On running and writing

In the last couple of months, while I’ve been very quiet on this blog, I have actually been doing a lot of writing – and next month, I’m about to do a lot more. 50,000 words more in fact.

After thinking about it for a long time, in September I finally signed up for the Australian Writers Centre Magazine and Newspaper writing course. I had been thinking about doing this ever since the blog post about the photo-shopped school photos went viral and I saw large chunks of my blog post being reproduced. I decided that if I was going to write, perhaps I could get paid for it.

The five-week online course equipped me a lot of useful information and tools, including how to pitch articles, how to structure an article, how to analyse a publication and how to interview. It was delivered via audio each week, with a weekly task which was shared in an online classroom and for which we received feedback. I really enjoyed interviewing a classmate and writing a profile. Completing each of the weekly exercises meant that by the end of the course, I almost had a complete article and pitch ready to use. Most importantly, the course gave me the confidence to give freelance writing a go.

A week after the course ended, I pitched my first story. I decided I was going to participate in the Runaway Barossa half-marathon that I had entered back in June, despite having spent the winter injured or sick. The day before the race, I decided to pitch the story to the local paper and set myself a somewhat unreasonable deadline of providing an article “on-spec” by Monday morning. The editor came back to me and said that while there was unlikely to be space in the weekly print version of the paper, they could run it online.

I survived the 21km, which started with a 4km jog, moved to a jog/walk,  a walk and finally a stagger towards the finish line (and Riesling). After spending Sunday in Adelaide,  I left my story to the last minute (something I will not be making a habit of) and spent Monday morning frantically putting something together. Within an hour of providing it to the editor, it was shared online and while I was disappointed in the lack of proof reading and by the fact I hadn’t pushed for payment, it was still a good experience. I was feeling bad that I had worked for free until a number of people who had graduated from the course said this was still good experience as long as I was clear about why and when I would work for free.

While I have a couple of ideas about features I would like to write, my next step is to speak to a couple of editors and see where there is scope for paid work. One of the big lessons I have learned that unlike blogging, feature writing is not about my opinion and in fact, the trick is to keep yourself out of it.

Launching a freelance writing side-career would probably be enough to keep me going for the rest of the year, but NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and I am giving it another go. The National Novel Writing Month (which started in the US and is now international) is a month long “competition” with the aim of writing 50,000 words. I lasted a day in 2014 (which probably had something to do with trying to write fiction on the barest of outlines) and got about 10,000 words done last year before moving in and setting up our house took over.

I had initially planned to start a novel/memoir of Dad’s life but given the interviews and research it will require, I have instead decided to try a work of fiction. I’m going to have a go at writing the sort of family/inter generational saga/romance that I’ve enjoyed since I first read the Thornbirds as a teenager. Tentatively titled “Budburst”, it will be set here in the Barossa and I’m hoping to weave some historical stories alongside a modern story. I’ve been having a lot of fun plotting it out and I’m making the most of free access to the Scrivener writing app to draw up a rough outline of the chapters. I’ve also been doing lots of research about local history although once Wednesday rolls around, my aim will be to write 1667 words every day and finish the month with a basic story – and a long list of questions to follow up.

I have a few friends who have done it in the past, including my friend Emma, who wrote her novel Unrequited (published by Harper Collins and is being performed as a musical in Canberra this week) during NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. I went along to the Adelaide kick-off party for NaNoWriMo and have also connected with a few other people I’ve met through a couple of podcast groups,  that are planning to do it – so hopefully we’ll be able to keep each other motivated.

Given how long it has take me to write this post, I can’t promise I’ll be blogging in November, but at the same time, once I’m back in the daily habit of writing, knocking out a quick blog post might actually be welcome relief from working on my manuscript. After surving that half-marathin, I’m feeling like anything is possible!

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A new home in the Barossa

A couple of months ago, we got the keys to our new house in Tanunda. It all happened quite quickly and two months after looking at this property (the weekend after we got back from Vietnam) we had our very own place after renting for the past 2.5 years.

Our new house
Our new house

We spent a few weeks doing a few things to freshen up a 50 year old property that had been empty for five years – new lights, new paint and ripping up the carpets and lino and polishing the beautiful floorboards. Then at the end of October,  just before our 10th wedding anniversary, we moved in.

That was six weeks ago and yesterday, I finally unpacked the last box – if you ignore a few boxes of books and the “stuff” in the carport. We are slowly finding space for everything (we’ve lost a bedroom but gained linen cupboards and a pantry, lost wall space but gained amazing windows). We’ve gained an incredible established garden that continues to throw out surprises – like the discovery of some peonies last night. We’re trying to get on top of it and plan for how it should look, but we’re taking our time as we work out what is actually out there.

The peonies I discovered in our beautiful but overgrown garden
The peonies I discovered in our beautiful but overgrown garden

We had three plumbing disasters in two weeks – the final one being a leaking pipe that will eventually see the whole bathroom replaced. And a couple of weeks ago, our beautiful cat died suddenly which has made the house a little emptier than it was before.

And while we still don’t have pictures on the walls, and there is still another wardrobe to paint so we can hang all our clothes up, and there are curtains to be hung and weeds to be pulled, the most important this is it feels like home.

Put the tree up before all the boxes were unpacked
Put the tree up before all the boxes were unpacked

I wrote the words below the night before we got the keys back in September (almost a whole school term ago):

As I went to bed last night, I thought about the last 2 months, and the long process from looking at this house “just to see what’s out there”, to buying a house that will be the closest to a forever home since I moved out of Mum and Dad’s (the house I’d been brought home to as a baby).

Since then, houses had been transient – even though I settled in and made them home, I always knew they had a limited lifespan. Host families in Denmark, a share house in Sydney, a dorm in Slovakia, the Palace in Canberra, my apartment in Beijing. Even coming back to Canberra, I rented, not willing to commit to buying a place of my own, although it would turn out that Simon moved in within the year. After we got married, we bought our own place but even then we knew a 3 bedroom town house was not forever. But it was  the home we brought both boys home to, and the home we left for Hanoi, so selling it last year, even after 5 years away was strange.

Our first Hanoi home had seemed great on paper – 4 levels, multiple bathrooms and bedrooms – but the reality was the neighbourhood was isolated and there was no living space. Our next home in Hanoi was special – it was where our babies grew up, parties happened (often impromptu) and decisions were made about the next stage of our life.

Arriving here in the Barossa, we just wanted to unpack our stuff, and as we arrived on the Tuesday afternoon, I basically took the attitude that as long as this place was livable, we’d sign a lease. We saw it the next day, said yes on the spot and signed a lease on the Thursday night.  It was only lying in an uncomfortable motel bed that night that I realised I’d not only be without a housekeeper, but also a dishwasher.

But apart from this, the house was just what we needed. It was on one level, had a backyard and there was sky. We were living walking distance from vineyards, I had a great running tracks, and lovely neighbours and school was 5 mins away.While it was perfect for our introduction into the Barossa, today we get the keys to a place we can call our own. More importantly, for the first time in my adult life, I’m getting ready to unpack and throw away the packing boxes and say, this is it. This is home.

Reading this again two months later, makes me quite emotional because as someone who has spent most of the last 24 years travelling (or at least thinking about where to live next), it is a strange feeling to finally unpack and say, this is home.

But, as strange as that feeling is, it is both comforting and exciting and I can’t wait to see what unfolds in the coming years here.

Roses in our backyard
Roses in our backyard

 

 

 

I’m back…where to start?

I cannot believe I haven’t written since last year. That said, I’m not sure where the first two-thirds of this year disappeared. Writing a blog post about all that has happened might seem like a whole lot of excuses – so instead, here’s a month by month snapshot and some photos with the promise of more to come.

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Stunning beach at Port Hughes – a couple of amazing days at a cabin in the caravan park

January – a great Christmas in Sydney, sold our house in Canberra and came back ready to start the year. A few days in Port Hughes making the most of a great summer. Decided I really needed to get a job so started looking around for cellar door roles. Got the boys ready for school. Simon finally decided to see why his arm was bugging him so much – and bought a ute. Finally we had 2 cars.

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First Day of school – Year 2 and Reception (Kindergarten)

February – 1st of the month saw our youngest join his brother at school and I got a job. Simple. Met for a coffee, chatted, walked to the office – organsied handover. I like to decsribe my job with Schwarz Wines as anything but making the wine – which isn’t entirely true but it’s an awesome mix of office administration, finance, marketing and recently, even some selling. We got back into the groove of working and school and I got ready to run my first training session on free trade agreements as part of a China Ready program run by the local regional development association. Great presentation – not such a great day. Turns out the pain in Simon’s arm was a tumour.

March – day 1 of the month was Simon’s biopsy and 11 days later his amazing surgeon confirmed the worst. A 9.5cm tumour (chondrasacoma) in the cartlidge in his upper arm bone.. The treatment – removing about 20cm of bone and replacing with titanium and so another 11 days later, Simon was under the knife. Amazing doctors and nurses at Flinders made us very glad of our choice to move to South Australia – and thankful my Mum could come down and help. After a week in hospital, brough Simon, his bionic arm and his sling home to start rehab. Fortunately with this kind of tumour, treatment was limited to cutting it out – and as he went into surgery, we learned it hadn’t spread.

April – no idea what we did. Simon went back to work pretty quickly. His employers and colleagues at Artisans of Barossa were amazing. The boys took it in their stride. Friends were amazing. Teachers and after school carers a huge help. I started Crossfit because I needed some exercise after Easter! The Dawn Service in Tanunda was lovely and I realised it was the first time I’d attended a local service. We had a wonderful visit from old Beijing/Canberra friends and again got to play tourist in our own town. Lots of great wine was drunk. Simon’s first follow-up appointment showed all was looking well and the surgery had removed all the cancer. Went on my first decent bushwalk in the Barossa – so beautiful.

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First proper Barossa bushwalk – 10km from Little Kaiser Stuhl to Bethany

May – continuined the juggle of work, my business, trying to stay fit, kids sport etc etc. Went to Sydney for my sister’s 40th – great to spend time in their newly renovated house and catch up with some many friends. On a whim, booked the trip to Vietnam we’d thought about earlier in the year.  More walking and the rain began….

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Rainy morning in the vineyards

June – June was just June. Winter so cold and so wet. The countdown to Vietnam was on. More fantastic walks, work, work and family stuff.

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Hanoi really turned on the weather

July – The countdown to Vietnam continued and Mum came to look after the boys for the first week of the school holidays. It was freezing. I got hailed on going to the toilet at work one day and Mum pointed out it was colder than Lithgow or Canberra. We got our work done and finally we left for Vietnam. 10 amazing days. We landed in Hanoi exactly 2 years and 1 month after leaving – but I’ll save that for another post. We came back and it was still cold, wet and there was work to do. But then a friend pointed out a house that was on the market.

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Beautiful weather for our escape to Hoi An too

August – The first week was jam packed. Did our tax (yahoo money back), saw the mortgage broker and I went to Sydney to sell wine. Was glad I’d listended to Simon over the years. Sucked at getting public transport (even with apps on my phone I missed trains) but discovered Uber. Caught up with friends as well as my family. Came home and got serious about buying the house (more on that to come). Simon’s recovery continues and he’ll hopefully be behind the wheel again soon. I’m getting clearer about the work I want to do with my consulting business and got to work with my execllent B2B colleagues on a fantastic conference (more on that soon too).

September – its trying to warm up but it’s still wet. The canola and blossoms are beautiful. I’m working on a great project that will helpo business to understand how to create better value for consumers. Settlement it later in the month. Right now its all about booking tradespeople, deciding on colours and choosing lights.

It’s definitely been busy, and had it’s ups and downs. I’ve wanted to write but couldn’t work out when or where to start. But while we were in Vietnam, I suddenly had this huge urge to write about our posting experience and the experience of my three trips to Vietnam – first as a single girl in my 20s (during my posting in China – so lots of comparisons), then our posting which started with a 3 month old and a two year old and me going back to work, and then going back.

So, it’s time to start writing blog posts again, and while there might not be a theme (and expect lots on rennovations, gardens and decorating), I’ll try and make it fun – and include lots of photos.

Happy Indpendent’s Day

BizHub Facebook

So today is apparently Independent’s Day. A day to celebrate the work done by people like me, working alone in their spare rooms, at the kitchen table and at cafes around the world.

Perhaps simply because I’ve started a business, it seems like there are so many more people doing the same. And while some are boot strapping start-ups with a goal of becoming the next big thing, there are many like myself who have chosen the path of working alone to escape from a full-time job.

I have definitely gone from one extreme – a large Commonwealth government department to working alone. Of course, this was never my plan, but as I have written in other posts, as I explored my options after 15 years as a diplomat and trade policy specialist, I realised that I could make a contribution in the Barossa, and in South Australia more broadly by sharing this experience with small business looking to take advantage of the many opportunities coming from the FTAs Australia has recently signed with Japan, Korea, China and the 12 countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Working alone is challenging. There are days where the juggle seems too much and where you second guess whether you are doing the right thing. These days there are so many e-courses, apps, podcasts and webinars available to help run your business, but every so often you need to step back and just DO THE WORK.

One of my biggest challenges is finding the people I can best assist. While many small businesses know they need an accountant or lawyer, bringing someone in to help identify trade opportunities might not be something they have considered. Which is why, I am doing lots of networking, a course on social media to try and work out how best to reach my ideal customer and trying to write more.

We are also very fortunate in the Barossa to have a very active Regional Development Australia organisation who have established the B2B (business-to-business) network of service providers. I was able to access – for free – 2.5 hour sessions with accountants, marketing specialists, social media experts, business coaches and others as I launched Angela Pickett Consulting. And now, i’m very excited to be one of those providers, giving local business a chance to sit down and discuss their trade and export goals and opportunities.

The B2B group also run some great networking breakfasts, and I also leave these feeling really inspired by the business people in the room. The small business community seems to be growing and there is so much knowledge to be shared, which is why I am so excited about our application in the Your Say program to share in a $50 000 grant to get a co-working space and business hub off the ground. This will be a great opportunity for small business owners to network and collaborate and more importantly assist and mentor new small business owners or those considering starting their own business.

I’d really encourage you to head here and vote.

Rolling with tradition

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The Tanunda Kegel Barn – the oldest wooden kegel barn in the Southern Hemisphere

It’s almost 8pm on Day 3 of my 24 days until Christmas writing challenge and this is the first chance I have had to sit down and write today.

For the first time in ages last night, I was back at the Tanunda Kegel Club for the Ladies night. Kegel is a little like ten-pin bowling but using 9 pins and a very long narrow alley. It’s a game that was brought out by some of the original German settlers and the Tanunda Kegel Club is the only wooden kegel barn in the South Hemisphere. (You can watch a video about it here). The original barn was started in 1858 and some of the pins and balls are the original wooden balls. Many school groups visit, especially German schools from around Australia and overseas visitors, like the Barossa China Wine School group are treated to a night in the Kegel Barn as a unique Barossa tradition.

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Women weren’t allowed to play until the 70s but now a group of us “roll” on Wednesday night with a mixed group playing on Fridays. It’s a chance for a laugh and a catch-up, usually accompanied by wine and some food. Last night we ate Chinese dumplings – true multicultural Australia.

The scoring system is fairly complex and each player rolls 3 times per turn, one of which has to be an old wooden ball (the others are regular bowling balls). There are loads of different techniques and styles but the old wooden track certainly makes for some challenging bowling. It definitely changes after periods of wet weather too!

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Unlike the modern Kegel clubs in Germany, a pinsetter is still required to re-set the pins after each roll and send the balls back down.

As you can see from my scores, I am definitely still a beginner but I love being a part of something that has been going in Tanunda for over 150 years (and it gets written up in the local paper). It’s also funny that the Barossa Living magazine we picked up in Sydney soon after arriving back in Australia that inspired our move to the Barossa also featured the ladies kegel players on the cover. Certainly can’t say I expected to join them but definitely glad I have!

 

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First match report in the local paper – a “pudel” is a gutter ball

 

Writing away my writer’s block

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Summer Days in the Barossa – green hills replaced by green vines

I’m suffering a bad case of blogger’s block. I’m in a rut. I can’t even think about what to write about, let alone what to actually write.

I’m not even sure what I want this blog to be about – or who I want to read it. I know I should do one of those “ideal reader” exercises but that would be just another excuse not to write.

I need to write. When I don’t write, my brain gets clogged up with lots of random crap and I feel myself getting frustrated and annoyed. It’s also annoying because I started this blog when I started my career change because after years of being restricted about what I could write about due to my job. Suddenly I was free to write about whatever I wanted to write about. The irony – now that I can finally write about anything, I can’t think of anything to write.

I need to write because while suffering writer’s block with this blog isn’t really a big deal, I should be writing for my business blog and for a women’s networking organisation I’m a part of. At least for those blogs, I have a target audience and some guidelines on topics.

 

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Loving the colours of late Spring and Summer

So, what am I doing while I’m not writing. Well, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to Nashville (damn you Netflix for allowing me to continue straight to Season 2 – and hurry up and get the next two)! I guess my Dad did play a lot of country music in my childhood….

I’m stuck on level 120 of the Inside Out Thought Bubbles game. I originally downloaded this for the boys because we loved the movie so much and now we’re all playing it. Evening conversations go – “so how was your day, what level are you on?” For the first time ever, I’ve consulted the internet for tips – but as the levels get harder, I am getting bored so hopefully I’ll get over it soon.

I’m getting excited and stressed about heading off to Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney in just under 2 weeks. Excited because I can’t wait to see family and friends but a little stressed about what needs to be done before then – teacher gifts, early birthday party for our Christmas Day baby, catch-ups with friends, a house inspection, and lots of cooking. And I’m not even worrying about shopping until we get over there.

 

On that note, where did the year go? I think part of my anxiety about what needs to be done in the next few weeks is the realisation that the year is almost over and that my business is likely to hit a quiet period, just as I’m starting to build up contacts and networks. On the upside, this is good motivation to put some things in place over the next few weeks so I can enjoy a few weeks off.

 

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I took this photo on Tuesday – while this area escaped the fires, seeing how dry it is, it’s no surprise how quickly they spread

Finally, I think the fires close to us last Wednesday have probably unsettled me and many around me. While I monitored the fire throughout the day, I really didn’t expect it would get so close and that I’d be hearing a catastrophic fire warning for our town as I picked the boys up. While we were lucky that we didn’t have to evacuate, we did start getting things together and came to the scary realisation that we were ill-prepared – no battery powered radio, one torch and not enough hoses. I was blown away by how calm the boys were and how much they knew about fires from school and from visits from the local country and metropolitan fire services.

 

As a 20 year old, I had bags packed of letters and keepsakes. On Wednesday, looking round the house at all our beautiful things collected over the years, I felt like everything was irreplaceable but that didn’t mean we could take it all. At the end of the day, the pictures, rugs, ornaments and photos are just things. Packing this time it was about some changes of clothes, the boys’ special toys, negatives, the hard drive and some jewelry. As long as we were together and safe, that was all that mattered.

 

Knowing we have friends who are volunteer fire fighters and who were evacuated has made this disaster all the more real. The outpouring of community assistance has been amazing and in many cases, relief centres are already overwhelmed with donations. I was glad to have a friend who works in one of the affected areas and I could at least send a few bags of groceries up with her on Friday. It doesn’t feel like much but hopefully communities will continue to help out when they can – and for the long road ahead as people rebuild.

 

I had not plan when I started tapping on the keyboard today. I just wanted to write something because once you start writing, it gets easier.

 

So, for the next 24 days, as the boys open their advent calendars counting down to Christmas, I’m going to write. One blog every day for the next 24 days. I’m not promising it will be exciting, or insightful or even funny, but bear with me – who knows what might come out.

And if you like what you’re reading, please leave a comment and share with your friends.

 

 

My Barossa – a few of my favourite things – wineries and other things to do

View over the Steingarten Vineyard
View over the Steingarten Vineyard

In recent months, we’ve had visitors, done a house-swap and been asked to provide suggestions for friends of friends coming to visit. So I thought I should write a blog post with the various emails I had sent. However  I have been procrastinating over this post for weeks because every time I work on it, I think, “now I should just visit a few more places” and then post.

The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

The reality is, when you decide to call a place home, it can sometimes be too easy to slip into a local’s, “I’ll do that later” attitude and forget to play tourist. On the positive side, writing a list like this is a good reminder about all the places I still want to visit and to make time to do so. So Mum’s visit last week was a good excuse to tick a few more of the “must-dos” off my list which means it’s become an even longer and I’ve split it into two parts.

This is by no means a definitive list, in fact, if I ever get to a point where I say I have seen everything there is to see, and done everything there is to do, well, I should just up and find a new place to live. But I doubt that will ever happen because there are always new restaurants to try, new vintages of wine to sample, new shops and new exhibitions. Not to mention the fact that the Barossa is one of those fabulous places that thanks to the vines and fruit and almond trees (think blossoms), actually has seasons that you can see.

Wineries

Of course this is one of the main reasons people come to the Barossa and there are so many options. I have promised myself that in the coming months, I am taking myself of to do more wine tasting so I can expand my list of recommendations. I am no wine expert – so I’m not providing tasting notes – but I’ve included a link for all of them

  • Artisans of Barossa – 7 small winemakers in one of the most picturesque spots looking out over the vines towards Tanunda. Usually great art and jewelry on display, space for kids to run around or play soccer/cricket and the fabulous Harvest Kitchen (which I’ll include in next week’s post on places to eat). You might even get to enjoy a tasting with my husbandIMG_3716
  • Langmeil – great wine, fantastic history and a lovely platter (see my post on a day of wine tasting for more of the history about Langmeil)IMG_0515
  • Peter Lehmann – great tasting room, loads of beautiful space outdoors to enjoy a platter while kids run around and toys inside if the weather isn’t so great
  • Rockford – great wines being made in a winery that looks like it is a museum. Great insight into how wine is made

    Rockford Wines
    Rockford Wines
  • St Hallett – another beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic or a platter – I think they still do a fantastic duck platter
  • Whistler – a great one for families with BBQs, swings etc for kids and you can build your own platter
  • Thorn-Clarke – beautiful property out at Angaston and some great wines
  • Grant Burge – beautiful views up on a hill overlooking the Krondorf area, platters and lovely bubbles

    View from Grant Burge Wines
    View from Grant Burge Wines
  • Jacob’s Creek – a huge tasting room, excellent museum with history about the Barossa and wine making, a restaurant and beautiful outdoor areas. Also the opportunity for tours and cooking classes in the Jacob’s Estate cottages

    Jacob's Creek
    Jacob’s Creek
  • Two Hands – beautiful tasting room and a big focus on Shiraz

    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
    A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
  • Seppeltsfield – a huge tasting room with circular tasting benches, the opportunity to try a fortified wine from your birth year, s and beautiful architecture (plus the fantastic Fino restaurant and the Jam Factory – where you can see artists at work)

    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
    Courtyard at Seppeltsfield
  • Chateau Tanunda – celebrating 125 years this year, it’s certainly one of the most iconic landmarks in the Barossa Valley
  • Pindarie – won one of the top tourism awards, giant hay bales to climb (which has made it my boys’  favourite winery to visit) and a recently renovated tasting room. Great wine (especially the 2015 Riesling) and one of the most fantastic views out over the Barossa. The food is also great – we had a saltbush lamb pie and one of the best platters I’ve had in the Barossa in the time we have been here when we visited with Mum recently.
    Lunch at Pindaric
    Lunch at Pindaric

    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
    Climbing hay bales at Pindarie
  • Home of the Brave/First Drop wines – finally visited with Mum last week. Wines we had with our incredible tapas lunch were great so must get back for a tasting soon.

    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
    First Drop Wines/Home of the Brave
  • Yalumba – one of the oldest family owned wineries in Australia and a beautiful property with it’s iconic clock tower.

    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival
    My boys at Yalumba during Vintage Festival

Places I’m off to visit soon

  • Yelland and Papps – run by Michael and Susan Papps who are lovely people (which makes it even worse that I haven’t visited). First generation winemakers making great wine and with a tasting room that always gets rave reviews
  • Tscharkes
  • Turkey Flat – visited years ago, drive past on a weekly basis – must make time to stop!
  • Elderton
  • Taste Eden Valley – a tasting room in Angaston showcasing around 12 Eden Valley producers

This is just a tiny selection of the 170 wine companies in the Barossa. More details and a history of wine making in the Barossa, check out the Barossa.com website

Don’t forget, tasting a few wines at a few different places can add up. So unless you can spit like a professional, you’ll need a designated driver or the services of one of the local transport companies. There are lots of options from taxis, to private cars (including beautiful vintage cars), buses and even a three-wheeled motorcycle tour.

However there is much in the way of public transport and if you think you need a taxi, especially around school start and finish times, you’ll need to book in advance.

Other Things to do

Of course, it’s not all about wine tasting and there are a number of towns throughout the Barossa with great places to eat, beautiful shops, parts, galleries and other sites.

I tend to spend a lot of my time in Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston but there are lots of other great towns to visit including Lyndoch (where we have spied a number of restaurants, a bakery and most importantly a park for the kids), Eden Valley, Kapunda, Springton and Williamstown (close to the Whispering Wall)

The Whispering Wall
The Whispering Wall

And while we’re on parks, favourites in our family include the Sculpture Park at the Mengler’s Hill lookout, Tanunda Oval, Angaston and the train park at Nuriootpa.

Mongrel's Hill and the Sculpture Park - great views out over Tanunda
Mongrel’s Hill and the Sculpture Park – great views out over Tanunda

There are also loads of great antique and second-hand stores full of furniture, home wares and other curios that provide a fantastic insight into the history of the Barossa.

Finally, the Barossa is a fabulous place to just walk or drive around. This place is a photographer’s dream, especially if you love landscapes dotted with old stone churches, farmhouses and the ever-changing colours of vineyards and paddocks.

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As I said at the outset, this is just a sample of the things we have enjoyed or have on our wish list to explore in the coming months.

Tourism Barossa has some great resources here (and you should also visit the Visitors Centre in Tanunda when you arrive for more tips and local knowledge.

If you’ve been to the Barossa (or live here), I’d love to hear your tips for wineries I might have missed.

I’ll try share and my list of favourite places for lunches, dinners, food and coffee soon, so be sure to tweet or email if there are places I should include.

12 months in the Barossa – and some tips for making a lifestyle and career change

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Today marks 12 months since we arrived in the Barossa Valley. As is often the case with milestones like this, in some ways it feels like we’ve been here forever, but at the same time, the year has flown.

Looking down over Tanunda - the place we now call home
Looking down over Tanunda – the place we now call home

When we decided to make the move to South Australia after our 3.5 years in Hanoi, we didn’t really know what we were in for. For me, it was about leaving a career of 15 years behind to do something new. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted a more flexible lifestyle and that I wanted to be doing something that made a contribution to my community. For Simon, it was about getting back into the wine industry after being the stay-at-home Dad for most of our time in Hanoi. For the boys, it was about embracing life in Australia, the outdoors, fresh air and friendships. We chose South Australia because the cost of living seemed low and there were numerous wine regions to choose from.

Don't think I'll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards
Don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of wide open skies and vineyards

12 months on, I think we can honestly say we made the right decision. We’ve got some great friends, we’re doing work we love and we have 2 happy kids (and a happy cat).

Boys at Mengler's Hill soon after we arriving - the sculpture park is still a favourite spot
Boys at Mengler’s Hill soon after we arriving – the sculpture park is still a favourite spot

Some of the highlights from the last year include:

  • starting a business from nothing that I really hope will contribute to the local community
  • making lots of great friends – from Mum’s at school to work contacts and friends of friends

    New friends and exercise buddies
    New friends and exercise buddies
  • being involved in the Vintage Festival parade – being part of the community and connected to the history of the place

    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade - which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
    One of the floats from the 2015 Vintage Parade – which was also a part of the first parade in 1948
  • getting involved with the Kindy
  • starting this blog
  • getting involved with the Spence Club – writing content for the blog and nominating for the board
  • having time to cook, knit, sew and read
  • having family and friends come and visit and love the place

    First Barossa Christmas with the family
    First Barossa Christmas with the family
  • shopping local – the Barossa Farmer’s Market Facebook posts for about 6 months before we arrived were a big influence on my feeling that this was the place – and I love that we can buy local, meet the people we buy from and contribute to the community

    Our first visit to the Farmer's Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
    Our first visit to the Farmer’s Market was as good as we expected, and has been a weekly trip since
  • the power of social media – as in Hanoi, Twitter andInstagram have been great platforms to learn about theBarossa but also to connect with people and make friends

    New hobbies in the Barossa - playing German bowls - Kegel
    New hobbies in the Barossa – playing German bowls – Kegel
  • the beautiful scenery and history that surrounds us – from old buildings and churches to living a 5 minute walk from the oldest Shiraz vines in the world – and of course, lots of great wine

    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil - some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home
    The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil – some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, 5 minutes from home

It hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops, and there have been some big adjustments.

  • being at home – without the household help – and trying to balance studying then starting a business with cleaning, cooking, school pick-ups etc
  • losing my identity – so much of who I was, was tied up in my job and it was strange to not have that
  • not earning disposable income – and not being able to find the “bridge” job I thought I could have because
  • stress of the early days – no one to call if I was running late for pick-up, crying myself to sleep because Xavier didn’t have many friends to invite to his party and feeling like an outsider at school
  • doubts of starting a business for the first time

But the highs definitely outweigh the lows and there is so much that we’re looking forward to in our next year here. – Finding our own house – but given gardening abilities haven’t been as I’d hoped might need to find a compromise between the rural idea and the ‘burbs – but I do want chickens

  • Getting my business off the ground
  • More great adventures with family and friends as we explore theBarossa Valley and more of South Australia

    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
    Definitely looking forward to exploring more of the beautiful coastline of South Australia
  • Getting to know even more of the fantastic people that bring us our great food and wine
  • Seeing our kids continue to thrive
  • More cooking, crafting and maybe even some preserving
  • Getting my health and fitness back on track and running the Barossa Half Marathon next year

    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch
    Definitely need to expand the veggie patch

And for anyone thinking of making a big, bold lifestyle and career change, here’s a few things I have learned:

  • it takes time – there will be good days and bad days but stick with it, and know some days you just have to cut yourself some slack
  • knowing why you want to make the change makes it a lot easier to cope with the challenges
  • be open to new stuff, say yes – but don’t completely overwhelm yourself.
  • If you’re a planner, you’ll still need to plan. I realised I still need menu plans, to-do lists and I still need to get up early because even though I I’m working full-time and be flexible with my day, part of my career change was about having time to do other things like cook, exercise and craft – and there are still only 24 hours
  • Coaching and networking is so valuable – especially if you’re starting a business. It’s great to have someone keeping you accountable and cheering you on, especially when you are doing something completely new and don’t know that many people.
  • Enjoy it! Celebrate the little victories, get to know your new town and focus on the good stuff!

IMG_3269 Finally, a huge thank you to Simon and my boys, our family and friends – old and new, who have provided so much support along the way. We couldn’t have done it without you!

From public servant in Hanoi to business owner in the Barossa

Leaving Hanoi, June 2014
Leaving Hanoi, June 2014

For the last week, I have been struggling to come up with a blog post to mark one year back in Australia. What could I say that wasn’t simply a rehash of the last month or so of Timehop photos I’ve posted from our last weeks in Hanoi and our arrival in Australia. I thought of trying to come up with a list – maybe the things I’ve learned, the best bits about being back in Australia, the things I miss most in Hanoi.

My boys on our last morning in Hanoi. Hard to believe they were only 2 years and 3.5 months when we arrived
My boys on our last morning in Hanoi. Hard to believe they were only 2 years and 3.5 months when we arrived
My favourite photo from our Disneyland stop-over
My favourite photo from our Disneyland stop-over

But nothing really flowed, and to be honest, I’ve been fairly busy trying to get my business off the ground and getting organised to head back for our first trip to Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney since we moved to the Barossa.

But as the week has gone on, I felt like I needed to write something about the last year, because when I look back at it, it has been pretty amazing and I am sure a period of our lives we will look back at and wonder how we did it.

The blue skies and open spaces were things we'd really missed in Hanoi. Tanunda, August 2014
The blue skies and open spaces were things we’d really missed in Hanoi. Tanunda, August 2014
  • We packed up 3.5 years of our lives in Hanoi and moved back to Australia
  • I left the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade after 15 years – my first (and only) full time job
  • We moved to the Barossa Valley (where we only knew a couple of people)
  • Simon started back in the wine industry and now has a fantastic position at the Artisans of Barossa tasting room
  • Angus started Primary School and Xavier started Kindy (pre-school)
  • I started a blog
  • And probably the biggest of all, at least for me, I decided to launch Angela Pickett Consulting
View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa
View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa

I am not very good at keeping a diary or journal, but I recently found some entries I made last year about taking a redundancy, deciding to move to the Barossa Valley and restarting our lives back in Australia. There was an entry where I scoffed at the suggestion from my good friend Lisa (who would become my business coach ) that I should start my own business. There was also an entry about crying myself to sleep because Xavier only had a couple of friends coming to his 4th birthday because we’d only been in the Barossa 6 weeks and I’d planned his party for the first day of school holidays and the AFL (football) grand final. Reading that, I really wished I had written more because it was great to look back and see how far we’d come.

He didn't care how many friends turned up - as long as the cake was great
He didn’t care how many friends turned up – as long as the cake was great

I think one of the hardest things for me over the last 12 months, but also one of the most exciting was losing the part of my identity that was so closely tied to my career. It has been refreshing to make new friends who have nothing to do with work and who have no idea of what I have done in the past. Many of my new friends are the Mums of the boys’ friends and I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing support network. I truly feel part of a community where I know there is someone to call if I’m running late for school pick-up or need a last minute babysitter. Not only that, but I know have exercise buddies, ladies to chat and laugh and share the (occasional) glass of bubbles with.

The Young and the Breathless taking on the 6000 Adelaide Oval Stair Stomp
The Young and the Breathless taking on the 6000 Adelaide Oval Stair Stomp

At the same time, thanks in part to social media, I’ve also developed my own networks and it is through these networks that I have been able to take opportunities and start my own business.

New hobbies in the Barossa - playing German bowls - Kegel
New hobbies in the Barossa – playing German bowls – Kegel

When we left Hanoi, I knew I needed a break from work, and as I wrote in my last post, my study provided with a bit of a safety net. For me, and I’m sure for friends and family, giving up a career didn’t seem so crazy because I was studying towards something new. I’d always said I just wanted to change the way I worked, and I wanted to be more flexible and yet, I dismissed the idea of having my own business.

While it is still (very) early days, I wouldn’t change this decision for anything. While my initial post-fulltime work idea of going to the gym after school drop-off has been replaced by early morning workouts and I am still doing way more housework than I’d like to do, I am loving being my own boss. I am busy but it is doing the things I want to do and it is exciting. For so many years, my working life was so tied up with the frustrations of working in a very bureaucratic structure, where responsibility and reward were tied to your role and level. Now its just me, and while this can sometimes be a bit daunting after so many years of asking permission, I am actually enjoying being in charge of both my own business and my own choices. There is no-one else to blame if things don’t go the way I had planned and I finally feel like I can make mistakes that I can learn from.

I do miss having colleagues to brainstorm ideas with but thanks again to social media, I have great networks across the globe who can provide advice, support and encouragement as I tackle things I never expected I would be doing – setting up my accounts in MYOB, briefing a graphic designer, setting up a website and writing proposals for clients. I’ve become a huge podcast fan – especially during my morning workout – and have learned so much from podcasts like Being Boss and The Lively Show.

I finally feel confident and in control and while my to do list is never ending, I love being to pick the boys up from school, catch up with my friends for coffee or take some time out to cook. I’m finally getting my fitness and nutrition back under control (which is really hard when you are surrounded by great food and wine) and I’ve even started running and agreed to do an obstacle course event next month.

Of course, there have been moments where I have wondered if it was the right decision and wished I had had the foresight to know I wanted to start a business and put away some money to start, rather than waiting until I worked out that the perfect job didn’t exist because this was what I was meant to be doing. I’ve also realised I’m really impatient. When I feel like the business should be further advanced and I should be doing more, I have to remind myself about how far I have come.

Beautiful views over Tanunda, May 2015
Beautiful views over Tanunda, May 2015

Looking back, it has been a fantastic year. I think the life we have created here is probably even better than we had imagined, and at least for now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

A day of wine tasting in the Barossa

Two Hands Wines
Two Hands Wines

One of the advantages of not having a full-time job is being able to make the most of the opportunities when they come along. So when the opportunity arose to help a friend out by playing chauffeur last week, I jumped at the chance. The guest was Kamal Malik, the Head Sommelier from the Conrad Resort in the Maldives. Kamal was in Australia as the guest of Teusner Wines, as he was the winner of the Hilton Hotel Group’s South East Asia Sommelier Cup, which Teusner had sponsored. I met Kamal on his last day in the Barossa, picking him up in one of the big black Teusner utes (a definite highlight for this city girl who has only recently moved to the country). On the way to our first stop, I learned that Kamal had started in hospitality and after being assigned to the bar in the hotel he was working, decided that wine was more interesting than cocktails and decided to make a career of it. After several years in India, he moved to the Maldives where he has been for about 9 years, the last 4 with the Hilton.

The bakehouse
The bakehouse

Our first stop was Two Hands Wines in Marananga, one the prettiest villages in the Barossa. We were met by Daniel Hill, who recently joined the Two Hands marketing team. Daniel showed us around the winery before taking us up to the old bake house for a private tasting. The cellar door is in a beautiful old farmhouse and the bake house was apparently where the locals all came to bake their bread. The bake house also has a glass floor so you can look down into the cellar of back vintages below. Being the designated driver, I enjoyed a coffee while Kamal tasted, although I did taste a couple of the Flagship wines as I figured this was a special opportunity. While Shiraz is definitely the focus (including single region wines from six different regions and single vineyard wines), we were able to try a yet to be released white from the Flagship series as well as a Rare Muscat in one of the coolest bottles I have seen.

A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands
A few of the wines tasted at Two Hands

After Two Hands, we drove over to Langmeil, which is literally around the corner from home and was the first Barossa winery I visited on my first visit to the Barossa in 2007. We met Cellar Door manager Jonathan for a tour around part of the vineyard. We started in the blacksmiths forge and I learned that my street is named Christian Auricht. He was a blacksmith and founded the village of Langmeil in 1842. The other old buildings on the property were home to the butcher, baker and cobblers shop and I learned that Langmeil Road was actually the main street. The original “Freedom” vines were planted in 1843, and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving Shiraz vineyards in the world.

Kamal in the old blacksmith's forge
Kamal in the old blacksmith’s forge
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil
The Freedom Vineyard at Langmeil

I was also excited to hear about the Orphan Bank vineyard. Vines planted in 1860 were transplanted from what is now the Langmeil housing estate (where I live) in 2006 and replanted on the Langmeil site. We were also lucky to see the new underground cellar being built in the old water tank. A local carpenter has built a beautiful circular rack around the walls and the wheel from an old machine for crushing grapes has been transformed into a stunning light fitting.

Underground cellar at Langmeil
Underground cellar at Langmeil

After our tour and history lesson, we escaped into the warmth of the cellar door for a platter of Barossa produce (including mettwurst from Steinys and cheese from the Barossa Cheese Company ) and a tasting. While Kamal was taken through an extensive tasting, I limited myself a taste of the Sparkling Shiraz (such a Barossa specialty and often referred to as Barossa Berocca), and the Valley Floor, Orphan Bank and Freedom Shiraz. The history buff in me loved that I was trying wines from such old vines, and while they don’t necessarily make better wines, the history behind them does make them very special.

A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil
A fantastic line-up of Barossa Shiraz at Langmeil

Our final stop was Rockford Wines. I have driven past several times, but hadn’t been in to visit. We were met by Operations Manager David who gave us a brief history of Rockford as we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine in the courtyard.

Courtyard at Rockford Wines
Courtyard at Rockford Wines

In 1971, winemaker Robert O’Callaghan purchased the property and set about collecting various bits of machinery and old granite tanks and set up a winery that David told us was described by a journalist at the time as “a new 100-year-old winery”. It really did look like a museum, with a small window that grapes are hand loaded in through, the old crusher (the wheel of which was the same as the one now part of the light fitting at Langmeil), granite tanks and the iconic basket presses. All the reds are made on-site and I am definitely going to visit next year during vintage. There were so many great stories and things to see – from the new basket presses made by a customer who became a friend that are now exported around the world, to the very old solera storing fortified wine and the impressive barrel stacks.

Basket press at Rockford
Basket press at Rockford
The crusher at Rockford - with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil
The crusher at Rockford – with the same wheel we had seen as at high fitting at Langmeil

After soaking in the history and stories, we went up to the Stonewall Tasting Room. Being the last stop for the day, I tasted more than I had at Two Hands and Langmeil, but I did work on the art of elegantly spitting. I tasted my first 2015 Vintage – the White Frontignac that had been released that day. I really enjoyed it, probably as it was quite light and zippy and at about 8.5 per cent, I could see it becoming a summer favourite. The Riesling and Semillon were also great and it was interesting to try the Alicante Bouchet – which looks like a rosé but is actually a red-fleshed grape. The Sparkling Shiraz was the first Rockford wine I had tried on my first visit to Adelaide in 2000, so of course I had to taste, and I would have to agree with it being seen as one of the benchmark wines of its type in the region. A tasting at Rockford wouldn’t be complete without tasting the Basket Press Shiraz, which was very enjoyable too. Finally, after managing to taste and spit without embarrassing myself, we finished with the 2005 Shiraz VP, a fortified wine that is made from a friend’s family vineyard before we farewelled Kamal who headed off to Adelaide, while I returned the ute back to Teusner.

Rockford's Black Shiraz
Rockford’s Black Shiraz
2015 White Frontignac - my first 2015 vintage wine
2015 White Frontignac – my first 2015 vintage wine

It’s probably fairly obvious that I am no expert when it comes to wine – I can pick varieties, I can usually pick a couple of key flavours and I can tell if a wine is from an older vintage, but mostly, I either like it or not. I think the thing I enjoy most about wine tasting is the stories behind the wine. Apart from having the chance to taste some pretty special wine, I really enjoyed seeing the diversity in the wine industry in the Barossa. There is such a range of wineries – from large-scale big name brands to small batch producers, wineries with long histories and new players – and something I realised was that they are all important and all have a role to play in ensuring the longevity of the industry and the region. The other thing I have come to appreciate the longer I am here is the importance of the grower. I think before I moved here, I thought of most wineries owning and working their own vineyards, but the reality is, the region is made up of hundreds of growers and vineyards, many of which have been in the same family for generations. In some ways, they are the unsung heroes, perhaps overshadowed (at least in the average wine drinker’s mind) by the brands and big name wine makers. One of the great things about living here has been meeting the grape growers and seeing that at least in this part of the world, they aren’t just faceless or nameless farmers but an integral part of the winemaking life of the Barossa.

With a husband that works at a tasting room (Artisans of Barossa, which is a group of 7 like-minded wineries, including Teusner), we probably haven’t done as much wine tasting here as I would like. So after my day out with Kamal, I’m going to aim to go and visit a new spot every couple of weeks, if only just to learn more about the history of the Barossa and the importance of winemaking to the region.

View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa
View from the deck at Artisans of Barossa

I’ve included a link to all the wineries we visited in the blog, but you can also visit Barossa.com or Barossa Dirt to learn more about wine in the Barossa.