and I would recommend listening to the real thing.)

 

Well, that was fun and wasted an appropriate amount of time! So, which 10 (or 15) albums would make your list?

Things I Love Lately: Melbourne Edition

There are so many things I’m loving at the moment that I couldn’t resist another one of these posts! I’ve recently been on a lovely mini holiday to Melbourne, so I decided to run with that theme. Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit, so it was hard to narrow down into a few snippets – but I’m sure there’ll be many more trips there in the future, and many more blog posts!

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Of course number one on this list was going to be food. I went into my Melbourne trip fully prepared to spend most (if not all) of my money eating everything I could get my hands on. I definitely did that, so I’m going to have to narrow things down again here and focus on one meal: BREAKFAST. (The best meal of them all.) These were two of my favourites:

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This adorable spread from The Hardware Société is called The Continental. With my dodgy photography you probably can’t tell, but it consisted of a little granola and yoghurt jar, a warm croissant and some vanilla macerated strawberries.

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Granola again! I must admit it’s becoming a bit of an obsession of mine. This one is apricot, coconut and fig with vanilla yoghurt, almond milk and poached stonefruit. It’s from Twenty and Six Espresso in wonderful West Melbourne.

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All my Melbourne drinks were not only delicious, but photogenic too. The two picturesque sippers that follow were both enjoyed in Fitzroy, which leads me to assume that it must be Beverage Photography Capital of the World.

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This tropical-looking treat was from a place called The Grub Food Van. I can’t remember what it was made of exactly, but I know it had coconut ice, some sort of sugar syrup, probably pineapple juice and possibly gin…whatever it was, it was amazing.

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This one was absolutely as refreshing as it looks. Titled ‘The Fitzroy Beer Garden Cooler’, it’s a lovely mix of Hendricks, elderflower, apple juice, soda, cucumber and mint. YUM.

Sunny weather

For a city with a notorious reputation for temperamental, often miserable weather, Melbourne absolutely turned it ON for us! Our three and a half days there were filled with warm sun, clear skies, crisp air and cherry blossoms…

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Stop it, Victoria, you big charmer.

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Men’s clothing

Men’s clothes are SUPER comfortable. This isn’t exactly news to me – I’ve been known to *borrow* many a jumper or T-shirt of Nathan’s and *forget* to return it ever again. However, I recently went one step further and bought a few men’s clothing items expressly for myself. (Best decision ever.)

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This ridiculously comfy H&M jumper is my new favourite thing. I originally picked it out for Nate, but then snuck back to grab an XS for myself…so now we both have one, and have to make sure we don’t accidentally wear it out in public together. Now, H&M, if you would please hurry up with that Sydney store of yours…

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I didn’t get this tee from Melbourne, but I thought I’d include it anyway, because a) it’s unisex and b) it’s super cute. It’s by one of my favourite brands, The Orphan’s Arms: two guys from East London who print gorgeously English things on tops, jumpers, tights, etc. I’m slowly building a collection of their pieces and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!

Things I Love Lately…Six Months Later

If there’s anybody still out there… HELLO! After six months of complete silence, I’m back.

I feel REALLY slack for having let the blog go for this long. I was just so busy – working two jobs, keeping up with postgrad study, trying to maintain some semblance of a social life – and blogging was, unfortunately, relegated to the bottom of my priority list.

However! A few things have changed since I last posted. Last month, I made the decision to leave my bookshop so I could just stick with the one job. I absolutely loved working at the bookshop, but it was time to leave. I now work solely as a writer (or ‘Communications Coordinator’, if you want to get technical), taking on more projects and loving every minute of it.

So now that I’m starting to get settled into a better routine, I’m going to make an effort NOT to leave a gigantic six-month gap in between posts here! I thought I’d kick things back off with a nice little set of ‘Things I Love Lately’. :)

White Bird Art

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I love birds and woodland animals and beautiful drawings and sticking pretty things on my walls. (Who doesn’t?) So when I came across White Bird Art, it was instant love.

They’re two amazingly talented girls from Sydney who create gorgeous artworks of birds, foxes, flowers and just all manner of loveliness. I picked out two of their prints for Nate to get me for my birthday, and they are such a sweet addition to the walls of our little apartment.

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As well as being ridiculously clever, the girls themselves are lovely too – my prints got lost in the mail thanks to AusPost being dodgy, and they were SO helpful and wonderful about it!

You can visit White Bird Art’s Etsy shop here and their website here. And by ‘can’ I mean ‘should, right now’.

WBA (1)Image via White Bird Art

Cormac McCarthy

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I remember one of my undergrad writing teachers always going on about Cormac McCarthy, never missing an opportunity to spruik the harsh American beauty of his prose. When he showed us an excerpt, I read it, went ‘eh’, and didn’t think about McCarthy again until this year.

My bad.

Getting an awesome discount at the bookshop I worked at was beneficial to more than just my budget: it made it easier for me to expand my reading repertoire. We stocked a fair few of McCarthy’s books, some with beautiful, striking cover designs that always caught my eye when I was stocking shelves. I decided to give him a go and start with No Country for Old Men, which is obviously one of his better-known works.

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Eight pages in, my thoughts, as recorded on Twitter, were:

  1. Interesting.
  2. Has he actually removed the comma button from his keyboard?

Dude doesn’t use a lot of punctuation.

I found it weird at first, but slowly and surely, I got completely sucked in by this sparse, gritty novel. His prose, which seems at first to be nothing but long sentences with lots of ‘and’s, has this strange, hypnotic, addictive quality. It completely draws you into his world – whether that be the dusty, gun-slinging, drug-running world of No Country, or the bleak, never-ending, post-apocalyptic highway that is The Road.

Don’t you just love it when you find a new author to add to your favourites?

Lego Harry Potter

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To anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that I am a shameless, hardcore, lifelong Harry Potter fan. Like, I’m talking Hedwig and Time-Turner ornaments on my desk, movie soundtracks playing while I do uni work… Yep.

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Anyway, I’ve realised that one of the key feelings I get from anything Potter-related is comfort. It was such a huge part of my childhood and brought me so much joy that every time I immerse myself even slightly in that world, I just feel calmed.

So when I was feeling a little stressed out by work and uni lately, the most brilliantly genius idea popped into my head: I should absolutely, totally get a Harry Potter game to play on Nate’s Xbox. (How I hadn’t thought of this before, I have no idea.)

Off I trotted to the shops, with seasoned Xbox veteran Nate in tow to help me out. I ended up scoring a secondhand copy of Lego HP Years 1–4 for $20! Potentially THE BEST $20 I HAVE EVER SPENT.

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I’m proud to say that my previously non-existent Xbox skills have increased tenfold! I can now run around, jumping and joyfully Expelliarmusing everyone in sight, all without looking at the controls. One hundred points to Hufflepuff. (I fully embrace the fact that I would absolutely be sorted into Hufflepuff.)

Anyway, the point of all this is, I have found a new method of stress management and it is exploding things and making potions as a little Harry made of blocks. I highly recommend that you give it a try. x

More Featured Work in Whim Online Magazine

Hello lovelies,

I’m very excited to be featured again in the gorgeous Whim Online Magazine! The Autumn issue was released yesterday, and it’s full of beautiful photography, writing, and inspiration for the upcoming cooler season. Reading the issue has got me really excited for autumn – soon, it’ll be cool enough to wear stockings and scarves (but not too cold); cups of tea will be that little bit more comforting; and everything will be picturesque in shades of burnt orange, dark red, and bright gold.

 You can view the issue online here; I’m featured on page 76 with a short piece of autumn-inspired prose poetry. If you like what you see, you’ll be as glad as I was to learn that Whim will be publishing bi-monthly issues from now on! It’s so inspiring to see editor Melanie building up and sustaining a creative project like this – I’m becoming more and more enamoured with the world of online publishing, and this is just the sort of thing I’d maybe like to try myself one day.

Anyway, happy reading, and be sure to stay tuned for future loveliness via Whim’s website and Facebook page!

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Things I Love Lately (Feat. Cupcakes and The National)

Hello and happy Tuesday, if there’s anybody out there still reading!

I’ve been pretty slack on the blog front lately – partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I’ve been trying to think of something really worthwhile and interesting to post. After spending a while despairing of my lack of ‘worthy’ ideas, I realised that if I was this meticulous about every blog post, I’d only average one every ten years or so. So here goes my somewhat self-indulgent Things I Love Lately post – expect to see many more of these in the future!

The National

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I freaking love The National. Their music is dark, slow-burning melancholia, peppered with the occasional incredibly uplifting moment and… some more melancholia, but up-tempo this time. They’ll break your heart, but you will totally love them for it.

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend their show on the Opera House forecourt. It was a perfect, warm, clear summer evening on the harbour: the House lit up in colour, the crowd chilled out and ready for the show – and what a sublime show it was. Matt Berninger’s beautiful voice was the highlight for me; it’s just heavenly live. I’m so impressed by the way he can transition seamlessly between his signature haunting baritone, his higher range, and his crazy hoarse screams on songs like ‘Abel’. I’m even more impressed that he waded his way through the entire crowd during ‘Mr November’ without sustaining any damage besides a pair of lost glasses (he was right up the back with us at one stage and I squealed a little).

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Anyway, it was a gorgeous night and I’m so glad to have had the experience of seeing them live! You can see for yourself what I’m talking about via the Opera House YouTube channel – watch the full set from the second show here. (For the record, my favourite National song is ‘England’ – if you haven’t heard it, go listen to it right now. It’s soft and beautiful and it conjures images of lying in bed watching raindrops run down the window and I love it so much.)

Hello Naomi

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Imagine sitting down in a tiny pastel-coloured café, ordering a chocolate cupcake with vanilla-mint buttercream, and sipping on a little bottle of flavoured jersey milk from a stripy straw. Doesn’t your brain just explode from the cuteness? Mine almost did when I discovered Hello Naomi, a sweet little café in Newcastle serving cupcakes and cookies, coffees and teas, jersey milk and fresh juice and hot chocolate… the list of treats goes on and on. It’s such a lovely place to go for a catch-up with a friend, a coffee date with the boyfriend, or even just to treat yo’self – because you’re a strong and independent woman who deserves it, am I right?

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Follow Naomi on Instagram (@hellonaomicakes) to admire her creations and go into a virtual sugar coma – or, better yet, get yourself to Newcastle for the real thing!

Cheap jewellery

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I got these rings and this necklace for $7 all up. Best. (Rings not modelled on hand due to me having a fat finger day.)

Mail

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Everyone loves getting nice things in the mail. For me it’s especially exciting, as the only things that usually turn up in my mailbox are bills to be paid or letters for the previous tenant (seriously, Peter, change your address already). So this year is going to be awesome, because I’ll be getting regular deliveries thanks to my new Frankie subscription and my new by-distance postgrad course with the University of Southern Queensland! Mr Postman, you’re my new best friend.

Fresh limes

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I’m so obsessed with limes at the moment. I only recently discovered what is now my favourite cocktail of all time: the Charlie Chaplin – equal parts sloe gin, apricot brandy, and fresh lime juice. I also love adding lime to my food – most times when Nate and I make Mexican food I forget to buy limes, but when I do, I will juice a whole one of those delicious bastards on top of my meal. If there’s a lime in the house I’ll even squeeze it over any type of lunch wrap I make – EVERYTHING tastes better with limes!! (Crazy lime lady in the making. Off to make use of the supermarket’s 3 for $1 deal right now.)

IMG_7212Image courtesy of cocktailmusings.com.

So, there you have a few of my favourite things at the moment. I’d love to hear some things that you love lately!