Tag: KAM

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 long road in DJ mode!

The long road in DJ mode!

Following on from the 10 commandments of a Co-Pilot, in this story I will be focussing on a very important aspect of any road trip – ‘Music’. Whenever The Duchess takes the wheel, a friend of mine, DJ Mezzanine kicks into gear to keep us going with songs for the long road ahead. So in true road trip style, may I introduce DJ Mezzanine, who will be keep you entertained and give you a great list of tunes (and a little bit of crazy!) to help pass the time on the endless roads that lay ahead.

DJ Mezzanine’s Top 10 Driving Songs

 Hey Hey Everybody how are y’all doing out there? This is DJ Mezzanine taking you to the next level in dance, music and a whole lotta thumping sounds to get you grooving in the car. I’ve been asked to dissect and rate the very best top ten driving songs to sing with your driving partner and ensure high energy and smooth sailing in the vehicle.

 1. This band is a favourite of this DJ and I’ve been lucky enough to see them live 4 times, they have many songs that I could’ve picked for this list however their first and best will get you jumping and pumping to start the drive. “Hello” – Cat Empire 

2. Ok OK, now we are rocking it out, I like to slip in an oldie but one that always demands people on the dance floor. “Bust a Move” – Tone Loc

3. Keeping the beat high and going to the next level we slip on some music that will please the harsher of critics. I’m actually going to double this one up, two pronged, take your choice, both songs get this DJ blasting out the sounds. New York” or “Girl on Fire” – Aleisha Keys

4. Time now to spin the wheel and bring in some recent music, if you not singing yet this one will grab your tongue and lead you to the dance floor. “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5

5. We are now riding into the middle of the song list and I’m starting to sweat this up, a perfect time to slip in a cheeky song we all know and love with a bit of spice. “Let’s Talk about Sex” – Salt n Pepper

6. I need to take a breather after that one, oh yeah! Time to rest up as we move higher up to the second level, this song will help take the edge off. “Some Nights” – Fun

7. C’mon everybody we are almost there, stay with me, keep up I’m not leaving anyone behind today……“Brave” – Sara Bareilles

8. We are almost there people, this song brings back the memories and has a great sound that I just can’t keep quiet, and this song needs to be let out…”Thunderstruck” – ACDC

9. DJ Mezzanine is almost peaking and at these times I need inspiration, something to strive and reach out for, this song will bring the motivation we all need. “Fight Song” – Rachel Platten

10. We made it!!!! We are here; the final song is in the room. We are all on the second level for the absolute BEST driving song in the world. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen 

Thank you everybody for keeping on this journey with me, I want to share as a parting gift a couple of bench warmers who will serve a purpose if required. While driving things happen that can bring on the need for a particular song to help us along the way. When you need a good angry pump up song to shake off the demons : “Bad Habit” – Offspring

When you’re all fluffy and everything is right with the world, as you look out the windows of the car and see only marshmallows, this song is a treat. “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd 

DJ Mezzanine signing off… see ya next time you’re ready to raise it to the next level baby!!!

Disney On Ice

Disney On Ice

Booyah in a Big Way!

Now I know what you are thinking.. Aren’t I little old for Disney?! Truth is that you are never too old for Disney!

You might think Disney and Booyah don’t go together – but I can’t actually think of anything more Booyah than front row seats to a bunch of my favourite characters skating and singing their way around an ice rink.

I am one if those people that when a new Disney movie is released, I am lining up at the movies with thousands of kids to see the first session available, and I have no problem sitting at the back, crying my eyes out to a happy ending.

So when I heard that Disney on Ice was coming to Newcastle, I convinced KAM that we simply had to go. I love the classics – give me the little mermaid any day of the week and I’m a happy girl. Who wouldn’t be?! It’s a happy film full of singing crabs and seagulls and a love story that rivals any Oscar winning performance. And this years Disney on ice just happened to feature the little mermaid, beauty and the beast and of course, Frozen. Let it go, okay?

KAM having never experienced a live Disney production was a little apprehensive when I told him I had purchased VIP front row seats. But knowing that the only way we do things is VIP, and seeing how excited I was ( I really was like a 5 year old on Xmas morning), he just smiled and said “ok, what do I wear?” I do love him!

Newcastle I think does it a little differently to Sydney whereby I believe the rink itself is a little smaller. However this does nothing to deter the masses and for us it just meant sitting that bit closer to Mickey, Minnie and all of their friends and experiencing the cold first-hand, especially when real snow starting falling from the sky and blanketing us all in a winter Frozen wonderland.

The show itself goes for 2 hours with a 15 minute interval and each set is broken up into small 20 minute snippets of the highlights from 4 different Disney favourites. Ariel at one point rises to the sky from a rope (with no safety harness) and completes a beautiful routine to rival her name. When the ice melts for good during Frozen the stage is filled with around 50 singing, dancing and skating birds, bees and flowers! It is an information overload that you just can’t help but smile at and clap along with the spectacular!

I know you might think this is a little naff. But please give it a chance. Disney on ice puts a smile on your face from ear and ear and takes you back to a time in your life when everything was just simple, honest fun. Forget your day and leave your worries at the door. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and all of their friends will make you realise that life doesn’t have to be so complicated all the time. Well… At least for a couple of hours anyway!

Thank you Disney for reminding me about the simple pleasures in life. Love and music equal happiness. If only life were that simple all the time xo

The Sebel, Hawkesbury Valley

The Sebel, Hawkesbury Valley

Stop-over in style at the Sebel

There are some places where luxury is in abundance. Hotel after hotel offering luxury inclusions and top of the line service. I have to travel to the Hawkesbury region of southern Sydney quite a bit, and when I do, there is only one place I choose to stay. I mean, if you have to work, you may as well lay your head somewhere nice at the end of a long day, right?

Heading out through town towards the air force base, the Sebel Hawkesbury Resort and Spa appears like a mirage in the middle of a desert. The country Manor House styling of this hotel and its beautiful grounds are inviting from the moment you enter the gate. The lobby is grand and the staff welcomes you back like a member of the family.

After checking in and before heading to our room, we usually head straight to the bar. Set with big booths and deep leather couches, it is the perfect place to unpack your day, before unpacking your luggage. If you are up to it, the snooker room is a great place to challenge a loved one. If you are going to do this though, have a Shivers and take your time. The space is perfect for a slow afternoon wind-down after a long day. And KAM is a good snooker player, so I need something to soften the blow!

There are a number of room types in this lovely hotel, but we only ever chose to stay in the Balcony Suite. Priced at around $ 300 per night, this room is full of heritage country charm with the separate living room having big comfy lounges to meld into while staring at the blazing fireplace (which you will need in winter as it gets very bloody cold here!). The living room also has a tiny hideaway balcony where you can sit with a morning coffee and watch the mist rising from the mountains beyond.

While you are here, if you are lucky enough to catch some of the training exercises being performed from the air force base, it is a sight to take in. Every now and again, the massive planes roar low over the hotel and hundreds of tiny parachuters jump from the rear hatch. It is awe-inspiring! I’m like a kid every time they fly over and I can’t help myself but to wave in excitement.

The bedrooms here are full of dark antique furniture and you really feel as if you have stepped back in time. There are lots of blankets piled high to keep you warm and the large European duck-down pillows are the softest anywhere. I look forward to this luxury every time I stay! You can snuggle up in bed on a cold night with a glass of something nice, watching television, forgetting all about the world beyond for a while.

In the morning, we suggest going down for their big buffet breakfast in the Atrium. This is the prettiest of spaces with floor to ceiling windows and a romantic courtyard off to the side. If you are warm enough, sit outside under the big umbrellas and take your time. The eggs are piping hot, the bacon is crispy and it all pairs very wel

The beautiful Atrium & Courtyard at Sebel Hawkesbury Valley
The beautiful Atrium & Courtyard at Sebel Hawkesbury Valley

l with a glass of bubbly – if you don’t have to go to work, that is!


Whilst the Sebel might just be a stop-over, who says you can’t do a stop-over in style? And the Sebel has style and charm in abundance. It might cost a little more than the company credit card will allow, but it’s worth the splurge. You can’t live to work, so you may as well work to LIVE.

Sebel Hawkesbury Resort and Spa
61 Hawkesbury Valley Way
Windsor NSW 2756
[email protected]

10 Commandments of a Co-Pilot…

10 Commandments of a Co-Pilot…

The success of any road trip relies heavily on the co-pilot being aware, prepared and open to dealing with anything at any time. Relationships have been built or destroyed on the backbone of co-pilot skills during a road trip.

Below I have outlined 10 Commandments the co-pilot must adhere to and be willing to execute to ensure a smooth, safe and happy ending to any road trip. Be warned however, road trips can be stressful, nerve-racking and downright traumatic at times, so waiver from this list at your own peril.

  1. The co-pilot must be stocked with lollies (preferably orange snakes) and/or potato chips to ensure the driver can sustain concentration between pit stops.
  2. Always, and I stress, always have a set of headphones at the ready and untangled in case a unpredicted phone call beckons the driver. You are expected as co-pilot to plug them into the phone and hand them carefully to the driver.
  3. Have a smart phone handy with either the location of the destination on MAPS or information around potential accidents & hazards ahead. The smart phone can also be used for inspiration for conversation – I encourage you to look at American News where American Politics or ‘crimes of passion’ are blamed on a myriad of ridiculous excuses. This can provide hours of discussion.
  4. Any use of the horn by the driver MUST be supported and encouraged, followed by the comment “What was that person doing? Good job Hun”.
  5. Clever and expert overtaking must be applauded by the comment ‘nice job babe’, also dodgy or impatient overtaking can only be commented on by saying Nice job babe”.
  6. If the driver asks “Was that a speed camera we just passed?” the only correct response is “nah, that was one of those average speed cameras honey, it’s all good” with the understanding that if a fine arrives in the mail you will take the hit.
  7. Success of the road trip can rest on the shoulders of good tunes, the co-pilot must be prepared to be DJ during their stint. Some commentary between songs in a DJ voice is desirable however not essential. I suggest a pre-made CD, downloaded songs on an iPad or iPhone to maintain the rhythm of the drive.
  8. It is imperative the co-pilot constantly assesses the wellbeing of the driver. For us, a 2 hour stint behind the wheel is how we share the long drives. After the 2 hour cut-off time check in with the driver either asking for a bathroom break or in general how they are going. If you notice the car driving down a part of the freeway yet to be opened that is an indication a switch in driver is required.
  9. As the co-pilot you are never to reach and hold the bar above your left ear (otherwise known as the Holy **** Bar). At times this may be a knee-jerk reaction which is hard to control. I invite you to refrain and instead type away on your IPad or look like you are searching for something on your phone. Reassurance & confidence will serve you well.
  10. At any point, when a brilliant song comes on the stereo stretch your legs, put them up on the dashboard, close your eyes, and sit back soaking up the moment, the love and the freedom of the road.
10 Commandments of a Co-Pilot
KAM Taking Over

We have done a lot of road trips – in fact the majority of our travels are done on the road, stuck in the car together for hours on end. By following these co-pilot commandments we guarantee you will arrive safely, still in love, and more importantly – working as a team on the road.

Written by KAM for How The Duchess Does It