Tuesday, April 05, 2011

nga waiata

I'm so glad that Nga Waiata's website provides helpful guidance as the the pronounciation of her name (FYI: naaaa-y-a-taa). She informs that it is Maori for 'the songs' or 'music'. 

And she is living true to her namesake because there is something about her rings that indeed makes me want to sing....

There are so many reasons why I am so taken by these rings. I love that, by the very nature of stone and wood, every ring is truly unique. There is something truly earthy about them and somehow very delicate, despite their chunkiness. I love that each ring is made and sold not just for decoration, but also for the spiritual connections some feel with gemstones and crystals and the blessings different stones can bring to your life.

When I went to Australia, a very dear friend who has found great solace in crystals gave me a ruby (my birthstone) and a moonstone (to bring safe travel). What a perfect gift to a traveller! I followed the instructions to cleanse and belong myself to the stones and took them with me everywhere. Whether it was the power of the stones or the power of the belief of a good friend within them, I felt their presence. Then in turn, when my sister was heading to India for 5 months, I sent her an amethyst for emotional stability and inner strength, neccessary for what would be a gut-renching first long stint abroad. I think these rings make fantastic gifts for loved ones (or even ourselves) needing similar reassurance. True or not - there is surely no harm in belief.

My favourite of these? I do truly love them all but I am particularly besotted by the first image, the Lapis Lazuli rings. If not only for their aesthetic value but also for the description delivered alongside it. It promises itself as 'the stone of total awareness, helping to expand the intellect and intuitive aspects of ones character, facilitates clear expression of thoughts, helps you say the right thing at the right time!'

All this in a beautiful objet d'art-come-ring? Yes please!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

douglas + bec (+carlos)

Arriving in Auckland was not ideal. We'd been on the road and living out of a suitcase for a few days, we were tired and our accomodation was rubbish. I needed a pick me up and by heck did I find me one.

A walk up the hill to Ponsonby not only offered a fantastic view it also allowed me a look in the super-fantastic Douglas + Bec. My favourite sort of shop in many ways; I just felt completely at ease there, despite immense product excitement.


Inside, it really feels like being in someone's house. The fantastic products do not overwhelm you from traditional retail displays. Instead, what is a vast selection of super stock is subtly placed to feel more like a gallery of great design and actually, a very relaxing experience.


And in case I've not exhausted my list of excitable positive adjectives, did I mention how terrific the products are? I am saving my very favourite bits for their own posts but you can see, even from these shop shots, a whole host of gems. I love the clusters of skeletal globe shades, those (surprisingly comfortable) chairs and the hand picked and uber thoughtful textiles. I even like all the lamps which is a big deal because I'm kind of hard to please in the lighting stakes!

So, you've seen all this talk on the delectable Douglas + Bec.... I bet you'd like to know who Carlos is?

Bit of a shocker of a photo quality-wise I'm afraid...
My equipment for subtle dog pap-ing leaves much to be desired
The Shop Dog! I must admit being a real sucker for a well placed shop pet. Very cute!

PS. I've just had a gander on Douglas + Bec's website and am excited to report some stunning product photography in preparation for their new online store. EVEN if it won't permit international purchase, it will still be great to get a better look!

smalltown joys

The biggest thing we took away from our oh-so-brief time in New Zealand was the joy of the small towns. Sure, we were impressed by Wellington and Auckland but after 6 months in the marvellous Melbourne, not to mention a lifetime in London and extensive trips to world cities in the past, it was unlikely that there would be anything in these pretty small urban hubs to really wow us.

The small towns on the other side.... WOW.

I always imagined New Zealand to resemble to UK pretty closely but was instantly charmed to see the street-width roads they passed off as their highways and the one-horse towns that constituted worthy dots in an otherwise open expanse on the map.

But what made me really realize the joys of the small town was the first thing that happened....

As 21st Century 20 somethings we overlooked something so simple as jotting down an address that had been received in an email. I wouldn't go so far as to say we assumed WIFI or 3G connectivity upon arrival at New Zealand's capital city Wellington's international airport, in reality we never questioned it would be not be so.

Alas, we were wrong and thus we were in Wellington with a rental car and a free map but wider than that, no idea where we were going, where my boyfriend's aunt lived or indeed how to contact her to find out either of these pieces of information. All telephone numbers and addresses were stuck in the un-tappable realm of cyberspace we so often thought nothing of.

Sensible beings we are though, we led ourselves along the relatively simple one-road-north system and did indeed find Greytown, the town in which the aunt lived. Fortunately also, Aunt P runs a shop, so that was our first look out. After two drives along the long strip that is Greytown (pop. 2000), we finally spotted her discretely located shop and pulled up around the corner. Frustratingly the shop was locked up so our plan to locate her that way was not going to work. 

Spotting a 'community supermarket' across the road, I suggested we ask in there, honestly otherwise not knowing what to do (bar calling back to the UK from a payphone). I may be from the city but I have heard distant tales of country folk knowing their neighbours. The girl hovering the front foyer didn’t know so she suggested we ask at the till. Thinking it would be rude to ask for information without purchase we hastily grabbed a bottle of wine to go with our pursuit. We needn’t have bothered, they were more than happy to help us out. The Lady in the Supermarket (Sue) first provided us with the phonebook where we looked up Aunt P under her maiden name, her second married name and even her first married name. All to no avail.

Another supermarket worker then piped up when we connected Aunt P with her shop saying 
‘I don’t know where she lives but I know someone that does’. Within less than a minute, she’d located a ‘Judy’ in the phonebook, called her up and got Aunt P's address. Naturally, we were assured that they wouldn’t have given out the information had they not heard on the grapevine that Penny was expecting her English nephew and his girlfriend in town. For a committed urbanite this knowledge of one's neighbours was both an alien and terrifying concept.

Our next problem was then, having got the street address, not knowing where to find the street. But oh no, returning to the car we discovered that yes, we had actually parked on the street itself.

I wish I lived in a small town.

Monday, March 28, 2011

the not-so-greytown

I have a bit of a thing for place-names and knowing what they mean, breaking them down to their latin and old english roots. I like looking out for the 'wich' or 'wick' in old english names and therefore instantly knowing something about their past, just by their name*. It must be my geographical background. Despite learning heaps of much more complicated facts, figures and concepts, I will still notice and remark settlements being well placed on a river meander or a hill for defence and visibility. (Harking back to the days where a river bend protected you from your arrow-wielding enemies rather than providing a site for panoramic, riverfront apartment blocks.)

It was based on this that, naturally, I was not exactly excited to visit the home of my boyfriend's aunt, Greytown in New Zealand. One must remark that it does sound particularly bleak.

Not so! Greytown, in the Wairapa region that skirts Wellington, like neighbouring Masterton and Castleton was named after its first governor, Sir George Grey rather than any suggestion to a gloomy climate or a stone masonry background. And indeed, grey is the last word to describe this really lovely town. After 6 long, urban months in Melbourne, the little shops and tearooms, situated in the lush mountain valleys of Greytown and its surrounding Wairapa towns was exactly what the doctor ordered.

An hour outside of Wellington and highly recommended.... And a personal recommendation (if I may) - Finishing Touches on the Main Street. Chocked to the brim with treats for home and friends!

*Wich/Wick means market. eg. Greenwich = Green Market, Keswick = Cheese Market)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

this is australia

I had a fantastic little library of picture books as a child. My mother had a real weakness for book illustrations, and I suppose books were more often chosen and bought on their aesthetic qualites than their literary merit.

I still have many of these beautiful books, much loved now, but the pictures just as vivid to me. One of my favourite sets was on a manx cat (without a tail) called Max who travelled the world, including Australia, looking for his tail.

As my boyfriend, and travelling companion, is named Max, inevitably this book, like its protagonist took the long journey from London and sits happily on our bookcase in Melbourne.

There has been a real resurgence of beautiful old and retro books over the last few years, in many different forms, with aesthetic often taking precedence over quality of story or indeed facts. This is very much the case with the now overwhelming popularity of the Miroslav Sasek, 'travel books'. Written between the late 50s and his death in 1980, these books have had renewed admiration with a new reissue every few months. Starting with the iconic New York, Paris, London and San Francisco in 2003-4, we are now seeing the more unusual Greece and Israel titles.

The illustrations are the real star in the books. Readers forgive the frequent asterixes that indicate the many, many factual discrepancies that now exist, enchanted instead by the stunning images. How refreshing, in an age of information-hunger and a constant strive for scientific fact, that such wrong books can be more popular than ever.
For our first Valentines Day together, last year, my boyfriend and I booked a trip to Paris, a first visit for him. My gift to him of the iconic 'This is Paris' book, went down very well, even despite the 'mistakes'.

This year, amidst our fervent saving, I was stuck for a meaningful, yet suitably thrifty gift. You can imagine my elation to discover the reissue of.....

You guessed it:


Predictably, the illlustrations and text are as lovely as ever. I'm not quite sure Max was as pleased to recieve it as I was to give it though. I was very very happy to find it after all.

The only problem now is that I've set up a tradition. Locations for our travels have become limited to those which Sasek has written books on.... Not a bad selection though. New York, San Francisco, Rome.... don't mind if I do!

larking about

After our travels we have awarded ourselves a week back in Melbourne, or home as we like to call it. I am hoping that this time will give us a chance to do a day trip or two out of the city and into Rural Victoria. At the top of my Victoria list is the town of Daylesford.

A destination of choice for many reasons, not least that I would get to visit the lovely Lark. I have seen so many features on this lovely shop and such a lot of its great products featured, I would like to have a look for myself!

For now, however, I must be content with their lovely website, and share with you today one of my favourite ranges from them. With a built in rattle, they are obviously designed for little ones, but honestly, who wouldn't love a knitted doughnut? Or, my personal favourite and healthier option, peas in a pod!

100% no added calories.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

paper dolls

A new addition to the long list of 'things I would like to take home from Australia' :

Aside from this great bag's reminding me of the great cut-out paper dolls I used to love as a child, AND the fact that it comes with a needle and thread, and so is actually designed to be used, this bag has stolen my heart for one further reason: the doll's name is Rosie. I'm a real sucker for anything that shares my name(s) or initials.

Rosie (and her boyfriend Robbie) the lovely cut-out dolls can also be find on teatowels, wrapping paper and gift and greetings cards alongside the rest of Sydney company TMOD's, aptly described, experiential stationery designs. From the cut-out pieces, to the dot-to-dot giftwrap and 'scratchie' cards, TMOD products are designed to be used and played around with. Such great, great, yet beautifully simple ideas, I am in awe.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

happy camper

My boyfriend and I are in the midst of planning a few weeks travel down the East Coast of Australia for April and May. It has been torturous in many parts, making hard decisions based on time and budget constraints: what to, and not to see. I can see why the phenonenon of so-called 'grey nomads' has emerged in Australia (upon retirement, many Australian couples are selling up, buying a camper-van and taking a few years to tour the whole of this expansive island). There really is so much to see, and we will certainly be making many return trips!

Byron Bay does seem to have made the cut, so far (our itenary is proving highly dynamic!), and my lovely colleague, when brainstorming with me for inexpensive accomodation ideas, came up with this beauty:

Heaven: a bottle of San Pel in a white-washed Adirondack Chair

Now, caravans are decidedly and affirmedly NOT cool. Aren't they? These are clearly an exception to the age-old rule. For beach-side, casual accomodation, these caravans at Atlantic, Byron Bay are brilliant. Hoping that with the reduction in prices out of season at our time of visiting, I can proudly add these to our blossoming itenary!

With gorgeous vintage styling and polished aluminium interiors, these compact caravans still hold a double bed and private bathroom. So no showering over the kitchen sink then... phew!

Cool Beachside Caravans. What a great idea and so well executed here. Only begs the question - why don't we see this more!? I see a resurgence on the horizon....

 PS. I've got to also point out that Atlantic at Byron Bay also offers a whole range of different accomodation options, from simple and sufficient shared rooms to expansive ensuite studios. This is not really a travel blog, nor, crucially, a travel brochure, otherwise rest-assured I would have copied out their whole website here for you too to admire! The whole place just screams of the kind of calm, casual and lack of pretence that a true holiday is all about.

Monday, February 07, 2011

button it

Take a look at the assorted selection of oversized ceramic buttons by Have You Met Miss Jones. A certain vibe of The Borrowers, I feel. Just a few from the huge and varied selection of white ceramic pieces available from this fantastic Australian company.


making friends

Three days a week I have another job which is located at, what is fair to describe, the wrong end of Swan Street, Richmond. Alongside other failings, the area is woefully lacking in quality lunch spots. Until, that is, I made a friend.

Discovering Friends of Mine a few weeks ago, I felt like I'd stumbled upon a mirage. But after pinching myself, I was happy to discover this place was not only real but bloody gorgeous as well.

It doesn't take much to please me, but brick walls, yellow tolix stools, chandeliers and fresh flowers are a pretty good way to go. And don't get me started on the vintage fittings, distressed wood tables and old glass...

Did I mention that the food is pretty delicious too? Then again, it is Melbourne. Do I really need to?




506 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne.


Discovering Melbourne's Dani M and her truly perfect porcelain jewellery has really made my day. I couldn't wish, nor dream of a more heavenly colour palette.


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