Interiors, Travel and Lifestyle

  • An Overland Adventure into North West Queensland
  • Susie Ellis
  • AustraliaGetawayRoadtripTravel

An Overland Adventure into North West Queensland

carnavon gorge

sue standing with bull

campfire and axe next to river

I have recently returned from a fantastic nine-day trip into the Outback – usually a very dry region – but after heavy rains a couple of weeks before, we were fortunate to see it blooming in parts with white and yellow wild flowers and verdant green grass.

With Noosa as our starting point, we travelled through Gayndah, the citrus growing region, the fruit trees positively groaning with beautiful bright orange fruit.

Our friends towed a 4WD caravan, and we drove our 4WD with a roof tent – not for the feint hearted, especially when negotiating the ladder in the middle of the very chilly nights answering the call of nature.

When picking our special place to camp each evening, we followed the advice of our friends and took time to find the perfect spot – preferably level ground, in the lee ward side of the wind. If possible, we made a corral, with a cosy campfire plumb in the centre. Ahh... the quintessential campfire – this for me is one of the joys of any outdoor camping experience. Feeling the warmth of the coals, watching the dancing flames, almost hypnotically, and just hunkering down to revel in the comfort of it all.

Heading through Theodore, it was blatantly evident what was grown in the area, with small, white fluffy balls of cotton strewn along the roadside, remnants of the last cotton harvest.

Being a passenger on a long trip can sometimes be a trifle boring, but there is always something to take note of. For me it was the various names of the creeks, sometimes so apt it was hilarious; Fat Hen Creek, Toogood Creek, Nugget Creek, Mudaduck Creek, Dogwood Creek, and my favourite – Big Womadilla Creek.

Carnarvon Gorge was a treat – a lovely day walk enabled us to see beautiful waterfalls, the Moss Gardens and well-preserved and beautiful Aboriginal Art. Then it was through the gem fields of Emerald, Sapphire and Rubyvale – all laden with fascinating stories of the mining and prospecting days of yester year. Jus and I are born fossickers and I can't wait to return with her and have some fun. 

At Barcaldine we stopped and witnessed firsthand the spot where the birth of the Australian Labour Party was took place – sheep shearers in 1891 went on strike for better working conditions and wages and thus the Labour Party was born.

On to Longreach, where the Australian Flying Doctor service was formed and QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service). We enjoyed the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Stockman’s show for a bit of local history and flavour.

We pushed on to Winton, a small town that has well and truly earned its fame with the discovery of dinosaur bones in the area. It has a great museum, as well as a short documentary and some locally discovered fossilised bones.

All too soon it was time to head for home. A fascinating and worthwhile trip of  over 3,000 kms in nine days. Would love to do more but back to work!

Photography / Nathan White Images / Mahali

  • Fried Oysters with Corn and Cilli
  • Susie Ellis

Fried Oysters with Corn and Cilli

Fried Oysters with Corn and Chilli

We've been looking forward to trying out a couple of 'warmer' dishes for the cooler weather, we thought start with this one and we absolutely loved it – a super sophisticated starter for oyster lovers.

Serves six as a starter

What you'll need

Vegetable oil for deep frying
12 Large Sydney Rock oysters, shucked, shells rinsed and dried
Seasoned plain flour for dusting
2 eggs, lightly whisked
140gms (2 cups) white breadcrumbs (We aslo added a small pinch of mixed dried herbs)

Corn Puree
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 corn cobs, kernels removed
250ml (1cup) chicken stock
10gm butter
1 garlic clove, crushed

Chilli sauce
6 long red chillies
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp olive oil

To make the corn puree, heat olive oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat, add onion and sauté till tender (8-10 mins). Transfer to a blender, add butter and garlic and process till smooth, season to taste and set aside.

To make the chilli sauce, preheat oven to 200C. Place chillies on an oven tray and roast till tender (5-7mins), transfer to a zip-lock bag, seal and set aside for 10 mins to steam. Peel chillies, discard skin and seeds, finely chop, and combine with vinegar and olive oil and season to taste. 

Preheat oil in a large deep-sided saucepan or deep-fryer to 180C. Pat oysters dry with absorbent paper, dust in seasoned flour, then dip in beaten egg, and coat in breadcrumbs. Deep-fry oysters in batches until golden ( 2-3mins), then drain on absorbent paper.

To serve, spoon a little corn puree into the base of each oyster shell, top with a fried oyster, drizzle with chilli sauce and serve hot.

Recipe / Gourmet Traveller
Photography / Mahali

  • A Sumptuous and Refreshing Weekend Getaway / Halcyon House
  • Susie Ellis
  • AustraliaGetawayInterior StylingLong WeekendTravel
  • 1 comment

A Sumptuous and Refreshing Weekend Getaway / Halcyon House

Weekend Getaway | Halcyon House | Bikes

Weekend Getaway | Halcyon House | Pool and Palm Tree

Weekend Getaway | Halcyon House | Sunset

Halcyon House bedside with brass lamp

Halcyon House lounge with blue couch and coffee table

This little piece of heaven has been transformed from a 1960’s motel, into an all-grown-up, fresh, classy, getaway; a place to feel totally relaxed, a place enjoy the finer things in life. Situated at Cabarita beach, Halcyon House on the New South Wales North Coast, ticks all these boxes. We love that the original architectural features have been maintained, such as the Besser Blocks and arches without compromising on the aesthetic, and with a fresh new approach in the décor, it has brought this once tired lady back to her glorious best. We can't wait to visit.

Photography / Hugh Stewart for Vogue

  • Journey to Namibia
  • Susie Ellis
  • AfricaHereroHimbaNamibiaTravel

Journey to Namibia

Mud hut belogning to the Himba Tribe of Namibia on a desert hill

Namibia - a Himba woman kneeling on the ground using a grind stone while two younger Himba women look on

Sue Ellis standing with Himba women and a baby in Namibia

Red sand dunes with Gemsbok in foreground, Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sand-filled Interior of old ruin at Kolmanskop in Namibia

 Welwitschia plant, Namibia

Here I am a couple of hundred feet above the ground in a small aircraft looking at miles and miles of deserted beach as far as the eye can see. Below me shipwrecks are strewn about, disintegrating and half buried in the sand. Remnants of ships from a bygone era, which sailed along this coast – a treacherous part of the east coast of Namibia bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. This coastline was particularly dangerous as there were no harbours – coupled with fogs that frequently rolled in from the ocean – and when ships ran aground, survivors often perished because this coastal area is so remote and inhospitable. Hence the name Skeleton Coast.

There are also dilapidated remnants of wooden buildings that belonged to the alluvial diamond hunters of yester year. This was the Namibia of old, when times were different, and men were here to try their hand at diamond prospecting. 

Namibia is a country of such raw beauty it takes one’s breath clean away. I first travelled here 10 years ago with my husband and a couple friends on an overland camping safari, and we were witness to some of the most beautiful natural scenery I have ever had the opportunity to visit and photograph. One must be prepared for the stark reality of desert and semi-desert, as it is a harsh and arid land. The Herero tribe who are descendants of the Bantu, still wear clothing reminiscent of the Victorian style of the German people who started arriving in Namibia in 1892. By 1904 they declared the area ‘German South West Africa’ - hence the enduring German influence, especially seen in the fashion and architecture. The Herero women wear a head dress of draped cloth, bound in the shape of cows horns, coupled with a floor length dress of billowing fabric gathered at the waist, in beautiful bright colours – tough to wear such a garment in 40°C plus temperatures!

Inland from the Skeleton Coast, is the Kaokaveld where we camped in the dry Huab Riverbed where herds of Kaokaveld elephants traversed, mostly in the cool of the evening, wandering right past us while we slept in open shelters made from plam fronds. Elephants who survive and thrive here are well adapted to the semi-desert conditions. A visit to Namibia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Etosha National Park in the North West. Because of the dry conditions, abundant game congregate around the waterholes, guaranteeing great animal sightings. Etosha’s main characteristic is a huge salt pan, and a mix of desert, semi-desert and savannah.

We also visited the the Himba tribe of the Kaokaveld. We took some basic provisions of corn meal, matches and tea as our gifts to thank them for welcoming us into their village and huts to witness and share in their everyday way of life. They live a semi-nomadic existence, raising cattle and goats. Although they don’t wear many clothes – just animal skin loin cloths for both men and women – they protect them selves from the elements by rubbing a mixture of red earth (ochre) and goat fat into their skin. They braid their hair, depicting marital status and wear ornaments made from wire and leather which adorn their arms, ankles and neck. It's fascinating to see firsthand, due to their isolated existence, how they exist with just a bare minimum and retain their traditional lifestyle.

Sossusvlei, in the southern part of the Namib desert, is by all accounts a marvel of nature. Huge red sand dunes, forever changing shape with the winds, are the pearl of this region. A photographers delight, they change colour depending on what time of day one is – the stark landscape testament to the low annual rainfall.

The old mining town of Kolmanskop has been erroded due to the slow and insidious invasion of the sand dunes, slowly taking over and filling the buildings with sand. It is now a ghost town, but one can still get an inkling of how this once thriving town used to look.

The Welwitschia plant is a true marvel of nature, best described as a ‘living fossil’. Living to a 1000 years or more, it is low lying and flat leaved. Discovered in 1859 by the Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch. The largest specimens grow to no more than 1.5m above the ground but their leaves can grow to 8 meters or more. They truly look like a plant from the pre-historic age, and in fact probably are. It's a marvel to see these intriguing plants growing in the most inhospitable conditions and to think its been living for hundreds and hundreds of years on a bare minimum of moisture!

Such is the magic of this beautiful, and undeniably unique and rugged place. A testament to nature doing it tough but without compromising on beauty.

Photography / Mahali / Kolmanskop by Michiel Van Balen / Sossusvlei Welwitschia

  • Szechwan Pepper Crusted Tuna Salad with Pickled Ginger
  • Susie Ellis
  • EntertainingFoodLifestyle

Szechwan Pepper Crusted Tuna Salad with Pickled Ginger

Szechwan Pepper Crusted Tuna Salad with Pickled Ginger

It's that time of year again, lots of celebrating and lots of eating. And sometimes all we feel like is a tasty, light salad so we wanted to share one of our favourites – this delicious Szechwan Pepper Crusted Tuna Salad with Pickled Ginger and Wasabi Mayo from the Spirit House up here on the Sunshine Coast. It looks like a lot to do but it really doesn't take that long and the result is a beautiful share plate that's perfect for Summer get togethers. 
Spice Mix
1 Tblsp black peppercorns
½ Tblsp roasted and ground Szechwan pepper
½ Tblsp roasted and ground coriander seeds
½ large dried chilli, seeds removed roasted till crisp and ground
½ Tblsp onion powder
1 Tblsp sea salt
400g Sashimi-grade tuna
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
Coat the tuna with oil and sprinkle generously with the spice mix. Heat a heavy based frying pan, and sear tuna on all sides. Remove from the pan, wrap in plastic wrap when cooled and refrigerate.
Wasabi Mayonnaise
2 Tblsp wasabi powder dissolved in enough water to make a paste
1 egg yolk
1 Tblsp lime juice
1 Tblsp Japanese rice vinegar
1 Tablsp Japanese soy sauce
Pinch white sugar
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable oil
In a food processor, combine the wasabi paste, egg yolk, lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper and process till thick. Slowly drizzle in the oil. If the mayonnaise is too thick, thin with a little water.
2 green shallots finely chopped
1 clove garlic
2 Tsp chopped ginger
75mls rice vinegar
30 mls soy sauce
1 Tblsp brown sugar
¼ cup coriander leaves
To make dressing, combine all the ingredients in a blender and whiz until emulsified.
1 avocado diced
2 golden shallots finely sliced
50g watercress
2 Tblsp pickled ginger slices
1 Tblsp sesame seeds to garnish
To assemble salad, thinly slice tuna and divide between four serving plates. Toss salad with dressing to coat the leaves, divide between the plates, piling in the centre of the tuna. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Swirl the wasabi mayonnaise around the outside of the tuna.

Buy pickled ginger in supermarkets or Asian food stores
Recipe from Spirit House Cookbook

Photography / Mahali

  • The Guest Room
  • Susie Ellis
  • Guest RoomInterior Styling

The Guest Room

Guest Bedroom Magnolia House Byron Bay Abodes

For those of us who are lucky enough to have a spare room to use as a guest room, there are certain basic requirements that go a long way in making your guests stay as memorable as possible. No matter what size your guest room is, it is easy to make it comfortable and an all-round pleasant experience for your guests.

Make sure the bed is super comfortable, with crisp sheets, at least two pillows per guest – one firm and one soft – and a warm cosy duvet or cover. Secondary lighting on the bedside tables is a must for reading and writing, coupled with a occasional reading chair and a warm throw. A full-length mirror is a good idea; we all love to see the 'full picture' don’t we? If you have the space, a small coffee maker or kettle is a lovely touch, it saves your guests having to walk through the house to the kitchen for their first morning coffee or tea fix. If you would like to go one step further, an iPod player allows your guests to enjoy their favourite music or listen to the news. Ample storage and hanging space in a cupboard is also a must – coupled with hangers of different types for jackets, coats, slacks and fine silks.

The bedside tables should ideally have the following:
A torch
A candle and matches
Books and magazines that may interest your guests
Information on local attractions in your area
A water carafe and glass
A 'Do Not Disturb' sign for the door handle, when a little privacy is needed.

I think the wireless internet code on a notecard is a lovely touch, and an adapter for devices if your guests are international travellers. An ample supply of good quality towels and a robe, especially if the bathroom is separate to the guest room adds a touch of luxury.

Grooming products are also important; moisturisers, shampoo, conditioner, suntan cream, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Be indulgent with special body products, natural moisturising soaps, bath salt soaks, fragrant candles, and soothing body balms – they all go into making your guest feel welcome and spoilt. A hair dryer with lots of punch.

A great idea is to spend a night in your guest room, you'll experience first-hand what your visitors will appreciate and enjoy when they come and stay with you.

Last but not least, I love a guestbook – I've had mine for about 35 years and it's such a pleasure to look back through the comments from all our special family and friends who've stayed with us over the years. You couldn’t be given a bigger compliment, than a guest who has appreciated the indulgence of your thoughtfulness and comforts, and has thoroughly enjoyed their stay with you.

Image / Magnolia House Byron Bay Abodes 

  • Safari
  • Susie Ellis
  • AfricaTravel


Bed with mosquito net at Singita Game Reserve

Glass-fronted bathroom Singita Boulders South Africa

Large Male lion lying on his side in the bush on the ground

Safari - an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat, especially in East Africa. Late 19th Century: from Kiswahili, from Arabic 'safara' to travel.

Travellers have been fascinated with exploring the African bush since before the 1800’s, and the Safari experience of years gone by was once, more about the bagging of trophies, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, leading some species to extinction, but today thankfully, we mostly watch and 'shoot' only with our camera, and the only things we take away with us are the wonderful, life changing memories! 

Whether one stays in a luxury lodge with all the trappings of sheer indulgence, or a simple tented camp with the bare, but it must be said, comfortable minimum, it is still an experience one never really forgets. I love the tented camps, which house comfortable beds, billowing white mosquito netting draped over the bed for protection from mosquitoes, hurricane lamps on the side tables, and an outdoor bathroom often located at the rear end of the tent, entirely open to the elements.

Once whilst camping in the Savuti in Botswana, the wily baboons learned to undo the 'baboon-proof' ties on the tent entrance, and got stuck into the bar fridge! Upon our return from a game drive, we were met by a troop of very inebriated primates, completely 'out of their trees' which was a laugh a minute. Needless to say the imaginative staff invented a more secure solution to the problem and the tents became baboon proof!
Whilst on Safari, it is normally the custom to take a 'sundowner' game drive in the late afternoon in search of those animals that are beginning to forage and drink when the heat of the day has lessened. It’s mandatory to pack your favourite tipple, some snacks and of course the camera!

Late afternoon photography in the softer light is wonderful and so rewarding. To find that special place, sipping a (my favourite) gin and tonic, to sit and watch the sun, once so searingly hot, now a deep orangey red, slide beneath the horizon is absolutely magical. Slowly the busy twittering of the birds dies down as they settle for the night, and owls and nightjars take their place, one can hear the rustlings in the undergrowth and night calls take over from the day.

The arrival of the African night creeps up silently, for that is when the darkness descends like a thick black cloak, and the sounds and smells of the bush, completely envelope you. The inky African sky, once so blue, is now dotted with millions of stars like diamond dust.

Just like the day, during the night there is a whole myriad of animals, birds and insects, which use the darkness to forage and feed. In short the whole essence of a game drive is the anticipation of the totally unexpected. Getting back to camp, where you know there is a hot shower and a chilled glass of wine waiting, is simply heaven. Dinner is often served around the campfire, sometimes in a boma (a circle of branches/ stones to protect you from the predators outside), where the stories of the day surface and when everyone loves to share their adventures and sightings. Later, when you lie awake in your bed, and the camp is still and quiet, you can share in the language of the bush.

'Early to bed and early to rise', that’s pretty much the how it works on safari, for to get woken before dusk, have a hot coffee and a snack and prepare for an early morning game drive is normally the order of things The nocturnal animals are winding down and scuttling towards their dens and lairs whilst the diurnal animals are waking and preparing for their long hot day, often making the waterhole their first call.

The waterhole is a great place to sit for a while, watching and waiting for all kinds of animals who wander down to slake their thirsts and share the first drink of the day. Although there is sometimes a pecking order, mostly, they arrive in all shapes and sizes, jostling for the best place to drink. The animals remain on high alert for any predators who may be using this opportunity to surprise their quarry, especially crocodiles, eyes barely visible above the surface of the water waiting for an opportunistic moment to launch itself at some unsuspecting victim.

Is there any better feeling in the world, even for a small moment in time, where one can share in the intricate lives of the wild animals of Africa, experience such amazing and jaw dropping moments, and be witness to species that may not be with us for very much longer, due to man’s greediness, and exploitation?

This is the whole essence of a Safari; it’s the anticipation, the wholeness with your environment, and the privilege to be a part of something so primeval, innocent and raw, its nature at its natural best!

Photography / Tim Evan-Cook for Conde Naste Traveller / Mahali

  • Picking Perfect Paint Colours
  • Justine Smith

Picking Perfect Paint Colours

Long dining table with dark walls and brass hanging lights installation at Vitrahaus

Picking paint colours seems to be a tricky part of decorating for a lot of people. It’s not surprising – there are so many paint swatches available, it can be completely overwhelming.

So how do interior designers and colour consultants do it?

Colour is personal so it’s important to choose colours that you really enjoy, that you will want to be around, regardless of trend. And inspiration is everywhere – nature, fashion, design – look around and pick a couple of colours that really appeal and create colour boards for each.

Once you’ve decided on a colour, choose the swatch that matches best. Take swatches that are a couple of shades lighter and a couple of shades darker too. Colours look very different on a large scale so it’s best to have options.

Buying sample pots and testing your colour in the space is a must, there is no skipping this step! Choose two walls and paint a couple of metre by meter test areas. It’s best to do two as different walls will get different light. Be aware that it might take a bit of work to find the right colour with the right undertones – for example, greys can look purple and vibrant colours look very bright on large surface areas. Remember to look at your test areas at different times of the day to ensure that you love the colour, even with subtle light changes.

Finish should be considered too too. Matte is great for ceilings but difficult to clean so not good for everyday areas. Satin is low sheen and great for areas that get cleaned often. Semigloss resists humidity so good for kitchens and bathrooms. High gloss works well for dark dramatic colours.

Be adventurous – unexpected can work. For example painting a small room – like a bathroom – black, can look absolutely amazing. Add some metallic fixtures and some beautiful lighting and you’ve got an intimate, spa-like luxurious space.

Remember, it’s just paint – it can be changed – so have fun and enjoy the journey.

Photography / Felix Odell

  • Celebrating Colour
  • Susie Ellis
  • ColourInterior Styling

Celebrating Colour

Moodboard of fashion and nature images with green hues

Can you imagine living in a world without colour? We can’t. Colour defines who we are, no matter how bright, vibrant, moody or subtle. 

Whether consciously or subconsciously, we choose to live with and wear colours we are drawn to and enjoy. Colours evoke subliminal messages and trigger emotions, depending on the way in which they are used. Often we are not aware of this. Colour is a powerful force.

In decorating, colours don’t work in isolation and colour combining comes into play. A great way to explore what works for you and to choose a palette, is to create a mood board – more on this soon.

 Images / Pinterest

  • Italy, There and Back
  • Susie Ellis
  • CampariFoodItalyLake ComoMilanTravel

Italy, There and Back

 White speed boat on Lake Como

Two days in Milan does not a virtuoso make! However, I did enjoy a small taste of this beautiful city. Travelling on a day ticket for the underground got us everywhere we wanted to go and reasonably. A visit to the Campari Bar in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle ll was a must as was spinning on the Bull’s Balls – also in the Galleria – a tradition that's supposed to ward off bad spirits! And of course I couldn't help maximising the summer sales – too much shopping, not enough time.

I cannot write about Italy without saying something about the food – simply delectable, with the accent on complete freshness. My favourite of all the courses was the antipasto – meltingly tasty cured meats, mild nutty Sisicillian olives and freshly prepared fungi sometimes deep fried in a thin batter or sautéed with garlic and herbs – a fusion of delicious fresh flavours washed down a chilled Pino Grigio and some freshly baked bread – heaven!

After Milan we moved on to Lenno, Lake Como for a couple family celebrations. It was the perfect place to unwind and take in all the surrounding beauty of the lake. Crystal clear water, grand architecture and beautifully manicured gardens – its easy to see why so many people spend their summers there.

All I can say to friendly Italy is Addio ci tornero`sicuramente - goodbye, I'll be back!

Image / Mahali

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