A country house update

We've decided to make the country house available for holiday rentals!

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I haven't posted too much about our country house itself since this post, but it's just the absolute best. We're so happy with it, and looking forward to many more fantastic times up in Mangawhai. I'm super-excited to be able to share this retreat with others, and I know I'm horrendously biased, but I really do think it's so much more special than other holiday places. I mean, in how many places can you wake up to this sort of sunrise...

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...and end the day in the same place, looking at this sort of sunset?

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And in between, sunbathe on the deck, gazing at this view?

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We were inspired by the colours and textures of the local landscape when we decorated – lots of soft grey, like the rocks down at the local beach, sand-coloured linen, and shades of sea-blue and green. It is gorgeously relaxing, and so well-designed (many thanks to our amazing builders, and H1's incredible father, whose architectural skills helped us refine it into something truly special).

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We're up to about stage three of Wonderview, I'd say. Stage one was buying the land; stage two building the house; stage three is landscaping (and for this I'm so grateful that most of the land is native bush – we actually have what seems a huge piece of land to we city-dwellers, an enormous 11 acres or so, leading down the hill to the lake, but most of it looks after itself). Stage four – more landscaping and a spa pool? Very likely. We love our spas. And stage five will be another bedroom, bathroom, and maybe even a swimming pool.

For now, though, we're pretty darn happy with where it's at. We've taken an outrageously beautiful piece of land and put down a wee house that doesn't compete or interrupt the landscape; decorated it with care and restraint; stuffed it full of books and board games and love; and now we get to share that with others. Total aroha – for te whare (house, for my non-Kiwi friends) and te tangata (people) and most of all, te whenua (land). Check it out.

What I bought in the States

I was really pleased with what I bought in the States, and more than a month after touching down in NZ again I'm STILL really pleased. I went with a fairly generous budget, but there are just so many shops there, filled with so many good things, that it would have been really easy to go a bit mad. I think my spending freeze in autumn helped me a lot with that – it seemed to act as a sort of reset for me. I thought long and hard before buying most things and it's really paid off. I also discovered a couple of new-to-me shops that have become firm favourites. Online is great but there's nothing like being there!

Madewell top. Image via Madewell.

Madewell top. Image via Madewell.

Madewell – jeans x 2, striped tank top

I have shopped at Madewell before – one of my very favourite pairs of shoes is from there, as well as a very simple but well-cut black dress, both of which I have worn approximately one million times. I knew I needed new jeans and had been waiting patiently to try some on at Madewell that I had bookmarked online. Turns out their jeans fit me like a dream also! I bought a black pair of skinnies and a slightly distressed blue pair of skinnies with a raw edge hem (pictured below). The tank top (no longer available, but a similar style to this) was an impulse buy but it's paid off. You know I love my stripes, and the one I bought was very similar to one I had already seen in Zara and considered for ages before deciding it wasn't well-made enough. No such issues with the Madewell one!

Madewell jeans. Image via Madewell.

Madewell jeans. Image via Madewell.

Cuyana – black floaty dress

An ethical clothing company that I've been following on Instagram for ages. They had a pop-up store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and I was so excited to check it out! This sheer dress is designed to be a cover-up for the beach or similar, but I intend to combine it with a slip to enable wearing it pretty much everywhere. I just loved the simple, slightly architectural cut and, of course, the well-made ethical component. I think it would also look great over dark skinny jeans and a singlet. This is one for spring and summer – bring it on!

Everlane – linen v-neck t-shirts x 2, black trousers, silk top

Another brand I've followed online for a while, another pop-up store (in New York this time). Lucky me! Everlane call their model radical transparency. It's so nice having a clothing company just give you all the information you need upfront, particularly around their ethics. Everlane extend that transparency to how they price things also, which I find really interesting. Their pricing seems incredibly good to me so I guess that works? It worked on me anyway – I could easily have bought more than I did, but I restricted myself. The linen t-shirt is the sort of thing I wear all summer long, so I bought two, and the black silk top I'd been eying up for some time. I didn't like the look of these wide-leg trousers when I first saw them, but then I saw a few other people wearing this style and I started softening towards them, and then I tried them on myself and now I LOVE them. So much so that I'm seriously considering buying another pair in white. They did warrant a panicked message to my girlfriends the first day I wore them, when I realised I had paired them with a striped top and I was suddenly very afraid I resembled nothing more than a sailor, but the reassurance from my friends came thick and fast and I relaxed. It's still a bit odd wearing them – years of skinny jeans have left their mark on me – but it's also nice feeling slightly out of my comfort zone. 

Everlane silk top. Image via Everlane.

Everlane silk top. Image via Everlane.

J. Crew – navy/white Breton top

J. Crew used to be one of my absolute favourites but they seem to have lost their way in recent years. Lured in one day by 25% off everything, I ended up rejecting everything but this striped Breton top – which was a collaboration with famous French striped top makers St. James, and therefore not eligible for the discount. Sigh. BUT I do love this top and have worn it so many times already. Quality is worth it, right?!

Aldo - black slides

I tried to buy two pairs of shoes in the States. I really wanted another pair of D'Orsay flats to replace my Madewell ones which have been falling to pieces for years now. I've worn them into the ground, and I keep gluing them up, but I've been aware for a good couple of years now that I really need a new pair. I found some Sam Edelman ones I liked, and made a trip into Midtown specially to buy them, but when I got there they didn't have my size in the black. I got them to order them in, then decided maybe the tan would be better. Another trip to Midtown to confirm I wanted the black, then another one again when they arrived – and they were scratched. Irreparably scratched. It was a valuable reminder that some things just aren't meant to be, and if it means a trip to midtown, it's probably not worth it.

The slides, though, I bought and love. Very much looking forward to wearing these with everything in summer. I got them from Aldo on the Upper West Side after a yoga class one day. No midtown, no worries. 

(I see they are on crazy discount right now and if they're in your size, I highly recommend them).

Sephora - blusher, mascara, Fresh tinted lip balm

Aaaah Sephora, I love you. Is there anything more to be said? One day you'll live here too, not just online. Isn't it a wonderful world we live in, where we have specialist makeup stores and teenagers are no longer restricted to the Maybelline stand in their nearest pharmacy?

Makeup's pretty personal, and the blusher and mascara are tried-and-true faves I just needed to restock (Nars Orgasm, Benefit BadGal Lash) but the Fresh Sugar lip treatment is all-new to me and a revelation. I got coral and it's the perfect amount of colour – bright but easy-to-wear and not drying. I now want all the colours.

Le Labo - Neroli 36 perfume

As detailed here. It is delicious. It's definitely a considered purchase but it just makes me so happy.

 

A few (really) good things

I've been back at work a few weeks now and it's meant I've pretty much instantly stopped taking photos – which I hate. Life is still good and worth the photos! I guess my days are so much more structured now that I often miss the lovely things in my march from home – café – work – daycare – home. They're there though – I just need to slow down and see them more. I wrote a few years ago about the importance of getting out at lunchtime and taking a walk. It's still something I strongly advocate, just apparently for everyone else now and not myself. I will work on that, promise. It is still important!

So in the absence of recent life photos, let's throw it back to summer and remember what those warmer days felt like...can't wait for some more of these! Aren't the colours amazing? Where do these colours go in winter?

Surfer at Waihi Beach.

Surfer at Waihi Beach.

The cliff walk at Mangawhai Heads.

The cliff walk at Mangawhai Heads.

These were our Christmas present to ourselves! I love them so so much. Such amazing lines and colour.

These were our Christmas present to ourselves! I love them so so much. Such amazing lines and colour.

Um, who's that tiny baby?! Amelie and H1 on our sixth wedding anniversary at Brick Bay.

Um, who's that tiny baby?! Amelie and H1 on our sixth wedding anniversary at Brick Bay.

Fruit and vegetable stand in Waihi Beach. I kind of want to live in this perfect little cart.

Fruit and vegetable stand in Waihi Beach. I kind of want to live in this perfect little cart.

A few good things

A recurring cold is trying to take me down but I WILL NOT allow it. Except for Friday and Saturday that is, when I spent most of my time cuddled up under a blanket on the sofa, sleeping. I hate being unwell so much but clearly I needed to give in and stop fighting. Napping is very unusual for me, so when I just fall asleep like that something is wrong. There have been some good times though. It's not all doom and gloom. It never is! Hope you've all enjoyed a more successful weekend than I have and have been celebrating a few good things of your own. Happy Monday! 

Felt much better Sunday and escaped to the beach for a walk with my lovely little family. It was gorgeous out! Midwinter sun is such a treat.

Felt much better Sunday and escaped to the beach for a walk with my lovely little family. It was gorgeous out! Midwinter sun is such a treat.

Auckland from on high. Cranes cranes cranes, as far as the eye can see.

Auckland from on high. Cranes cranes cranes, as far as the eye can see.

A bit of contrast – the city from down low. Amelie loved watching this bird from the safety of her makeshift picnic blanket.

A bit of contrast – the city from down low. Amelie loved watching this bird from the safety of her makeshift picnic blanket.

How to stay on holiday forever

Scent is so amazingly powerful, isn't it? Tommy Girl will always take me back to my early teens, as will the Body Shop's fuzzy peach shower gel (would you believe they no longer seem to make it?!). Combined, I'm on holiday in New Caledonia with my French class again.

Every time I travel, I keep this in mind and buy myself something that will take me back to that holiday every time I smell it. The last few times it's been perfume – London is Coco Mademoiselle, Paris is Hermès Un Jardin en Mediteranée, and now, LA and New York are Le Labo Neroli 36.

The best way I find to ensure it has the effect you want it to is to wear it a few times while still away, on days or evenings when you're pretty sure it's going to be a good one. For example, I wore Neroli 36 when we took Amelie to the Imagination Playground, and again when H1 and I went out to dinner by ourselves (gasp!).

Then, just bring it back home and wear it whenever you want to relive those holiday good times.

Room fragrance can have the same effect. If you're in a store, hotel or restaurant that smells particularly good, ask what they're using – it may well be a scented candle that you can buy and burn at home to recreate the same vibe. Sometimes it won't be available (as happened to me in the Marina del Rey hotel, which is literally the best smelling hotel I've ever been in) but often, it will be, and this is such a nice way of making your home feel just a touch more relaxing.

Finally, a scented candle or diffuser that pulls together different components of your holiday can help you relive it in a less direct way. This is what I'm looking for now, seeing as I couldn't buy the Marina del Rey scent. I'm after something a little citrus-y (for the fruit in LA), a little salty (the ocean) and a little cedar-y (Central Park). I'll let you know if I do end up finding the scent I know I'm after – it's one of those ones where I'll know it when I smell it! 

Have you ever done this to extend that holiday feeling, deliberately or otherwise?