chronicles of a bespoke, simple, adventurous life

Category Archives: fun and adventure

the power of getting out of your usual surrounds + Wanaka beauty

I recently received this text from a friend who was adventuring for the first time through the South Island of New Zealand and I was instantly transported to that enviable sweet spot of travel.   –  “Wanaka is one o my fave places on earth, it’s official.  Did a skydive over some of the most spectacular scenery and am now sunning my face at the edge of the lake with the mountains as my backdrop.  Life just doesn’t get any better.  Oh and the Pinot ain’t that bad either.  God I’m happy here.  Hope all is well with you sweet cheeks.  Muchos love x.  I asked her to send me a photo to go with the words, this was it -


Aaahhh, the sweet spot of travel – you know that place where you’re no longer at the mercy and tangle of home, your mind free to be embraced by the unfamiliar.  Unencumbered and present, what a powerhouse coupling.  And in one blink of your heart you find yourself at that place of happy – at the intersection of a Clear Mind And An Open Soul, on the corner of I’ve Never Been Here Before Street.  Just down the road from All The Things I Love To Do Crescent.

Pure, good old fashioned happy.  Remember it?

It reminded me of the thrilling and transformative power that comes from submerging yourself in a different environment.  Getting out of what you know, where you know and who you know.  Nothing left but you and your self, and in this case some of the most stunning scenery on earth.  Oh the grounding and power that comes from frolicking at the foot of mountains.  Of daring to adventure outside of what we know for just a little bit.  I swear, that when I read that text I grinned pure joy in recognition of somebody who had hit the holy grail of the travel sweet spot.

Image 3

Oh how I love travel – some say an escape from reality, I say an open door to a new one.  I just wanted to share with you what I love so much about adventure and the travel of the soul it can take you on.  It’s taken me on.

Have you  had the fortune of hitting the travel sweet spot? Where were you? How was your soul travelling?

Love and light, Maree

Hello to you and 2013….heres what’s coming up!

Hello to you (I say rather meekishly and mightily) after an eleven week incommunicado absence from writing on this blog.  I last posted on the Alchemy of Hustle near three months ago from New York, at the tale end of my 30 day American adventure.  Luckily the places, faces and food of the States has not faded from my memory and I have juicy stories and pictures to share from that fabulous little big trip which will include posts on New York, San Francisco, Sonoma, Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo, Carmel by the Sea and maybe a revisit of my original post on the crazy Las Vegas.

After the United States holiday I put on some big pants and made some grown up decision’s…….as a result I now find myself living in a new country – my old home town of New Zealand.  After eleven years of living away (six of those in my last home of Sydney) its rather novel, new and fabulous being back.  And it feels right for now, but more on that later.

Taken on my morning walk between Milford and Takapuna Beaches.  It is one of my favourite places in the world and makes me smile.  ALOT.

Taken this morning on my walk between Milford and Takapuna Beaches. It is one of my favourite places in the world and makes me smile (ALOT). It is where I was born, raised and currently live……a full circle of sorts.

2012 was a year full of dips and some delightful highs with bold lashings of change, and all that hard yakker has paved the way for a ‘stand up and be counted’ 2013.  I’m excited with a side order of meekish nerves, truth be told.  Stand up and be counted means building up The Alchemy of Hustle and my own business.  It means creating and living the life I want in the style and way I want over different geographical terrains.  It means implicitly trusting and believing in myself and the tremendous powers of community, hard work and the universe.

In short I’m getting my serious on about The Alchemy of Hustle and giving it a lot more energy. This year will also see the inclusion of ‘Others Stories’ where I ask others how they created and sustained lives doing what they love.  I’ll be sharing their learnings, journey’s and tips with you.

I’m brimming with loads of ideas and inspiration (thanks in no small part to the fantastic Blogacademy workshop I attended in New York).  I hope you enjoy the upcoming posts and pictures of inspiration to support you on your paths of brilliance.

Love and light  and welcome to the New Year of 2013 and the Snake.

How to get your mojo singing ‘Hell to the Yeah’

Truth be told I’ve been trying to get my mojo to sing loud and proud for an age, to middling success.

To get things hip hop moving along I spent a couple of days at the first ever Blogcademy in New York city.  It was hands down one of the best things I’ve done to move my ideas forward in a really long time.  The BEST.  I think I may have a choir of mojo about to sing Hellalujah.  It got me thinking about how we get our mojo’s to sing…..I’ve jotted down some ideas at the bottom of this post if your needing a wriggle on.

Two gloriously affirming days hanging out with 29 other fabulous bloggers at the direction of three superstars of the blogosphere (and all things individual expression) Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet and Kat Williams.  And lets not forget the superstar of photography Lisa Devlin.

I was plunk in the middle of a master mistress class and it was amazeballs!

The alchemy of hustle is all about living your joy and passion on your own terms and these women were rocking right out on that, they are alchemical hustlers in the truest sense of the title.  They are tap dancing on the head of their passionate reason for being, and it is a glorious site to behold*.  Unabashed, unadulterated full expression of self with the added bonus of making a very successful living from it.  Is there no other holier grail than that?  Well for me there’s not, its my life’s work.

The workshops style and delivery were perfect for the way I learn.  Informal, packed with awesome content (from lessons learnt, tips, the basics, what works, what doesn’t etc) and with loads of space for Q&A.  I came away learning SO MUCH about all things blogging and how to make my blog  fabulous.  I am inspired with a game plan = ignited.  And unexpectedly I learnt about the power of really living my mojo, singing from my own voice full time (not part).  Over two days I soaked up the authentic voices of our teachers and it unconsciously washed over me and settled into my psyche.  Seeing somebody else rocking it out prompts your subconscious to say “hey, why not join in”?

The other surprise gem has come from the community that has sprung to life and that is continuing to grow.  A big nugget shared was the power of community, collaboration and support and the life these bring to our work, ideas, inspiration and selves.  It’s the relationships that make the difference.  I am loving being a part of this community.

Blogcademy graduates on a high after finishing the workshop. Photo taken by Femke Leemans.

So if you’d like to get your mojo singing ‘Hell to the Yeah’ you could try a few of these:

  • get clear about your joy/passion, what you want to do.  this is a good read if your a bit murky.
  • feel more, think less
  • get your vision up where you can see it, it helps keep the main thing, the main thing.  I wrote about how to make a vision board here
  • start dabbling or dive right in, there will never be a perfect time (because there is no such thing as perfect) there is just now
  • build your community – meet other like minded peeps for fun, inspiration and ongoing support.  Veronica Varlow who attended Blogcademy wrote an awesome post on how to build community here
  • get some steer and support on how to make it happen, I just found out about this fabulous woman/firestarter.  want more than just a book/online resource?  a life coach can be an incredible resource for creating change or a mentor could be your thang
  • make self care a priority, good food/sleep/balance/water/friends/fun are all part of the equation
  • learn from the best, ask questions from those that have done it……soak it up (trust me it is priceless gold to be in conversation with people who are successfully singing from the top of their mojo’s lungs – see Gala, Nubby and Kat’s links above).
  • be yourself, its a fruitless task being anybody else

What gets your mojo singing loud and proud?

*My description of these fabulous woman may to some sound a tad gushy, it is not.  I write with authenticity and honesty on the things and people that genuinely inspire and motivate me (and shining a flood light on powerful woman is a good thing, I feel).  Seeing individuals doing their thing/joy and being truly themselves is powerful, it is a massive agitator of change and enhancer of mojo happiness. I found that out this weekend in bucket loads.

travel what an interesting ride, oh and fabulous people…..

I’m writing this in the very plush bar at the hotel I’m staying at near LAX airport.  Tomorrow I fly to New York.  I can’t tell you how excited I am, I have wanted to go to New York for an age.

Today, after having spent 3 days in San Francisco I drove to LA.  What was to be a leisurely six hour haul down the freeway turned into about 8.5 hours, I won’t go into details………but lets just say that LA’s parting gift to me was a slow trawl of traffic.  I multi tasked and ate my dinner (a fabulous kale salad and a rosemary breast of chicken bought from a health food supermarket).  It was a SLOW trawl, chewing and steering was very doable.

I’m a little side swiped that 21 days have passed, and in the same breath I’m not.  It’s been an interesting journey, and I have more to write on some of the fabulous gems of people and places that I stumbled upon.  And also of the interesting process of travel, and of me in travel…..and what I stumbled upon in myself, and still am.

I spent my 21 days checking out local eateries, eating delicious food (predominately seafood) drinking fabulous wines and doing a smidgin of site seeing …..

LA – interesting

Las Vegas – interesting and educational, I wrote about that here, including a big photo gallery

Santa Barbara – an idyllic town….and I had an interesting chat over dinner (in a seafood shack on a pier) with Israel about Aristotle…..

San Luis Obispo – Caitlin, Dylan, Kaleigh I had the BEST time with you’s all, I won’t forget it!  You redeemed my faith in America.  Truly.

Big Sur – spectacular, though I was a little hungover for the drive….

Carmel by the Sea – the houses don’t have numbers and theres no traffic lights!  Oh and great wine tasting….and the seafood = awesome!

Monterey – the most ethereal and magical neon treats from the sea at the Aquarium

Santa Cruz – a tasty mexican meal washed down by a great margarita

Sonoma – awesome township, wines/tastings and fabulous food, a great night out with a crew from boston……too much bubbles…..

Healdsburg - awesome wines and food,  a little travel/battle weary……

San Francisco – interesting and REALLY expensive.  highlight was stumbling upon a blues bar and  dancing with locals into the wee hours….

I’m in LOVE with this image found on a wall in San Francisco. In LOVE.

my holy grail of joy

On day 13 of my 30 days in America I find myself having lunch in Sonoma deciding how to spend the next week mooching through both Sonoma and Napa wine regions.  After my visit to the info centre I was overwhelmed with options…….there are SO many vineyards, hotels and spas!

To move through the overwhelm I decided on a glass of local Chardonnay and some prawns…….and am now ensconced in a LOVELY hotel room (also muchos affordable).  And shortly am off to taste wines…..

For those of you that don’t know me well, I think I’m entering the holy grail of weeks……where I shall roll around in mud like a pig with a large grin on my face at all times.  Nothing to me is more relaxing and brings more joy than good food and wine and I am very excited to be here!

No disrespect to LA, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Saint Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Carmel by the Sea, Monterey or Santa Cruz……but I’ve found my place of happy on this trip.  Well lets not get ahead of myself, theres still New York for nine days coming up which may have me waxing lyrical, but right now I can’t see anything topping this.

See you on the other side.


My intrigue with Vegas came from the film Casino, ever since I’ve held a fascination with the city in its hey day and its story.  Created from nothing, built on sand, run by the Mafia, visited by movie stars and entertained by the heavy hitters of the day (think Rat Pack).  And to top it off Howard Hughes helped bring about corporate ownership of casino’s which ushered out the Mafia’s illegal shenanigans and brought us the shiny corporatised Vegas of today.  What a story, and what stories Vegas must hold in its ‘what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ Vault.

Intuitively I knew it wasn’t going to be my bag, but I still wanted to check it out, and on days 3, 4, 5 and 6 of my 30 days in America I did just that.  For a gallery of photos capturing the craziness and bright lights click here.

Sin city, as Vegas is affectionately called is smack bang in the middle of the desert.  I know this intimately because I drove in and out of it and trust me there’s a lot of desert (think 5-6 hour hauls each way).  Hot, hot desert.

the road to Vegas

A taxi driver scooting us to Downtown one night said that until air conditioning came along in the 40’s or 50’s Vegas didn’t take off as a holiday destination because people in their finery melted. I visited early October and it was HOT, a nice dry heat morning, day and night.

Imagine you’re in the middle of the desert (think cowboy and western films) and you stumble upon a steroid induced sparkle of a city like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  Designed from scratch for pure hedonistic pleasure and entertainment it’s architectural and graphic imprint shouts ‘look at me’.  Drinking is permitted 24 hours and establishments offer take out cups so you can wander and sip.  Smokers enjoy a puff on the casino floors.  Gambling is everywhere – at the pool it was there, built into bar tops it is there, and the casino floors crammed with black jack tables, croupiers and slot machines operating 24/7 is a site to behold.  The number of bars, clubs and restaurants is utterly phenomenal.   And there is luxury shopping crammed at every corner.

I found the city scape confounding and slightly garish, it’s crazy, loud and over the top and an environmentalists nightmare.  Your sense of time becomes lost as everything is open 24/7 365 days of the year……you start your day late and head out late.  It is truly unique and for good reason, one gargantuan adult playground where everything is at your beckon call is enough.  In my opinion.

I’m not a gambler or a clubber but I still found much to do.  Particularly looking at all the pretty neon signs (I love them) feathers (I bought some) and relaxing horizontal style by the pool.

Neon sparkle. It was everywhere…..

I do enjoy a spot of five star living and this place delivers in droves, a mate was in Vegas for work and was holed up at the Palazzo so I got to luxury couch surf for three days in a suite the size of a small apartment with views of the strip and a pool area to die for (yes I was lucky).  I know this is going to sound snobbish (but who cares), if your going to do Vegas save up and go five star.  There are plenty of hotel options to fit every budget, but the city is SO full on that retreating to a nice pad is medicinal.  Believe me.

The two key areas to check out are the Strip and Downtown. Las Vegas Boulevard aka the Strip is where all the top casino’s/hotels live inches from one another shining and putting on a spectacle to draw crowds as you walk its length.  My preference was definitely Downtown which is where Vegas started, its old school and the scale is more digestable……more me.

If you knew me, you’d understand I’m an authentic minimalist at heart.  Reproductions of classic architectural wonders plopped into foreign landscapes have zero appeal (Vegas brings you the Eiffel Tower, Venice Canal with operating Gondola’s, a Pyramid etc).  I also have no interest in ‘as much as you can eat and drink’ specials, luxury shopping and I have strong feelings on gambling and its insidious hold over many lives and the governments limited intervention.

So Vegas wasn’t really my thing but I’m definitely pleased I checked it out and I LOVED the neon signs.

30 days in America

This post was written three days ago…..

As I write, I am shooting through clouds on my way to Los Angeles.  I am four hours and forty minutes away from touching LAX tarmac and travelling for 30 days in America.   For the next three weeks I’m road tripping through California then shooting over to the east coast and living in New York for nine days.  Excited I am.

Seven weeks ago I decided to give up the lease on my flat (of five years that I adored) leave my routine and comfort zone and go on an adventure.

The plan was to submerge myself in an exotic voyage, a joyful messy mash up of difference.  Submerged in otherness.  India fitted the bill perfectly except for the wee minor detail that I can’t eat a lot of lentils, rice, gluten and dairy.  So my 90 day voyage of discovery in Asia became 30 days in America.  I laugh too.

I cannot tell you how hard it was to hand in my lease.  I am serenely joyous with my decision now, but in the lead up I was pacing the outer margins of my courage, and then some.

You know when you can have too much of a good thing, when the routine is so deeply engraved that change has a long way to surface.  That was me.  I realised that if I didn’t cut the ties, change it up and leave my safety blanket I would more than likely wake up in five years time and very little would have changed.  That thought alone pushed me through a canyon of unexpected fear.

The propeller for all this change didn’t spontaneously manifest over night, I had been nursing my levels of discontent for quite awhile.  Simply put, when I’m about to pop my clogs I want to know I lived a life of joy doing what I love.  At forty I haven’t done that yet so I thought I’d give it a go.

In my trip I’ve created open space away from what I know, outside of routine to connect to my joy’s of creating, writing, travel and food.

I’m going to be blogging about my travels if you’d like to come along for the ride a little…..

food made with love


Last night I got to eat and enjoy food made with love.

Food from the heart is unbeatable, it just tastes better.  I have no science to back this up, but years of eating tell me that when food is made with care you can taste it.  Last nights feast was a beautiful message of love to my mother in celebration of her 60th, from her brother (the cook, Anton).

I wanted to share this story because I think sometimes we forget the importance food can play in our relationships (with others and self) and the power of a shared meal.  It brings us together and creates a gastronomic pile of memories filled with friends, family, tastes……….and is the witness and caretaker of important milestones, celebrations, travels, transitions, farewells, joys and hardship.  It is a constant in our lives.  It has the power to nourish and heal and it is our fuel………and for me one of the ultimate joys in life*.

I wrote this because I wanted to share Anton’s beautiful feast, but I also wanted to remind myself (more than anything) of the power of sharing food – great or small, lavish or quick…..from scrambled eggs to a feast…….it speaks volumes without any words.

When: February 14, 2012

What: Valentines Dinner Party in Celebration of my Mum’s 60th Birthday

Where: North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand

Cook: All food created and prepared by Anton Boyle (I previously wrote about him here)

Canapes: Fig and Brie, Capsicum and Kikorangi Blue and Chicken pieces in Sumac and Zaatar spices

Entre: Egyptian Eggs

Soup: Fresh Tomato, Basil and Garlic Soup

Main: Terakihi fillets and Prawns dusted in Cajun spices served with slices of Banana, Cucumber ribbons and dressed with Passionfruit pulp

Salad: Watermelon and Avocado

Dessert: Lemon Tart served fresh cream and Raspberries

Hearts aplenty table setting

Canapes, the Red Capsicum and Kikorangi Blue Cheese a particular favourite

The Egyptian Eggs in there last stages of preparation

Fresh Tomato, Garlic and Basil Soup

Terakihi and Prawns dusted in Cajun spices served with Banana slices, Cucumber ribbons and a Passionfruit pulp dressing

Watermelon and Avocado Salad

Lemon Tart served with cream and fresh Raspberries

All shades of pink dressed the table

the end

* It is not lost on me that I write this post from my comfortable first world life.  I am truly grateful for the abundance of food I experience, I never go without.  And in this footnote I just wanted to acknowledge my privilege given the vast vast tracts of the global community who do go without.  Sometimes it feels a little closed eyed and lily guilding for foodies to wax lyrical about gastronomic pleasures……..when we haven’t resolved the disproportionate distribution of food to all corners of the planet.  I have no answer, I just wanted to acknowledge that it is not lost on me that I have so much food in my life that I get to enjoy, when many many others do not.

Falling back in love

Falling back in love

Have you ever fallen out and then back in love with something?  With somebody?

I thought it auspicious on this Valentines day to share my refall back into love……back into love with my hometown – the North Shore.  I haven’t lived in New Zealand for ten whole years, I’ve visited a fair few times but not lived on the old home soil.  It’s undoubtedly one of my favourite places in the world and it definitely feels like home, though I can’t say I have found it inspiring……and there hasn’t been any pull to return to live.

Last night Ma and went for a spot of dinner and along the way we came across all these gems in our backyard.

Love a Duck Restaurant - Northcote

Green tea at Love a Duck

Delicious Prawn and Pork Dumplings

I hadn’t been to Northcote shops in an age.  It was great to see it so full of life and crammed with every Asian cuisine you can imagine.  The food at Love a Duck was exceptional and true Hong Kong style.  A treat I wasn’t expecting to come across.

View from Stanley Point, Devonport

View of Navy Ships from Stanley Point, Devonport

Driving around my old stomping ground of Devonport I was reminded of why I love it so.  It’s a beautiful part of the world, great little beaches, views across to the City and it’s crammed fill of old Villa’s and wide roads.  It is my favourite suburb in the North Shore and Auckland.  And I could live there again, no problems.

Glorious little second hand store in Cheltenham, Devonport

And I couldn’t believe my eyes while driving through Birkenhead (another old stomping ground)……the new Library was finally up and running (it took an absolute age to be designed and built).  What a lovely architectural find……a beautiful wee space.  I wasn’t expecting something so progressive from the council initiative – surprised was I.

Birkehead Library - Interior Shot

Birkenhead Library - Resting spot

Birkenhead Library - Sculpture

It’s official, I have fallen back into love with my hometown.  It’s got layers and colour and diversity and stories and beautiful beaches and unique landscape and a myriad of cultures.  And on this trip I was inspired.

On this trip I realised I hadn’t been looking previously, so I hadn’t seen all the colour, joy and beauty of this place that was right under my nose.  I saw new hidden gems that I didn’t realise existed……because I hadn’t been looking.

And there it is, I’ve fallen back in love because I lifted my head up and looked with open eyes and I was pleasantly surprised.

Strolling, gazing and grazing at Clevedon Farmers Markets – New Zealand

Strolling, gazing and grazing at Clevedon Farmers Markets – New Zealand

On Sunday, back in NZ for Ma’s 60th birthday I found myself at the Clevedon Farmers Markets enjoying one of life’s pleasurable combinations – the stroll, gaze and graze.

Beautiful ginormous Mushrooms from 'Out of the Dark Mushrooms'

My second visit to these markets situated only 45 minutes South East of Auckland City didn’t dissapoint.  They provided a lovely little treat – enjoying New Zealand produce at its best right from the hand of the maker, grower, cook.

This Fig vinegar was delicious, think tang and sweet. The maker suggested using on salads, veges or as a meat marinade.

Wandering around I was reminded of how much I love Farmers Markets, seeing new things, tasting, trying……and the subsequent buy.  I made a mental note to self to visit them more often in my local digs of Sydney.  If you live in Sydney this is a wee guide to a few you can check out.

Beautiful Hop Flowers - dry and then pop in your pillow to alleviate insomnia. Yes 'Hops' as in the plant thats a key ingredient of Beer - who knew!

We couldn't resist the Hungarian Delicatessan's Spicy Pork hotdogs - guilty pleasure.

Chilled rural vibe prevails, oh and there were Pony rides for the kids aswell

Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company's Mozzarella and their Ricotta (served with a bit of honey) were sensational.

There’s something about food makers, growers, artisans, artists and creatives which really resonates with me and has me eager to explore creating a sustainable working life slightly outside of the slipstream / mainstream.  These markets inspired me.

One of my favourite ways to eat fish - smoked

If you live in Auckland or find yourself a visitor I recommend a wee visit.  It’s the real deal, set in the lovely Clevedon country side renowned for agriculture, Polo, a slice of old school lifestyle and fabulous Oysters.

We split an Angus Beef and Potato traditional Cornish Pasty. Seriously good!

Chillies from Curious Croppers - "growers of cranky but gorgeous vegetables"