What the f*&#?

Maia can’t lie to save himself.  On our drive to the Coromandel we had a true or false competition. I picked Maia’s lies easy.  Every. Single. Time. So I knew, 100%, the moments that would lead us into getting engaged. I was primed, prepared, and had spent 9 years waiting for this moment.  Only, I had no bloody idea.

First stop was mid-winter Christmas in Matarangi.  Maia was on his deathbed with a flu. I kid you not, he sweated through four sets of PJs a night and didn’t even make the roast dinner of the occasion.  So how was it he managed to ask Dad, and my Nana, for my hand in marriage?

Mid-winter Christmas.  The party is on.  Where is the groom to be?  Sweating in bed.
Girls on tour.  Girl’s got no idea.

We then went to Mum’s in Whangapoua.  It’s close quarters; we don’t get much time all together these days, so we maximise the opportunities we get.  Maia slipped mum a note in a magazine. I’ll share it (If you’re a snoopy, quasi-detective like me, you’ll be here for the details.  So details you’ll get):


I was helping with dinner, or dishes, or playing around on my phone…who really knows.  The point is, this guy is sly!  

Next day, his prep work aced, an A+ for homework, Mum asked us to go get Vogel’s and tomatoes at the local, suggesting it might be good for poor, sick Maia to get some fresh air since he was feeling a bit better.  

A blustery day, grey skied and dull, we traipsed along the beach headed to the store when, next thing you know, our pup dropped a lump of excrement and the romance was off, so I later found out.  

Vogel’s with Maia, and tomatoes swinging by my side, we started back home.  This time, devoid of turd and other people. Not a soul on the beach. Although these intricacies of the moment revealed themselves only much later in my reflective analysis of the day.  Nearly by our beach exit, babbling away to myself. Maia, lagging behind in his usual amble, I turned to see an open box and a hopeful face.

“I should have done this…”

“What the f*&#?”

“..eight years ago.  Will you marry me?”.

Complete shock, immediate “Yes”, total disbelief.  

A quick smacker on the lips.  Big hug. It was all excitement, joy.  A rush.

Where was the photographer in the bushes?  My hair was in a windblown, messybloodybun state of dishevel.  Why was I not crying? The actual moment caught me so unexpected that my preconceptions about what would or should happen completely blew out.  This was real. This was authentic. This was us. And it was the quickest and surest affirmation I think I’ll ever say in my life. I, the all-knowing, had been caught off-guard.  Surprised. Completely.

“Mum!”, I screamed, on opening the gate.  She was ready, flowers in a vase, candles lit, and champagne on ice that had been hidden in the car boot – along with the most brilliant engagement ring – for the duration of our five day trip.  “What?”, she exclaimed, happy tears in her knowing eyes. I was ecstatic. We popped the bubbles, called family, messaged friends, took photos, started planning, and then ailing Maia went back to bed again.



Newlyweds and nearly-deads

It’s been 546 days since we took possession.  Cue immediate interior repaint and total interior light refit.  466 since we moved in. We continue to toil, just after the bulb, on the road we have since discovered to be endearingly referred to as that for newlyweds or nearly-deads.

What was a dotted treasure trove of single species trees and shrubs is now identifiable mass planting.  Total garden beds ripped out, limbs – even trunks – felled and ground, concrete cracked, pavers moved, fences reconfigured, dump trips near the dozen.  Gloves worn through, cuts and bruises, aching backs, sweat, tan lines and deep, deep sleeps. I am a crazed agapanthus serial killer. Hedges planted and staked, grass seed sown (over and over), citrus introduced.  Jasmine climbers snaking, plans shaping, but still so much to do.

Trellis needs painting, decks need replacing, steps need creating.  More garden beds need to be destroyed, grass needs sowing (again), vegetable garden and compost areas wait to be brought into existence.

In our dreams, the garden is established in ‘rooms’.  There are hammocks, manicured lawns, a paved breakfast square, a louvred pergola, an outdoor fireplace, and entertaining furniture filled with laughing friends and family.  

The inside is clean, maintained, but too empty.  It’s as if people moved a studio apartment worth of belongings into a family home.  They did. And with life blessings of engagement and marriage, those vast spaces will yearn for some time to come.  Fillers of indoor plants and wall art try to occupy the voids. The joinery, door knobs and wet areas are time warps to the 80s birthdate of the building.  Coppery-brown thin aluminium, pastels and cream, brass, and tiles painted with birds and fish.

We envision warm minimal, comfortable luxe, form and function.  Strong on organic influence and the senses. Wood, linen, ceramics, metals.  Earth scents, texture, instruments, cohesive aesthetics. A retreat; welcoming and calm.  Our safe haven.

Yet it already is.  This imperfect, incomplete house.  It is light, airy, pleasant. On a street that is sweet, kind and accordingly very likeable.  A solid front door to shut the outside world away and inside, a sanctuary. It keeps our family of three.  A place for us, for friends, for family. Come as you are. A place to rest, to grow, to develop, to celebrate, to think, to dream, to create, to converse, to love.  A place to let down guards, to grieve, to be heard, to be understood, to be nurtured and restored.

It’s a special place that had this feeling before we moved in.  There may be changes, but the essence of James Cook will always be strong and true.  And until those changes take effect, my mantra: nature doesn’t hurry, yet all is accomplished.

House update

A house is built of boards and beams.
A home is built of love and dreams.

Nawww, that very quote hangs at ours (in the middle of our street, our house).  Enough.

In recent news, this girl has got a haircut (Karlene offered, “you’re lucky it’s not any shorter or it would be a mom cut”.  I live dangerously.  I was also  once addicted to haircuts, but that’s a story for another day, or ask Laura, she’ll recount in full), and a part-time job at a great place.  I thought that about the last job, but I’m leaping into this one with renewed faith and energy, and so far, so good.  Just looking for another part-timer and then I think that will enable us to get by and leave enough time to enjoy the lifestyle.

So, lifestyle!  I owe ya’ll a property update and here she blows.  The interior house painting was completed just before Christmas by our reliable, awesome painter, Craig (if you need anything painted in Hawke’s Bay, let me know, I’ll give you his deets).  He delivered on time and within budget.  And we couldn’t have done it without him.  Oh the hours!  He is living patience and attention to detail, that man.

Our place has been transformed internally by a lick of paint.  As you’ll recall, Resene Black White was our wall colour of choice, with Alabaster for the roof and trims.  It’s light and wonderful, not too warm and not too cold.  And while others will try and downplay it, like “white is white, is white”, I hear you.  The perfect shade matters!  I love the chalky feel of the walls and would encourage anyone weighing neutrals to throw caution to the wind and put all on Black (White).  I’m glad we did.

On the ‘do it once, do it right’ wagon, we got the light fittings updated at the same time the painting was taking place.  This saved us from later having to remove the fittings, replace them and then repaint around the new ones.  Having just moved in, it wasn’t really (or, at all) in the budget, but I’m pleased we did it now.  The update rid us of dangling single lights and in their place shone track LEDs in the living areas, and recessed LEDs in the bedrooms and hall.  Our man was Dennis at Rowe Light.  Quality fittings don’t come cheap, but we’re stoked with the job.

Here’s a couple of before and afters (just looking at the paint and lighting really, we’re low on possessions so the styling element isn’t all thurrrr yet).  A side note: this is a conservatory added in the 90s.  It’s an awesome space and the wood is cedar.  We love the warmth of wood, so left the panelling around the windows and walls.  The roof cedar needed to be painted as it visually obstructed the space, bringing the ceilings right down.  Do you think we should have painted it all, or left some wood as we did?

Sunken living room ‘after’ with painting and lights complete.
I often get asked where the coffee table is from.  It’s Indonesian recycled teak purchased a couple of years ago from Indie Home Collective and one of our most favourite things.  Couches were an awesome find, maybe some five years ago, from Trademe (they’re Lazytime by Camerich from Bauhaus), and the rug is an Armadillo & Co sierra weave in pumice from the lovely New Zealand stockists, The Ivy House.  Again, not a recent purchase, but something we love.

OK, I think we’ve got time for a quick spare bedroom squiz, and also a look at the front hedge.

Hopping to it, here’s the spare beddy before and after paint and lighting:

I can’t believe how much lighter it is!  The print is ‘Found’ by Serena Mitnik-Miller.  I’ve had it a few years now, and always feel so calm when I take it in.  It used to be in our bedroom in Auckland, but I’m trying to entice guests to stay so keep the nice stuff in the room for them!  Come on down, amigos.  OK, and then there’s the shot of the fiddle-leaf, still hanging in there, on a Baumann chair from one of my adored Hawke’s Bay haunts, So Vintage.  That is a newish find and all the way from France.  Maia’s not really into the ‘chairs as bedsides’ thing, and the mirror on the other side of the bed probably won’t be there long, but it’s providing balance for now and will stay until we get something else.

If you hop out that bedroom window and turn to the left, you’re at the driveway.  This is where Mum and I got stuck in, and I came to realise that ‘move that bus’ transformations are near on impossible unless you have a mob of helpers.  Man did we sweat, and man did it take time.  Check it.

And now…these sweethearts are cream fairy michelias
What we want is to pleach the michelias as they grow, a la this google search, so that there will be some privacy from the road, but not a big ‘fuck off’ wall of green.

There’s also a nice wee hedge down in front of two of the bedrooms now, see:

These are choisya (or Mexican orange blossom) and will form a hedge to the window ledge with a white flower.
I feel like I’m bombarding you today, but progress is exciting, and we all know I’m never short on words.  So, time for one last thing?  A Kmart plug?  Yeeeeeees.

I found a giant white frame for $20, and together Maia and I collaged our trip photos (also yes, our date nights are now very low budget).  Want a geez?  I always enjoy looking at photos, so to have so many in the one place makes me smile whenever I catch a glimpse of the frame.  It’s also a great reminder of our amazing trip, bringing back incredible memories.

Thanks for stopping by, my treasures, until next we chat (which will be very soon, I have a relish recipe.  And strong belief that you, too, can preserve).


D xxx

Sweat and tears

The second day of autumn.  There’s duvets being pulled up at night, darkness closing in earlier, and yellow rimmed leaves, signposts of our transition from summer to winter (look at that, not a GOT reference in sight!).  And I’m celebrating.

Te Mata Peak, our favourite place to adventure with Jinn

The last couple of months have been a hard graft.  I resigned from my workplace in February and have just set out on the hunt again.  In recent days I’ve managed to shed the heavy weight belts and found my way to the surface, again.  How good it feels to breathe that air.  I’m certain I’m stronger for the fight, and I’m overwhelmed by the support.  Our smiling safety net of linked arms of friends and family.  We simply wouldn’t be anywhere without you.  I am so grateful for you all.  Thank you for your love and care.  I am blessed by your nurturing.  Love wins.

We are settling into our community.  Reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones.  Every day embarking on new adventures.  There’s something wonderful in discovery, learning through your experiences.

Shapies over Christmas (Karls and Josh, plus Maia’s rowing mates.  Such good sorts).

Maia continues to be up with the birds, remaining at his laptop until the late hours of the night.  He is passionate about his role, and doing a fine job.

I’ve started volunteering at Leg-Up Trust, an incredible organisation rescuing horses and providing wonderful opportunities for children who are enduring difficult times.  My role?  Pooper scooper!  At the rate of six plops per horse per day, you can imagine the compost stack.  There’s a lot of laughter and fun had as we make our way clearing the paddocks.  I feel really in my element amongst the crisp farm air and animals.  I get up smiling whenever it’s Leg-Up morning and am thrilled that our small work goes some of the way towards freeing up the key team to do what they need to – healing horses and children.  I’m constantly inspired by the selflessness of the team at Leg-Up, led so incredibly by the indefatigable Ros Rowe, AKA Wonder Woman.  I’m also hoping the workout will prevent mass flabbage at the armpit in years to come.

At Leg-Up with Deb (Maia’s mum), Linda, and Keith (good bugger!)

I’ve also taken up Ashtanga Yoga under the tutelage of an excellent studio, uncoiling my rigid limbs one triangle at a time.  I could talk all day about how much I’m enjoying yoga, but I’ll spare you.  Just know it’s like the beautiful heady feeling you get two viogniers down.  I’m addicted.

It wouldn’t be an entry from me without something food related.  My latest go-to’s are Drunken Prunes by Telegraph Hill and Damson Plum Chocolates by The Damson Collection.  Hubba hubba.  I met the Telegraph Hill people over the Christmas break, they are friendly, warm and absolutely lovely.  He’s Mr Olive and she’s a child psychologist.  Maia called me out for having a mad woman crush on her.  I’ll admit to that.  She’s a mum, a business woman, hostess with the mostess, and one well put-together, amazing lady!  And their table olives are epic.  I encourage you to support this family owned business, they so deserve all their success.  The choccies I came across when mum was in town.  She’s a total sucker for sweets, so when these were at the counter of Bellatino’s, just begging to jump into some customer’s mouth, she bought some and we were done for.  We revisited everyday for the remainder of her visit, our total increasing exponentially each time.

Oh.  And my final recommendation – a movie!  I saw Hidden Figures last night and it was awesome.  Part stick-it-to-the-man, part race equality, mixed in with some sass and LOLs.  And NASA.  Check it, my friends.  A feel good film.  MUCH better than La La Land.  I should have left at the opening scene!

Hawke’s Bay summer fruit delights.  We’re now on to peacharines.

So, tears of pain, tears of joy, I guess you’re wondering where the sweat comes in?  We’ve been getting busy in the garden.  Chief Landscaper has been Jude Corlett, and we’ve been her little minions.  The progress is encouraging!  Next blog will be a property update, so I think a good time to take a spell and be in touch soon.  I’ll also post pictures of the painting.  Because it looks WOW.

Maia’s aunt and uncle, Marilyn and John’s, garden feat. lemon verbena tea which is truly delicious.
Spinach and ricotta pie – got this beauty recipe off Vivianna on our Amalfi Coast trip

All my love and thanks for reading,

D xxx

Easy living, every damn day

Kia ora friends,

Here we are.  Here I am.  Two weeks in.

Still feeling it’s a holiday of sorts, it hasn’t quite sunk in that this is my new permanent.  And considering this time has been largely spent at my new workplace, I’d say that’s a great sign.

Currently living at my parents-in-law, my commute to work is three minutes.  Not even long enough to sing along to Shout Out to My Ex.  Once we move in to our place, the drive will push out to 10-15 minutes along a produce and leaf lined road, with two sets of traffic lights (max!).  I can see you throwing mental daggers as you sit kissing bumpers on the Auckland motorway.

The weather has been ideal for sussing out the new ‘hood.  I’ve lazed amongst the daisies at Clearview winery (gorgeous chardonnay), put my heels on for the Mangapapa ‘Strawberry Affair’ (there’s a winter FAWC too.  I highly recommend it.), and chilled on an outdoor lounger with the warm summer breeze blowing through at Elephant Hill (again, fantastic wine, but also excellent service here).  Yes, three places all involving vino, but I’m sure you understand.

I’ve nearly got hives having more than my share of fresh strawberries, and I’m going crazy for the flavoursome tomatoes.  Te Mata Peak has yet again reasserted it’s authority – still master and commander.  I’ve found some nice new running paths, but missing my furry jogging pal.  The roses are out and the smell is divine.  I really feel that the seasons are celebrated here.  It’s beautiful to be connected to nature.  So much of life revolves around that.  Many of the schools are having their Christmas or summer fetes out amongst the trees and flowers.  I’ve never seen these numbers of kiddos biking to school, or active with their families in the weekends.  People stop and chat.  They like to help.  If you’ve got even a hint of longing to check out the provinces, I am starting to think they’re New Zealand’s best kept secret.  It’s easy living, every damn day.

And so what about the new house?  Work friends will laugh when they hear I’ve signed painting over to the professionals.  Having heard it was a ~150 hour job, Maia was eventually convinced (read: jumped at the exit opportunity) that perhaps specialised labour wasn’t such a bad idea.  The colour?  Having waxed lyrical about Wan White, I spontaneously decided at Resene that Black White (you had me at calcite grey white, chalky and soft) walls and Alabaster ceilings would be a go-er instead (thanks Blackbird).  We’re two days in to the painting now, and it’s looking fantastic.  So light and bright!  I’ll keep you updated.

In more personal news, Maia got the job that he wanted.  We’re thrilled everything is coming together.  Happy times in the Corlett-Solomon household.

I’d be silly signing off without admitting how much I miss everyone.  I really do.  I hope you’re well and happy.

Lots of love and photos,





Number Wan

Slowly and then all at once we fell in love with our new home (don’t gag, I’m sure we’ll come across a leaky pipe and the honeymoon will be over soon enough).  On a wet and freezing day in September, we first dripped through the front door, marvelled at the high ceilinged living areas and imagined the wood burner roaring.  A solid construction with bedrooms down the hall and a sunny yard, we admired the layout and felt comfortable, like it could be a place for us.  At a very fast forward, we now find ourselves days out from settlement.  I can’t stop smiling about our impending move into our new pad.  A place to call our own.  Our new adventure.  And part of that grin comes from picturing me with a paintbrush.  (Warning: if paint is really not your thing, stop reading now.  It’s the topic du jour).

I’m a quick start and lack patience.  I like to make things happen, now.  I also love decorating, moving furniture around, and making a house a home (whoa, slow down Betty Draper!).  These powers combined have me dreaming up lists of possible improvements to the property.  A nightmare for Maia, who would just like to move in and enjoy it as is for a while.  Enter compromise.

All walls sound and strong (thank you, building inspector), we agreed on an interior paint update.  However, wallpaper stripping and appropriate roller technique are just the beginning.  We are having real issues with the colour.  Days, nights, and weeks of Pinterest, Instagram, magazines, emails, test pots, swatches and drawdowns later, we think we are finally decided.  But, just how many shades of white are there, you ask?  A lot.

Ever scouring the internet, I loved Benjamin Moore’s Simply White and White Dove (the former won BM’s Colour of the Year.  Yes, there’s such a thing!). I’m also a sucker for a good name…j’adore.

Simply White.  Source
White Dove.  Source

In high esteem I also held Farrow & Ball’s All White, Ammonite, and Cornforth White.  A curated selection always warms my heart, and none more so than the 132 colours of the F&B palette (the Scandi Easy Neutrals in particular).

All White.  Source
Ammonite.  Source
Cornforth White.  Source

Reassuringly, designers the world over said some of these were the best whites out (see also here, here and here)!  ‘This is it,’ I thought, ‘sign me up’.  Delving further, I jammed the keys trying to find New Zealand suppliers of the paint.  No tracks or leads. And that spelt the end of my USA and UK born paint hunt.

Next up, I looked at Aalto and Drikolor, both with New Zealand connections.  I always loved our family friend, Sally’s, home enhanced by multi pigmented Aalto paint.  The colours have a depth and richness that really bring the walls to life.  Four weeks post-enquiry though, and I am still waiting to hear back from the consultant in my area.

Aalto Crater 1/4.  Source

Then came Drikolor, a new initiative where dry, granulated pigment is stirred by the end user into base paint (see Everyday Needs’ range here).  The company’s use of natural materials such as chalk immediately impressed me, quite removed from the vast majority of paint companies that use synthetic liquid.  Unfortunately, I could only order a colour chart, not test pots through Drikolor.  Not ready to commit on the basis of a swatch alone, I gave in to fatigue, relenting on my boutique and specialist search in favour of tried, true and trusted Resene.  Because some things are better simple and, by now, paint was proving to be one of them.

Drikolor’s Ronchamp White.  Source

My good friend Karla had recently painted her home and I was suddenly all ears for her advice (quite the stark contrast to a few months prior, when I would have drifted into deep slumber if someone started on The Range Whites and Neutrals list).  Karla is expert!  We pinned her recommended Resene drawdowns to the wall and waited for a sign.  But we only got questions.  Is this one a bit pink?  A bit cool?  A bit too grey?  We wanted a white, but not too stark, but not too yellow, more grey, but classy.  Kindly, my sister – a talent with all things colour – conducted ‘yes/no’ elimination tests on us.  By some stroke of good fortune, we narrowed it down to one colour,  coincidentally Karla’s very own choice.  The victor?  Wan White, an umber white, warmer than grey (neutral tone, LRV 82…).

Wan White walls.  Source
The colour palette.

Our friend Wan goes nicely with wood and concrete.   There is also a bonus in that it is part of a suggested palette, which will help us newbs a lot with accent colours.    And so, there we think we have it.  Wan for the win, the dining area, living room, bedrooms and hall.  Half Wan for the ceilings?  Wanderful.

If you have any advice, or think we’ve made a terrible decision and instead should have gone Resene Black White (Blackbird did and it looks amazing!), please SHOUT below.

Provinces calling

Well hello there!  Though it seems things have turned to stone on the blog, a hive of activity has been bubbling away in the background.  Not too long since the plane landed us back from our European escapades and the time feels right to pack our knapsacks again. This time though, a more permanent adventure, by way of relocation to provincial New Zealand.

Our big OE a (vivid, incredible) memory, we’ve reveled being back in our exquisite country.  Travel’s legacy of increased self confidence and drive quickly had us aiming for our next big goal – home ownership.  Like all Kiwis, our eyes bulged at Auckland sales.  We were saving much less per year than prices were increasing.  With this at the forefront of our minds, the provinces became a very real and promising option for us.

The Bay of Plenty and Central Otago extending beyond our reach, one province in particular rose to the top.  My original visit there was aged around 14, on my first unaccompanied trip for athletics.  I loved it as a place of phenomenal sun, friendly and laid back people, and expansive land.  I felt free of spirit.  Some years later, I met Maia in Christchurch and was excited to learn he was from this gorgeous region.  We’ve since enjoyed many trips back to his hometown, a place we both love and where many of our marvelous whanau and Maia’s long standing friends reside.

In Hawke’s Bay, our home ownership dreams were possible; our lifestyle ones too.  We starting browsing, and the pull grew stronger.  Over a weekend, we viewed, nervously offered and went conditional on a home.  The next week, it went unconditional*.  Surreal developments have been happening so fast, I feel swept up in a rainbow current.  But all this sugar is not without a squeeze of lemon.

Our upcoming move means shifting away from our beautiful Auckland family and friends, and our lovely workplaces.  We’re exceptionally sad to wave farewell (for now) to my place of origin, such excellent people, and a caring environment that has nurtured and supported us.  Thank you for having us, little paradise and community of East Auckland.  Let’s remember it’s just an hour flight away!

Forward we must all go, and with piles of positivity. Light the candles for new beginnings.  We’ll bring the excitement.  Heretaunga here we come**.

*Many corks have been popped, with many more yet to be popped.

**Please visit.  I make phenomenal itineraries.