Author: tduchess

Bitch please!?

Bitch please!?

A woman on women…

battle of the bitches!

My eight year old daughter came home recently and over dinner proceeded to tell me about her friend Maddie. She was telling me that she wasn’t sure if Maddie was being mean to her, or being a friend. Maddie had apparently been advising her that her dress-sense was not up to scratch and she wasn’t enough of a bitch to her friends. Maddie was informing her very passive aggressively that my daughter needed to be more of a ‘Mean Girl’ in order to be in the cool gang. My daughter, not yet old enough to know what bullying is, nor might I say what defines a True Bitch, was telling me that she didn’t feel comfortable with what her so-called friend Maddie had demanded of her and wasn’t sure if Maddie was being friend or foe. It was my job, over dinner to then explain that a Maddie was in fact a bitch and that this is the beginning of sadly being bullied by women throughout the rest of her life.

This conversation was timely due to the fact that even at my age, I too am experiencing bullying from women. Women who do not know how to be a lady and believe that if they get all up in your face, they will intimidate you and eventually win. Now let it be known… we do not accept being a victim in our house and thoroughly believe that fighting back [without weapons but with words and timing] is the ultimate revenge. Sometimes karma takes time, but in the end, karma is the ultimate bitch. We teach our kids to be clever and I am always harping onto my daughter about being strong and powerful, but most importantly, always being a lady.

My Nan’s taught me at a very young age the power of being a lady. Examples were thrust upon me and I was expected to live up to their expectations no matter what. It wasn’t until recently though that I realised myself that I was in fact, intimidating to women. I always try to come across approachable, kind and caring and I hate confrontation, so had no idea that other women saw me that way. I listen all the time to powerful songs written by successful women and there is no doubt that there is inspiration in them for me. And although I had taught my daughter the power of being a lady, didn’t realise that I had in fact reached the status of a lady in the eyes of others.

I work hard and I play hard in return. I firmly believe that as long as my kids are provided for and the mortgage is paid, why shouldn’t I deserve luxuries such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s? I have my nails done every 3 weeks and I have a dedicated Spa Manager who ensures I’m waxed and primed, looking hot for my man and making me feel good in return. Taking care of myself and presenting a valuable looking product to the world is important to me – and so it should be!

But make no mistake. No woman taught me this. This came from my beautiful friends in the gay community. Yes people… I am a product of Queer eye for the Straight Girl! I am a self-professed fag hag and I make no apologies. Everything I know…. everything that is ladylike about me (and the ability to swear like a trooper) is all because of my beautiful male friends who happen to be inclined towards the beautiful male race. I understand by the way!

I have never had many female friends. However much I admired them, their friendship is something I have rarely mastered due to the fact that they can be such bitches. Even females who profess to be your best friend, can be bitching behind your back and creating grief for you. What’s with that?! At least my gay friends will say that shit to my face!!! Before I met my darling boyfriends, I was a hopeless case. My fashion sense and level of self-esteem was dreadful. But thanks to my friends sharing their experiences of prejudice and hatred, they taught me that loving myself is the most important thing. Surrounding yourself with people who love you regardless of anything, is ultimately helpful, and can indeed be life changing.

I can remember once being out with my best friend and a bunch of his friends. One of his other girlfriends was giving me grief about my hairstyle and fashion sense amongst other things. This was at a time I was going through a horrific divorce, had no money and probably did truthfully look like shit. Ben simply put his arm around me and said “That’s enough. Come darls, we don’t have to listen to this!”. I loved him before –  but from that moment, he was the greatest human being I had ever met. A few years ago now, I lost another great love, who was always ready to tell me how it was, but in a way that he knew I could handle. It was truth, but done right. I miss Colin each and every day and the world is a lessor place because he is gone from this world.

With so much hatred and war going on all around the world due to religion, misunderstanding or pure bigotry I cannot understand why women need to war against women!? Shouldn’t the female race after all we have been through stick together? We are all the same. We are the sum of each parts. Where is the solidarity and the feeling of sticking together? And why may I ask is it left to the minority group who simply want to spread the message of love?

On this the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras in Sydney and the year that gay marriage is legalized in Australia, thank you with all my heart to the gay and lesbian people of the world. Thank you for fighting for what’s right. Thank you for teaching me that being a woman didn’t mean I had to be a bitch to survive. And most of all thank you for giving my daughter a reason to stand up and be exactly who she wants to be in this world.

To my greatest friends, those who are with me and those who now belong to the angels, please understand that my life is so much richer for knowing you and you have shaped the person I am today. A person who feels whole because of my love for you – and from you.

Christmas Connection

Christmas Connection

Through the looking glass…

As one year closes and another one opens it’s been a long time between drinks as they say. So much has happened in the last 12 months and the year has flown by in what feels like a blink of an eye. It doesn’t seem to matter how old you are, but the older you get – the faster time moves and before you know it you are once again preparing for Christmas and all the stress that seems to come with it.

Do you remember being a child and the days leading up to Christmas taking forever? Each hour felt like a lifetime until it was finally time to go to bed and wait to hear the thump of the reindeer landing on the roof. I would lie there willing my eyes to stay open so I could hear the ‘Big Mans’ arrival, only to wake in the morning to find I had missed it. The evidence of his visit however, was under the Christmas tree in the many beautifully wrapped presents.

I think as adults we sometime get so caught up in all that we need to do, we forget that there is a certain magic to this time of year and if you take the time to look, it’s right there in front of your face. This year our Christmas was a marathon. Lasting a week, we had back-to-back events with family and friends and I was exhausted just thinking about it, before it had even begun. It was definitely not a hundred meter sprint in which to drink too much on the first evening and be hung-over for the event to follow. No…. This was going to take some stamina! Pacing and bracing myself for the idle chit-chat, the getting along with family, saying all the right things and hiding the ‘black sheep’ of the family in me, was stressing me out more than preparing Christmas dinner and getting the fairy lights all to work, all at the same time!

My pre-game routine became a ritual, with a glass of champagne in hand; I would change my outfit 15 times and remind myself over and over again,  not to say anything controversial. Needless to say, I was nervous and despite the fact that I don’t care what these people think of me, I didn’t want to make it a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons. To my family, Christmas is a BIG DEAL. There are traditions that have been upheld since I was a child and although the people and landscape has changed over the years, their expectations of Christmas and bringing family together remains the same.

By Boxing Day I had seemingly survived a number of events relatively unscathed. But Boxing Day signalled the start of the ‘Main Events’ which had me worried. This was all my family craziness at its best. One must do ones best to look good, behave and get along for the sake of family and tradition. My mother doesn’t really expect us all to get along – except on Christmas. This is not a request – it is a given. And whilst I love her for that – it does take some effort!

KAM has been around now for a while and also knows what to expect and what is expected of him. I could feel the tension within us both as we drove towards my family home. However, as we turned into my mum and dad’s Street, the Christmas magic kicked in and all I could smell in the summer air was my dad’s roast meats cooking on the multiple barbecues he has going preparing to feed the hordes about to embark on his home. It’s fair to say my dad is a bit of a Christmas Grinch. But come hell or high water – he’s in charge of the meat, and don’t try to take that from him or dare to offer advice. It has been his role for a number of years now and happens to be one of my favourite things about this time of year. He slaves over them for hours – marinating, roasting and finally carving them, after sharpening his knives like a pro. I watch him take so much pride and care with his role at Christmas time and quite frankly, the result is amazing! My mum is like Christmas on speed! She decorates better than a David Jones window display, cooks, prepares and makes the house look just so. It’s important to her to have all the family together and wants everything to be perfect. Somehow despite how busy she is, she carries it off every year.

So as everyone has arrived, poured themselves a drink and is sitting around catching up, I merely sit and observe. This year, our table is full of children and the magic of a hot summer Christmas inclusive of cold ham, a sunlight pool and treats they wouldn’t be allowed any other time of year is evident. The smile on their faces and giggles coming from the kiddie table as they crack the bon-bons is infectious and you can’t help but smile along with them.

Some of our table are blood relatives and some are not. Some, I haven’t seen for 20 years and some I had never met until recently. Teenagers with so much spunk and their whole life ahead of them. Some who have lost love this year and some who have found it. We, who have been grounded and feeling sorry for ourselves, realise that we made it through yet another year of turmoil and I think are just happy to still be in one piece.

After all the presents are opened, our bellies are full and the champagne is giving me a nice buzz, I am glad that KAM and I didn’t pack our bags and run from the Christmas festivities (even though we talked about it a lot!). Christmas comes but once a year and there is no better reason to celebrate the people you call ‘family’ whether they are people you belong to, or people you have chosen.

So happy New Year to my fellow travellers, dreamers and gypsy’s alike. No matter who you are, no matter where you roam, family is a gift, and will always be your home.

Dedicated to a new friend who is clever, feisty and full of life. Put pen to paper girlfriend! People will love your sparkle! xo

The Duchess Returns for 2017!

The Duchess Returns for 2017!

Mixed Tape Mantra

Dear all,

The Duchess has returned for a new year. But first to our followers, my sincerest apologies for not writing for so long. 2016 was a tough year and I have been left grounded. Sore and sorry, and feeling like I have been through an emotional washing machine. But I should not complain. It seems as though everyone I speak to has had a rough year as well.

Friends have farewelled loved ones – and not unfortunately for them, on a jet plane. Loved ones have turned on ones they love, leaving the rest of the family upside down with anguish and fear for their safety. Human beings, just like us, around the world have struggled with far greater worries than I will ever have.

So a little thing such as a mixed tape, seems like nothing more than a whim. Call me an 80’s girl, but a mixed tape can be the soundtrack to everything. It can define a mood, it can define a moment. It can make you feel free and remind you of moments lost to time forever.

That’s why, on the eve of one of the greatest people I have ever known leaving us for a journey of adventure and self-discovery, I found myself listening to the mixed tape that started it all and reminiscing on just how important some lyrics can be. Like the Whitlams said “A letter to you on a cassette, ‘cause we don’t write anymore”. No one writes anymore. Its all through text, snapchat – any kind of social media really. That’s why I am still sentimental about music. Its old fashioned. Its original.

You can still stick a CD into the car stereo (at least for a little while longer anyway) or hit play on a play-list and dance your way to anywhere. The road becomes your friend  – It becomes all about you and the road. The journey is the calling. The destination at that point doesn’t matter. The journey is the adventure.

As Paramore said, “I am going away for a while. I’ll be back, don’t try to follow me”. Sometimes you just hear the road calling. It’s a sound that only the true gypsy knows and when it calls you must answer and go where the road tells you to go.

But you must have a purpose. Rob Thomas once sang, “You can go, you can start all over again, you can try to find a way to make another day go by”. But why go? What drives you? Fair enough that some days you just need to get away. But from what? And for how long before you have to come home and face the reality that is inevitably waiting for you at the airport or in the driveway.

Like Missy Higgins said “I’m half me and half you and I hate us both”. This does not necessarily need to relate to two people – we all have many different sides. Ask yourself, what are you running from? I have been running most of my life, from one thing to another, and still have not found the answer to that question.

Gypsy’s are gypsy’s. No fixed address. Never getting attached to a single place. I have been a gypsy the majority of my adult life and always wondered what I would do when I grew up. Now I’m grown up and I still have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life. Other than travelling the globe and writing about it, I have no real purpose. No training. No qualifications to get me anywhere of meaning. Just as Lior implies, all I have been doing is dancing. Dancing from one place to another not figuring anything out really.

But what John Butler said is true in ‘Better Than’ – “all you want is what you cant have”. But we have to continue to try right? So just like ‘Gillian’ by the Waifs we just keep on, keeping on. Going to work every day for the coin – making the money to just continue on, and hopefully one day get on a road (or a plane) for the unknown. For the adventure of a lifetime.

In a beautiful song written by Pete Murray he once said “I know I’ve been through black and white, I know I’ll put up a fierce fight, I know I lost my soul”. But like he also says, “I know there comes a time to believe in yourself”.

That’s why there comes a time when you must follow the sun. Xavier Rudd teaches us that. The sun will always shine eventually. Don’t sit and wallow – get up and “set your intentions, dream with care. Tomorrow is a new day for everyone”.

After all, Life is just a ride. If we don’t keep looking for hope of a better day; If we don’t keep giving room for love to find a way. Through this messy life I made for myself, heaven knows I need a little hope for a better day. Lenka taught me that and it has become somewhat of a mantra. Hell, KAM even has it tattooed on his body!

At the end of the day, after 365 days of 2016, the lesson I have learned is the same as it has been every other year. Get on the road. Get out there and experience all that life has to offer. Don’t sit and wait for life to come to you! Go get it! Grab life by the balls and make it happen. As the Cat Empire says “Its days like these that make us happy”.

Go find your sunshine. It makes us happy when skies are grey. So please…. Don’t wait. Don’t question whether it’s the right time. Don’t ask yourself if it’s the right thing to do. Just go. Find your sunshine. For the sunshine lives within us all. We just have to have the light to see it.

To one of my greatest friends – Erica, I love you. Get on the plane and don’t look back. Travel roads not yet run. Walk paths not yet discovered and sleep under skies full of stars. We will all be looking out for you. Send your happiness to the sky at night and wherever you are, we will find it. Say your prayers and we will hear them. For we are one. We are family. But this is not our journey. It can only be yours and know that we will be here welcoming you home with open arms when you finally return.

The road is calling. But home will always be here. Find yourself and then find your way home darling. We will be waiting.

Love, The Duchess xo

Manfredi at Bells, Killcare NSW

Manfredi at Bells, Killcare NSW

The purpose for perfection.

I was in a meeting the other day in which the theme was focused on Motivation. What is your motivation to get out of bed every day? What is your motivation to do the work you do? I sat there, contemplating, and just like everyone else, could not come up with an answer. If you are within a Leadership team, in which you feel like you don’t belong, what are you doing there? If you cannot find your motivation to be a part of that meeting, are you in fact, not wasting that moment in time?

Moments in our life time are simply too fleeting. If you love your life as much as I love mine, there are no moments to waste. What are you doing sitting in a meeting for which you have very little care for, when there are moments out there just waiting for you to find them?

Every moment of your life should be about love. Love for that moment, in some way or another. Love for the person you are with at the time and of course, love for what you are experiencing. When was the last time you were sick with longing? I can truthfully say that every day that passes and I am not doing what I love, it is not only a moment missed but a moment I am beyond doubt, sick with longing. Longing for what was. Longing for what could be and longing for a moment when time stands still and all is right with the world – if not just for a moment.

This is what its like to be at Manfredi restaurant.

Located within the beautiful grounds of Bells at Killcare, Manfredi Chef’s Hat restaurant shines like a diamond in an area where even gemstones are rarely found.

Having worked in many fine dining establishments over the years, food to me is not simply a means to an end. Food is to be smelled, sincerely tasted and enjoyed for all its complex layers. Great kitchens and chef’s, create dishes that are more an art-form rather than food and should be appreciated slowly and sensually so that your taste buds are aware of every single flavour the chef has lovingly infused.

Ask yourself… what are you eating for? When dining at Manfredi, the answer should be nothing less than an orgasm. Have you ever had a culinary orgasm? If the answer is no, then you haven’t eaten at Manfredi.

From the moment the maître’D seats you at your table, the dance begins. Fine dining at its best is represented here from the crisp white linens, to the wine list you could and should, swim in for days. You will never get through it all, so don’t even try and simply buy the best bottle from their epic wine room money can afford. It’s the only way to do it.

If I could win a competition to spend a day in their kitchen observing the art come to life and figuring out at least some of the tricks that takes food and turns it to magic, I would do whatever it took. Just to stand quietly at the back of the ultra-clean kitchen and watch the magic unfold, would be a dream come true. If by chance, the sommelier would then take me into their wine room and explain the food and wine paring, I think I honestly just might die. Is it possible to die of happiness? I would be willing to find out if that was indeed the moment to test the theory.

If one eats simply to be satisfied, ask yourself what is your level of satisfaction? Should it not be more than just to have a full stomach? Why do we so often rush through our meals without ever fully appreciating what actually went into it in the first place?

Manfredi Restaurant is the quintessential orgasm on a plate. And being a Chef’s Hat Restaurant, they may not be happy with me describing them this way. However I cannot think of a better compliment than this. There are chef’s that strive their whole lives to be this good. And there are chef’s that will work their whole lives to simply try to be in the same league. But whatever magic Mandfredi has, is firmly locked within the stainless steel walls of the endlessly spotless kitchen. I have tried many a time to stand at the pass and get a glimpse of what goes on behind. But just like magic, all the tricks are hidden from the naked eye and the waitresses seem to direct you to your table so the chef’s never reveal any of their supernatural powers.

Please don’t go to Manfredi if you don’t care for the food. Don’t go there if you don’t care about the obvious love and attention that goes into each and every bite. And please don’t go there if you are not going to appreciate the staff – each and every one of them. This restaurant knows how things are done and there is a reason why they are rated so highly amongst their peers.

This is a one-of-a-kind experience and you should value such a culinary sensation. When we waste so many moments in life not caring about what we are doing or where we are, take yourself to a place where every single morsel of life matters. Oh and try the steak – not a morsel – its massive – and I guarantee you will enjoy every single bite and never want the moment to end. There, is savouring a moment!
man-bar

Manfredi at Bells Restaurant
107 The Scenic Road,
Killcare Heights NSW
P: 4349 7000
http://www.bellsatkillcare.com.au/manfredi-at-bells-restaurant.html

The Star Casino, Sydney

The Star Casino, Sydney

The Star still shines!

There is no doubt that with James Packer’s flashy new hotel and casino going up across the way at Barangaroo, that Star City and Astral Towers may become a thing of the past. But don’t write them off just yet.

When we travel KAM and I like a little space. There are thousands of hotels in Sydney City but there is a reason we choose to stay at Astral Towers instead of any other. ‘The Star’ also hosts the Darling Hotel, which is much fancier and new. But the space and styling of the apartments at Astral Towers suits us. We always choose a 1 bedroom harbour view apartment which is large, and modern with a big balcony. The view of the harbour bridge is pretty hard to beat – especially when you are upgraded to the 12th floor. Sitting up so high is wonderful (although I struggle to look down!) and as the sun goes down over the harbour these rooms are a welcome relief from the busy city and the casino floor below.

If you become a member of ‘The Star’, at no charge, you get great discounts on accommodation and you can earn dollars for food and beverage if you like a little tipple on the tables. Name your poison! The Star Casino floor has just about everything and it pumps 24 hours a day!

But gambling isn’t all ‘The Star’ has to offer. The restaurants in and around the casino are great! Black by ezard, with its dark lighting and leather furniture is the go if you want a good steak and great bottle of wine. It’s a bit pricy but worth it and gives you a nice excuse to get dressed up. Pizzaperta down on the concourse is always good too, with sweet and savoury pizzas ranging from $15 to $21. It’s casual and always busy which is a sign of regularly good food – not to mention, designed by Stefano Manfredi who I happen to think is a bit of a Food God! Yes I know…. Another Italian. You can never love too many of them! It’s an addiction I am happy to admit to!

After a hard day of meetings or gambling (or both), the rooftop pool and spa are a great place to relax and take in the city skyline. But your balcony is just as good. When the sun goes down over the Harbour and the city lights come on, you can sit there and just take it all in. Get your lover to run you a tub, and enjoy a glass of wine in the massive bathroom while he orders you some room service. Everything is good and it arrives quick and hot and most dishes are no more than $30 including surcharges.

But my favourite thing about ‘The Star’ is the Lyric Theatre. I love a musical and KAM always buys me the best seats available. Sitting in the front row of Les Miserables was incredible! Not to mention being invited to dance on the stage during the finale of Strictly Ballroom! Epic core memory!! Being able to get ready upstairs and casually head to the theatre without having to worry about traffic or parking, is a luxury worth every penny. I am hard-pressed to think of a nicer experience.

‘The Star’ might be a bit retro, but it’s definitely our ‘go to place’ when having to travel to the city for work. Don’t get me wrong, there are other places that we love in the city too. But this place just feels right. The service is quick and efficient and always with a smile. The location is central and quiet. The view from the rooms is beautiful and you’re not stuck in a tiny space with no room to do much else other than sleep. You can’t really ask for much more.

Don’t take my word for it though – try it. ‘The Star’ continues to shine brightly amidst an ever changing landscape and I think it will take me a lot to switch to the other side of the Harbour. Good luck Mr. Packer, the Duchess is standing firm for now.

The Star and Astral Towers
https://www.star.com.au/sydney-hotels-and-spa/astral-tower
80 Pyrmont Street,
Pyrmont NSW 2009
P: 1800 700 700

Create the perfect itinerary

Create the perfect itinerary

Whenever we travel for more than 2 or 3 days at a time, we always create an Itinerary. This idea came about mostly because our trips (especially road trips) can often include more than 3 different locations, over more than a week, and sometimes spanning most of the State.

Our Itineraries have since evolved into something of a legend and now include everything from travel timeframes, accommodation, pit-stops and of course, food and wine – essential for any luxury travel!

So, here are some sure-fire tips to help you create your own legendary itineraries. It’s also a great keep-sake. We keep all of ours in a big box with postcards, tickets, concert lanyards, restaurant business cards, and any other special mementoes we may have picked up on our travels, to help remind us of all the fabulous things we have experienced.

Start with the basics
Where are you going? How long will it take to get there? How many stops do you need to make along the way? Use websites such as www.whereis.com to help you map your journey in advance and local tourist information sites to give you prior knowledge of a good pub or café you may be able to use as a pit-stop.

Where to lay your head
This is important! Travelling is tiresome, so make sure  you have somewhere nice at the end of a long journey to rest and recoup before starting the next leg. A place with a spa is always a good idea (and a necessity for KAM) as your body can be stiff and sore after driving all day or sitting on a long flight.

Do your research
When trying to decide on what to do, where to eat or a place to have a nice glass of wine, there is nothing better than a good testimonial. www.tripadvisor.com is my go-to-guide for everything, before deciding on anything. Good reviews are the best way to establish whether it is worthy of your itinerary or not. We have pretty high standards so only the best of reviews will confirm a spot on the list.

Call Ahead 
Quite often, you could be going to a place that a lot of other people are visiting at the same time. The vineyards during concert season is a prime example of this and you need to book any restaurant at least a month in advance. If you secure all your bookings and reservations before you leave, you will know exactly what to pack for where you are going and wont have to ring around or wait in line for a table. Trust me – this will be a big help!

Surprise! Surprise!
A trip is a great way to surprise a loved one. Think about the things they like to do and research something suitable in the local area. It can be as simple as arranging a favourite bottle of wine to be available upon arrival at the hotel or as lavish as a sunset sailing cruise. We aim to surprise each other each time we travel and it always adds an extra sparkle to the excitement of the trip.

Get lost!
Always having a GPS device on hand is important (and has saved us a number of times from very lonely dirt tracks!) However, talking to each other is just as valuable. Schedule a time within your itinerary to be free from devices. Leave phones and tablets at the hotel and take a walk on the beach or share a bottle of wine in a deep leather couch at a dimly lit bar. ‘Screen-time Free-Time’ should always be considered in any itinerary.

This is a guaranteed guide to a successful itinerary and if you consider these points when designing it, I promise you will have an amazing trip and create memories, like ours, that will last a lifetime. We would love to hear about some of your Itineraries. Please leave a comment on the Post or send us an email at t.duchess@hotmail.com

Blue Water Sailing, Corlette NSW

Blue Water Sailing, Corlette NSW

Sailing Super Styling!

What is the best way to surprise a loved one on their birthday? Go Booyah all the way of course! And what better way to do Booyah than chartering your own private yacht from Blue Water Sailing, who do Booyah just right.

Aptly named ‘Champagne on Ice’, this beautiful yacht greets you from one of the most expensive Marina’s in Australia. Everything about this company exudes luxury and they simply cannot do enough for you.

When I called to organise this for KAM and explained that it was a Birthday surprise, Rhonda from Blue Water Sailing was more than happy to assist, including finding a very rare and expensive bottle of wine for the sail (KAM’s all time favourite!). You should have seen his face when it was brought up from below, chilled and presented like the Sword of Excalibur. He couldn’t have smiled any larger!

From the moment you board this amazing yacht for a sunset cruise around stunning Port Stephens, you are treated like royalty. The two crewmen are friendly and highly knowledgeable, which is helpful when you are sailing in some pretty high winds. They expertly navigate the yacht into a quiet bay, only accessible by boat and as the sun goes does we dine on large fresh prawns, a cheese platter and a cold bottle of Tyrrell’s VAT 1.

This is silver service without the pretence and there are linen tablecloths, proper cutlery, fine wine glasses and no paper plates in sight. Nothing is rushed, and time seems to stand still as you enjoy the romance of this experience.

Finally though, its time to head back. They ask KAM if he would like to man the wheel for a while and do a little real sailing on our way home. The boys teach him the ropes and he’s off, head first into the wind, pulling 20 knots like a pro! This yacht glides through the water like an elegant dolphin, riding the waves comfortably, making you feel alive and exhilarated.

Just as night falls we reach our destination back at the Marina and I know we will sleep well tonight. I’m sad the experience is over and I ask KAM if he enjoyed his Birthday surprise. He gives me the best answer ever… “Lets go and celebrate with a champagne on ice!”.

Thank you Blue Water Sailing for making a memory that will last a lifetime and one which we hope to repeat sometime soon!

Blue Water Sailing
Marina D, The Anchorage Marina
Corlette NSW
P: 0448111331
http://www.bluewatersailing.com.au/#!Home

5 Good Bubbly’s for $15

5 Good Bubbly’s for $15

A Bubbly Sunday Experiment

I am not sure whether living on the same block as a bottle shop is a godsend or a problem. Either way, it makes a bad day a bit easier when you simply have to walk next door to make yourself feel better – albeit until tomorrow. Whilst we are lovers of fine wine, there is always those days when you just need a good drop of bubbly to put a little fizz back into your day.

So purely in the name of research, we toddled off next door and brought them out of bubbly, in order to give you the best 5 Bubbly’s for under $15. Paired with a nice Mezze plate, we sat on the balcony in the sun, enjoying a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, the hard work just simply has to be done!

At $15 or less, all 5 of these lovely wines, will definitely cheer you up after a bad day at the office or make a Sunday afternoon with friends a bit of an occasion. Don’t get me wrong… I love the finer things in life! But sometimes the finer things don’t have to cost the earth. Let me prove it to you!

And while we did rate these bubbles from 1 to 5 (number 1 being our favourite of course!), do understand that there was half a point between each, so not a big difference in the love-factor overall.

Coming in at Number 5 is the Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2015. This beautiful and quite serious drop from a very affordable vineyard is a great “bad day wine”. It’s boldness lets you sink into it and relax after a hard day and would be great paired with some hot and spicy Thai food! This is a great Hump Day drop when you can’t be bothered to cook and get take-out and watch The Bachelor, laughing at all the silly girls!

Number 4 on our list is one of our all-time favourites! Henkell Trocken Sparkling Wine can be found in our fridge on any given day of the week and the lady at our local bottle shop even quietly lets us know when it’s going in special so we can buy up in bulk! Henkell is a zesty, fun, lively bubbly with an everlasting citrus flavour that is just too easy to drink! Really… A bloody nice wine!!!

Our Number 3 is one of the prettiest wines I have ever seen. The Yellowglen Vintage 2015 Bella Pink Moscato is decorated with beautiful packaging and makes it perfect for drinks with the girls on a Friday afternoon. This lovely wine is like a super-sweet nectar that tickles the end of your nose as you sip and is good old plain fun! If I have a night at home alone, you will find me on the couch with a bottle of Yellowglen Pink Moscato and a big bowl of vanilla ice cream with caramel topping. Paired with a great girly movie and Mr. George Clooney, it feels like a naughty night in. But don’t tell KAM!

Number 2 was a bit of a surprise package! Living with an Italian, I have enjoyed my fair-share of Prosecco’s, but the Porta Dante Prosecco in my opinion is one of the best (and one of the most inexpensive). This lovely wine is smooth, sophisticated, and gentle – just like a good Italian should be! I could easily sip a Sunday away with a bottle of this lovely bubbly with KAM. Although I do wonder…. Are two Italians too much to handle at the same time?!

And finally our favourite! As we were conducting this experiment we tried not to taint the results, however with a bottle of Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon in the mix, it was hard not to be bias. The Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon is pure sunshine in a glass and makes all your bad days disappear like the fizz that escapes from the bottle as you open it. This beautiful bubbly is summer at its best and showcases the Hunter Valley Semillon’s with class, style and grace. Happy songs start to play in my head as I sip a glass of this spectacular wine and I remember all of the beautiful meals KAM and I have shared with a bottle of Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon on the side. This wine is simply the best money can buy at around $15 and in my opinion is worth much more – but don’t tell Bimbadgen I said that or they might up the price!

So there you have it! This list proves that for under $15 you can enjoy a little luxury at any time of the week without breaking the budget! But don’t take our word for it… Try them for yourselves. After all, life would be boring without a little experimentation, right?!

Bells at Killcare

Bells at Killcare

All the Bells ring!

Every girl dreams of the ultimate proposal. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or whether you have been married before. When you know you have met Mr. Right, the thought of the perfect proposal is always in the foreground of your mind. Talk of marriage has been bantered around for a while and you have an inkling that he has purchased ‘the ring’. You don’t care how he asks you or where it is, just as long as it is romantic and as perfect in real-life as it is in your mind. Enter… the beautiful Bells at Killcare.

Turning down the drive, you literally have no idea what you are in for. You really have reached Heaven on Earth. A place that meets all of your desires and bathes you in the lap of luxury every single moment you are within this hidden paradise.

The gardens at Bells are lush and beautifully manicured and the soft sound of running water is constant from the number of fountains and miniature rivers dotted around the property. The buildings are all designed in East Coast Hamptons style and the main house, which includes Manfredi’s restaurant, is the height of elegance.

We recently organised a two night stay in one of their two story spa cottages. Really, for no reason at all – we didn’t really feel like we needed an excuse to return to Bells. Neither of us can say we have enjoyed a hotel stay more than this and for 3 days bathed ourselves in the simple luxury that ‘Bells’ seem to do with ease – as if its second nature.

Each of the staff are highly trained and perfectly professional in every aspect of their role. You can tell that Bells expects a certain standard from them and they seem happy to oblige, always aiming to please. Welcomed by each and every one of them you feel like you are being invited into a big family home with beautiful amenities, a Chef Hat Restaurant, and possibly the best wine room I have ever seen. KAM found me a number of times just standing at the glass staring at all the beautiful wines I wanted to experience while there.

The weekend of our stay, the weather is cold with sleeting rain a constant on the landscape. This suited us perfectly as the cabin has a big slow-combustion fireplace which KAM gets cranking. Each of the cabins here are like a secret hideaway, completely hidden from other guests by careful placement and well-designed gardens. The cabin is roomy but homely and there is a beautiful large bed gracing the top floor, draped in expensive linens and big soft pillows. My favourite spot is on the covered balcony watching the rain and enjoying a glass of wine with the most beautiful man I have ever known, sure that this moment will be one we will treasure forever.

The bathroom has a big corner spa which I recommend enjoying with a glass of bubbly. I did and enjoyed getting myself ready for dinner in such a luxurious space. Just as I am ready for dinner though, I exit the bathroom to find the lights off in our cabin and the whole space lit with soft candlelight. There is music playing – Lior, This Old Love and I wonder why KAM is pacing back and forth with his back to me.

The moment he turns to face me, there is a knowing in my heart and as he begins to say the most beautiful words I have ever heard him speak, he gets down on one knee and says “Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Of course I say yes (a thousand times over and over again) and he reaches for a beautiful Gregory’s box on the coffee table. Its only then do I see it for the first time and the two glasses of champagne strategically placed next to it! I wonder how I never saw it when I first came out of the bathroom!?

After enjoying the moment, I realize we are now running very late for dinner. It’s the only problem with Bells. Time seems to slow to a point of almost standing still. There is magic in the air as we walk across the lawn towards Manfredi’s and although this is my favourite restaurant of all time, KAM and the excitement has haltered my hunger for a while. I am sure once I see the menu though, my appetite will come roaring back! Nothing a beautiful bottle of wine won’t fix, I’m sure!

The team have taken care of everything and have arranged for us to have the verandah to ourselves. Seated at a big table with comfy cushions and blankets, we gaze out over the garden and reflect on the moment just passed.

But from here on in is a whole other story, for another time. Bells and Manfredi’s are each two amazing experiences in their own right and deserve their own chapters. So you will just have to wait for the next installment in this amazing property.

In the meantime, thanks to all at Bells with all of our hearts. This remains one of our favourite stories to tell and one which we can’t wait to experience again. We were made to feel ever so special and the memories we made that weekend, we will treasure forever.

But please don’t take our word for it – pick a weekend to write your own story of love, enchantment, and luxury. Who knows…. There may just be a proposal on the horizon for you as well?

Bells at Killcare
107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights
P: 02 4349 7000
info@bellsatkillcare.com.au
http://www.bellsatkillcare.com.au/

Pelican Feeding, The Entrance NSW

Pelican Feeding, The Entrance NSW

Fish, Friends and a Mighty Good Time!

On any given day of the week at precisely 3.30pm, the Pelican Feeding occurs at The Entrance waterfront on the NSW Central Coast. No matter the weather – (yes it is done in torrential blinding rain), or if its Christmas Day, the wonderful Marine Rescue volunteers give their time to do an amazing show for the public.

You might think the show is purely for entertainment purposes – and why wouldn’t you!? Its an great show! But actually its more so Marine Rescue can check on the pelicans, see if they have any injuries, check for new babies or track regulars that haven’t been returning for quite some time. Marine Rescue is not just about rescuing people. You will quite often see them have to catch a pelican throughout the show that has fishing line caught around its beak or legs and remove it. The pelican would more than likely die without the help of these volunteers, so credit where credit’s due.

I have read on-line some good and bad feedback about the daily pelican feed and have realised that you either love it or you hate it. Yes it can get a bit crazy – you are dealing with wild animals who do what they want. Yes it stinks of fish and there’s a good chance you might get a spatter of fish guts on you. And no, it’s not glamorous, so don’t bring your Fendi or Louis Vuitton along!

What it is though, is an amazing display of sometimes up to 100 beautiful birds that you get the chance to get up close and personal with and learn a little along the way. There aren’t too many places you get an opportunity like this. These incredible specimens can fly for up to 24 hours without a break and have followed me up and down the East Coast of Australia. They have become somewhat of a mascot for KAM and I when we travel, flying high above, like angels, ensuring we arrive at our destination safely.

And this is why most Saturday afternoons you will find me at ‘The Feed’, smiling my face off, stinking of fish and loving every minute. The pelicans are large, graceful animals who I consider my friends. I, like the other volunteers, love the pelicans and work hard to look out for them and protect them.

So next time you have a spare Saturday afternoon come and check out the show and say hello to me and my friends. You may love the show – you might not. But hopefully you will come away having had an out-of-the-ordinary experience and a lot of respect for those who devote their time to looking after one of the water’s greatest wonders.

The Entrance Pelican Feed
3.30pm Daily
Memorial Park
Off Marine Parade
The Entrance NSW
http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/central-coast/wyong-area/the-entrance/attractions/pelican-feeding