Bali – Ubud

I love making lists and one of my lists that has been going for quite some time is my travel bucket list. Trust me there is plenty on there and i have some way to go before I finish it, in fact it just keeps getting longer. One place that has been on there for quite some time is Indonesia, Bali & The Gili Islands in particular.

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Tired and stressed from work I decided now was the time. In the same time and money in takes to go from Gatwick to Grenada I was in tropical Bali.

I was met in the airport by my wonderful driver, Made, we became good friends by the end of the few days we had together. Behind a small and ornate archway lied my accommodation for my stay in Ubud, Sama’s Cottages. A complete juxtaposition to the streets outside it was a perfectly quiet and tranquil place to relax. My morning ritual became yoga at the Yoga Barn followed by a lovely breakfast and Balinese coffee back on my veranda.

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During my stay I made the most of the pool and on the last morning had an amazing private massage in the middle of the rainforest to the sound of birds. I have only been away for a couple of days and array feel like I’ve been away for months.

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Ubud is simply amazing. Like every tourist today I visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, it was like walking straight into King Louie’s kingdom in The Jungle Book where mischievous monkeys rule a maze of overgrown temples and mossy statues.

Away from the shade of the trees I made my away through Ubud’s sizzling heat and mass of culture. Every street corner holds another temple or religious statue.
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Bali is an incredibly spiritual place, although predominantly Hindu there is space for all beliefs and spirituality. Ganesh sits in every entranceway ready to greet you and the Balinese themselves are some of the kindest people I am yet to meet and knowing their belief in the power of good karma you always feel incredibly safe.
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To get away from the hustle and bustle, this afternoon I wandered around the rice paddies that surround Ubud and took a much needed dip in the pool at the Viceroy, usually only available to customers I was allowed a free pass from a friend.
Unfortunately on this trip I ran out of time to visit the eco-village ‘Green Village
I was so eager to see. It is a 100% sustainable village made entirely from bamboo, encompassing 18 houses and even a ‘green school’.  Next time! You can check out its coolness in the Ted Talk
To finish off what has been an incredible few days in Ubud I am treating myself tonight to a degustation at Locavore. I’ll let you know how I get on.
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Pumpkin and Kale Salad

As you’ll know about me I do love a good food prep. This salad makes the perfect accompaniment to your protein of choice for a week’s worth of lunches. This will makes 5 servings, you will need:

  • 250g spinach
  • 7 stalks of curly kale
  • 1tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 handfuls walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 200g roasted pumpkin, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 125g feta cheese
  • 75g sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds, black or white
  • salt and pepper to season

Firstly cook you buckwheat according to packet instruction and leave to cool.

Then it really is as easy de-veining your kale and roughly chopping it and then mixing it with all the other ingredients in a bowl and voila! There you have it; 5 lunches or one big salad centrepiece.

I would recommend serving it with a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing and if you are having it for lunches make sure you only dress it when you are ready to serve – no one likes soggy kale!

Eat Drink Blog 2015: Local Produce, SEO, Photography, Blogging Tips Galore and a Whole Lotta Canberra

This weekend 80 of Australia’s most hungry bloggers descended on Canberra for three fun filled days of workshops, wine tastings, alcoholic popsicle licking, gastronomy gazing and lots and lots of…learning! Warning, this is a bumper blog and may spark creativity juices you’ve forgotten you had!

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The first day of Eat Drink Blog was action packed. We were taken first thing to the Capital Region Farmers Market where we watched a cooking demonstration and were able to wander round and see all the local produce on offer. If there is one thing Canberra is passionate about it’s Canberra and this is evident as the stallholders live and breath their products. As you’ll know I love flowers and just had too pick up some of these poppies…

They are one of my favourites because they always remind me of my Nanny.

We transferred to Nishi Gallery where we were spoilt with knowledge from a few speakers throughout the day. Firstly we heard from Matthew Evans who took us through his long road to success, from “refreshing oysters’ (yuck!) to living on his own ‘Fat Pig Farm’. I loved what he had to say about organic and local produce and buying food when it is truly ripe and in season. It is so important to support your local growers, whereever you are in the world.

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Silkworm artwork on display at the gallery, that I desperately want

 

Matthew also believes that the best food in the world may not be served in restaurants but right in our own homes. Watch this space as i’ll be visiting his upcoming farm to table project opening in Tassy next year.

Next up Wendy Johnson gave us some fearless advice about being a great restaurant critic. She advised us to not always be nice because you feel you have too; stay honest to your own opinion and dont be afraid to share it – even if it does get you sued a couple of times!

We then heard from Todd Wright, Director of Threesides Marketing who gave us a some incredible quick-fire pieces of advise on SEO for bloggers and social media. My brain is whirring with Google Anayltics, Keywords, Alt tags, widgets and the like!

After a morning of the technical and writing skills we moved onto learning about the design aspect of creativity where we learnt from Tess Godkin and Alice Lau.

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Tess’ presentation left me itching to know more about photography. An amazingly talented photographer, Tess was able to assemble a pumpkin salad and take some stunning pictures in under ten minutes. We learnt the importance of natural light and picture composition. I havent stopped photographing things, anything, since! Needless to say… I need to keep practising.

Alice Lau also showed us some really cool tricks with video blogging and shared her experience with different apps and how to get the best looking videography. It was awesome to see the quality of video blogging from using just a smartphone.

I went back to my gorgeous hotel room at the QT Canberra, which you can read all about here, and got ready for dinner at A.Baker. Again I share my experience of this cool, recently renovated restaurant, home to dishes made entirely of local produce here.

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The next day we all emerged slightly dusty after a few too many drinks at Lucky’s Speakeasy. A gorgeous breakfast spread featuring local food and drink from The Brathaus, Canberra Milk, The Fix Cold Pressed Juices, The Muesli Bar, A.Baker and Six8 Cofee Roasters.

One of the Eat Drink Blog 2015 organising committee was next up. The gorgeous Amanda Whitley of HerCanberra was on a panel with The Merrymaker Sisters and Liz Posmyk to discuss whether or not they think full time blogging is the holy grail. I found this really motivating.

Now it was time to hear from the author of the hugely successful blog Smaggle, Carly Jacobs. A girl after my own heart she is a self confessed organisational and list writing addict! One of her top tips was “Own it and don’t apologise for being a weirdo”! She really helped me refocus on my blog with her insight into how to build a blog when you are too damn busy, something I can definitely relate too.

The morning was over in a flash and it was time to depart for lunch. I enjoyed an absolutely stunning lakeside dining experience and cooking demonstration at The Boat House By The Lake .

Overall a fantastic weekend with a lot of tips, tricks and new foodie blogging friends to take away.

McLaren Vale, Adelaide

I haver been incredibly fortunate during my time in Australia to work with some of the coolest people I have ever met, and Anna is no exception. My only qualm is that she lives so far away, in Adelaide. However, that gives me the perfect excuse to go down for a visit.

There’s nothing that Anna and like to do better than to drink wine so McLaren Vale seemed like the perfect choice.

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First Anna showed me the sights of Adelaide and I was surprised by how cool and quirky the city is. The food market was my favourite place by far, filled with wine, meats and cheese and why i love it so much is admirably everything is local.

I could quite happily shop here every weekend but I’m afraid i wouldn’t get very far from this stand in particular.

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With a rather impressive picnic bought and packed it was time to meet my other cool Adelaidean (yes that’s a word, I Googled it!) colleague, Simon who we roped in as desi. He also knows a immense amount about wine so doubled as impressive our guide. Funny how some things just fall into place, isn’t it.

With endless laughs supplied by Anna, endless factoids coming from Simon and the weather really turning it on for us we headed for the hills.

Over the course of the day we hit a total of three wineries, just enough.This was my favourite, set on the top of a hill set in a garden of English flowers, I could have stayed for a week. Look how pretty…

We stopped for a picnic in the gardens of Samuel’s Gorge, with a rather lovely Tempranillo that Simon expertly picked.

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We rounded the afternoon off nicely quenching our thirst with a refreshing gin and tonic, just what was needed after all those tannins.

Afternoon turned into evening as I sampled Adelaide’s great nightlife. We were fortunate enough to head to an awesome, nautical themed, bar called Hains & Co on ‘World Pirate Day’. I will save you from the photos but trust me it was a night full of rum, dancing and “ee argh mateys”, definitely one to be remembered.

Smooth Festival of Chocolate, Sydney

The weather said anything but chocolate today. Spring has finally sprung upon Sydney with 26 degree heat, and how did we celebrate? With the Smooth Festival of Chocolate of course.

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Hundreds of people descended on Circular Quay eager for the taste of the new and exciting chocolate creations from the city’s chocolatiers.

Anna Polyviou, Sydney’s very own Willy Wonka, teamed up with N2 (most famously known for their nitrogen made ‘extreme’ gelato) for experimental and molecular creations, so daring the staff were required to take precautions when serving…

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Serendipity really turned up this weekend serving some seriously impressive milkshakes topped with ice cream cups.

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I don’t think I had it in me to battle the crowds to even getting close to The Vogue Cafe stand. This in turn allowed me time to peruse stands of never heard of. Just like Kim Sutherland’s Poetry. Entirely hand made and self-packaged Kim’s choc fudge was dangerously addictive.

Now me personally, I am a purist and a fan of dark chocolate. I tried my first taste of 85% fair trade chocolate from Bolivia. Packaged in easily bio-degradable paper, Origin and Zokoko were real delights.

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ChocoLAB showed off some cool new flavours created by their customers. I definitely recommend the s’mores flavour. All made with natural ingredients.

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Of course there were mountains of cronuts, macarons, chocolate covered strawberries and multi-flavoured scrolls as far as the eye could see…

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Before leaving, not feeling quite full enough, I headed over the Temptation Tent. True to its name this naughty little palace of indulgence was sponsored by Tim Tam. They offered the hoards the chance to sample their new flavours. Peanut butter, double dark, dark choc and raspberry, red velvet, coconut cream and salted caramel are just some of the amaze-balls flavours coming in the near future.

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Bakedown Cakery were my absolute highlight of the day and I was immediately struck with bakenvy. Jen was there to show off some of her awe-inspiring cake designs to illustrate her take on Tim Tam’s new flavours.

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That’s enough indulgence for one weekend, I’ll be booking my diabetes check as soon as I get into the office!

Merrijig Kitchen, Port Fairy

On the second night of my friend Jess and I’s adventure along the Great Ocean Road, we stayed in the sweet and quaint little port town of Port Fairy.

After some research we decided to go to Merrijig Kitchen for some supper. We arrived in from the cold and were seated right in front of the fire to warm up. We were welcomed by a lovely lady named  Hannah and offered a glass of rainwater to start…”did she just say what I think she said”? From that moment on a knew this would be an extremely interesting place.

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We started off with an extremely drinkable bottle of the NV Marechal ‘Methode Traditional Brut’ Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, France while we perused the menu. Hannah explained to us that there are no specials, the whole menu is created daily from in season, local produce depending on availability.

We started off with a couple of Cowell Bay oysters, which were presented on a bed of baby shells. It was very cute dish. This was accompanied by a Portland steak tartare, horseradish and beetroot carpaccio.

Making my choice for main was a hard one. I decided to have a faro risotto with wild mushroom, smoked ham and home-made ricotta.

Jess and I followed this with Merrijig’s version of the prohibition; a chocolate mousse, salted caramel and Bourbon cream, serviced in a china teacup.

Hannah then explained that Merrijig had been on their  own ‘Tour de fromage de Francais’ and recommended the Graindorge Livarot from Basse-Normandy, France.

Feeling the effects of the sparkling wine and the fire we topped off the evening with a glass each of the Inkwell ‘Black and Blue’ Fortified Zinfandel from McLaren Vale SA.

I definitely recommend Merrijig to anyone visiting Port Fairy. This meals definitely topped off a wonderful day full of adventure.

Great Ocean Road Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Fairy

We woke on day two to glorious sunshine with strong winds. The waves were similar to those I had seen on a holiday in California as a teenager, at least 10 feet high barrels crashing onto the beach. We continued along the GOR.

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The drive out of Apollo Bay gave us some of the most stunning view I have ever seen.

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Before long we had made our way into the Otway National Park. The most amazing and diverse place. One minute we would be driving through lush, dense rainforest and then would find ourselves in the middle of farmland surrounding by cows. Then a wood of Eucalyptus trees, which to our amazements housed lots of lots of wild koalas.

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Fat and fuzzy grey teddy bears all asleep in their trees. The wind was blowing so hard it was a wonder they didn’t fall out.

DSC01226We jumped out of the car and the gorgeous smell of eucalyptus in the warm air hit us.

Shortly after getting back in the car we drive through another scenery change, the trees had all lost their leaves and remained like eery tree skeletons as far as the eye could see. Cow weaved in an out of their trunks out onto the road in front of us. We finally reached the Cape Otway Lighthouse, “Australia’s most significant lighthouse”, at the end of the road.

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We were very lucky with the weather. We managed to walk around and up the stairs of the lighthouse for a look around. Amazed by the wonderful view. Two seconds later as we were making our way down the lighthouse, as if someone had turned on a tap the wind had bought the storm in. We found refuge in the lighthouse  café and warmed up our bodies with a lovely vegetable soup.


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When the rain passed we continued on our journey to the Twelve Apostles. The rain still pouring we put on a brave face and faced the elements. When I say it was windy, you couldn’t imagine it. It was a death by poncho situation!

The apostles however were truly spectacular, one of those sights you will remember forever.

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Further along the road more rock formations, such as The Razorback, Island Arch and London Bridge, attract more visitors. By now the rain had dropped but the wind remained causing a moody and dramatic sea with waves cliff top high. The drama of the choppy sea, the waves crashing and the wind howling is something I will never forget.


    We arrived an hour later to our second stopover in Port Fairy in a lovely little house called Hanley House.

 We freshened up and took ourselves out for some supper. To our delight, we found the Merrijig Inn, an inconspicuous little pub on the corner with an adventurous menu.

 We giggled our way through a bottle of sparkling by the fire, tucking into some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. You can read all about the wonderful five course meal we had here. Finished off with a dessert wine and a Harry Potter quiz (Jess and I are somewhat fans!).

Having arrived just before sun down we hardly got to see any of the traditional port town that is supposed to be so quaint and lovely. Hopefully tomorrow