Oh I wish you a Merry Christmas

Thats the thing about Christmas – whether you celebrate it for religious reasons, family reasons or because it gives you an excuse to splash out on people you care about at the end of the year, there is something special about this day we call “Christmas”.

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For me personally it has always been about sharing it with my family and having a beautiful morning together where we exchange presents, laughs and morning cups of coffee. I have always loved this day because no matter what we were going through as a family, this day would always bring us close again.

For the second year in a row I am miles away from my family – on very different continents in fact. Christmas eve is also my Dad’s big birthday which unfortunately I had to miss.

I truly hope that wherever you go and wherever you are, there are people who will take you in and who will help to make this day a really special one, knowing that your family is not around. These people are your friends and even though the good ones are hard to find, once you do, they are a true gift on a Christmas day and every day.

This year I am very grateful to have my beautiful family in my life, although miles away, my heart is always with them. I am also grateful for my new family and for my husband who I adore and love infinitely. But this year I am especially grateful to our friends who have helped to make us feel loved and special on a Christmas day for the last two years.

I wish you and all your loved ones, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! If you don’t celebrate Christmas then I hope whether it is now or at a different time in the year, you have some special days planned with your loved ones and make sure they always know you love them.

Love is the most important gift of life, so keep on giving today and every day after,

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Happy Holidays!

Always Yours,

Maria Flash Photography

Emily and Karl- Love makes the world go round

Boy meets a girl, girl meets a boy, boy meets a boy, girl meets a girl and boom! Fireworks? Sometimes it’s the whole nine yards, sometimes it’s a slow burner like those slow pressure cookers. Human beings are not monogamous creatures, we unlike penguins spend many decades finding the “one”. We try different relationships, we date different people until we find the “one” that fits. When we find the one we feel ecstatic, we feel inspired, we feel invigorated, we feel blessed and above all we feel loved. It is a wonderful feeling and I believe it is one of life’s greatest gifts is to love and be loved.

Meet this couple Emily and Karl – they met a couple of years ago at a party and now these two are inseparable. They don’t go to movies because just like everyone else they cant agree half of the time on what to watch since she likes action movies and he likes comedies but they sure do look amazing together. At the moment they are touring Europe and seeing some of the most romantic and iconic places. I wish them a safe and an enjoyable trip and I hope their love will keep on shining for many more years to come.

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Thank you for reading,

Until next time,

Yours,

Maria Flash Photography

 

Paul’s and Anastasia’s special day

What happens when love conquers all? A happily ever after.

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Being a guest at a wedding you often see the best of two people – you see a bride’s perfectly fitted dress that accentuates her features, you see a handsome groom who wears his best suit, you see beautiful decorations and hear beautiful words spoken by close family and friends about how unique and special both the groom and bride are and how truly special their bond is. Afterwards, there is something magical about looking at the wedding pictures – whether you like it or not, for a moment or two you believe in all the beauty and magic that a good wedding picture captures. You start believing in the castles, the dashing grooms and a promise for a happily ever after. You begin to dream about this day as a little girl and you, yourself begin to imagine how your groom will cry one day when he sees you in all your beauty walking down the aisle.

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Meet Anastasia and Paul. Through various obstacles that life has presented to them, they have been able to grow and nurture their love and today they have a beautiful family together. Their gorgeous son was born earlier in September and their love for each other and their son has truly blossomed over time. On November 23rd they joined their lives before their closest family and friends and before God.

I feel privileged and honoured to have been part of their special day as a close friend and a photographer. Here is the story of the day and how it unfolded.

The day began in a beautiful mansion in Avalon. The sun was bright and the water was crystal blue.

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There was a feeling of peace, serenity and excitement which has certainly reflected the mood of this beautiful wedding.

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I loved photographing all the beautiful details…

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They both looked stunning like they just stepped out of a magazine or a movie.

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Anastasia looked majestic in her ivory dress while Paul looked truly classy and elegant in his suite and a bow tie.

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As the ceremony proceeded they both cried – what a truly special moment between these two beautiful people. Anastasia’s mom has travelled thousands of miles to be there for her daughter’s special day and it was inspirational to witness how close they are.

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Paul’s brother married this stunning couple while the rest of the family and friends witnessed the event.

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After the ceremony we proceeded to take some portraits in the garden and on the beach. The sun was still very high up at four thirty in the afternoon but we had a great time coming up with some serious, romantic and silly poses.

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I love how much fun Paul and Anastasia are as a couple, as soon as we were done with the formal shots, they quickly improvised and started coming up with their own fun and creative ideas.

The rest of the afternoon was very relaxed – some of us danced, while others cooked. It was a truly intimate affair.

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Later in the evening, it was time to cut the Russian wedding cake.

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Anastasia wanted to bring in some Russian traditions to the wedding and the rest of the evening was filled with fun competitions and games.

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I wish them many years of marital bliss and wonderful adventures for their young family. Thank you again for making me a part of it.

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Thank you for reading 🙂 

Always Yours,

Maria Flash Photography.

Welcome to the Urban Jungle

According to the urban dictionary, “urban jungle” means the city. It is a term that describes city streets, subways, buildings, neighbourhoods, etc. But what is it about these “urban jungles” that attracts us humans? Why is it that most of us are attracted to them like moths to the flame? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully and quitely in a country side, away from noise and pollution?

Forget the famous Opera House or Circular Quay in Sydney, you only need to take a 10 min train trip from the city out to Newtown to really witness the diversity and variety of creative minds, curious souls, lonely hearts and inspired artists who make this city so unique.

A good friend once said: “I will never retire in the country, I love the city life too much, it keeps me young”. Some might argue that cities keep them young with all the stresses and expectations that come with living in one. I doubt that anyone would think that travelling to work on a bus densely packed with seasonal flu carriers is glamorous or worth dreaming about but yet these busses are full because the cities are full and the cities are full because people love living in them.

So what attracts us to the so called “urban jungle”? Is it the energy of hustle and bustle? Is it the diversity of cultures and experiences we get to enjoy? Or is it the “urban jungle” promise of a better life, of possibilities beyond imagination? In a big city like Sydney, anything is possible and you can be whatever and whoever you want to be.

I don’t have the right answer. For every person there will be different reasons why they love the cities they live in. For me personally it’s the challenge of being more than who I am today, to aim higher, to feel taller, to never stop growing and evolving.

Below are some snippets of the other side of Sydney – the honest side, a playful side, a side decorated with graffiti paintings and unbelievable contrasts. This is the side  tourists don’t often see or hear about – this is the heart of our city and Kate has done an amazing job of showing me this side and helped me to experience true beauty of the city I have grown to love.

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What made this experience even more special is the little piece of my heritage right in the middle of Newtown – a Russian bakery shop called ‘Izba’, which means a hut in Russian. We stopped for a moment to grab a snack and somewhere between the bites of Napoleon cake and an egg pie I have experienced a true harmony – my past and my present were sitting side by side, enjoying each other’s company. A Russian girl in me and a young woman I have become were both content, enjoying the city I call my new home.

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Thanks for reading.

Always yours,

Maria Flash Photography

My “Pretty Woman” moment…

Ever since I saw Julia Roberts in that famous brown polka dot dress in Pretty Woman I have been dreaming about one day going to the races or a Polo match. There is something particularly unattainable about these sports that attract beautiful, rich and famous people – maybe it’s the thrill of the bet for those who live in excess or maybe it is one of the very few occasions in our day and age where people still make a considerable amount of effort to look their best. Men put on their best suits and ladies spend endless days and nights in pursuit of their perfect designer outfit.

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Growing up in Kazakhstan – a former Soviet Union republic I could never dream of ever experiencing something like that, if only having an idea of what those experiences would be like through movies and TV. Not only has it not crossed my mind but the very idea of one day living in a place where this is a weekend routine for some was not only highly unlikely but impossible in my world. Well here I am 15 years later and attending my very first racing event.

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It started off as a regular rush around morning, unlike many people who attend these types of events I don’t have a personal stylist or a hair dresser to make me look fabulous – I rely on my own skills to go from 0 to a hero in as little time as possible.

Then the drive. Of course having a personal helicopter would help but my little Suzuki swift will have to do the trick for now. I am completely paranoid about the parking situation, I will admit parallel street parking is not my forte and walking a few km to the race in 4” inch heels is not my idea of fun. I am not a club member and there are no dedicated parking spots for me but luck is on my side and somehow I manage to squeeze into the first empty parking space I see. Confidently I stroll along the parking lot into the main gates of Rosehill Gardens race track.

I am overwhelmed. Wow and I mean WOW – I have never seen so many good looking and stylish people packed into a venue before. The whole thing looks like a huge wedding function. There are pretty women everywhere I look, drinking champagne and giving glimpses of those pearly white smiles. Men are certainly looking sharp in their suits, crispy white shirts and colourful ties.

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Champagne glasses and laughter accompany me everywhere I go, people are chilling and having a great time. We are so lucky with the weather, it is a cool and overcast day and it’s just pleasant outside.

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I feel pretty, I feel good (I am the one in white). I meet my friends, they all look stunning, we hang out together in a queue for a complimentary glass of bubble. We chat, we laugh and have a great time together.

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We watch beautiful horses being paraded around the track, watch the races, post some fun pics on Facebook, we eat some Mexican food and we go up to the stalls for the last two races and then I see it…

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I see it on the big screen, I see how six men are trying to drag a horse that is about to race into a gate, they pull it by the ear and drag it in with sheer force. My heart stops and I realise what really happens behind the scenes, behind the glamour and champagne bubbles, there is a lot of pain and suffering that these animals are subjected to on day to day basis. And suddenly none of this seems “Pretty” to me anymore.

Yes while it is true that human athletes also go far and beyond to achieve impressive results and many medals are gained through tears, pain and blood but there is one crucial difference between being a human athlete and a race horse. A human always has a choice to subject himself or herself through pain to become a well renowned athlete, while a horse is forced into submission…

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While I certainly enjoyed catching up with my friends and looking all glammed for the day, this sport is not something I will be supporting in the future.

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P.S at the time of completing this blog post, a well known horse by the name of Red Cadeaux has been injured in the most famous race of the Season – the Melbourne Cup 2015. And while ‘many’ are waiting patiently for news if the horse recovers, very few will step in to attempt to prevent these incidents from happening in the future. Last year, during the same race, two horses died from injuries.

As it turns out, I have reconsidered my “Pretty Woman” moment and in the future, I will need to find “Pretty” elsewhere..

Here are some links to some interesting articles on the real side of racing:

“The Ugly Truth About Racing” 

“Death of Your Horse Reveals the Dark Side of Racing”

“The Ugly side of the race that stops the nation”

Thanks for tuning in and reading,

Always Yours,

Maria Flash Photography

A Whole New World – Swatee’s and Vasant’s pre-wedding celebrations 

Our favorite Disney song from Aladdin goes like this..

“I can show you the world

Shining, shimmering, splendid…”

Swatee’s and Vasant’s Sangeet night was truly a night to remember. For a brief 6 hours of this beautiful event, this is how I saw the world in the presence of this couple – everything seemed more shimmering and splendid, alongside many performers that evening, love certainly took the center stage.

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Throughout life, we get to meet all sorts of people – we meet clever people, funny people, intellectual people, talented people, beautiful people and seldomly we meet kind people. What is even more unusual is when we find a truly rare combination of people who embody all the characteristics mentioned above. Certainly Swatee and Vasant are that rare combination. Their inner and outer beauty are both inspiring and humbling.

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A well orchestrated skit by Swatee’s beautiful bridesmaids on how the couple met and their journey to commitment has made me realise how special the bond is between these two people. It was clear from the presentations and performances that these two are true soul mates and that their love is like a universe – it’s forever.

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This was a fun evening a week before the wedding, when families and friends gather together to celebrate this beautiful couple in a less formal and more relaxed atmosphere.

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There was a lot of music, dance and singing and the energy of the room was just electric. There were a few moments where I caught myself doing little dance with my feet :).

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I don’t need to explain more, the love that these two share radiates from within and lights up the room and everyone can see and feel it.

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A few days after Sangeet, I had one more event to look forward to – a Mehndi evening. This is a special and festive evening which takes place a day or two before the ceremony, where Mehndi artist draws very detailed and complex designs on the hands and feet of the bride. Of course many other ladies participate and receive some stunning designs on their hands for the ceremony. Mehndi symbolises love and traditionally it is believed that the darker the colour of Mehndi the more love bride will receive from her husband and mother-in-law. Swatee certainly looked stunning as her designs were being completed.

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So much colour, beauty and radiance filled up the rooms of Swatee’s Parents home.

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I wish them both a wonderful life together and I hope the splendid love that I got to observe during these events will carry them throughout life into old age. I wish them many more smiles and laughter and many many more days filled with joy and happiness together and with their loved ones.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of your special celebrations, memories which I will keep for life.

Truly Yours,

Maria Flash Photography

“Just Do It”

I love Nike’s slogan “Just Do It”. It is simple, it is powerful, it is directive. According to Wikipedia, this slogan was introduced in 1988 and has since helped to make Nike more profitable. It is described as both “universal and intensely personal” in the article by Jeremy Peters. What makes it so special is that It doesn’t specify that “Doing It” should only happen when it is right, when you are good, when there is a full moon, when you are rich, etc. The power lies in its simplicity and let’s be realistic here, how many of us leave our excuses at home and focus our efforts on “Just Doing It”? How many of us don’t wait for the perfect moment to do something but rather do it when it is not. When you ask someone what they would rather be doing right now, the answer that comes back most of the time is – “Oh I want to buy a house but I have to wait until I am older, until I am more financially independent or I want to be a marketing director but I can’t apply for the job until I am more experienced or I can’t write a blog until I am more popular, etc”.

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Don’t get me wrong a healthy mix of perfection and timing can certainly help to achieve a desired result and you certainly won’t become a CEO overnight (unless you have millions of $ in your bank account) however, more often than not we get caught up in excuses why we can’t or shouldn’t “Just Do” something rather than why we can or why we should.

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I fell in love with photography completely, deeply, a couple of years ago. Photography became the second love of my life, my husband of course will always be the first but what started off as a simple exercise to help out my husband’s dragon boating team to photograph a training session, turned into a passionate love affair. See my earlier photos below.

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The minute I held that Canon DSLR camera in my hands I realised It was love at first sight. What I didn’t realise is that it would take over me and consume me to the point of no return. Since that day, this love affair kept developing and growing until I have realised that it does not have to be an affair at all but rather it can turn into a legit relationship, a business idea I can develop over time and commit to.

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I love photographing people and events. Initially I got so inspired and excited – the idea of being there and photographing special moments in people’s lives made me grin from ear to ear. The idea of producing images that could withstand decades made my heart glow.

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I pictured client meetings, photo albums, photo editing sessions with a cup of coffee next to me, I pictured Facebook page and a blog site full of comments and ideas but most importantly I pictured couples, families and people who would be letting me capture their special moments and allow me to be there to see all the love, the joy and happiness that binds them in that special moment, forever frozen in time on a photograph. 

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This has given me something to aspire to something to look forward to but then suddenly the seeds of doubt started to set in, polluting my mind with thousands of “what if statements”. Usually “if statements” are great when it comes to Excel in my line of work but when it comes to mind, it’s just noise that clouds the vision and stops one from seeing things clearly. Things like “what if I can’t do it”, “what if I am not good enough”, “what if there are hundreds of more experienced and skilled photographers than me”, “what if I don’t get any clients”, “what if..what if.. what if” started creeping in more and more into my mind. Around that time I have mentioned my idea to a colleague who used to be a wedding photographer in Canada and recently moved to Sydney. She said to me that it is very difficult to make it here in Sydney as a photographer, the market is saturated, the competition is high, it is not worth the effort.

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I pondered on that statement for a long time and for a while my dream of becoming a wedding photographer has stayed put in the shadows of my doubts. I thought what is the point of trying when she is right, it is not worth it.. Until one day I woke and realised that it was.

Why you may ask? What has changed your mind? Well I have realised that for the first time in my life I feel truly passionate about something, I feel like I have a purpose, I have all these stories to tell and I have been wanting to tell them all my life, I just didn’t know how. Photography offers me a medium through which I can share my stories, my view points, the beauty that I get to see and experience. 

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I knew then what I needed to do and I just needed to do it. No more excuses, no more what “if statements” unless they are strictly applied to my day job. I don’t need to wait until I am more skilled, until I have a perfect website or a perfect logo, these will come and will develop over time. I should just get on with it and “Just Do It”. It is a start, it is line on a blank page, it is a dream and I am planning to turn it into something real but it won’t happen by osmosis, it won’t happen on it is own, it won’t happen while I wait for the perfect time but through hard work, passion and true commitment I am confident that it will happen if I “Just Do It”.

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So go on, “Just Do It” whatever it is you want to do, whether it is to become an award-winning writer or an entrepreneur or whatever you want to be don’t wait until that one perfect day because there will not be a more perfect day than today, there will never be any guarantees along the way, only a true determination to succeed. 

Why wait when you can “Just Do It”?

Always yours 

Maria Flash Photography

Noodle your way…

So you have been at the beach every day for the last 7 days, your tan is so brown by now it will warrant an entry into one of those fitness competitions. You are tired from all the restaurants you have spent many many nights and $s during those cold winter months. What to do? 

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Well answer is simple – Sydney Night Noodle Markets.

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With many stands of delicious food to choose from, you will enjoy a family friendly afternoon in the shade with some mates or family or that special someone. 

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Markets are located in Sydney’s picturesque Hyde Park overlooking Westfield tower and other Sydney signature sky scrapers. This is also a yearly event and is usually set up during October.

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October is actually a great month to be in Sydney – there are so many events to look forward to – Manly Jazz Festival, Octoberfest, Noodle Night Markets and if you like something more dressy there is always a day at the Races. 

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I won’t go into details of all the delicious treats you can taste at the markets but be rest assured that you will find something that you will like. We decided to go for traditional dumplings which were superb. 

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For all those who also need to quench the thirst there are plenty of beer tents around the market and even a whiskey tent which was certainly a highlight of the evening.

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For VIPs and clients there is a City Bank tent where you can get a table and be all prim and proper while eating your noodles or dumplings.

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For everyone else there is plenty of grass and a number of sitting areas where you may just be able to find yourself a great spot.

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The best thing about this event is that you can bring your kids or your dog so no need to panic if your nanny has been suddenly whisked away on a trip to Bali – this is a family friendly event and so everyone is welcome…

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Except for paparazzi which I was accused of being by some guy when trying to take this picture from a little bar area above. Clearly I look like I was there to take photos which I did and so I took it as a compliment 🙂 

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Anyways for those in Sydney be sure to go check it out and for those travelling to Sydney add it to your list of things to see.

For more information on the event check out this link below:

http://sydney.goodfoodmonth.com/noodlemarkets 

As always thanks for visiting and stay tuned for next week’s post on a beautiful Sangeet evening celebrations for two very special people who will be joining their lives soon. For those who are not familiar with Hindu wedding tradition, Sangeet is the night of song and dance which usually takes place a few days before the wedding. I am looking forward to photographing this special evening and excited to share my experiences with you all.

Until then,

Yours,

Maria Flash Photography 

Manly and all that Jazz..

Manly Jazz festival is an annual event. It is possibly one of the most exciting events of the year, here on the Northern Beaches. 

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Jazz bands came from all over Australia and performed their finest acts, while relaxed crowd enjoyed good weather, drinks and some delicious snacks from food stores set up all along the main stage areas. Sounds like heaven on Earth right? Correct.

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I mean what could be better than a sunny day on the beach, some Jazz and a glass or two of vino?

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The Festival runs over a 9-10 day period from 26th September – 5th October, allowing those who have very busy personal schedules plenty of opportunities to catch some great musicians and coastal weather at their best. 

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What makes this event really special is that it is enjoyable for all ages, from young to old.

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Kids love letting their guard down and just enjoy running around and playing with other little ones. Some even practise for their future stardom, like the girl below.

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Oh boy she enjoyed her dancing, stealing the spot light from the Jazz band completely.

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Another girl was discovering this thing called ‘dancing’ for the very first time – perhaps one day, break dancing will be her forte.

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Of course the older generation enjoyed listening to the songs and music of the younger days, when Jazz used to be as popular as today’s pop culture of “One Directions” and “Justin Biebers”.

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And all the “in-betweeners” were just happy to chill out after yet another crazy week at work and finally sit down with a glass of something or an iPhone to hang out with mates and family for a couple of care free hours of Facebook bliss.

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Or just groove with the music.

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If Jazz is not your cup of tea, you can also catch some rock and country bands in between – there is something for everyone.

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And if live music is not your thing at all, there are plenty of bars to visit with in-house DJ’s and chilling pods. 

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This is certainly an event that is worth visiting and you can find more information on the website below:

http://www.manly.nsw.gov.au/whatson/manlyjazz/ 

I know my father-in-law would have loved listening to different styles of Jazz while enjoying a couple of whiskeys on the rocks.

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I certainly will be looking forward to yet another year of Jazz..