Superfood Store

Store Fifteen
15 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’17)

Breakfast. I mean, it’s a lazy and rich man’s prerogative to have someone else make him breakfast, right? Perhaps the simplest of the three main meals, if you can have someone, more so, pay someone to provide you with this most fantastic of luxuries, well then, you are doing well.

Or maybe that was the case 10-15 years ago. Nowadays, it seems like most new Mums, students, hipsters in inner city-Melbourne, suits and even pensioners are getting in on the café-culture bandwagon and paying for the privilege to have their aerated muesli, gluten-free toast, or organically produced eggs, tomatoes and spinach leaves in a breakfast burrito, bought to them on an artisan piece of table-wear.

I for one, think it’s FANTASTIC. Not just the table-wear, but the breakfast too. I was perusing the local haunts in my fair town over on the Zomato site, when I came upon the most spectacular looking bowl of ‘something’ that I have ever feasted my breakfast-hungry-to-go-out eyes on.

I vowed then and there, that at the next opportune time, I would go there and eat the bowl. Of food that is.

Which is how I came to be at Store Fifteen, the beach end of Main street in Mornington, one sunny and still Autumn’s day in April. I had dropped off baby girl at kinder, and was unashamedly going to indulge in some much necessary and selfish (though not guilt-free) ME time.

I find it a bit nerve-wracking eating on my own. It is a freeing experience, one I think all people should try – but I always end up feeling all introvert-like rather than the confident “look at me people, I am my own best company!” version of myself I should be when I do this. It becomes sooo apparent I have no friends, when really the case is –  I have no friends… in Mornington. Sea changing has its advantages, and not-so ones when wanting to dine out with company, still so soon after a huge demographic shift.

I was a bit unsure of what to do, standing there awkwardly for a while, reading the menu in front of the coffee machine, while trying to work out where to order, where I should sit, and what I was going to eat.

Oh, and of course, I was trying to find the delicious bowl within the menu’s contents.

I could have easily sat outside in the glorious sun, if most spots hadn’t been taken. There are crate-like seats which you can plonk yourself onto, with quite low tables beside them, as well as a higher long table running beside the outer entrance looking in on the coffee making area, with adjacent stools. Inside there were more tiny tables and chairs, and I had to admit defeat and position myself on the smallest of those, but with the advantage of looking out into the glorious day.

I had ordered up at the counter right near the coffee machine, before settling into my position gazing inward out. It’s amazing what a difference a couple of blocks can do. Sure, the menu was very different – there was no run-of-the-mill eggs on toast here – and the distinct menu, as well as the industrial yet organic interior, certainly attracted a different type of customer. Wealthier and well-dressed folk came in here, even the gym-type junkie with the full face of make-up – yep, that type. The counter and coffee-making area held the right position of the first half of the store, with a long thin table placed up against the opposite wall, and then small tables dotted throughout. I was actually sitting on a sack style-stool of some sort, that was the kind of furnishings within – it made you feel like you had just pulled up whatever to sit on at the local man’s barnyard.

It wasn’t before long after my deep musings on the folk here began, that I received the first order of the day:

Chai Latte – Love Chai: An earthy and warming blend of aromatic spices, turmeric, organic tea, and Australian bush honey

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Now, this was a proper chai latte. Not the type you receive in other cafes, where the only preparation was adding milk to sachet of powder. No, this had spices and all manner of herby green looking stuff sticking out and threatening to spill over the sieve as I poured the liquid through to strain it. It was magnificent. But it was what was to be expected from a boutique café such as this.

I had gone the chai latte route instead of my usual cap, only because I was feeling sickly, and going to be coming face-to-face with David Boreanaz the next day… so you know. Had to look my best for Angel, and not be croaking like some demon.

And not too long after that, the main event, the star, the whole reason for my going there at all…

The Acai Bowl

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Just observe that work of art in all its glory. This consisted of an Acai berry blend smoothie base (contains soy) topped with house made superfood granola (contains nuts), fresh berries, coconut chips, goji berries, and activated buckinis. Buckinis you say? Well we were close to the beach. Buckinis/bikinis/schmuckinis. Yeah I don’t know what a buckini is either, other than to speculate that they must do well in Summer-time. The bowl tasted great, and there was huge crunch-effect, so if there on a date, or having to go to an interview later on, maybe skip that one for the occasion. It was also really, really cold. The berry blend, which was the most vibrant of purple/red hues, had a temperature like it had been in a freezer. It might as well have been, that’s how cold it was. It took me a few spoonfuls, and then after never having had a brain-freeze in my life (I’ve avoided it well) one early spoon dipped into the icy red blend had such an effect in my mouth, freezing my top teeth and nearly making me wince in pain, that I was forced to resort my spoons to teeny, tiny amounts, more nut and goji than blend, giving the whole thing time to defrost.

Still, I loved it.

It took me ages to eat – both because it is a decent bowl, and because my sensitive teeth. It looked something like this when I was done:

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So I guess you can say I was happy with my choice.

I finished up, and since I had already conveniently paid at the start, headed on out into the sunshine, and into the Mornington town life. Super-food ready.

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Food: 9/10. With only trying one meal, yet seeing all the other food being delivered out, and the amazing display up near the counter of slices, raw juices and lunch options, this place is the real deal, and one to be reckoned with in the raw/vegan/health food movement. Expect the words raw, vegan and organic, A LOT on the menu, and even one such meal, the recent Kimchi Pancake, had me scratching my head and going “What?” Still, I‘d love to try it.

Coffee: N/A on this visit, but going by the Chai Latte, I can’t bloody wait to give their beans a try. Their range of juices, smoothies and health shots sound incredible to this caffeinated girl too.

Update! Coffee is smooth. Slightly strong. Very, very nice.

Can I give a score when it wasn’t tried on my first visit there (my foodie review prerequisite)? What the hell…

9/10. 🙂

Ambience: Really chilled and mellow. It was breakfast time after all. There was easy-going music in the background that not even a pair of two cute (and rowdy) kids could shake the demeanour of, but I have a feeling this laid-back vibe prevails throughout the day.

Staff: There was no over-the-top friendliness here – not to say that anyone was mean, but you know, they are in the business. The business of making sure the cardamom pods in your chai latte are about to burst from plumpness, you know? No time for chit-chat-chai.

People: The prime real estate of the Peninsula. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one dining alone. Quite a few loners came in for their take-away drinks, many drank/ate opposite the counter, and then there were the custom friends with kids meeting, an uptight couple here and there, and your rich but super-nice gentleman type who came by to sip his espresso on a nearby stool, before tipping his hat to the playful youngster nearby and then going off to God-knows where to talk property and stocks with his investor friends… you know… the usual kind…

Price: $21:00 for the lot. Considering I walked away feeling like a superwoman after all of those supercharged superfoods, it was a bargain. Well worth the money spent.

Advice: If your teeth detest icy things, or it’s Winter, perhaps skip the Acai bowl. In Summer though, go for it. Sitting on a crate out front is the gold-medal position, what with the breeze blowing over the sea-spray from down the road.

In a nutshell: A place I would definitely go back to, and one that I hope to make a regular one, a reliable go-to in years to come. I’m glad there is a café catering to this niche market, because not only does it attract those who may have certain food allergies, but it brings forth the health-conscious, organically minded consumer, the one who wants to feel good, and try something different in the process.

It’s worth 15 visits for sure. Actually, 16… it’s my lucky number 😉

Store Fifteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Rebel with a Glaze

(Disclaimer: I am using the wording ‘donut’ for the sake of the business I am reviewing, but we all know the proper spelling is ‘doughnuts!’ Because there is dough, duh. Onwards…)

I was utterly shocked over this past Summer when I read some fellow bloggers’ posts that they had just gotten sneak peeks at a soon-to-be-opening new donut shop just down the road from me… what? It was literally DOWN THE ROAD. I could essentially walk there. Something I would probably have to do a lot of if I did in fact visit the place… but probably not a good idea to test out, for risk of it being too convenient, you know?

But, I was enraged! How did I not know about this? How did they get a sneak peak, and your neighbourhood friendly SmikG did not? Harumph. That’s ok. I would still visit… and review them quietly, as per my identity…

MWA HA HA.

It was Australia Day, the day to enjoy the Australian and Western World privilege of not cooking for yourself (public holiday, so not doing much of anything for that matter) and so after getting for ourselves some takeaway food for the night, we popped into Rebel Donuts, to see what these guys had in store.

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A lot, it appeared.

There were over 15 varieties, and I now know from repeat visits that these often change. Each visit will bring you a surprise combination, a quirky name (like a Ned Kelly or James Dean inspired one), and a headache from having to make the tough decision of which to choose each time! They prepare donuts according to seasonal occasions, there are vegan varieties too, and for my fair people of Mornington, guess what? DELIVERY! Yes you can have your donut delivered, AND eat it too.

Why, I never.

That day we put on the brakes and brought home just 3.

(From left: a custard donut, plain with sprinkles, and Tim Tam).

The verdict? They were GOOD. They had a distinct yeasty taste, something that reminded me of my Mum’s doughnut making – and that is a good thing. Because if they have that hint of homemade, they will always be a winner in my books.

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Soft, delightful, exciting to pick and choose from… these guys can’t go wrong. If you are headed to Mornington, past Mornington, or you just need an excuse to get doughnuts, well here it is!

The deets:

Rebel Donuts

968a Nepean Highway (actually on the corner of Nepean Highway and Mornington-Tyabb road, in the same complex as McDonalds, Red Rooster, Dominos, as well as other fast food eateries. They often have a large billboard up on the corner pointing to where they are, so just look for the pink!)

Trading Hours: 8am to 10pm daily, unless sold out.

#rebeldonuts #mornington

 

A cozy/crazy Social

Fitzroy Social
222 Brunswick Street Fitzroy

(Visited April ’17)

I’m ashamed to say, that the thought of heading over to Fitzroy from the Port Phillip Bay-side of town, on that Thursday night, Good Friday Eve… well it felt like more of an effort and a drainer, than the desire to see my high school friends was.

I mean, the group of us only get together every few years or so. All 6 of us. And so that should have been incentive enough, right?

Yeah, but now high school is over: I’m a Mum, I’m a wife, and I’m an inventive cook too, who was just freaking out over how the hell I was gonna bake all the Easter goodies I was planning on before Easter on Sunday.

But I soon whooped my ass into gear, and as soon as I was all dolled up, I felt much more, Fitzroy ready.

I knew Fitzroy well. I had worked in the area and walked its streets often, many, many years ago. In doing so, I thought I knew what kind of place I could expect. Small, cramped, dark. Meals at the bar, sitting up on some tall stools, looking down the line at each other and barely able to hear ourselves over the band music. I knew we were having dinner there, and one of the girls was pregnant, so I figured it must be somewhat ‘family’ friendly…

I just didn’t know how that would be.

Well, when I luckily pulled right up to the front and parked (my first surprise of the night) I then walked in through the open doors, and got my second surprise.

This place, was HUGE.

It was high, open-spaced, and light. Yes there was a bar, on the left upon entry, and it was long and wide. But also, occupying more than 3/4s of the space, was the seating area. Tables were throughout, along with those that backed onto booths against the wall, and dotted in amongst all of this were purple couches, all high backed and posh and definitely standing out, used as seating as well.

The toilets were out the back, near where our group was eventually seated, and these were spacious and funky looking too.

As I positioned myself in the booth next to my friend, I looked at these seated works of art, and thought ‘damn. I want to sit in one of those.’

They looked out of place, and yet in true eclectic Fitzroy style, they totally fit in.

And then there was the greenery.

Greenery, you say? In a Fitzroy bar? Where the hell could they fit such greenery?

Why, on the ceiling of course.

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It was an interesting and welcoming sight, a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of all the diners hanging out and catching up on the floor. I loved it.

Once all the girls (and one beau) had arrived, and we were only visited three times by the waitress who was coming to take our order but we were still not ready, we finally ordered.

I got a glass of the Cape Schanck Pinot Noir (from the Mornington Peninsula, of course)

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And soon after as the meals arrived, so too did my meal:

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Now alas, all I can go on is memory, because the guys at Fitzroy Social are so efficient they have already changed their menu, a month on from my visit there! And of course the chicken I had is no longer on it. But I can remember there was a kind of mustard glaze-sauce on the chicken, atop creamy mash, and the carrots were honeyed.

I do recall I enjoyed my dish, however it needed a side, vegies or chips or something. The mash was a small serving. No fault of the menu, it did clearly state what I received, I just should have paid attention more. I enjoyed the mustard flavour against the sweet carrots, and hey… it just meant I had more room for dessert.

After eating, taking the traditional group photo followed by stupid-face photo, a few of the girls headed off, leaving the ones that were left deciding to go for the Dessert Box

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(Apologies for the disgustingly dark photo, the dim lights in that part of the room made it awfully hard)

3 of us went for this, which consisted of full portions of their regular desserts: peanut butter cheesecake, caramel and Nutella pie, salted caramel and popcorn panna cotta, and a scoop each of raspberry and coconut sorbet.

My faves were the cheesecake, panna cotta and raspberry sorbet, but they were all good in their own right. Going the shared dessert box with friends is quite possibly the best idea, you get a taste of everything. Gluttony at its finest.

After this it was my cue to exit, and I left the last two girls behind, with the bright lights and slowly increasing volume and rowdy natures that were on the increase, behind. Back to the beach, driver.

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Food: 7/10. A varied menu for all – burgers, meat, fries, salads and much more.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and happening, yet still chilled and casual. Sit at the bar… sit at a booth. Sit at a purple couch. Do whatever. But we’re in Fitzroy, outer-city suburbs, so you would only expect just that. It started off at a stable volume when I was there, and the music and chatter only increased throughout the night. It wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t hear your friends talking across from you at the table, so that I appreciated.

Staff: The waitress tending to us was very smiley and polite, and offered suggestions when needed. She was Fitzroy-savvy.

People: A real mix. There were groups of friends, and I expected it to be a much younger crowd, but I did see a couple of kids here and there with their parents! It is definitely a younger crowd, 20-30s, but it was nice to see that littlies were welcome too.

Price: I paid about $35ish for my portion of the bill. I can’t say for sure about the chicken, but the estimate was in the high teens to low 20s, and I do recall thinking it was reasonable for that area – I had the chicken, glass of red, and shared in the dessert box.

Advice: If you’re arriving 7-7:30pm you may just get lucky like I did and score parking like RIGHT OUT THE FRONT. Arrive later, and your risk. There are 2 hour parks around the area, and despite what passers-by tell you – pay for a ticket! The bloody signs are so contradictory, they almost want you to think you don’t have to pay, when indeed, you do. I have seen people getting fines for parking without a ticket, and not getting a new one when their last one expired – trust me. Or if you don’t mind walking, go to a flat-rate car park and walk a couple of blocks…

If you’re into funky, retro things, book a booth. It’ll become your facebook profile pic, I have no doubt.

Finally, go the dessert box. You’re going with someone right? Friends? A Man? Your Mum? Unless you go there alone maybe don’t order it… what the hell, you only live once right? Eat ALL the desserts!

In a nutshell: A real surprise of a bar I must say. Expansive, airy, and contrasting textures and sights, made for a great evening with friends. The menu is varied and caters to most palates, and the room is divided into play and eat, so that you can dine with friends and hear every word they say, or have the club vibe happening and seat (and eat) up at the bar. A cool blend of both, and I think all kinds of Social interactions will work well here, way into the future…

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Fitzroy Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What is the deal with February anyway?

What is it, with a date? Or even, a time of year?

I came to realise months ago that there was some peculiar, truly funny business concerning a certain month, and in particular often, a number.

The offending number was 27.

And the all-encompassing offensive month was February.

Specifically, February 27.

Because you see, on that date, a few things happened. Well, this year one BIG thing happened, but then it reminded me of other like things, and soon I was scratching my head and looking up at the planets and asking ‘what the?’

Was it a cyclical phase? Were the planets aligned a certain way the same time each year, making certain life-changing events happen? Was it coincidence (of which I don’t believe anything of…)

Chance? Hmmm…. nah.

Let me divulge.

I received a phone call on February 27. It was in the afternoon, from an unknown mobile number.

From my bosses, bosses, BOSS.

It was my great grand-daddy of bosses. Immediately, without even being in my industry, well, being a person of any workplace or industry… this was NOT a good sign.

I immediately thought to myself amidst the shock of it all, “some heavy shit is going down.”

I imagined bosses getting sacked.

A huge weather disaster.

A terrorist attack on our work building (I am not even kidding).

But as he began to speak, I started to see where he was headed…

What he said meant major changes NOT just for me, but for me and practically every person I knew and worked with and came into contact with in my daily work operations.

We, and I, were being given notice, of a more than likely redundancy in a years time.

I was in absolute and profound shock. I somehow managed to string some words together and sound somewhat professional talking to this grand-daddy of bosses. He expressed his need to talk to all involved, even if they weren’t at work that day when the news bomb had dropped. It was a hardening business, the industry was changing, and in doing so they were downsizing and moving on over interstate to help themselves, economically speaking.

I remember sitting with baby girl only minutes after the call ended. She kept asking that I play with her dolls. I sat on the floor with her, holding up some barbie doll, it could have been Ana, Elsa, Ariel, hell it could have been all of them for all I know. All I remember though, were the whirling thoughts in my head, the shock, the getting to grips with things. The adjustment. The profound sadness for myself and all of our team.

The acknowledgment, that this good thing, was coming to an end.

It wouldn’t be for another year. They didn’t know when the official move and migration would happen… at this stage, all we had was indicators, and we were given lengthy notice to help us in this massive change of our lives.

And we had known for a while. We knew this was coming. My favourite phrase was “if we’re all still here in 5 years, we’re VERY lucky…”

We weren’t lucky anymore.

And as I sat there, my mind bursting with all of this new information, I remembered something.

Something from that morning. Something that wasn’t shocking. Rather, something that had made me smile.

Because it had been a facebook memory.

You know how facebook reminds you of something you posted years ago, and it will say “on this day X years ago…”

Well I got one of those that morning. I got a “On this day 5 years ago…” and saw with absolute delight that February 27 had been the day I had made my birth announcement on facebook, that I was expecting baby girl. I didn’t share the memory again, instead I opened up the photo, remembered the comments, smiled so hard at the joy expressed from family and friends, and reminisced about a major and truly important milestone of our lives.

From Feb 27 2013. And on that day, Feb 27 2018, I was getting made redundant… soon.

But no, that wasn’t even ALL. Because the previous year, I had walked into the family room with baby girl at the start of the day, and upon opening the blinds, felt it odd I could only hear…

ONE BIRD.

We had two then. We had our trusty and loyal male cockatiel who had been with us for well over a decade. He had been hand-reared by both myself and Hubbie, and had travelled through houses near and far to be with us.

The other one was an Indian ringneck, recently given to us by some family members who could not give the bird the attention it deserved in light of them having had a baby recently.

Then, our cockatiel had been with us for about 15 years – the Indian ringneck, 6 months.

Both males. Yet both so different. The ringneck was cheeky and clever.

A dangerous combination. Because that morning as I decided it was all too weird that I could see one bird from the side view of his cage, yet I could not see the other, I decided to open the back door and take a closer look…

I gasped when I stuck my head out. The cage door was ajar.

The ringneck had escaped!

Feb 27 was whirling in my head. What? A Feb 27 incident from this year, last year, 5 years ago, and that wasn’t even the entire list of everything that had ever happened in February.

2 years ago I had had an accident, literally 20 minutes after jumping in to drive my new car. 20 minutes. My new car. Out of nowhere. This upsetting event was the precursor to my carcrashgratitude site being born.

And then 6 years ago in February, we found out a family member had a terminal illness. The ending wasn’t happy.

I couldn’t believe the insane symmetry of it all as I sat on the carpeted floor alongside baby girl. It was just too much. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Though one event was a happy one, the others were generally upsetting, with another one a shock, but one common theme threaded them all together…

They all indicated CHANGE. Whether the change was good, bad, or just a new adjustment. A learning curve. All these events brought with it major change and adjustment, a different way of coping or looking at life, of trying to deal, and grow in amongst much uncertainty around us.

An illness change – Someone passed away and it gave us an important life lesson in life and death.

A pregnancy change – The most beautiful life change you can get, that equally drives you insane as it does heap rewards on you.

A car accident change – It sent us on a spiral but I started my carcrashgratitude blog, a personal exercise in writing daily and finding gratitude in each day and in everything. 

A bird disappearing change – Some things are just there in your life for quite literally, a season.

And now, seemingly a career change – to be continued…

It must be planetary, there must be something above us making the same wheels turn again and again at the same time of year. I don’t understand it, though I don’t think I am meant to. I think I am just meant to do what I always do.

ADJUST.

And I have. I have had a long time to get used to my new adjustment. My new work change. I haven’t been able to talk about it though, and I don’t know why. Very few people know, and for some reason the words to talk about it can’t seem to find their way out of my mouth…

I think it is because saying it out loud, makes it more real. It means it is actually happening. Sure, it is about the only topic we talk about while at work, but away from work, when it becomes spoken of, well… then it becomes MORE real.

And when it is more real, you know what else will come?

“What are you going to do?”

And that is the clincher. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I have a million ideas. But I just don’t know where to turn to. And it is this unknowing that has me holding back.

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Roman Bozhko at Unsplash

 

 

 

Lovely Lyrics #2

This Lovely Lyrics series doesn’t necessarily need to pertain to inspirational, uplifting, even a walk-in-a-field-of-daisies kind of nice…

It can be nice in it’s stark truth, it’s realism… in the way it speaks to your soul.

One voice. Few guitar strings. Strong words…

“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood

Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind, slowly…”

I wasn’t any kind of Shawn Mendes fan when I first heard the radio-friendly and severely over-played Stitches. I would change the station every time it came on. EVERY TIME. I wasn’t a devotee at all.

But then I saw a short interview with him on Jimmy Fallon, and I thought…  he was actually a nice kid.

Suddenly I didn’t mind his song all too much…

And then when I heard the beginning a capella notes of In My Blood the first time, they spoke to me.

Did he have any experience in the matter? Did a kid of his age know about sadness, depression, feeling like it is just not worth it?

Had a person of his age, still so inexperienced, seemingly successful with his early musical accomplishments, and yet still so young, well, did he know about this? Well, did he?

It doesn’t matter whether he did or not. Because his words still painted a hauntingly accurate picture.

Because I had been there. I had been in a place of willing myself to give up, telling myself I will not go on due to repeated failure, repeated rejection, repeated blows to the heart, body and soul…

crying and sniffling and slobbering all over the place…

sitting on the bathroom floor…

And just as I had told myself I will not continue, this little voice from inside said –

“Hush. You know you won’t give up.”

Like Mendes says, ‘it isn’t in my blood.’

Have a listen to the first 26 seconds. They are truly touching in their stark wretchedness. I love it. ♥

 

 

Spanish Beach House

Casa de Playa
39 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’17)

The reason we ended up at this restaurant on a Tuesday night in early April was pure chance. Sure, our intention was to eat out, we just didn’t know where we would do it.

And then, parking right out the front happened, and Hubbie had to ‘go,’ like immediately.

And so our night was born.

Dining at a Spanish tapas restaurant didn’t require much discussion or twisting of our arms though. Tapas, Barcelona and May, many many many years ago, was a firm memory in our minds, and had been the first, and one of our best, honeymoon destinations. We could rekindle the romance again, but this time, with baby girl in tow.

We were seated right near the middle bar, which was an expansive work of art in itself, that had copper pipes and barrels hanging significantly above our heads, which left us wondering ‘are they for real? Or a gimmick?’ Tiling against the wall behind the bar gave it that little village feel, and the suspended lightbulbs brought it in line with every other contemporary café doing the suspended lightbulb thing at the mo. I don’t knock it, despite its over-abundance wherever you go. In fact, I love it. People were sprinkled throughout the café, and with the front windows open and inviting, it gave it a real casual, all inclusive, spill-out-into-the-street Barcelona-style vibe, however it also left us cold on that cool Autumn night.

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IMAG3578So to warm up, alcohol.

How could I possibly bypass a traditional recipe Sangria, after I had had so many night after night in one of our fave holidays destinations? And a recipe that had been passed down generation to generation, this I had to try. Hubbie, had a schooner of Fat Yak

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The sangria had that distinctive spice, and was fresh enough to disguise any strong alcoholic elements.

After perusing the menu for a long while, and discussing it with two waiters who were attending to us that night (one a male, the other one a woman who appeared more managerial-like) we decided we’d order food and try it as we went along, before deciding what was next. First up on the agenda:

Smoked eggplant dip – charred Turkish flat bread

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This was brought over, large pieces of toasted bread with a lovely and not-too-overwhelming eggplant dip. The smokiness was noted, but not too strong. The bread was a tad too toasted for me, you know, the cut-your-gums-on-bread type texture.

This soon came alongside baby girl’s Calamari and Chips

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I didn’t really think she would eat any of the rings, and sure enough when she tried it they were a tad too stringy for her. But it was only another tapas meal for us to peck on, and kept us satiated until the next items arrived.

Croquettas – manchego, piquillo, mojo

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And, the Pulled Pork Cubano cigar – coffee ash, mojo

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Though we shared the croquettas, Hubbie primarily had the Cubano cigar, albeit one bite which I indulged in. I don’t know the ingredients even though they are listed above, other than to say the inside was soft. Likewise with the eggplant dip, they both had a decent kick of smokiness once again, which I didn’t mind one bit. They were both moorish.

After all of this, we were surprisingly feeling 60% there – what with pick at this, pick at that, nibble here, and nibble there, and ‘hey I’m almost full!’ But we had one more thing that we had to try, and Hubbie being a massive coriander fan, and myself having become much predisposed to it lately, we had

Charcoal roasted chicken tacos – grilled corn, quinoa, roquette, coriander, jalapeno crema

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I liked the simple, fresh and quite pretty presentation, and it was just that, very enjoyable. It was a very light meal, and definitely meant to be had alongside other tapas, due to its small yet delicious portion. Herbs, cream and smokiness, alongside the textured grilled corn, all jumped out on the palate, and it was a meal I would definitely revisit on any other occasion too.

During the evening, baby girl only ventured to the toilets only about, say 3-4 times. Life with a toddler, you just need to take them seriously every time they say they have to go. But, it wasn’t so much an issue. Hubbie had told us to use the upstairs toilets, (remember his early visit?) accessible via winding stairs, since they were spacious and so much more nicer than the small one located around the corner and opposite the kitchen.

This bathroom was lush, with lovely white and new spaces, a huge selection of toilets (you won’t be left wanting here), luxury hand-wash products, and one of those airplane sounding hand dryers that scares the beejesus out of small babies, but is way too much fun for a 3 year-old toddler.

Anyway, in amongst all this, I had looked at the menu way in advance, and decided almost from the moment we left home (I know we didn’t even know where we were going, right?) that we were GOING TO HAVE FOR DESSERT:

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Churros – 54% Valrhona chocolate, Vespa’s crème catalan ice cream

And shock horror, as baby girl and I returned back to the table after one such toilet visit, Hubbie had already started eating the churros. Without us.

Dum da dum dum.

Also you should know, we got some other things too…

Some short macchiatos, and a babycino

After I forgave Hubbie his slight in starting without us (but in a way I couldn’t really blame him – if that image of sweetness were staring at me, I would not be able to hold back either), baby girl and I dug in, however she was much more interested in her marshmallow and the milk and white chocolate buttons she had received.

The churros were crisp and as expected, and the short macchiato exceptionally strong. Baby girl also totally took over in the ice cream eating department, and I loved the shout-out to their Main street neighbour, using Vespa’s ice cream alongside the Spanish signature dessert. It’s so overwhelming, I can’t even handle the camaraderie.

Fuelled on milk and sugar, once baby girl started counting the 1000 tiles up against the bar, loudly, we knew it was time to go.

Food: 8.5/10. Exciting, fresh and different. A blend of international and modern.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Ahem, strong! I’m used to my frothy caps, and yet I didn’t have one that night because I wasn’t feeling it for the milk. Hard to judge, but it was smooth as well as tough.

Ambience: Very relaxed and cas, but in a trendy and upmarket way.

People: Couples and friends were dining out predominantly. Ages up to late 30s seemed to prevail.

Staff: Both our male waiter, and the managerial-like female tending to us that night were really lovely, but the female, more so. She was a natural and totally cool with baby girl, which always puts us at ease. They explained the tapas format really well and let us do as we please, menu-selection wise.

Price: $109.10 all up. Lots of little meals, but little meals still add up! That was for 3 alcoholic drinks, a kids meal, 5 small/sharing plates, as well as dessert and 3 coffees. Still, not too bad, and the quality was up there.

Advice: If the windows are open on a cool night, try to sit out the back of the restaurant.

When you go to the loo, venture upstairs!

Try the chicken taco (if you don’t like coriander scratch that).

Have the sangria (if you say you don’t like sangria why the hell are you even going to a tapas place???)

In a nutshell: Creativity, combustion of food, and fresh flavours make this an exciting and inventive place to be. We did the light, tapas-style meal this time, maybe the huge Paella to share might be next on the agenda. With the blend of Spanish influence with a modern contemporary taste, on the main street so close to Port Phillip Bay, this place is one Beach House that I will definitely say Hola to again.

Casa de Playa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Baby girl says the darndest things #2

She is role-playing. In particular Frozen. Specifically, she is Elsa, and Hubbie has to play the role of Hans.

Baby girl tells him that Hans has to ask Elsa to marry him (no where does this happen in the movie, but you know, imagination).

Hubbie: “Please, Queen Elsa, will you marry me?”

Baby girl: “No!”

Hubbie: “Please Elsa, but I love you.”

Baby girl: “Hans, I don’t like to marry you… You’re shit.”

Oh how I LOL’d! If everyone just spoke their minds like this, Disney movies would be fair simpler, and A LOT different…

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The Root of all things

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CATE KENNEDY – Dark Roots

“The butcher becomes my friend. All day he bashes up the carcasses of dead things, and I’ve never seen the smile off his face. Now there’s a puzzle for you.”

Not only is that my little homage to my own smiley butchering Hubbie, but it beautifully represents the regular juxtaposition the following book presents… that beneath the common every day, lies something unknown, deeper, darker…

Dark Roots.

I came across Cate Kennedy and her work in a round-a-bout way. The year was 2013, and I was about 6 months pregnant.

It was also Hubbie and mine’s wedding anniversary, and on top of that I was going to a writing workshop up in the Dandenongs, hosted by none other than the above, yours truly.

I had been writing my young adult novel for a while, and when I heard about the workshop, was more than intrigued. More so because it was in a location we had been to the same time last year, and it was the foundation of this picturesque setting, that I decided to take a day off work, and take myself out of my comfort zone, and to a place, both figuratively and literally speaking, where I would be alone, vulnerable and at the mercy of possible harsh elements.

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Not just the bush, but the critics.

The day was eye-opening in many ways. I learnt much, discovered not to compromise my style, whether in life or in writing, and found that as much as some people there were truly lovely and supportive, others eyed me off judgmentally and with deep critique.

It’s to be expected when there are many of the same field in the one room, and abundance isn’t the universal language of all.

At the end of the day, I purchased a book from Cate, as I had never even come across her name or style. Dark Roots it said, and she wished me well in the inside cover.

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And finally, I started reading it over a year later, once baby girl was about 6 months old.

Let me start by saying that reading darkly-themed stories isn’t probably the best idea when you have a newborn.

Not to say the themes were horror and kept me up at night, when I already had a little monster doing that for me – no, not at all. Cate’s short stories embody a sense of unease about the world, about life, where people are placed in unfair situations, and in many of these they stay there. There’s a deeper meaning, a greater picture, a portrait to paint of the human condition. And it ain’t all fair and pretty.

Even when the endings are happy, and there are only few, they are so only by being bittersweet, where the happiness is tinged with just enough sadness to make you go, “oh, damn.”

Three things became apparent to me as I made my way through the stories. The first was how bleak the stories at the beginning of the book seemed, and how mid-way through they seemed to lift just that little bit to keep me going.

The second was the double-meaning of the story titles. Habit became an early favourite of mine, and very cleverly penned, both about drug use and a Nun. Resize becomes not only about resizing your wedding rings, but resizing your entire relationship. And The Light of Coincidence was another enjoyable one, talking about a favourite topic of mine, but one that showed the incredulity of life and how sometimes, things can work out in the most remarkable of ways. A game I started to play at the beginning of each story was to try and determine why the story name was as it was, only to find out it in fact had two meanings, almost every time.

However my third observation and confirmation, came early on in the realisation that I was not cut out for short stories, even more so, ones that had ‘dark roots.’ I prefer to fall in love with a set of characters and a different world over a period of time, where I dedicate myself to their path, rather than the quick chop and change, 15 or so pages dedicated to each story in this book. Having said that, Kennedy is one who performs this niche art form like the artist she is, capturing your attention, your heart and your mind, making you feel for a character who may be insane, pathetic, or a murderer, and make you root for them the whole way. She has an innate ability to pull at your heart strings by showing the rawness of life, and it’s because she does this so damn well, that I just can’t fathom the sadness of it all.

Her ability to represent life in its true form, either through dialogue or description is on key. She also brings an acute awareness to every day tasks, things that you wouldn’t normally think about, but reading her words you think ‘I get it.’ For example, in the first story the main character is climbing out of bed:

“This is how you slide from a bed: move your foot out and over the edge, find the floor, slide sideways supporting yourself on the bedside table, your fingers touching the fake antique lamp your parents gave you a pair of for a wedding present. Haul out from under the doona…”

And suddenly, I was the one climbing out of bed. Not only does she paint the picture as if she were watching you try to stealthily get out of bed undetected, but the addition of those physical descriptors, not just the antique lamp, but FAKE antique lamp from your parents no less, well here lies another back story…

Another story has a man fishing, and the visual imagery is so beautifully striking in its sadness:

“The trout lay there drowning in the air, and I could see the miraculous gills opening and closing, its eyes moving as it gulped the wrong element, two old scars on its big mottled back, and then everything slowed down and I reached my fingers, fumbling with agonised realisation, into the trout’s mouth to get that hook out, and I snatched the fish up in both hands and threw it into the water.”

And finally, when I read the following:

“Three years ago I tried some street coke and the hit was just enough, through the glucodin and speed percentage that seared into my nasal cavities, to make me make a vow to myself. I decided that if I ever had the chance, I would try the real thing: the purest, whitest, Colombian cocaine available to the casual buyer.”

I had to question, how did she know this so accurately?

However I had to remind myself of the funny fact I had once read, that writers become a neuro-blah expert on whatever they have set out to research, often overnight! It is just the life of a writer, to be as real as you can be about a subject matter… whether from living it, or studying it like hell.

In the story Habit, I found myself rooting for the protagonist to get through customs with their drugs, even before I knew they were dying, and needed the drugs! How does she do that? And when all became even clearer at the end, without giving too much away, suddenly all the Godly mentions and phrases had a double meaning that shone with heavenly clarity 🙂 I absolutely loved it, and it was probably the first ‘kinda’ happy ending that hit me, right there.

But many times, there was no ending. The story was just a window into another person’s world, their often difficult, uncertain life. There was the woman in Soundtrack, who suddenly had a child many years after having her first daughter, and how the ambulance couldn’t get there in time, so her teenage daughter helped deliver her child. And then life kept on going, to the soundtrack of life in the background. Then there was the story The Correct Names of Things, where Ellen worked in a Chinese shop in the 80s paying her way through uni. Another piece on how life is lived, and how you learn and attach names to things, where I had absolutely no idea where the story was going – it seemed, nowhere in particular, since it appeared to be more an explorative piece.

In Kill or Cure, the description of farm life was so meticulous, that I recalled Kennedy mentioning her own life on the farm many times, and suddenly it all made sense. The story of a woman moving to a farm with her farm husband, trying to adjust to the land, the life, and be accepted by him, the town, and his best friend, the dog… it was all so melancholy and lonely, I also had to wonder again, how much of it was fiction. Even without a proper ending here, you couldn’t not feel.

But for many of these stories, it didn’t appear to matter whether they had a purpose or ‘real’ ending, or not. They served their purpose by just providing a snapshot into another’s life, and I realised without my usual necessary closure need, that I kind of enjoyed it. The journey, and not the destination.

It was common to feel achy, sad and despondent when going through the book, like in the short story Angel, where the assault of a young child is hinted at and made definite by the direct retribution that happens after, and also Cold Snap, where a young boy is ridiculed and made to feel inferior. Here the boy is laughed at, with others saying in his earshot “it looks like the light’s on but there’s no one home,” so when those same few get what they deserve, you smile menacingly, while still feeling a pang of longing for a boy who doesn’t exist, and yet somehow, you know somewhere, he does.

Kennedy’s pace is fast, as suddenly you are here, then you are there, but it all happens in such continuous fluid motion that you didn’t even know you moved until you realised the sun was on your face as opposed to the bed you were just sleeping in. I felt like I could learn a thing or two from her genius. But I guess this is the way that short stories have to be, and when they are like this, they work brilliantly.

Her language is telling and cheeky too… like in the story Resizing, ‘lubricate’ is used in the context of getting a car started again, and yet it means so much more in a steamy car of a formerly fighting couple on the verge of reuniting. In The Testosterone Club, a house wife concocts some comedic revenge on her untrusting husband and his friends in the form of slowly curing pickles, which says so much about manhood and the ‘flaccid’ nature that it can fall into. Here, the routine and mediocrity of a boring housewife existence was captured well, recorded as so monotonous and regular, and yet so unexpected in its satisfying final outcome.

But, I found as I read, and continued to look back on my notes for Dark Roots, that there was Hope. Both in the form of me finding a short story that I really liked, and then the realisation that I might too, want to dabble in and try my own hand at short stories. I found my inspiration brewing in her story The Light of Coincidence. Not only did my home town and its landmarks feature prominently, but so did an area of speculation and great interest to me: Coincidence, fate, and how they play together. From the middle:

“Let me tell you a story, a connoisseur story of coincidence. There I was trundling down the ‘down’ escalator at Flinders Street Station, jammed into crowds of people, when who should I see but an old girlfriend I hadn’t seen in ten years going up the escalator across the way. She was in blue. Oblivious to my calling and waving, she disappeared up the moving stairwell. I was seized with an overwhelming urge to say hello, and at the bottom I turned and raced back up her escalator and was deposited in the whirlpool of commuters on the ground floor. No sign of her. I raced outside and saw her blue jumper, sixty or so metres up Swanston Street, so I barrelled across the road and caught up. Tender greetings followed.

‘What a coincidence,’ I said. ‘I just looked up at the right time to see you on the escalator in the station.’ A puzzled frown crossed her face.

‘I wasn’t in the station,’ she said.”

Chills, or what? The goosebumps I got from reading that grabbed my attention, and kept it more firmly for a good while after. Because when a writer develops in you some kind of emotion, whether that be sadness, grief, or more happily, belief and Hope, that is when one tends to turn up more often, and listen.

And after reading this book, I am listening.

There is Hope (and coincidence) for me just yet.

Kennedy’s short story title accurately portrays the content which you will find inside. Surface level will show you the every day, whereas when you go beyond this, and to the roots of the matter, you will find that in the character’s thoughts, lives, and ideas, some darkness lives. In doing this, she helps us teeter on the thread of human existence, where on one side it is sunny and well, and the other shows the motivations, fears and hopes that drive us, with the overwhelming blackness that can sometimes unify and occupy us all.

I see short stories in a different light now. Much lighter than the Dark Roots they came from, and I have Kennedy to thank for that. I am now looking forward to reading her other short story collection, ‘Like a House On Fire,’ waiting for me on my bookshelf.

I guess it takes time, but often things will work themselves out like that. Like the closing sentence in my favourite story, The Light of Coincidence:

“I slide it out and fit it into place, feeling the whole configuration resist, and move slightly out of skew. I move it back with the flat of my hand, feeling it shift. Strengthen. Interlock.”

Please let me know your thoughts on Dark Roots in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 🙂

 

Baby girl says the darndest things

I am making this a permanent series of my blog, because well… she is only 4. Imagine the material that will continue to come out of her mouth for years to come.

Like today. We were at Bayside Shopping Centre, and I had just located the Robinson’s bookstore outside of one of their entrance doors.

She has a few Little Miss books from the Roger Hargreaves popular series, so when I came across a rotating bookshelf showcasing all of the Mr Men/Little Miss series, I said “oh look baby girl! Look how many!”

She stopped at one. “What’s this one?”

Mr-perfect

“That’s Mr Perfect.”

“Pfft” was her immediate raspberry response. I laughed out loud at the perfect comic timing.

“Yes honey, my thoughts exactly!”

 

An Enchanting Time

The crazy Christmas lead-up in early December saw me say “no, I want MORE mayhem!” as I headed over to my second bloggers meet-up at The Enchanted Adventure Garden.

Only ‘crazy’ was not what I felt as we wound up higher and higher up Arthurs Seat road, watching the Eagle chairlifts hover over us temporarily as they made their casual descent/ascent…

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and ‘crazy’ was not what I felt as we first passed Bowens Point

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And then Franklins Lookout

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Murrays Lookout

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and then finally, Chapmans Point

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It was serene, with a small dose of beautifully scary as I viewed the perilous drop from the cliff face. No, my memories of last travelling on that stunning Arthur’s Seat Rd hill, were from about 7 or so years ago before baby girl came along, when Hubbie and I, having not even considered the words ‘Sea change’ then, were heading to our beautifully intimate Arthurs Seat hill accommodation for the night, and as I observed that it was pitch black and almost scary how there were no lights around, he turned to me devilishly and gave me his best ‘Michael-Jackson-as-possessed-zombie-in-Thriller’ face look, to which I screamed and started to cry.

So no. These views were NOT scary compared to that strong memory.

And crazy was suddenly so far from mind, so removed from my being, that the Christmas rush was only a faint memory as we parked and observed the car park and surrounds…

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And I realised, we are not in Kansas anymore baby girl. But that’s what happens when you come to the Mornington Peninsula now, is it?

Us bloggers were greeted to a lovely morning tea and a brief introduction to all that the Adventure Ground is, and does.

Immaculate gardens, picnic area galore, mazes, Adrenalin-junkie fun, kids paradise, relaxing walks, and even a sweet-tooth’s dream! Why, is there anything Enchanted didn’t cover?

I was soon to find out. Off I went with baby girl with my map of the grounds, my critical eye out and ready for my review…

Statues – tick. √

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Finely trimmed hedges – tick. √

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Brightly coloured flowers – tick. √

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Ok, so this was all well and good for the adult eye, but I needed to keep my daughter happy, and looking at trees was something she had not grown to appreciate as yet.

We followed a path and soon found ourselves in the Turf Maze, a fantastic and relaxing premise based on a practice by Monks in the Middle Ages, used as a meditative tool as they would walk around and around in repetitive circles in silence, aided only by their feet and their thoughts. I got baby girl started on one end as I started taking photos of… the trees.

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I LOVED that tree. Just l♥ved. I developed some serious tree envy as I took several dozen photos of it, and baby girl skipped through a few maze lines, and then was suddenly at the exit of the maze.

Right-o. I don’t ‘quite’ see her meditating in that space, but at least it kept her somewhat busy.

I had promised her a playground (with absolutely no idea whether they had one or not – massive parenting risk), and so that is what we were looking for when we came across this sign.

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It seemed the only fun active activity we could do together, in lieu of getting my 4 year old to tree surf by my side, which I was not going to do solo (again, parenting-risk doing it ALONE). Zip-lining was out too.

W observed the tree surfers in the trees up ahead of us, blending in quite nicely I might add, and immediately decided I would come back there with my adventurous, scare the living daylights out of me Thriller-seeking Hubbie.

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Finding the tube slides was fairly easy, as it is actually hard to ignore five 100-metre long slides that steep down from the hill decline.

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There are tube slides for littlies, from 4 and up, so baby girl could have very well gone on it by herself, since the smaller weight actually makes them travel down slower… but no. I decided to take her with me on the adult ride…

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and then plummet down super fast while I thought “oh shit we’re going to flip.”

We didn’t. In fact we went up twice, and on our second trip down the tube turned backwards, so that I really was freaking then “we’re going to flip! We’re going to flip!”

WE DIDN’T. It was the best fun, but the fact of having to haul a huge tube up a steep hill, carrying a fairly heavy handbag, in heat, and while wearing inappropriately heeled shoes, well, it kind of influenced me to cap the tube slides at TWO.

Baby girl was left thoroughly captivated. And yet still, as we headed off down some other paths to explore, she had not forgotten about that damn playground I had promised.

She looked here and there

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She did the usual whine and moan and unsatisfied toddler routine. Damn me. Why had I gone and said something I had no clue about?

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(Baby girl going all 14 year-old hormonal on me)

I stopped to view some interesting sculpture art along my tree-lined walk.

Art and sculptures from Aboriginal, Australian and European artists collided and worked magically together in this most wondrous of gardens.

And then we got to another maze, the Blue Gum Gallery, and I followed a fast baby girl around it, as she laughed at how incompetently slow I was.

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This cheered her up somewhat, and since by this stage we were close to the café from where we had started our walk, it was soon time to go, and clearly I had come across no such playground from the depths of my imagination. I shut down another protest from her with an insane idea, but it worked.

“Do you want lollies?”

And just like that, a 4 year-old’s face lit up.

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We went inside, paid $5 for a cup, and filled it to the brim with all kinds of devilishly sickly sweet goodies. She ate them slowly in the car, stopping every so often to mumble “mmm, yummy…”

Parenting done right. 😉

The deets!

The Enchanted Adventure Garden

55 Purves Road Arthur’s Seat

General Park Entry for Adults: $30; Child/Seniors $20

this includes:

Mazes, Giant Garden Brainteasers, captivating Gardens to picnic at and view in all of their pristine natural glory;

Tube slides – of which there are 6 to choose from: 3 Big Twisters, 2 Straight Giants, and 1 Kids Only slide. Kids need to be 4 to ride on the Kids slide on their own, any smaller and they must ride with an adult.

Canopy Walk – a suspended path that brings you in amongst the trees, that runs through the park, ideal for small children, older people and people with prams.

a 3D indoor spooky maze – pop on your 3D glasses and watch things pop out at you! Ideal for teens and older kids.

Plus MANY more fun things to discover as you meander around.

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Both kids and adults alike can experience the Tree Surfing on offer. The little nippers course is for kids aged 4-12, though kids aged 4 and 5 need an adult to accompany them on the course.

The tree surfing has various degrees of difficulty for both amateur and professional, mild and reckless adult thrill-seekers alike! Includes bridges, zip lines, obstacles and tree platforms, prices for both Nippers and Grand Tree Surfing courses start from $50 for Adults, and $40 for Children/Seniors, with a 2 hour limit per activity.

But if you need your adrenalin rush and lack the time, need not fear! The Tree Zip Line may be just what you need, and those competitively charged, you can even Zip alongside a friend and see who gets to their destination first! Prices are $40 for Adults, $30 for Children/Seniors.

Active wear highly recommended for these ACTIVE activities, and closed-toes shoes a MUST!

I must reiterate again, despite baby girl’s temperamental attitude towards a lack of playground, there ARE kid-friendly activities and things to do, and they abound. However on that day there were several tree-top renovations happening up above, getting all geared up for the crazy holiday season, and so a couple of areas of the Gardens appeared incomplete. The above is an indicator of what is up on offer, but isn’t a complete list, as there is also a Children’s Maze, something we didn’t see on that day but I think would be perfect for a curious baby girl.

Tips:

Need I say again, closed-toed shoes?

Make your life easy and don’t wear heels.

More advice? Carry light. When I hauled that tube up the hill twice, in my heeled shoes carrying my heavy handbag, I developed lower back pain two nights later and immediately knew where it had come from.

For God’s sake don’t be like me, wear appropriate footwear, pack light, and carry the tube as unforcefully as you can. Or bring Hubbie along and he can do it.

And if all else fails, remember…

LOLLY SHOP.

(Mwa ha ha!)

At first glance perhaps pricey on entry, but when you see all the beauty and fun, relaxation and learning that these Gardens have to offer, you will see that it is well worth the price.

Our visit there was rushed, so I cannot wait to go back and explore some more.

And for something different, an alternative and highly entertaining present would be the Tree Surfing and Zip Lines as a fabulous and inventive gift idea.

So, what are you waiting for… Upwards! ↑↑↑