Saturday, November 26, 2011

New House - Our Bedroom

As with the living room, Miss Jessica enjoys the sun streaming into the master bedroom. Most days after work we find her in our bedroom upstairs. In fact I don't think there has been one day she has been downstairs when we've arrived home.

How fortuitous that these lovely ropes were already holding the curtains back when we moved in. They're just my style.

One of the things I liked about this place before we bought it (OK, the main thing) was the triple width wardrobe in our bedroom.

We're going to get fancy built-in wardrobe people to come around and quote for us as there's a lot of space in there and I think we can get rid of our drawers and just have a spacious hotel-like bedroom with a bed and a wardrobe.

My makeup area. The larger of the two mirrors I found on the side of the road. I love it.

The ensuite off our bedroom. This is one end.

And this is the other.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New House - The Living Room

First up in my mini house-tour is the living room. Our main living area is open plan living/dining/kitchen, in the classic L shape.

Jessica loves how the sun coats her fur through the French doors.

As tempting as it is to update the whole house straight away (after all we plan to be here for quite some time), it's a more exciting prospect to pay the mortgage off quicker whilst making do, and doing things over time and within our everyday budget. That actually thrills me more.

Creativity will be called in, and the style will evolve. Things that I would have considered non-negotiable when we moved here (less than a month ago), I now can live without.

It helps to have a father-in-law who lives just down the road and is very handy and has kept every piece of timber or curtain rail he has ever come across. We even have a rimu bannister coming from one of his friends.

We have joined the 21st century with wireless internet. I made the tablecloth from a $10 curtain remnant.

I feel so content and at peace that we own our own home. It is such a fantastic feeling and I am so grateful.

The gorgeous handmade bookshelf from my Dad a few years ago. Both my father and father-in-law are retired engineers. We are doubly blessed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


It was my Nana’s birthday yesterday. She would have been 88. Nana died a year and a half ago and I miss her so much. I can still hear her voice and it’s horrible that I can’t pick up the phone and call her. You just think people will always be around, but they won’t.

Thinking back, there were many ways Nana was a chic mentor to me, although I might not have realised it at the time.

She was a tiny thing, less than five feet tall in her later years. Nana was always a ‘normal’ weight, but in the last 5-10 years she became concerned with her weight and eked her Christmas and birthday chocolates out so she didn’t get fat. 'I’m getting a little pot you know’ she would say to me as she patted her flat stomach.

For breakfast Nana would often have a piece of toast, and a coffee with cream. I remember her lunches would be a slice of ham and some fresh salad vegetables on a small oval plate.

She lived near to town in her tidy and stylish flat, and mostly walked to buy a few groceries or to meet my Mum and Aunty for lunch. She kept her home immaculate and maintained her clutter-free status by asking for ‘consumable’ gifts if we gave her anything. Her home style was very classic and elegant, and I now proudly have her sofas in our living room.

I also have her Belle Fiore dinner-set which she started collecting as a young woman, adding on pieces as the years went by. It wasn’t cheap, and she used to buy it from a beautiful shop in town which was a jeweller but also sold fine china. I have always loved this dinner-set. It is English but looks Italian (hence the name which means ‘beautiful flowers’). She didn’t keep it for best either - it was her only set, so she used it every day.

Even though she was 86 when she died and a great-grandmother, she always seemed youthful. When I was in my late teens or early 20s I remembered buying a pair of shoes and finding out she had the same ones. How often would that happen to a young girl? I probably had mature taste for my age, or maybe we both liked the classics.

I borrowed some of her tops and skirts then too. I remember she would offer for us to have a wear or two of one of her new skirts before I shortened them for her. Since there was over half a foot difference in our height, a nice mid-calf length on her would be knee length on me. This was the late 80s/early 90s when mid-calf was THE length.

The elegant scent that always surrounded Nana my sister christened ‘Eau de Val’. Her home smelt lovely and so did she. She favoured spicy florals, and after she had gone and we were sharing out her tops and scarves, her fragrance lingered.

Nana’s hair was mostly in a silky silver bob which she would comb back and then pat up at the back and towards the crown of her head. If she came somewhere with us she would always dash into her light and airy bedroom to powder her nose and put some lipstick and perfume on. And she would always self-tan her legs in the summer so they would look nice with skirts and cropped pants.

Nana remained youthful I think by not really acknowledging her age. She always dressed appropriately and not too young, but she didn’t really identify with her peers. She just always seemed younger than the other women her age who had their hair set and wore floral frocks with a cardigan and comfortable shoes.

She would often pick up groceries for her elderly neighbours and run errands for them. When the local post office closed down she wasn’t concerned for herself, but said ‘what about the old folk, what will they do?’ We found this so cute that she didn’t think of herself as one of the old folk even though she was well into retirement age.

She was a registered nurse and until she was about 70 worked part-time at a rest home. Because she was often older than the residents, visitors would often confuse her for one of them rather than a staff member.

If you called around to Nana’s after work on a Friday, you were offered a brandy and dry ginger-ale. I could only have the one if I was driving home as she did a good pour. When I was first going out with my beloved, we went to a house party where everyone took what they were drinking. He had some beers in a cooler bag. I felt like a brandy so I took my bottle along, with a bottle of dry ginger-ale. The hostess, quite a hard-case beer-drinking girl herself screeched ‘Brandy! That’s an old lady’s drink!’ To me it was a normal tipple choice.

Nana was just plain good fun. There aren’t many grandmothers you would look forward to going and staying the night with, or call around for an after-work drink as a young adult. One day it was my sister and I and she, with a brandy each flipping through Hello magazines. ‘Bloody Rome!’ she exclaimed, as we pored over beautiful photos of the Italian city.

Happy Birthday dear Nana. We miss you.

PS. I chose this image of a Daphne flower, as Nana would often have a sprig of Daphne in a dainty vase on her dining table in the winter, casting its divine perfume. Now that we have our own house, the first thing I am going to plant is a Daphne bush.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Living a Small Life

The more time I spend on this earth, the more I realise I can please myself and be myself. I don’t need to pretend to want great things and I don’t need to fret that I’ve never had or probably never will have a high-powered career.

I’ve come to realise that’s not what I’m about. I enjoy a quiet and simple life. Ever since I left school I’ve always worked at ‘normal’ office jobs. I didn’t attend University because I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, and I didn’t want to go just for the sake of it. So I started my first full-time job at 18 (although I had already been working part-time after school and in school holidays since I was 14) and have been working ever since.

My husband and I now own a small retail business which we started almost seven years ago. We have decided for now we are content with one shop and a simple online presence. We’ve talked about it and agreed that opening a second or subsequent shops wouldn’t necessarily make us any happier.

It’s all about balance. By running one shop between us we have the flexibility during the day to do things such as run errands, go to the gym or yoga, take a walk, or just disappear for a while if we want to.

In terms of a social life, I’ve had my times of going out a lot especially when single. But even then I loved nothing more than to be at home with the fire lit, knitting or reading. I knew I had to go out to meet someone though for they don’t come knocking at your door, so I did what I had to (and actually met the perfect man for me, now my husband, in a bar).

It’s not just about what I do for a job, or socialising though, it’s everything in my life. I happily share one very ordinary car and enjoy creative and frugal pursuits at home. Expensive hobbies scare me.

Even though I enjoy the dream of living in or travelling to Paris or New York City, I love living in New Zealand and can’t see myself living anywhere else. And for travel, I know it will come, I’m happy to forego it now, in this phase of my life where we are running a business.

If it sounds like I’m putting off happiness, I’m not. Every day I feel grateful and satisfied and thankful that I am where I am. I enjoy small luxuries frequently and make my own happiness. I collect simple pleasures such as going to bed early.

My Mum always said ‘bored people are boring’ when we complained of having nothing to do. I guess I took that to heart as now there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I love to do – reading, writing, sewing, knitting, cooking, pottering, movie-watching – as well as living my everyday life in a thoughtful and stylish manner.

I no longer feel I have to apologise for not being a faster and more driven person. I am content to live my own life, at my own pace.

That's the greatest luxury of all I think: living a life custom-designed for me.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Bonjour chic friends! I’ve so enjoyed my month ‘almost’ away from technology and would heartily recommend it to anyone wishing to regain some equilibrium. I did check email and bank accounts daily, and had the occasional blog read, but just knowing I didn’t have any commitments was wonderful and so calming.

Of course I wasn’t sitting on a poolside lounger with a trashy novel and a drink with an umbrella in it, but I did get in some relaxation time in between moving house, unpacking, running a busy shop (in school holidays no less which is at times insanely busy) and trying not to have takeaway dinners too often.

It only took a handful of nights for us to get sick of eaten-out dinners and craving home-cooked real food and lots of veges. And we only had one fast-food breakfast– it was quite a novelty because we very rarely do it, but I somehow don’t think my ideal Paris girl would be caught dead eating a sausage and egg muffin with deep-fried hash brown at 8am (or anytime!). At least I was sitting down at a chair and table, that was probably the only French-inspired detail.

The funniest breakfast was at our old place when mostly everything was packed and I found my husband eating Weetbix made with hot water (rather than his usual hot milk) ladling it into his mouth with a large-size black plastic serving spoon out of a cooking pot. He was very happy though and said it was like an adventure. I think he was quite proud of himself for improvising.

Even though I still haven’t unpacked two of our three bedrooms (the guest room and office/sewing room), the rest of our house is pretty much set up, albeit in a slightly haphazard manner which I am tidying as I go. Just being in our own house makes me so happy and content, even though there are many little maintenance and decor things that need addressing.

I actually enjoyed cleaning our twenty-year old oven last week because it’s our oven, and I have to say it sparkles. We will update the kitchen eventually, but for the moment I am more than happy cooking in and keeping clean and organised my outdated kitchen because, yes, it’s our kitchen.

The area we live in now I am very pleased with too. It’s where my husband grew up, so he feels instantly secure and happy here. It has a really nice family feeling, with people walking their dogs and out with their children after work. There are even ducks which waddle around in pairs, and I saw a Mother duck and her ducklings. There are some ponds nearby which explains exactly why you sometimes have to wait for the ducks to cross before you can turn into your driveway.

I haven’t picked up Jessica cat yet, I go in a few days time. But at the top of this post is a photo of her which the cat shelter kindly sent me. I remembered her as being quite homely but perhaps she was having an off day as she is quite the pretty girl here. I felt mean looking at the most beautiful cats thinking which one I should choose, so I asked the shelter person ‘which one needs a home the most’ and came away sponsoring Jessica until we could pick her up.

Another thing I love about our neighbourhood is, while we are out in the suburbs, it is on a direct and nearby bus route into the city, and there is a big supermarket, shops, and restaurants within walking distance. It took me eight minutes to walk to the supermarket the other day to pick up a few items for dinner. I am glad we can continue to live well with one car. I never mind taking public transport either, it always makes me feel like I live in a big city. I just have to remember to tuck a book into my bag.

So that’s all to report in with now. I will share some photos with you when the house is looking a little more presentable. I've taken many photos and I'll entertain you with some befores and afters one day, but I'm afraid at the moment they are all 'befores'!
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