Weekly photo challenge: Rise/Set

For the last three years we’ve gotten up early on Christmas Day to head to the beach for sunrise. It has become a ritual for us, we load the car up with towels for us and the dog, fill our takeaway cups with fresh coffee and I make sure my camera is ready to go. Leading up to Christmas is always a mad rush of last minute shopping, tying up loose ends at work and preparing for visitors. The beach is relatively peaceful and quiet at sunrise, it is a beautiful and calming way to start the day.

This is my contribution to the weekly photo challenge

Cheers!

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Weekly photo challenge: favourite place

To choose just one favourite place is not an easy task. My favourite place depends on my mood, the weather or what I am looking for in a favourite place at a specific time. For example, my favourite place for dark night skies, peace and quiet and the best sleep ever is my family home in rural New South Wales. If I am feeling sad and craving solitude my favourite place is curled up on the lounge with Bundy, watching old movies or reading a book. For this week’s photo challenge I have decided to go with a favourite travel destination, one I could happily return to again and again even though it is considered by many to be ‘too touristy’. I’m sure that you will recognise it without difficulty.

sun setting in Venice, Italy
An idyllic moment in Venice after the day trippers and cruise ships have left.

For me the pleasure in returning to Venice is watching the sun set over the lagoon, the golden light creates a warm glow that affects all it touches. The thousands of day trippers head back to their hotels and cruise ships, the streets are less chaotic and the soft light of glass lanterns makes everything seem so romantic. During the day I love exploring streets beyond St Mark’s Square, getting lost and finding little gems in which to enjoy an espresso or a bite to eat and a glass of wine.

Ciao! Ciao!

Weekly photo challenge: I’d rather be…

This week’s photo challenge encourages participating bloggers to think about where they would rather be at this moment. For me it is a no-brainer and although there are times when I wish I was in Paris or Venice or the highlands of Scotland, if given the choice I would rather be beside my little mate Bundy.

Travel is grand, a weekend away a delight but I hate leaving Bundy behind and wherever I go I wish I could have him with me. With Bundy I am never alone, even when he is sound asleep and seeing his happy face as he runs across the sand or grass fills my heart with joy.

Fake free range eggs

A new augmented reality app came to my attention recently, CHOICE’s CluckAR. The idea behind CluckAR is to help conscientious consumers find genuine free range eggs because the packaging of some free range eggs is misleading. In Australia egg producers can have 10,000 hens per hectare and still advertise their eggs as being free range. Not only can they have thousands of hens crammed into one hectare, there is no requirement for the hens to spend time outside as per the free range standard signed off by the Australian consumer affairs minister.

I love eggs and so does Hubby. We started buying free range eggs several years ago but I was surprised to read that not all free range eggs are created equal. Call me naive but I trusted those claims of free range on the packaging. Anyway, CluckAR to the rescue! I can now scan the egg carton in the supermarket and if the rating is poor then the carton goes back on the shelf, if the rating is good I take a screenshot for future reference and it is also possible to use the app and pin the location of the store selling genuine free range eggs on a map which can be viewed by other users of the app.

Below are the results from tests on cartons I had at home, I know which ones I won’t be purchasing again.

Manning Valley Free Range Eggs
Manning Valley Free Range Eggs
Sunny Queens Free Range Eggs
Sunny Queen Free Range Eggs, available at Woolworths and Coles
Aldi Free Range Eggs
Aldi Free Range Eggs
McLean's Run Free Range Eggs
McLean’s Run Free Range Eggs, available at Woolworths

 

Weekly photo challenge: Sweet

My take on the theme for this week’s photo challenge has nothing to do with the delicious sweets, cakes and desserts I like to indulge in on occasion. For me there is nothing sweeter than a puppy, I love their tiny pink paws, fat little bellies and the way that they smell. Even though they have a tendency to make a huge mess and draw blood with their sharp little teeth and claws they delight me with their antics and always make me smile.

Weekly photo challenge: Tour Guide

Queensland’s Gold Coast, the choice of holiday destination for many Australian families. Theme parks, beaches and the shopping mall that is Surfers Paradise are usually what they come for however there is another side to the Gold Coast. Away from the roller coasters, the surf shops and beaches overshadowed by high rise buildings visitors will discover a beautiful natural environment set in the Gold Coast hinterland. The hinterland is my favourite place to explore and it is where I often taken family and friends when they visit. As your tour guide for this week’s photo challenge the hinterland is the destination that I want you to experience.

Springbrook National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest and home to spectacular waterfalls, subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest and a variety of wildlife. The Purlingbrook Falls walk is 4km in length, relatively easy on the legs and if you’re keen or wanting to go for a swim you can walk an extra 2km to Warringa Pools. My friend and I did the walk in September, it was a perfect Spring day and we took our time, stopping to admire the beauty of tiny blossoms and to watch a goanna dawdle through the undergrowth. Others use the track for physical training, running up and down the stairs, slipping past us in their fluorescent athletic wear but most appear to do the walk in a more leisurely manner.

Tamborine Mountain is popular with day trippers especially on the weekend, but most tend to stick to the shops and cafes on Gallery Walk. My preference is take one of the many rainforest walks on the mountain, they vary in length and tend to be less than 3km. The Curtis Falls track is not far from Gallery Walk in the Joalah Section of the Tamborine National Park, and is heavily visited by tourists and photographers. Curtis Falls looks its best after heavy rain although the track might get a little slippery so wear appropriate footwear. There is a viewing platform overlooking a large rock pool at the base of the Curtis Falls, swimming in the pool is prohibited and there is a restricted access area below the Falls in order to protect a colony of glow-worms. There is an extension to this walk which takes about an hour to do and if you look beyond the track you will see huge strangler fig trees as well as elk horns, stag horns and birds nest ferns.

Which ever walk you do, remember that you’re in the Australian bush so the chances of seeing a snake are pretty good. Always wear covered footwear.

For birdwatchers, animal lovers and people wanting to spend a long weekend in a cabin in the rainforest, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat set in the Lamington National Park is ideal. Early morning guided bird walks through a small section of the rainforest are a wonderful way to start the day. See, hear and learn about the Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robins and Bowerbirds before enjoying a hearty breakfast in the restaurant. At the end of the day I recommend taking the tour out to the Moonlight Crag Lookout where you can enjoy a glass of champagne, beer or wine whilst watching the sun set over the ranges.

Weekly photo challenge: Beloved

Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge the focus ison cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.

Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs and budgies. With Mum’s help we hand reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.

Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie
Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie

Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principle had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the camp fire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.

Kids in front of a tent
My Christmas tent

My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.

A foal and children
A new foal

Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on a main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and was sadly hit by a car, she was not with us long but I can still remember her. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, dogs did not belong indoors and at night he was secured by chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on leash of course.

Scooter the puppy
Scooter the puppy

Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel there a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. They were fun times spent on the farm, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.

Tripping around the farm in the back of a ute with cousins
Tripping around the farm with cousins