Explore My World Passionate Traveller Blog

Midweek Magic in Mudgee (NSW)

Private wine tasting at Rosby Winery & Guesthouse
April was a tough month on a personal front. Some months are like that. By the time the end of the month was in sight, we were hanging out for our 3-night stay in Mudgee. With a mutual aversion for weekend crowds, we opted for a midweek stay.

“What’s there to do in Mudgee,” Peter asked. “Is it just wineries and food?”

With Peter’s blood sugar levels just a smidgin over the benchmark, an orgy of wine tasting was clearly not on the cards for us. As for the food scene... 

“Peter, did I tell you that two of Mudgee’s best restaurants - Pipeclay Pumphouse and The Zin House - will be closed when we’re there? They’re only open from Thursday to Sunday.” I then added, “Alby & Esthers’ menu looks great but I’ve been told they’re under renovation due to storm damage.” 

Following a thunderous expletive, Peter said, “Should we just cancel Mudgee and go to the south coast instead?” 

Quickly coming to Mudgee’s defense, I showed Peter the Home Page of where I planned on booking our 3-night stay, a self-contained studio in the midst of the 300 acre grounds of Rosby Winery & Guesthouse. From the pages of their website, it oozed tranquility and effortless chic. After highlighting what else there was to do in Mudgee besides food and wine - a plethora of charming neighbouring villages and national parks with spectacular scenery and world heritage listed bushland waiting to be explored - Peter’s mood picked up considerably. Signed and sealed.

With accommodation and restaurants booked, we departed Sydney at 10:30 am on a Monday and opted for the scenic route via Bell’s Line of Road instead of the sterility of the Great Western Highway. Stretching our legs and grabbing a bite to eat at a thoroughly forgettable eatery at Bilpin, we continued on for another 178 kms and arrived at the main town of Mudgee by 4 pm. We located Henry Lawson Drive with ease and drove for another 7 minutes before sighting the “Rosby Wines” signpost and turning right on to Strikes Lane.

Gingerly navigating the dirt road of Rosby Estate, we soaked up the magnificent scenery of sprawling paddocks that included 6 hectares of grapes. Turning left towards the signpost marked “Guesthouse” (straight ahead was the “Winery”), we made our way to the allocated Studio parking space. Rotating our stiff lower backs and limbs after stepping out of our dust-coated car, we grabbed our bags and, as per our instructions, let ourselves into the Studio. 

Rosby's Studio
While Rosby’s Guesthouse & Studio presented well on their website, the reality was far more beautiful and inviting. Light and fresh country air flooded into the self-contained space from the generously sized windows and sliding doors, bringing the magnificent view of the gardens and paddocks into the living space and bedroom. The decor, while sumptuous and luxurious, put guests at ease with a refined-relaxed aesthetic. Classic furniture pieces, updated with modern-neutral upholstery, were adorned with Kilim scatter cushions, adding an eclectic touch. Rugs and throw rugs gave extra appeal and comfort. Original artworks by Resident Artist (and Rosby co-owner), Kay Norton-Knight dotted the walls, a refreshing change to the generic prints of the majority of accommodations. The bedroom featured all white built-in wardrobes and bedlinen, expanding the space. Flowers in vases peppered the lounge room, bedroom and bathroom and an abundance of quality magazines and books were freely scattered for the guests’ enjoyment. 

As for the kitchen, it was extremely well stocked. From good quality pans, cooking utensils, crockery, glassware and a dish-washer, we also had everything we needed for a breakfast of kings: eggs from the Rosby chicken coop, middle rasher bacon in the fridge, a variety of tomatoes and chili from their vegetable patch, and even gluten-free bread and cereal for me.  A ‘Welcome’ note from Amber Norton-Knight, Kay’s daughter, awaited us on the dining room table, along with the front door keys and a complementary bottle of Rosby Shiraz, cheese and biscuits. Indeed, from the moment we walked into “our” Rosby space, the attention-to-detail whispered, “You are welcome and valued as our guests.”

Rosby Studio Bedroom
Over 3 days and nights, Mudgee wove her magic spell around us, manifesting in golden moments.... 
... like our private wine tasting with Gerry Norton-Knight of Rosby Wines the first evening of our arrival. Leading us on a short walk to a middle paddock that boasted one of the highest points on the property, we savoured his wines against a magnificent sunset and 360 degree panorama of the surrounding paddocks.... 

... like our dinner at The Wineglass Restaurant, where Peter gently chided a gentleman at the next table for speaking a little too loudly with his business associates, preventing Peter and I from conversing with each other and fully appreciating Chef Scott Tracey’s slow roasted chili jam lamb rump together with an excellent Bunnamagoo Cab Sav. As serendipity would have it, the gentleman was no other than Bunnamagoo’s winemaker Robert Black, a delightful gentleman who we caught up with 2 days later at the Bunnamagoo winery....

... like the natural splendour of The Drip, where we hiked amidst a charming ferny glade and gazed up at huge honeycomb cliffs that lined the gorge’s wall... 

... like Ferntree Gully, were we descended into an enormous rainforest gully and walked alongside lyrebirds, feeling like fairies traipsing through the Garden of Eden like it was our first day on Earth....

... like gazing in wonder at each and every glorious sunset and sunrise from the comfort of the Studio grounds at Rosby, and the sumptuous breakfasts that we prepared for ourselves with the produce that they provided for us, which we ate al fresco....

Such stuff dreams are made of.

And so on our last day at Mudgee, we took pains in leaving ‘our’ Rosby Studio as close to the way that we found it. Somehow, we had made it our own as we knew that we would be back.

Mudgee Nature Walks

Ferntree Gully, Growee (NSW)

While the Mudgee region is renown for tantalising the taste buds, its great outdoors have as much to offer its visitors.

* The Drip: Located in Goulburn River National Park, 50 kms north of Mudgee on the Cassilis Road. The Drip refers to a towering sandstone cliff-face adorned with weeping grasses and ferns and dripping clear spring water into the river below. There’s a sandy beach and large fallen rocks that you can sit on. The 1.5km track  takes about 30 minutes each way.

* Ferntree Gully: Located 40 minutes southeast of Mudgee via Lue (pronounced Lu-ee), just off the Bylong Valley Way (17 kms from Rylstone). A signpost on the main highway will point you towards a 3 km dirt track, which leads to the picnic area and start of walk. With a choice of two walks - the Sydney Peppermint Walk and the Gully Walk - we chose the more demanding, albeit dramatic, of the two. The Gully Walk took us 1 hour in total, including scenic stops.

Mudgee Wineries

Bunnamagoo Winery, Mudgee (NSW)
Mudgee has over 40 family-owned cellar doors, making it a very tough call to choose the ones to visit in a limited amount of time. Listed alphabetically, below were some of our favourites:

Bunnamagoo - Owned by the Paspaley family group, grapes destined for Bunnamagoo Wines are hand-picked into small bins, to save the first juice. Each vintage is pondered and the vigneron’s and the winemaker’s personal responses are discussed while the grapes are still on the vine. After vintage the wines are given time to slowly mature and develop before bottling and release. The vintages regularly sell out and may be hard to find. http://www.bunnamagoowines.com.au/home/.aspx

Di Lusso Estate - Di Lusso Estate vineyards specialise in Italian varieties and blends growing eight varieties of grapes, with up to fifteen wine styles on offer at any one time. Well worth the visit, if only to walk through their beautiful gardens and enjoy an antipasto platter in their courtyard with a glass of your favourite tipple, underneath a lush canopy of grapevines. http://www.dilusso.com.au

Gilbert Family Wines - Gilbert Family Wines began its journey in 2004 by fifth generation winemaker Simon Gilbert. Simon continues to craft great wines of purity, elegance and vibrancy, varietally true to itself, clean and technically sound. Gilbert’s newly open Cellar Door, ‘The Cellar by Gilbert’ has been awarded Best Cellar Door in Mudgee, in the category ‘Best Additional Experience’ by Gourmet Wine Traveller. https://www.gilbertfamilywines.com.au

Robert Stein - The Robert Stein Vineyard traces its family history back to the earliest days of Australia's pioneers. Brought out from Germany by the Macarthur family (of sheep-breeding fame) in 1838, Johann Stein carried with him the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling to survive in Australia. Over a century later tradition was revived when in 1976 Robert "Bob" Stein, a great-great grandson, purchased 75 acres at the present location in Mudgee and embarked on a rigorous planting programme - Shiraz being the first rootlings planted. Under Bob's watchful gaze, modern equipment and technology combines with honourable traditions to produce a variety of red and white table wines of award winning quality. The Robert Stein winery also boasts an additional attraction, its Vintage Motorbike collection, which includes rare motorcycle collectables and photographs on display. The museum is open daily and entry is free.  https://www.robertstein.com.au

Rosby Wines - Rosby Wines are the epitome of low-impact viticulture and truly boutique wine production. Borne from 15 acres of 20-year-old cabernet sauvignon and shiraz grapes — planted, pruned and picked by hand — the vineyard is carefully managed to produce high-quality, low-yield crops. http://www.rosby.com.au

Restaurants & Cafes Open Midweek

Eltons, Mudgee (NSW)
* The Wineglass - Owned and run by f ormer Rockpool Head Chef Scott Tracey, who purchased the restaurant and moved to Mudgee to provide a healthier lifestyle for his young family. The Wineglass offers a seasonal menu that’s inspired by the regions local produce. Open Sunday to Saturday.

* Isabella’s Trattoria - Despite not having a website that we could check the menu out on - Isabella is more than happy to text you an image of their menu if you ask for it - this restaurant delivers what it promises and more. Delicious, generously portioned, and down-to-earth Italian home cuisine. BYO, no corkage.

* Eltons - An elegant 1890s building, offering a global menu, cool vibe and craft beers on tap.

* Kelly’s Irish Pub - Don’t let the term ‘Irish Pub’ deter all you quiet diners from giving this traditional pub a shot. While it rocks over the weekends with live bands, it’s positively tranquil during the week. The food is surprisingly good (try the crisp skin salmon) and should the Mudgee winter chills get to you, there’s a huge fireplace you can dine right next to.

* The Butcher Shop Cafe - This hip cafe is well worth the visit, if only to check out its bones as an historic butcher shop dating back to 1875. Enjoy freshly squeezed juices and coffee made from home-roasted beans amidst aged metal ceiling rails and tiled walls. Try the ‘Butcher's Benedict'. Open for breakfast and lunch only.

Heritage Villages

29 Nine 99 Yum Cha & Tea House, Rylstone (NSW)
Rylstone - Rylstone makes a worthwhile detour either on the way back to Mudgee after a visit to Ferntree Gully (as we did) or on the way back to Sydney after your Mudgee stay. You can pick up a brochure for the Rylstone Heritage Walk and learn more about the town's colonial-era sandstone buildings, including its four stone churches and early stone and timber cottages. Don’t miss a leisurely yum cha lunch and tea at the iconic 29 Nine 99 Yum Cha & Tea House. Somewhat of a Rylstone institution, this restaurant/ gift shop is owned by artist Na Lan, who grew up in Xian (central Shaanxi province). The restaurant is named after the date she married her Australian husband, Reg (the 29th of September 1999). 

Gulgong - About 30 km from Mudgee, Gulgong was originally a 19th-century gold rush town. With approximately 130 buildings with National Trust classification, you can take a self-guided walking tour of the town's historic sites.

Self-prepared breakfast at Rosby Guesthouse & Studio (Mudgee, NSW)

We stayed at:
Rosby Guesthouse
135 Strikes Lane (off Henry Lawson Drive), Eurunderee, Mudgee NSW

NB: The writer was a paying guest at Rosby Guesthouse.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 8th May, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia

Fashion CEO Invites Us to Nurture, Nourish and Thrive in New Zealand’s North Island

Annah Stretton: Social Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author and Public Speaker
According to The Wall Street Journal, a Harvard Medical School study found that some 96% of senior leaders feel somewhat burned out, with a third describing their condition as ‘extreme’. This comes as little surprise to one of NZ's most successful fashion businesswoman Annah Stretton , who states: “I see senior leaders everywhere who are completely disconnected from the most precious thing in the world, their health and wellbeing. That is until a catalyst occurs, which is often too late.” Her desire to address this serious issue has led her to her newest venture, Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat .

Founder of the largely successful Stretton Fashion Group, philanthropist, publisher, author and public speaker, Annah Stretton is no stranger to burning the candle on both ends. Driven to taking charge of her wellness after battling with her own health for 35 years, she had an epiphany after attending her first wellness retreat. Blown away by the transformation in her own health and mindset, she was eager to share her ‘new normal’ with worn out and weary professionals the world over. In August 2016, and in partnership with former mental health nurse Rebecca Skilton and trainer and gym owner Sherryll Gordon, Te Atawhai was born.

Te Atawhai (pronounced aa-Taa-F-AY) is a modern sanctuary located in the rural town of Te Aroha, nestled at the foothills of the magnificent Mount Te Aroha, 2.5 hours south of Auckland. Meaning ‘to care for’ in Maori, it was created with the sole purpose of reconnecting mind, body and spirit into one magnificent whole. With proven wellness practices that have been designed to seamlessly replace unhealthy mind, mouth and movement habits, guests are exposed to an organic whole foods diet that can seamlessly fit into their daily ritual.

“Once our guests have experienced the difference that a whole foods diet can make to their health and wellbeing, they rarely look back,” Stretton says.

More than just being introduced to a new way of eating and preparing food, guests are gently separated from the distraction of their daily lives by the “no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar, no technology” policy at the retreat. Becoming immersed in a series of simple but powerful lifestyle practices that hold movement and mindfulness at the core, Te Atawhai’s programme includes mountain treks, cycling, massage, thermal soaks and equine assisted learning. Add to the equation the ‘quiet town’ charm of Edwardian Te Aroha, the pristine beauty of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park, and the majesty of Mount Te Aroha and the inevitable result of the 4-Day wholeness journey is the re-establishment of a deep sense of peace and calm in the world.

Seeing her fair share of adrenal fatigue and biochemistry imbalances in her practice on a daily basis, Sydney Chiropractor and authority on holistic healing Dr Kate Willesee was a recent guest at Te Atawhai. She had this to say: “Being a health professional, I have been to many retreats. Te Atawhai has been the best for me.... I came away feeling refreshed and refueled... I rate it a ten out of ten.”

Annah Stretton leaves us with a last thought to ponder over: “The preservation of one’s health is easier and less costly than the cure of disease. So it makes perfect sense to build the best version of yourself each and every day. After all, your body is the one person you will have the longest relationship with.”

* Ask us about Te Atawhai’s Sydney Launch on 23 March, 2017 and the opportunity to meet Annah Stretton. Invitation and details to follow.

Fast Facts:

In order to give its guests the highest quality experience, numbers at Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat are strictly limited, catering to groups of between 9-12 guests only.

* Te Atawhai 4 - Day Wholeness Retreat: NZD $2,900 (Per Person + GST 15%) * Te Atawhai 1 - Day Package: 5 – 9 People NZD $280 (Per Person + GST 15%) 10 – 13 People NZD $260 (Per Person + GST 15%)

Location: Te Atawhai’s ‘Domain House’ is located in the rural town of Te Aroha, in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Website: http://teatawhai.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeAtawahi/ Instagram: @te_atawhai

Contact Details: victoria@TeAtawhai.com  
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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 11th March, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, New Zealand

Nurture, Nourish and Thrive in New Zealand’s North Island

Te Atawhai Domain House, in the town of Te Aroha (Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island)
There are only a handful of travel experiences that I consider pivotal, moments in time and places of crucial importance that have irreversibly impacted my life. One such experience is the four-day wholeness retreat that I embarked on at Te Atawhai. The significance of this adventure snuck up on me as gently as the quaint town of Te Aroha (in the region of Waikato, in New Zealand’s North Island) where the retreat took place. The effects were not fully realised until it was over..... 

Backtrack to an email I received in August 2016 from CEO of Stretton Fashion Group, Annah Stretton , who I knew well from my ‘ragtrade’ days. Telling me about a “new venture” that she had set up with two others, a wholeness retreat centre called Te Atawhai, she wondered if I was interested in checking it out.... 

With Atawhai (pronounced aa-Taa-F-AY) meaning ‘caring’ in Maori, their website didn’t so much scream as whisper ‘peace’, ‘tranquility’ and a ‘communion with nature’; exactly what I needed after a stressful year and fast and furious holiday season! Cost wise, it was a no-brainer: flights to New Zealand were costing less than to Perth, the rate of exchange was in our favour, and the retreat cost for four days (all inclusive) was surprisingly reasonable. Harnessing three other great women to accompany me - Maryanne (my daughter in law), Pia (cousin from Oregon) and Kate (friend and practitioner at Willesee Health Care) - we booked our flights and set off to New Zealand in late January in desperate search of our equilibrium.

Filled with excitement and anticipation when we landed into Auckland around lunchtime, we grabbed a car from Thrifty and pointed our noses south towards Rotorua, our intended destination for two nights prior to the retreat. Driving amidst picture perfect scenery, we stopped after a couple of hours for a break and nosh at Matamata (of ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame) before continuing on for another 67.3 kilometres to the odoriferous city of Rotorua. Acquiring a five-bedroom house via Airbnb for the duration of our stay, we relaxed and played tourist: visiting the live Maori village of Te Puia, enjoying a memorable meal at Atticus Finch on ‘Eat Streat’, meandering around neighboring Taupo one afternoon, and began the process of unwinding. 

Te Atawhai's Guest House, on the outskirts of Te Aroha town.
Feeling rested on the third day, we left Rotorua and proceeded to Hamilton. An easy hour’s drive away, we dropped the car off at Thrifty and were collected by Te Atawhai’s brimming-with-vitality co-founder Rebecca Skilton. Her welcome could not have been warmer. Piling ourselves and our luggage inside her spacious and pristine van, we were transported to Te Atawhai’s gracious, light-filled Guest House located in the midst of idyllic rural landscape and just outside the town of Te Aroha. Like kids at a candy shop, we explored the home’s layout and charming bespoke rooms. I bagged the ‘Pool House’, an endearing studio-dwelling that was separate from the main house and right next to the pristine salt water pool.

From left to right, Franck Stucki, Rebecca Skilton, Kate Willesee, Victoria Ugarte (me), Maryanne Ugarte, Pia Ghezzi and Sherryll Gordon
Before too long, Rebecca was bundling us once again into her van and drove us to Te Atawhai’s headquarters for our ‘Meet-and-Greet-the-Crew’ and dinner. TA HQ turned out to be a charming heritage listed cottage located just on the edge of the main town of Te Aroha and nestled at the foothills of Mount Te Aroha. Called Domain House, this former teahouse which dated back to the start of the last century was to be the hub of our daily activities, including all meals. 

Welcoming us at the top of Domain House’s front steps was pocket-rocket trainer and Te Atawhai co-founder Sherryll Gordon. Inviting us to make ourselves comfortable in the spacious, unpretentious and cheerful lounge area, Sherryll graciously and eloquently explained to us the basis of Te Atawhai’s wellness philosophy: A modern day sanctuary created to reconnect the mind, body and spirit into one magnificent whole, Te Atawhai’s wholeness journey more than simply exposes their guests to a different way of living. They educate them on everything that they need to know in order to embrace permanent changes in the management of their mind, body and lives. Thankfully, we had been forewarned on the no-perfume/ no make-up/ no alcohol/ no caffeine/ no sugar ethos and had begun our detox a few days prior, which saved us from unpleasant symptoms during our stay: tiredness, headaches and nausea.

One of Chef Erika's organic-whole-foods-only creations.
A crucial part of the four-day retreat is the education on food. Previously associating the whole-organic-foods-only movement with tree hugging hippies, Chef Erika Motoie shattered all my ill-conceived prejudices. Not only where our meals at Te Atawhai exquisitely presented, they were delicious and brimming with goodness. Indeed, Erika explained to us the importance of giving thanks before every meal and taking our time when eating, preferably at the table. That way, we fully savour the smells, tastes, textures, nutrients and energy of our food.

Navigating the terrain of Mount Te Aroha.
Movement is another integral part of the retreat and there was plenty of it. Starting with stretches with Sherryll every morning, the main activity of each day involved a trek in the region’s glorious mountains. There is no better way to be present or discover the weaknesses and strengths of one’s own body and character than to climb a mountain. Best approached with humility, caution, respect, and cooperation, the teamwork and camaraderie within our small group seemed to grow in proportion to the challenge. Every one of the treks presented us with a different kind of beauty and set of trials: the scenic trek to Wairere Falls, the steep climb to Buck Rock in the spectacular Waiorongomai Valley, and conquering the ‘Mountain of Love’ itself, the magnificent Mount Te Aroha. Reaching the summit, we felt on top of the world.  

An enviably fit and sprightly hiking guide by the name of Frank Stucki accompanied us on all our treks and had the backs of anyone who lagged behind (me, most of the time!). After a particularly intense hike of 17 kilometres (which I’d completed 30 minutes behind the rest of the group), Frank not only stayed with me every step of the way but he delivered me safely to the Mineral Spa and patiently waited with me until the rest of the group arrived. Once they appeared, he headed straight to the gym to engage in further leg work. I have never felt so humbled in all my life. Frank is 78 years old.

Fiona working her magic on Pia's tired muscles.
Hours of mountain climbing go hand in hand with achy muscles and swollen joints. Thank goodness for the deep tissue massage that we received at the magic hands of therapist Fiona in the rooms at Healthfit Te Aroha, a gym that Sherryll manages . A soak in the silky waters off the hot soda geyser at Te Aroha’s Mineral Spas afterwards completed our ritual and brought more healing to our tired bodies, despite our exhilarated spirits.  

Maryanne getting up close and personal with our special four-legged friends at the RDA
Last but not least was the equine assisted learning with coach Devon at Te Aroha Riding for the Disabled . Under Devon’s watchful eye, our interaction with two very special horses enabled us to learn how our energy and behaviour impacts others. With a proven track record for l owering blood pressure and heart rate, alleviating stress, and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression , Devon - who has a severely disabled brother and was born with mild cerebral palsy herself - regularly sees significant breakthroughs as a result of equine therapy with the disabled children that she has worked with. 

From a place of ignorant enthusiasm at the start of our Te Atawhai wholeness journey, I’ve since become a raving advocate. So have my other retreat buddies. Flying in the face of ‘Botox and Bling’ pamper retreats, where boutique ‘packages’ and buffets are the order of the day. Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you’re after. Te Atawhai’s approach is far more organic, bespoke and inclusive. Not only did I witness a gradual unfolding in all of my three retreat companions, I noticed profound changes in my own health, psyche and outlook on life too (And just in case you were wondering, YES, I DID LOSE WEIGHT!). With Te Atawhai challenging any ‘quick fix’ approach to fitness and nutrition, the changes that I made on our wholeness journey have since become part of my day-to-day routine. It’s all about choice, isn’t it? I’m so thankful that I made this one.

Want to learn more about Te Atawhai? Drop me a line by Clicking Here.

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The gang and the van!

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 10th February, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: New Zealand
Tags: Annah Stretton, Rotorua, Te Atawhai, Te Araho, New Zealand

Rise and Shine in the Year of the Rooster

After being head butted by the opinionated Goat in 2015 and made fun of by the cunning Monkey in ‘16, I’d like to think that the animals of the Chinese zodiac have finished ironing out my kinks in time for the 2017 Lunar New Year. 

The Lunar New Year festival is centuries old and was traditionally a time for the Chinese to honour their deities and ancestors. Developed around the cycles of the Moon and based on a repeating cycle of 12 years, each Lunar year is represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Beginning on Saturday 28 January, this year belongs to the Rooster.

What is the Year of the Rooster about and how can we best harness the attributes of our inner Chanticleer? The answer lies in tapping into the animal’s distinguishable traits.

Our first clue is in the Rooster’s most obvious feature, its vibrant plumage. Multi-coloured and brilliant, its natural flamboyance challenges us to strut our stuff and look our best in 2017 as we stride forward with confidence. This strikingly handsome bird is also renown for protecting its territory fiercely and keeping his flock safe from predators, hence loyalty and focus on the family are paramount this year. On the flip side, the Rooster warns us against arrogance and pride (Hear that, Mr Trump?). 

Roosters crow a lot, all day, and at all hours of the day. There is no mistaking their presence or intention. This is as clear a symbolic indication as any that honesty, hard work, diligence and punctuality will be rewarded during this Lunar year. Flapping its wings and crowing in times of danger, the Rooster serves as a timely reminder that courage, vigilance and forthrightness must be exercised in matters of love, money and business. As for our dreams, hearing a Rooster's crow might indicate that a wake-up call is needed in a specific aspect of our lives. 

Long story short, the Year of the Rooster compels us to look sharp and put our best foot forward as we step out into the world. Being honest and crystal clear about our intentions concerning love and money are front and centre in the Year of the Rooster. In business, it is best to stick to practical and well-proven paths to success rather than risking it all with short cuts and dodgy ventures. 

The Year of the Rooster will be a powerful one for us all, especially as it coincides with this year being a ‘1’ year in a 9-year numerology cycle. A ‘1’ year is all about new beginnings, striving forward and shining bright. Everything that the Rooster wants us to be and more!

If you happen to be in Sydney from January 27 - February 5, why don't you gather your friends and family, soak up the atmosphere and celebrate the Year of the Rooster at the "Lunar Markets" at Pyrmont Bay Park.

Gōngxǐ fācái! Wishing you and your family Happiness and Prosperity this Lunar New Year.

Victoria x

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 6th January, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions
Tags: Lunar New Year 2017, Year of the Rooster, Chinese New Year 2017

Start of a New Year: Time to Listen to our Bodies

Te Aroha
I began my 2016 holiday season full of beans, in the company of a delightfully exuberant 7 year old for 3 straight days. Come Christmas Eve a day later, I harnessed every ounce of energy that I had left for the Herculean preparations needed for a dinner-for-20 at our home. Clean up time afterwards saw me pushing past my exhaustion barrier so that our home could be spick and span again.... by 2 am. With my adrenal going on overdrive (I have only one left), sleep eluded me until 4. I got cracking again on Christmas morning despite barely being able to lift my head off the pillow .... after all, I had a dish to complete before the late afternoon, when my son's lovely in-laws would be coming over.  While eternally grateful for our beautiful family and thankful for all that we have, it came as no surprise when my body cried out, “Enough, you fool! Look what you’re doing to me!” 

And then I crashed.....  

So I find myself typing this message to you as I lounge on the couch, barely able to lift my head to appreciate Sydney’s glorious summer weather, let alone head to the beach for a revatilising swim. Instead, I’m doing battle with a runny nose, scratchy throat and chesty cough with a nothing more than a box of “Large n’ Thick” Kleenex tissues and a bottle of Nurofen by my side.

As I first did in 2014 when faced with a confronting health issue , I dismissed my woe-is-me attitude and shifted my perspective. Looking at my debilitated state with fresh eyes, I recognized a destructive pattern in myself which adversely affects my wellbeing on a regular basis, the tendency to do more, be more, never saying NO, continually pushing myself to the point of fatigue. The more my body tells me to stop, the harder my mind whips me into a frenzy of activity. Indeed, my body never fails to let me know whether I am making the right choices or not, yet I continue to ignore it. It keeps chugging along regardless, this incredible work of creation. That is, until it’s got nothing left to give...... 

Thankfully, I listened to my body when I received an email from NZ fashion designer, business powerhouse, and philanthropist Annah Stretton in mid-November, inviting me to check out her latest venture, a wellness retreat set in the scenic foothills of Mount Te Aroha, in the rural region of Waikato (New Zealand). Housed in a beautiful Edwardian structure, this sanctuary from the world is called Te Atawhai, meaning ‘to show kindness or care’ in Maori. Having known Annah since 2003, when I became the sole agent of her fashion label in Australia, I knew that this venture would be infused with the same passion, authenticity and commitment to excellence as her other enterprises. 

Domain, Te Atawhai
The more that I read about Te Atawhai -  the majestic surroundings, thermal and mineral hot springs, wholefood menu, mountain hiking, equine assisted learning, daily mindfulness practice, massage, general body health consultations, one-on-one nutritionist consultations and the boutique accommodations - the more my body responded with a resounding YES!  Feeling excited and expansive, I invited 3 other like-minded women to share the experience with me: chiropractor, nutrition specialist and dear friend, Kate Willesee, my dear cousin Pia from Portland (Oregon) who would be visiting me in Sydney, and my daughter-in-law, Maryanne. They too said: YES to self-care, YES to tranquility and peace, YES to coming home to ourselves. 

We now have our eyes set to early February, when together we will embark on Te Atawhai’s 4-Day Wholeness Programme. We hope to learn how to properly nurture and nourish our bodies through a combination of movement, mindfulness, diet and rest. We will learn how to listen to our bodies again and, most importantly, to trust it and follow its gentle rhythms. Keep your eyes on this space as I update you on our NZ adventures next month!

As 2016 comes to a close, I reflect on the new story that I’d like to write for myself for the coming year. I’m reminded of the eternal words of the late American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker , Jim Rohn:  “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Here is wishing you and your family a wonderful year ahead. Happy New Year!

Safe travels and be well, 
Victoria x

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 29th December, 2016 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, New Zealand
Tags: New Zealand, Te Atawhai, Te Aroha, Annah Stretton, Kate Willesee

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