Note to self: Just start

It’s Monday morning – and that’s always a bit of a blah moment, wherever you are in the world.

If you’re like me, and especially if you often work from ‘the home office’, it’s Perpetual Procrastination Day. I’ve already pulled the coffee grinder apart and cleaned it.

Why? Because our coffee machine isn’t working, but I have an article to write. Confused? Me too.

So here’s my official note to self today, from the pen of Jack Canfield, because it makes me smile – and I thought you might need this piece of advice too…

Don’t keep putting things off, waiting for twelve doves to fly over your house in the sign of the cross before you begin. Just start.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Happy Monday!


Striking market gold at Burleigh Heads

Copyright: Louise Creely

The Gold Coast has long been known as Queensland’s glitter strip, but take a lazy Sunday stroll through The Village Markets at Burleigh Heads and you’ll get a very different view.

On the first and third Sunday of every month, the local state school is transformed into a marketplace with a perfectly chilled festival vibe. While the ubiquitous rows of stalls and food vans seem familiar at first glance, it’s soon obvious that TVM, as locals call it, is no ordinary market.

Founded in 2008 by budding entrepreneurs Marissa Bowden and Sarah Schoeller, this boutique fashion and lifestyle market showcases the work of local emerging designers, creatives and collectors. Clearly word gets around, because the markets are already busy just minutes past the 8.30am opening time.

The Weiner Haus, Hell’s Pocket and other retro vans are already doing a cracking trade, adding their sizzling street food flavour to the markets.

“These are too good, you have to have one,” one market goer says between mouthfuls of German sausage. Like most people here, he has an edgy style that falls somewhere between hippy and hipster.

The market-going fashionistas, many with boho babies and toddlers in tow, blend seamlessly with the artfully presented stalls offering unique fashion, accessories, art, stationary, homewares, vintage wares and even up-cycled furniture.

“There’s such a community feel and people are really positive about your work,” one stall owner says, adjusting her stunningly quirky jewelry pieces.

The tunes of a local musician drift across the stalls, drawing marketgoers towards the shade of the giant fig trees, where they kick back with their favourite street food and soak up the Sunday vibe.

The low-key muso stage is set up near a small play area, which means parents can take time out while their kids are happily occupied and always in sight. While it’s the perfect place to relax, the tolerant crowd tends to laugh and shrug when the occasional toddler invades their space.

Meanwhile, under the long sheltered walkway between classrooms, the monthly pre-loved designer and vintage rack sales are in full swing, as marketgoers avidly search for that elusive vintage gem.

“This is the best market anywhere on the coast,” one local says, her hand resting on a fringed suede jacket on the rack. “You just don’t get this quality and great energy at other markets.”

It’s no surprise then that TVM was named as Gold Coast’s Best Market in this year’s Gold Coast Bulletin poll. It really is the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday morning on the coast. No bling required.

Copyright: Louise Creely


Surprise yourself – on the NSW Central Coast

Some of the most beautiful places in the world are the ones not too far from home. Especially if you live in Australia.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Lake Macquarie from Mannering Point

We recently took off on a quick road trip from Kingscliff to the Central Coast. We may have been on a mission, to get to a family gathering there, but we weren’t out to break any distance records.

For us, there’s nothing better than meandering along the east coast of Australia. And no matter how often we do it, we always find something to surprise us.

Port Macquarie

About six hours after leaving the Queensland border, we arrived at Port Macquarie… and we were ravenous.

So our first stop had to be the Zebu bar + grill at the Rydges Resort, for a warming ‘some like it hot’ cocktail (think delicious bev in a chilli-rimmed margarita glass), a zucca pizza and some local talent at the open mic.

Then it was back to reality. No resorts for us. Time to give our ‘new’ escape vehicle a test run (because we’re on a quest to simplify our lives, but more on that some other 60 seconds).

Copyright: Louise Creely

First night moments…

For our first sleepout in the troopy*, we stayed at the Flynn’s Beach Caravan Park, surrounded by enough nature and wildlife to make us feel at home.

It was a crisp night with a little (well, a lot) fewer creature comforts than we were used to – like a diesel heater and a mattress that didn’t feel like a couple of planks nailed together! And it was only going to get colder as we went south (you can stop smiling now).

We usually stop at Cassegrain Winery while we’re here, but even we have our limits. Well, it was 7.30 in the morning when we left Port…

Norah Head

Just over three hours south, we arrived at Norah Head, a little coastal village near Wyong that hasn’t been yuppified – yet.

It was the first time we’d been here, so of course EB dragged me straight out to ‘stretch our legs’ along the stunning coastline and up to the beautifully preserved lighthouse – with a few strategic ‘getting lost’ moments added in for good measure.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Creely

The lighthouse was completed in 1903, making the once-perilous shipping lane between Newcastle and Sydney safe at last. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1995.

We were ready to crash that night, in the Norah Head Holiday Park, but the bed was proving a challenge. At least we weren’t reluctant to get out of it in the morning, at the crack of dawn. Again.

Lake Macquarie – Mannering Park

Copyright: Louise CreelyAfter a side trip to Sydney, we arrived back up at Mannering Park Caravan Park. It sits on the edge of Lake Macquarie, an hour north of Sydney.

Twice the size of Sydney Harbour, the lake is the biggest permanent salt water lagoon in the southern hemisphere.

The caravan park seemed like a comfortable place to hang out for a few days, but we were in for a surprise. And it started like this… (cue music)

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Creely On our second night there, when the campground was completely silent (and our warm, now seriously padded, bed was waiting) we decide to take one last look at the lake.

And there before us was the most majestic sight – a huge burnt orange full moon in a charcoal sky, slashed across by inky clouds, casting a truly spectacular fiery pathway across the lake towards us.

We’d never seen anything like it – even EB was speechless.

Meanwhile, I was muttering about phone camera inadequacies, punctuated by ‘wow’ and ‘dammit’.

Note to self: Pack your ‘real’ camera and tripod next time. No, every time. 

Coffs Harbour

We usually stop in at Coffs for breakfast, but this time we decided to stay overnight in the Park Beach Caravan Park. We soon discovered it was a walking distance (in sensible shoes!) to the restaurant strip along the jetty and marina.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise RalphIt’s a great place to kick back and watch people promenading and the sun setting, and to spot the plume of a passing whale.

It may have been a quick trip without our usual stops in National Parks, but it made me realise, not for the first time, that some of the most beautiful places in the world are the ones not too far from home. Especially if you live in Australia.

*Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier


Sea changing Byron Bay

Copyright: Louise Creely

If you haven’t been to Byron in a while, be prepared to be surprised – and not just by the traffic jam going into the township.

The beach will take your breath away, but not in the usual way.

We’ve been coming here for over 20 years and we’ve never seen it quite like this.

Over the past few months of wild weather, metres of beach have been ripped away, including the fringing coastal heathlands, remnants of which now litter the usually pristine sand.

Copyright: Louise Creely

At the Clarke’s Beach Caravan Park, a place of many memories of crazy camping days with our kids, the stairs to the beach have been trashed.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Stairs to Clarke’s Beach Caravan Park…

It looks like the beach has been totally transformed, ripped away, never to return.

But wait. Long buried fences, uncovered by the waves, are a clue that the dune levels and the beach itself were once at about the same level it is now.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Waves, currents and tides constantly change the shape of our beaches. One day they can be carved away, and days, months, maybe years later, they can be built up again with huge deposits of sand and silt carried in from other beaches along our coastline.

Somehow, Byron’s beaches and surrounds still hold their charm. There’s just something about this place that makes you feel totally zen. And that works for me…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Creely


Five for Friday: getting unstuck

Copyright: Louise RalphI’ve been thinking a lot about ‘stuckness’ this week, and what keeps us in that immovable yet frantically busy place where we just don’t have the time to do the things that make our spirits soar.

Perhaps it’s a kind of dysfunctional aspiration, where we’re literally buying into the myth that we have to work our butts off to get money, so we can get more cool stuff – and then struggle to pay off the debts we’re drowning in.

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us if we get this thing or that thing, we’ll be happy.

Except happiness is usually in the other direction – in a life where you live with less, especially less stress. Where you don’t surround yourself with mostly useless stuff, and you don’t live to work so you can consume more useless stuff. And you get time, every day, to paint or write or surf or paddle… or whatever it is that you love to do.

So here’s my five for Friday:

  1. Reflect – instead of being consumed with busyness, take time out to reflect. To think about the things that really make you feel awesomely fulfilled.
  2. Be brutal – when you look at your life and how you live, work out what you really need to survive. Because most of us have a skewed perception of what we need versus what we want.
  3. Take the challenge – if you’re in a ‘stuff’ rut and your place looks like Hoarder Central, start to streamline fast, and then practice living with less. There’s something satisfying about selling or gifting things you don’t need, but someone else might! 
  4. Get real – we often run around frantically because we don’t want to face our fears. Sometimes we’re so smart, we get into more debt or more busyness because then we’ve got the perfect excuse not to make the change… (guilty, we are!)
  5. Make the change – it’s usually fear that holds us back from making those big changes – what if it turns out to be an epic fail? But… what if it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done in your life?

Copyright: Louise RalphFor us, it’s about adjusting the aspirations we’ve been sucked into (often willingly yet naively), so we can start living the life we’ve imagined.

With so much less, but ultimately so much more of everything important to us.

Especially time – time to look after our health, to hang out with family and friends, to take on the projects we love, to give something back to our community, and to explore our world… on a shoestring (or a bike).

We’re working on getting unstuck. Starting now. How about you?

Happy Friday!


Discover Burleigh Heads

Most of us are pretty adventurous when we’re travelling but, back home, we do the same old same old – and wonder why we’re feeling stuck and uninspired. We’ve decided to discover some of the places that, while not too far away, often remain a mystery. This week, it’s Burleigh Heads, just 10 minutes up the coast from where we live…

Copyright: Louise Creely

One of our favourite restaurants is in the heart of Burleigh. The Fish House is a place where the view is spectacular, the food is always delicious (the fish soup and Patagonia tooth fish are amazing), and the wine list is a journey of discovery in itself.

But we tend to indulge (slowly) then run, so this time we’re going to hang around and see what’s happening here.

copyright: Louise CreelyOur first stop is the Burleigh Village Markets – and what a surprise.

Forget kitschy stuff, these markets are arty, vintage, classy and fabulous. They’re on the first and third Sunday of every month at the Burleigh Heads State School from 8.30am – 1pm. 

I’ll admit I’m a little skeptical about markets, but these are up there with the best I’ve been to – and EB is soon carrying some extra baggage (not something he’s accustomed to…multiple market purchases are a rarity with me!).

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Ralph

copyright: Louise Creely

The markets are a great place to hang out on a lazy Sunday… but there’s only so much ‘lazy’ EB can handle, so we soon join the gaggle of joggers, power walkers, cyclists and fellow wanderers who manage to share the pathway with that ‘coasty’ minimum of fuss.

To our surprise, the pathway leads to the Burleigh National Park. Now there’s something that, in a built-up, high traffic area we’ve driven through often enough, we just do not expect. And it is brilliant.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The path winds up and around the headland, through coastal rainforest where vines hitch a ride up towering fig trees to the sun-bathed canopy, and the sound of thundering surf echoes in the pandanus groves.

Finally we reach Tallebudgera Creek, where we come across gorgeous secluded coves and beaches where the water looks inviting, even on this cloudy, chilly day.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The pathways are wheelchair-friendly and there’s even an assisted wheelchair fishing pontoon…Copyright: Louise Creely

To say we are impressed with Burleigh Heads is an understatement. And we know we have barely scratched the surface…

You can’t always get away for a weekend, but what if you don’t have to go too far for a great experience? What will you discover near your place?


Winter is here

Copyright: Louise Creely

It may be snowing way south of here, but it was another crisp yet balmy start to winter here in northern New South Wales.

Walking along Kingscliff beach at dusk, we saw birds diving like missiles into the ocean… and something else breaking the glass-like surface.

At first we thought it must be a dolphin or a big fish. Then a gorgeous manta ray leapt into the air, executing an elegant full spin before disappearing into the deep blue… only to rise again, spinning like a ballerina, over and over again.

It’s been two years since we saw our first leaping manta ray – right here – and knew we’d come home. There’s just something about this place that steals your heart.

It’s a perfect start to winter. Now, for those wonderful whales passing by…


Walk on the wild side – at Binna Burra

Copyright: Louise Creely

Crisp air, sweeping views, birdsong and a nice red… you can just feel the serenity. We’ve arrived at Binna Burra Sky Lodges, in the heart of the Lamington National Park, for some post-wedding R&R.

Copyright: Louise Creely

But it’s not long before EB is scanning the Binna Burra map to find a long, challenging walk for us to do. Clearly ‘relaxation’ is all in the interpretation.

The Sky Lodges are the newest edition to the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, a nature-based resort founded in 1933, which still has that retro feel.

The beautiful, self-contained lodges are designed to capture the spectacular views across Queensland’s Scenic Rim, stretching all the way to the Gold Coast and the ocean.

EB may have his walking agenda, but I also have mine. So late in the afternoon we emerge, feeling very Zen, from the aptly-named Bliss Massage, to a mountain shrouded in mist – which soon unwraps a stunning sunset. Copyright: Louise Creely

The next morning, we tackle the Ship’s Stern. To say I’m a little anxious is a major understatement. I haven’t done any serious bush walking since we climbed Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island in 2011 and, unlike EB who’s always exercising and has an active job, I spend most days firmly planted at an office desk.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The Ship’s Stern walk descends into the Kurraragin Valley, past towering red cedar, eucalypts and piccabeen palms, and natural viewing spots where looking down makes your legs tingle.

Along the way, dense rainforest gives way to open forest, with sudden transitions to open heathland. In places, the narrow track clings to the mountain edge and the drop-offs are breathtaking.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Pops of bushland colour…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Go fig-ure

When I’m certain we’re nearing the end of the 19km walk, we come across a sign that proves EB right (again). We’ve just passed the halfway point. Ugh.

But surprisingly, my bushwalking legs are back and I’m ready to take on the 9.4km uphill stretch.

Negotiating massive fallen trees and debris on the edge of the precipice along this section of the track soon makes me forget uphill battles and fatigued legs. There’s nothing like the occasional adrenalin rush to keep your energy levels up.

Nature's hieroglyphics

Nature’s hieroglyphics

By the time we reach the end of the walk, I’m skipping – in an exhilarated, kind-of exhausted and lumbering way. I made it – and with far more ease than I expected.

Yes, EB would definitely have arrived at the finish line sooner, but he was very relaxed and accommodating of my slower pace (what a great husband!).

He wasn’t even phased by my constant oo-ah moments, when I stopped to take photos with my iPhone camera (because I wasn’t about to lug my real one on a walk like this!). Copyright: Louise Creely

This was yet another reminder in my life (how many do I need?!) that when you think you can’t do something, you’re often underestimating your abilities because, most times, you can.

Somewhere along the Ship’s Stern, I decided there are so many things in life I can’t not do…

Which leads me to the ‘real’ honeymoon we’ll be taking sometime soonish.

It may involve some serious cycling training… but that’s another story.

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

A wedding postscript: The rain gods cast their blessing on our beach wedding. But, as some wise person once said, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, then (our addition) splash in the gin and hand it around.

So we took the ceremony indoors, and nothing could dampen our spirits as the night turned into one huge party. It really was one of the best days of our life, shared with our fabulous family and friends.

After 19 years together, raising our blended family, we didn’t expect to feel any different. But we do. We’re primed and ready for getting on with this next phase of our lives… on the flight path.

Copyright: Louise Creely

And he walks in fields of gold…


It begins with yes

en route

Where’s EB? On the bike while I take the easy path of course.

How did it get to March already? I guess that’s what happens when work is frantic, there is loads of family stuff going on (including a gorgeous new granddaughter to add to the mix) and we have a wedding to plan.

Yes, ours. After nearly two decades (a rather long engagement), we are finally doing it. Before we’re eligible for a senior’s card – and no, we haven’t lost our minds. Yet.

But I’m not here to bang on about weddings, although that does begin with ‘yes’.

For us, this is about saying ‘let’s just do it’, because there is never really a right time, you’re always busy, you never have the money, and the list goes on. Including the list of new additions to our family.

This is just one more step towards our (golden) gap year – because it somehow has us fixing a razor sharp view (in spite of the reading glasses) on reality.

Life is short. If you don’t live how you want to live, you’re not really living at all.

And one day, if you don’t act now, you’ll wake up and two decades (or more) will have gone by in a snap. And you will be no closer to yes then than you are right now…

So here’s to putting plans into action – and hitting the road sooner rather than later.


To be or not to be…

Copyright: Louise Ralph This morning, I read a blog about how to make money out of blogging.

It all sounds fabulous. Just think… you can travel the world and make a killing along the way.

But wait. Is that all there is to this conversation?

I don’t know about you, but I like to read people’s stories and their perspective on life.

And I like to blogger on about stuff you might find interesting.

And yes, it would be nice to make a few $$ along the way. But seriously? I quite like not having to put a dollar value on my words (for once!).

Maybe because I write for a living – but this whole blog thing is about writing from the heart. And maybe inspiring someone else to get out there and do the thing it is that they love. Just because.

So no, I don’t have any tips on making a living out of this… creating the perfect headline or the biggest email list. It is what it is. And it will be throughout 2015 as it has been in  years gone by.

Because I’ve realised lately that there are a lot of things I’ve always loved to do – like drawing and writing and mountain biking and trekking and – um – people watching.

And they might never make me a single buckaroo. But I’m gonna keep on doing them.

So there.

Here’s to making this new year something really fabulous. Because you can.

xLou & EB (still working on that ‘golden gap year’)

Hanging out at the Taste of Tasmania. Perfect.

Hanging out at the Taste of Tasmania. Perfect.

 

 

 


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