Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Room Makeover

With two oversea moves in the span of a year, to say we don’t have a lot of possessions is an understatement!  And although it’s been a great lesson in finding true contentment, Tim and I both realized that the boys’ room was in some serious need of help. Toys were in random bins all over the room, their clothes were in suitcases, and the only light in the space was a table lamp on the floor.  Although five-year-olds rarely complain about a messy room, it was clear to us that the boys weren’t making good use of their bedroom because the spastic mess was overwhelming.

Enter, IKEA.

If you read this blog, you probably know I have a love-hate relationship with IKEA. I want to love it, but I usually just hate it. And yet, in the case of a little boys’ room, IKEA seemed like just the solution.



Each boy has their own desk while the center toy bin pulls out.

This storage container on wheels fits perfectly under their bed and houses all their Lego!

A magnetic board holds the boys' post cards from places they've visited around the world. Uncle Ben's impromptu metalworking reminds them that they need to be nice to each other...forever!

While I was at it, I figured the boys would be good guinea pigs for trying my hand at refinishing furniture.



Including the secondhand dresser I bought for $20 and painted for $10, the entire makeover cost $500.  So, in typical “selfless mom” fashion, the boys’ room is now the only one in the house that’s fully furnished!  Of course, if you read my other blog, you know that I clearly chose to buy one of my favorite toys last week instead of any needed furniture…

Priorities, people! Priorities!


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We have twins. And yes, I will admit that over the years I have purchased more than a few matching items for them. But once they became preschoolers, I refrained from matching them. And yet, somehow I repeatedly find myself with identically-dressed boys.

Now that J&L dress themselves (and because people still buy them matching clothes), they often choose identical outfits.  No, scratch that, they often choose identical everything.

Of the 15 different bikes and helmets available, they both picked the exact same ones…

And the other day, they brought it to a whole new level.

Mismatched matching…

We’ve always said that we would let the boys dress how they want to dress. If they want to match, so be it.  But dear God, I hope and pray that they’re not 17 years old and going to school in matching faux-hawks and skinny ties.

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Grocery Shopping in France + iPhone Translator FAIL = Yet Another Expat Moment

Living in Europe is full of amazing adventures (wait until you see Tim’s coming blog on the latest and greatest castle we…uh, stumbled upon…) but it’s also full of frustrating day-to-day challenges.  Being an expat in a foreign culture has been known to draw out a side of yourself you didn’t know you had and at times, can even totally alter your personality.  I find myself being shy and quiet when I’m out and about (…say WHAT?!…) simply because I don’t know the language or the culture well enough to be my usual outgoing, gregarious self. I’m not sure if that’s such a bad thing (you were thinking it too, let’s be honest) but it is rather unfortunate when you can’t take part in the comical conversation in the line-up at the bakery or even strike up some friendly chit-chat with the check-out girl at the grocery store. 

And yet even if you successfully avoid those common interactions with a vocabulary of, oh…twenty words…you still get hammered every once in a while, just to make sure you’re not getting cocky. Today, I was humbled (again) by the ongoing culprit of grocery shopping…

Gets me every time…

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There are two main grocers in Basel — Migros and Coop.  Unlike most grocers I’m used to at home, these companies’ corporate umbrella’s reach much further than fresh veggies and household cleaners.  Not only do they both have locations that we would consider to be department stores, but their subsidiaries include electronics retailers, mobile phone plans, travel agencies, gas stations, home energy analysis services, and the list goes on and on.

Without a car to carry home our mounds of groceries, I occasionally order online for home delivery. As I was preparing my order today, I explored some of the non-food categories to see what else they sell.  To my surprise, I discovered that you can have everything – your favorite shade of blush, and your favourite (…mom, plug your ears…) “love toys” delivered with your groceries! Oh dear! Can you imagine?! The delivery boys would be dying to see who ordered the Vibrating Ring with their broccoli. Or maybe that’s just totally normal here.

So, when I say that the local grocery store sells lacy underwear, it’s not as absurd as you may be thinking.  And when we say it’s expensive here, we’re not kidding. I couldn’t help but take this snapshot as evidence of both facts:

As seen on the Migros home delivery site, http://www.LeShop.ch

That’s right, $115 pair of underwear.

For. One. Pair.

Welcome to Switzerland. Even our underwear is better than yours.

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From Shabby to Chic

If you followed my previous blog, you may recall my love for thrifting. It’s a beautiful marriage between good deals and one-of-a-kind finds that keeps you coming back for more, even if it’s mainly the same junk nine times out of ten.  But that one time…oh that one glorious time…when you find that stunning Shaker-style hall table crying out for a good home and a decent coat of paint. Or that exquisite Provincial dining chair that’s suffocating beneath a gawd-awful fabric that someone thought was a good idea.

After one of those successful visits, you walk out of the store with your treasure under your arm, on your back or Lord willing, pushed on a trolley behind you, and there’s a certain bounce in your step. The bounce of thrifting.

And then you’re hooked.

I was worried that I wouldn’t find thrift stores here in Switzerland because I had heard that it wasn’t really the “thing to do” here. But over the past week, I have scoured the internet and the English forums to find quite a few shops. There are two Salvation Army locations and a handful of “Brokenhaus” shops, which are similar but with higher end furniture (typically antiques).  For my first foray into Swiss secondhand land, I was certainly not dissapointed. Unforutnately, I wasn’t prepared to buy anything either as we’re still finalizing our car co-op membership and have no way of picking this stuff up. But just knowing that these pieces have gone to a good home is enough for me.

I think they made a mistake when they priced this beautiful piece at 65-. I think I made a mistake by not buying it. (sniff)
Although priced at 140- per nightstand, the beautiful post-modern look of these makes it certainly worth it. And let’s keep things in perspective, you can’t even get IKEA particle board crap for that price!

But with every incredible find comes 99 not-so-incredible finds. Or 99 thoughts of “somebody actually manufactured that?!” I love snapping photos of those “treasures” to share with you — somehow laughing and snickering in the aisle by myself doesn’t really satisfy.

A throw pillow…but with built-in foot holes. Seriously. Just slip those cold footsies right in there. All for the bargain price of 14-!

Deciding what to wear every day is soooo five minutes ago.

Let me just start by saying, I have NO idea what these are. But apparently the Swiss love ’em. Our best guess was some sort of carbonation machine as the Swiss LOVE carbonated everything.

The overflowing stock of these used water bottles was probably your first clue that these are not the “treasures” I speak of!

My taste in home decor has changed dramatically in the past year and I went from loving all things straight and sterile to french country and shabby chic. Not sure if I’m going to convince Tim to let me turn our flat into a shabby chic home (of warmth!!) but perhaps by refinishing one piece at a time, he won’t notice…

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One Man’s Junk

As a child, I hated to shop. Get me in, get me out.  But slowly, through much training and exercise, I have developed the necessary muscles for marathon expeditions and as my sisters can attest, currently hold the world record for Highest Volume per Hundred Dollars Spent — nothing beats finding something you love AND on sale.

While riding the trams here in Basel, I have come across a few ads for Flöh Markts (flea markets) and have made the treks to two neighboring communities to see what a European Flea Market is really like. What I have quickly discovered is that most of what Europeans consider to be “junk”, we North Americans would consider to be “treasure”. In fact, their idea of “antique” constitutes something older than the Canadian Confederation.

I was like a kid in a candy store. My eyes darting around from one colorful treat to another. I could barely contain my glee, fearing that my wide-eyed excitement would give the wrong impression to the local vendors (how do you say “sucker” in German?).

Tim & J at Flea Market

Our first flea market experience!

Flea Market Shopping with Mommy

Flea Market Shopping with Mommy -- we love the toy vendors!

Old Milk Crate Planter Box

I think this metal container was for milk bottle deliveries...but it makes a great herb planter!

Thanks to German-speaking Anne coming along and bartering for me, I managed to get this massive china set for 200 franks! Plates, bowls, serving jugs, coffee/tea urns, gravy boats, tea/sugar sets, teacups and saucers, OH MY!


I'm going to need a hutch just for this set...it's over 150 pieces!

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It’s like a highly contagious rash that you simply can’t avoid. It’s only a matter of time before you come down with it. And once you get it, it spreads quickly…like a weed.

I speak of IKEA.

Now, even while in North America, I was never a big fan of IKEA. I loved the idea of it but always felt short-changed after shopping there. Perhaps I’m a bit jaded by an experience early on in our marriage where we paid $200 to travel to Vancouver IKEA to buy a bedroom set, only to find out they didn’t have the one we wanted in stock. We settled for another, trekked it all the way home, and then realized it had two left-handed pieces for one of the dresser drawers.  We called for the replacement piece and they insisted we send them the wrong piece and they would replace it. So we obliged and a week later not only got the same incorrect piece back…but it was also broken! Seriously. I’ve never liked them since.

Anyway, here in Switzerland, there are not a lot of furniture options. It’s IKEA…or a $10,000 Swiss-made couch. Haven’t heard of many in-betweens. You know the Swiss, they love quality. Tim and I were about to cave and buy the staple pieces we need (uhhh..everything!) from IKEA when our friends recommended a store across the border in Lörrach, Germany called in puncto. We popped over to the quaint little German town for supper, a nice little walk with the boys and checked out the furniture store. Wow, were we impressed! And I think we found some real keepers!

Liam's Favourite Chair -- and only 900 Euros!

L's Favourite Chair -- and only 900 Euros!

Tim and I had a bit of a stand-off on our pick of sofa, though…

This ain't your mamma's formal livingroom!

This ain't your mamma's formal livingroom!

This couch belongs in budoir photography!

Nothing like a little velour for lounging.

Let’s settle it! Which do you prefer?!

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