Stanthorpe winery tour.

Our only real ‘planned event’ on our weekend away was a tour of some local wineries. We booked a twilight tour from 1-8pm with Filippos Tours. At $125 per person it wasn’t cheap, but when you take in to account that it finished with a three-course meal at a fantastic local restaurant, it was pretty great value. We had a lot of fun learning about the local wines and the Queensland wine industry – for example, did you know that more than 60 per cent of all wine consumed in this state is Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? Guilty.

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There were 28 people in our tour, which was a little on the large side. If you can stretch it, I would recommend organising a private tour to make things a little more personal. Otherwise you inevitably end up with a couple of loud-mouthed yobs and spend a lot of the tour wishing someone would tell them to shut up. Or maybe that was just me.

The tour description says it takes visitors to three local wineries and a ‘place of interest’, which it purported clients could choose from a list of local attractions including a lavender farm, cheese making place, a bramble patch for local berries or an apple farm. We were pretty excited at that prospect, but our tour operator decided we would visit a fourth winery instead, because it was across the road from the third place and obviously more convenient. Still a fabulous day though. IMG_1757 IMG_1759 20130804-162428.jpgThe highlight for me was definitely Symphony Hill Wines – we were given a tour by the owner, before sitting in the barrel room with the winemaker for a brilliant tasting. The winery was only established in 1999 and had a lovely family-run feel, plus their sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc were incredible. Now I just have the find the right occasion to pop a bottle of it at home.

Also, fantastic fact – apparently every ‘real’ winery has its own resident pooch and there is even a book called Wine Dogs that features photos of all the different vineyard dogs around Australia. Symphony Hill had Merlot, a loveable border collie who stars in that book. I didn’t get a picture of Merlot though, because I was too busy patting him.

To finish the night we dined at Shiraz Restaurant and Wine Bar – a restaurant at Ballendean that exceeded all expectations. I couldn’t fault them on service, quality of food or atmosphere and they even had this guy across the road. Fruitasaurus.IMG_1765

Stanthorpe weekend.

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Winter weekends away are up there with my favourite things to do. My family has had a ‘Christmas in July’ tradition for the past couple of years, where we explore different Queensland locations, but this year it was ‘Christmas in August’ at Stanthorpe. Stanthorpe is a beautiful town in the Granite Belt, about 220km south-west of Brisbane, known for its cool climate produce like apples and grapes (and therefore wine). It’s a gorgeous rural location and the perfect place to take a wine tour, explore antique shops and settle in to a more relaxing pace.

Given that Stayz came through for us with our Eumundi accommodation, we tried it out again for Stanthorpe and it did not disappoint. We booked the delightful Maison De Meres for two nights, which slept up to 8 people very, very comfortably. It had everything you would want from a winter getaway – large verandas, a log fire, private bedroom suites and beautiful decor.

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We left Brisbane at about 11am on Friday and made the three hour drive to our new weekend home. It was so easy to settle in, explore the property, chop some fire wood and light the fire before the cool afternoon breezes came in. It was enough to make anyone second guess their city lifestyle.

IMG_1736 L100672420130804-162408.jpg20130804-162341.jpgAfter our first night of shinanigans at the homestead, we set off on Saturday morning to explore the main street. Stanthorpe may not have the grandeur of close-by Warwick, but it had its own quaint and welcoming feel that you couldn’t help but enjoy. I loved the little creek/ stream running through town and judging by the number of people out walking their dogs, feeding the ducks and picnicking along its banks, so do the locals.IMG_1744

I would recommend the High St Salvation Army store for its incredible bargins and lovely, country op shop vibe. I picked up two day dresses and a skirt for the grand total of $8. You can’t do that in Brisbane anymore. It was the perfect way to spend a few hours before a wine tour in the afternoon.

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My $2 dress

The antique store on the way into town from Brisbane was also fantastic, we stopped there on the way home. Prices were reasonable and you could tell the lovely woman working there really cared about what she was doing. The only thing I would note was that a lot of the other places were closed on Sunday, so if you’re planning a real treasure hunt, best to start on Saturday to make the most of the many other stores.

I picked up an absolute treasure of a 1950s hat made in Paris, for $30. I hardly ever find vintage headwear that fits my big head, so I was chuffed to take this beauty home.20130804-162251.jpg

Have you been to Stanthorpe? Let me know what you thought, I’d love to swap stories. I’ll post a review of our wine tour with Filippos tomorrow.

hometown tourists.

Kangaroo Point touristsIt was a rainy weekend in Brisbane so husband and I decided to play tourists at some of our favourite hometown spots. AK has just invested in a second hand Leica camera and I’m still learning to master my Canon so we thought we would practise in some scenic spots like Kangaroo Point and the Story Bridge. We’ve had no photographic training and are definitely still learning how to get the settings right, but we had a lovely little Saturday nonetheless.Kangaroo PointI think I might have taken the skills of our photographers at work for granted because it is much harder than it looks to get framing, light and focus all right in the one shot. No wonder they take so many. Thank goodness for digital I guess. Our photographers still talk about the days when the office had a dark room out the back and they wouldn’t know until they processed the images whether they had got ‘that one shot’ needed to grab the readers attention and make them want to read on. Because if the picture is lacklustre, it’s likely readers will flick to another page.

IMG_1673Unknown-3 Unknown-2I’m starting to get really excited for our one year anniversary trip to Tasmania later this year. It’s a beautiful part of Australia I’ve been dying to visit and I imagine we’ll be spending a lot of time crouched behind the lens.

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(This was AK staying very still trying to capture the majesty of the beautiful scrub turkey. City wildlife at its best)IMG_1719We love you Brisbane.

afternoons.

Alexandra HeadlandsThere are certain times of the year, including sunny autumn afternoons, when I truly appreciate how beautiful southeast Queensland is. The warm weather, scenic coastline and glassy ocean. The barbecue in the park is a staple at almost any time of the year, but it is especially nice when the day is cooler, but the sun is warm. We spent Saturday afternoon enjoying this gorgeous view at Alexandra Headlands, Sunshine Coast. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

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a quick review of our Christmas accommodation.

foxleigh1 For our first Christmas as a married couple, AK and I decided to rent a holiday house at the Sunshine Coast so we could spend time with both our families. Our prerequisites included space for Mia, room for 10-12 people and good outdoor space for Christmas lunch. After much searching, we came across Foxleigh house at Eumundi. foxleigh3The holiday house was more than we could have hoped for and we had a fantastic week relaxing, swimming, reading, eating, drinking, listening to music, sitting by the fire and playing lots of table tennis. At first I was quite stressed about the blending of families and friends, but by the second day I was able to sit back and enjoy a wonderful study in anthropology. For anyone thinking of a big family getaway, I recommend both the idea and this particular house.

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Foxleigh night view

our North Stradbroke Island day trip.

It has been hot, hot, hot in Brisbane lately so on Saturday myself and Frannie, CB, AK, and Leecee set out on a Stradbroke Island day trip. The weather was near-perfect, the company spot on and we had a day full of beaches, swimming, fishing, clear blue water, and wildlife spotting. We were up bright and early to catch the 8am barge.

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It was the first time AK and CB had been to Stradbroke Island so after a scenic drive our first stop was Point Lookout and the gorge walk. Not to be missed for first-time visitors or anyone really. You could do this walk every day and not get sick of the view.

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And then we saw turtles! IMG_1506

IMG_1496IMG_1497We did the walk at about 9.30am and already it was absolutely sweltering. I’d recommend keeping that in mind if you’re doing the walk on a hot day. Bring water!

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That’s when the girls and boys split up – boys went on a search for the perfect fishing spot while the ladies picked up a few treasures at the Dunwich op shop and then had delicious coffee and food at the fruit barn. That place is an absolute treasure.

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Ugh, so good. After stocking up in town we drove out to Brown Lake for a swim and a bit of reflection. Leecee mentioned the lake was traditionally a meeting spot for women and it was an incredibly serene, picturesque part of the world. Definitely to be respected. Apparently the water is stained a tea-looking brown from the layer of paperbark and ti-tree leaves on the bottom that allows the lake to retain its water. IMG_1529 IMG_1538

In the afternoon we all met up, tried a few fishing spots (including dolphin-spotting at shark bay) and enjoyed some lovely beverages. It was a quintessential summer’s day.IMG_1546

tis the season to be jolly.

It is no secret that Marie and I love this time of year. For as long as we’ve known each other, December has meant summertime adventures & celebrations and the excitement the promise of a New Year brings. Throw in to the mix time with our beloved families and a stint as room mates together and this was always going to be one of my favourite and most memorable Christmases yet.

It hadn’t really felt or looked like Christmas until I spent my first week back as a resident of sunny Brisbane. After settling in to Marie and AK’s divinely decorated dwelling, I finally felt that familiar Yuletide excitement creep in. The best part of it all – hanging out and laughing together in the evening with the ambience of fairy lights twinkling in the background. Cue our first adventure as house mates… the 4KQ Christmas lights tour!

snow in brisbane.

touching snow.

more snow.

We drove North, West and to the South-East to see the best that Brisbane had to offer in the way of Christmas light displays. We were not disappointed. A day later we watched a show on Lifestyle, Aussie Christmas Lightswhich was a cute insight in to the effort and pride people put in to their displays. It depicted just how much joy the lights bring others and really showed the Christmas spirit in action as communities gather together in celebration. We didn’t get around to seeing it this year, but one house even has a light show timed to carols!

I couldn’t wipe the happy little grin from my face as we strolled through one street that offered fake snowfall, a singing polar bear and giant snow globe. Santa was even chilling out in one of the garages. Men and women of every age enjoy the lights and if you haven’t taken the drive to see them in person before, then you definitely should. There’s no better or more jolly way to kick off the festive season.