Category Archives: Australia

Spring reading

Is it really spring already? I’m not sure Melbourne is certain it is. Pretty sure it’s still winter at the moment with these blast of chilly days.

But it is great weather for curling up with a book, and I’m sure the sun and slightly warmer days will present themselves soon enough (then I’ll be complaining about it being too hot). Anyways, with the end of winter, came the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) where I spent the last two weekends, well not the full first weekend since I was recovering from gastro. But I did spent a considerable amount of time listening to panels and a considerable amount of money purchasing books.

This was my first visit to the MWF and it didn’t disappoint. Federation Square is a great venue with lots of great spaces and food and drink locations. Also conveniently close to Flinders Street Station.

Melbourne Writers Festival books
Melbourne Writers Festival loot

Here’s what I’ll be reading this spring:

  • Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster (I’ve actually already finished this one – I read it in two days!)
  • Not Just Lucky by Jamila Rizvi
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (this was the new one this year, but I haven’t read his previous two novels above so they’re on the list)
  • Sunlight and Seaweed by Tim Flannery
  • I, Migrant by Sami Shah
  • Flight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford
  • Wish You Were Here by Sheridan Jobbins
  • Depends what You Mean by Extremist by John Safran
  • Fighting Hislam by Susan Carland
  • The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer
  • Colombiano by Rusty Young (sadly, not at the Writers Festival).

Surprisingly a large number of non-figure this year, which is unusual for me, but there were some really strong authors this year and I can’t wait to dive in.

This weekend I’ll be up in sunny Brisbane spending time with my partner, seeing my new little faux-nephew, and attending the Brisbane Writers Festival.

What are you reading this spring?

Meanwhile, 15 months later…

Happy first day of Spring (for those in the southern hemisphere)!

I’ve returned after a bit of an unplanned hiatus. The last year and a bit has been challenging, my initial plans for 2017 were to maybework on smaller projects at work, reboot my health and take lots of little holidays here and there. Bring my stress down a notch. Instead… here’s a few of things I’ve been up to:

Delivered a massive project

When I started writing this blog I was in the middle of a large-scale project at work and from about the time I stopped posting was about the time it all started to get real with delivery. I was working round the clock to get the project delivered.

Voluntary redundancy

My partner took a voluntary redundancy exactly a year ago so he could make a career change.

Travelled to Italy

After above said project we took a glorious five week holiday in Italy! Posts to come about that experience.

Crisis mode

When we returned from luxuriating in the Tuscan sunshine and drinking wine… eating tomatoes… I discovered that the massive project I delivered also caused a crisis mode at work (not as a result of my part in the project – it’s hard to describe without telling you what I do). So instead of returning to a fresh start and a new project, I returned to reactive mode and being on-call and crisis management. Italy never felt so far away.

Partner goes back to university

My aforementioned partner decided to go back to uni and study! The first couple of months were us figuring out how our new schedules looked.

Autoimmune

After many years of being in and out of doctors and doing blood tests, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Which also resulted in hospitalisation after I had a bad reaction to a new medication. We’re still trying to figure out the best way forward with medications, but I can safely say that I’m not going back to hospital anytime soon.

Moving interstate

Just when I was starting to feel somewhat settled into the new year, a job opportunity came up in Melbourne in my industry as a manager role. I applied thinking I would have a lot of competition, but within five weeks I had interviewed for the job, been offered it, was wrapping up at work (again, still in crisis mode), had moved house and moved interstate!

Because the role is only until the end of 2017, my partner and I decided to do long-distance. So we had to move out of our three-bedroom house and into two flats in two cities.

Passing of a family member

Right before I moved to Melbourne, my partner’s grandmother passed away.

That’s me all caught up! I’ve chosen to use the first day of September as an opportunity to renew some of the things I’ve forgotten about in the drama of 2017. But we still have four months left in the year, so there’s no reason I can’t reboot now.

Over the next four months I’ll be focused on writing here regularly again and my health. My health has really slipped in the stress of all the change, so it’s time to put it first again.

How has your 2017 panned out? How are you planning to use the last four months of the year?

9 reasons why working from home can feel like a holiday

I’m one of those travellers who also has a full-time job, so I have to fit travel into my annual leave and settled budget. Even though I’m lucky enough to love my day job, I still have those days were I just don’t want to go into the office.

My solution? I can work from home on days where I need more focus and have no meetings. And you know what? It’s so revitalising! Here’s why I found out that working from home can feel like a holiday:

More sleep

I nearly always walk up without an alarm, but I sent one Monday to Friday ‘just in case’ I over sleep. Working from home? No problem, you can get up when your body naturally wants to walk up – which means you get the sleep you need and you’re in a better mood when you do wake up.

Less grooming (read: no grooming)

You know one of the things I hate most in the mornings? Putting on my makeup and straightening my hair. Omg, so time consuming. I wish I could be one of those women with amazing skin and hair that doesn’t frizz out and look big, but I’m not one of those people so I need to put in some effort in the morning. And honestly, I’m pretty basic in my routine. When I work from home I don’t have to do my hair or put on makeup, and I can just wear casual clothes (or PJs to the ‘office’ – though I do make myself get dressed to put myself into ‘work mode’).

No commute

One of the biggest time killers for the 9 to 5 worker is the commute. We live only 8 kms from the city, so really, my commute is about 25 minutes each way, but I only really have 10 usable minutes which is when I’m on the train (provided I can get a seat). The rest of my commute is driving 5 minutes to the station and then walking ten minutes from the station across the city to my office. When I work from home my commute is from one room to the next. Which actually means I usually start my day earlier, like checking emails over my morning coffee.

Natural light

Most office workers I speak to hate that they have limited natural light all day. I work in a cubicle farm, and my cubicle is in the middle of the floor which limits how much natural light I get. In my house, every room has a window, and my home desk faces the window, which looks over the back yard. So that means I get to see blue sky and sun while I work (I also get to see what my neighbours get up to during the day). And not to mention…

Fresh air

How many of us get sick from being in recycled air-conditioned spaces? And I’m reminded every time our office air-conditioning system breaks down, that our windows do not open and we get no fresh air. Queensland is currently going through this time of year were it starts cooling down for winter, but it’s still beautiful sunny clear days – so I had a crisp breeze licking at my face while I worked. It just really made me feel good about my space and my work.

Proper meals

While we’re talking about things that are better for our health, let’s talk about how awesome it is to have all day access to your own kitchen and food. I love that I can make a proper meal for lunch when I work from home. I have use of the oven and stove rather than just what I can reheat in the microwave. I can take time out and sit at my dining table and have a real break rather than eating at my desk.

Regular breaks

You know what else I got done while I worked from home? My housework and washing. Before you get upset that I was ‘working from home’ and doing my chores, let me explain. To dust my whole house takes maybe ten minutes… I use that as a reason to take a break and get up from sitting. Then do another hour of work before stopping again to say vacuum, or empty the dishwasher, or scrub the bathroom sink. None of these jobs takes much time, but we always seem to never find time for them, right? The best job is washing because it takes two minutes to stick some clothes in the washing machine, then you have a solid half an hour before you have to hang it out. Felt like I had a win in my work life and personal life that day!

More productivity

So despite my regular breaks to do chores, I also got way more done then I would have in the office because I didn’t have people stopping by my desk and sucking up my time. I had the quiet and space to really focus on tedious tasks that take a lot of time to complete. I try to reserve working from home days for those big fiddly jobs that really need some focus and quite time. This also set me up for the next day in the office where I felt like I had gotten some of those tasks done that had been nagging me in the back of my mind.

Less spending

Okay, so this one is probably the opposite of being on a holiday where you actually spend more money. BUT, the fact that I don’t have to spend money on public transport, fuel, a morning coffee or my lunch (and sometimes breakfast), means I can put that money right back into my travel fund.

Do you ever work from home? How do you find it?

5 wineries in Stanthorpe you must visit

People don’t often think of Queensland and wine in the same sentence, but about three hours south-west of Brisbane is a place called Stanthorpe – with amazing wineries.

The region is at it’s best during the cooler months with beautiful autumnal foliage painting the town in oranges, browns and yellows. But… onto the good stuff – wine!

To be honest, the region is loaded with amazing wineries, but here’s a short list of our favourites from the ones we had time to get to. I’m not a wine connoisseur so I’ve used the label descriptions for each of the wines we bought.

Stanthorpe grapes

Symphony Hill Winery

The Granite Belt has an alternative wine trail they call ‘Strange Bird Alternative Wine’. This is a list of wineries that make wine from grape varieties that are different from your usual Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Symphony Hill has some wonderful Strange Bird selections, along with a welcoming and beautiful cellar door. The staff are super friendly and full of knowledge, not just about their wines, but also the region.

Here’s what we bought from Symphony Hill:

  • Gewurztraminer – 2015

A beautiful white wine, light and delicious, their signature white and winner of many awards. It’s easy to see why once you let the wine dance over your tongue.

Label description: ‘Exotic lavender and rose petal notes peek through a peacock’s fantail of wild musk and Turkish Delight aromas. Exquisite lip smacking flavours of lychee and spice dance delicately with perfectly balanced acidity all complemented with a talcum powder texture. Best enjoyed with spicy dishes where pleasure will then go up yet another level.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $40.

  • Shiraz – 2013

I’m a big fan of full-bodied red wines, though I have to admit this region broadened my wine wine taste buds.

Label description: ‘Gorgeous aromas of violets and spicy plum with a hint of blueberries and a touch of anise. The palate delivers rich sensual warm overtones of raspberry and chocolate with a splash of coconut harmoniously balanced with seamless acid and velvet like tannins.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $25.

  • Tempranillo – 2013

I was first introduced to Tempranillo in Peru back in 2008, I wasn’t familiar with any of these varietals as we didn’t seem to have them in Australia (or maybe we did and I didn’t know about them!). So I took a stab at ordering and learned I liked Tempranillo and Malbecs. So of course, I knew I’d like this drop.

Label description: ‘Complex aromas of raspberry and anise push through an array of floral notes. Delicious flavours of savoury cherry like nuances with a hint of sarsaparilla notes balancing delicate velvet like tannins and seamless acidity.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $30.

Stanthorpe grapes

Summit Estate

Talk about welcoming! Summit Estate’s owner opened the cellar doors for us when there wasn’t any other visitors and took us through his entire collection. A sprawling cellar door with tables set up for big tour groups – this is a well established winery.

  • The Pinnacle – 2014

Label description: ‘A blend of Marsanne, Chardonnay and Viognier which co-exist beautifully in the glass. This dry, crisp style has subtle fruit driven character that will complement a variety of cuisine from fresh seafood to chicken dishes. This is a fine wine that will cellar well.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $22.

  • High Country white – 2014

Label description: ‘This wine has the familiar grapefruit and citrus notes of Sunny Queensland. Enjoy drinking his wine with your favourite salads, seafood dishes and Asian style recipes.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $22.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot -2013

Label description: ‘Unexpectedly complex. Replete with hiden charms. Surprisingly persistent. Qualities which define this impressive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. This is an elegant style of Cabernet with structure and finesse. Ideal accompaniment to roast dinners and BBQ meats.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $25.

  • The Anchorage Tawny Port

I find it hard to go past a port. I really just love it, so naturally, a bottle of this sticky, delicious drop had to come with us.

Label description: ’10 year old Tawny with typical rancio character, matured in French oak hogheads. Luscious and highly aromatic, with nuances of spice, toffee and plump raisins. Perfect as an after dinner indulgence with matured hard cheese.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $30.

Stanthorpe - Ridgemill

Ridgemill Estate

We actually stayed at Ridgemill Estate, they’re one of the few places with cabinets right in the middle of the vineyards! It’s only 10 minutes south of Stanthorpe, which puts you directly between the two major wine towns of Stanthorpe and Ballandean. You also get to wake up to this view:

Stanthorpe - Ridgemill view

And play with these little guys!

Stanthorpe - goats 2

Stanthorpe - goat

Anyway… the wine:

  • Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot – 2010

I got to be honest, I’m really not a fan of Merlot, but this Cabernet, Malbec mix is delicious.

Label description: 3 Bronze medals
Strong deep red colour with crimson hues on the edges. The palate is soft and rounded with black olive, blackberry and dried herbs; finishing with well-balanced acid and plush tannins.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $28.

  • Pinot G – 2014

I’ve really grown to appreciate the taste of a Pinot Gris over the years (a big achievement for a non-white wine lover). This one is wonderful.

Label description: Gold, 2 Bronze medals
The aromas leap from the glass, exhibiting floral and exuberant fruits with Nashi pear to the fore.The palate is full and textural whilst being framed by the bright acidity giving the wine drive and length.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $25.

  • Sly Dog

This was probably my favourite way to end the trip! Sly Dog is  a white fortified wine. Or as the label reads: Drinks like a wine, kicks like a port! A sticky delicious drop!

Label description: ‘Our sly. dog has rose gold and sherry hues with long legs. Aromas of nougat, raisins and nuts while on the palate if tastes like plump sultanas, dried apricots with fresh spirit and persistent flavours. We put “sly dog” in a half bottle for your own protection.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $30.

Stanthorpe - bottles

Heritage Estate

One of the first wineries we stopped in at, Heritage Estate is placed in a beautiful old church with a wonderful breeze (it was very hot that day).

  • Fiano – 2014

I adored this white and absolutely couldn’t leave the building without it. I can’t bring myself to open the bottle until we have a nice occasion for it.

Label description: ‘This ancient Mediterranean variety is suited perfectly to our high altitude vineyard on the northern Granite Belt. Ripe stone fruit and notes of paw paw, citrus and spice combine to produce a lovely aromatic style. The palate is lusciously fruity and textured – balanced by a vibrant line of acidity. Enjoy cool climate Granite Belt wine.’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $25.

Stanthorpe - leaves

Tobin Winery

I had to leave the best for last… and we almost missed it if it weren’t for us checking Trip Advisor for the last couple of wineries to hit before we headed out of town.

The owner is a unique person, a purist in the wine industry! Very knowledgable and amazing wines. I don’t even like Chardonnay… and yet, this was absolutely the best white wine I’ve ever tasted. I wish I’d bought two.

  • Lily Chardonnay

Label description: ‘Elegant and graceful aromas of wild fig and rockmelon ease through hints of butterscotch and vanilla. Complex, rich layers of melon and peach are harmoniously balanced with restrained acidity and surreal texture..’

Price per bottle from the cellar door: $65.

Stanthorpe - vineyard

What are some of your favourite Queensland wines?

Relax and recharge in Mooloolaba

We’re pretty lucky here in Brisbane to have two nearby coasts with beautiful beaches. Unfortunately it be difficult to find time to visit, but it’s important to remember the amazing locations we have right on our doorstep. So when I saw that Easter was early this year and my work project was pushed out, I jumped at the chance to back some of my annual leave onto the Easter break. This gave me 17 luxurious days off for the cost of only nine leave days.

After spending a few days up in Mackay visiting my parents, we decided to spend a week in glorious Mooloolaba – one of the more lively locations on the Sunshine Coast.

Getting around

The Sunshine Coast isn’t the easiest place to get to without a car, however if you’re coming from Brisbane public transport is workable. Once you’re in Mooloolaba, there’s buses that travel between the towns, otherwise if you’re staying on the Esplanade like we did, most things in the area are within walking distance.

Where to stay

You’ll be spoilt for choice accommodation-wise at Mooloolaba, with many self-contained apartments right on the esplanade looking over the water. It can be noisy on Friday and Saturday nights though with restaurants spilling over with weekend visitors. If noise bothers you there are hotel options a street back or towards the quieter ends of the esplanade, alternatively you can always request a upper level apartment.

View from Mantra Sirocco

We stayed at Mantra Sirocco with a spectacular seventh floor view in a two bedroom self-contained apartment. All rooms have ocean views and if you’re staying for longer than a weekend, a self-contained apartment is the way to go. There’s also a grocery store one street back within walking distance.

Things to do

Beach

Mooloolaba Beach

One of the major reasons to visit the Sunshine Coast is purely for the beach! There’s plenty of surf and swimming locations (swim between the life saving flags for safety) and you can also hire boats, jetski and other water sport equipment.

If you’re looking to change up your beach location, there’s plenty of others up and down the coast, two of my favourites being Dicky Beach and Shelly Beach.

Underwater World

Underwater World Sea Life

If you’re into education and looking at pretty fish and seals, Underwater World Sea Life is a great place to visit. Weekends get pretty busy, but during the week it’s less hectic. They also have shows throughout the day and a cafe on site if you need a break part way through your visit. It’s bigger than it looks, so take some comfortable walking shoes.

Hiking

Point Cartwright

Point Cartwright

If you’re staying in Mooloolaba, Point Cartwright is the closest walking track, stretching out to the lighthouse point with ocean on one side and river/habour on the other. This is an easy walk for all  abilities and the top gives you beautiful views back to Mooloolaba Beach.

Down on the harbour is One La Balsa Cafe, conveniently located at bottom of the hill with views over the harbour and La Balsa Park. The cafe serves breakfast and lunch, making it the perfect way to start your morning and to reward yourself for your bit of exercise.

Buderim Forest Waterfall

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A 45 hectre rainforest filled with walking tracks, bridges, waterfalls, rivers and plenty of bird life, Buderim Forest Waterfall is challenging enough to get your heart rate up. There is a short walk from Quorn Close entry that brings you out to the falls and then you can loop back around. Or there’s a longer walk which will bring you out to Harry’s Restaurant.

The walking tracks are probably suitable for most fitness levels, but there are stairs at some sections and most of the path is natural, so good walking shoes would be advised.

Kondalilla Falls

About a 30 minute drive inland to Montville, is a beautiful rainforest trek at Kondalilla Falls. There are different walks to suit your fitness level and timeframes and also a picnic area and facilities for when you’re done.

You’ll be able to see a variety of native animal and plant life if you keep your eyes peeled. And if you feel like more than a picnic, Elements on Montville Tea House is just a short walk up the road and serve both lunch and delicious buttermilk scones.

Mount Coolum

Unfortunately it was pouring with rain the day we wanted to climb Mount Coolum, so I can’t testify for this one myself. But it gets good reviews as being a solid 30 minute walk with 360 degree views, along with other local walks.

Where to eat

You’ll be spoilt for choice on the Mooloolaba Esplanade for places to eat. Here are some of my favourites:

Augello’s

If you love Italian (and I do), you can’t go past Augello’s. They’re right on the corner so you get a view of all the foot traffic and also the ocean. The service is really friendly and fast, there’s a great selection of wines and you’ll want to come back more than once because the menu choices all look so good (we went back twice).

Hot Pipis

Don’t underestimate this little pocket rocket, it packs a punch when it comes to tapas food. They’ll tell you it’s small serves of everything, but the servings will definitely leave you feeling full and in need of nap. Hot Pipis has a lot going for it with it’s ocean views, comfortable atmosphere, good food and friendly staff. The lunch crowd on weekends will be enough to convince you to give them a try.

Lemon and Thyme

Looking for a simple but good breakfast? Lemon and Thyme won’t disappoint. It has a bit of a focus on the healthy and organic, but it’s really good simple foods. We ate here for both breakfast and dinner and were very happy with both the food and the price.

Do you have a favourite Sunshine Coast location, restaurant or hiking trail? 

Last leg: Parks and Coonabarabran

An unfortunate decision to get Chinese food on our first tired night in Parkes meant that I was up at 2am and most of the morning with food poisoning. Though I desperately wanted to lay down and just stay in the room, we had to get on the road, Continue reading Last leg: Parks and Coonabarabran

Where we learn about wine making

Mt Pleasant McWilliams

I really love going on tours of factory type places and learning how things are made, I think it gives you a nice appreciation of what you’re tasting/looking at – it’s also a great way to learn more about the place you’re in and do something different from just swishing and tasting wine (that came after the tour).

Continue reading Where we learn about wine making

The Hunter Valley

Three hours west of Port Macquarie and we find ourselves in Pokolbin, the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region. We’re staying right in the middle of Pokolbin Village so have the luxury of shops and a restaurant within walking distance. After one and a half days of driving, we plonked ourselves down at Vittorio’s Cafe restaurant and had a late and long lunch in the sun with a couple of glasses of wine and a view of the vineyards. Can you hear us relaxing as I type?

Vineyards Continue reading The Hunter Valley