It seems like it was a lifetime ago that I received my first Gourmet Garden products and put together a few dishes and entered the first stage of the Blog Off / Cook Off competition. Charlotte was only 8 weeks old, and I remember making the most of her daytime naps to photograph my entries and blog them to the world.
Then last June we took a trip to Sydney for the semi finals, where I was fortunate enough to make it through to the finals - held in Noosa this past week.
So after 3 plane trips and multiple transfers, and Charlotte and I have returned from what was a beautiful week away in Queensland. Filled to the brim with adventures, new places and new faces. A week focused on my love for food, photography and for blogging. With a side of family fun thrown in for good measure.
First, I want to say a big congratulations to the lovely Laney of Crash Test Mummy (who took out the Australian prize) and to UK blogger Filipa of Gourmet Mum (who secured the international title!). Two gorgeous ladies I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with this past week, and two very deserving winners of the competition.
And although I didn't win, I loved having the opportunity to participate. And for this opportunity I must thank Brylee and the Gourmet Garden team for putting together a great few days when 11 bloggers arrived on their doorstep from all around Australia (as well as the UK and Spain!). I walked away from this recent adventure being truly impressed by the Gourmet Garden brand, and their willingness to showcase the product.
And while I will most certainly share all the details of the big cook off itself, I must first detail the few days we were treated to beforehand. For what a treat they really were!
I started my first day in Noosa with what I love to do best. Explore a new town on foot, with an early morning run.
Up before the sun, and eager to shake out my legs, I headed towards the National Park and pounded the trails with the bush to my right, and the beach to my left.
Home and showered, I then met the other finalists and we were driven to Freestyle Escape in the gorgeous Sunshine Coast hinterland. Met by Martin Duncan (Freestyle Escape Owner and Restauranteur), we were then taken on a walking tour of his property and enviable herb garden and orchard.
Martin mentioned that many of the trees have been planted by visiting chefs - an idea that perhaps I should adopt at home so I can sit back and watch my own little garden grow courtesy of any visitors lol
I know I’ve said it a few times already but this place - simply stunning.
Suitably warmed up from a morning wander (and ruing my inappropriate shoe choice), we were then treated to an array of Q&A sessions, presentations and demonstrations.
Starting with the lovely Jackie Passmore, who was kind enough to share many of her food styling tips.
Followed by a session with Jody from Stay at Home Mum - who really has grown her idea into quite a successful empire for which she now employs over 25 people!
By now the tummies were starting to rumble, so we moved on to a cooking session with the ever delightful Kim McCosker of 4-ingredients fame.
Her warm and enthusiastic personality was infectious - and it wasn't long before the gorgeous outdoor kitchen was alive with energy as we bloggers put away our cameras and donned our aprons to make a variety of dishes from Kim's cook book (using Gourmet Garden herbs, of course!) for a communal lunch.
I was tasked with making a Thai beef salad - which ended up being big enough to feed an army!
Other dishes on the menu included chicken, prawns and a heap of yummy salads. Spoiled indeed.
Fresh, fast and delicious - enjoyed while dining alfresco with a glass of wine and killer views.
But let’s not forget dessert – which was a rather yummy vegan chocolate mousse. My fellow blogger Amanda blogged all about it here.
After lunch, we were also lucky enough to have a Q&A session with one of my all time favourite bloggers - Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella. NQN was one of the first blogs I ever started to follow, so it was wonderful to finally meet Lorraine in person and hear all the juicy details about her recent book deal and the publishing process.
And, finally, Edmund Pelgen from Traffika spoke to us about all the technical aspects of blogging and how to improve our SEO and reach. Something that it usually well over my head, but something I would love to learn more about.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. So when the hours had slipped by, the wine had been sipped and the chocolate mousse glasses licked clean, we were whisked back to Noosa for a quiet evening.
I was delighted to hear that my Mum and C had had a brilliant time in my absence, and we even managed to sneak out for a quick walk before the sun set for the evening.
Actually, that is the other person I must thank....my Mum. For without her agreeing to take some leave and play 'Nanny' while I was out and about during the day, I would never have been able to go to Noosa at all!.
Day 1 complete.....day 2 to follow....