Meet my friend So Frank

Nov 2, 2015




This website has been rather quiet as I have been working on another online project - a new website called So Frank www.sofrank.com.au
It explores the Canberra region - from the city to the coast, the country to the snow as well as a travel section. Pop in to the website www.sofrank.com.au or the Facebook page and let me know what you think or So Frank is always keen to discover all that the Canberra region has to offer so get in touch and let us know about any local events, amazing food, coffee or wine you think we should share by sending an email to hello@sofrank.com.au.

Top 4 family travel vacation tips & how I applied them in Hawaii

Aug 6, 2015

When it comes to plotting, preparing, arranging, and scheduling family travel for our party of 3 (Tweeny, the husband and I), I am the main instigator. With the basics covered of choosing a destination, where to stay, how to get there and a general overview of available attractions, natural wonders and activities, I start discussing possibilities with Tweeny and the husband, so we can all think about the type of vacation experience we want. No matter where we travel though, we stick to our 4 family vacation tips and recently applied them on our trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.


1. Relax and let go of schedules 


Watching the sunset over Diamond Head


My day to day life is pretty planned out, between the 3 of us we have calendar alerts buzzing every hour for an appointment or a looming due date so after doing the initial research and selecting a destination, booking flights and accommodation I let go of the schedules and planning and leave ourselves open to local recommendations, spontaneity and the weather. Sure we all have an idea of particular activities in the back of our minds, but we don’t schedule them in. When in Honolulu, I was very keen to visit Diamond Head, but on the most convenient afternoon, it would have meant dragging Tweeny away from the perfectly lovely afternoon we were having on Waikiki Beach. So instead we ate dessert on the beach while watching the sunset over Diamond Head. It was a pretty spectacular way to end our day!


2. Try something new 


Stand Up Paddle Boarding


 Trying something new means different things for different people. I am not a thrill seeker, so for me and the family it means trying something not readily available at home or something we haven’t had time to do before. In the home of surfing, Tweeny really wanted to try a water sport, so we settled on stand up paddle boarding. Renting a board and paddle on Waikiki Beach, we each took turns paddling and cheering on one another. As it turns out, Tweeny was a total natural (the husband and I, not so much) and she wants to continue with it at home. Now I love the idea that whenever she goes out for a paddle she will think about the first time we all tried it together on vacation.

3. Eat local 

Big Island Honey French Toast with carmelised pineapple


 At home and on vacation I like to eat local where possible. For me that means eating seasonal produce grown on regional farms wherever I am. That way the food is fresh and I get to support the local economy and usually when food is in season it is also in abundance and a great price. Eating local while on vacation also gets you a taste of the region and trying food perhaps unavailable at home. In Honolulu, we discovered a quirky diner that became our go to breakfast joint, with a laid back surf décor, delicious food and a great food ethic – organic where possible but always local. Just off the main Waikiki Beach strip on Ala Moana Blvd, Goofy Café & Dine has a traceability map printed on the front of their menus, indicating which farms the produce came from.


A local Hawaiian dish made with local Hawaiian ingredients - the Big Island Beef Loco Moco

4. Be Nice

Bring souvenirs from home as a way to say thank you to those locals, taxi drivers, tour guides, waitresses who have either gone above and beyond in providing great service or advice (or if you are trying to charm the hotel into that early check in or room upgrade!).

For our trip to Honolulu, we took a packet of little toy Koalas with us. Immediately identifiable with Australia, this humble little koala souvenir put a big smile on the faces of all its recipients and was a great conversation starter.  As a side benefit we earned so much good will from the gesture that on the trip it had gotten us early and late check in at the hotel, seating at fully booked out restaurants, free dessert, stickers, seashells, hugs and high fives!


Souvenirs from home

*I wrote this post as part of my entry to the Virgin Australia competition. The winners of the competition will win amongst other fabulous things 250,000 Velocity points - that’s enough for quite a few family vacations!



Top three things to do at Broadbeach with a Tween

May 6, 2015

After a delightful two days in Queensland’s capital Brisbane to kick off school term break, we headed off to our second Queensland destination – the Gold Coast. Just an hour by car from Brisbane, if you are after a beach holiday and a crowd pleaser, the Gold Coast certainly gets my vote for a good broad ranging family vacation. Gold Coast is such a crowd pleaser that we knew of two other Canberra families vacationing there at the same time and it was our destination of choice for term break last year.

There seems to be something to suit all tastes at the Gold Coast from the crowds and attractions of the major four theme parks located around the Gold Coast – Dream World, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Sea World and Warner Bros Movie World to the natural beauty and quiet isolation of the surrounding beaches and rainforest.


Something a little magical about sunset on the beach


Last year when we visited the Gold Coast, we stayed for a week and packed in a lot of activity including two theme parks, quite a few beach days and a day up in the rainforest and mountains. This time round it was just Tweeny and I (the husband had to go back to work), R&R was on the cards with lots of beach time, reading, markets and some good food.

For me the key to a successful vacation at the Gold Coast is location of accommodation. Decide as a family if you want to be right in the thick of things at Surfers Paradise or if you prefer a quieter location. I find the crowds and pace at Surfers Paradise a little overwhelming, so we stayed a few beaches down at Broadbeach which still has plenty of amenities but less hustle and bustle.



Sunrise from our apartment balcony!!!


Top three relaxing things to do at Broadbeach with a Tween

Markets 

I love a good market and the Beachfront Art and Craft Markets on Sunday at Broadbeach were a lot of fun to explore. Tweeny and I found all manner of unique locally made products and couldn't resist trying some freshly made Halva, Nougat & Baklava the tasty treats from Ilias the Greek . We even saved some to bring home to the husband so he wouldn't feel left out.

Greek Nougat on the beach

Broadbeach Market


Located at Kurrawa Park, Old Burleigh Road, Broadbeach

1st and 3rd Sunday of every month from 8am to 2pm

http://www.artandcraft.com.au/

Beach

What is a beach vacation without some beach time? We made sure we had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous coastline. Tweeny and I spent a few days just whiling away the hours at the beach reading, snacking, napping and having the occasional dip. It was pure simple bliss, being on the beautiful beach with no schedule or busy agenda (or house to clean). We were mindful though of the sun and kept protected with Tropicare sunscreen and lip balms. I like being able to use local products and was a little excited to discover that Tropicare was a Queensland company, that is 100% locally owned and made.


Beach days


Eating

There is a plethora of eating options at Broadbeach but for killer views and a broad ranging menu we headed to the Kurrawa Surf Club. It is the only eatery in Broadbeach with ocean views, so make sure you ask to sit on the balcony so you can soak it all in. Stick to the classics here, order a drink and enjoy the view.


Fish & Chips with a view


Located at Old Burleigh Road, Broadbeach

For delicious rustic Italian fare Tweeny and I loved every last morsel we ate at Gemeli Italian. The atmosphere is warm, a little dark and brooding with a wood fire pizza oven taking centre stage in the dining room. We both opted for pasta dishes which were tasty but dessert stole the show. We shared the “Buddino Chocolata” – a hot milk chocolate cake with a soft gooey centre served with nutella gelato. It was decadent, rich and a divine way to finish off our meal.



Buddino Chocolata



 Located at 2/2685 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach 

Top three family friendly things to do in Brisbane

May 3, 2015

Do you head north or south when the temperature takes a dip? We are a sun loving family, so as the leaves were turning golden for autumn and the mornings and nights turned chilly in Canberra we headed north for school term break. First stop was Queensland’s capital Brisbane for some sun and Tweeny’s first pop concert.

Brisbane was not initially on the itinerary for term break, we were originally headed to the Gold Coast to enjoy some beach time but a Demi Lovato concert was calling Tweeny’s name so we made a two day stop in Brisbane beforehand and I am glad we did.

Not only was the sun shining for the duration of our stay but we discovered that Brisbane is very family friendly and vibrant city with so much to do and lots of free public amenities, art and urban spaces to explore.

We had no trouble filling in our two days with some most excellent eating, walking, swimming and sightseeing in Brisbane.

Our top three family friendly things to do in Brisbane

Eat a doughnut

No really try one of the unique flavours on offer at Doughnut Time. This hole in the wall establishment offering up irresistible flavours such as “Ya bacon me Crazy”& “Back for S’more” is a perfect little vacation treat. Be warned the doughnuts are delicious and addictive (we visited three times during our stay)!


Some of the doughnuts we tried over our THREE visits to Doughnut Time


Located at 39 Alfred St, Fortitude Valley

South Bank

Before visiting, I thought South Bank was a little touristy enclave in Brisbane full of over-priced restaurants and tourist only attractions – was I wrong! Firstly South Bank is enormous, located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River; it is 17 hectares of lush parklands, with a plethora of diverse restaurants and eateries, stunning river views, museums, galleries, an urban beach and the city’s convention centre.

In our day at South Bank, we lunched on American style hot dogs and wings at The Manhattan Line.


The wings and corn were my favourite at The Manhattan Line


Followed by a swim at Australia's only beach in the middle of the city, Streets Beach is a unique, man-made swimming beach, overlooking the CBD.

White sand, blue water all in the middle of the city

Complete with crystal-clear lagoon, white-sand beaches, palm trees, pebbled creeks and shady shallows surrounded by subtropical trees and exotic plantings it was quite a fun  (and free) experience on a hot day.
Refreshed after a quick swim we dried off and changed and headed to Queensland Art Gallery – Gallery of ModernArt, which has free entry. We got to experience the Obliteration Room by artist Yayoi Kusama before the exhibition closed. Upon entering the room everyone is given a sheet of colourful sticker dots to decorate the room as you see fit. Nothing was off limits; you could decorate the furniture, walls and floors. Amazing!! If you missed out on contributing to the room, staff were sure the exhibition would make another appearance in a few years.


One of the brilliant exhibitions at QAGOMA

We returned to South Bank in the evening for the big Demi Lovato concert at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, which Tweeny loved!

Eagle Street Pier

Great place to head for a bit of a fancy meal and spectacular views of Brisbane River & Story Bridge. After wondering through the shops in Brisbane’s CBD we were in the mood for less hustle & bustle for lunch and splurged on a meal at Pony Dining at Eagle Street Pier. Sitting on the balcony taking in the views and their famous wood smoked lamb shoulder was a divine way to end our last day in Brisbane.


Lovely Brisbane lunch time view


Located at Upper Level, Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane

Getting there

We flew direct with Qantas from Canberra.  The two hour flight went quickly with the all the free wonderful movie options available on that route.

Stay

We stayed at the Pavilion on Brookes a lovely small development featuring brand new fully self contained apartments with secure undercover parking, the bonus of free wi-fi, Foxtel to all rooms, balconies and a rooftop to enjoy the superb Brisbane views, we really did not want for anything else during our two day stay. Read more on my full review of Pavilion on Brookes.




Brisbane accommodation: Direct Hotels - Pavillion on Brookes review

Apr 27, 2015

When you travel, what is your accommodation preference? Traveling with my party of three (Tweeny, the husband and I) we always appreciate a little extra room and a kitchen, so where possible we opt for an apartment hotel.

So when planning a trip for the very first time to Queensland’s capital city Brisbane, Direct Hotels - Pavilion on Brookes* ticked the apartment hotel box and so much more for us. It is a brand spanking new building consisting of one and two bedroom apartments with killer city views and a super inviting rooftop BBQ area.


Rooftop view at sunset


LOCATION

Located in Bowen Hills, one of Brisbane’s newest inner city urban developments, it was just a 10 minute drive from all the major attractions we were after including the CBD and South Bank. Bordering the landmark RNA Showgrounds precinct, Pavilion on Brookes was also an easy stroll to Fortitude Valley, which is an absolute hub for cafes, restaurants and shops and we made full use of the convenient location by strolling in for dinner, coffee and snacks.


City view from our private balcony


THE HOTEL

Lovely small development featuring brand new fully self contained apartments with secure undercover parking, the bonus of free wi-fi, Foxtel to all rooms, balconies and a rooftop to enjoy the superb Brisbane views, we really did not want for anything else during our two day stay.

Wherever I stay, I always ask hotel staff for local recommendations on places to visit and eat and most of the time I am disappointed with some very lack luster responses along the lines of, “It depends what you like” and then they hand me over a generic brochure but the staff at Pavilion on Brookes were brimming with lots of local tips and insider information and pointed us in the direction of many tasty options in the area including recommending doughnuts from the highly addictive Doughnut Time (which we visited three times during our stay).

Another service we took advantage of while staying at Pavilion on Brookes was the restaurant chargeback . The service allows you to dine at select cafes and restaurants (we were given a list at check in of participating restaurants that were all within walking distance) and chargeback the bill to your room, so you only have to pay once at the end of your stay.


THE ROOM

We stayed in one of the two bedroom apartments which was all lovely and new and came with two bathrooms – so no morning arguments when we were all trying to get ready for our days out in Brisbane.
When we opened the door to the apartment my eye was immediately drawn to the balcony at the end of the room. Not only did it allow natural light into the open plan living, dining and kitchen area it also had the loveliest view of Brisbane which for first time visitors to the city was very exciting to see.


All new & modern open plan kitchen, living and dining room


Even though we only stayed for two days, I found myself making full use of all the features in our apartment. The husband had some work to catch up on so he used the study nook just off the living/dining area while Tweeny and I had a little sleep in each day. Having a kitchen while on holiday always come in handy for us, as we tend to start the day quietly, preferring to self cater and eat breakfast in our accommodation. Since it was lovely and warm in Brisbane we went swimming and instead of packing up wet dirty towels and swimming costumes, I used the powder provided and washing machine and dryer in the main bathroom, so that meant no dirty washing for the next leg of our trip!

STAND-OUT FEATURE

Pavilion on Brookes is a great find for families (or couples or singles) looking to enjoy all the delights of Brisbane but with a little extra room to move and easy on the budget. We really enjoyed the space of having two bedrooms and two bathrooms - Tweeny is always relieved not to have to share a cramped hotel room with us and have her own room. We all wake up at and go to sleep at different times so it was so nice not to tiptoe around in a small hotel room trying not to wake the others whilst still being in a great urban location.


Tweeny was very excited to have her own room with a double bed


Address:

24 Brookes St

Bowen Hills QLD 4006

Phone:  1800 258 388  

Website: http://www.directhotels.com.au/pavilion/



*We were lucky enough to stay as a guest of Direct Hotels - Pavilion on Brookes on our first night of accommodation and we happily paid for our second night.

New Canberra Pop Up Restaurant - The Loft @ Duxton

Apr 7, 2015

I have spent many an evening at The Duxton enjoying the relaxed pub atmosphere. Located at the O’Connor shops in Canberra’s inner north, it is just a hop, skip and jump from my inner city doorstep. I have lounged outside in the outdoor area in summer, took shelter indoors during winter and enjoyed a drink at the Loft, the cocktail bar on the first floor.

It is all set for a bit of a revamp! First up, The Loft has transformed into The Loft Bar & Grill Pop Up restaurant for the next 3 months. With Sydney Chef Griff Pamment at the helm the pop up is utilising Canberra produce and local suppliers to create a changing menu that will move from autumn to winter.

I got a little sneak peek and a try at the new menu last week and I really loved what I saw and especially what I ate.


The dish of the night was Dry Aged Angus Sirloin on the Bone with Roast Bone Marrow

The Scene

The Loft  @ Duxton in O’Connor encompasses everything you would imagine in a loft. It has a cool New York feel to it with dark furniture, a mix of lounges, long high top benches and stools in the bar area and a simple, not fussy design in the dining room. My favourite feature and the quintessential loft requirement, is that it has large windows throughout, overlooking the streetscape below.


The Menu

The Chef generously served up most of the menu to us to trial over the course of four hours and our table of nine bloggers lapped it all up.


Sample Menu


The Verdict

The food, atmosphere and service were all in theme, attentive but unpretentious.

Fish Chacuterie Board

I would happily eat all the dishes we were served again but there were a few stand outs which I would insist on ordering on my next visit. Starting with the Fish Chacuterie Board featuring Octopus Salami, Tuna Bresaola, Smoked Ora King Salmon and Grilled Bread. This is truly an exciting and unique dish; I had never tried Tuna Bresaola or Octopus Salami before but will be looking out for its delicate flavour on menus from now on.
The Lobster and Fennel risotto with saffron butter is a meal I will be craving as the weather cools over autumn and winter. Fully flavoured, velvety, luxurious saffron butter risotto topped with a generous amount of lobster with the crunch of fennel.

Lobster and Fennel risotto with saffron butter

THE dish of the night was Dry Aged Angus Sirloin on the Bone with Roast Bone Marrow served with Shoestring Fries & a selection of condiments. This is a steak worth bragging about! Served on the medium rare side cut off the bone, it was juicy and melted in the mouth. The roast bone marrow is my idea of comfort food – simple and rich in flavour. If you have never tried bone marrow, it is like silky meaty butter. The only thing missing was a little bit of bread to smear all the marrow goodness on to.
I usually just eat chocolate for dessert, but I could have easily eaten ten of the delectable individual Brown Sugar Pavlovas with Rhubarb & Strawberry. They are bite size and burst with sweet flavor when I popped it into my mouth.

Brown Sugar Pavlovas with Rhubarb & Strawberry

The Loft @ Duxton is sure to become an O’Connor neighbourhood gem over the next three months. With the use of fabulous seasonal produce and laid back atmosphere, I will be bringing my carnivore eating family to get a taste of the menu and especially the Dry Aged Angus Sirloin on the Bone with Roast Bone Marrow.

(Tip – Bring your appetite and fill your table with those who don’t mind sharing because you will want to try as many dishes as possible.)
Located above The Duxton - Cnr Sargood & MacPherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Wed - Sat 12pm - 3pm
Dinner: Wed - Sat 6pm - Late 

Canberra Theatre Centre - Black Diggers

Mar 26, 2015

Over the past six months I have been a guest of Canberra Theatre Centre at a number of their productions. I have seen the super human acrobatic efforts of Circa, experienced  a little bit of Broadway in Canberra with the musical Sweet Charity, watched the great Shakespeare interpreted by the Bell Shakespeare company, relived my childhood watching Mary Poppins, indulged in the ballet and some comedy.

Each time I come out of a production, I felt a little wiser for knowing the story that was just told or marvelling at the talent I had just seen; and tonight was no exception watching Black Diggers.



The play

With one month until the 100th anniversary of ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, do we already know all the stories from World War 1? Last night I discovered the little known stories of the Black Diggers.

Black Diggers tells the untold stories of Indigenous soldiers in World War 1. An all male, all aboriginal cast tell the extraordinary stories of the men shunned and downtrodden in their own country – and in fact banned by their own government from serving in the military – Aboriginal men had to hide their heritage to enlist. The production follows them from their homelands to the battlefields of Gallipoli, Palestine and Flanders and we follow those that survived back home to find out what awaits them.

Grand in scale and scope the project draws from in-depth interviews with the families of Black Diggers, as well as conversations with veterans, historians and academics.

The venue

On at the Playhouse - Canberra TheatreCentre from the 26th – 28th March.

The set was a simple construction of chalkboard along the walls, with chalk paint used to write names, years and places setting up each scene for the audience.



The verdict

It was a brilliant story told honestly. No glorification of war, no propaganda or political correctness interfered with the story. It was a straightforward amalgam of the Black Diggers experiences and representations allowing the men portrayed to step from the pages of history to share their compelling stories.

After all is said and done, the final scene is a rather haunting and slightly emotional rendition of a bugle playing the “Last Post” accompanied by a didgeridoo on stage and as the curtain falls I think that all that see this production we will remember them - all of them that served.


Canberra Theatre Centre is located in Civic Square on London Circuit, Canberra City