Wine, fashion, Easter and the beach

Everyone loves a long weekend. And in Australia and New Zealand last week, the dates all lined up so that the Anzac Day public holiday fell in the same week as Easter Monday. It meant savvy employees could have 10 days off work at the cost of just three days of annual leave.

To celebrate this wonderful bit of liturgical timing, we took some time off to enjoy an extended trip to Port Stephens, about 3 hours north of Sydney.

Check out the sights and fun to be had in this beautiful part of New South Wales, plus we’ve got a cool wine comp you should enter. Christina also has a new book to add to your reading list.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Wine masters and dynamic designers Crafters Union have come together with contemporary luxury fashion label Ginger & Smart to create a new label for the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc.

Sydneysider sisters Genevieve and Alexandra Smart have created three different concept labels for Crafters Union, and it’s your job to choose the best one. If you win this competition, you not only get to see your favourite design on bottles in store later this year, you also win a selection of Crafters Union wine and $1500 worth of Ginger & Smart clothing!

It’s easy to enter this comp – just fill in your details here and (the only tricky part) choose your favourite G&S label.*

This competition ended on April 30th 2019 – I hope you got your entry in!

As for the wine itself, the Crafters Union Sauvignon Blanc is everything you’d want in a classic Sauv B from NZ. However, the tropical nose it has doesn’t come through as strongly in the taste, which is full leading to a sharp finish. Crisper and less sweet than most Sauvignon Blancs, this wine is very drinkable.

We also found that drinking it after the bottle has been out of the fridge for a little while instead of freezing cold yields more of the minerally drier qualities and tones down the sweeter, passionfruit ones that tend to put us off a lot of SBs. In fact it’s in line with a story we wrote a while back on the correct temperature you should be drinking your wine at.

Like the other varietals from Crafters Union, the packaging on their Sauvignon Blanc bottle gives you clues for what to eat with the wine. Pair it with chicken, shellfish and fish for a perfectly matched meal. Crafters Union also make a Pinot Gris (also from New Zealand), a Rosé and a Shiraz, both from Australia.

I really like the packaging from Crafters Union. The elegant parody of the somewhat shabby brown paper bag you get with takeaways and bottleshops is eye catching and beautifully illustrated. What’s more, this winery also puts its wine in a can, which is perfect for festivals, picnics or pool parties where glass is heavy or can be a hazard.

Smart thinkers at this winery.

If only we had some to take to the beach…

It’s great to be back in Port Stephens. This is an old family favourite for Christina’s folks, who have been coming here for years. We love it here too, and have put together a guide to Port Stephens here.

It was a fairly easy drive up the coast from Sydney – just over 3 hours – considering the long weekend ahead. I was expecting every car in New South Wales to be in front of us, but our timing seems to have been ok.

As the sun sets over Bagnals Beach in Corlette, we look forward to the promise of unseasonably warm weather over Easter and over our shoulder at an exceptional sight…

The Easter full moon has popped up over the hills, houses and Mount Tomaree to the east. It’s enormous and incredibly bright.

Back at our holiday home with Christina’s mum, sister, brother-in-law and their two sons, we complete the first day of our Easter weekend in true Aussie fashion: Chinese takeaway, beer and a game of cards! And if you haven’t played Phase 10 before, think Uno crossed with Rummy. It’s a lot of fun.

Today the wind has picked up a bit hence the crazy kite surfer, but it’s still warm enough for a day at the beach. We’re back at Bagnals with our friends Glen and Barbs, who – by happy coincidence – are also staying in the same part of Port Stephens as us.

It’s a lovely afternoon for a paddle. The beaches around Port Stephens are excellent because of the range – these ones further in the bay are quiet enough for little kids, while back towards the open ocean they get deep quickly enough to snorkel and scuba right off the beach. In fact, Fly Point Aquatic Reserve is full of wildlife – even turtles.

After a paddle, we get down to the serious business of sandcastle building. We’re all pretty happy with our architecture here.

Finally time to sit back, admire our sandiwork (sorry) and relax with a cold one. Or two.

But the risk of building sandcastles is the ‘Godzilla Effect’ it has on Christina. They don’t last long!

As we pack up to go home, a strange little cloud over Mount Yacaaba releases a rainbow that hangs around for ages. And as I take this photo, a strange little man pops into shot and also hangs around for ages! I don’t know who’s more excited about being at the beach – Glen or his two little girls.

The rain across the bay with its persistent half hoop of pretty colours never makes it to us.

Just as the sun begins to set, we head back down to the beach to watch the sky. This time we’re here with our nephew and the family dog. The dog loves going to the beach, but if you’re in the water when she’s swimming, she’ll sit on your lap and make you hold her in the water. Funny pooch.

This afternoon, once again blessed with perfect weather considering it’s an Easter weekend – famous for its rain, we’re out for an al fresco lunch. We’re here with Christina’s mum, sister (behind the camera) and our brother-in-law at the Nelson Head Lighthouse.

The Inner Light Tea Rooms up here command spectacular views out over the bay and across to Tea Gardens on the other side, and their focaccia sandwiches are also worth the trip!

There’s been a lighthouse here since 1872, but before that, this headland was used as a weather monitoring station. In fact, the Stevenson Screen weather station that’s still here, was designed in 1864 by none other than Thomas Stevenson, father of famed author Robert Louis Stevenson. So there.

This weather station is still in use and measures temperature and humidity. So when you check what tomorrow’s going to be like at Port Stephens on your phone, the information comes from here.

While we’re having lunch, we’re visited by a couple of inquisitive (and hungry) magpies. They know how to break into the unopened sugar sachets people leave with their empty coffee cups and gorge on them. They also like the chocolatey foam left over from cappuccinos!

It’s a beautiful spot here at Nelson Head Lighthouse. Definitely worth the drive – even if you just want to look around.

Dinner this evening is quite the event! We’re round the house of a family friend who lives in Port Stephens. Des and our brother-in-law David go hunting together – for kangaroo and venison mostly – and Des has put together a meal with what he’s caught. These venison meatballs are delicious, as is the thick ragu he’s made to go with them.

And to go with the dinner, another friend, Evan, is acting sommelier this evening. His wine selection keeps us all happy and Des entertains us with his tales of his previous life in the UK. It’s a very good evening.

So good in fact were last night’s festivities that today everyone’s taking it a bit easy. I’ve mooched down to the beach for a bit of me time and to marvel at my beach towel. It might sound a bit weird, but if you realised you were on a towel that was truly sand-proof yet really absorbent, you’d marvel too.

This towel by Tesalate is honestly amazing. I didn’t believe it at first, but the sand just comes off it, even when it’s wet. And it can hold like a litre of water without dripping. I’m very impressed. I even like the colour.

I’m also at the beach so I can enjoy my new book in peace. I’m reading my friend Phil Baker’s book The Revolution of Man – a searing indictment into what masculinity and to ‘be a man’ means. It’s so interesting to look at one’s own motivations and society’s influence based on expectations and precursors that have such little relevance in modern times.

If you’re looking for a ripper read, get this book.

While we’re talking books, Christina has ploughed her way through this: Zealot by Jo Thornley. If you’ve ever wondered about cults, the people that join them and what happens in them (and maybe making fun of them a bit), this book is for you.

Thornely looks at everything from the wackos of Waco to the weirdness of Raelians in this book, and all with the same rye sense of humour she uses in her podcast Zealot.

We’re up early this morning. It’s not my idea. I blame Glen and Barbs whole-heartedly.

But it turns out to be (annoyingly) appropriate to be up early enough to see the sun rise over Mount Tomaree. By around midday, the day will be far too warm to climb this beast. As it is, the temperature is perfect for a hike to the highest point of Port Stephens.

As we climb higher, we get glimpses of the views awaiting us at the top. The water is so clear and blue, it doesn’t look real.

Finally at the top, we look around at the sights below us. To the west, Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay stretch before us.

Looking south, four of Port Stephens’ surf beaches show us their rips. Zenith Beach, Wreck Beach and Box Beach lead on to Fingal Spit. This sand isthmus connects Fingal on the mainland with the ominously named Shark Island.

You can cross the sand to Shark Island at low tide, but as the waters come up, the link disappears… so in fact it’s not an isthmus. It’s actually a tombolo. Just in case my dad’s reading this!

We’re all very happy to be at the top of the mountain. Glen and Barbs’ little girls have done amazingly well to climb so high. If you’re wondering how hard it is to get to the top, these girls are 3 and 5, and they managed very well. Miss 3 got a bit tired about ¾ from the end.

There are lots of stairs and some steep inclines though, so if your knees are bad or if you have extra mobility needs, this might be a bit much.

Glen and Barbs have a little surprise for us at the top of Mount Tomaree! Some cinnamon donuts. I do feel a little guilty as I munch into mine though. One of the girls has dropped hers in the dirt – not the kind of topping you want – so Barbs and Glen have to share one between them.

After a coffee pitstop in Shoal Bay (we stopped in at the Shoal Bay Country Club), we’re at Little Beach for a swim. It’s lovely here – and the water is in fact wheelchair accessible, which is pretty cool. A ramp goes all the way into the water from the grass and the water is pretty much always this calm.

Even better, there’s an excellent bar and restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner here – the Little Beach Boathouse – which we went to for the first time back in 2017.

It’s been a pretty good Easter weekend – though I’m surprised I can still float after all the hot cross buns and chocolate I’ve gobbled recently.

We hope you had a lovely long weekend too and that you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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