Hungry like Okami

Okami Japanese Restaurant

147 Station Street Fairfield

(Visited December ’18)

It was mid-December, and KK was the name of the game! Yes siree folks, the 2018 Christmas shin-dig with us girls had arrived and we were nice and early in December for a catch up, even managing to book the place weeks in advance! Why, I never!

The place you ask? It was Okami in Fairfield, an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant. The massive drawcard for this place on Station Street, was not just it’s visible location, but the fact that it was $32.80 for everything…

Like, ALL YOU CAN EAT.

Why do we get so excited when we hear those four words, why? I mean, there is only so much we CAN eat, and yet the thought of unlimited food, without limitations…

As a species, we are awfully simple, and awfully stupid.

So let’s see how many courses we got through, shall we?

We were there for the 7:30 session. We started off getting some drinks of which was the classic Umeshu, Japanese Plum Wine.

With an actual plum inside! We all dabbled in this, and it was that kind of sickly sweet type of alcohol that still went to our heads.

Here are the dishes we went for, and shared between us all:

Edamame Beans… I learnt how to eat them that night.. you take the long bean between your teeth, pull the little beans out and suck.

🤣

We also had prawn and vegetable gyozas… mmm so good.

Vegetable spring rolls.

Potato croquettes.

There was also the octopus balls… oh God no. They are the round balls in the spring rolls photo, and let me tell you I had NONE of those. I can’t even look at them without – ugh.

Those were our starters.

For mains, we got the chicken katsu, along with the sides of fried rice and steamed rice (latter dishes not pictured).

My friend also got the sushi and sashimi platter… here is a photo for the sake of looking at food.

My personal faves? The gyozas, and the chicken katsu. So yummy and crunchy.

It was a great night, what with KKs happening, festive paper flying over the table as we unwrapped presents, and lots of girly squeals and laughter.

What the hell. We would do dessert too.

There wasn’t a whole lot on the menu for the sweet stuff, just ice cream flavours… and I didn’t want the green tea or black sesame variety, so I went for plain old vanilla.

Just like my adjectives there, it was fairly plain and old, nothing really amazing to be honest. I ate it but it was clear that although they knew how to do their Japanese dishes… the desserts didn’t have any wow factor.

We all paid the bill, not split though (see note below) and headed on out to fill up Station Street with much more festive love and laughter.

Food: 7.5/10. Most of the dishes were yum, but the ice cream was meh.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Noisy, busy! It was a Saturday night in December, so close to Christmas… can you imagine? Lost of groups getting together for pre-Christmas shin-digs, friends, families… the lot.

People: Like I said, the lot. Older people, younger people, and everyone in between.

Staff: Really friendly. Our waiter was lovely and tended to all our very pressing questions about like, how many pieces of gyoza do you get in a serve? What exactly is in an octopus ball? And do you split the bill? (See below!)

Price: So as I already mentioned, $32.80, all you can eat! Not including drinks, my plum wine was $9 for a 900ml glass. These are likely to have changed since our outing there, so check their website, or call, to avoid disappointment at the counter.

Advice: So, going by my many clues to split bills… there are no split bills! Half of us took a walk before dessert time to find an ATM on Station Street so we could all pay together… so really, if you are going in a group and there isn’t one person shouting, make sure you have $$$ on you.

Also, book ahead, especially for busy times and days. Our session was booked a whole month in advance… be prepared!

In a nutshell: I quite liked the vibe and atmosphere of this Japanese restaurant. I enjoy the premise of little meals where you can have a bit of this, and a bit of that… you get to try everything, and with company. I would go for more katsu (tummy rumbling just thinking about it) and gyoza, mmm, love me some gyoza!

So, I guess the only main thing to note is that when you go, like their name loosely translates… be hungry like a wolf.

Okami Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quickie book review #4 Don’t go into the mountains…

KYLE PERRY – The Bluffs

“Jasmine felt Madison squeeze her arm affectionately, and she turned with a smile, patted Madison’s leg, snuggled closer. I hate you so much bitch, she thought.”

Jasmine Murphy and her friends are about to embark on a year 10 camp into the mountains. The destination is the Great Western Tiers National Park in Northern Tasmania, place of legend and folklore of the infamous ‘Hungry Man disappearances’ of 5 girls in 1985.

The mystery of the folklore comes into the present day as they head off on the hiking trip… and out of it comes more questions, secrets, twisted relationships, hidden motives and betrayal than any ‘hungry man’ from the forest can poke a stick at.

Gripes: None, other than it finished! I noted with amusement some common small-town mystery character tropes… the out-of-town detective with a secret, the local drug-lord, corrupt cop, etc.

Pros: EVERYTHING ELSE! I’m calling this my book of the year so far. There is a particular eeriness about this novel that keeps the voyeuristic reader wanting to turn page after page despite the dark themes. After reading Christian White’s front cover review, the blurb, and then that Hungry Man poem, I was honestly shitting bricks, this former lover of ghost and horror movies now turned wimp after motherhood.

But this novel is so, so much more, thank God. Sure it’s crime, but it’s also YA, mystery, small-town secrets (oh the secrets!) and supernatural, with an amazing analysis of the small-town psyche and the various characters that present, entwined in a beautiful sadistic plot of BONE BROTH.

We witness the story unfold through many characters eyes, and this brings the plots and secrets forward to the point that it becomes physically impossible to put the book down. There are so many surprises and secrets all the way to the end, making it a simply brilliant work of fiction.

Note first impressions and initial words said – they provide clues. A great Shawshank feel in it too, for those who are fans of the redemption movie.

Also, sequel potential? I can’t wait!

Quickie book review #3 Melbourne murder re-imagined

KATHERINE KOVACIC – The Portrait of Molly Dean

“But now as thoughts of murder and missing files chase each other around my head, I realise something: I’m completely hooked.”

Alex Clayton is a Melbourne art dealer, with a strong hunch that a portrait of a woman who was murdered in the 1930s will fare her well come resale time. As she sets about finding out more about the subject of the portrait, Molly Dean, she is sucked into a tale that leads her deeper and deeper to expose the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

The first Alex Clayton mystery novel by Kovacic re-tells the real-life story of Melbourne woman Mary “Molly” Dean, who was brutally murdered in the 1930s in St Kilda. She uses fictional characters and motives to reimagine what might have happened.

This is possible, because the case remains unsolved to this very day. Nothing spikes interest like an unsolved murder, right? Just ask the creators of all those successful crime podcasts. There is clever interplay between the world of Molly Dean’s 1930s in the days and weeks leading up to her death, and the ‘current’ 1999 day of art dealer Alex Clayton.

Gripes: Not many. I chuckled at the convenient entrance of some people in the story to allow Alex to re-hash the details with someone else, i.e. her mother calling her.

Not a gripe, but amazed to find the words sanitiser and toilet paper within the first 6 pages of each other, and I kid you not, corona is on page 85… This was published in 2018. 😮

Pros: Cleverly executed, I mean you know the ending, well that of Molly Dean’s anyway as you begin to read… yet knowing this and still wanting to know what happened? Well, it’s crime genre, and you have to know who done it, even if it is a fictional whodunnit, right? Despite not being a major art buff and art is definitely a dominant theme, I was hooked early on.

I also loved the nod to various Melbourne locations. We’re taken to places such as Luna Park and Flinders Street Station, and let’s face it in this day of lockdown we can live vicariously, right? Albert Park Lake, Toorak, and inner-city Melbourne are all made mention of.

Molly never got her closure, she still hasn’t in real life, so it’s a kind tribute when people try to settle it for her. When we recreate the past, however fictional, we try to work things out for the sake of those involved, but more so for ourselves. It brings a peace and closure to the story, and provides a voice for those that can speak no more.

For mystery and crime buffs, you can find out more about Molly Dean if you google podcasts and books on the subject.

Early (coffee) traders

Coffee Traders

3 Blake Street Mornington

(Visited November ’18)

My prerequisite for that Saturday morning was, ‘which local café is open early enough for me to grab a decent bite before my seriously stressful word-passion-fuelled day?’

Or in other words ‘who has good coffee and good grub?’

Some other types of words, okay, not so fancy, but still, they drive the point home.

Because I was headed to the city via train to catch a 10am all day course on the creative process of Writing a Life… and I needed to be fuelled up something decent for something as nerve-wracking as that, reading my own life words out to an audience of strangers in a small room, far, far FAR from home.

And also far from any food or coffee. Which is why what I started with was sooo important that day.

I walked into Coffee Traders, the small café that had won the open-early and good-coffee competition, and I already knew the latter because I’d had great coffee there multiple times already… with an amazing slice of cherry pie. Oh my God. I didn’t even know how good cherry pie could be until I tried it, and DROOOOOLED.

It was post 7am, and I was one of two customers hanging around the joint. No, I lie… there was an older couple drinking their lattes out front.

So I was one of three. 😉

Something substantial. It had to be decent, sustain me the trip to the city, the nerves, the nail-biting anticipation…

So I got the –

Breakfast ciabatta – traders’ traditional smashed egg with bacon, melted cheese, rocket and tomato relish

Oh, it was decent alright. Juicy, and moist, the bun was soft, and the whole thing together, soft and saucy and the perfect kind of meal to eat after a big night out… or before a word-filled day. 😉

It was really filling. I made sure to get my coffee to arrive as I finished eating, and so my cap soon followed.

It was smooth, strong, and a perfect addition to a satisfying breakfast burger.

And off I went, the butterflies in my stomach being held down by a good start to the day…

Food: 7/10. Pleasing yet different enough to be memorable.

Coffee: 7/10. Perfectly hot and strong to accompany the breakfast burger.

Ambience: Okay… quiet? Ha ha. Having frequented this place many times both before and after my word-filled day, it’s a small café that feels intimate but due to its size can get cosy and noisy, really quickly. If you like making friends with the person on the next table, or hearing about their weekend due to earshot, then this is the place for you.

Staff: Friendly.

People: All the locals, so the pensioners, tradies, Mums and bubs, couples, and young-ish creative types (ahem, me).

Price: Under $20 for both, an acceptable and pleasing start to the day.

Advice: Eat the cherry pie! Eat the cherry pie! Eat the cherry pie!

If you don’t like being squashed, go there either at non-peak coffee time (late morning, after lunch) sit outside, or get takeaway.

In a nutshell: Coffee Traders has become one of my many local faves neighbouring the ‘Main Street’ strip, and whether it’s at the start, middle or end of the day, I can always find a reason to stop by…

For that cherry pie! 😉

Coffee Traders Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quickie book review #2 Amelia in all of us

ERIN GOUGH – Amelia Westlake

“Bios are bullshit.”

For my next ‘quickie’ book review I bring to you a former winner of the coveted Hardie Grant Egmont award, the Ampersand Prize, and with it her second book, Amelia Westlake.

Will Everhart and Harriet Price couldn’t be any more different. Will goes against the mainstream, battling against the establishment as much as she does symmetrical haircuts, while Harriet is the picture perfect high-achieving student, as blonde as she is bouncy on the tennis courts.

A sudden shared goal brings them together to shed light on some unfair treatment being dished out at their prestigious all-girls school.

But they need a ruse, and they can’t use their real name… enter their personal work of fiction, Amelia Westlake, a so-called student at Rosemead Grammar.

It’s a high school whodunnit, only we know whodunnit and we’re waiting for the penny to drop for the powers that be. I love being part of the know. And they go from girls barely able to stand each other, to working well together, to really working well together!

Gripes: Very few, this book was superbly written and grabbed me at every chapter. Minor things like a Nancy Drew/Jessica Fletcher type reveal when the secret is revealed and we get a massive info dump, kind of made me cringe, if only a little.

Continuity piqued my interest when Harriet needs to look up Will’s house address from the school contact list, but the thing is, she’s already been there. Compare pages 192 and 236. I’m a stickler for details.

Pros: This book has so much character. Will and Harriet are so varied in their life, personalities and styles, that it’s impossible to believe you will love them both… and yet you do, so so much. This YA explores so many teenage issues and topics of class, race, same-sex relationships, discrimination, and world issues, while maintaining that really teen-centric vibe and keeping it light and on the pulse all the way through. Very current, and very diverse. I can see the lengths gone to tie up every possible loose end, and the work apparent in doing that makes me stand up and do a standing ovation.

Also, Gough’s ability to write herself out of difficult situations without relying on the deus ex machina, is impressive indeed. I was scratching my head thinking, how will she get from here, to there?

But she did.

One more quote, I can’t leave it at just one.

“Star signs are a loud of crap, but I’m willing to bet she’s a Leo.”

Must read for context. 🤣🤣

My ‘No’ List

Every so often you come across a realisation that makes you stop and think, and it literally blows your mind.

You discover yourself in a whole other way.

I came across a blog post on Instagram recently, by author Sally Hepworth. She had been interviewed on a podcast and had happily shared her list of no’s… that is, things she says a firm NO to, time and time again.

Her list was so surprising, so long, so wide and varied, that she was asked to share it again… the short version, I believe. 😮

Here are some (emphasis on ‘some’) of the insane things on her list that she says NO to:

  1. Entering the school grounds of her kids for ANY reason

2. Cooking dinner

3. Remembering birthdays

4. Entertaining at her home (apart from her close friends, and then it’s only takeout 😮😮)

5. Talking on the phone (unless it’s work or an emergency)

6. Dancing

7. Playing with her kids – not like park outings or play dates, she means more like hide and seek or dolls 😬

8. Going to the supermarket

I KNOW! MIND BLOWN, right?

I was freaking out, because firstly she has 3 kids. And secondly, I do all of those things, sometimes daily!

It must be said here that Sally has a very supportive husband who pretty much does all the things she doesn’t as she goes about supporting the family with her day-job, i.e. writing.

Nonetheless, it was an enlightening and thought-provoking piece, and it left me with the ultimate question…

What is on my ‘no’ list?

I went to Hubbie the next day, a little upset. I actually felt like I didn’t have much of a ‘no’ list! Sally was so badass, sure of herself, laying down rules and foundations, etc etc.

And Hubbie said to me “that’s not a bad thing!”

Awww. Trust him to make me feel better.

He assured me that not having a big no list was not bad. It meant I was easy going and chilled about things, and that was great in itself, just as Sally is awesome for setting her boundaries!

We can all be awesome, and are awesome… just in different ways. 😁

So, I must ask, and I bet you’re already wondering, counting, pondering… what is on your definitive ‘no’ list? This is the list that you are very clear-cut about, no umms, maybes, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

This is dead set, NO.

Now that’s not to say that you aren’t allowed to ever change your no list. In fact I would be a little disappointed if you didn’t change at least some through the years. That’s life, and we are always changing and evolving, shifting as we enter different life stages and come across new realisations.

Do you wanna know what’s on my list? (But you have to promise to share some of yours!)

Here’s my very small ‘no’ list, and I’ve been sitting on it for weeks now so I know it won’t get much longer, despite my hardest to be super badass 🤣

  1. Ironing. It is overrated, time wasting, and I hate it. I admit, if I have to do it (pre-fancy occasion), I begrudgingly pull out the iron… but I curse the whole time, and still think it’s shit when I’m done.
  2. Super high heels. Like, why would I want to risk killing myself, and buckling my toes in the process? And walking like a baby horse that’s just stood up for the first time?
  3. The cold, and cold activities. The snow can wait for me, like all my life.
  4. Sucking up to people. I physically can’t do it. I recoil. If you think you need to suck up to someone, news flash, you don’t, you just need them out of your life.
  5. Coke. Never. Ever. I found my kindred spirit without meeting them in my uni days, when scrawled along the outside of a building I saw the graffitied words “coke is great toilet cleaner.” Now when I ask baby girl what coke is good for, she says happily “cleaning toilets.” Case closed.
  6. Any messy activities baby girl engages in, like play doh, glitter, glue, paint… must have newspaper underneath, and must be supervised! (Not so much a ‘no’, as a ‘no buts’). I’ve even been known to set her up outside on sunny days, on the grass, just so I have less mess to deal with.

That’s it. That’s my minuscule list, but I guess looking over it I’m a little badass about it. 🤣 It’s really easy to go the easy route and start listing food and drinks you don’t eat, but that’s cheating a bit, and unless it’s something truly shocking, I don’t think it counts as one to put on the ‘no’ list.

So now, share! Please tell me yours. 😁📣

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

Expand your horizons

We live so much of our life looking in.

In the day-to-day, and even in the wider aspect.

I realised this after walking to a nearby cafe this morning to grab a coffee. I placed my order, went outside to wait…

And immediately pulled out my phone.

I scrolled, I scrolled. After some time I realised there was nothing fascinating on it, and remembered the days of pre-mobile devices, and how when you waited for something, well you just WAITED.

(Yes I do remember the days of pre-mobiles, even though it was a long time ago).

I initially looked around me. The groups of people, partners and those with dogs on leashes, sitting around at the tables out front, sipping on hot beverages, talking, making company.

Still, I was only focused on what was in front of me.

I made a conscious effort then, to look UP. Around. At the crisp blue sky, the houses in the neighbourhood that I just walked by without a second glance. The trees, and which ones had branches that seemed to touch the sky, and which housed nests for all the bird-life by the bay.

We focus inwards and on the little details so much, that we become consumed by them. They become our all, our life, our everything. And we forget about the bigger picture. The trees that loom in the background, providing us context of place. The sky that is so vast and huge that we forget it is even there. The sun that sets, and rises, its predictability so guaranteed that we take its warmth for granted.

We live our lives in this superficial manner. We become obsessed with trivial things, believe our problems are the greatest, and try to control all the storylines within our life path.

We must be more like nature. Going with the ebb and flow of it all. Shifting with the Winter breeze, or dancing under the Summer sun.

Take stock of what is going on in your life, sure. But also remember your place in the scheme of things. Instead of asking, “how will this affect me?” and trying to control the outcome, perhaps ask instead:

“How can I change me, and the world in doing so?”

Look at the bigger picture. Remind yourself of the sky, the stars. Look up. Look around.

And then take a step forward.

Photo by Jill Burrow on Pexels.com

Quickie book review #1 Unexpected and expected things

MORGAN MATSON – The Unexpected Everything

For my first of my ‘quickie’ book reviews I bring you this YA novel from Morgan Matson.

Andie is a 17 year-old whose life is planned to perfection. At the surface level all seems ideal – she has a pre-med summer program lined up at a prestigious university, her future career prospects look good, she has the best friends a girl can have, and her Dad is a prominent congressman.

But when a scandal rocks their world, she has to readjust her entire way of seeing out her summer, the people around her, and her world. Insert the most amazing and happy-go-lucky season of her life… but as it ends will all the good around her end too? Will she revert back to her old self, or take her learnings into her new future?

Gripes: There is heavy overexplaining throughout, teenage cringy/typical at parts and some chapters, particularly the first half of the book, were sooo long, I wondered how the hell they weren’t divided up into two.

Pros: It deals with the whole gamut of teenage experience, from broken down family, friend conflicts, boy lust and love, issues of identity and fears of failure. It has it all, and it has real heart too.

This YA novel aligns itself with the type of books I used to read growing up, but despite the happy and hopefulness present, it is also surprisingly real, not everything tied up in a neat little bow. This initially impressed me, but pondering on it I felt there could have been more closure with some plot points, especially seeing as it isn’t a series. Maybe that’s why it bugs me, I want to see them again, to check in and see what they’ve done since.

BANG. When you like the characters, you know it’s a win.

Baby girl says the darndest things #11

I had to share this beautiful moment from earlier tonight, even if just so it’s stored away somewhere, a back-up against unreliable memories, worries and useless facts.

Baby girl and I were watching The Babysitters Club on Netflix. When it first came out I was excited: I thought it’d be a good thing to share with baby girl, and I could relive the book series I loved so much all those years ago.

It HAS been a good thing.

Watching a scene tonight between Dawn and her mother, baby girl turned to me lovingly, with a wistful look in her eye:

“Mama, when I grow up… I can’t wait to look after you.”

Awwww!

Before adding sweetly “now you tell me that when you grow up, you’ll look after me!”

🤣

Darling, I’m getting there. I’m still trying to ‘grow up,’ whatever that means. ❤

The 500 club

So, yay! I reached a milestone with my blog the other week…

My other blog.

Carcrashgratitude to be precise. This blog that I created, birthed from my parent blog, this smikg.com, has now amassed over 500 followers.

519 to be exact, as of this writing. 😁😁

And it’s great! My offshoot blog has almost doubled the followers of my original writing blog, and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.

And why? Because gratitude, that’s why.

I just wanted to write and celebrate my little win, my ‘happy progression’ as it were, but also speak to you about how I came to be here, and place some perspective, some thoughts on this experience, and maybe even offer some advice for some of you who may be starting out…

So how have I managed to exceed the number of followers with my second blog when it arrived on the scene two years after my first one?

  1. Consistency is key. I blog every single day about an item of gratitude. Looking at my latest title, you will see that it’s at 1887 days of consistency.

That’s 1887 days of gratitude in a row. If I said it was easy, I would be LYING. I’ve almost given up many times, and all those hard times was when life got really, really hard. But I was proving something to myself, more than anything else.

So, I’m still here.

2. Second. Photos help A LOT. I can’t tell you how often a well-placed photo gives me more likes.

Clearly, I don’t do it for the likes. We’ll come back to this one in a moment. But people are a visual species, and seeing something, even if it isn’t your photo (the Pexels free photos option via WordPress is great) encourages a person to click on your post sooner. The photo tells them the story, before your post does.

Also, food photos tend to be really popular. Just saying for any would-be chefs.

3. Don’t just follow for the sake of getting likes back, please. That is so trite. Be original for goodness sakes.

Just be honest. I think we’re all immune and desensitised to commonplace, fence-sitting ideas and thoughts. Be yourself. No one else will be.

4. I haven’t overly promoted myself in all this time. I haven’t promoted myself, really at all. In the WordPress world, I’ve liked blogs that I genuinely like, and let the blog grow organically from that.

Just remember… I have been doing this carcrashgratitude blog for 5 years now. So 500 followers in 5 years, is really not much…

That’s about 100 a year. Less than 10 a month. Of course more recently my reach has grown exponentially, but we are talking averages.

5. Why don’t I care about followers? Well let’s be honest, I do, kind of, because it means that people are appreciating what I’m saying and my words are having an impact. So that, I care for, greatly.

But if you are a writer, you are going to write, because you love writing. It’s something in you, and no matter how much you write and you write and you write, you will never ever get it out.

The writing bug that is.

Therefore, people clicking like or follow, is just the icing on the cake, the sugary sweet, superficial stuff.

It’s not the bread, the carb, the density of the cake. The whole piece that just took you hours to bake and get out of the oven.

So, if you’re a writer and just starting out, keep going. You’ll be glad you did.

If you just wanna join the ride, my carcrashgratitude blog can be found here, with a little story about how it all came to be, here.

And yes I am being cheeky and all self-promoting, I’ve done that before too, here.

Ha ha ha. Now I am being too much.

Anyway, thanks for joining me on this ride.

To quote a masterful genius…

“We are gathered here today, to get through this thing called LIFE.”

💖💖

Photo by Tessa Wilson on Unsplash