Night out under the stars

What an awesome night out … after my Chiro session tonight we headed into the city of Sydney, and plonked ourselves down in our seat near Mrs Macquaries Chair, at the Open Air Cinema.  What an exquisite setting it’s in … the huge movie screen sits out over the water in the harbour, with the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge sitting proudly and magnificently in the background, with the occasional bat flying overhead.  Here’s a photo of the setting from their website – just awesome!

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And to top it all off we saw the BEST film – “In Bruges“.  A lot of people probably wouldn’t enjoy it (including my Mum) as it includes lots of profanity … and the humour is quite dark … but Colin Farrell was an absolute treat to watch, and we all laughed our heads off at the shocking quips and humour – highly, highly amusing!  And I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Brendan Gleeson, so it was a double treat for me!  The movie was much better than I was expecting, and I’ll be sure to add it to my DVD collection once it’s been released 😀

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Here’s one of the earlier parts in the movie that yanked my chain … and one of the few parts with no swearing! 😉

Ken (Brendan Gleeson): Coming up?
Ray (Colin Farrell): What’s up there?
Ken: The view.
Ray: The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that down here.
Ken: Ray, you are about the worst tourist in the whole world.
Ray: Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.

Sick humour, most definitely (it gets much worse) … but awesome viewing on the big screen!  One of Colin Farrell’s best performances in my eyes …

Happy New Year !!!

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Just dropping by to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Hopefully you all had fun seeing in the New Year in whatever you chose to do so. Personally I joined the squillions of thousands of party-goers crammed along the harbourside in Sydney to witness the most spectacular fireworks display I’ve ever seen! It was a nightmare for me getting there, thanks to over-full and late trains causing me to miss my last ferry to Balmain, but a bus trip and short taxi ride later and I was joining my party group in time to play “celebrity heads” (which was a total hoot!), have a few drinks (OK, perhaps more than a few!), and a lovely dinner. My group had all been sitting in our selected position since lunchtime, but I got there late after working all day.

Anyway, I’m so glad I made the effort to go along and join them, and the fireworks truly were spectacular. The crowds were phenomenal, but I’d still do it all again next year given the chance! Here are a few photos of the fireworks at midnight, along with a shot of how clearly we could see the harbour bridge in front of us … prime real estate, we had, that’s for sure LOL.

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and the piece de resistance for me … look at all that gunpowder going up … this little Annie was in childlike heaven!!! 😀

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If you want to see a quick video clip of the start of the fireworks, you can check it out here! And if you have more time to spend and fancy watching the first 8 whole minutes of some spectacular fireworks, check out the You Tube video here 😀

Candles/Carols in the Domain Sydney-style

We had a lovely time at the carols last night – while we couldn’t see the stage clearly from where we were sitting, we could just see the large screen to follow who was on stage.  They had a good line-up of local singing stars including Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Paulini, and Brian McFadden plus others.  We had a star of our own, though, as we found ourselves joined by a certain ‘Gladiator’ along with his family, bodyguard and nanny … definitely a highlight of the night for me!  You can see him in the sunglasses just behind us (I felt uncomfortable taking more photos as he was enjoying a family night out, and I thought that would be too intrusive) 🙂

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Mr Russell Crowe and friends enjoying Candles in the Park Dec08

The great thing about the Sydney event is that you can buy a “Candle Bag” for charity, which has 4 candles with cup-holders to sit them in – it looks so pretty looking out over the event when darkness falls to see all of the candles lit up around the crowds.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good photo to share though.

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There was a short firework display at the start of the show, and another final short fireworks display at the end.

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All-in-all it was a fun night – although my head was suffering overnight due to the consumption of too much wine and the excitement of sharing the night with Mr C 😉

Today will be spent finishing the Christmas decorations off, I think, then doing a spot of housework … I bought a new attachement for my vacuum cleaner making it semi-bagless, so I’ll have to trial it to see if it works well … nothing but glamorous stuff for me today – serves me right, I’ve been having waaaay too much fun lately! LOL 😛

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 😀

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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).

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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!!).

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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 …

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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 😀

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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:

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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.

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

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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 …

NRL Grand Final

Yesterday was a fun day as Lisa and I joined 1000’s of Rugby League fans for the Grand Final match between Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm.  Neither Lisa or I are League fans, but at least I’m a Union girl so I knew a fair few of the ‘basic’ rules.  It was a really fun trip out, and Melbourne Storm got a total a**-kicking at 40-0 … sorry Melbourne, but that’s just pitiful, especially as the Premier winners from 2007 – I bet a few Melbourne supporters were hanging their heads after last night.  Manly had a very deserving win, and the local crowd went nuts at the end, very understandably ‘cos the better team most definitely won on the night!!

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Personally we felt the highlights of the match for us (heathens that we are) were the pre-match entertainment sessions.  We were treated to songs by Jon Stevens of Noiseworks fame … and loved the “BBQ lids” banging session, it was like a live version of Tap Dogs – it was great fun!

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We were then treated to a couple of songs by Living End (including their current hit White Noise) – the pyrotechnics were fun!

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Finished off by the National Anthem sung by Anthony Warlow – what a terrific voice … we were unfortunate not to see him sing at Phantom earlier this year, but now at least I’ve seen him perform live, even just for the one song 😉

Our final highlight before the match was when a sea hawk helicopter flew into the stadium and landed smack bang in the middle of the stadium to hand over the trophy … that was awesome!

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As for the game, the final 1/4 hour was thrilling watching Manly score try after try … but otherwise to be totally honest I found it a pretty boring game (I’m obviously a Union girl still at heart LOL).

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Straight after the game Lisa got the train home and I drove over to Brenda and Nigel’s to stay the night.  It was a lovely relaxed evening sat drinking wine and watching a DVD while getting a little bit of stitching in.  Then we went out to the local Flower Power garden nursery for lunch today, and I bought a stunning blue pot and a few plants to make a succulent display for our balcony, and a few herbs ready to be potted up this week.  Nigel also kindly donated one of his stunning tomato plants to me, along with some basil plants, bless him.  I ended up unexpectedly staying for dinner as well tonight, and got to watch the Golden Compass DVD before driving the hour’s trip home.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend full of socialising with good friends 😀

But now it’s time to hit the hay ready for another wee of torture at work …

Photo Hunt – View

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This week’s theme is “View” and there are so many “views” that blow me away that I can’t narrow the choice down to one photo.

This view of the Three Sisters at Katoomba really takes my breath away.

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If that’s not enough, here’s one view that I could sit and look at every single day! This is Santorini, Greece.

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Then, sticking to the Greek theme, we have the island of Naxos … I just adore the history and archaeological monuments you see at every turn.  I can sit and look through my Greek photos for hours and not get bored.

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And finally, here’s something a bit closer to home … the view from one of the skifields at Wanaka, New Zealand – now if that doesn’t take your breath away, nothing will!!  It’s like a view from the top of the world! 😀

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Photo Hunt – Wild

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This week’s theme is “Wild” and there are so many interpretations for this theme I thought I’d choose a couple of different ones.

First up is an aboriginal man who reminds me of an indigenous version of the “Wild Man” of Borneo 😉

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Then we have a “wild-eyed” crazy man in the band at The Cuckoo in Melbourne.

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And lucky last, we have a “wild ride” Egypt-style … trekking into the Valley of the Kings.

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