August 10, 2016

What I Wore - Birdsnest for a Winter wedding

Toasty heaters, big steaming platters of roast meat and gravy, and snuggling into pashminas – who wouldn’t be excited for a Winter wedding?

When one of my favourite colleagues of ALL TIME popped an invite on my desk for her wedding, I did what most girls would do. Squeal a little bit, check the location out online, then start searching online for the perfect outfit.

Hidden in a working cattle property outside the Sunshine Coast town of Yandina is a contender for the most beautiful country wedding venue in the country. At Yandina Station, they've been playing host to beautiful events for years now, and BB and I even checked them out when we were searching for our perfect wedding venue. We ended up deciding to head north to Port Douglas to get hitched instead of staying local, but I can still say that it's one of my favourite wedding venues.

Living just up the road from the venue, I knew that Yandina Station on a July evening would be more than a little chilly, so started my search for a dress with sleeves on Birdnest. There were SO many to choose from, but I played it safe and chose the Off the Shoulder Dress because, well... this is me we're talking about, and I never pass up the chance to wear off the shoulder, duh!

For non-stylists like me, there are plenty (thousands) of styled outfits available to check out on the Birdsnest website, it's so easy to envisage how your whole outfit will look when worn together - genius!

Laying out everything early in the morning makes for a much quicker prep time, especially for a weekday wedding!
Clockwise: Birdsnest Off the Shoulder Dress*, Samantha Wills turquoise ring and earrings (similar here), Raybans because I cry at weddings, YSL lippie, vintage hat borrowed from Trainee Mama, Marc Daniels Blue Cypress Blonde Leave-In Toner (this is my new fave hair product, gives such sparkly highlights and shine - currently available at Woolies), Trix block heels from Spendless, borrowed pashmina from Mum, Sussan sequin clutch (similar here).

The happy couple... wait, no! Another happy couple!

This dress was possibly the most comfortable style I've ever worn to an occasion... and you don't need to just believe me! The Birdsnest webswite is super-easy to both navigate and to leave reviews, so when I saw it had a 100% Excellent rating, and comments like these, there's no way I could not share the love of this fine frock!

Lyndall, size 14: The dress is slimline without being clingy. It gives a beautiful shape to my hourglass figure. Sleeve length is classy and the gorgeous neckline is really pretty. Really happy with this purchase. It will be a great dress for travelling too, as the material isn't likely to crush.
Yes, I would recommend this item.

Michelle, size 16: Purchased size 16 and fits beautifully - very flattering dress. Was for a date so felt very sexy and confident. Thank you!!
Yes, I would recommend this item.

Rebecca, size 10: If you want to feel sexy and elegant at the same time, or need something for a special occasion then you definitely need this dress in your life. It is a perfect weight, has no horrible zippers that snag or buttons to wrestle with. It holds off the shoulder without slipping. It is a flattering length to the knee.It will travel well without too much fuss or ironing needed. Believe me this dress will turn heads. I just love it. Thanks Birdsnest girls!!!
Yes, I would recommend this item.

Hot potato croquettes on a brisk evening? Don't go ANYWHERE with that tray, my young waiter friend.

We did have a few romantic moments together, imaging what it might have been like to get married at this gorgeous venue.

I love love LOVE me a good wedding, and this one was superb. The groom cried a little when saying his vows, and we all know how adorable that is. 

To Stacey and Jason, our biggest congratulations to a beautiful couple who make each other so happy. BB and I wish you a wonderful journey as you build your new life together. Hugs forevs.

Do you have a favourite season for attending weddings? I love them all!

*Birdsnest dress super-awesomely gifted. You should really know by now that I won't wear anything I don't love, so consider this piece fantastic, and I'll be wearing it years from now!

August 02, 2016

6 life lessons from Empire Records (advice for teens who didn't get to live through the 90's)

I was involved in a long Empire Records 'quote-off' with Brooke of Blonde Ambition last night (you know, where you riff back and forward with quotes from - usually - a cult movie), and it got me thinking that 1995, when Empire Records was released, was a pretty intense year for me.

I was 14, and in my second year of high school at one of the more exclusive private schools on the Sunshine Coast. My father had just left my mum, brother and I, to live a jaunty life of new women and weekday yacht sailing. I wore a back brace all day every day (thanks scoliosis), had a very small group of friends, wasn't invited to many parties, and whilst I had discovered boys... they had not yet discovered me.

I struggled to express myself verbally, so when Empire Records hit the screen, with all the angst that only the 90's could offer, I felt like I'd found characters who were as messed up as I was. (Disclaimer: in hindsight, I had a pretty good life. Thanks Mum.)

Working in a high school now, watching teenage girls struggle with all the same kinds of dramas that my friends and I went through - but with the added stresses of technology and early sexualisation - I wonder how teens these days manage to express themselves without such killer lines as 'We mustn't dwell... no, not today. We CAN'T. Not on Rex Manning Day.'

Here are my top life lessons for teens, as taught by the indie kids of Empire Records.

AJ: I don't feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.

Sometimes we just need to do something that other people don't get. Whether it's creative or enterprenerial, teens these days have so many avenues open to them, and I know that a lot of adults in their lives will question some crazy decisions. I can pretty much guarantee that this generation of youngsters will all own businesses and be creating cool stuff WAY before we ever got around to that!

Gina: Well, Sinead O'Rebellion. Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behaviour.

We've all been there. But I REALLY want to impart one of my most important life lessons with young girls... do NOT cut your hair after a break-up or massive change in life circumstances. Just don't. Take a month, then go crazy. There's nothing worse than missing a boy and missing your locks and not looking like yourself, at the same time.

Joe: Gina, you'd better go home.
Gina: Am I fired?
Joe: Have I fired anyone today? No. Why would I start with you?

Kids, remember this - sometimes you'll mess up. Sometimes you'll mess up real bad, and it'll hurt the people who care about you the most. The thing about being a teenager is that usually, those people who you hurt, won't make snap decisions about the rest of your future. They'll still love and accept you, and want to help you through this awful hormonal time.

Corey: So this how your life's gonna be now, hey? You're just gonna screw every 'has-been' until your tits fall down and they don't want you anymore?

For me, the dynamic between good-girl Corey and fun-loving free spirit Gina is my favourite part of Empire Records. They secretly love each other in a weird 'I wanna be you' kind of way, and the movie ends with both girls understanding and appreciating some of those differences.

Also, safe-sex lessons. There are plenty of safe-sex cautionary tales in this sarcasm-fuelled relationship.

Lucas: Warren, look what you took. (flicks through the CD's that Warren stole from the store) Rap, metal, rap, metal... and Whitney Houston.

The recalcitrant shoplifter Warren is a kooky kid with some eclectic taste in CDs, and I guess his message to the youth of the 90's is that you should love what you love. If you like weird ukelele music from Eastern Europe, like it hard. Don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't like it. Same goes for fashion and style, do your own thing, try something that your friends aren't trying. We're not all meant to be clones... even as teenagers searching for our clique.

A.J.: know, I got to tell her that I, uh, well, you know, that I uh...
Joe: love her.
A.J.: Yeah, now how do I do that?
Joe: You say I love you. What do you want, written instructions?

Here you go, the love story we all wanted to be a part of. The shy from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks artist boy loves sweet super-smart rich girl Corey, but doesn't know how to tell her.

His tough-love boss Joe is here to tell him that it doesn't need to be hard. It really doesn't. Sometimes we (and I clearly mean ME) overthink things to the point that they can't be said, and unless we have written instructions, the words never come out.

Be your own tough-love boss, and make yourself say the things you feel. Even if they come out awkward (and they 99% will come out awkward, move on).

Which 90's movie coaxed you through the awkwardness and pain of your teen years? Any of your fave Empire Records quotes that I missed?

July 15, 2016

A list of things I'll eat at Regional Flavours, Brisbane

You may remember that I recently spent a weekend gorging myself on the best produce, meals and drinks that Brisbane and the Lockyer Valley have to offer, all in the name of research for the Regional Flavours event, held at Southbank Parklands in Brisbane.

I am pleased to say that the festival is this weekend, and I will be in Brisbane from this Friday evening until Sunday - ostensibly to attend an industry dinner with my husband and to celebrate my birthday week - but we all know it's to eat my way through Regional Flavours, right?

Here's a little list of deliciousness that I'm planning on eating and drinking at Regional Flavours 2016:

QLD pork belly and black garlic dumplings with XO sauce from Stokehouse at River Quay

Crumbed Mozzarella with local thyme-infused honey from Popolo at River Quay

Chocolate macarons from Aquitaine Brasserie at River Quay

Fresh pumpkin dishes fresh from the Lockyer Valley at The Picnic Patch

The very freshest fruit, vegetables and condiments from the Producer Showcase - berry me up!

And of course, a flight (or three) of excellent James Squire beers at The Hunting Club

If that little taster (see what I did there?!) has whet your whistle for a weekend of amazing food and drink - as well as celebrity chef features, edible garden treats food trucks galore and just a really supportive environment for people who like to eat their way through life - pop over to the Regional Flavours website (here) to check out the final program and plan your visit and if you see me hanging suspiciously around near the Food Trucks, come say hello. My mate Brooke of Blonde Ambition will also be cruising through Regional Flavours, so there's a red hot chance you'll find us both entertaining a crowd with some top-notch karaoke at The Hunting Club at some point!

Regional Flavours is on this Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July 2016 from 10am to 5pm at Southbank Parklands, Brisbane. The Hunting Club will open 4pm to 7pm on Friday, 15 July and 10am to 7pm on 16 and 17 July. Parking in the area will be limited so your best bet is to catch a train, bus or CityCat.

July 01, 2016

Sunshine Coast Cafe - Bohemian Bungalow, Eumundi

A recent birthday celebration for my aunt had the extended family coming from across the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane to one of my favourite Coast towns, Eumundi for a long leisurely lunch together. Some of these uncles and aunts hadn't seen me since I was a teen, so I had a lot of fun surprising them!

Bohemian Bungalow has become quite the institution already, with a famous Sunday session featuring an ever-changing roster of bands, duos and single artists from 2pm to wind down your weekend; and a gorgeously eclectic decor which will have you going for a stroll around the restaurant to check out their treasures.

I wore a favourite Passion Q split-sleeve dress from Whitehaven Emporium - these guys do the best boho-style prints ever - with Spendless Shoes Wisdom boots, an old French Connection belt and tassel necklace from Whitehaven Emporium. 

Such a cute and colourful place to catch up with friends or family

How adorable is my dad here, catching up with his nieces. He's the cutest guy around. #biased

Even high above the kitchen, there are little vignettes to find - this race of handpainted horses was so quirky.

I know a certain BFF of mine who would've liked me to snaffle some of those antique biscuit and cake tins.

What's a birthday creme brulee without a scoop of vanilla bean icecream and a candle?

We had such a lovely lunch here, the birthday girl has even popped back a few more times since then to enjoy the atmosphere.

Do you like your cafes quirky and unique? Any other eclectic places in South East Queensland worth a try?

June 21, 2016

Regional Flavours 2016 - the tastes of Queensland

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.

Holmwood Produce
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.

Popolo - River Quay
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