Brisbane Yarn Bombing and Craft

A couple of trees near my local Brisbane shopping street have recently sprouted branches with bright, knitted bark and hand-made crochet flowers. Have you seen this new species of tree yourself?

Yarn Bombing

Yarn Bombing

With an increasing interest in all things handmade, I’m predicting this winter, in Brisbane and towns throughout Queensland, we’ll see more statues wearing hand knitted scarves and light posts adorned with bright stockings. Take a look at Warwick’s Jumpers and Jazz Festival for example.

Craft graffiti is sometimes called “yarn bombing”. Yarn bombing isn’t always just about making things pretty, it’s also part of a movement called “craftivism” which uses creativity to send messages of peace and love and encourages us to make positive changes in the world.

There’s a nice parallel with the Flower Power hippie movement from the 1960s which also used peaceful means to protest against the Vietnam war.

These two ideas have been brought together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Flower Power with a giant 10 metre long craft creation which has contributions from crafters from 24 countries.  You’ll be able to see it exhibited at the 2016 Stitches and Craft Show in Brisbane 17 – 20 March at the Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Bank.

Craft Fair 2015-217 small

I always look forward to this show to see all of the clever ideas crafters have. I’m also a fan of vintage fashion and there will be displays of vintage dressing and even a pop up salon where you can have your hair and make up done vintage style.

Miss Chrissy Keepence small

Vintage Style in Brisbane – Miss Chrissy

Let me know, in the comments section below, if you’ve seen some yarn bombing in Brisbane.

The Stitches and Craft Show
Thursday 17 – Sunday 20 March
Brisbane and Exhibition Centre
South Bank



Posted in Activities, Arts & Culture, City Centre, Places to visit, Things To Do | Leave a comment

Hot in Brisbane

It’s been so hot in Brisbane, my lamp melted. Feel like I’m in a Salvador Dali painting.

Melting Lamp

Melting Lamp Shade

Posted in Activities | Tagged | Leave a comment

Brisbane Open House 2014

Brisbane Open House

We’ve really enjoyed previous Brisbane Open House events. Our first was in October 2011.  If you’re not familiar with Brisbane Open House, it’s when the doors of many Brisbane city buildings, usually closed to the public, are flung open. In 2014, this happens on the weekend of 11 & 12 October.  So you get to see spectacular views from high level conference rooms, backstage areas, secured sites usually out-of-bounds to the public and the inner sanctums of buildings.

The event began in Brisbane in 2010 and was instantly popular. In fact, in 2010, some of the venues were caught off guard by the number of people visiting. I was chatting with one of the volunteers at the Masonic Memorial Temple who said during their first Open House they had 2,000 visitors in four hours! The next year they had 45 volunteers on hand to direct people and answer questions (and yes, we found they were very well organised).

There is a photography competition associated with the event, so take your camera along.

There were four adults and two children in our group, so we chose five buildings to visit with the hope that the kids wouldn’t get too tired. (In 2011 there were 30 buildings participating. In 2014, there are over 100 building open to the public.)

Brisbane Square external detail

Our first stop was Brisbane Square and the Brisbane Traffic Control Centre which was opened to the public for the first time ever. It was very interesting to see how all of the cameras are monitored and learn what happens when there’s an emergency on the roads or in a bus or train station. I reckon every time I walk near a street camera from now on, I’ll wave, just in case the camera is being monitored at that moment.

Brisbane Open House – Brisbane Square Level 16 view

In the same building on level 16, we visited the conference room.  I can’t imagine being able to concentrate if I was in a meeting there because the views are spectacular (photo above).

Queen Victoria Statue outside Treasury Heritage Hotel

We tried to visit the nearby Treasury Heritage Hotel, but the tours were booked out. City Hall had a long queue which we decided to skip. Quite a few of the buildings had booked out tours, so for next year, we’ll get there early.

Brisbane Open House – Masonic Memorial Temple

We popped into the Masonic Memorial Temple on Ann Street which has a beautiful Grand Hall (photo above). The volunteers were happy to answer questions and even allowed my son to sit in the Grand Master’s big chair for a photo.

Brisbane Open House – QPAC Concert Hall

Another highlight was a QPAC’s concert hall where we got to hear the impressively loud pipe organ being played. In the foyer outside, we listened to a rehearsal. There were also back stage tours during the day.

Brisbane Open House gets bigger and better each year. You can sign up for the newsletter on the Brisbane Open House website or follow on Twitter @brisopenhouse. In 2014 there are guided walks and a special program for children along with talks by Brisbane producers making boutique products.

Booking Tours

This event is very popular so there is a ballot system for booking tours of some of the buildings. Check the website for details.

Posted in Activities | Leave a comment

The Lion King Costumes in Brisbane

If you’re visiting Brisbane’s South Bank or catching a show at QPAC, check out the Art of the Lion King at the Tony Gould Gallery. This free exhibition features some of the intricate costumes from the stage musical, The Lion King.

The Lion King

The Lion King

Up close, you can see how these beautiful costumes are stitched, beaded and screen printed by hand. Look a little closer and you’ll realise this collection has been skilfully repaired many times over – not surprising given each costume was worn for eight shows a week before being sent to the archives.

Lion King_13751 blog

The Lion King

There are also mock-ups of the set designs and video interviews with the creative artists behind the show.

The Lion King

The Lion King

WhereTony Gould Gallery – Cremorne Theatre Entrance of QPAC (Queensland Performing Arts Centre).

When: Tues to Saturday 10am to 4pm

Admission Price:  Free

Suitable for:  All ages

Posted in Activities | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Whale Watching at the Gold Coast

I’ve always loved whale watching, particularly from Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island. With binoculars, you can see Humpback whales breaching off shore. However, nothing compares to the amazing experience of having a whale pop up beside your boat and make eye contact.

I was recently a guest on the Whales in Paradise whale watching boat. Two whales breached near us and these huge creatures spent the next forty minutes right beside the boat. They were watching us, just as much as we were watching them. Whale watching is one of those experiences you’ll remember your whole life.

Humpback Whale Breaching

Humpback Whale Breaching

The whale watching season off the coast of Queensland, Australia, runs from about April to November. The Whales in Paradise boat takes on passengers right in the heart of Surfers Paradise and heads out to sea along the Nerang River. You can be surrounded by the sky scrapers of the Gold Coast, and a short boat ride later be amongst a pod of wild Humpback whales.

Watching for the First Whale

Once we were out to sea, all eyes on board began to search for signs of whales. Eventually someone noticed a puff of mist on the water, the telltale sign of a whale exhaling through its blow hole. Within minutes there were three separate pods of whales, still quite a distance from our boat.

Humpback Whale Blow

Humpback Whale Blow

Boats are not allowed to go closer than 100 metres to a whale, so after a while, our boat slowed down. All eyes were still scanning the ocean when suddenly, a whale breached not far from the boat and the passengers spontaneously cheered.

Within minutes, two Humpback whales began leaping out of the water and splashing down. I could feel the impact of the splash in my body, although they were not close enough to wet us.

Humpback Whale Splashes after Breaching

Humpback Whale Splashes after Breaching

The Whales Wanted to See Us!

The crew suggested cheering and waving to attract the whales. I was a bit skeptical the whales would respond, but they swam right over to our boat.

Whales approaching a whale watching boat

Whales approaching a whale watching boat

It was quite clear these two whales wanted to look at us too, especially when they put their heads up out of the water so they could get a good look at the humans. This is called “spy hopping”.  Being able to look into the eye of one these beautiful, wild creatures is an experience I’ll remember all of my life.

Humpback Whale looking at the humans

Humpback Whale looking at the humans

We had an expert commentary from one of the crew members who follows the whale season around the world. He was able to answer all of our whale questions and explain the behaviours we were seeing. Our particular humpback whales were juveniles, about seven to 10 years old.

Humpback Whale Breaching

Humpback Whale Breaching

Perfect Whale Watching Day

The day we went was a perfect day with light winds and blue, blue skies. Even when the whales were under the surface, we could see them clearly. It was easy to move around the stable catamaran, although with an ocean swell, you did have to hold on to the rails.

Being a beautiful day, the boat was at full capacity but there was plenty of space for everyone to see, with three separate heights of deck. The lower, covered deck was just above water height with open sides, so you could be right beside the whales. I spent most time on the open front deck which was a little higher, because I didn’t want my camera to be splashed by the whales. (I’ve never had to worry about that before!)

Whales in Paradise Boat

Whales in Paradise Boat (photo: Whales in Paradise)

The whales were having a good look at the passengers on the lower deck at the back and I decided to see if a whale really would respond to a human waving. After a couple of us waved ours arm for a short time, both whales moved to the front of the boat, right in front of us and popped their heads out of the water.

Humpback Whale beside whale watching boat - Gold Coast, Australia

Humpback Whale beside whale watching boat – Gold Coast, Australia

The captain eventually gave us the bad news that we had to return to land. At that moment, the whales began to swim under the boat. While the boat is designed for whale safety, the captain didn’t want to re-start the engines until the whales were clear – not that any of us minded staying longer.

Eventually we were able to turn back towards the Gold Coast and I’m sure there were many on board, like me, who thought, “I have to do this again!” We sometimes forget that just a short distance from city skyscrapers is an ocean full of beautiful, wild creatures.

Whale Watching for Families

Whale watching is an activity the whole family can enjoy. The Whales in Paradise boat was good for young children with a shaded lower deck and plenty of seating, while still having excellent views of the whales. If you were taking young children onto the front or upper decks, you’d need to supervise them closely, particularly if there was an ocean swell. My nine year old had no trouble hanging on while he was watching the whales on the front deck and he said the whole experience was “awesome”.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

There are toilets on board and plenty of shade. There’s also a quiet, sheltered inside area with comfy padded seats if you need a break from the excitement.

Bonus River Tour

I wasn’t expecting to also have a river tour, so the 40 minute cruise along the Nerang River was a nice bonus. The captain pointed out some quirky features including a floating wedding chapel and a drive-through bottle shop (liquor store) for boats.  We also took a look at some of the riverside mansions owned by the rich and famous. I particularly liked the sweeping roof line of Jackie Chan’s riverside home.

Nerang River Fishing Boat

Nerang River Fishing Boat

Once you pass under the bridges, there are good views of the Gold Coast Hinterland mountains and the Surfers Paradise skyscrapers including one of Australia’s tallest buildings, Q1.  At this stage you can move around the boat’s decks for 360 degree views of the waterway.

Nerang River Cruise

Nerang River Cruise

We went on the morning cruise, but if you take an afternoon trip, you’ll see Surfers Paradise light up as you return at twilight or sunset.

Gold Coast View from a Boat

Gold Coast View from a Boat

Sea Sickness

If you are worried about this, the crew offer sea sickness tablets for $2. You will need to take these while you are still on the river for them to work properly. There are sick bags on board just in case.


We brought our own sandwiches and fruit for morning tea on board. There is free tea and coffee and biscuits (cookies) available. On the way back they served $5 Coronas.

Because Whales in Paradise is located right on the river end of Cavill Avenue, there are plenty of places to eat before or after your whale watching experience. Cavill Mall is a short stroll away and this outdoor shopping and dining strip leads right through to the beach.

Location and Parking

We parked under the Chevron Renaissance Centre at 23 Ferny Avenue and there’s also closer parking at Circle on Caville at 9 Ferny Avenue and a public car park on Beach Road diagonally opposite the check-in terminal.

What to Bring

  • Jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat that will stay on in a breeze
  • Camera
  • Sea sickness tablets
  • Snacks

Whale Watching Check In

You check in 20 minutes prior to departure at the kiosk on the corner of Cavil Avenue and Ferny Avenue. The signage says “Sightseeing Cruises”. If you arrive early, the riverside is a pleasant place to wait, and there are coffee shops nearby.

Where to Buy Tickets

Purchase online directly from or phone 1800 942 547. If you’re visiting the Gold Coast, many hotels and holiday apartments can arrange tickets for you. Look out for combination deals which provide good value – for example, there will sometimes be a Dreamworld plus whale watching package.

If you’re a member of RACQ or NRMA, it’s worth checking their sites for discount whale watching offers.

If you’ve had a whale watching experience in Queensland, please feel free to share your experiences in the Comments box below.

Humpback Whale Breaching and Splashing Down

Humpback Whale Breaching and Splashing Down

Posted in Activities, Families, Outdoors, Places to visit, Things To Do | Leave a comment

Magpie Swooping Season

You know it’s spring in Brisbane when the magpies start to swoop. This year for the first time, we have one in our street and it has been attacking us for a couple of weeks now. It only seems to attack if we’re on a bike or scooter. So during this time when the bird is protecting its nest, we make sure we’re wearing a helmet and sunglasses.

Magpie swooping season

Magpie swooping season

I feel a bit sorry for the magpie having to be on high alert all of the time. I’m not sure why, if we’re walking, it doesn’t feel threatened. Not all magpies will swoop when they’re nesting and the Brisbane City Council website suggests that swooping magpies might have had a previous bad experience with humans. 

I’m hoping that it will eventually realise we’re not going to hurt its young, and will ignore our scooters and bikes. A Griffith University article suggests that some magpies recognise individual people and will single them out for attack while leaving other humans alone. The article does have a potential solution which involves bribing the bird. I’m tempted to see if our magpie can be won over.


Magpie – Swooping Season

I love having magpies in our garden. Apart from the fact they eat mosquitoes, they have a beautiful call and sometimes when I’m digging in the veggie patch, one will sit on a nearby branch singing its beautiful song.  You can hear a recording from the Birds in Backyards site.

If you’ve had any magpie experiences you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

Posted in Outdoors, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Brisbane Writers Festival 2014

One of my favourite annual Brisbane events is the Brisbane Writers Festival. Most of the events are held at the State Library of Queensland in the Cultural Precinct in South Brisbane (across the river from the CBD). In 2014, the festival runs from Wednesday 3rd to Sunday 7th September.

It’s more than just a festival about books, authors and writing. It’s also about ideas. Attend the Brisbane Writers Festival and you’ll be exposed to so many new ideas, I can guarantee that at some stage your brain will feel bigger.

Because you’re in the Cultural Precinct, there’s also the opportunity to have a look at the Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Museum and Science Centre.


Many of the sessions are ticketed, but there are plenty of free sessions too. For free events, especially popular authors or topics, make sure you arrive at the venue early.  But don’t worry, it’s all very friendly and well organised. They give out tickets while you’re waiting in line so you know you’ll have a seat. If you miss out, you can dash to another session. Download a PDF of the program, or they have paper copies at the information table.

State Library Queensland

State Library Queensland


If you’re a writer and want to learn a more about your craft, there are masterclasses on topics such as writing for children, self-publishing and how write nail-biting scenes. For new writers there are classes on how to unlock your creativity and the basics of novel writing.


There’s so much to see at the Brisbane Writers Festival that I often find I don’t have time to eat, so my tip is to pack some quick snacks. If you have a few minutes to spare you can buy drinks and food near the outside venues and there is a cafe on the ground level of the State Library. If it’s very busy, the nearby Gallery of Modern Art has two food outlets and the Queensland Art Gallery also has a cafe.

Queensland Art Gallery Cafe

Queensland Art Gallery Cafe


You can’t take large bags into the State Library venues, but there is a cloakroom on the ground floor.  Have a look at the guidelines to see what you can take with you.


For some of the sessions, you might find you’re part of a live-to-air ABC radio show.  Many of these programs can be later downloaded.


If you’re wondering what you might hear at the Brisbane Writers Festival, have a listen to the following podcasts from previous festivals.

  • I was surprised at how funny and charming author Jeff Lindsay was – not at all like I’d imagined the creator of the serial killer Dexter would be (Dexter is the main character in a series of books and a TV show). You can hear Jeff talking with the ABC’s Richard Fidler and Australian writer M J Hyland at the 2009 Brisbane Writers Festival.
  • Crime writer Val McDermid also spoke with Richard Fidler during the 2010 Brisbane Writers Festival.
  • Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself discussed how ‘old dogs CAN learn new tricks’ at the 2010 Brisbane Writers Festival.
  • At the 2013 festival, some of the attendees found out if you really could learn everything you need to know about love from romance books.

If you have any tips for attendees at the Writers Festival, please leave them in the comments section below.

Posted in Activities, Arts & Culture, Things To Do | Leave a comment

Frangipani Flowers

Frangipani Flower

Frangipani Flower

In the warmer months in Brisbane you’ll see thousands of frangipani trees flowering across the city, and footpaths often covered in a carpet of blossoms. The most common flowers are white with a yellow centre and their sweet fragrance can – just for a moment – make you believe you’ve been magically transported to a lush, tropical resort.

Frangipani trees are very easy to grow from cuttings.  When a delivery truck collided with my neighbour’s tree, she gave me the broken branches. I  put the accidental cuttings on the ground in a semi-shaded spot for about two weeks so the ends healed, and then popped them in pots. Now I have mini-frangipani trees on my veranda, but I could plant them out and they’d become trees several metres high.

One of my happiest childhood memories is running, with my cousins, through a thick blanket of crunchy, brown leaves dropped by the frangipani trees on my aunty’s footpath.

Red Frangipani

Red Frangipani

I’ve been enjoying this red frangipani in a pot at my front gate. It’s been flowering for months and doesn’t mind scorching sun and drying out when I forget to water it.  After it drops its leaves in winter, I’ll be taking cuttings to make some new trees. It’s been a few years, but I’ll be able to pay my neighbour back with a red frangipani, which hopefully won’t be hit by a truck.

Posted in Outdoors | 2 Comments

Christmas in Brisbane City

Queen Street Mall - Giant Gingerbread Man

Queen Street Mall – Giant Gingerbread Man

In the lead up to Christmas, there are plenty of free and wonderful things to do
in Brisbane’s CBD. We had a family trip into the city to see the Myer Christmas
Parade. The Queen Street Mall was the busiest I’ve ever seen it.

Myer Christmas Parade

Myer Christmas Parade

We were all there to see over 200 performers singing and dancing scenes from “The Nutcracker”.  In amongst the human performers were camels, donkeys, sheep and two reindeer pulling Santa’s sled.

Santa in the Queen Street Mall

Santa in the Queen Street Mall

We arrived 15 minutes before the 6:30pm start time and got a front row view. (We parked under Queens Plaza $15) The parade lead to King George Square for a free pantomime performance.

Brisbane City Hall Light Show

Brisbane City Hall Light Show

On the way, we detoured to have a look in the Myer windows which this year, were themed around the story of the Gingerbread Man. After the pantomime, Brisbane City Hall was decorated with the most impressive light show.  It wasn’t just lights, but a giant animation projected onto the historic building. I could have watched it three times because there was so much going on when City Hall was transformed into a clockwork Christmas toy factory.

Christmas in Brisbane - City Hall Lights Up

Christmas in Brisbane – City Hall Lights Up

It’s hard to imagine that the building’s columns could be transformed into pistons. In the end, the clock tower becomes a giant rocket which shoots up into the sky. See the YouTube video. This magical spectacle shows every 15 minutes from 7:30pm until midnight.

It’s definitely worth a trip into Brisbane city to see the parade and light show.

Posted in Activities, Arts & Culture, City Centre, Families, Outdoors, Places to visit, Things To Do | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Crochet in Brisbane

“Crochet is the new black” – Tracey Hopper, owner Side Street Vintage in Brisbane

Tiny Red Crochet Heart

Tiny Red Crochet Heart

I’ve been teaching crochet classes at Side Street Vintage for a few months now. (It’s nice to use a part of my brain that I don’t use when writing books.) Crochet is so popular, for our beginner classes, we often have to put on extra teachers. I love teaching beginners.  In one session we can usually take newbie crocheters from a basic chain stitch to making their first granny square.

Granny Square

Every second Wednesday evening is Stitch Club. Everyone brings along their current project, which might be crochet, knitting, sewing or embroidery and we craft and chat. It reminds me of a scene from a Jane Austen novel with all of the ladies sitting in a charming parlour sipping hot drinks and talking about Mr Darcy. Last week, one of the lovely crocheters brought along a plate of freshly baked jam drops.  Love my job!

There are classes for complete beginners and more advanced lessons where you can learn to how to, for example, create a rug or crochet beautiful flowers. Take a look at Side Street Vintage’s Facebook page for the latest schedule.

Did you know that celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria and Catherine Zeta-Jones are crocheters? You can read about others at CrochetwithDee.

Posted in Activities, Things To Do | Tagged , | Leave a comment