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Category Archives: Apparel

Nesting and carving now … timber gifts for Christmas

Two of our clients have interesting natural last-minute gift ideas for people in or near Brisbane.

Kelly Matthews of Melomys environmental consultancy in the western suburb of Moggill hand-makes and sells these nest boxes for kookaburras, native gliders, bats, parrots and possums.

nest-box-kit-228x228

bat-box-2013-03-19-at-11-09-17-pm-228x228

I held one and they’re quite substantial … made of 18mm marine-grade plywood to exacting international standards.

Kelly (who holds two Masters degrees in environmental science) told me that while the boxes are similar designs for these species, there are important differences.

Gliders like their entry door at the back because they’re secretive creatures but parrots like theirs at the front (with a doorstep pole as well) so they can stand there and strut their stuff.

The boxes are priced at less than $100 and are currently on sale for Christmas. So check out her website to finalise your order: www.melomys.net.au.

Next, talented woodworker Bevan Blackshaw hand makes a wide range of useful Australian native timber gadgets and furniture.

bookbird

I was captivated (and purchased) one of these top-selling “book birds”. Try this … insert thumb in hole and place inside spine of opened paperback or hardcover printed book. Voila! Book stays open, single-handedly. $12.35 + shipping.

 

 

 

foldingchairsAnd these beautiful stools are $245 each + shipping. They fold up flat for easy carrying and storage. I reckon they might be ideal for the caravan generation.

 

 

 

 

foldingchair1See a whole lot more here and here or phone Bevan in Wavell Heights on 0419 689 723, email timberdimensions@ymail.com.

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Closing in on Dad’s Day

Sponsored content supplied by Fatjoe.

With Fathers’ Day fast approaching, it’s time to get those brains in gear and decide what to get the special man in your life.

Of course, most of us are on a budget, so we want something that is personal, fun and not too expensive. But buying gifts can be a pricey business, so to remain on target with your spending check out these budget-friendly gifts.

Dads Day

Personalised gifts  

One of the best things about a good Fathers’ Day gift is that you can personalise it. You can do this by getting a reasonable price gift with his name or initials on it, such as a wallet or pen.

Or how about theming the gift along the lines of his favorite sport or hobby.

You can get Boxt Father’s Day hampers with chocolate rugby balls for the sports fanatic Dad.

Or if you have a little more to spend, why not try a personalised bobble head with vehicle, for those dads that are into cars or motor bikes?

Something to do

They say that a great gift keeps on giving, and if you get your dad an activity that is certainly the case.

Perhaps he has always harboured the desire to be an artist?

Then why not get him an easel and paint set like this? Or a charcoal sketching set?

Or even a cool Zentangle book and some fine-line pens for some artistic meditation?

These aren’t too expensive, and a creative dad will definitely get a lot of use and joy from a gift like that.

artist

Relaxing

If your dad has a stressful job or even if it’s just the kids that are giving him the runaround, why not treat him to something relaxing for Fathers’ Day?

You could try a massage, although some of the more traditionally macho dads might balk at this. They might appreciate a trip to the steam room and sauna instead though?

If you dad likes to relax in front of the telly, a subscription to a media provider like Netflix can be an awesome choice.

If you have siblings, you can split the fee to make the costs more reasonable.

Then not only does Dad get to watch all his favorite shows, but you can also bond, by binge watching your favourite shows together!

Fun

Fun presents can be a bit tricky.  If you pick something fun, it should also have some long-term value as well. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money that could have gone on something that they would have really enjoyed.

gamer

Some popular and fun presents for gamers include controllers or the latest Xbox or PS4 titles like No Man’s Sky or Saints Row.

If you want to give him a fun surprise, why not get a jumper from a charity shop.

Then wrap the game up in the jumper and wrap the jumper up. His face will be a picture when he thinks that the ugly sweater is his real gift!

Just in time for Father’s Day

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It had to happen! Son Liam enters the retail game with these six-pack holders three-and-a-half weeks out from Father’s Day. He’s only imported 500 and they’re $20 each including postage. Take your pick, as long as you want green, blue, hi-viz orange, red or black … I’ve held them in my hand and they look and feel great. Here’s his EBay page. OMG, I’ll have to help with the packing and shipping 🙂

Cats and Vintage

Close up of traditional polish christmas dish.

Close up of traditional Polish Christmas dish.

Dumplings are popular in Brisbane these days but Polish dumplings known as Pierogi (pronounced pyer-ro-gee) will be consumed at competitive speed next Sunday, June 26.

The 2nd Annual Pierogi Eating Competition will be at the Polish Club, 10 Marie Street, Milton, as part of the Milton Community Festival.

Pierogi are delicate white boiled dumplings with scalloped edges and filled with meat or cabbage or both and smothered in traditional onion relish.

Get in on the action!

How many can you knock off in a minute? Try out from 2pm on Sunday.

First one to finish 15 of these in one sitting wins the prize.

Brisbane Lord Mayor’s makers’ market with fashion market is on Saturday June 25.

Special fund raiser for the weekend is also at noon on Saturday June 25: a vintage fashion gold-coin auction in aid of local animal rescuers and the Cat Cuddle Café Red Hill.

Contact:

Polonia Polish Club

Henryk Kurylewski

0402 210 712 secretary@polonia.org.au

A whispering Polish lift? Where?

There must be thousands of Polish-speaking elevators in Poland right? But now there’s one in Brisbane.

When you arrive at either the ground floor or the first floor a soft female voice whispers the floor number in Polish.

Then you notice it’s a Schindler lift and there’s a gentle reminder of mid-20th century Polish history.

This Schindler’s lift will be officially launched with a wide range of entertainment, performances and attractions and a variety of children’s attractions all day next Sunday June 26 at the Polish Club, 10 Marie Street, Milton, as part of the Milton Community Festival.

Special fund raiser for the weekend is at noon on Saturday June 25: a vintage fashion gold-coin auction in aid of local animal rescuers and the Cat Cuddle Café Red Hill.

In the swim for Summer …

Coola Cozzies

Our friend and former Small Business Management student (now graduate!) grazier Julie Brown of Ilfracombe, has launched her new business (above) just in time for Christmas.

Coola Cozzies is Julie’s way of earning valuable off-farm income during the drought but this is no charity … have a look at these wow designs (all created by Julie).

Julie describes them as “Cool, colourful, comfortable women’s and men’s board shorts and UPF50+ rashies, swim shirts and sun shirts.”

Cunningly, Julie has also catered for people at my end of the market (generously composed) and sells men’s and women’s board shorts, men’s and women’s UPF50+ short-sleeve and long-sleeve rashies, and women’s swim tops in sizes to fit women’s sizes 10 to 24 and men’s sizes L to 4XL.

Coola pics 1

Coola pics 2

We support local business

Here’s an exclusive sneak preview of Christmas stock at Longreach’s Spinifex Collections, thanks to owner Sue Smith.

In the Garden in the Outback

Our lifelong friend Dallas Scott has gone into retail in the Outback town of Longreach, Queensland. and opened “The Garden Shed”, a spot for specialty botanical-theme gifts. Always the practical one, Dallas says she has stocked her shop with practical wares, “to be put to good use immediately … no dust & bug collecting!”

So practical that her shop provides free Wi-Fi for customers, lovely!

Dallas describes “The Garden Shed” (in Crane Street … every street in Longreach is named after a bird) as “a taste of South Melbourne in Longreach” and for once a sloganny-sounding promotion is rooted in truth … daughter Patience lives in South Melbourne and has added her tasteful stocking advice and big-city brands to the line-up. Let’s see: Helen Kaminski hats, Portmerion Botanical china, Mor Marshmallow products, French Hansi lemonade and mustards as well as what Dallas says are “the most expensive tea towels offered in Australia”.

As well as practical, Dallas is also generous: she says: “Every month a selected charity will be showcased in the Garden Shed to raise awareness and collect gold coin donations for the charity.”

Longreach is a day’s drive (1200km) north-west of Brisbane and site of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the QANTAS Founders’ Museum. We’ve been to both and they’re outstanding.

Mid-winter, the monthly haul

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last eating + drinking + shopping expedition but one thing’s for certain: north-west Victoria has loads to offer and there’s never a dull moment.

We tried two very different restaurants competing – it seems – in the same market, and within about an hour’s drive of each other.

Gladioli in the tiny town of Inverleigh north of Geelong, offers an evening of what I can only describe as “entertainment with food”. It’s a degustation establishment, which means the normal thing is for the chef and staff to serve you either a five-course or an eight-course set “tasting menu”. Some days of the week a la carte is available.

We dined with friends on a Saturday night late in June which was a tasting menu evening ($75 a head, wine extra) and the experience was at the same time entertaining, enjoyable and tasty … but I think the main effect was indeed “entertainment with food”. For those unfamiliar with the contemporary trend, this is the kind of food you see on television devised by British chef Heston Blumenthal … unusual, somewhat experimental and definitely not “run of the mill”. At the far end of the spectrum is the school of “Molecular gastronomy” but I’m not sure Gladioli chef Matthew Dempsey has gone all the way. See what you think of the olive oil powder and report back by email. The staff put on an impressive performance when they troop out of the kitchen bearing each course simultaneously for each guest. This is how degustation should happen.

sault

Coincidentally, the next night we booked at Sault, at a whistle-stop to the north called Sailor’s Falls, just outside the tourist spa town of Daylesford (and about 30 minutes’ drive from the Eat Drink Sleep Shop Australia’s headquarters in the town of Ballan, central Victoria).

Sault is more an a la carte establishment and that suited us fine after the degustation experience the previous night. With a minor concession to this, we started with the Sault tasting plate for entrée, which allowed us a morsel of the chef’s selections without having to make too many decisions early on.

Also different was the ambiance of the dining room, overlooking a gorgeous lake and lavender farm. Admittedly at the end of June, the fields were a little bare and the outlook decidedly wintery, but it’s all part of the charm. We moved on to luscious mains of venison and salmon: the fish a dependable standard in this part of Australia, while the venison (teamed with a yummy beetroot salad) is becoming more common and indeed should be.

Something unusual and a pleasant addition to the standard service is Sault’s menu glossary, which the waiters point out when they deliver the menus as you sit down. The glossary provides an expert but simply phrased explanation of any more unusual items available that night, such as where the food has been sourced, how the chef works his magic, and anything else out of the ordinary.

Perhaps it has the effect of standardising the message of what’s on offer and why it’s special; perhaps it means a little less work for the wait staff (but they seemed very willing to talk); but all in all we found it an interesting addition and worthwhile. We finished with a pear tart for Pip and a cheese plate for me. Total for the evening came to $211.60 including drinks.

This month’s Shopping News round-up:
We started in Inglis Street, the main drag of our new hometown, Ballan. There’s lots to enjoy here and no doubt we’ll write more as time goes by.

This trip we called in at The Skin Inn for some mittens.

Further along we visited Pam at Zirela Fashions who sold Pip a couple of comfy skivvies. Pam told us the origin of her shop name: a combination of the first three letters (backwards) of her surname Rizzo (that’s the ‘Zir’) and the last three letters from her first name (that’s the “ela” from Pamela).

bed chair

Later we called in at Victoria (Tor) Roxburgh’s Omnibus Art Gallery and commissioned a rustic-finish garden bench (above) by locals Sarah and Paul Springfield. In a previous life this was someone’s double bed-head; now it’s been repurposed for our garden. Omnibus Art’s website notes it is the creative base for artist Velislav Georgiev and Roxburgh, a writer. “The gallery complex was designed by Velislav and is based on the idea of a traditional artist’s complex, which is a place where an artist can live, produce work and trade. They also have a FaceBook page.

The next village west from Ballan is Gordon (about 10 minutes’ drive) and in keeping with its Scottish sounding heritage, it’s home to two shops of impeccable UK heritage.

pip gloves

First we found the Shambles Antique Centre, tucked away beside the main street corner and source of this pair of Gaye Abandon tubeway armies fingerless gloves which Pip just could not resist.

But the chief find of the afternoon was Sheina and Bob Petch’s establishment, the Wild Trout’s Gordon Hat Shoppe. If you make it into Gordon and are standing at the crossroads of Old Melbourne Road, opposite the pub, you’re there.

Pip cap

Pip was in the mood for buying and secured this delightful green and blue (with mauve accents) traditional hand-woven Harris Tweed Celtic gypsies’ cap ($58), a modified design which they say originated in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

john cap

I fastened on to this typical Irish and Welsh-style eight-piece Harris Tweed floppy Breton cap ($88), very King of the World.

The hats are lovely and warm but the experience of shopping in the Wild Trout with Bob and Sheina (and their dog Chloe) was something completely unexpected and welcoming. We were there on a rainy Sunday afternoon and the place was packed with shoppers, looking for cuddly treats.

Fruit shops

fruits of life BM

We seem to have fallen into a Garden of Eden in this part of central Victoria. Impressively hidden along the Avenue of Honour in Bacchus Marsh, 30 minutes north-west of Melbourne, is the Fruits of Life grocery and deli (plus a coffee shop and ice cream parlour for all seasons). It might be in the Garden of Eden but it’s also an Aladdin’s Cave, with some of the neatest and most appealing shelf displays we’ve encountered. And out the front, an innovative spinner from which hang hands of bananas ready to be grabbed.

wilsons ballarat

In the relatively “Big Smoke” of Ballarat further west lies Wilsons Fruit Market, a secret which we suspect the locals want to keep quiet. When one stumbles on such delights in a capital city, they tend to get trampled to death and loved into oblivion. Somehow I can’t imagine that happening here.

In the hardware

Tumbling Composter:

At Bunnings Ballart I paid $99 for a swish-looking 180-litre tumbling composter imported from Israel, made by the firm D.F. Omer of Tel-Aviv. I liked the look of the unit, the price was the best on the shelf, and most appealing of all was the big sticker “assembles in minutes”.

So how did this work out in practice? Firstly, let me say the tumbling composter is now assembled in our back yard, and it looks beautiful. I reckon it will be every bit as good as our last compost tumbler which was manufactured in Brisbane from galvanised steel and which set us back more than three times the price.

But was this a job of “minutes” or was the story something a little different? Here’s how it went:

I started the assembly process at 11am and by 12:20pm with no stops I had the unit finally set up and working. Time to completion, 80 minutes.

Part of the time was spent watching the multimedia “instruction booklet” which is provided using a Quick-Response Code printed on the glossy green packaging. If you haven’t encountered a QR Code before, this is the speckly square artwork you often see on posters and wrapping. Point your iPhone at the code, snap (using a free downloaded decoder) and your iPhone spirits you to a website where the sought-after content is published. In this case, a video demonstration of a young bloke unpacking the tumbling composter and then, piece by piece, assembling it. The whole video runs for 14 minutes 5 seconds and in practice, you have to watch every last bit of the film to make sure you don’t do anything wrong … so it’s going to take you at least 14 minutes 5 seconds.

But not only 14:05 … for me, I had to watch some sections several times to get the drift, and then stop the movie to actually do the steps shown in the video. Sometimes I had to watch a scene two or three times to work out how to do it properly. More than once I had to resort to the printed booklet also included with the kit, to make sure I had the right idea.

But unlike nearly every time I buy something from IKEA or similar stores and try to assemble it, I never had to backtrack and undo what I had just done, so the verdict is: the combination of the video tutorial and the printed booklet had me finished in what now looks like reasonably good time, with a well-engineered product. Time will tell, obviously, but at this stage, things are looking up.

Things to remember: for starters, I had to complete the assembly job on the veranda outside my office, in range of our home Wi-Fi router system because the instructions were online and the video would not download over 3G … apparently I needed the stronger wireless signal. Also, I needed the know-how of the QR-code camera and decoder system to get the video in the first place, otherwise I would have had to manage with the printed booklet.

Viewing the video required a little more dexterity than using the booklet, because I had to be able to work the iPhone video player controls and then quickly pause the movie, put the phone down and attack the job with screwdriver and tools before going on to the next section.

Having finished the tumbling composter job, I turned my hand to the next task: putting together a rack of DIY shelving also picked up at Bunnings. Same idea … we selected the 5-tier Romak shelving system because it was under $100 ($94.86) and because printed boldly on the colourful label were those enticing words “simple instant assembly”.

quick shelf

Now I’ve put similar shelving systems together before and I know the word “instant” has a spectrum of meanings. In this case I was able to manage go to whoa in 40 minutes (12:30-1:20pm). So no one would call that “instant” and if I didn’t have my trusty rubber mallet and my previous experience handy, I might have found the assembly a little more challenging than “simple”, but all in all, not bad, and in the shed the unit is standing quite strong and firm.

Chocolate

And finally a quiz, or is that a poll, or is it a review? We’re heading north to Brisbane and during the trip we hope to have a tasting at Monty’s Chocolates, where our younger one Erin is a new staff member. We hope to taste some of their reportedly exquisite imported chocolates so we have been boning up on chocolate varieties available locally.

Until Erin started work at Monty’s we didn’t really appreciate the sweeping range of chocolates now available in Australia. It’s no longer just Cadbury Country or MacRobertson’s Down Under.

In Milawa we picked up a 45g block of “Koko Black 80% Dark” on the same outing as an intriguing 45g box of organic, “anti-oxidant rich” Pana Chocolate (60% cacao) flavoured with blue-green algae.

mocha shop

Later in Ballarat, at the Mocha Shop and Café in Bridge Mall, we tried a 75g block of Madécasse sea salt and nibs (63% cocoa, “crunchy with a touch of salt”), and a 200g gift box of Newman’s Ginger chocolates (with a homesick touch of Buderim ginger).

The Koko Black might appeal to the connoisseur with its rich, dark and bitter notes, just as a mysterious Islay single-malt whiskey, with its salty, peaty medicinal tang grabs the attention of a Scotch aficionado.

And the Newman’s, with its dependable and possibly conventional sweet and sour blend of ginger and creaminess, will appeal to most fanciers, especially on the table after dinner with coffee (as indeed we enjoyed it that night).

Most challenging of this selection was the Pana Chocolate with blue-green algae, followed closely past the flag by the Madécasse sea salt and nibs. This is definitely going to be a matter of taste, but if you can, grab a morsel of each and let us know what you think.

See you next time!

Our deer friend: from North Pole to Aussie Outback

NorHide

Bizarre shop story: our good friend Sue Smith, founder and owner of Spinifex Collections gift shop in Longreach, Outback Queensland, tells me she answered the phone one day at work and discovered it was a Skype call from Norway.

“It was someone who’d been told that mine was the sort of shop that would stock reindeer hides!” Sue said.

“Well yes, I like all things unusual and especially if they’re natural 🙂

“The long and the short of it was that this person had married a Norwegian, was living in Norway and had visited a tannery there.

“She thought she should share some of the hides with her home country!

“She said they retailed between $300 and $400.

“I had them shipped to my door after paying for them sight unseen (plus duty and GST before Customs released them) but found I could still make some money at a RRP of $285!”

Sue admits she suffered a minor buyer’s remorse: “I thought I’d bought many more than I’d ever sell but decided I would sew excess into vests and jackets.

“However, at the rate they’ve sold in the short time since I’ve had them, I’m starting to think I’ll have to get more to keep up with demand! I hope things continue in this vein!”

On her website Sue describes them as: “All the way from Norway … beautifully tanned, thick and softly luxurious … perfect sofa throws, to snuggle up to on those chilly winter nights, to place in front of the fire or hang on the wall just to look at. The colours are varied from all white to nearly all brown, with splotches and splashes and the size is large calf.”

Sue sent us one to try out and she’s right …  beautifully tanned, thick and softly luxurious is a perfect description. We’ve got it on our bathroom floor and in our chilly Ballan mornings (sometimes freezing outside) it’s perfect on the toes. Thanks Sue!

Do you have a Bizarre Shop Story to share with us? cokleymedia@yahoo.com.au or just write a comment here …

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