Shibui Bowls

The power of literature is evident in that a Japanese novelist who I never met instilled in me a love of pottery bowls. In high school I read Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata and was introduced to the Japanese concept of shibui in which a functional, ordinary, even old-fashioned household object is valued and admired for its simple beauty and subtle detail. In hindsight, I think this way of thinking was one of the precursors to my interest in simple living.

About ten years ago when pottery wasn’t considered to be that hip, I spotted a gorgeous blue bowl in an op shop. It was beautifully crafted and signed with the potter’s mark. It was only $5. It was a turning point. I became a restrained, discerning but enthusiastic bowl hunter. Over the next few months and years I developed a small but lovely collection.

To this day my shibui bowls bring me a great deal of quiet joy not only because I think they are beautiful but also because they are so functional. They are handcrafted and earthy. They are my partners in hospitality. They make my home feel warm and cosy.

What’s your shibui thing?

The Scrabble Dream

So I have a little Scrabble habit: Not only do I love to play but I also must work out the combined score of all the players after each game. I reckon anything over 500 is worth celebrating!

I come from a long line of Scrabble enthusiasts. It is such an entertaining game of word knowledge but also skill, strategy and luck. Every holidays we play, sometimes three generations represented around the board, and our Scrabble dictionary is pretty shabby from so much use!

In the photo above you can see one of my favourite op shop finds: a vintage Scrabble set. It makes me so happy. It has wooden tiles and trays and is in top notch condition though it was missing an ‘i’ when I bought it. Copyright on the box says 1953 by Selchow & Righter Co. Bay Shore, New York.

Recently I watched a wonderfully quirky film called Sometimes, Always, Never. It features a particularly hilarious Scrabble playing scene. In fact Scrabble is delightfully woven all the way through the film. Here is the trailer:

Scrabble was born in New York in 1938. The inventor of the game was Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and amateur artist. He tried without much luck to market the game and finally in 1948 he sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot who came up with the name ‘Scrabble’. Brunot also set up a Scrabble factory in Connecticut. The game didn’t fully take off until 1952 when an executive from Macy’s, the famous department store, played the game while on holidays. He loved it so much, he decided to stock it in his store. There was such a demand for it that Macy’s turned production over to Selchow and Righter, a company that had previously rejected the game.

Scrabble is now popular all around the world and over 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold. There are Scrabble clubs, associations and tournaments. There are variations of the game: Travel Scrabble, Scrabble Cards, Deluxe Scrabble, online Scrabble and Large Print Scrabble. There are Scrabble dictionaries. There are Scrabble tea towels!

If you think a Scrabble tea towel might enhance your dish wiping experience or make a great gift for a special Scrabble friend, The Turning Page Bookshop in Springwood have them:

I bet the ongoing success of Scrabble was beyond Alfred’s wildest dreams when he first invented the game in 1938. It reminds me that we should never underestimate the potential of our ideas, dreams and creativity.

Op Shopping for Clothes

I recently bought a dress from a local op shop for $2.00! You can see the lovely blue and white print in the photo. It has hardly been worn, is beautifully made and is a perfect fit. I am looking forward to wearing it next summer.

There are a number of good reasons to take up op shopping for clothes. The obvious one is that it saves money. Secondly, it supports charitable organisations. Thirdly, it reduces waste by recycling and reusing items that are not ready for landfill.

The article I have linked below explores the ethical dilemmas of shopping for clothes. If you have the time, it is worth reading and builds a good argument for op shopping.

Op shopping for clothes is a relatively new phenomenon for me. I was dubious at first, thinking it would be an unpleasant experience but with a little help I learned some tips and with practice I have developed more confidence.

Since learning how to op shop for clothes I have bought jeans, canvas shoes, coats, shirts, blouses, trousers, dresses, knitwear, scarves, handbags and jackets. Some items have been brand new (tags on), most have been designer label and all have been in excellent condition. I did a check this week and at present there are about 50 items in my wardrobe (including shoes and accessories) that were purchased in an op shop.

It all started with a friend of mine who had taken on a ‘buy nothing new for a year’ challenge and she was adamant that I needed to learn how to op shop for clothes. She was right because I had just started working again after having my children. My new job required ‘corporate wear’ which was a bit daunting! I only had a few suitable items in my wardrobe and there was no way I could afford to buy any thing else new. My friend did me a great kindness by teaching me how to op shop for clothes and I learned a life changing skill.

Here are my tips:

  • Have a running list of items that you would like to add to your wardrobe so you don’t make unnecessary purchases. Know what you need and want!
  • When you get to the op shop pick the type of item you need – i.e. dress, jacket, jeans
  • Find the rack with your size
  • Scan for a colour that you enjoy wearing
  • Decide if you like the style and cut of the item
  • Feel the fabric to see if you like the texture and weight of it
  • Check the label for more information – brand, type of fabric, washing instructions
  • Check the condition of the item – any tears? pulls? stains? damage?
  • Check the price
  • Try it on – does it fit well? does it suit you? do you feel comfortable and happy in it?

My main advice is to be curious and open minded but also super selective. Also be willing to wait. You may only find one or two items on your list at a time. There is a serendipitous aspect to op shopping that is fun. If you are patient, you will find some gems!

My favourite op shops in the Blue Mountains:

  • Foothills Eco, Glenbrook
  • Vinnies, Blaxland
  • Rotary Recycles Op Shop, Blaxland
  • Salvos Store, Springwood
  • Vinnies, Springwood
  • Red Cross Shop, Leura
  • Vinnies, Katoomba

There is also an op shop strip along High Street in Penrith:

  • Anglicare Op Shop
  • Red Cross Shop
  • Salvos Store
  • The Smith Family (82 Station Street)