Take better photos – Brisbane

Snap happy? Yes have to admit I sort of am. Hence the gift of a photo course- Take Better Photos – travel & landscape. Well now I’ve said I attended this course, you will all be expecting professional photos. Hmmm, on that count I will probably disappoint, however I will admit to learning some pretty neat tricks on this afternoon/evening short course.

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Here’s one example of my newly refined skills. Yes I know, the photo itself is somewhat boring but, this demonstrated the zoom in, zoom out on my little camera.

The beauty of the courses offered by Take Better Photos, you can go back any time you want in the next year to attend the same course with the same camera. That in itself is a bonus, the idea being if you are travelling, take a quick refresher course before you leave. Not a bad idea and good value for money.

Another advantage of these courses, you come away armed with these neat little laminated cheat cards, specifically for your camera.

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Now some attending, including my daughter who took me along with her, were armed with cameras and attachments of many different lenses. Some of these cameras could almost make you a cuppa, almost. I did say almost ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Me being the “iPhone photo opportunity snapper”, had to take a camera to this course, hence our little underwater camera. No extra lenses, it does not know how to make a cuppa- we are working on that, and the case fits in your handbag. At the end of the day, it did not matter what sort of camera you had, the course and our trainer, catered to all. A big plus.

Prior to this course, I thought you just put this camera underwater and snapped away happily hoping to get at least part of a fish in the picture!

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Now I know all sorts of fabulous little tricks including how to focus on something close before taking a clear distant photo.

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Clear as day graffiti – I’m on a roll here ! But seriously, after the sun set it was time to test a new skill. For these shots, we took the little torches clipped to our cheat cards and jumped around like demented idiots in front of our cameras, to take a shot of the light picture we created, without having yourself in the shot.

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Pretty cool !

End result? Yes I’m happy, however my family now groan every time I whip out the camera for that one opportunist shot. I took the offer of buying the iPhone cheat cards, which I’m still working my way through, but I’m not a pro, just a snap happy amateur who is now armed with some new tips- could be dangerous!

I really would highly recommend these short courses, you will come away with some valuable tips, meet a few new faces and feel somewhat more confident when you aim the camera. As well as travel & landscape, there’s portraits and iPhone camera courses amongst others. Remember to go back in the year, always good to take a refresher.

Watch this space, you never know what photos I may be able to take now. Must admit though to still bring proud of this one….yes here we go again! This one required a trip to Vanuatu + cocktails + sunset + relaxation – work – stress (feeling pretty tipsy), + a quick snap = this photo . Best part of this photo- I actually completely missed the cruise ship I was trying to take a photo of. Now I’m armed with the new knowledge, the next one of these will include said cruise ship.

Check out these courses, thoroughly worthwhile!

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Caloundra Central Apartments & Sitar Restaurant

Many evenings were spent perusing accommodation to try and find a nice apartment for a night visit on the Sunshine Coast. The main problem encountered – finding a place where you can stay for just one night when passing through, with the majority a two or three night minimum.

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Eventually I did come across this accommodation for one of our young family members to use along with two overseas visitors. A quick email through received a reasonably prompt reply, and before long, an apartment was secured for a night, on behalf of the intended travellers.

Caloundra is a nice, laid back seaside town, situated closet to Brisbane of the Sunshine Coast area settlements. Myself, I much prefer the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast. There’s a nice feel here, without the glitz and high rises of the Gold Coast.

The photos and descriptions were given to me with the request to write about both the apartment and restaurant, as the three who stayed were very impressed with the overall complex, especially the hospitality of the staff.

The reasonable price included a fully equipped roomy two bedroom apartment, very large balcony, underground parking, free wifi, with barbecue facilities, restaurant, pool and a steamy spa pool on site.

First impressions were the cleanliness, with the apartment sparkling clean, also spacious, plus the added bonus of friendly, helpful staff. Three out of three, not bad for this complex situated on a hill overlooking Caloundra, with a view through to the sea.

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Planning on a night of catching up , this group of three decided to dine at the Sitar Indian Restaurant which was part of the complex. The main draw cards for them, a cheap menu which included a good variety of general food, plus a short wander back up to the apartment after a couple of drinks!

As the only ones dining in the restaurant on this Sunday night, they enjoyed the company of a delightful, very helpful young staff member who was excited to wait upon them.

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I’m told that this little restaurant had been set up beautifully by the family who seemed to run the complex. From the bar area, if you were after a quiet pre dinner drink, to clean cutlery, crockery, glasses and very fresh food, this homely, comfortable restaurant impressed.

The total meal bill for three with drinks, mains and entree, came in under $70. A favourite of one of those dining was butter chicken, with the dish on this night declared the best ever eaten. Pizza, chicken kebabs and a very nice bread were also good meals.

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As you can see from the menu extract above, the prices, by today’s standards are cheap for what were filling, fresh and by all accounts, tasty well enjoyed meals.

Some day when you find yourself passing through Caloundra, or if you’re seeking reasonably priced accommodation on the Sunshine Coast, you may want to keep this place in mind. After all this was recommended by young late teen, early twenties travellers, who enjoyed the break from the city scene.

Pig n Whistle- Queen Street, Brisbane

Booming over the loud speakers, came the voice announcing

“You are under Surveillance by Brisbane City Council”.” This followed by shrieking alarms, a sure fire way to bring every person in this area of the Queen Street Mall to a standstill. Probably looking somewhat bemused, as well as feeling half deafened, we felt like we were in a scene from Big Brother. If anyone hadn’t been fully awake, they most certainly were now!

Those used this apparent daily exercise, appeared nonchalant. We were informed this was simply due to the raising of the doors into the shopping complex, housing shops like Louis Vuitton. Apparently the complex devised this approach to the raising of the main doors, to prevent people rushing towards these expensive shops.

The somewhat hilarious part of this experience, was that, if the doors had just slid up normally, I don’t think anyone would have noticed. Not only that, we had parked in the car park underneath these shops, and after leaving the lifts on the way to the mall, had the opportunity to roam freely throughout the shopping centre, if we so desired.

So began our breakfast dining experience at the Pig n Whistle.

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Today we had the company of some overseas visitors. Hence the visit to the city. Half our group chose another venue to try, whilst a few of us went with hubby’s desire to sample an English breakfast. The Pig n Whistle, being a place he had been wanting to go to for some time. The other venue will have a completed review in the next few days – written from the opinion of another family member and some visitors.

Seated in the mall, with a view of the Swarovski shop, (oh yes, VERY sparkly), we perused our menus, whilst the local ibis searched for their breakfast.

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The size of the caramel latte mug cup, was impressive, however I was told not particularly tasty. Worth noting too, the green tea was real leaf tea, not a tea bag, most enjoyable.

Service was ok, nothing spectacular or outstanding, but sufficient. Meals did take a while to appear at the table, looking good though, when presented.

Hubby’s big english fry up, looked appealing, the bubble & squeak being super hot and delicious, although he did find the rest of the meal a little cold. Other meals included an omelette and eggs benedict, which were nicely presented, warm enough and enjoyable.

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If you’re in the city or looking to add a little sparkle to the view whilst dining, or enjoying a drink, you might enjoy this venue in the mall. Certainly lit up a slightly overcast day ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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Coffee Club

On a Sunday recently, we decided on coffee club for Breakfast.

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Yes this a franchise, which as a general rule, does serve good food. It’s a good backstop if you want to go somewhere you know the menu will be the same with generally good service.

Meals here are always decent sized and we have never had a bad meal at coffee club. Service this time was good, they were attentive, checking on meals and making sure we were happy with everything. Certainly no complaints with orders and meals delivered in a timely manner. Perhaps if you are a regular, service is probably a little more personal, but as a passer through, the lack of the personal touch does stand out compared to restaurants who are not franchised where staff will go that extra above and beyond what is required, to interact and ensure customer satisfaction.

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Hot chocolate looked as good as it tasted, a great winter warmer! The caramel latte was average by hubby’s standards, certainly not on the top of his list.

Meals did not disappoint, being fulfilling, fresh and tasty on this rather drab winters day. This omelette was fluffy, fresh with the extra side of avocado adding a nice finishing touch.

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Coffee club is everywhere and I would rate it as being a safe reliable place to enjoy a coffee or a meal.

Don’t forget to follow Dine Live Travel on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with new review additions to the website.

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Costco

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Quietly smiling, whilst resisting the urge to fist pump, I clutched this piece of plastic in my hand. Now believe me when I say, to finally receive this card was somewhat of an achievement. This was my third visit out to the Northlakes store after having paid the $60 annual membership fee six weeks earlier.

The American store opened around the end of May in Northlakes. I had deliberately delayed joining by a few weeks, anticipating that most people would be keen to go in first. This I did pick right hearing of ridiculously long waits to pick up your piece of allocated plastic. The first two visits we didn’t even enter further than the carpatk. Long lines of waiting customers outside, saw us drive on through and head off again.

Today, I fooled the system. Picking a weekday as opposed to a weekend, taking a day off work whilst timing my arrival to twenty minutes before the 10am opening. This time there were only about fifty customer cars, tripling by the time the store opened.

In amongst the confusion of a sea of hardened Costco devotees pushing massive trolleys, we were informed by one staff member, that the new memberships area hadn’t opened for the day. A line of people without trolleys, were streaming in through the Exit door. After consultation with another staff member, we were told to go through the exit door to collect that elusive plastic card.

At 10.20am I was finally able to push one of the huge trolleys and barrel through the entry door, waving my new plastic card, embossed with my mug shot on the back, at the door entry staff. Finally now I could see for myself what this place was really about. Some had raved about it, more had said it was ok but nothing spectacular.

Today it was my chance to cast a critical eye over the workings of Costco.

In all fairness, after the disarray at the entry, I was now met with wide aisles, surrounded by lanes of warehouse shelving, housing everything you can think of. One point I did notice, particularly through the car area, yes you can buy floor mats, cleaning supplies and more, but there is only one or maybe two choices of each line.

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This particular dashcam seemed cheap enough. I did find the same item at Dick Smith for $60 dearer. That in itself is quite a saving. Onto the groceries!

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2.4 kilos of cake for $22. This was around three to four times the size of a supermarket cake which would cost about $15. Impressive. I would say if you are hosting a party or catering for an event, there are some serious savings to be made with the bulk buying here. Asian foods, a New Zealand section, options abound.

The seafood will hopefully taste as good as it looks! I was pleased to find a good variety of seafood. Oysters, lobster tails, bags of mussels, scallops, fresh and frozen.

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For the most part, fruit, veges and meat were not really any cheaper than my usual meat and vege market. If though, you are, like myself, a bulk buyer, then you will most definitely pick up some good buys in the grocery lines.

There’s an amazing variety here, you can order new spectacles, a set of tyres for the car, a sparkling spa pool, kitchen appliances. Or maybe pick up one these rings priced at over $100 000. Yes that is the correct number of zeros. There’s one here that’s a cool half a million.

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If you think this might be slightly excessive, perhaps you would prefer a Louis Vuitton handbag for around $1 000.

Certainly the variety here is impressive. This includes range of lines as well as price. I will shop here, probably around three or four times a year. If you’re not sure about joining, find someone who has a card and take a visit with them. Each cardholder is allowed one non card holder to enter the store with them. Depending on your shopping requirements, you may find this store worthwhile to you. My tip would be to pick a quieter time to visit.

Hogs Breath Cafe – Aspley

Wood, corrugated iron, signs, flags accompanied with the smell of grilling steak and the sound of scraping of chairs on the wooden floors. We haven’t been to Hoggies for a while, this visit being for a birthday celebration dinner.

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Normally we like to spend a little time at Hogs Breath for a mid afternoon break. Few places stay open during the time between lunch and dinner service, which is why we have enjoyed the odd lunchinner here. Always a lot more relaxing between those two busy meal service times, with less customers around, making it a relaxing way to chill out for a couple of hours. Especially on an outside table if it’s a nice afternoon.

This time, we missed the quiet afternoon chill out as we attended an early evening birthday celebration. Which, certainly changes the whole atmosphere of the restaurant.

Inclement weather forced us to seek shelter in the warmer, more inviting inside area tonight. Seated at a booth as opposed to a table, I’d have to say whoever designed the booths, didn’t do it for comfort. I guess it is a good way to ensure a quick table turnover, which perhaps was the idea behind the rough timber bench seats. Ultimately this could increase the daily takings as opposed to those who linger. Hmm maybe there was some thought put into these booths after all ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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The menu is extensive here, with a lot of focus on their speciality slow cooked prime rib steaks. Over 18 hours these are slowly cooked before they are finished on a char grill with a high temperature searing. The result creates soft and juicy meats which you partner with salads, veges, baked potatoes, hog tail or normal fries.

To start with we ordered boss hog mushies accompanied by the finger food combo. Even if you are not that keen on mushrooms, these lightly crumbed, salt & pepper mushroom pieces were deliciously soft and tasty. Calamari, stuffed baked potato, spring rolls plus crumbed chicken, make up this combo.

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The chicken was a nice surprise, as it appeared dry, however, the look was deceiving given it was beautifully tender.

Our main meals included their tower for two, made up of steak, ribs, chicken , bacon, and in our case, salad with mashed potato. Presented as a three tier meal, this one is not for the faint hearted or the small meal person. Very, very filling! The chicken avocado meal and steak special of the day were I’m told, nicely cooked and good meals, with the exception of a baked potato which was a little undercooked in the middle.

Since we’d made it this far, and given this was a birthday celebration in which were had already over indulged, we decided to finish with the large shared Hoggies Rocky Road sundae. Featuring eight scoops of ice cream, chocolate mud cake, whipped cream, marshmallows, topped with toasted coconut. Quite an undertaking which four of us couldn’t finish! Also lucky that birthdays don’t occur every day.

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Overall impressions, food was good, well presented, tender and tasty. Service was ok, nothing spectacular but sufficient. The cocktail list was well enjoyed by our table…… In fact the drinks menu presented a good variety except tea. Half a dozen coffee choices but only two teas, with no green tea available. Not a big one, however given the tea was tea bags, it probably wouldn’t cost much to include a couple of other choices.

Looking forward to returning for an afternoon cocktail one day. Keep in mind, there are different locations for this chain restaurant are throughout Australia.

Lock’n’Load Bistro – West End Brisbane

Nestled in amongst a group of shops, sporting a timber frontage which gives a Wild West style look, sits Lock n Load bistro. From the street, this place does look small. Once you enter the front door, you can follow through to the sign as you wait to be seated. We were the first on site for Sunday brekky which resulted in us being led through to the back area. Now you are surprised to find the dim timber inside area open into a welcoming undercover outdoor setting.

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Interesting ornamental features are scattered throughout the plantings framing the area. To find this niche of nature tucked away in a busy area near the city, is most certainly pleasing.

A lot of thought has been put into the overall menu, including style and names. For example an eggs benedict becomes green eggs and ham, boasting crisp pancetta with farm fresh eggs and lemon scented spinach, set on sourdough toast. A big breakfast was renamed Fully Loaded, which it was! This one even included drunken beans!

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The vege loaded was my choice which had an interesting mix including crispy corn fritters. Overall very tasty, enjoyable, not too spicy, to be honest much to my taste. The last dish was spicy frittata, which was also a very large dish, although I’m told it was not all that spicy.

Deciding to try a dessert to finish breakfast was a brave move. These ricotta hotcakes were huge. Topped with berries, marscapone & pecan praline and cherry compote, this breakfast dessert was a massive undertaking, two of them being shared at the table.

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Even with a struggle to the finish, this final dish was definitely worthwhile and declared very enjoyable by all.

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Check the menu for this restaurant. It is worth a look. They advertise lunch, dinner and music as well. This certainly would be a picturesque place to enjoy a lazy lunch or wile away some time over dinner.

Service was good, even with the absence of the bar person for the morning, who showed up late. We were informed of this though and told by our waitperson that she would do the best she could with drinks order. To her credit, all the drinks and meals were delivered in a timely manner, perhaps the coffees could have been a bit warmer. But the offer was there to have these changed if we wanted- we didn’t. Well done though, overall we were happy with our visit and this is a place we would return to.

Powerhouse Brisbane

Met with a facade of brick, you can be forgiven for thinking this looks like a wall left standing from an abandoned factory, not an actual building.

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Yet, upon entry into this fascinating venue, you enter a whole new world. The combination of brick, concrete, steel, blended with deliberately designed graffiti, exudes an industrial grunge feel. Everywhere you look is another level, doorway, entrance or stairwell. The entrance leads you through to a huge balcony area on the other side with plenty of seating areas overlooking the Brisbane river.

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The choices are endless here, Bar Alto, restaurants, cafe, theatres, reception venues. We were attending a short course today, which I will cover separately, so this meant a quick bar snack and relaxing wine whilst watching the world go by. The bruschetta pictured above, was topped with roasted baby beetroot, ricotta and balsamic. Normally I am not a beetroot fan, however on this occasion, the bruschetta was tasty, without being overpowering and partnered well with a Marlborough Savignon Blanc.

An enjoyable and relaxing way to wile away the spare time was enjoyed by us on the balcony. Different groups were seated around, a couple of ladies enjoying a catch up over a bottle of wine, the young family encouraging children to expand their taste range, couples, groups. All were friendly, relaxing and enjoying the afternoon.

Like a big TV screen, the Brisbane river provided an ever changing program of shows. Jet skiers, City Cats, the Kookaburra Queen, planes arriving and departing Brisbane, pigeons as well as the odd albatross. Always something happening, with a backdrop of modern apartments and houses scattered about on the other side of the river.

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Three weddings were taking place in this venue alone on this one Saturday. The size of the place meant the wedding parties were swallowed after their respective ceremonies, into somewhere within the building.

On another section of the buildings outside wall, absailers learnt and tested their new skill. Possibilities here are endless!

I personally would return to try one of the restaurants on site. Although, I think I would probably have a preference for a cleaner lined building rather the grunge style, there is something rather fascinating about this place. Certainly is a nice area to catch up with friends or family. Worth checking it out.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

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This is a once in a lifetime experience . That being said, it is also the reason why I am writing about something we went to about four years ago. I doubt we will be lucky enough to attend this again. However I know there are those out there who will never have the chance to witness this spectacular show for themselves. Especially also given the fact we attended the 60th anniversary Military Tattoo in Sydney, and I believe, the second time only it was performed outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.

I admit though, this is not a show, it is an amazing experience. Especially if you also adore witnessing bagpipes being caressed by their owners to exhale incredible sounds. This is something you either love or hate. Personally, I love bagpipes when they are played too perfection. Marching, precision, beautifully crafted backdrops, heartfelt music, the Tattoo has it all.

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The Edinburgh Castle backdrop was stunning, providing the perfect backdrop for this amazing combination of marching, music, drumming displays and ultimate precision.

The persistent cold drizzling rain that night, did not in anyway dampen the spirits of those attending. Although admittedly, Sydney did try hard to drench everyone.

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Comedy through to professional seriousness, the consolidation of everything rolled into this night was fascinating, breathtaking.

This particular blog may not interest you. However if you are keen to witness an incredible spectacular involving many nationalities with more precision than a Swiss watch, then this was the go to event. I believe that now the format has changed, with the main objective to be ensuring a profit rather than showing an amazing combination of skills to an appreciative audience. I do hope this isn’t the case, as this is one of our most unique experiences, ever.

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Toscani’s – Northlakes

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A later than usual Sunday wake up resulted in a visit to Toscani’s at Northlakes. This is a nice restaurant setting, stone tiled floors giving a Mediterranean feel. Menus haven’t changed in a while, to the point the presentation books for the menus are staring to look a little tired and tattered.

Usually we would choose an outside table, but the cutting wind today, drove us to seek a warmer table inside. There being plenty of choice here, with a couple of wall half booths, and plenty of freestanding table settings, it simply comes down to deciding upon your preference.

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Toscani’s menu caters for most taste, gluten free bread is one of the options. Service was generally ok, with friendly staff to take orders and deliver meals to the table. Meals were all warm enough, well presented, and nicely cooked. Two were the Mediterranean meal, one with a side of salmon and hollandise sauce. The combination of the haloumi, spinach, poached egg atop a sour dough, created a tasty, filling, enjoyable meal.

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Pictured above are the mushrooms with asparagus plus an extra side of bacon. The omelette meal was large, and I’m told was a tasty enjoyable meal.

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We have enjoyed a few meals here, and to be honest, have found this restaurant to be a good safe restaurant all round. Perhaps a bit of a tidy up on the tired looking menus might help to give everything a lift, however, we have never had a bad meal or service here.