The Elements at Hillcrest

Nature never goes out of fashion; so earthy slate was chosen for the kitchen and bathrooms, while exposed timber beams connect you to the surrounding bushland.

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30 years ago, an architect had finished drawing up a large formal design for 1 Raymond Street, Speers Point when the owners started researching pole homes.

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They began exploring the idea of incorporating exposed beams, texture and and layered living; much like the surrounding hillside – and they knew that this is what the home should reflect.

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Nature never goes out of fashion; so earthy slate was chosen for the kitchen and bathrooms, while exposed timber beams connect you to the surrounding bushland.

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The front balcony and cleverly placed windows ensure a view of the blue shimmering lake sparkling below.

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Like the branches of a tree, there are 4 levels that layer warm family living areas with quiet nooks.

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From the welcoming formal entry hall to private areas like the rear sunroom and ground floor rumpus room.

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Wide open spaces with beautiful views over the suburbs and lake; no matter your mood – you’ll find your space here.

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Sounds of laugher and games from the in-ground pool float up to the northerly al-fresco balcony;

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while the song of whip birds, rosellas and lorikeets rings out from the treetops beside the windows.

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Inside, a fireplace in the living room invites you to sit beside it in the colder months listening to records, while keeping the dining loft warm for entertaining.

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The kitchen will never be bare when there is a productive vegetable garden downstairs, fresh pumpkins, herbs and greens at always hand.

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And a view like this from the kitchen window –  yes please!

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A large room used as a study on level 2 has built in library style shelving, and views direct to the treetops.

The rear sunroom would be perfect for a studio space with direct access to the backyard and the current owners once used it as a perfect little sanctuary for their pottery sculpting.

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The landscape gardens include formal hedging of gardenias, fresh vegetable garden, shady paved garden dining area, whimsical pond, and flower gardens with winding paths – a garden for each season.

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All 3 bedrooms enjoy a view, of either the gardens or the water.

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The master bedroom features 2 walk in robes, an ensuite and exceptional lake scenery.

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A home that is full of light, music, texture and nature; a home full of life; all the elements are at play here for you to a life in your element.

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To learn more about this Raymond Street, Speers Point property: head over to Villager Property 

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Strawberries and Cells

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “And sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this!” And I knew I could.”

This week we caught up with local Newcastle Scientist Raewyn Billings.

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Raewyn specializes in molecular biology, genetics and cancer research and is currently working at the John Hunter Hospital as a Translational Scientist.

Seeing as we had arrived to write a blog on this interesting local, we needed a little more clarification. “So what exactly does a Translational Scientist do?” We ask.


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“I develop new testing and techniques that will be validated and put into clinical testing, which helps speed up turn around times for certain genetic tests. I look at DNA all day!”

As we share a delicious fruit platter, Raewyn tells us about the long spiraling ladder that is DNA, “It’s the recipe for every living thing,” she tells us excitedly.

“DNA and RNA are used to create proteins and give instructions for the shape and formation of proteins – they’re like a secret code.”

After further conversation about exome sequencing, clinical diagnostics and genomes, Raewyn decides to break things down for us more simply… and deliciously.

“I’ll show you,” she laughs. “Lets extract some DNA from these strawberries.”

Sure, why not!

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So as we got to work extracting from the berries in the lab, we also got to work extracting the story of Raewyn’s journey into genetics.

“I have always been the girl who had to figure things out,” Raewyn tells us while cutting up berries and pureeing them.

“I had a dream to work in forensics. When I was in Year 10 I started a petition so that our science classes would include forensic lessons. Mr Cook was the teacher and he eventually gave in – we did some fingerprinting and some other things.”

After school, Raewyn followed her passion for science and gained her Biotech – Medical Forensics degree working in Anatomical Pathology and Molecular Genetics.

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It was in 2006 that Raewyn’s dream of being a forensic scientist would become a reality, as she was successful in gaining a role as a Scene of Crime Officer based in Gosford.

For almost 6 years Raewyn attended high volume crime scenes, gathering and examining evidence.

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“I loved my job but something was missing. I missed the lab work and started to realise that my real passion was genetics.”
Through close personal family and friends being affected by cancer, Raewyn felt the push to further her study into medical genetics.

“I applied to the UBC – one of the top medical science universities in the world – and was so excited to get in! I had to leave my family here in Newcastle and move to Vancouver and spend my life savings to do it. But I knew it was my calling.”

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Raewyn scoops out a long piece of white string (DNA) from the strawberry goop with an aura of fascination that can only come from someone who is passionate and engaged with their work.

We talk about Raewyn’s time in Vancouver, Canada while studying her Masters of Science, Medical Genetics.

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “and sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this” and I knew I could.”

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Her Thesis on simulating the human tumour heterogenteity using cancer cell line mixtures sits proudly in front of us as proof that she could – and she did.

An impressive undertaking on the understanding of the evolution of a tumor and a revelation on finding the culprit cell that is driving any one particular tumor, so that the correct treatment can be administered.

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Another passion formed in Canada for Raewyn and that was photography and the online social community of Instagram.

“I find photography an amazing outlet for creativity and to use another part of my brain away from all the pressures of science,” Raewyn says. “I’m an avid adventurer, so I utilised my time in Vancouver to make the most of the amazing hikes and scenery there.”

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Raewyns Canadian adventures became quite popular on Instagram gaining over 50,000  followers, however she now gladly shares her adventures back home in Newcastle.

“I am glad to be back home in Newy, it’s such an amazing place to live: the beaches, the opportunities and of course the wonderful community,” Raewyn tells us.

She is now contemplating her next move: a PHD with the University of Newcastle while simultaneously working in the lab to help produce results for cancer patients, all while enjoying Novocastrian life back home.

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Newcastle is a thriving and supportive community, and from what we learned from Raewyn about the spiraling ladder of DNA (that tells proteins how to form in the right shape), we are happy to know that our community is an amazing building block that supports it’s villagers, creating an abundance of vibrant life.

Visit us to discuss your next move in our vibrant city of Newcaslte, NSW

Life is sweet…

No longer working with Rod, pouring cake batter is more Snellys style these days rather than pouring concrete: Snel is now affectionately known around town as “Mr Cupcake”.

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From owning a successful restaurant in New Foundland, Canada, to starting a boutique bakery in Newcastle, Australia – the story of Mara and Snel is a search for sunshine and sweetness. 

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Although they dearly loved their late-night establishment in the Great White North, once their family began to grow, the couple decided on a lifestyle change.

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A search for a sunny, vibrant community to raise their family (now 3 boys) in was about to begin.  

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They came to visit Mara’s sister who was studying at the University of Newcastle and once they arrived they simply fell in love.

“We became instantly inspired and excited to raise kids in Newy. We love the climate and lifestyle – it just fits us perfectly!” Mara tells us.  

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Saying farewell to family and friends, the pair found a beautiful home in Islington.

“We totally love the community feels at Izzo! Its artistically urban, we are close to our neighbours and we know so many people now in this community – there are lots of people with common interests here.” 

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In 2013, once the pair settled in Newcastle, Snelly started working with Rod Roewekemp in the construction and concrete business while Mara put her cooking skills to use making macarons and cupcakes.

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Mara had learned to cook while working on outback cattle stations.

“Cowboys love sugar!” She laughs


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The brand FiFi La Femme was born, and the sweets were sold wholesale to local cafes. The pair also got up at 4am on weekends to hold various market stalls around the Hunter.

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Those market stalls drew quite a bit of attention, and the people of Newcastle became fans of Fifi!  

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Not hard to see why.

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No longer working with Rod, pouring cake batter (not concrete) is more Snelly’s style these days. Snel is now affectionately known around town as “Mr. Cupcake”. 


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With a professional bakery in Islington making over 15,000 delicious creations a week, the days of baking until 3am for a 5am start at the markets are behind them – but there are many exciting things to come. 

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Fifi La Femme recently celebrated its 3 year anniversary, now with 2 shops inside Charlestown Square, regular artisan market appearances and specialty wedding and occasion cake designs.

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All with a flair for fun, of course!

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“Cakes make people happy,” say the pair, “and that makes us happy!”

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“When a customer contacts us after they have purchased a cake for their wedding, birthday or anniversary and tells us what a great night they had, how the cake was fabulous, it almost feels like we are sharing those moments with them.

Those special life moments – that’s an amazing feeling.”  

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Live your dream in Newcastle. Contact us today to start the journey.

 

 

An Adventure in Apothecary

A journey through this establishment takes you from drinks that taste like life in a glass, to food in bowls that feel like a hug from Nanna.

Villager often grab lunch at Apothecary Kitchen on Tudor Street.

BTW it’s a cafe – not a compound chemist.

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People walk in and around this Hamilton Cafe like you casually walk around your own home.

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Most give a smile and nod to Ben, the owner.

“Hi Ben – a few packages today,” calls the Postie.

“Morning Ben,” says a local, stopping by for her porridge.

“Hey Ben!” Call 2 small children and their baby-wearing mum as they come in to collect the weekly compost bin from the kitchen.

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Originally from Perth, Ben came to Newcastle with his partner Kate many years ago,and have since become much loved locals.

Ben and Kate raise five children in the family friendly community of Hamilton.

 Ben founded the ever-growing Hamilton Running Dads group which has competed in many local events and serves to be a community for like minded local fathers.

Their lucky kids, along with Ben and Kate, are up early every Sunday morning – crates in hand – to pick the weekly stock from the Newcastle Farmers Markets.

“I think it’s really important to support the locals and to know where our produce comes from.”

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Loves local?  Yep. Locally loved? Definitely.

Working his way through a tourism degree at a local establishment, it was in hospitality that Ben found the opportunity to reach people, create things and design a life that was authentic to him.

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Being a father of a busy family, he is passionate about the importance of healthy, affordable meals.

But being Ben, the cafe has a twist – which is where the “Apothecary” comes in.

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Originally, local apothecaries’ concoctions of herbal remedies were sought for medicinal help, a precursor to the modern science of pharmacology.

But with the power of food and nourishment, Ben is taking the name “Apothecary” back -right here in Newcastle.

Ben’s kitchen creates magic food.
Healing food.

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Food that is alive.

Lactococcus lactose and Leuconostoc mesenteroides cultures are the centre of our kitchen,” he tells us.

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A journey through this establishment takes you from drinks that taste like life in a glass, to food in bowls that feel like a hug from Nanna.

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Bubbling Kombucha made from a huge gut loving 4 year old scoby, is flavoured with lemon myrtle this week but the next batch will be whatever seasonal produce Ben has invested in.

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Bens custom Ginger beer and Kombucha dispensery

The homemade ginger beer, that bursts with sweet earthy comforts, comes from a ginger ferment made right in the shop.

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Housemade Ginger Beer Ferment

The yoghurt that adorns the oats for breakfast is cultured from the “waste milk” from the previous days coffee froths.

The compost is collected weekly for a local community garden.

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Vegetarian curry

The left over buttermilk from the creme fraiche goes into the next days vegetarian curry.

A symbiotic harmony.

Experiments being tinkered here, boundaries being pushed there.

An  Apothecary Adventure.

To find out more about local life in Hamilton and Newcastle, visit Villager Property to start living the life you love.

Chop, chop!

The social,  infectious energy of the salon drew Lee into the industry and the creative outlet of hairdressing inspired him… hanging out with lots of fun women, was a nice bonus too. 

Passion, education and fun.

This is the foundation of the Nesbitt Hairdressing empire.

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Add to that a commitment to organic, eco friendly hair care and genuine client engagement, this is a formula for long term growth.

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Lee Nesbitt is ambitious.

Entrepreneurial.

Dedicated.

And all of these things spring from his passion for his industry.

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Although a third generation hairdresser, Lee started his working life in the building industry. After a while, for some extra income, he started picking up a few shifts at his father’s salon.

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The social, infectious energy of the salon drew Lee into the industry and the creative outlet of hairdressing inspired him (Hanging out with lots of fun women was a nice bonus too).

He laughs, “I just love this atmosphere – its alive, fun and energetic.”.

In his teens, he sold raffle tickets so that his young team could hire a bus to go to Brisbane and participate in hairdressing competitions. Learning from mentors in the industry and having a ball at the same time.

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Lee is now one of these mentors. He judges at national competitions and two hours every week is dedicated to training staff in the Darby Street Salon, Nesbitt.

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“I love this place, I love this job. I could easily work seven days a week and love every moment of it,” Lee tells us.

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After running many other salons, Nesbitt was opened in 2008.

A business Lee opened with wife and fellow local hairdresser Mikhali.

They have nurtured the growing business into a beautiful success story.

Awards, staff that are more like family and returning clients – both local and international.

“We have a client who moved to Europe. She always books in when she visits Newcastle each year.”

Nesbitt values it’s clients business, their experience and their health. That also goes for his staff – which is why Lee insists on organic products in stores and flexible rosters for staff to ensure everyone is cared for.

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While the boutique Darby Street salon may be their baby, the growing business of Chops Hair Bar has been an exciting new venture for the pair.

Pop-up hair bars – convenient no appointment salons with quality and spunk. And a free cappuccino: winning!

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Villager’s Ben Tindall and Lee are lifelong friends, growing up locally and sharing the journey together.

“Lee would cut hair at parties when we were young, hair flying everywhere!” Ben reveals.

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From boutique Salons to boutique Real Estate, Ben and Lee both create success through their passion for their work, while having a lot of fun. Now owning businesses across the road from each other in Darby street, there is more fun than ever.

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When not in the salon – or judging competitions interstate – Lee has a hobby farm in the Hunter Valley to retreat to.

“I like to get out on the tractor,” he tells us that he enjoys the wide open space and fresh air, “but I’m always eager to get back into the salon.”

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With two small children to share their life with, Lee and Mikhali enjoy a work-life blend between the salons, family time and their hobby farm.

Their children are being raised in an environment where their parents are doing what they love and loving what they do.

Recently Lee’s daughter mused,  “I wonder where I will work when I am grown up?”

His advice, “Don’t work.

You find something you love to do and create a life around that passion.”

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Find Lee at Nesbitt and Ben at Villager

 

A Culture to Create In…

“There are no guarantees – with art, life, business – none. But that consistently pushes me to get to the next step”

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It’s no secret that Newcastle is a hyper-creative community: take a walk around our own Darby Street from our eagle’s nest at the Newcastle Art Gallery to the public art installations along the street (including the giant headphone sculpture), all the way to the Community Garden across the road from Villager Property A scene full of painting and design.

Villager caught up with local artist Jess Kellar to talk all things Newcastle art scene.

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Jess runs Jess Kellar Art from studio  754 in Hunter Street. A large warehouse where a community of Newcastle creatives can each work their respective magic.

“The best thing about our studio,” says Jess, “is the view from the rooftop, where I am most of the time, working on my latest projects.”

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Local girl Jess has always had a passion for creating and feels lucky to be a Novocastrian where such a passion could be nurtured.

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She has had shows at Cooks Hill Gallery, exhibited at Lane Cove Gallery, The Royal, Muswellbrook Art Prize and recently performed and collaborated with Hannah Bertram at Newcastle Art Gallery for the 2016 Dust Project.

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“Newcastle is a vibrant community for artists,” Jess tells us. “There are a lot of creatives here: from musicians to designers, architects and artists. We are all in a very supportive and understanding space where we all just give it a go.”

Through writing for the Newcastle Herald, Jess has been able to work closely with many musicians in Newcastle. She is also the resident “live artist” for Groovin’ The Moo.

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Jess has worked with Arts Health for MS patients holding workshops and has also branched into “bio-art”, spending time with scientists at HMRI and producing collections from this experience which hung in the hallways of John Hunter Hospital.

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Jess’s style is high energy. When painting she uses strong rich colour and high contrast. In her sketches of Newcastle, the deep charcoals contrast with pure whites.

“Neutral isn’t my specialty,” she laughs.

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While already quite accomplished, Jess is finishing her Bachelor of Fine Art at Newcastle University and was recently the recipient of the 2016 William Fletcher Foundation Scholarship.

And in the true spirit of a Villager in our community she pays this forward by mentoring High School students in many of Newcastle’s public schools.

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“There are no guarantees with art, life, business. None. But that consistently pushes me to get to the next step.”

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The next step for Jess, working from her studio at 754, is to follow her passion in sketching and interpreting the city of Newcastle. The Rooftop Series is a timely project for the city and we are super excited to see the completed works.

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To learn more about living in the creative community of Newcastle – contact Villager Property

 

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