Great weekend & A bit of stitching for a change

I’ve been offline most of the week thanks to feeling really crappy again during the week – this week, though, I’m making an appointment for a CT Scan for my sinuses and having some allergy tests done, so fingers crossed we can finally work out why this stupid sinus infection is hanging around for so many months and making me feel like death warmed up!

Last weekend, though, was a lovely treat for the month – I went to the Hunter Valley in NSW with Alison, Amanda and Sue for a stitching weekend away. Amanda kindly came and picked me up on Friday afternoon and chauffeured me – it was a lovely change for me, as I’m always the one driving. We arrived at about 7pm and walked into ‘our’ house to be greeted with a roaring log fire and dinner being prepped by Alison and Sue – the weekend was starting out on a blissful note already! The rest of the weekend didn’t disappoint either, it was a fantastic weekend away where we managed to combine some stitching (yes, we actually did do some), chatting, shopping, wining and dining, and I even made my very first scissor fob sale … to a lady vintner at one of my favourite vineyards up there (her white port is to die for in my opinion!). All-in-all it was a really awesome weekend, and hopefully we can make this an annual event, ‘cos I’m signing up for next year already!! Here’s a photo of our accommodation and home for the weekend, along with my fantastic company for the weekend 😀

Hunter Valley accommodation

Hunter Valley stitchers

The week before the retreat I managed to finish a little ornie stiching, and got the following ornie finished – it was supposed to be for the Yahoo group CYOO challenge, but I got a bit cranky during the month and couldn’t be bothered posting a photo on the board (and for once didn’t even bother doing the JCS monthly challenge one). I still hope to stitch an ornie a month, I just probably won’t be posting it on the board.

JBW Designs-Joy Love Peace
“Joy, Love, Peace” by JBW Designs
stitched on 32ct natural Belfast linen
with WDW Garnet and GAST Dried Thyme

During the weekend retreat I managed to put a reasonable amount of stitching into Prairie Schooler’s 2005 Limited Edition Santa, and during this weekend I’ve been able to put the final stitches into it after having a marathon stitching session on Saturday. The only thing I changed is to leave out the “2005” which is stitched in Black Coffee Crescent Colours below each side of the green letter blocks, and added a couple of random snowflakes instead.

Prairie Schooler-Here Comes Santa Claus 1
“Here Comes Santa Claus 2005” by The Prairie Schooler
stitched on 28ct natural Cashel linen
with kit Crescent Colours threads

Prairie Schooler-Here Comes Santa Claus 2
I love how the snowflakes lift off of the fabric – hard to see in the photo

Prairie Schooler-Here Comes Santa Claus 3

Now I’m off to try to create my soon-to-be Etsy store, as I’ve also got a whole heap of scissor fobs to load up into the store.  I had another beading session yesterday while Katie and I watched Supernatural Season 4 on DVD (that was after we had a few hours out at Miranda shopping centre where we saw the latest Harry Potter movie).  I’ll do a separate post of the latest ones that I created yesterday, plus a couple of close-ups of my latest favourites …

Sunday … not quite a day of rest!

I just realised I haven’t finished posting about our girlie weekend away last weekend … so here’s the final instalment – that is, if I can remember everything now!!!

After imbibing a fair bit of vino on the Saturday, and the fact I was driving, we took it a lot easier on the Sunday as far as alcohol intake was concerned.  That doesn’t mean to say we cut back on the places we visited or the enjoyment we got … we sure as heck made the most of the day, and couldn’t have crammed any more into it if we tried!

Our first port of call was into the nearby factory showroom of the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, where we sampled different fudges and chocolate – and we all came out with little packages of fudge for a treat when we got back home.  We’d been told there was a chocolate fountain there, where you could dip in strawberries and marshmallows, but alas we’d been wrongly advised.  We did find out, however, that they had another shop at one of the vineyards, so we added that to our “must do” list for later 🙂

Then we continued on to Adina Wines, as Lisa wanted to try some Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio wines, and none of the vineyards we visited on the Saturday has this varietal.  Adina was on the way to our next official destination, so we called in for a spot of wine-tasting for Lisa.  It worked too, as she happily came away with some spoils from there, as well as learning the differences between the Gris and Grigio names (one is from the Italian region, and the other French) – good to know they’re essentially the same thing!

After Adina, we continued to our first destination, which was Drayton’s Family Wines (you may remember the name as the one in the news a couple of years ago when there was an explosion in the vineyard where the one of the vintners was killed and someone seriously injured/burned) – I totally fell in love with a Chocolate Port that I’d bought from Flaschengeist in Melbourne, but haven’t been able to find who actually makes it … anyway we heard that Drayton’s do a Chocolate Port so that was our first official port of call.  Unfortunately the port was nothing like the one I loved, so it didn’t come home with us … however after sampling the “Christmas pudding in a glass” I fell in love with their Muscat, so that was my treat for the morning.

Our next stop was a few metres up the road, back to Robyn Drayton’s where we’d bought the white port from the previous day.  Our plan here was to have a Devonshire Tea – and it was as scrummy as we’d hoped for 😀

Robyn Drayton

After our Devonshire Tea, we drove back to Pokolbin Village Shops where we spent a fair bit of time in the Smelly Cheese Shop sampling cheeses and stocking up on some to bring home.  We also bought a few more gourmet delights as well, finishing off with a Gelati.

After the shops we visited another winery – this time Brokenwood Wines.  I tried their Sangiovese wine, while the girls tried a few of their whites.  I don’t think we bought anything from there (shock, horror!), as you can generally buy their wines from bottle shops at a much lower price.  Most of the other vineyards we’d bought from only sell from the cellar door.

Our final wine stop for the day was to Peterson’s Champagne House, where Hunter Valley Chocolate Company had a lovely shop set up … along with their chocolate fountain, woohoo!!  It was a compulsory purchase of strawberries on a stick covered in warm chocolate from the chocolate fountain … sheer bliss!  We then popped really quickly to the next door building to check out the sparkling wines (Katie’s favourite) where both of the girls came out with a bottle of Blush each 🙂

We finished the day off with a spot of girlie pampering at the local Reflections Day Spa where Lisa and I both had a 1/2 hour relaxation massage, and I had my eyebrows shaped and eyelashes tinted … what an awesome end to an awesome weekend!  (I’d really hoped for a remedial massage, as I’ve been suffering quite badly with neck pain and stiffness over the last couple of weeks, but the guy who does them wasn’t there that day – a relaxation massage was a good alternative, though).  After our relaxation we drove home singing along to Christmas carols … life just doesn’t get better than that!! 😀

It’s only the second ‘real’ girlie weekend I’ve had (the first one was having a weekend away at Toowoon Bay in October), and I hope it won’t be the last … it was awesome!!!

Since we’ve been home I’ve done one whole row of about 20 smyrna crosses for my current stitching projec, and that’s about it!  My stitching has been non-existent, so I hope to get a couple of hours in this morning to make up for it.  Then the rest of the day will be spent doing housework and getting the place ready to have the Christmas decorations put up, so not much stitching to be had this week, me thinks.  Next weekend is a write-off as well, as we have our Christmas party on Friday night, followed by a stitching GTG at Karen’s on Saturday (really looking forward to that), followed by a holiday back home – so you’re unlikely to see much posting from me between now and Christmas … with any luck, thought, I might get a tiny bit of stitching done in NZ! 😀

Saturday’s adventures (photo heavy)

Saturday morning we were awake bright and early – with enough time to shower and have a leisurely breakfast before we got picked up by our tour bus. We chose to travel with the “Cheers Bus” for a vineyard tour. I was really impressed with the entire day – the choice of vineyards was excellent, the driver extremely knowledgeable, and loads of fun had by all. We were 11 in total on the tour, with the remaining 8 all girls having a family weekend away (aunts, sisters, and cousins) – it was a total hoot!!  I’d definitely go with them again, and in fact we’re already considering a return trip ‘cos there’s so much still to see!

After picking up the other girls, we ventured out to Ivanhoe Wines – we had a private room set aside where Anne taught us about tastings and how to do it correctly to get the best out of the wines. We then set about with some wine tasting … not bad going at 10.30am!! haha. I must admit there were two of the wines that I loved, so they joined us for the van trip (in fact I fell in love with something at every single place -and have to admit spent up larger than planned).

Ivanhoe 2

Ivanhoe 1

Our next stop was the Iron Gate Estate – this had some of the most delicious wines, albeit expensive, and I loved them so much I bought two bottles of two of them … just divine! If Mum’s kind to me, I might even take a bottle each over to NZ to share 😉

Our host at Iron Gate was Jason, and he was another winner – the information he gave about the wines was superb, and even had us LOL when he picked on a couple of blonde comments from one of the girls in our group … she was lovely but oh so dopey haha. After the wine tastings here, and after spending up large, we were taken behind the scenes to the back room to see the modern vineyard at work – we got to see the stainless steel vats and oak barrels and learned each step of the wine making process … it was very educational. I have to admit I also fell in love with the building and the decor itself, and took loads of piccies here, so I’ll have to share … I just love the attention to detail they have to create a relaxing and stunning atmosphere (this is where the photo-heavy bit comes in!!).

Iron Gate 1

Iron Gate 3

Iron Gate 2

Iron Gate 4

Iron Gate 5

Iron Gate 6

Iron Gate 7

Iron Gate 8

Our next port of call was to Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard – the views at the top of the hillside where the vineyard is perched on is spectacular, and we had to get the driver to take a photo of us all posting in front of the view! We also nearly killed our driver off as he had to carry our purchases out for us … we made the most of a discounted sale!! We had a private area at this winery as well, where we were taught all about their wines – to be honest the guy who lead this talk was quite pompous, and none of us knew where to look as he sat in front of us on a barstool with his legs parted almost into the splits … after sampling so many wines we also got a bit of the giggles, so that helped to throw some joy into the proceedings …

Audrey Wilkinson 1

Audrey Wilkinson 2

After Audrey Wilkinson we headed off for a 1.30pm lunch at the Potters Hotel & Brewery – here you could sample beers if you wanted to, as they are a micro-brewery brewing their own beers. I just had a teeny tiny sample of their “Bock”, which is a black beer – it was reasonably nice, but the ladies at the table who’d bought samples of the other beers weren’t nearly as impressed! The food here was OK – my lamb shanks were tough and dry, but the other meals seemed to be OK. It was definitely a great idea to have a full meal at lunchtime, to help soak up the alcohol, especially as we were planning to stay in at home for our evening meal.

Potters Brewery

Back on the road once again, we headed to Lucy’s Run vineyard … this winery doesn’t advertise at all, and isn’t even listed in the phone book – they only make approx 800 cases of wine annually, but oh boy they’re good wines! The owner is an ex-Cathay Pacific pilot, who not only makes wines but also marinated olives, olive oil and Dukkah … we were in sampling heaven. Another two bottles of wine, a jar of olives and some Dukkah fell into my bag, I don’t know how!! I forgot to take any photos of this vineyard (or the next one, come to think of it – me thinks the wine tasting was starting to take its toll haha).

After Lucy’s Run, we drove to our supposed final vineyard for the day – Ernest Hill Wines. Yet again, the wines were superb, and another two bottles fell into my bag. The host was fun and informative, and we learnt even more about wine. While we were there, the driver found out I love white port, so he sneaked in an unplanned stop especially for us on the way to our final stop … we went to Robyn Drayton Wines, and I have to agree her White Port is the best in the land … seriously!!! Although a little expensive, it’s well worth it!  It comes in a glass decanter, and we all loved it so much the three of us all came home with a bottle! When tasting we were told to only drink half of what Robyn poured for us, then she squeezed a couple of drops of fresh lime juice into the remaining port, and oh-la-la what a wonderful blend that is!!! Sheer bliss!!!

Our final stop on the bus tour was to the Pokolbin Village Shops, where we had cheese tastings at the Smelly Cheese Shop … next door was also the Gelato shop, and Chocolate and Fudge shop … gourmet heaven!! And yes, we all found something here to tempt us too!

After that we waddled back to the bus to be chauffeured home to our respective residences. We then got our dinner goodies together and headed into the common lounge room where we spread out our banquet, cracked open a bottle of wine (after chilling out a bit over a glass of lemonade), and ended up in the lounge for the rest of the night. We got to meet one of the other couples staying there, and spent a few hours in their company while we ate and drank. Here’s a view of our antipasto supper with lots of fresh cheeses, pate, crackers, Turkish bread and dips, cold meats, vegetable crudites, fresh fruit (kiwifruit, grapes, strawberries) … and just for me, blue cheese, various stuffed olives, semi sun-dried tomatoes, stuffed bell peppers, artichoke hearts and fresh dates (the others don’t like any of those, so that was my own little treat plate). We’d also bought various types of chocolates, but by then we were too stuffed to eat any, so finished off the night with a glass of the complimentary port instead 😀

Sovereign Hill 2

Girls Weekend Away 1

All-in-all a VERY good day enjoyed by all 😀

After

Girlie Weekend (part 1)

A couple of months ago Katie, Lisa and I decided to plan a weekend away to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, which is a 2-hour drive out of Sydney.  Unfortunately for us thanks for a few traffic accidents along the way, our trip was a 4-hour journey, but still worth every minute.

We stayed at the Sovereign Hill Country Lodge in Talga Road, Rothbury which was lovely.  It wasn’t exactly what we’d expected, but it was still good.  The website seemed to show the room as having a kitchen and lounge area, but it turns out that our room just had a small breakfast table and beds, and there was a separate room with full kitchen and lounge that all guests shared.  The owners make the venue very hospitable with a complimentary bottle of Shiraz waiting for you, as well as all the foods to cook up a nice breakfast (eggs, bread, cereal, milk, condiments and cheese platter).  In the lounge there is a stereo, dining table, sofas, board games, and flagon of port 😀

The view from the property is stunning as it’s up on a hill overlooking the Valley.  They grow their own grapes, and the rooms overlook the vines and olive trees across the road.  It was a pleasure to see kangaroos hopping around in the faraway fields (at least I found it a pleasure anyway), and to see the many wee rabbits hopping around at dusk!  I had an added treat of the owners having two full-grown dogs there, so I was in my element when we arrived and I was covered in doggie hair within minutes of arriving LOL.

Here’s our view from the front of the property:

Sovereign Hill 5

Sovereign Hill 4

Sovereign Hill 3

As we arrived quite late, we worked out where a ‘local’ Irish pub was that served pub meals, and headed on out in the car.  I can definitely recommend the food there – my Beef and Guinness Pie was to die for, and the girls loved their Chicken and Prawn dishes.  If anyone is out in the Valley, definitely consider heading to Harrigan’s Irish Pub for a meal if you get chance (although it can get a bit crowded on a Friday night).

We’d seen a brochure that said Hunter Valley Gardens had a spectacular Christmas lights display, so we popped over for the last 1/2 hour of them being open, and it was truly magical wandering around the gardens.  They have a storybook garden that kids would absolutely adore!  Lots of sculptures around the place from children’s books, such as Humpty Dumpty, Mad Hatters Tea Party, Jack and Jill, and loads and loads more.  Unfortunately we’d all forgotten to take our cameras with us, so the mobile phone camera had to do, and the quality is dreadful.

Hunter Valley Gardens 1

Hunter Valley Gardens 2

I just had to take a photo of this character – he looks kinda spooky on the camera phone, I just love it 🙂

Hunter Valley Gardens 3

We had a special treat of seeing fireworks going off in the background behind the gardens somewhere – not sure what the occasion was, but it another great highlight of the night 🙂

After that we decided not to head back to Harrigan’s for an hour, as tempting as it was, and we headed off home, as we had a relatively early start the next day …