It’s that time of year again – Christmas Party season!
Every year, November brings with it the search for the perfect affordable and stylish dress to wear to work and social occasions.
These are some of my favorite dresses under $80 (some even under $60!), with key trends covered like off-the-shoulder (OTS isn’t going anywhere this Summer), ruffle sleeve and quirky prints. And I’m amazed, there’s not a stripe amongst them!
The navy B Collection Broderie dress from Big W is the perfect budget option for a work Christmas party, while I love the floaty boho style of the Erin Louise maxi and Chasing Case pattern dress for casual family barbeques by the water. And the quirky Santa-hat-wearing flamingos of the Mandy Little Party Dress are fabulous for ANY festive celebration!
Which is your favorite? I don’t think I can go past the flamingo LPD, or the Amy Pineapple shift! (Predictable, I know!)
You’d think that with my term-time job working in the sports department at a school, I might like to stay well away from young people on school holidays; but the families that live next door and across the road in our quiet little street have some pretty fantastic kids, and I’m always happy to spend time with them.
When I heard that my holidays coincided with the four kids’ break from school for just a week, I starting thinking about what I could do with them for a great day out together. I dropped a few hints in the lead up to the end of term, asking what they’d done around the Coast lately, and with BB’s encouragement, came up with a plan.
Being Sunny Coast locals, BB and I have long talked about going to Australia Zoo together. I haven’t been for about five years, and we are constantly hearing about new exhibits opening, with incredible animals. We also both believe pretty strongly in the late Steve Irwin’s message of conservation and education. Unfortunately, BB has been working away lately, and wouldn’t be able to get time off an important contract for a zoo-day, so he missed out this time – although I’m hoping I can take him there really soon, I know he’d love it!
The kids didn’t know what they were going to be doing with me that day, as I’d tricked them into believing I was just ‘babysitting’ and we might go to a park, run some errands and maybe clean my house a little – HA! I would never choose to clean my house when there are naps to be had, so I sure fooled them! After loading up in the car and heading to the highway, we passed a few theme parks signs and even an Australia Zoo sign – young Thomas noticed it and immediately said ‘Oh, Australia Zoo would be so cool, I’d love to see the crocs’!
I pulled up at a park at Landsborough (just up the road from the Zoo) and as everyone got out of the car for a run around in the playground, I said ‘Wait, I’ve got something for you!’ and handed them each a little bag containing an animal print balloon, a couple of Cadbury Furry Friends chocolates, and an Australia Zoo brochure. As soon as they all realised that we were about to spend our day at the Zoo, I had four kids talking at me, 100 miles an hour! ‘What? We’re going there now? Will we see crocodiles? Are we really going there now? Today? All of us? Is Tommy going to get to swim with the crocodiles?
(No, lovely neighbours… I would never let your kids swim with crocodiles. Well, not hungry ones over 20 foot long, anyway.)
Why should you visit Australia Zoo with children? Well, here are eight great reasons! (To be honest, I could probably come up with a hundred.)
To be honest, there is a good chance that Pasang, the young Red Panda might be asleep when you visit Australia Zoo – he’s a typical teenager who needs plenty of rest, and enjoys having his meals brought to him. Fortunately when we visited, he was clambering around his large enclosure, leaping and climbing along tree branches.
You can’t visit Australia Zoo without seeing koalas! Australia’s most famous marsupials are incredibly sleepy and whilst there are a few different large enclosures with koalas in specially-designed trees to showcase them, it’s more fun to stroll through the walk-through Koala area and look up in the trees to spot them. We found a couple of different volunteers showing koalas, and were able to get up close and personal, and pat and stroke them (usually on their bottom)!
As a regular visitor to Fraser Island, I’ve seen dingoes before – but of course I’ve never been this close! These beautiful animals are Australia’s wild dog, and they’ve been here for over 5000 years. Seeing Archie (with the white coat) and his sister Eve was wonderful, they are such curious and beautiful creatures and reading about the conservation work that Australia Zoo is doing for them was great! Dingoes are also walked through the park on a meet and greet stroll daily.
Watching the Asian small-clawed otters Mayhem and Rosie at feeding time is certainly a good laugh. As his name suggests, Mayhem really is a little troublemaker, trying to muscle in on Rosie’s breakfast!
These guys have short but very flexible, sensitive claws, useful for digging, climbing and also for grabbing and holding on to prey. Australia Zoo provides funds for research and conservation projects, monitoring and safeguarding native otter populations in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South China and Himalayan regions.
Since the last time I visited Australia Zoo, they’ve built a wonderful African exhibit, and these gracious giants are an incredibly beautiful addition. It’s easy to understand why giraffes top the list of so many people’s favorite animals. Their elegant stride, outrageous eyelashes, and calm expression give them an air of refinement.
Kangaroos are perhaps Australia’s best-known animal and are found in stories, movies, and even as sports team mascots the world over, but here on the Sunshine Coast we’re fortunate to have healthy populations all over the place. They’re not exactly the kind of animals you can just stroll up to though, so having the opportunity to feed them was lots of fun.
Did you know that a group of rhinos is sometimes called a ‘crash’? Best name ever.
Rhinos, with their hard hides and gentle eyes, are my favourite wild animal, and it was magical to watch these herbivores just cruising around without fear of poachers. I could’ve stood watching them in the expansive African plains enclosure.
Crocodiles, of course!
If there is one thing you’ll never forget when you visit Australia Zoo – it’s the daily Wildlife Warriors show in the purpose-built Crocoseum! Featuring wild birds including the largest raptor in the world, an Andean Condor, giant snakes and of course the stars, saltwater crocodiles! There’s much to learn about these fascinating reptiles, and the Zoo takes the view that the more you know, the more you’ll care about them.
Whilst strolling around the extensive grounds of the Zoo was fantastic, I definitely loved the show most. The exuberance of the Wildlife Warriors is infectious, and I found myself (and the kids) all shouting ‘Crikey!’ and hollering along, like a classic pantomime – it was so much fun! The colourful birds in this show never cease to amaze me, I would go back just to experience the beauty of being so close to these impressive birds, flying free around the Crocoseum.
There is quite a lot to do at Australia Zoo and if you can only spend one day there, I’d recommend checking the website to plan for an Animal Encounters and shows. It is also best to get there early if you can to avoid the midday crowds, and bring snacks and lunch so you can just stop wherever you like to have a picnic. I took along lunch for us – and yes, if you were checking out my Instagram stories, you would’ve seen that I made leopard-print pikelets for the occasion!
We all had a fantastic time together, and I’m so glad I have great kids in my life to experience a day at the zoo with me!
Most people know that I’m a passionate Sunshine Coaster, born and bred here and impatient with visitors to the area who may think of it as the second-rate sister to the older, gaudier Gold Coast. I rarely visit the GC as I know how lucky I am to have everything I need right here. But when my gorgeous mate Brooke of Blonde Ambition asked if I’d like to head south with her for a weekend, of course I decided to change that and take a fun trip to the Gold Coast!
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, and I loaded up my car, kissed my husband goodbye and beat the Bruce Highway traffic to go meet up with Brooke after she finished her Pilates session. A quick hug and back into our separate cars – hers was too full of bike to fit me in – to cruise south on the surprisingly traffic-jam-free M1.
Our first stop was Harbour Town, Australia’s largest outlet shopping centre. Brooke and I were super-excited to include Harbour Town in our GC itinerary as we’d heard about the Premium Mall which had opened in May 2016, with Kate Spade New York, Furla, Michael Kors, Coach, Oroton and other high-end retailers. Did we mention Kate Spade New York? (Hello, my name is Katy, and I’m a Kate Spade-oholic.)
The outlet stores offer anywhere from 30 to 70% off sales everyday, so we were even more delighted when the Harbour Town team generously offered us a gift card each to help us splurge a little. After cutting a few laps of the Centre to make sure we weren’t missing any must-haves, we shopped our socks off and I’m now the delighted owner of this Kate Spade tote, along with one of her gorgeous idiom bangles too! My tip to the wise… don’t accompany Brooke to a Kate Spade store without a good book and a pair of headphones, her indecision is becoming legendary.
Happily, this was the Kate Spade New York tote* that I was eyeing off when we traveled through Singapore Airport last year, and now she’s mine!
Harbour Town also has a dedicated Tourism Lounge which offers complimentary services including tea and coffee (free coffee AND outlet shopping? sweeeeet) and a free tourist-only shuttle bus every Tuesday to Saturday. The only problem I can imagine is that you might buy too much to cart back to your hotel on the bus!
We packed our new goodies in our cars and drove to our home for the evening, QT Gold Coast. This was my first time staying at a QT Hotel after lusting over the Port Douglas hotel on my last few trips north, and I was suitably impressed with the much-anticipated ‘fun factor’.
QT Gold Coast is a retro-lovers dream with midcentury decor and colourful surf-inspired artworks, and quirks like a giant Connect 4 set by the astroturfed pool lawn. Level 1 houses the restaurant and QT Spa, while the ground level is home to spacious reception, cocktail bar and cafe areas, and a split-level loungeroom reminiscent of the Brady Bunch which is used to host their high teas (aptly named Qteas).
We dumped our shopping and overnight bags on our beds, and immediately went down to the pool deck to try a few cocktails. Brooke had previously stayed at QT Gold Coast and had a favourite tipple so didn’t require a menu, but I was torn between a couple, so of course tried them both!
I’m sure you’ll agree when I say it ain’t a tropical holiday without a tiki drink, and this Mexican Tiki Punch with lashings of Guava, Pineapple and Coconut was a tropical treat!
After a few drinks, it was back upstairs to change into our brightest frocks and head a few blocks south to Cavill Avenue, where we’d been invited to check out a Summer fashion parade at Soul Boardwalk. The mall was jumping, and the show’s DJ had us toe tapping, so after the fashion show, we nipped along the Esplanade to Sandbar, a recent addition to Surfers Paradise’s share-plate restaurant scene. Because we’re both complete party animals ready to whoop it up on the GC, our next move was back to the hotel to crank the air-conditioning, jump into our beds at 7.30pm and watch Nicolas Cage in National Treasure. Like I said, we’re wild like that.
The next morning, we spent some quality time aquainting ourselves with the impressive breakfast buffet (Brooke enjoyed a softserve icecream with breakfast… really) before we packed up, headed downstairs and gave the Connect 4 set a quick workout and then checked out of QT.
Brooke had mentioned taking her new bike down the Gold Coast for our weekend away and enjoying a pleasant cycle along the beachfront, but I’m firmly of the opinion that bikes are for people who enjoy wearing lycra and have a much less sensitive butt than I. I mean, there’s not much joy in panting and gasping, is there?
I thought I’d be the clever one and contacted the crew at Crooze Electric Bicycles at Broadbeach to see if they would be able to help with my ‘I want to cycle along the beach but not get hot and sweaty’ conundrum, and they generously came to the party, loaning me one of their super-cool Noosa electric bikes. (FYI they both hire and sell their cruisers, so you can definitely try before you buy!) Now when I say electric bike, I mean a bicycle that can be pedaled, with options to add a power boost from a discreet electric motor, not a scooter. Obviously I wanted to be able to pedal A LITTLE, in case we rode past cool cycling people who would mock me whizzing by with no effort at all!
Let’s clear a few things up – I am a very reluctant cycler, I don’t feel comfortable riding my old clunker ladies’ mountain bike around the footpaths of my quiet suburb, let alone hitting the streets. But something about being shown the gadgets and gizmos on the Noosa cruiser got me excited, I donned a bright pink camo helmet and off I zipped. Electric bikes are now so technologically advanced and quiet that not even Brooke knew when I was pedalling and when I was nudging the throttle. Sneaky – I like it.
The Noosa cruiser is a super-cute step-through style, which makes it easy to ride while wearing a frock. Seriously!
See – frocking awesome!
(Sidenote: I got home from my weekend away, waxed lyrical to my husband about how much I enjoyed riding the Noosa cruiser and he’s decided that we’re driving down to the Gold Coast this week to trial them together – a Noosa cruiser for me, and for him, the manlier-looking Cooly electric bike; and then maybe bring a couple home! He loves to cycle, but I’m always letting him down and slowing him down, so this could be the coolest-looking compromise ever!)
Seriously, this was the coolest and cruisiest ride ever. Thanks Crooze team!
We tootled to Mermaid Beach and then along Millionaires Row and Hedges Avenue, real estate shopping and dreaming of the luxurious mansions we could own if we just, you know, knuckled down and saved a bit more, then stopped at BSKT Cafe at Nobby’s to drink ALL THE COLD THINGS before turning around to cycle the 4.2km back to Crooze at Broadbeach. That’s right, we cycled 8.4km, and I wasn’t even puffed.
The cutest little exhausted Brooke that you ever did see!
It’d been a big morning so it was time for a light lunch and more cold drinks at Beaches Off Tedder before a big hug with Brooke and back into our cars to hit the M1 and drive home. I managed to miss a bunch of storms and any dramatic Sunday afternoon traffic, which was quite the win too!
It was a smashing way to spend a weekend with one of my best mates, and I’m definitely looking forward to going down to the Goldie again this week to enjoy a ride along the beach with my husband!
I don’t know if I’m ready to kick my bias against the Gold Coast to the kerb just yet, but I’ve certainly seem an unexpected and more family-friendly side of the region now! Anyone for a game of giant Connect 4 and Tiki cocktails?
*Kindly gifted, and only shared here because I love it!
Although I’m in my (ahem) mid-thirties, I’ve not been driving that long. I only got my license when I was 28, prior to that I was the quintessential public transport and taxi queen. I just wish Uber existed back then!
My first car was a small second-hand hatchback and while I loved her, I always knew I needed to get a proper grown-up car. My husband encouraged me to ‘size up’ and we shopped around for a car which looked cute (my priority) and was safe, fuel-efficient and drove well (his priorities)! We ended up at Sunco Hyundai at Maroochydore and chose a Hyundai ix35, at the time one of the most popular SUVs in its class, and it has served me incredibly well for three years now.
As an already happy Hyundai customer, I was thrilled when the sales team from Sunco Hyundai gave me the chance to test drive the new Tucson recently – how lucky am I? I promise I told them that I’m not a revhead car buff, and any review I shared wouldn’t be as comprehensive or informative as a CarsGuide article!
I would be lying if how cute a car is didn’t make up 90% of my opinion of it!
Whilst I love my ix35, there’s certainly something awesome about stepping into the newer version – this year’s Hyundai Tucson is like my current car, but luxe. From the moment I collected the Tucson and got the full tour of how all the great gadgets worked, driving this vehicle felt like an experience, instead a ‘daily drive’.
On top of the standard features which you can read about here, the Elite Tucson model comes with extras that I just love, such as a panoramic sunroof, full leather interior, large multi-function screen and reversing camera.
Reversing cameras… how did we ever live without them? This colour screen is a fantastic size.
Yeah, this stuff doesn’t matter so much to me, but my husband loves that he can track fuel economy really easily using the Mode button on the steering wheel. Me, I just like knowing how many kms until my petrol tank is empty. #livingontheedge
Hello soft sumptuous leather.
All the boot room I could possibly need for a weekend full of shopping!
The 60/40 split-fold back seats can give even more room than the spacious boot provides, and I know from personal experience with my ix35, the removable roller blind over the cargo bay keeps everything right where you put it, and shields shopping and luggage from prying eyes.
Apparently the Tucson is a five-star ANCAP recipient – that means safety first, folks. Again, that’s husbo was interested in, and I’m sure if you were a mum carting precious little ones around, that would be important to you too.
For more on the new Hyundai Tucson, visit Sunco Hyundai’s website. Thanks to Ky, Collin, Leah and the Sunco team for the opportunity to take it for a spin!
*Sunco Hyundai kindly loaned me this vehicle. Like everything you’ll find on Katy Potaty, thoughts and opinions are all my own. For more info, check out my disclosure policy. Please check the suppliers’ website for car specs.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I recently experienced a gourmet’s ultimate weekend experience, heading to Brisbane for a 24 hour whirlwind trip of the city’s best food and then out west for another day and night to the Lockyer Valley to see where most of that food is produced.
As well as enjoying great food with exceptional company, I also faced that classic food blogger problem… my pants were too tight for me to try everything! So heed my warning if you’re planning to head to the Regional Flavours event on 16th and 17th July, elastic-waist trousers and loose dresses will be what those in the know are wearing!
My taste buds are already tingling as I start thinking about the delish fare which will be served up at Brisbane’s Southbank Parklands. The eighth annual festival aims to offer visitors a taste of the varied and quality produce Queensland has to offer, and educate consumers and home cooks on the benefits of eating food grown right here in the Sunshine State.
Celebrating our fertile soil and homegrown harvests isn’t exactly new,
this vintage tourism poster just screams ‘Eat our fruit’!
This year’s event will dish up a culinary delight, with the Parklands filled with cooking demonstrations by notable chefs, free tastings and stalls run by local food producers, restaurateurs and traders, food trucks, kid’s activities and live musical entertainment. Oh, and the whole weekend’s festivities are free too!
I’ll definitely be heading down for the weekend, and I’ve listed my favourite producers, providores and picks that I recommend you keep an eye out for!
A carnivore’s paradise, this family-owned butcher and delicatessen chain should be proud of its Plainland and new West End locations that follow the same formula for produce-to-plate philosophy – it’s worked for them for over 60 years! When I visited, my blogging companions and I were lucky enough to be given a tour of the premises by Alistair Macleod, well-known chef and tv host, and a proud ambassador for the Lockyer Valley. Offering a huge range that includes Yagaburne beef, Lockyer Valley veges and Granite Belt wines, Schulte’s is serious about quality and community.
The trend towards locally sourced products doesn’t end with food, with many folks looking for regional herb and spice growers as well. I was fortunate enough to spend time at Holmwood Produce’s beautiful lavender and native food farm during my tour through the Lockyer Valley, and as well as having the friendliest donkey greeters, the fresh lavender and lemon myrtle used in the afternoon tea treats were so scrumptious that I fell in love with the property.
Bauer’s Organic Farm Every now and then, you meet someone SO passionate about something that you can’t help but join them as an advocate. That someone was Rob Bauer, long-time Lockyer Valley farmer and convert to organic farming over 30 years ago, well before the current organic fad really took hold! Seated at a long table under the eucalypts and hearing Rob share stories about local farmers getting sick and dying from exposure to common chemicals used in farming, the entire table of guests began to think differently about the way we shop for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Bauer’s is a diverse property, supplying carrots, potatoes, corn, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin and beans, as well as numerous other smaller crops – all on one of Australia’s first certified organic farms.
The Charming Squire Southbank’s own microbrewery is probably the perfect weekend venue for discerning Brisbanites, with something for everyone. The talents of their brewers, who are constantly creating new beers, and the constant communication between chef and brewer showcases beer and food pairing in a new (to me) and exciting way! The tasting plates that were offered were beyond amazing, featuring such tasty gems as Woodfired Corn Cobs with parmesan spiced crust, puffed quinoa and chipotle butter; and my favourite, the Slow cooked beef croquettes with Turkish almond & tahini dip. If you’re looking for BB and I at Regional Flavours, you’ll probably find us propping up the bar at the atmospheric and moody pop-up bistro and bar The Hunting Club, where we’ll be working my way through the Charming Squire drinks list! Hosted by The Charming Squire and Target 100, this venue will also host the likes of Paul West, Alistair Macleod and Hayden Quinn.
Having experienced a ‘cupping’ session at Australia’s largest independently owned and operated coffee roaster, Merlo Coffee on my recent food adventure of Brisbane, I now feel that I have earned the right to call myself a real coffee connoisseur. Tony and Frith led us through
a short history of coffee, sampling their current blends, using our senses to differentiate between blends and getting expert advice on making the best coffee at home, at Merlo’s Fortitude Valley Torrefazione. Possibly the best way to start my day, really. Interested in kicking off your own food adventure of Brisbane with a decent cuppa? Merlo hold public coffee appreciation sessions at various Torrefaziones in Brisbane.
Make sure you stroll all the way along the Parklands (you’ll probably need to, to digest all that food) to River Quay. This strip of fine dining establishments is home to Stokehouse Q, Aquitaine Brasserie, The Jetty, Cove Bar + Dining and my favourite, Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar. I’ve dined at Popolo before and it’s right up there in my list of favourite Brisbane restaurants.
The menu walks that perfectly fine line between too simple and overly extensive, the food is fresh with a lot of emphasis on showcasing local produce, and the whole place has that classic Italian ambience. It’s casual without lacking in service or quality of food, but at the same time classy without being pretentious and stuffy. I’m going to get specific now, and tell you exactly what I’ll eat at Regional Flavours from Popolo, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be stuffing these morsels in your mouth too. The crumbed Mozzarella with thyme-infused local honey is going to be the bee’s knees. (See what I did there?)
Could eat these all day, every day. The Bee One Third locally produced honey is also going to be available at Regional Flavours… my top tip is to get there early and try and snag your suburb, they sell out quickly!
Regional Flavours 2016 is a fantastic opportunity for local food producers, restaurateurs and traders to showcase their mouth-watering wares, and to show everyone that QLD is no longer the backwards banana-bending state of old. The event which is staged over two days at my favourite polace in Brisbane – Southbank Parklands – will definitely exceed expectations and appetites. I urge you all to put the dates in your diary and come along, as there will be something for everyone – whatever your personal tastes.
All the Regional Flavours stage presenters, stallholders, food trucks and vendors have been hand-selected and are definitely hungry-tummy-approved. Adriano Zumbo, Maggie Beer, Hayden Quinn, the Masterchef lads Gary, George and Matt, Miguel Maestre, Alistair Macleod, and River Cottage’s Paul West are just a few big names that will be hitting the stages, but check out the full program on the Regional Flavours website for more details. You’re going to want to start planning your eating agenda now.
I’m planning on being in Brisbane for the entire weekend, staying at Brisbane Marriott, so come hang with me. We can eat until our belts explode.
For stays between 14-18 July 2016, Brisbane Marriott Hotel is offering a special discounted rate of $199 a night if you book before July 1, 2016. Will I see you at Regional Flavours 2016?
*I was a guest of Brisbane Marketing, the listed venues, and Brisbane Marriott for my recent foodie adventure through Southbank, Brisbane and the Lockyer Valley – they do great work showcasing this corner of the world, and I am incredibly happy to support them. All images my own, or supplied by Brisbane Marketing
If you’ve only just stopped by, you might like to click back to this post, it’s Part One of What I Wore: Port Douglas holiday… this one is a little more pictorial, because I’ve been busy and working hard, and have no words left.
Now, it wouldn’t be a tropical holiday for me without some poolside relaxing. Yes, we have a pool at our home, but it’s nowhere near as relaxing lounging in the water when you have a houseful of chores just metres away. I love laying by a pool that is a LONG way from my dirty laundry and a dishwasher that need stacking, so holiday pool time is my favourite.
I love swimsuits. For a curvy girl with bumps and dimples in all the wrong places, I give little thought to how people see me when I’m on the beach or lounging by a pool. I hope that never changes. (That said, outside of a watery environment, I’m crazy-insecure about my body. Go figure.) This gorgeous new Capriosca Cancun Twist Bandeau One Piece* with the moroccan tile-inspired print is probably my favourite one-piece of ALL. TIME. SERIOUSLY. The team at Sequins and Sand are so helpful too, you can email or call Anita and the team and get so much great advice on sizing and fit, which is so useful when buying swimwear online.
I adore the glam print, the ruching, the DD shelf bra that actually does what it’s supposed to, and most of all, the removable and adjustable straps. I mean, you guys surely know how I feel about tan lines. I was so hesitant to take the straps off, because there’s nothing cute about hauling a bandeau top up over and over again by the pool, but the shaping of the cups means that I didn’t even need them! And that means I can wear this swimsuit under so many of my strappy, strapless and off-the-shoulder beach and pool dresses. Hip hurrah!
On our actual wedding anniversary, we had a super-relaxing day of strolling around Port Douglas. I wore one of my favourite off-the-shoulder tops (of course I did, I’m original like that) with super-tropical-cute palm-print shorts from Witchery. These shorts are brilliant for Summer holidays, because there’s no ironing required, and they wash and dry so quickly that you can wear them more than once… which I obvs did.
When on holidays, wear no makeup and let your hair air-dry. Please, for the love of relaxation, do it.
Speaking of relaxation… my husband enjoyed his first pedicure ever! I’d been telling him for ages just how relaxing they were, and my dad (who doesn’t exactly has attractive manfeet) has been waxing lyrical for years to BB about the pleasures of someone else attending to your feet, and I finally managed to persuade him to give it a try. BB has quite nice feet, I think, so I knew he’d have nothing to be self-conscious of.
And now he wants to get one at least monthly. Can we just say ‘I told you so’ already?
By the second last day of our trip, I was all but forgetting to take photos of our holiday, I was just in full-blown vacation mode. It wasn’t until I saw other people snapping away on the Cairns-Kuranda SkyRail that I remembered!
Kuranda Scenic Railway Station is flipping adorable. It’s just like the railway stations you imagine from the books The Railway Children, but with excellent coffee available. Nawwww.
This lame tourist photo at the railway station features pretty much the exact same off-the-shoulder top and shorts situation from a previous day, albeit with the coral version of the Katies top. What can I say? When I find a good thing, I stick to it.
Taking the obligatory arm-out-the-window photo as we rounded the bends of the Barron Valley meant that I had quite the conniption as BB risked the life of my iPhone.
Food, food, food. One of the highlights of any trip to Port Douglas for us is dinner at Bucci Italian. The blue cheese and cauliflower arancini were a hit, and the roast pumpkin gnocchi (below) served with little dollops of the most delicious goat’s cheese… I can’t even.
After all that cheese, I was feeling VERY cheesy and loved up. (You knew there was a bad cheese pun coming, admit it.)
Apparently I’m going through an off-the-shoulder phase. Who knew?
What it’s actually all about for me. You can take away the sunbathing and afternoon cocktails, the excuses to wear tropical-print clothes, the food (although please don’t take away the food), and my anniversary trip to Port Douglas is really just all about spending time with this silver fox.
Happy Anniversary, BB. You’re the cheese to my pasta.
* Thank you so much to the team at Sequins and Sand, for gifting me this gorgeous swimsuit, and helping me find my perfect style and fit. Big big love.
I used to be a Brisbane local. I lived in one of the most beautiful riverside suburbs, and caught the CityCat (fast ferry for outtatowners) to work in the CBD. BB and I regularly took ferries to the football, and to Southbank for brunch and for date nights, and we’ve always thought the best thing about Brisbane is the Brisbane River.
So when there was a little mix-up with our accommodation at Mantra Midtown a few weekends ago when Peta and I we were in the city for Styling You’s awesome #everydaystyle birthday party, I really didn’t mind when the concierge said ‘I’m so sorry Miss, we’re going to move you to our riverside property, Mantra on the Quay‘. I mean, river-view upgrade? I’ll take it.
After a beautiful afternoon swanning around like we were internet-famous, we checked in to our new digs for the night. (Let’s all agree that I’m not the world’s greatest real estate photographer. And also that I’d had a few many wines at the luncheon by the time we checked in, and clear photos were low on my to-do list.)
The lobby is lovely, and roomy enough for a few photo opportunities without the concierge seeing what you’re up to. Totes important.
Our rooms were plenty big enough – none of that ‘squeeze two small bedrooms into what should be one bedroom space’ situation here. We’ve all seen it before, and it ain’t pretty.
(Above three images from Mantra.)
A decent bathroom to get ready in is always a priority, and the ensuite certainly sufficed.
My view the next morning was fantastic; I got up early, drew back the blinds and snuggled back in bed with a cuppa to watch Brisbane come along on a Summer Sunday morning.
A large balcony with a river view for happy snaps is always appreciated!
Peta and I didn’t get the chance to check out the pool and barbeque area, or the gym (as if I was interested in using that!) because we had to head back to the Coast early-ish, but the hotel is well-equipped for longer stays, with everything you could need in CBD accommodation. I’ll definitely be heading back to Brisbane for a longer trip this Summer, visiting has made me homesick for my favourite city.
Mantra on the Quay has a great accommodation deal this Summer if you’re planning on visiting Brisbane :
Stay 3 nights and save up to 10% – rates start from $158 per night for 1 bedroom apartment
Stay 5 nights and save 20% – rates start from $140 per night for 1 bedroom apartment
(Offer is valid for booking and travel until 29 February 2016, subject to availability, minimum 3 night stay & 5 night stay respectively, conditions apply. Visit www.mantra.com.au for bookings.)
Do you have a favourite Australian city? Somewhere you’ve lived or visited that you love?
*One night’s accommodation at Mantra on the Quay was gifted to me to attend the #everydaystyle party; but as a longtime Mantra lover (all our engagement, wedding and anniversary holidays have been at Mantra), I’m super-happy to share what I love about these hotels. Thanks Mantra, and thank you to Brisbane Marketing too.
As we head into the beginnings of the Summer party season, I start seeking holiday outfits. Outfits that will work on stinking hot days by the pool, out to lunch with friends, and all the way to sunset cocktails.
Washing straight off the canvas, these bright and breezy watercolour prints are splashing their way into my heart and wardrobe this Summer. And I think they might just be the holiday outfits I need.
The light, airy prints make me happy just looking at them—and they’re pretty enough to wear from day to date night. (And the cut of this top and frock make them very forgiving, keeping you looking your best while still leaving space for some holiday indulging.)
There are so many benefits to a belated birthday celebration. I don’t know about you, but I always feel very pressured and overwhelmed when I have to see all my loved ones (family, friends, colleagues, etc) in one day. It’s intense and there’s a lot of expectation on the birthday girl to be ‘on’ all day long, and be sweet and appreciative.
Honestly, it’s hard for me, and it’s a horrid feeling being ungrateful and wanting to just be alone or curled up on the couch with my husband while everyone has already decided that you’re going to have a great and super-social day… which brings me to the awesomeness of having belated birthday celebrations with family and at workplaces.
My birthday is right smack in the middle of July, which means that I was mighty surprised on the 17th of JUNE when my colleagues at school started singing Happy Birthday one lunch time in the staff room, and brought out cake, lollies and cinnamon scrolls! Turns out my boss (who basically hired me to organise him better, haha!) had incorrectly told the team it was my birthday and put the girls to work making me a spread of sweet treats. There was even a double layer chocolate cake with blue cream, chocolate frosting and popping candy on top!
A very merry un-birthday, indeed!
Fast forward to mid-July, and after this very surprising and early start to the birthday celebrations, I was lucky enough to have the actual day off work with my husband and we spent a very relaxing day together – with a surprise flower delivery YAY – and dinner out at a special restaurant that we love visiting for fancy occasions.
I received the prettiest Columbian roses from BB
A stroll with BB and Stevie down to the park and lake was perfect for a quiet birthday afternoon.
My mother-in-law’s floral-giving game is strong!
Cheers to 34 – it’s going to be an amazing year!
The day after my birthday I worked at school, and the team outdid themselves again, providing MORE sugar in the form of a donut cake and lollies. Here in the Health and Physical Ed department, we are all for upending the healthy food pyramid!
The Sports Department really does shine when it comes to providing excessive quantities of sugar. We’re all about healthy living here, folks!
I was spoilt with birthday messages from my Lorna Jane colleagues all week, then when I finally worked there after 12 days away… the girls threw me a mini-party. I figured that since I was going to be scoring awesome presents (and yes, I knew beforehand that they’d go the easy option and choose something pineapple-ish), I should provide a cake. And not just any cake, but a very MNB cake.
Stripes and sweets with my adorable LJ girls xox
I had an Orgran chocolate cake mix floating around the pantry and after reading the ingredient list, I knew it would be perfect for a team of health-conscious young women who are all about finding balance between green smoothies and salted caramel macarons.
I whipped it up late the night before, and it was as easy as a packet cake mix can be. There were instructions for both regular and vegan (egg-free) versions of the cake. I’m all about protein and taste, so I went for the add-egg option.
Even the mixing bowl was smiling at me for my birthday!
Last Friday, Peta, Ned and I enjoyed a great day out at The Ginger Factory. Located in Yandina (literally 10 mins up the road from my home), we’d heard that they had stepped up their game and that it really was a local attraction with a difference.
As a lifelong Sunshine Coaster, I’d visited The Ginger Factory over 25 years ago and remembered the factory vaguely, but was looking forward to seeing how it had grown into a popular local tourist attraction.
We arrived shortly before lunch time and Ned was inconveniently asleep, so Peta and I sat down to enjoy a nice meal in Gingers Cafe, along with a pretty decent ginger beer. They’re licensed too, so we’re definitely planning on enjoying a glass or three there one sunny afternoon soon!
I chose the Signature Burger, with homemade beef pattie, bacon, lettuce, cheese, tomato and caramelised ginger onions.
My classic Ginger Beer was super refreshing, and Peta’s Ginger Beer and Pear would be perfect with a dash of vodka in Summer – just sayin’.
Along with a HUGE outdoor covered area to sit and supervise the children in the fenced playground, Gingers Cafe also had some comfy and more relaxed seating areas.
By the time we finished our lunch, the Nedlet was awake and desperate to play on the play equipment. He had a little run around to burn off the post-sleepiness, then we strolled a short distance to the 100-year old restored cane train named Moreton. I thought the little Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-loving kid would’ve been keen as a bean for this, but no. It was grumpypants on for the first half of the loop journey around the Ginger Factory grounds, and only once the train driver threw out bread scraps for the chickens and ducks to flock around did he begin to smile again!
Let me off!
He can be a reluctant man when the camera comes out; no idea why though, when his cheeks are that cute!
Ducks! Chickens! Flashing train lights!
Now, the visit wasn’t all for Ned, as Peta and I wanted to experience some of the more grown-up tours that The Ginger Factory offers. Our gracious host Kathy was very understanding of our slightly shortened attention span (due to chasing a small person around), and gave us shortened tours of both Super Bee and The Ginger Story. These two educational tours include tasting of honey and ginger respectively, and also give the full story behind such important ingredients that pretty much all of us use regularly in the kitchen.
Visitors are encouraged to feel the temperature of the wall hives – it’s incredible to feel the warmth that the busy workers create where they’re bustling around, then slide your hand up the glass to feel the much cooler area where the bees store the honey.
This is such a great space for the beekeepers to give their presentations, airy and light and full of the hum of bees working hard!
As a sidenote: I am crazy passionate about the importance of bees to humans. This little insect that works so tirelessly and quietly around us certainly is one of the main reasons for the possibility of human development on earth. Without them, the development of life on earth as we know it now, would have been much different and the conditions for human development may not have existed. These conditions are the appearance of the flower bearing plants and pollinators such as bees, being the crown jewel of the pollinators. The appearance of pollinators such as bees, and flower-bearing plants, and humans are all an interconnected series of events over an enormous amount of time. You know what? I think I’ll write a nice little blog post soon on my thoughts on these great little creatures.
Peta and Ned checking out the factory floor – the workers were great, looking up and waving to Ned to make him smile!
These 69 enormous tanks are full of ginger and syrup, all being processed into different products.
The Ginger Story tour took us to a viewing room high over the factory floor, with displays of vintage ginger product that the region has produced over the years.
Now this was a walk down memory lane… these Merrybud products are the exact brand and packaging of ginger and marmalade my grandfather used to love.
Think Disneyland’s It’s a Small World boat ride on a search for the cheeky Gingerbread Man who has run away from some dastardly cooks!The ride features brightly costumed audio-animatronic dolls from all over the world, and some pretty funny moments that kids will love to hunt down. Ned loved this ride so much, and Peta and I had some great laughs too… so much so that when we floated up the end, we asked our host to let us go around again!
Is it just me, or are boat rides always the best?
He was the happiest fellow in all the Gingerbread lands.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… those cheeks.
Because the lighting in this ride is set up to showcase the dioramas you’re floating past, it doesn’t make for great photos of your kidlets, but I couldn’t NOT share this one of Ned. He enjoyed pointing out so much stuff to us, and his little excited face is my favourite.
The obligatory ride photo… well, at least Ned looks cute.
After such a big day, Ned was ready for an icecream and a little run around at the playground, so we all enjoyed icecream cones from the Bliss Icrecreamery. I chose a delicious ginger and macadamia, but there were other ginger combination flavours as well as the standards.
What’s a day out with Peta and I without an outfit photo or two? I went for a casual and comfy look, knowing that I’d be pretty active playing with Ned, so mixed high street and department store finds for a Canadian tuxedo, wearing French Connection jeans and hat, Target Belle Curve denim shirt and Country Road sandals (similar here).
After experiencing a day at The Ginger Factory, I think it’d be a wonderful day out for locals and visitors alike. I’d love to bring our out-of-state relatives here, there’s something for everyone from the littlies needing a safe toddler playground, a more challenging version for the tweens, plenty of rides to keep them occupied and great cafe with garden walks for the parents and grandies to enjoy.
Thank you very much to Kathy, Bonnie and The Ginger Factory team for giving the three of us the opportunity to enjoy such a great day together, and plenty of sweet and funny photos to look back on!