Floating on the Fraser Coast

Over a decade ago I experienced a flotation tank for the first time. And despite fraying togs (aka: bathers, swimmers, trunks, costume) I was hooked and became a regular at a Float Centre I found in Brisbane.

And then I moved to Hervey Bay and – despite a lot of googling – no float centres miraculously appeared on the Fraser Coast.

Until now.

My work colleagues heard a rare spark of excitement from me last week as I discovered via the local newspaper that the new Mind Body and Soul store and cafe, which has opened in Torquay, has a float tank!

floating on the fraser coast

And given my tendency towards instant gratification, it was a relief I was able to schedule a float at the opening special rate ($55 for one hour) after my Monday morning yoga session at (neighbouring) Ocean Tree Yoga studio.

As it had been a few years since my last float I was a little nervous, but it was like riding a bike. Or you know, floating in a sealed pod…

I was impressed at the quality of the new Hervey Bay facility. There’s just the one tank but it’s a state of the art unit with its own filtration system – for those worried about germs and stuff.

float-tank

For those not in the know, you can check out my post on my other blog about the experience (well, MY first – fraying togs and all), or get more info from this video which Mind Body & Soul has been sharing on Facebook.

Essentially you lie (ie. float) in an epsom salt filled enclosure – ideally – with no external stimuli… which is why they’re sometimes called isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks.

There are a stack of physical and mental benefits documented and this article in Discover Magazine links to a few. Minimal googling / research however will uncover just some, including: aiding healing through increased circulation of oxygen and nutrients; and releasing endorphins, reducing cortisol and stress hormones. Importantly it helps achieve mental stillness and promotes a more relaxed state of mind.

I still remember someone telling me that an hour in a float tank is the equivalent to an entire night’s sleep. And I’m sure I didn’t make that up.

Mind Body and Soul requires ‘floaters’ to have a shower before and after. Believe me, you’ll want to have one after as you’re covered in a layer of salt, and they have soap free washes and conditioner and shampoo as well as robes and towels. The facility is new so everything is in great condition and feels very luscious and pampering.

Things you need to know:

  1. You cannot drown (mum!). The water in the tank is not deep (mum)!
  2. You will float. I’m no lightweight and the huge amount of salt in the tank will allow you to float.
  3. There’s a handle on the inside of the pod you use to lift the lid, so you can’t get locked inside. Indeed, if you’re worried you could even leave the lid open at first.
  4. If you like you can put a dim light on inside the pod (I didn’t, as I was going for the full sensory deprivation thing).
  5. The light switch (a button) is inside the pod, as well as an emergency button if you need it.
  6. You can have music playing throughout the entire float; complete silence; or as I chose, 10mins of music in the beginning and 5mins at the end (so I knew it was time to get out).
  7. You’ll need to cover any scratches or cuts or they will sting. Vaseline is provided for this purpose.
  8. You’ll need to shower before and after.
  9. You cannot wear anything into the tank. (See my earlier comment about togs disintegrating. The same goes for jewellery etc.)
  10. Earplugs are handy if you (like me) are prone to ear problems (see below).
  11. You’ll fill in a form and disclaimer before you start as is often the case with anything health / wellbeing related.
  12. There’s a toilet next door if you need to get out part way through.
  13. You CAN get out part-way through. You can lift the lid and get out at any time.

Trevor, the owner had a quick chat to me afterwards to get my feedback. I did comment on the lack of earplugs, as a previous float centre I’d been to provided free cheap foam earplugs, and he mentioned he’s getting some at a low cost to customers – or of course – you’re welcome to bring your own and I’ll definitely remember to do so next time.

Mind Body and Soul will soon have a massage therapist starting and – down the track – will be offering package deals which is something I’m looking forward to.

towel

I should mention that the store also has a Sauna for those not happy with our 35C summer temperatures and the store itself stocks some great stuff. The cafe also seems to have some healthy and interesting food on offer, but I was too full from my earlier chocolate and diet coke breakfast to partake. #justkidding #kinda

Mind Body and Soul is located at 415 Esplanade, Torquay, Hervey Bay (near the Post Office) and you can contact them on (07) 4125 2583.

Check out their Facebook page for more information. Bookings can be made from the page, but you’ll need to telephone / contact them in person to take them up on their opening specials.

* This post was not sponsored and I paid $55 for my hour-long float. 

Have you ever tried a float tank? Would you?

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New shops in Hervey Bay

I know it’s been a ridiculous amount of time since I posted here, but I hope to rectify that as things settle down. Between starting a new job, some medical stuff and moving house, this year has been a hectic one.

My ‘to-do’ list is ridiculously long but as I finally ticked off two of the things on it today I thought I’d share them with you.

Once upon a time gift buying and frivolous self-indulgent purchase options were fairly limited here in Hervey Bay. I’ve written before about a few gift shops in Maryborough (though I know Janet’s Art has now closed and I’m not sure about Maddison’s Cottage). In the Bay I’ve relied on Pandanus (on the Esplanade) or Open House (Boat Harbour Drive, Pialba) for most of the ‘stuff’ I want need.

However… although I’ve been watching from the sidelines I’ve been celebrating the arrival of some new alternatives and today FINALLY made it there to investigate.

Space & Oddity

Space & Oddity appeals to me on so many levels. Although I’m a little confused about the ‘&’.

space-oddity

From Space Oddity’s FB page

Firstly, it’s quirky so HELLO… what’s not to like?! Plus they’re excellent marketers and have held a number of events since they opened with a bang several months ago. On top of that I salivate every time I see something new on their Facebook page. They sell furniture, comics, records, clothing and things you don’t even realise you need.

Their goods are eclectic anyway but this month they’ve been odder than usual, today hosting Oddities in the Attic. When I asked, they said they were going more for a ‘kitschy’ Ripley’s Believe It Or Not theme than Halloween. And they certainly achieved that.

And, I should note, this was in response to my…. “Do you always stock teeth?” question.

space-and-oddity-2

I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed that I recognised so many of the ‘retro’ products and was bizarrely comforted by the familiar sense I got from some. I swear I’m only in my 20s. Not double that. Ahem. I’ve never heard of Tang or drank it as if it was nectar from the gods! 😉

On the recommendation of a friend, as well as expanding my Hervey Bay shopping repertoire, I was also on the hunt for something for my recently-purchased drinks trolley. The trolley itself seemed like a good idea until I realised I had nothing to place on there. And as it happens I found a très cute ice bucket for the excellent price of $18.

Thankfully Space & Oddity is very active on Facebook – an imperative as it’s the sort of store you need to monitor closely as you never know what will arrive when.

space-and-oddity

Find them: around the corner from Dominos Pizza on the esplanade at Torquay
3/486 Charlton Esplanade, Torquay

Follow them on Facebook for opening hours, upcoming events and fun pics.

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves

I passed this store a few weeks ago and some cushions caught my eye. I couldn’t stop at the time but then yesterday on Instagram they shared this picture of some gorgeous new stock.

new-shops-in-hervey-bay

I was in love. Sadly I’m not in need of cups and saucers, but it seemed the perfect time to pop in and investigate.

shop-front-2

From Gypsies Tramps & Thieves’ FB page

The store is gorgeous and has a tasteful minimalistic feel. They stock clothes – some nice light linen pieces and an array of kaftans and the like. There’s also jewellery, some home decor and then a heap of gorgeous candles and body cream and wash.

body-lotions

The branding on the latter very much appealed to my sense of humour and I (w)racked my brain for upcoming birthdays. Cos… guess what they’ll be getting?!

Like Space & Oddity the store supports local artists and their range changes regularly.

gypsies-tramps-and-thieves

Although I was eyeing off some of the jewellery I reminded myself that I don’t actually need any. I did – however – inadvertently walk away with a gorgeous carafe and glass. Ostensibly it’s for my drinks trolley but I’m now thinking it’d be really cute on my desk at home. Not to mention useful.

Find them: Shop 3, Corner the Esplanade & Bideford St, Torquay.

Check out their Facebook page for more info and pics of current stock.  And follow them on Instagram.

I know a few other places have popped up in Hervey Bay in recent times. Where else should I be shopping?

Slow Cooking Success

When Hervey Bay nurse and mother of three Paulene Christie started a slow cooker Facebook Group almost three years ago, she had no idea she was creating something that would change her life.

Paulene once viewed cooking as a necessary evil—something she did to feed her family. But that all changed when she got her first slow cooker.

She soon realised, as well as the more traditional dishes like soups and stews, the slow cooker was surprisingly versatile and could be used for lasagnas and desserts. Before she knew it the slow cooker had become a cherished kitchen appliance, saving her time and money.

slow cooker central Paulene Christie

Paulene started the Facebook Group Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families in the hope of finding more slow cooker recipes. She’d visited other sites but could not find what she was looking for.

Since its launch in late 2012 the Facebook Group has grown beyond her wildest expectations. Membership currently stands at over 390,000 with members coming from all over the world.

Paulene credits the group’s success with the fact it’s 100 percent slow cooking. There are no jokes and memes. No ads and no non-cooking questions.

“Many people are already on Facebook a lot of the time—at home, at work, on transport and in waiting rooms. They see their friends sharing the recipes from our page so they visit to look for themselves. The Group numbers just keep multiplying and we currently add about 750 new members every day.”

Activity on the Facebook Group is constant, and sometimes frantic. Paulene now has a team of eight people who help monitor its activity. Members help each other, requesting advice and offering suggestions. It’s a very supportive environment and members feel comfortable sharing their failures as well as their successes.

“I love the sense of community we’ve developed,” said Paulene. “People feel at home there. Every day I see people discover or rediscover a passion for cooking and slow cooking.”

By mid 2014 the limitations of the Facebook Group became obvious and Paulene realised they needed a searchable database of recipes.

Unfortunately, with a family to support, Paulene didn’t have the money to invest in the creation of a professional website so a friend suggested she look at crowdfunding.

“I initially resisted as I didn’t think anyone would want to donate money and I worried I’d be criticised. But I was convinced to go ahead and let people decide for themselves.

“I was shocked. Within two weeks I had the $2000 I’d been quoted for the basic website. I was touched and humbled to receive such support.”

Screen shot 2015-08-28 at 11.46.08 AM

Although Paulene has invested far more in the site since its inception, she knows it would not have been possible without the support of her community. For that reason, she says, she’s committed to keeping the Slow Cooker Central website free to use.

Over 1650 recipes have now been uploaded onto the website. New recipes are added every day and the site receives over one million hits per month.

The Facebook Group continues to thrive, serving as a discussion forum—a platform Paulene intends to keep.

“A lot of people underestimate the time it takes from my life. I’m a busy mum of three children and I work shift work. I’m as time-poor as the next person. But on average I spend 6-8hrs a day working on the group or website. I’m up late at night and back online first thing the next day before I start my morning routine.”

In fact, slow cooking’s very much become a family affair in the Christie household.

“My husband Simon’s been great,” said Paulene. “Initially he’d just listen to me talk about it, but as it grew so did his interest and he’s taken on a bigger role. He’s the dedicated member-adding person for the Facebook Group and checks each request to ensure spammers and trolls are kept out of the group. He’s also become a keen recipe developer!”

Not only has Paulene’s love of slow cooking started a mini online revolution, it also means she’s now a published author.

slow-cooker-central

“ABC Books approached me in late 2014 with the idea for a Slow Cooker Central cookbook. They set up a competition for members to submit their recipes and write a brief introduction to the recipe. Those selected not only saw their name and creation in print, but they received a free copy of the recipe book.”

Publication involved a gruelling seven month process for Paulene and the editing team, but it was all worth it when the book was released in late May. It was so eagerly awaited by the slow cooking community it went straight to number one on the non-fiction best seller list and number two overall.

Paulene’s not surprised by the popularity of slow cooking, decades after crock-pots first appeared in homes around Australia.

“People love that it saves them time and money, and sometimes even helps them eat more healthily.

“At the end of the day everyone is tired and there’s the temptation to resort to takeaways—an expensive and unhealthy habit. With slow cooking, dinner is ready to simply serve.

“People who slow-cook also save money on cheaper cuts of meat and lower electricity bills.”

As for those who still think of slow cookers in terms of soups and stews dating back to the 1970s, the recipes on the website will come as a surprise.

“We’ve had big fads take over the group in waves,” said Paulene citing cola beef, fudge, slow cooked caramel and christmas cakes as recent favourites.

“I love watching to see what will inspire people next,” Paulene says of the fact play dough and finger paints have recently become a popular topic.

As for Paulene’s personal favourites; she says her popular Lamb Obsession is without a doubt her number one choice, followed by a sweet lamb curry and her husband’s creamy garlic prawns. “Breakfast quiches are almost a daily feature in my slow cooker,” she said.

Paulene’s adventures don’t look like slowing down any time soon. Before Christmas she’ll be launching a Slow Cooker Central App and revamping the website.

“We’re making a major investment in the site to include more of what our members want,” she said.

On top of that she’s already signed contracts for more Slow Cooker Central books —in June 2016 and 2017.

It’s going to be a busy time.

“Simon and I would love to be able to support ourselves and make this our full time job,” she says of her slow cooking success. “But for now we are happy working side by side doing something we love and that others seem to value. That in itself is reward enough for now.”

Note – I’ve also posted this interview at my primary blog, Debbish.

Thanks very much to Paulene for her time and I can’t wait to see how the group continues to grow! Check out the website and Facebook Group for yourself. 

Are you a fan of the slow cooker?

Local profile – Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay

As an avid reader and lover of books it’s a no-brainer that I adore bookshops. I particularly love that they’ve morphed over the years and become so much more than places you buy books. Not only can you enjoy coffee and snacks, but many create a wonderful sense of community and promote a love of reading and books to future generations.

Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay (MRHB) does exactly that. I first met owner Cate Akaveka when I attended an author event not long after she purchased the store and was impressed with her obvious love of reading and passion for sharing that with others.

MR collage

Cate and her husband moved to Hervey Bay from Sydney in 2001. Her oldest (of two boys) was a baby and they were keen to move out of the city and try a different lifestyle.

Cate bought Mary Ryan’s in August 2013 after leaving the state government. She was keen to invest in something which would keep her employed and when she found out that Mary Ryan’s was for sale she knew it was karma. Or kismet. Or similar. 😉

“I knew right away that it was the right business for me and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I think I love pretty much everything about owning a bookstore.”

Cate really liked the staff and was very happy when they all agreed to stay on after she purchased the business.

Cate says she’s always been a passionate reader and still has a lot of books from her childhood.

“My mother said she always knew what I was reading because I would become the lead character. I guess I was Anne of Green Gables for a significant amount of my childhood!”

I follow the MRHB Facebook page and am often agog and the myriad of activities on offer.

They have a couple of book clubs—including one for teenagers—which meet monthly. There’s a French conversation group that meets one Saturday each month. And on the first Saturday of each month, there’s a get-together called Coffee, Tea, Philosophy.

It’s a group Cate started because she really wanted to have some meaningful and thought-provoking discussions about things that matter. Fortunately, a few other people felt the same way and this group has now been meeting for over 12 months. Newcomers are always welcome, so it’s something I’m pencilling into my diary!

On top of all of the regular activities I also love the author events on offer.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some great authors at the shop including Brooke Davis, Inga Simpson and Josephine Moon. My favourite author event was with William McInnes last December. People are still talking about it!”

mary ryan hervey bay

Cate says these events are her favourite part of the job.

“I like to see Mary Ryan’s as more than a retail outlet, but rather an integral part of the community. I think it works because a lot of our customers feel like family and seem to enjoy a ‘sense of belonging’ when they come in.”

MRHB’s cafe is always busy and Cate suggests the that’s because the food and service are consistent and the staff have been there for a long time. In fact Café Manager, Chris, was actually on board before the café even opened.

Cate also thinks customers enjoy the ambience… that the book / coffee combo creates a homely and welcoming feel.

The store doesn’t have a full kitchen so focuses on light lunches, cakes etc.

“Our most popular dishes are the ones that are home-made. Chris’ cheesecakes have become quite famous and we have a number of customers who phone us to hold some for them.”

Not having a set menu means the MRHB team can mix it up a little. In winter (generally May to September) the store offers home-made soups and in summer, pasta and salads.

And something I didn’t know… was that from 2-3pm on weekdays, they have a happy hour with half-price tea and coffee.

But back to books… Cate loves some quirk and names Tom Robbins as her favourite author. And her favourite genre? Literary fiction—books she describes as well written and featuring words in a way that make her want to read them over and over again. She picks Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie as the best book she’s ever read with Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North coming a close second.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for the team at MRHB will order it in for you, or they can help suggest some options. Cate laughed when I asked her about making recommendations and said they’re occasionally surprised. As much as they think they know what titles particular customers will enjoy, there are always some that come completely out of left field which (she thinks) is a good lesson in not making assumptions… or judging a book by its cover! #sorrynotsorry

food

Pop into Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay and say hi to Cate and the team. You can find them at shop 5, 15 Central Avenue, Urraween (opposite Stockland Shopping Centre). Telephone: (07) 4194 2111.  Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest activities! 

Check out Cate’s recent interview about the closure of ABC Bookshops and any impact it may have on Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay.

Upcoming events (check FB for details):
  1 August - Chris Collin (author of the Funky Chicken)
  8 August - Tara Moss
  8 August - National Bookshop Day
 18 August - The Reading Hour
 3 September - Indigenous Literacy Day

**Pics all from MRHB FB page**

A busy weekend in the Borough

It’s that time of year—the festivals start and the whales make their way up the coastline. And it all kicks off this weekend in Maryborough, starting with my favourite event on the Fraser Coast….

Relish Food and Wine Festival

I first went in 2013 and was pleasantly surprised by the event. My expectations were very high second time around, and although there were more food options in 2014, there didn’t seem to be as many stalls and I really struggled on the gluten-free front. My friends were delighted with what was on offer, but I asked at place after place for coeliac-friendly meals to no avail. In the end I bought a bag of organic gluten-free corn chips from someone selling salsa.

relish

Nonetheless I’m looking forward to this year’s event with a stack of new sessions available. Not only can you attend the wine or beer and food matching options (for $25), but there’s also a Wolf Blass Master Class on board the Hervey Bay Boat Club’s boat travelling on the Mary River (for $30) and a long lunch featuring some great local chefs (for $85). I did think about offering my services to live-tweet the lunch (in exchange for a sumptuous repast), but….

On the beer and wine tasting front: Wolf Blass, Vintner’s Secret, Kingsley Grove, Crane’s Wines (a fave of mine from 2013), Clovely Estate, Uncle Bob’s Estate Organic Wine and Yenda Craft Beers will be in attendance.

Of course there’ll be food on sale (and I’m crossing my fingers re GF options) as well as music, stalls and the crowd favourite—foodie talks and cooking demos.

The event stretches from Queen’s Park right around the Portside precinct to the lovely Gatakers Artspace.

Tickets are available online for $12 or at the gate for $15. The gates open at 11am with things wrapping up at 6pm. Check out the Relish site for more info, including a map.

For social media fiends, there’s a Relish Twitter account, Facebook page, and Instagram account.

The hashtag du jour seems to be #relishfrasercoast.

Horsemanship Spectacular

If horses and people riding them are more your thing, local (renowned) horseman Guy McLean will be doing his thing at Susan River Homestead on Saturday evening.

In addition to Guy, his liberty horses and some bush poetry, there’ll be refreshments for sale. Gates open at 4.30 and the show starts at 6pm, so you can pop along after Relish. For more information check out the Susan River Homestead Facebook page.

World’s Greatest PubFest

What better way to recover from overindulging in wine and beer tasting than by drinking more?! Yes indeedy, it’s time for the annual PubFest.

Most years we’re champing at the bit (hee hee, notice how I slipped that in given the above event…. #sorrynotsorry) to regain the world pubcrawl record we won at some point in the past. I haven’t heard a lot of talk about the record this year so I suspect we locals are starting to find the event a bit passe. Who knows? We do have a short attention span and get bored kinda easily.

pubfest-header-logo-2015I didn’t even know what the theme was until I looked up the website (yellow Superheroes incidentally) and… the site’s got ‘Information coming soon…’ type text still there, so….

I’ve never been and have to admit it’s not really my thing; however I know you can get PubFest passports and have access to buses to take you from pub to pub and I suspect it’s great fun if you’re part of a group.

For more info check out the World’s Greatest PubFest website.

Sunday Riverside

It’s that time of the month. Yes really! Sunday Riverside is on again at (outside) the Brolga Theatre near the Mary River. Red Betty will be playing on the River Stage and a dinosaur will be dropping by. As they’re wont to do. #gatecrashingdinosaurs

Pics from FB page

Pics from FB page

I’m ashamed that I’m yet to get to a (first Sunday of the month) Riverside event, but hoping to make it this time. There are some chairs and tables around but you may want to BYO chairs and blankets etc. Food and drinks (including the alcoholic kind! 😉 ) are available for purchase, there are kids games and activities, and entry to the event is free.

The afternoon kicks off at 3pm and check out the Facebook event page for details.

Oh… and most importantly… Monday is a public holiday for most of us so we have a heap of time to recover.

Enjoy!