Summertime and the living is sassy…

Resort-style glamour

By Tilly Smith Dix

I must have done something right at some point as I’m getting to review stunning fashion and dining delights on our doorstep. What’s not to love.

I was treated to an early birthday gift by way of the versatile, fun, stylish  Belinda Phillips’ La Luna Lifestyle designs. A perfect summer fest of fashion fabulous.

Having been fortunate enough to indulge in the summer pleasures of the French Riviera and the like in my past, I’m tempted to book a passage on a cruise liner or check into a luxe beachfront resort closer to home as I’m set for the jolly season – in style!

Tilly La Luna summer resort and sun Sydney Dec 2017

Luxe resort-style summer fashion by La Luna Lifestyle.

I’m also pleased none of my relatives and yaya sisters would try to persuade me to part with my new fashion stash as they don’t wear my size. So, I get to be girly and selfish, indulging in the exquisite La Lunda Lifestyle designs for many years to come.

There are fifty ways to wear three delightfully versatile garments, anywhere your travels happen to take you, from St Kilda to Mornington to Sydney or a romantic resort in the Seychelles. The easy elegance of these designs is evocative of exotic living, in our own back yard if we prefer.

The La Luna Lifestyle cotton caftan with sequin, bead and tassel detail, comes in colour choices of blue, brown, khaki-green and orange. My colour of choice was the orange on white and it did the trick to set the mood for a fun summer. The free flow of the design makes for an exhilarating mood. Worn over a bathing costume as beachwear or glamorised over a pair of jeans with heels, this caftan secures belle of any summer party status.

Caftan heaven.

Never having been much of a baby doll fashion follower, I have changed my mind, as any lass is entitled to when it comes to fashion. The cool flow of the fine rayon fabric of the La Luna Lifestyle swing dress, gorgeous colour choices, ranging from watermelon to black, white or putty, makes this a shining star in any summer wardrobe. Wear it over a slinky under-dress, or on its own, or over pants or a camisole, with flats or heels, depending on the occasion, and you’ll feel like a million-dollar woman!

My colour choice is the provocative watermelon, what’s not to love?

Swing dress or shirt, delicious comfort.

The third fashion find this summer is the La Luna Lifestyle Zen tunic, available in white, black and stone. I favour white and the combination of bamboo viscose and cotton, with subtle lace and tassel detail, makes this soft, body-skimming garment a new classic. Worn as a short dress, or over jeans, or over silky evening pants, this is a hero piece for any occasion.

Zen shirt with feminine lace and tassel detail.

Yes, La Luna Lifestyle has created joyful chic this festive season. Make merry, feel and look fabulous, and pour me some bubbles, please…cheers to the good life.

Go to www.lalunalifestyle.com and order online, better be quick…

Ordinary pleasures and bucket list pursuits in our valley

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

Walk this way

 

I have tried many forms of exercise in my life, with a superficial understanding of maintaining a certain level of fitness, paying it forward, so to speak. Must strengthen bones and preserve pesky joints as well as vital organs to try smoothen the inevitable ageing process.

Finally, I have reached the conclusion that a brisk walk, tapered to a leisurely stroll after 20 minutes, is my preferred choice of constitutional.

It is, however, rather off-putting when my walking partner husband gets all cracked up when I, in earnest, do Pilates stretches and twists after the brisk walk as a prelude to my leisurely stroll. My meander is usually interrupted by frequent stops to snap pictures of the verdant gardens and wildlife along our trails. After all, what’s the use of walking in this garden of Eden in our magical Yarra Valley in the outer-east of Melbourne if one can’t stop and smell the roses, or, at least take an iPhoto to preserve yet another beautiful memory.

In Andrew’s defence, he does take his walking seriously and tends to keep up a steady march in whatever time we have designated for our early morning walks. My little arrows of revenge do hit home, though, when, after my frequent photographic pauses, I catch up and outwalk him every time – during the cooler days, anyway. I know this is a family blog, so, I won’t share his remarks when I purposefully march right past him to gain time for my next Kodak (photographic, to you youngsters), moment. I must also add that I am almost a foot shorter than him, ha.

Walking in Lilydale.

The beauty of the region resonates with me on so many levels and those who know me, or even those who don’t, have heard my thoughts on the pain of renovating one’s own home and while himself is doing a sterling job, I do wish we could have at least another 5 of him to speed up the process so I can finally nest and unpack the rest of our many boxes still stored below stairs.

The walks offer vistas and close-ups of sublime landscapes, flora and fauna – as well as superb therapy for my yet to be identified emotional condition.

Sightseeing in our valley and around the magnificent Dandenongs is a joy and we have become so countrified, we hop on the train when we need to go into the city, finding the trams, busses and train services a civilised convenience. No stress of traffic or parking in a world-class city.

Scenic walking trails of the Yarra Valley.

One of our recent sojourns into the city comprised a visit to the Sun Theatre in Yarraville, a less than five-minute stroll from the train station. During the Inaugural Australian 70mm Film Festival held early November 2017, we saw Laurence of Arabia, luxuriating in the spacious, comfortable seats, conveniently kitted out with drink stands for a tipple and freshly popped popcorn.

Watching this epic movie, directed by David Lean in 1962 in the Jordanian Desert in dynamic proportions, was mind-blowing and it brought back a memory of my first visit to Wiltshire, where I drove along the very narrow country lane where T.E. Laurence’s love of speed on his motorcycle resulted in his final turn.

Marlon Brando and Albert Finney both declined the lead role which made Peter O’Toole, up to then a Shakespearean actor, a household movie-star name, teamed with a young Omar Sharif, and luminaries such as Sir Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn. Maurice-Alexis Jarre was the composer of the award-winning, and at times spine-chilling, soundtrack and it is to film history’s advantage this engineering student from Lyon in France switched to music, against his father’s wishes. His son Jean-Michel Jarre needs no introduction as a musician either.

King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras, securing authenticity of the soldiers in the movie. In fact, the King fell in love with a young British production assistant, who became his second wife in 1962 – their eldest son became King Abdullah of Jordan in 1999 and remains king to this day.

A most liveable city, Melbourne.

Sir Winston Churchill deemed T.E. Laurence one of the greatest beings alive and predicted his name would live on in history. I think Sir Winston would have loved this movie. We were lost in the extravagant visuals, music and history, and did not want it to end.

Keep an eye on the Sun Theatre, where the Right Stuff, Pink Floyd – The Wall, The Hateful Eight, Hamlet, Dunkirk, and the newly released Murder on the Orient Express were on offer last time I looked – www.suntheatre.com/au/70mm

Come fly with me

“Many people believe you need to be wealthy to learn to fly, and lease or own an aircraft at some expense. If the passion for flying is within us, we make a plan,” says Bob Boyd, MD of the Yarra Valley Flight Training centre in Coldstream.

Whilst an electronics technician, every opportunity to fly was seized with open arms. It could be a city orbit or a fishing trip to Sweers Island, Bob flew around the length and breadth of Australia in myriad aircraft with mates and chartered passengers to gather flight hours, absorb knowledge about different aircraft, conditions and terrain.

Bob Boyd at the Yarra Valley Flight Training centre in Coldstream.

Today, the established flight school provides GA (General Aviation) and RA (Recreational Aviation), including CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence), training.

Many flyers opt for aircraft rental by the hour from the YVFT fleet.

Some aviators realise their love of aviation in their teens, when presented with a bucket-list gift of a flying lesson. CASA has a minimum age requirement of 16 years to qualify for a RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence), and a minimum age of 15 years to fly solo, with the required supervision and training. Bucket-list gifts, ‘tis the Season and all…

Bob and his team have trained many pilots. His students vary. Some are on a tight budget and still at college or university, some are captains of industry wishing to fly their own planes, while some folks take on a second job to pursue their love of flying. All you need is the passion to fly a plane. Call Bob at 03 9739 1406 – www.YVFT.com.au

Cheers to the good life – come visit spectacular Victoria…

A river flows through it

Back to nature – in style at

The Eastern Golf Club and Yering Gorge Cottages

 

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

Living in the magical Yarra Valley east of Melbourne, is like being on a permanent holiday. From award-winning winemaking to fine dining, the region is steeped in natural beauty and has become a major attraction for Australian as well as international tourists in search of something special. 

Having seen some spectacular golf courses in my travels, from southern Africa to Europe and the US, several visits to the Eastern Golf Club is inspiring me to take up the game, even if it is simply for the walk along this idyllic course, designed by an Australian who knows his business, especially golf courses. Greg Norman lives in the US but has always kept businesses and homes in his birthplace, Australia, so, who better than him to design a course that embraces the natural beauty of this magical region.

On arrival, having driven past several wine estates along the meandering Victoria Road to Yering, I am perpetually enchanted by the pristine course, enveloped by indigenous trees, and majestically presided over by Yering Gorge.

The welcoming committee comprised a kangaroo having an early siesta under a tree, lazily surveying the golfers, and me, and the charming Tracy Hore, who handles the media and marketing for the golf club and cottages.

Eastern Golf Club Yering Gorge cottage view

Sublime vistas at The Eastern Golf Club and Yering Gorge Cottages.

The elegantly appointed Eastern Golf Club offers conference and events facilities, some of which I have had the pleasure of attending recently. From the plush carpeting, lighting, décor and mutable facilities, to the sublime views of the golf course, gorge and nature reserve, much thought went into its design.

The extensive lunch menu included delectable dishes such as freshly baked Turkish bread, ceasar salad, roast vegetable salad with quinoa, beetroot puree and house made dukkah, pepper fillet dusted with spices on hommus, scallopini in white wine cream sauce. The sinful dessert comprised from chocolate marquise with salted caramel and espresso ice cream, to pineapple and coconut mint parfait with coconut and lime sorbet. An impressive menu to complement an equally impressive club.

The specials for the day included salmon fettuccini with baby spinach and capers, and spice-dusted snapper fillet on hommus, cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, tahini mayonnaise, and a fresh garden side-salad to share.

Scrumptious snapper, salad and salmon fettuccini in the luxe clubhouse.

My companion thoroughly enjoyed the snapper, while I savoured every morsel of the delectable salmon fettuccini, which was perfectly coated in virgin olive oil, enough to make any self-respecting Italian mama proud. We agreed, the newly appointed chef is a keeper.

Washed down with a delicious Coombe Farm Pinot Gris (also in the Yarra Valley), we were ready to move on to our afternoon meetings, fortified and in good spirit on a bright, sunny spring Yarra Valley day.

The club and golf course are set in a private nature reserve, which is home to over 200 eastern grey kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, some 200 species of native birdlife. The feathered species includes the spectacular eastern and crimson rosellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, several owl species and a nesting pair of wedge-tail eagles, to mention but a few.

Yes, it gets even better. The Yarra River flows through three kilometres of the Yering Gorge. Victorian fishing permit holders may cast a line, with many having abandoned those lines to immerse in sightings of the mesmerising platypus residing in this slice of paradise.

The 120-acre Nature Reserve offers 12km of easy bush walking trails, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding Yarra Valley from the gorge summit, against the backdrop of the Christmas Hills and Dividing Ranges of this valley of plenty.

The unique geological structure of Yering Gorge results in the river flowing from a plain into a gorge, creating a catchment area for the nearby Sugarloaf Reservoir State Reserve, based in the Christmas Hills.

Yering Gorge Cottages was established 10 years ago and The Eastern Golf Club was opened in July 2015, creating a golf and tourism destination par excellence. On par to nurture every sense of wellbeing this close to nature.

As many visitors are non-golfers, further wellness activities are on offer, such as fitness as well as tennis coaching, and, of course, one-on-one tuition to an extensive range of golf clinics. Then, of course, there is the fishing and walking.

The cottages offer self-catering facilities with a continental breakfast as well as dining services in the elegantly appointed golf club, where attention to detail includes the environmentally friendly L’Occitane bathroom products, which are also used in the luxe cottages.

Vistas from the cottages vary, from the imposing Yering Gorge to the Nature Reserve to superb Golf Course. The cottages are generously spaced for optimum privacy, making it an ideal destressing destination – as well as romantic.

Speaking of romance, weddings are immensely popular, with a superb events centre and Wedding Pavilion cocooned by the gorge and its enigmatic surrounds.

View:  www.easterngolfclub.com.au and  www.yeringorgecottages.com.au – tell them I sent you. Ah, cheers to the good life

Anything goes for spring

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

          Keep your heels, head and shoulders high – Coco Chanel

I am in awe of the smart marketing tricks employed by switched-on fashion outlets. Fashion is a cruel business and a captive market is the ideal target. However, too many email and social media messages on what’s hot, cool and must-have for spring are doing my head in.

Of course, I love a bargain, like most women, and if I like a brand, I don’t hesitate in providing them with my email address to get word of special offers, and, of course, a peep at their latest arrivals, which I often use as a guideline to haul out some treasured item from my Pandora’s box to get the look.

Jeanswest shirt, scarf and jeans – fresh, red, white and blue.

Jeans and trouser styles change every few years and I do confess, here I also keep the good stuff but update with current designs that suit my shape. Loving skinny jeans as well as palazzo pants, a further throwback to yesteryear would be an old favourite, the Capri pants. I remember the lace-up variety in bright candy colours when I was about seven years old. No, I don’t have those anymore and alas, I’ve grown somewhat since then.

Vogue UK shares some pearls of fashion wisdom, advising us the pinstripe straight-leg cut is in for smarter wear – I call it cigarette line but as smoking kills, I guess that’s no longer PC. I still have those pinnies from about 12 years ago, tick, ideal for a meeting, and worn with a crisp white shirt and heels for businesslike va-va-voom.

Back to smart marketing ploys by fashion houses, such as capturing our email and mobile numbers, which qualifies us for discounts, loyalty cards and the like. So, when I received a less 25% alert from Jeanswest, my favourite jeans go-to with its ideal cut for any frame, I remembered getting a glimpse of their spring tops and, a little bell tinkled in the fashion portion of my blonde frontal lobe, reminding me of the fresh seasonal colours on offer. Strawberry red, blended with bright white and ice blue, evocative of sunny skies and golden beaches, worn with white jeans or spruced up with straight-line pants for a dressier look, floats my boat, be it in Capri, Como, Portofino – or Melbourne.

Having blogged about the delightfully wearable La Luna Lifestyle designs, I am getting loads of wear from designer Belinda’s stylishly body-shaping bamboo lycra long-sleeve t-shirts this spring. My current favourite colour is yellow, teamed with white or blue jeans, another box ticked for spring feel-good casualwear. I even wore the tee to a meeting with a white slim-line trouser suit (approximately 14 years old), heels for extra pizzazz and felt like a million bucks. Got the contract signed too.

La Luna Lifestyle yellow bamboo lycra t-shirt, ideal for business and leisure – love the vibrant yellow on white.

A girlfriend and I recently chuckled about fashion that keeps coming back to haunt or taunt us, when her daughter asked her opinion on a hot new style she wanted to buy. My friend’s response was, “honey, I was around the last time this one came around and I hate to say, it’s not flattering on anyone, unless they’ve been starved of anything resembling a carbohydrate or sugar for the past eleventy (a new number with its origins in South Africa), years. (Yes, I am proving a bad influence on my Aussie mate’s vocabulary.)

Ageing has many advantages and we see fashion come and go but certain staples will return more regularly – because they work and make us feel good and look fabulous. Remaining in a Coco frame of mind, she did say, “a woman can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of her life.”

Colours are fun again, and I love mixing fuchsia pink with powder pink – softly feminine and it just oozes summer, waving a welcome au revoir to winter’s 50 (plus) shades of grey.

Opshopping (opportunity shops) are big in Melbourne and I am starting to understand the fun in bargain hunting for previously adored clothes and accessories. I recall popping into vintage stores in London and New York some years ago, where many of the garments and accessories, even designer shoes, seemed never to have been worn! Well, here in Aussie one often discovers such lucky strikes as clothing or accessories may have been purchased on a whim or gifted, only for the purchaser to realise it either did not suit them, or, horror of horrors, it was a bad fit.

The right thing to do is to donate this to a good friend who genuinely wants the item, or to a local Opshop to bring joy to a bargain hunter. With the cost of living escalating rapidly, this is a great way of giving to charity as that is what Opshops do – they provide a large portion of their revenue to worthy charities. I have dropped car loads of home- and fashion-wear at charity shops over the years and continue to do so.  It makes me feel good as it’s as good as donating cash to people or animals in need. Another box ticked, good deed done, more wardrobe space for new acquisitions, shhhhhhh …

I recently spotted an article in which Joanna Lumley, our AbFab Patsy, claimed not to have shopped for clothing for years as she had plenty to see her through from years of fashion gathering during her modelling days. She is a savvy woman, as it is indeed a thrill wearing something slightly retro, with that exotic vintage feel but brought into the current season with great aplomb. Fashion,  indeed, is about feeling gorgeous and wearing it with panache. I agree with the late great Coco: ‘fashion fades, only style remains the same.’

I do feel a bit of spring attitude coming on, now where did I pack those white palazzo pants I’ve had for more than eleventy years! Life is short, love thyself and the good life…

Celestial spring lunch at Café Immerse

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

After many years of fine dining, as a publicist and travel writer, I have developed a few pet peeves, such as pretentious deconstructions and too many frothy reductions. I am thrilled to report none of those peeves were challenged during a delectable lunch at Café Immerse at Immerse Winery on Melba Highway, Dixons Creek, in the Yarra Valley.

I previously blogged about the delicious wine, facilities and service at the winery, which is home to a bespoke wedding and conference facility, complete with chic accommodation and chapel. Suffice to say, the cuisine and service surpassed our wildest expectations on a perfect spring Saturday.

Hosted by the charming owners, Helen and Stephen Myles, we were in good hands at the restaurant, which is open for lunch to the public on weekends.

Olives marinated in orange, Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay, and gin and beetroot-cured kingfish.

Arriving at Immerse is enough to get one into a relaxed mood, with its verdant vineyards, now reflecting glorious green shoots, and magical gardens, further enhanced by the budding blooms of lovingly tended roses.

Of course, I am already on board with the wines at Immerse, with my daily favourite tipple being the Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay. You can smell joy, I kid you not, as the fresh, fruity crisp apple notes refresh the nose and palate. Andrew is now also an Immerse convert as he swears the 2016 Oscars Reserve Cabernet with its floral, black cherry and raspberry notes ticked all the boxes for his love of a cool cab.

The plump green orange-marinated olives, creamy pesto dip and freshly baked herb bread, served with olive oil for dipping, was a superb appetiser and of course, ideally complemented by the bubbles.

Opting for the gin and beetroot cured kingfish entrée, complemented by radish, asparagus, apple, baby beets, crème fraiche and lavosh, which I regard as authentic cuisine as you recognise the appearance and taste of each morsel, proved a superb choice. Not only was the presentation perfect, in fact Picasso could have gone to town in a red phase, but the flavours evocative of spring.

Roast pork belly, roquette (rocket) pear parmesan salad, and rosemary garlic roasted potatoes.

The roast pork belly with a YVBCo cider reduction in an entrée portion as my main was a wise decision as it is generously portioned. This perfectly glazed porker was accompanied by a cucumber peanut salad that popped and crackled in perfect harmony with the divinely tender meat, which I’m happy to report only had the teensiest slither of creamy fat and crackling, just enough to make it slightly sinful.

Andrew’s choice of main was the grilled salmon fillet, perfectly teamed with vanilla bean potato puree, asparagus, caper and cornichon butter sauce. These are our kind of reductions, where you can indeed identify each flavour, while the unpretentious plating was an artistic titillation.

The texture of the salmon was just right, remaining scrumptiously moist, with bright pink flesh in the centre.

Grilled salmon, wedding decor and blood orange cheesecake.

The sides of golden sliced rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, as well as the roquette pear and parmesan salad with balsamic, could not be faulted.

Having had more than our fill, we did get our arms twisted to indulge in a dessert tasting plate for four and our choice of blood orange cheesecake with ginger biscuit, passionfruit and berries certainly were the berries, or rather, the strawberry on top. This is my kind of deconstruction dessert: light, airy, creamy, fruity with the ginger doing the trick to cleanse the palate of the after-glow of the mains, with the fruit in its honest form.

Resolutely unstuffy, the ambience, service, cuisine, wine and charm of this property makes this a favourite in a valley of plenty. Having checked on TripAdvisor, it is evident we are not the only diners who’ll return soon. We also thought the prices competitive – another tick.

A wedding party was being styled as we were departing and I could not resist sneaking a peep and snapping a few images. I bet that bridal party was in seventh heaven as the flow of natural light, chandeliers, romantic décor, fresh flowers and garden vistas reflected happy ever after.

We have some friends visiting soon from abroad and no prizes for guessing where we will be securing our reservation for lunch. See more at www.immerse.com.au – ah, cheers to the good life…

The journey maketh the destination – sometimes…

By Tilly Smith Dix

Living in an enchanting region such as the Yarra Valley and its nearby beautiful sister-region of the Dandenongs, often referred to as The Hills, has its drawbacks. The natural beauty, charm and magical gardens on our doorstep have made us more discerning about travel than ever before.

However, with Andrew being an aviator, for him, the destination often is mostly about the flight and airfield we are heading to, rather than the actual location, says I with eyes heaven-cast. As long as the accommodation is clean with hot running water, all’s good in his world. I should have stepped up the moment he told me to leave all the travel arrangements to him for our flight and overnight stay in a town called Shepparton in our spectacular state of Victoria. However, as I was busy and rushing with deadlines to free myself for a Friday morning departure, I was happy for him to plan our getaway.

I’ll try and make this brief. The flight from Coldstream Aerodrome was slow as we had wind on the nose but landing at Shepparton was a pleasure. Excellent airfield and friendly service on the ground. All good and things looked promising. Until our taxi arrived to provide ground transport to our hotel.

Suffice to say the driver seemed surprised at our flying in to spend a night as tourists and not on a working visit and looked more bewildered when given our hotel address. “Do you realise you are some distance out of town? I have never driven anyone to this hotel from the airport,” he sighed, gazing at me, with what I thought trepidation, in the rear-view mirror, decked out in my aviator’s moll getup, which I’d describe as casual flying attire on a cold, late-wintery day, complete with hooded puffer jacket and riding boots. I subsequently realised the fear reflected in this friendly cabbie’s eyes was for my husband’s wellbeing. Any discerning travelling gal would have chastised her husband but as I was trying to control my mirth at the fearful look on my husband’s face on arriving at our hotel, I decided to go easy.

Attractive features of our resort in Shepparton.

 

Quirk, blessed dining and the Aussie Hotel.

Secura Lifestyle Resort, yes, resort, no less, overlooked an apple orchard in early bloom, which did help soften the blow. I was not expecting a Relais & Chateaux establishment but this was ridiculous.

In our travels around the globe, I have experienced deep disappointment once or twice in the choices of accommodation we had booked online and the last time I was almost traumatised on arrival at such a hotel, was at Lake’s Entrance, where the décor and colour scheme of our room evoked thoughts of people on serious psychedelic drugs and eternally stuck in the sixties. I recall an electric-blue bathroom, fuchsia-pink shower, complemented by a show-stopping orange- and blue-themed bedroom. That particular motel was for sale and we forgave them for not updating their décor, eventually.

As this Shepparton establishment also served as a bungalow-styled residential piece of real estate, I was less forgiving. For starters, the TV, which had no reception, was in the kitchenette, and so was the built-in heater. A small table with two very hard chairs did not make for convivial hospitality in this kitchen. The fact it was a cold night was reason enough for turning in early after a post-lunch walk through the town. The bed and linen proved clean and comfortable, whilst the electric blanket almost brought a tear of joy to my eye; however, on discovering it had gone past its sell-by date, same as the television, the tear almost became a sob. However, I’m a big girl and came armed with a hefty Jeffrey Archer novel and my (mostly) trusty sense of humour.

Husband, happy about the lack of pummelling by disappointed spouse, drifted off to sleep and I must have dozed off soon after goodnight kisses were exchanged, only to be awakened by someone unlocking our unit door and entering it at midnight! Being of South African origin, I do not have to be wide awake to sound like a scary witch to frighten off intruders. My loud, deep-voiced outrage frightened said intruder to such an extent he jumped down three steps onto the room deck, looking ashen in the bright porch light, with me, now clad in my oversized winter dressing gown, towering over him from the doorway – all 5’3” of my statuesque persona.

His companion cowered behind the deck pillar, clutching the additional bedding dropped off in waterproof zip-bags by the resort staff as at this resort, you pay extra for additional bedding for an extended family, in their case, the children huddled on the back seat of their UV. I know this as I saw several pairs of big, frightened eyes visible at window-level. The thud I’d heard on the deck earlier must have been the delivery of said bedding, which I, now an Aussie, believed to be a hefty possum or kangaroo bouncing about, thinking nothing of it. If I’d heard this noise when still living in South Africa, I’d have called the night patrol, or, worse, used my scary voice to send them packing.

Once I realised we were not under siege and these people were booked into the same room as us for the night, and the man with the key expressed his concern about where they might have to spend the night, it was agreed they’d call the night manager to sort out their problem. After all, we were there first – finders keepers.

No sooner had they left to secure another room and we were sleepily discussing this annoying mix-up, there was a loud banging on our door. This time Andrew responded, bellowing, “what the hell is the matter now,“ to which the hospitality night person identified themselves and responded with, “what is your surname?” Andrew provided this information with a finale that left no room for argument, “now go away, please.” Always the gent.

Still looking at the bright side and of course, trying to live the good life, we did enjoy some aspects of this mostly industrial town, known for its prolific production of fruit.

The Aussie Hotel on the main street did a fine job of an Aussie burger for me, not gourmet, mind, but packed with fresh goodness and high cholesterol, and a vegetable wrap for Andrew. We strolled around the vibrant town and decided churches were not the rage here and saw two, on the same road, turned into business premises, one being a restaurant and the other a lifestyle boutique with a charity shop attached to it, and further renovations evident at the time of our visit. Heartening to see the Victorian architecture was being preserved and this endeared the town to us somewhat.

I don’t think we’ll be visiting Shepparton again in a hurry but during our reconnaissance of the town, we spotted some interesting and quirky hotels, any of which, I’m sure, would have been a better choice than our out-of-town resort but might not have made for such an eventful night – or lively (I hope) blog.

We had stocked up at Coles in the town with breakfast and light dinner goodies, and bubbles for me, and we managed to high-tail it out of there early enough after breakfast the following day, when our taxi driver was not in the least surprised we were not spending an additional night. This, our third driver during this brief visit, was as friendly and informative as the lads we encountered on the previous day. Another tick in the box for the town.

Breakfast before departure, the alpine snow-capped mountains and galah  landing at Coldstream airfield.

On our return flight, we waxed lyrical about the picturesque terrain, mountains, woods, lakes and rivers of the delightful state of Victoria, and with good visibility, we even spotted the snow-capped mountain peaks of the alpine region in the distance. With an endearing tailwind and gentle rainfall, our return journey was much shorter and being welcomed by fellow aviators at Coldstream Airfield, where I believe some of our pals are still sniggering about our choice of getaway on a cold, wet weekend, made us realise how much we love living in the glorious Yarra Valley. Cheers to The Good Life.

Immersed in romance and wine – a family affair

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

My neighbour is a charming woman and in the past year we’ve managed to meet at different locations to sample good food and wine, when she is not travelling the world. She had mentioned her and her husband’s winery and event destination but never in a boastful way. I like that.

Having visited and reviewed several vineyards and eateries in our valley of plenty, I was in search of a destination with a focus on romance. After some research, I came across Immerse in the Yarra Valley, which looked promising as it was open for lunch and wine tasting on weekends, whilst a luxe wedding, events and conference destination during the week.

Once I realised this was indeed the winery owned by my neighbour Helen and her husband Stephen Myles, I requested a tour and was offered a wine tasting on a Saturday, which was arranged and confirmed by Alyce, one of several gems employed at Immerse.

The drive from Coldstream along the Melba Highway to Dixons Creek via Yarra Glen is a delight and as always, I enjoyed crossing the Yarra River meandering through the valley, with rolling hills, creeks, pastures, woodlands and vineyards that are balm for the soul.

Early spring vistas along the Melba Highway to Dixons Creek.

The diverse designs and locations of the wineries of the Yarra Valley never cease to fascinate me and I was charmed by the unpretentiously beautiful Immerse estate. My delight blossomed further by the engaging warmth of the staff, not to mention sublime design as well as some quirky décor touches in the restaurant and bedrooms.

The spacious restaurant and cellar door are complemented by enormous picture windows, optimising the natural light of the interiors and embracing vistas of the magical gardens, including a coveted rose garden surrounded by vines and moss-green rolling hills.

Immerse restaurant and cellar door spaces bathed in natural light.

My engaging guide and sommelier, Peta, proved a mine of useful information and her passion for Immerse enhanced my experience even further, thus making up my mind to book for lunch soon to revisit this authentic destination with Andrew.

The charming wedding chapel, romantic gardens, vines and ornamental lake, and heritage as well as modern boutique accommodation comprising 20 rooms, are a pleasure to behold and I marvel at how this property had evolved over the years, reflecting the vision of the owners, to create a unique experience, immersed in warmth, beauty, romance, and delectable food and wine.

Heritage accommodation and magical gardens on a cold, rainy day.

Offering bespoke weddings and conferences to suit any style or desire, complemented by the sublime vistas enhanced further by kangaroos frolicking in the vines in the late afternoon, Immerse offers solace for the city-weary corporate soul or stressed bride.

To add to the serenity, Pilates in the Vines is proving popular, and relaxation massages and yoga are available to conference guests.

Catering for between 50 and 200 guests per event, Immerse is far enough from the city to escape urban hype, yet close enough for a scenic drive from vibrant Melbourne.

The chapel and new annex reflect charm and character.

Helen and Stephen purchased the property in 2001 from Brian Love, spent two years renovating it and launched Immerse in 2003. Their daughter Katie is part of the management team and it is evident this locale is in her blood.

The vines, planted in the mid-80s, were lovingly tended and today, all the Immerse wines are produced offsite at Rob Dolan Wines in Warrandyte South.

My Immerse wine tasting was exquisite and some lunch guests opted to join me as they found my enthusiasm contagious, while Peta’s knowledge and charm proved irresistible to them too. As we continued our tasting journey, they too became enamoured by it all as the ten tasting wines were full of tantalising surprises:

Sommelier Peta, left, and inspirational spaces, fit for any occasion.

White and rose:

  1. Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay (non-vintage): robust and refreshing, would be ideal with a summer cheese platter – I could smell spring and laughter, resulting in this being my choice of wine to take home to savour with my favourite marinara.
  2. 2015 Oscars Reserve Chardonnay – citrus, fruit driven, modern style: light, summer nose, with a hint of honey and nut – pure delight. I love the sentiment of the family, commemorating their much loved, now residing in heaven, golden retriever, Oscar.
  3. 2015 Immerse Chardonnay – nectarine, buttery, subtle oak styled: works well with savoury and cheese platters and not heavy on the palate, which works for me.
  4. 2016 Yarra Valley Wine Company Rose: strawberry, apple, lingering finish: pretty, strawberry nose, a refreshing tipple for summer.
  5. Yarra Valley Wine Co Moscato (non-vintage) – real fruit and 7.5% alcohol, sweet bubbly: not a lover of sweeter wines, this one charmed me as it was refreshing and vibrant; would complement a baked cheese cake – dancing on the tongue, as any self-respecting dessert wine should.

Red:

  1. 2015 Oscars Reserve Pinot Noir – earthy, dry: the earthy, layered tones reminded me of truffles, ending with a dry note, which would age well – buy plenty and keep it in the cellar, although I liked the young reserve just fine.
  2. 2016 Yarra Valley Wine Co Shiraz – subtle spice, dark berries: deep in colour with a spicy, deep nose, the silky-smooth nectar could also be matured at home.
  3. 2016 Oscars Reserve Cabernet – floral with black cherry and fine tannins: gentle nose, I loved the dark cherry notes.
  4. 2014 Sam’s Cabernet Sauvignon – another tribute to a beloved pet, offering black fruits and liquorice notes: this would be the ideal gift for my husband at Christmas, a perfect mature wine to enjoy with a juicy steak or simply to sip in front of a log fire, as it exudes warmth and depth.
  5. Immerse Sparkling Shiraz (non-vintage) – strawberry sweet bubbly: not cloyingly sweet and I liked the cranberry notes – I’d savour this one with a good curry.

I look forward to revisiting Immerse Yarra Valley to savour the cuisine and judging by the conviviality of the diners during my visit last Saturday, it is an experience to indulge in sooner rather than later. Next step is to join the Immerse Wine Club for less 50% on our first case of wine, with more discounts depending on 6- or 12-pack case purchases. Not too shabby. Watch this space.

See more at immerse.com.au – ah, cheers to the good life!

Fashion with a Conscience

 

The La Luna bamboo lycra skirt and t-shirt are proving ideal late winter and early spring choices in Melbourne – with the option of a stylish tunic for cooler days. Dressed up for office or casual or leisure chic, this is effortless fashion. Colours range from charcoal to mustard, and I opted for the rich tobacco shade pictured above.

Fashion update: Mooning about La Luna

 

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

Some people talk a lot and dream a lot, and others simply get on with realising their life’s dream of making a difference.

Belinda Phillips, founder owner of La Luna Lifestyle fashion boutique in Sydney fits the latter category, and so much more. This former South African is an international designer and collaborates on environmentally friendly fabrics for fabulous, easy-to-wear fashion for women of all ages. Part of her admirable fashion design ethos is to support manufacturers who mentor previously disadvantaged people through teaching them valuable skills, thereby enabling them to live sustainable lives.

Such skills include creating seemingly seamless fashion ranges which have those smart enough to invest in Belinda’s La Luna Lifestyle designs clamouring for more, from the boardroom to the bedroom.

One of Belinda’s favoured fabrics is manufactured from organically grown Asian bamboo, which is combined with lycra to allow for stretch and durability. Bamboo is easily decomposed and has little waste matter in the production process, in contrast with most other fabrics, including cotton, she says.

Importing her designs from around the world, including South Africa, Belinda is determined to lighten the industry’s carbon footprint.

Belinda Phillips La Luna a 20 July 2017.jpg

When gorgeous Belinda, pictured above, and I made contact as South Africans now firmly ensconced in Australia, we sensed a connection. Her focus on cherishing the planet and its people inspired me, while her sensational designs impressed me.

Belinda shipped a La Luna Lifestyle bag of her current leisure range to me and I’m hooked. The feather-light garments would also complement my travel bag, which has been a challenge, until now! The fact that the versatile pieces are also easy to wash, whilst crease-resistant, scores further points.

The La Luna Lifestyle attire I’ll be wearing the minute spring peeps through the rhododendrons in Melbourne include:

  • Lycra skirt (@$75) and t-shirt (@$65), with option of the tunic – limited edition Italian fabric reduced to $88 (from $110) – for colder days. I like the warm tobacco shade.
  • The hooded button-detail Sunwear tunic, retails @ $120 – the ink-blue was my colour of choice. The matching leggings are ideal for leisure- or active-wear, whilst the boho chic, slouch Sunwear pants have pockets to complement the comfortable fit, retailing @ $110.
  • The synthetic fur wool-polyester blend waistcoat in metallic grey, retails @ $75 – it is ideal for dressing up or down, with attitude.
  • The all-purpose metal grey long-sleeve T-shirt with defining stitch pattern, is ideal for casual or active wear, and retails @ $65.
  • The luxe cropped striped dove-grey top is ideal to wear with the rest of the La Luna Lifestyle pieces or as a hero item with skirts, shorts or jeans.

I am a sucker for effortless glamour and tend to keep clothes for ages, as stated in previous Retail Therapy fashion blogs. Therefore, for this long-term lifestyle investment shopper, the La Luna ranges offer endless possibilities.

Belinda reports all her customers are loving the flexible designs, suitable for smart wear and even pyjamas, with pregnant moms-to-be looking and feeling stunning too.

Of course, those Sydneysiders are already luxuriating in the spring collection as they enjoy a more temperate winter than us Melbournians. I look forward to my La Luna Lifestyle spring 2017, and The Good Life!

Find La Luna Lifestyle on Facebook and visit the convivial boutique in Vaucluse, Sydney, where the service is awesome. Available in Melbourne via tilly@dix.co.za – email your requests to me for action.