Tag Archives: hunter valley region

Things That Make Me Happy

27 May

Inspired by a post on the talented Carla Coulson’s blog, I decided to make a list of things that make me happy. Feel free to post yours in the comments below….

Bubble baths

Brightly painted toenails

Towels fresh from the dryer

Royal Mojitos

Mojito made with rum, lime, sugar, mint, club soda, served in a tall glass.
Weekends away

Bulong vines
Peter Alexander pyjamas

Working on my novel

Fresh food markets

Fresh vegetables at a Paris market, Paris, France
Summertime picnics

Picnic basket
Reading in bed on rainy days

Reading in Bed
Drinking fancy tea

Snow falling on cobblestones

Mastering a difficult yoga pose (read, all of them)


Falling asleep on the couch

Puppy snooze
Going for long walks through new neighbourhoods

Inspiring talks with people who believe in me

Puppies & Monkeys

Puppy Monkey
Cooking, eating and hanging out with my husband

Max and I

What makes you happy?

Bath img courtesy of
aka Laverne on Flickr.
Toenail img courtesy of
haunted by Leonard Cohen on Flickr.
Fresh towels img courtesy of
cattoo on Flickr.
Mojito img courtesy of
TheCulinaryGeek on Flickr.
Pyjama img courtesy of
sillypucci on Flickr.
Writing img courtesy of
joelgoodman on Flickr.
Market img courtesy of
Kevin Oke Photography on Flickr.
Reading book in bed img courtesy of
Reena Mahtani on Flickr.
Teacup img courtesy of
MyLifeThroughPhotography on Flickr.
Snow img courtesy of
Tavallai on Flickr.
Yoga img courtesy of
AmandaD_TX on Flickr.
Walk img courtesy of
gari.baldi on Flickr.
Inspire img courtesy of
Mark Brannan on Flickr.
Puppy & Monkey img courtesy of
elaine… on Flickr.


French-Australian Wedding Part One

16 Apr

Wedding Photo1

As many of you know, I recently married my French fiancé Max. Putting together a wedding with two sets of cultural norms to consider was a little bit of a challenge at times, but mostly it was a whole lot of fun.

As we are having a second wedding in France in July, the February event had more of an Australian flavour, but with some nice French touches. We were married at Leaves & Fishes in the Hunter Valley, in their function space ‘Feast’, which we picked for its distinctly European feel.

Wedding Photo2

I walked in to the song ‘Intermission’ by French-Canadian singer Coeur de Pirate, and we signed our registry to the hauntingly beautiful strains of Aboriginal artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who Max and once I saw perform live in Paris. My mum did a reading in English, and Max’s godmother, in French. The entire ceremony was conducted in both languages, and afterwards, we toasted with a French-style Australian-made sparkling wine.

Our wedding cake was a delicious fusion of the two cultures, square chocolate and vanilla cupcakes decorated with an assortment of iconic images from the two countries. The lovely ladies at Kiss Me Cakes in Sydney did an incredible job, and in the days that followed we were glad that we had over catered! We also had lolly jars filled with sweets from our childhoods, Caramello Koalas and Carambars (yum!).

Wedding Photo3

The following day we held a brunch at my aunt and uncle’s property, with sausages on the barbeque and a game of backyard cricket on one side; and delicious croissants and an intense match of pétanque on the other…

Wedding Photo6

Wedding Photo5

The perfect weekend!

Eating Our Way Through February

18 Feb


February has been a busy month.

On the 9th we attended the wedding of good friends in Sydney, where we ate, drank and danced the night away. On the 12th we celebrated my 24th birthday with cocktails, sangria and tapas. On the 14th we enjoyed a lovely home cooked meal (even though Max doesn’t believe in Valentines Day) of French champagne and duck confit. On the 16th we parted ways for our respective hens and bucks weekends (both of which involved a great deal of eating and drinking), and on the 23rd, we will be married in a restaurant.

We celebrate the only way we know how – with good food and good wine.

All of this celebrating is well and good, but eating pork belly twice in one week, churros and cupcakes in the same night, and countless glasses of champagne do not a skinny bride make.


Now, truth be told, I am not really concerned with losing x amount of kilos before the big day. I bought a dress that fitted me at my usual, average size. It is a dress that will forgive a kilo or two either side. It is a dress that understands that my love of good food will always trump my desire to look like Miranda Kerr in a bikini.

Many of my already-married friends keep assuring me that with all the last minute stress in the lead up, I’ll drop a few kilos without even noticing.

To this statement I take great exception. I am just not someone who gets busy and forgets to eat. In fact, I don’t think I have ever, in the history of my existence, forgotten to eat. I may have missed a meal somewhere along the line, but I can assure you it wasn’t because it slipped my mind.


I get stressed, and busy, and head directly for the Nutella jar, spoon in hand. Or I decide that a packet of neon orange Twisties from the work vending machine are a good choice. Stress does not make me lose weight. And that’s okay.

I fully intend to eat a decent breakfast, morning tea and lunch prior to our afternoon wedding. And at said wedding, I will be sure to enjoy every last bite of canapés, entrée, main, dessert and cake.

It is my ‘big’ day after all!

Champagne image courtesy of chrischapman on Flickr.
Cupcake image courtesy of shimelle on Flickr.
Nutella jar courtesy of p3nnylan3 on Flickr.

Bulong Estate

10 Dec

I’d heard rave reviews about Bulong Estate, so when we found ourselves hungry and with an evening to spare last month in the Yarra Valley, it was at the top of our list. When we’d mentioned our dinner plans to the owners of the cottage where we were staying, they’d given a very solemn nod of approval, so we figured we were onto a good thing.

We’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some fairly incredible Hunter Valley restaurants over the past couple of years, so our expectations were high.

Access to Bulong Estate is via a long, winding driveway, lit with small garden lights, a feature that only served to enhance our anticipation.

The terrace wasn’t set for dinner (I assume as a result of the chilly evening), but it was easy to imagine lengthy wine-soaked lunches spent here overlooking the vines. Indeed, Bulong Estate is a winery, first and foremost, so we weren’t all that surprised to find their wine list contained only their own product. Strangely though, they did not offer any beers, or any sparkling wine. When we enquired about the latter, we were offered an expensive bottle of French champagne (a seemingly recurring theme over this weekend!) but we had to politely decline as a) we felt it was overpriced and b) Max was driving, and whilst I do enjoy the odd glass of champagne or two, taking responsibility for the lion’s share of a bottle was a big ask. Instead, we both opted for a glass of their home grown wine, for me, the Fumé Blanc (a sauvignon varietal), and Max, the house Rosé (and the search continues..).

I decided against an entrée, as we’d had a delicious aperitif at the cottage and I’d spied some tempting dessert options on offer. Max chose a dish of fried oysters, scallops and prawns and was very pleased with the flavours.

As I still wasn’t particularly hungry (a rare, but possible occurrence), I elected to forgo a man-sized main and instead try the soup of the day – a delicious melange of lentilles du puy, succulent pork belly pieces and seasonal vegetables. It over-delivered on flavour and was more than enough for me. Max chose, not the duck as I had assumed, but the porterhouse steak with garlic butter, accompanied by the most sumptuous potatoes I’ve ever tasted.

Ordinarily, we’d be tempted by a cheese plate (and indeed, the menu description of Comte, Brie D’Affinois and Cashel Blue was enticing), but we’d had quite a lot of fromage earlier in the day, so turned our attention immediately to dessert. Whilst the green tea sponge roll intrigued me, my inner chocaholic could not pass up the chocolate fondant served with white chocolate mousse and a vibrant red berry coulis. Max of course, ordered the same.

Decadent does not begin to describe this dessert, which offered a chocolate so rich it coated the roof of your mouth. The mousse was equally indulgent and the combination teetered on the edge of over-the-top, were it not for the fresh berry sauce that brought it back from the brink. I was fiercely protective of my plate as the owner joked that I might need some help from Max, but just over halfway in I had to concede defeat, and pass the rest over to my very grateful fiancé.

From the moment we walked in, we felt as if we were dining in somebody’s elegant lounge room. Space was plentiful and white gloss and chrome abounded, pleasingly offset by a rich red and gold Persian rug through the centre. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and that dessert will live on in our memories for much longer than it spent on the plate.

All images courtesy of the Bulong Estate Website

Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

4 Oct

As many of you know I recently returned from holidays. I spent two fabulous weeks on the east coast of Malaysia and in Australia’s Hunter Valley region. I will be posting many jealousy-inducing details about my trip here in the coming weeks but thought I’d dedicate this post to the downside of fabulous vacations – the inevitable return to reality.

Post-holiday blues is actually quite a common condition, a quick google search reveals. And whilst I’m no doctor I am certain of my diagnosis – I’ve got it, and big time. Now I should start off by saying I am well aware that this is not a condition that elicits very much sympathy from others, indeed one should be grateful to have had the time and resources to go on holiday at all – but indulge me just a little.

I returned from Malaysia with a nasty bout of tonsillitis, a niggling chest infection, and a pulled hamstring muscle. So my expectations of returning fresh, rested and ready to take on the rest of the year were already a little dampened. Then there was the fact that amazingly, it is still cold in Melbourne. As in, winter coat cold in the mornings. Then there was that little thing called work that reared its ugly head early on Monday morning. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but just not as much as I love sitting by a pool sipping mojitos.

By the time Monday lunchtime rolled around I was well and truly in a bad mood. I had no food in the house, nothing but 20 loads of dirty washing awaiting my attention and nothing on the horizon to look forward to (you know, except for Christmas, a wedding and a honeymoon but those are AGES away). Moodily, I turned to the internet for inspiration. After ruling out the possibility of moving to Club Med Malaysia as a permanent guest ($100k for a year was just a little too steep) I started looking for other more cost effective remedies.

Many websites cite extended exposure to sunlight and time spent doing only what we want to do as reasons why we feel so well on holidays. The suspension of reality (i.e. no bills to pay, no deadlines to meet) also adds to this feeling of intense freedom. This sensation is intensified when one stays at Club Med, where everything is prepaid and included, and internet/ phone reception is limited – a true getaway.

Suggestions for getting over the post holiday blues included bringing some of your holiday activities into your everyday life. Whilst flying trapeze is a bit out of the question, there’s no reason why I can’t continue to play tennis (albeit badly) once a week. And whilst I might not have a Indian yoga instructor at my disposal for sunrise yoga sessions everyday (nor the time or inclination to practise daily) I can remember most of his class and try to practise by myself on weekend mornings.

Experts in the field also recommend scheduling activities to look forward to in the short term, so tonight we are taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and going to a live music venue in St Kilda. And, (though technically I think this might be breaking the rules of holiday rehab) we’ve just booked a weekend in the Yarra Valley full of wineries, good food, tennis, golf and maybe even a massage.

Making any large life-changing decisions immediately after a holiday is apparently not a good idea (it’s like they could read my mind… I guess now isn’t the best time to drop everything and become a yoga instructor – and perhaps I should work on my shoulder stand a bit more), but I think a bunch of small changes will be just what the doctor ordered.

Have you ever suffered from the post-holiday blues? What are your tips?

Mojito image courtesy of mikelbelza.carbonmade.com on Flickr.
Beach yoga image courtesy of patriziasoliani on Flickr.

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