Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Zealand, Part III

The road south

Leaving Rotorua, we took a somewhat circuitous route to  Wellington.  The most direct route would be south to Lake Taupo and then straight on to Wellington.  We decided to head east to Napier on the coast, and then turn southwest - a couple hours extra, but worth it, as Napier was completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style after an earthquake in 1931. We drove as far east as we could - literally, and we parked on the promenade on the shores of Hawke's Bay.  It was grey, moody, windy...and absolutely breathtaking. The black beach and vibrant blue water were incredible.

I wanted to shop a bit, so we walked through town - another good tip that I don't use often enough - ASK THE LOCALS.  We asked a lovely shopkeeper where she would recommend we go for a quick bite to eat; the shrimp salad sandwiches, cupcakes and L&P at Heaven's Bakery were just what we needed. So, so good. 

Actually L&P was one of our favorite parts of New Zealand.  We bought our first liter at a countdown after driving through Paeroa itself and having several WTF moments followed by utter bewilderment at what this L&P stuff actually was.  Advertisement was plastered so liberally across Paeroa and its outskirts that we were sure it must be alcoholic, but no, it turned out to be a pleasingly quirky lemon soda. 

I even brought a glass L&P bottle home with me to use as a vase; we were stopped at security in Auckland..."Excuse me ma'am, it seems you have a bottle of something in your rucksack...oh, it's an empty L&P?  You're all right - it's world famous in New Zealand!"  The security lady was actually quite happy that I had developed a love for their national drink.

After leaving Napier, I slept for a little bit, waking just in time for the harrowing ride into Wellington itself.  The Hutt Valley is no joke - for many, many kilometers, the only thing between us and the distant valley floor was a few inches of steel or worse, some shrubbery.  Kiwis tend to take these curves at about 60mph (even in construction), so...with my feet firmly pressed against the dashboard and a bloodless grip on the seatbelt strap, we went for it.  And arrived in Wellington a bit more proud of our driving prowess. 

North Island countryside
for reals
Hawke's Bay
Not the best exposure, but one of my favorite pictures...
Napier Marine Parade
This was my favorite road sign.  I was never exactly sure how the car made those tracks.  But...point taken. 
Hutt Valley. 

just go for it...

Ahhhh...Wellington.  Finally. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Light up my Life

So here's the thing about lighting.  I never noticed it until I owned a home.  Not that I didn't think some lamps were more stylish than others (I was particularly attached to the large stained-glass fruit bowl chandelier than hung in the kitchen when I was growing up), but I never really considered it as an important design element.

Until I moved into The House of Brass.  Every opportunity they had, these people threw up a shiny brass fixture.  It was blinding.  So...I went to the local home improvement store and looked for a reasonably priced (under $50), reasonable stylish light fixture.  What I found was this:
The dreaded boob light.  It comes in every finish imaginable, and is often priced under $20.  It is just wrong.  So, so very wrong... so what to do?  I need a thrifty fixture.  I hate it when I watch a home improvement show and they show a 'bargain' light fixture for $250.  It's like reading a magazine and seeing the 'cheap and chic' clothes.  Everything is under $100! Hmmm....every piece is under $100.  Show me an entire outfit for that price and then we can talk.  But I digress. Back to lighting.

This is better - kind of a nautical-lighthouse vibe.  What I don't like is that it is still boob-like, and the bulb is visible. Until the local hardware store starts selling aesthetically pleasing CFL or LED bulbs, I need to keep my fixture parts covered.  Clear shades with a big 'ol corkscrew CFL kind of set my teeth on edge.  And while edison bulbs are lovely...I just imagine my meter spinning like a top when I turn them on.

Ok.   I do truly love this one, even though it appears a bit exteriorish.  And a bit pricey, as its from the Pottery Barn.  Maybe on sale?  

A bit better - no boob light in sight, and the shade color is 'opal' which leads me to believe that lit, it would cast a warm, pearly glow.  But the clips bother me.  It looks like a claw or some kind of 3-legged spider is clutching the shade from above.  Every time I walked down the hallway, I'd be afraid it would attack me with its other three legs.

No boobs, no spiders...and sparkles!  I love is a flushmount the aspires to be a chandelier.  It is a bit Downton Abbey-ish for our little brown ranch-in-the-woods, but what can I say...I'm a sucker for sparkle.   And, oddly enough, I don't mind the brass.  It doesn't appear too 1986-shiny in this picture.  I still have the visible bulb issue, though.

This is similar to what we have now.  Functional, no lady parts, no visible bulbs.  Utilitarian.  Boring.  Ugh.

Back on track!  I love the craftsman looks, the marbled shade, the bronze details...but it may be a little much for our tiny hallway...

Aaaand we have a winner!  A little much at over $80, but it fits all my criteria...and it has a slight Deco feel to it.  Plus I love the color of the shade - I feel as though it would make the whole hall warm and glowy, which is especially important on cold mornings in Maine!

sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 
6,  7

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Zealand, Part II

The North Island...we were a bit nervous the morning we left Auckland...mainly because it involved driving on the left side, and we were armed with only a somewhat shoddy map purchased hurriedly on sale at Whitcoulls.

Here's a fun fact about New Zealand that nobody tells you before you go...books are crazy expensive. Like $20 for a mass market paperback expensive.  My husband and I (both being avid readers) decided to board the plane with only a quick-read Clive Cussler novel (for him) and People Style Watch (for me).

Good grief. Feel free to judge us, as upon reading that sentence, I'm judging myself.  In my defense, I have developed a habit of saving my trashy novel/fluffy mag reading for planes.  It passes the time...but has also gotten to the point where I cannot physically walk by a Hudson News without buying at least a pack of gum, a Coke Zero and Ok!.

So we buy the bad map at Whitcoulls because we didn't purchase the GPS with a car rental.  Because...we will know where we are going!  It's an island!  We will but a small map and be fine!  How bad could it be?! But when you step into the little red Ford Focus outside the city centre Apex and they cheerily wave you off..."Bye now! have fun!", a cold sweat breaks out on your brow and you wonder..."Are they insane?  They are trusting me to drive this thing safely to Wellington? I have spent the last 30 seconds trying to find the gearshift with my right hand!"

Having driven around Scotland with my brother, I took the first shift and found that, just as with riding a bike, driving on the left truly does come back to you.  And driving on the left while your husband navigates with a cheap map? A true test of marriage. 

Little Red Ford we loved you!
Watching the scenery fly by
We loved the road once cute and comforting and utterly terrifying
Beautiful Mt. Maunganui
We found the the landscape often looked photoshopped...unreal
After burning ourselves to a crisp on the beach...did you know the burn time that far south is 9 minutes?  Yeah, we didn't...we walked the trails on this headland

Oh, to spend my days floating about in a dinghy named Homebrew
We decided to walk up the mount itself and soon discovered we were woefully out of shape.  I think the entire population of Mt. Maunganui sprinted past us up the hill on their evening workouts. 
but the view was worth it
Sad to leave the beach, but excited to visit Hobbiton...
and pet baby sheep!  I mean, how could you not love that face?  And their wool made my hands nice and soft.  Surely there is employment somewhere as a baby sheep petter?  With benefits? 
Next it was on to Rotorua and the amazing peacefulness and relaxation of Kuirau Lodge.  A bit hard to find (again with our map!  I eventually had to find a Starbucks and use my iPhone), but Arthur and Pam were the loveliest hosts and the lodge itself...well...
we didn't move too far from the breakfast buffet and the geothermal pool.

We did manage to tear ourselves away to have dinner on top of Mt. Ngongotaha
where I found a new name for jimmies!  Yes, I take pictures of the dessert buffet. 
with promises to return someday, we sadly departed our favorite accommodation of the entire trip. 

Happy Sunday!  More soon...

 photos, ours

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Zealand, Part 1

After the wedding, and before the kitchen floor paint extravaganza, we took a trip to New Zealand.  Actually, it was something more than a trip...but I'm failing to find adequate words.  Maybe there are none.  New Zealand is a world unto itself, at once familiar and alien, lovely beyond words and exceedingly accessible, especially if you are of the get-in-the-car-and-go ilk.  We met amazing people, swam in geothermal pools, hiked on glaciers, were drenched by a waterfall in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and drank a lot of really, really good wine.

Here's where we started...

Sunrise somewhere over the south pacific...the 12 hour flight from Los Angeles was pretty darn effortless, thanks to Air New Zealand's cushy seats and awesome on-demand library...

Wake-up espresso from a coffee shop in Auckland.  We wandered around the morning after we got in, looking for somewhere to eat, but wanting to avoid McDonalds and (can you believe it) the Dunkin Donuts on the corner across from the hotel *shudder.  We walked into this place mostly because it reminded us of a place you would find in New York - made to order breakfast, no-nonsense steel cafe tables, and great coffee.  Strike that...amazing coffee.  I could have happily spent all day there, but there were more things to see and do...

like steps that walked down into the pacific ocean...

 the 'Santa Parade' with a giant Kiwi-wearing-jandals balloon...

amazing, drool-worthy yachts and seafoam green water...

 a colorful waterfront walk...

yummy bubble tea...

even more yummy belgian beer...

ok, it was a carb-fest...

 sparkling evenings...

the first of many wines we tried and loved...

and KEBABS.  I introduced my husband to the wonder that is a kebab take-out in Auckland.  I had just won $25 at the casino in the Sky Tower, and told him I would treat him to dinner.  It being (I'm told) some pretty tasty meat, he was all in.  Plus, how can you not eat at a place with signage that great?  At random times for the rest of the trip, one or the other of us would interrupt moments of silence with 'kebab time!' in a high, squeaky voice, and then laugh hysterically at ourselves. 
Auckland was cool.  But our favorite parts were yet to come.

photos, ours

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Champagne taste, beer budget #1

I have recently developed an intense love affair with designer fabric.  Three weeks ago, I didn't even know such fabric existed - I suppose I thought the world was flat, littered with Jo-Ann Fabric stores and odds and ends found at garage sales.  Beyond that...there be dragons.

It was actually a dragon that sparked my interest - I was feeling headachey one weekend, and decided to watch old DVRed episodes of Sarah 101, where I spied this piece of awesomeness.

 Now. The nice thing about Sarah Richardson is that all of her sources are posted on her show's website.  After I saw the amazing headboard she made out of this fabric, I hopped on my trusty MacBook and glided through the wonderful world of Schumacher fabric. I found that this piece of floral-dragon-awesomeness comes in not one, not two, but four colorways. PLUS wallpaper!  I will have a house made out of Chiang Mai Dragon!  I even ordered a remnant of the aquamarine colorway, because I like the slightly more muted tones.
*sigh.  It is even more beautiful and textured and silky linenish in person.  And it is $150 per yard.  I need to find me some Schumacher methadone.  Suggestions?

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