How to MAKE it while doing it all

This is the thing. I’m not aware of any writer out there, any woman out there, who has managed to achieve literary publishing success, while her children are young.

Young. Little. I’m talking 1 + children under the age of, let’s say 4-5.

Because really, when would they have time to do it?

Baby girl is not a baby anymore: she’s a toddler, 18 months to be precise. Life was already busy without her, and now that she’s here, it’s even busier. I’m fortunate in that if left to her own devices, she will nap for about 2 hours a day. This is great. This is unreal. The only thing is, I have so much to do, I don’t know what to do first.

There’s always some kind of cleaning, some kind of food prep or cooking. Today for example, I had phone calls to make. I’ll pay bills online. I always try to squeeze in some writing time though. Like today. I haven’t posted something non-food related for a while, and this post and all the contradictory thoughts that come with it has been stewing in my mind for months. I sit down during her nap, with a coffee, and let the caffeine take me on a journey.

I have so many thoughts about this. There is some way, that I could achieve publishing success, with baby girl, as is. Like, now. But if I were to have another baby, I don’t know where I would find the time. I have this small sliver of opportunity that currently exists during the day. I can, and I do often write at night when she has been put down for the night. But unfortunately on some occasions, I’m just too tired. I’m tired from the day, I’m tired from the constant running around and not stopping. I’m tired of everything.

So instead, I’ll surf the web, or watch something I’ve recorded on Foxtel.

(Tsk tsk tsk).

Two people spring to mind when I think of me as Author (because we all are Authors aren’t we, only no one knows of our impending success yet)… me as Author watching TV.

Stephen King and Jackie Collins.

In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about TV being possibly the worst thing to thwart an Author’s efforts to write. He tells us to unplug the thing, and to find places where you can read during the day…standing in queue at the post office for example, or while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Jackie Collins says quite the opposite. In a recent interview, she spoke of how much she enjoyed watching television, and the volume of television she watches. She finds it inspiring and helps her to formulate her stories and give her the inspiration she needs.

I think they’re both right. Stephen King is right, but so is Jackie. You should avoid the TV, just for the sake of not getting sucked into the tedious monotomy of fluff being broadcast to a passive audience, hypnotising the viewers into forgetting about the next 3 possibly useful and effective hours of the night.

But if you’re watching something brilliant, something compelling… well. I find inspiration not just from books, but from movies and television shows. When I watch entertainment on TV, I don’t just stare numbly: I break it down, I analyse. In my mind, when something surprising occurs, I think ‘Oh. See how they did that? It went from A to B and then C was missed and suddenly you were at M and you were like what?! How did they think to create that story?’

So I can’t deny my visual form of entertainment either. I just have to pick carefully because of my limited time.

My foxtel planner is inundated with movies and shows that are yet to be watched. I have DVDS and movies that I’ve bought, and likewise have not had the time to sit down and dedicate myself to it. I feel so bad to sit there, not writing, for approximately 40 mins to 2 hours, when I could be productive and working on my book. I really feel guilty about it, yet I feel like my desire to consume this screen action won’t go away soon either.

I was thinking of the whole theory that Mums don’t have time to make themselves a success while their children were young, when P.D. James died. The night after hearing the shocking news, I googled her and some interesting articles came up on her back story. She had had a very difficult upbringing with her Mother institutionalised due to mental illness while James was still at an impressionable age, and then her string of misfortune continued when her husband developed a severe case of Schizophrenia after returning from the war, resulting in frequent hospitalisation. She found him dead one morning in their home, due to suicide.

She’d had two children with him, and moved in with her in-laws after he died. She worked full time to make ends meet. And you know what she also did?

She would wake up 2 hours before work every day, and write.

I remember the strong emotional feeling I got when I read that. I got very teary in the realisation that she had done, so many years ago, what I’d always known I could do. But I hadn’t.

Basically, in the end, there are no excuses. If you want to write, you will find a way. Like one blogger wrote, you’ll lock yourself in the bathroom away from the toddlers just so you can have 5 minutes of peace and tranquillity and a moment to put your fingers to the keypad. You’ll get up early, you’ll stay up late, or you just won’t sleep much at all.

Didn’t Bon Jovi sing “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” That sounds about right.

Like another blogger I follow recently posted about, Andrew Toy at Adopting James, he also gets up 2 hours before his work start, in order to get in some writing time.

There are really no excuses.

There will always be things to do. I’m such a planner. I think I organise and plan and think and create more than I can possibly achieve. I love being on the move, being busy, and hate the idea of boredom. So I do it to myself, really. But in the end, do I want to tick off all my jobs on my to-do list, or do I want to say:

“I’m a published writer.”

There is no question there.

And don’t get me wrong, don’t accuse me of procrastinating now. I have been writing my book, the second book in my series in fact. I finished the 1st chapter just the other day, and while I stir up some more creative juices as to what to do in chapter 2, I sit here, and add to my blog, and catch up on stuff, and just generally imagine the possibilities for my characters, for myself, and for life.

Sometimes I think this blog has taken me away from my book writing. Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m totally right. But at the end of the day I have to write, and I have to write somewhere… and this kind of outlet, I wouldn’t give up for anything.

So in reference to the above heading… how to make it, while doing it all?

1. Prioritise

2. Decide on your goals, and what is important to you

3. Forget about sleep. It can wait.

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At ‘home’ with Lebanese cuisine

Bayte
56 Johnston Street Collingwood

I don’t just lie, horizontal, on the couch. I’m usually sitting on the couch, messaging, facebooking, on my laptop, typing up to-do lists on my phone while I catch up on Bold and Beautiful eps in the background.

No. I don’t lay. That is unproductive.

On one Tuesday night however, many weeks ago, I was lying on the couch. I wasn’t feeling the best, and going up to bed seemed way too hard in the state I was in. Hubbie had control of the remote and I really didn’t care. I just stared. So when he said “that looks good,” luckily, a little part of me took notice.

It was the show Food Safari on Foxtel. And the cuisine on discovery that particular week was Lebanese.

Hubbie went to bed minutes later, leaving a spent yet still somehow oddly fascinated and suddenly energised enough person, me, laying horizontal but now trying my damndest to pay attention to the food being presented before me, on the couch. It was fresh. They used a lot of bread. They ate with their hands. They created and cooked, with their hands. And the ingredients were readily available.

‘I could make that,’ I observed. I wondered about Lebanese cookbooks. I decided I must buy one.

Then, in my cactus state, I decided I had to eat at one. A restaurant, that is.

The following day I looked up Lebanese cuisine on Urbanspoon, and promptly made reservations at the current top-rating Lebanese restaurant in Melbourne.

Which is how we found ourselves at Bayte for Valentine’s Day.

I had been really excited about this leading up to the Saturday night. I couldn’t say for sure that I’d ever had Lebanese food, and yet having seen the dishes on offer via Food Safari there was nothing overly unusual about the meals or the ingredients typical of the cuisine. There was a lot of bread, and dips, and after seeing it on TV I was really looking forward to the Babba Ganoush. Apart from some of these more oily/creamy dishes, lots of the other food options were fresh, simple, yet inventive with the spices and flavours they combined to create the taste explosion in your mouth.

I knew I was going to eat a lot. I knew I had to have one of the sickly sweet desserts. And with the heading ‘Lebanese eatery, wine and espresso bar’ on the Bayte web site, I just KNEW I was going to have some of the Lebanese coffee too.

We parked off Johnston street, and walked 20 seconds to the restaurant on the main street. Although it was on Johnston street, you could easily walk by and completely overlook it. It wasn’t part of any main strip of shops or restaurants, yet Hubbie and I felt this made it feel off-the-beaten track, a little hidden gem to be explored and discovered within all the rough diamonds waiting to be found in Collingwood.

I had booked ahead and sure enough our table was ready and waiting. Luckily it had been a warm day, as we were positioned by the entrance door, and a decent breeze kept wafting in throughout the evening. You’d hope for a closed door in cooler weather.

I actually can’t remember if I had in fact mentioned we needed a high-chair, or if it was lost in in the booking conversation, but I distinctly remember saying “2 and a toddler,” yet they had assumed we’d bring a pram. Not to mind, they set up a high chair for baby girl fairly quickly.

And then we started.

I had a Hendricks and Tonic with fresh cucumber

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My work friend had recently had cucumber in one of her alcoholic drinks while out and had told me I just had to have a cucumber drink. So I did. It ended up being a beautiful, fresh offset against the many creamy/spicy dishes we experimented with. A perfect accompaniment to our meals.

Hubbie started off with the 961 beer, and after trying another one, ended up back with that one again.

Also he tried an ‘Arak’ drink. I say ‘an Arak drink’ because I forget which Arak drink it was, but it was sweet with an aniseed taste. It was all a bit sweet to him, as he had also had hints of sweetness in his beer, but we were out and trying new things so I think it was ideal to be venturing out into the unknown, in line with where we were dining.

After perusing the menu for a while, we decided on a combination of starters and share main meals.

I needed some form of bread for our carb-loving baby girl, and I had to see what this babba ganoush was about. Hence the following:

Khoubiz el Saage – chargrilled flat bread made in house & Babba Ganoush – smokey eggplant dip

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And our lovely waitress had also recommended we share a Falafel after discovering we didn’t mind spice

Falafel – spicy red pepper falafel w Aleppo labne and pickled cucumber

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The warm flatbread was warm, and presented rather cas/rustic. Baby girl loved it, and it was oh-so-easy to eat with the Babba, dip dip dipping away into the delicious, spicy, garlic-y, eggplant flavours all rolled into one. It was creamy, yes, spicy, yes, and a tad oily – but in a good way. It was really fresh though, not something you’d eat too much of and then feel sick and remorseful for doing so.

The falafel was spicy too, and it was only at the end I thought ‘why don’t I actually eat it with the gherkin on top?’ When I did, the flavour explosion of sour and spice was even more intense. I suggested Hubbie do the same and give it a go, however unfortunately our waitress asked if we were done, in wanting to clear the plates from our table, and obviously mistook the “no we’re right” to mean ‘we’re right we’re finished,’ as she took it away before we had a chance to protest. That was slightly disappointing, and I felt bad for Hubbie as he hadn’t had the chance to have the last flavoursome bite, but fortunately for us that was the only disappointing factor that night.

The menu was inspiring in its range of small/share/large plate options, and it certainly excited me going from our positive experience at Café Maritana not too long ago. Also, there’s something appealing about being able to order many little plates as opposed to just two large ones, as the option to eat such a variety of foods and get more of a taste of the cuisine on offer is so much more pleasing and satisfying, especially when experiencing a new culture and wanting to see as much of its food as you can.

So for ‘mains,’ the following share plates came out in this order:

Al-Halaioon bi Muhammara– chargrilled asparagus w muhammara and dehydrated labne

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Banadoora ma’ Naanaa – mixed Heirloom tomatoes, eschalots and mint

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Bataata – roasted Nicola potatoes cooked in lamb fat

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And then our BBQ skewers:

Lahem Meshwi- spiced lamb backstrap and onion

Djej Meshwi bi Toum – garlic chicken glazed w pomegranate molasses

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(apologies for the crap photo)

These people love their dips. The asparagus had a tangy spicy sauce on the side (I’m assuming that was the muhammara?) and our skewers had come with a garlic-style dip and also a hummus one. They’re not afraid of lots of spices and flavour, and it showed. The red dip amongst the asparagus was flavoursome, and the garlic dip situated with the skewers was my favourite, so yum.

The garlic chicken glazed in pomegranate molasses had great flavour, Hubbie loved it especially, and the lamb backstrap was good too. The potatoes were great and a beautiful golden colour, which I’m sure I can attest in part to the lamb fat. Again like Maritana, the salad shone, and I loved the fresh and biting flavours of the tomato with mint and eschalots. The combination of this dish was just brilliant, I loved it.

We had had quite a few plates on the table, and at first it was a case of ‘how are we gonna eat all of this?’ Easily, as we soon discovered. Yes our table was terribly squashed, plates and glasses and things everywhere, but as Hubbie succinctly pointed out the table was small, and so the appearance of many plates and lots of food was amplified and made more so. The food itself was flavoursome and tasty without being sickly or overly fattening, dips included. The food and the flavours were inventive yet still very simple and homely, so that once we had actually eaten EVERYTHING there, it was a case of “oh, that wasn’t too hard.”

In retrospect, we should have ordered more. That seems silly I know with all of the above, but we were drinking, and with alcohol comes a healthier appetite. Not only that, but because the meals were healthier, and a good portion of the meals ordered were vegetables, we really could have fit more in, and should have gotten at least one more skewer to share between us, at least. Us Europeans and our oversized appetites, I know. Just a thought for next time, and something to ponder for anyone planning on their share plates.

Although we were still bordering on full, there were no sickly feelings of over-stuffing or overconsumption, and of course it was Valentine’s Day so damn it we were going to have something sweet!
I had to try the doughnut – especially with its description:

Awamaat ma’ Dibbis – glazed Lebanese donuts w carob, tahini and almond praline

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And we had to try the Lebanese coffee – any self-respecting coffee snob wouldn’t dare exclude this from their dining list, no matter how full of food they were!

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The doughnut was… filling. After all that food, (maybe better we didn’t get the extra skewers!) I was still glad I got it, and I did eat most of it as Hubbie was too into his beer at this point to really want much of it. The outside was a beautiful golden crust, yet inside it was doughy, not doughy as in not fried enough, but doughy as in the way a doughnut should be, lovely and soft and fresh. The filling was liquid goodness, and the combination of flavours made it very sweet, but very very moorish. OMG I’m still thinking of it. I think I have to have it again. No, I will have it again. I devoured it, and the combination of it with the Lebanese coffee was perfecto.

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Our waitress was right. She had said Lebanese coffee was similar to Turkish coffee, though not as strong. Our backgrounds meant we had come across Turkish coffee only a million times before, so we knew what we might expect. I did find it strong at first, but once I started on the doughnut I realised they were made for each other: Lebanese doughnut and Lebanese coffee = mmm. You can’t have one without the other. The coffee was made for the sweetness of the doughnut… it became a necessity.

And I have to add, I loved the old-fashioned cups and coffee pot it was served in. So old-school, so authentic. Some things must be left the way our parents used to do it.

Our waitress had been brilliant from start to finish, and apart from the quick removal of the falafel, had been helpful in our ordering, and extremely sweet and friendly to baby girl. She offered genuine guidance on what drinks we should order, even offering to replace them if they weren’t what we liked. She even let me sniff the Hendricks that went into my drink. We should all be allowed to sniff, I think, everywhere we go 😉

Baby girl liked her a bit too much, yelling out when she walked away to actually do some work, leaving us to remind her “honey, she can’t talk to you all day, she actually has to do some work!” The guy behind the bar and even another waitress were all friendly and nice to us and baby girl, even the chef who walked out the door at one stage gave a kind smile our way, and it’s become my firm belief that a nice chef will put more love into your food than a cranky one. Gordan Ramsay might disagree with me on that one but f^$k him.

The restaurant had been sparse when we had arrived at 6ish, and by the time we left just after 8 (yes we ate all that food in under 2 hours) it was rocking. Even though the tables were fairly close together the only diners we had a chance to kind of look at and become familiar with were the ones beside us where there were two couples, and they were more than happy to look baby girl’s way and coo at her, making her indeed a happy girl.

And the last, sweet touch? Our waitress offering us some free couple of pieces of baklava for baby girl, as we were having our dessert and coffee. Aww, shucks. She totally loved it, by the way. Bravo (or however you say it in Lebanese).

Food: 9/10. Flavour, herbs, spices, made it a party in your mouth.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Different, but great with the sweets.

Ambience: Magnificent. I really, really loved the style of this place. I particularly loved the antique yet classy lamps of different colour/shape/pattern adorning the restaurant, some hanging high and others cascading down low in a beautiful flowing presentation. I also loved the low bookshelf I was sitting in front of, that separated us seated at the front part of the restaurant, from the people behind us seated a few steps up in the second half. I didn’t have a chance to venture to the facilities but Hubbie told me that it wasn’t overly spacious, seating-wise behind us, and that in addition to the above there appeared to be some covered seating outside. This lack of seating space only added to the cosy atmosphere, and makes it even more of a rustic gem of a restaurant.

I really loved the ambience and style. Old-world meets class meets Collingwood. I can’t say it any better than that. So unique.

Staff: Friendly, helpful and accommodating. And genuine.

People: I was surprised by how many older groups of people ventured here! To Collingwood! I mean I say not a bad word about Collingwood, I support the club for goodness sakes… I was just not expecting that number of older, rich-looking people to come through the doors post 7pm. I must have been expecting more of an eclectic crowd, which really there was very little of. There were many groups that night, which might be odd given it was Valentine’s Day (and isn’t that usually a couple thing?) but hey, whatever the people want. The foursome next to us were in their 30s, and as I write that I realise so are we, so I’ll change that to late 30s-early 40s. Generally a nice crowd, if you know what I mean.

Price: $121. That included 5 alcoholic drinks, 3 starters, 4 main share dishes, dessert and coffee. I thought that was a good effort, and a good price considering. Hubbie did point out that many of the dishes were still expensive for what we got, and after pondering the receipt I thought he might be right. For example the asparagus was $14, maybe a bit steep for green vegies, but then the skewers were $8.50, about on par for meat? I still think overall the prices were very acceptable for what we received, especially in respect to the beautiful Lebanese flavours (oh, drool).

Advice:

1. Firstly, book. Their web site states that they only take bookings several days before the day required, however when I called a week and a half earlier, they were taking bookings then. So maybe it was an event thing being Valentine’s Day. Having watched all the people roll in that night, I think practically all of them had booked. Again, it might have been an event thing due to the day. Because of this 3 girls walking in off the street had to be turned away, and Hubbie heard one of the waitresses on the phone apologising for not being able to squeeze in someone wanting to book last second. So, book, book, book. I think being the number one Lebanese restaurant on Urbanspoon makes it very sought after, and rightly so.

2. If it’s cold and you have a child, don’t sit near the entrance.

3. Don’t be tricked by the servings, or by the fact that you’ve ordered 4 dishes to share so for sure you’ll be full. Look at what it is you’re eating and if it’s likely to really fill you up. If you’re not of European descent, disregard this entire point.

4. Eat the doughnut.

In a nutshell: I really think I need to go back and eat another doughnut. That thing is infiltrating my mind.

Okay seriously though. I had expectations, and flavour wise, they were very much fulfilled. Despite the abundance of food we ate, I still feel like there was so much more we could have had, so much we missed out on. Which means we’ll have to go back and eat more. 

A great Lebanese restaurant, deserving of its Urbanspoon rating. I AM going back. Those Lebanese sweets had me at ‘glazed.’

Bayte on Urbanspoon

Mamma is a bit confused, yet revels in the Coffee

Mamma Says
120 Station Street Fairfield

Bestie and I very quickly made our decision to lunch here on a Wednesday early afternoon in Jan. My only requirements for a venue that day on busy Station Street were:

– that high chairs be available
– that a baby change area be present

That was it. That was my short, not overly-reliant or expectant list.

However, I was of course, still wanting to be impressed.

When we passed Mamma Says bestie informed me that it was fairly new. I got excited looking at the image of a child on the stores sign, and just knew this is where I could go, and be comfortable, especially in the curious/discoverer/impatient/must-touch-and-wander-everywhere stage that baby girl is currently at.

I was however, slightly surprised to find people with no children in tow in the cafe, amongst of course the expected young mums meeting over coffee, Mum resting with child and Nanna with her grandkids. We ventured further out through the indoor area towards a door on the side that went alongside the premises leading us to the back courtyard area. Here again, were no kids: 2 young businessmen types drinking coffee.

I was really happy with our positioning. Firstly, we were outside, meaning I felt less bad about letting baby girl roam freely when she got tired of the high chair. Secondly, the men were having coffee, so in my mind, they were going to leave soon – leaving the entire empty courtyard to ourselves. (Yes, and yes!)

However, it turns out that was just their starter, as they soon received some nice-smelling food before we got our lunches. I ordered:

Dukkah crusted chicken on couscous, rocket, feta (salad) and roast vegetable salad

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Baby girl got a fried egg on toast (I requested they omit the bacon)

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And bestie got Atlantic Salmon with Spinach, Egg and Hollandaise Sauce

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Now, I struck out some of the ingredients in my dish above because THEY WEREN’T THERE. Part of the reason I ordered it was the ‘ting ting ting!’ exciting thought of rocket and feta combined, since I love both and thought this particular combination with the other ingredients would rock. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the dish, once I got into a rhythm of not stopping for a forkful once every 5 minutes in between feeding baby girl. I ate it all, despite the omission of the promised ingredients. It was just a bit dismaying that’s all, especially since I was really looking forward to it. I mean, for a regular menu dish to not have one ingredient as mentioned, you can kind of forgive, only because hey, it’s just one ingredient, and its negative impact is usually lessened when one of the waiters informs you of the omission. But no one said anything to me upon ordering, or delivery of food, and this dish was on the specials menu! Isn’t that stuff meant to rely upon current produce? How are they missing not 1, but 2 ingredients?

Tsk tsk tsk.

Still, I enjoyed it. Chicken was flavoursome and the dressing was lovely. The vegetables consisted of eggplant and pumpkin and were nice…. Just wish it was complete. That should hopefully be the last time they decide to pull the wool over the eyes of ‘another Mum.’

‘She won’t notice, look how busy she is.’

You picked the wrong Mum.

(And you know what, I even wondered if I was in fact mistaking the rocket as just plain lettuce, and it was all getting lost in there… but as any self-respecting rocket-eater would know, it has a very distinctive, peppery flavour, and bestie who is in a ‘healthy’ profession, also confirmed that it was missing. And that still doesn’t explain the feta being AWOL).

Otherwise, presentation was great, and I loved the dark plates our meals were served on.

Baby girl’s meal was fairly simple, and she ate most of it, bar the crust. The crust was way too hard, in fact the entire piece of bread had been toasted for too long. It wasn’t burnt, but it was just too hard. I smeared butter and the yolk over it to help soften the bread, as I didn’t want the roughness sawing at her gums (that happens to me for crunchy bread, let alone a toddler’s sensitive gums).

My bestie helpfully informed me that her meal was great, there was just too much hollandaise sauce, which she spread to the side. Compared to similar dishes, she would have given that one an 8/10.

Despite all this food hoo-ha, I was really happy with where we had decided to sit. We were out of the way out of the indoor diners (some of who seemed surprisingly posh for a venue of this sort, Mum/Bub venue as they’re obviously gearing towards) which meant I was able to let baby girl off her proverbial leash, and let her rearrange the chairs and walk around and around AND around tables (the two men were gone by this point, thank God).

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It had a real backyard feel, with parsley growing along the sides coming out of the tall brickwork that bordered the area, a type of modern rocking horse hung from the wooden exposed beams on the ceiling, and a child-sized model car sat propped up along one wall, and though a child could potentially fit in it, the style of it suggested at $$$ that little fingers should just not get into, or on.

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The staff were slightly odd: I don’t know how else to put it. Our first waiter seemed helpful, generally talking a lot with the 2 men that were initially out there, and then our subsequent waitress, the one we had encountered when first entering the café, seemed… I don’t know, not in the mood. She would smile, but I swear it was like she was saying internally ‘I’ve had enough of this place/diners/kids.’ She was quiet, like she didn’t give a hoot, but smiling politely just enough so as not to allow her ‘unwillingness’ to get her in trouble.

And then there was this other lady, maybe an owner or a chef? But she came out twice, both for no apparent reason (she wasn’t clearing tables or delivering food) and she tried to get baby girl’s attention twice. Look maybe it was even three times she came out. The first time/s she was all “hello!” and waving and baby girl was looking back – cool, that was cute, I appreciate acknowledgement of my baby, thank you. But then she did it again, again for no apparent reason while we were eating, and was calling out to baby girl as SHE was eating, and baby girl turned around and clearly got irritated with this stranger trying to get her attention, and yet she continued trying to get her attention. It was slightly annoying. I wondered if it was me, but bestie agreed.

And then, after ALL that attention, and our plates were cleared – no one came back. We were the only ones out there, and like I already mentioned, that suited me just fine with baby girl’s excessive wandering and touching, but no one came, and we were wanting coffee. It is not nice to sit and wait, WANTING COFFEE. I wonder if they seriously kind of forgot about us, or assumed we were right since we hadn’t said anything when our plates had been taken. But again, we weren’t asked by ‘had-enough’ waitress if we wanted anything else when she took them away. And now that I think of it, when we ordered the waiter didn’t even ask if we wanted drinks.

Tsk tsk tsk.

And then there’s the other possibility. I was asking bestie if chef lady had in fact been annoying as I thought she had, about the time that staff members were ‘out the back.’ Out the back is via a door in the courtyard area, which was right near us, and I’m not sure what was on the other side other than to assume it holds stock, maybe storage and I think I saw a car. But I had kind of forgotten they were there, and they may have heard our discussion about this and thought ‘you think we’re overzealous? Now you can wait.’

So, after waiting a while, I went inside and up to the counter to order some coffees. I was very nice despite our neglect (it wasn’t the barista’s fault) and I knew immediately that the woman behind the counter thought ‘we should have checked on them’ when I asked to get coffees. This lady was very nice and said she’d fix us up, and sure enough the coffees were out in speedy-fashion.

Clockwise: soy latte, cappuccino and babycino.

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Firstly the brightly coloured mugs we received were great. The heart shapes, a lovely bonus 🙂 Thank you barista-lady. And the coffee was really good, and it was only after we’d drank it that bestie and I conversed and both agreed how smooth the coffee had been. She also commented that there was no strong soy taste, and though I don’t drink the stuff what she said made total sense.

So, ending on the coffee note –that was really good. That’s most important, after all 😉

(And after all that I didn’t even need to use the change area – assuming there is one).

Food: 6.5/10. I have to remove points because their menu didn’t promise me what I’d ordered. Food was great though.

Coffee: 8/10.

Ambience: Funnily enough, it had a poshy vibe inside, and I don’t know if that’s because of the modern/rustic-Provincial interior, or whether the customers made it so? Surprisingly I say this, as focused towards the Mum/Bub demographic, I would imagine cas-vibe would be more applicable, and appropriate.

Staff: A bit of everything. A normal one, a had-enough one, an over-zealous one, and then the barista, thank God. A bit confused with them really. But most of them did smile at baby girl, and I guess that’s a bit of a requirement with the name of the place and all.

People: Young mums, Nans, older people and a couple of businessmen made it a truly diverse mix. Which is good for the café, as they are certainly attracting a wide variety of clientele.

Price: 3 meals and 3 drinks added up to under $50. Individually, our dishes were on par at $17 each. AGAIN, we were charged $0.50 cents for a babycino! Come on guys. Froth in a cup, that’s all it is… she didn’t even get a nibblie on the side to make it justifiable (even then, it’s definitely NOT justifiable… see my babycino explanation here). I’m starting a no-pay-for-babycino-movement, damn it.

Advice: Go outside if you’re with kids. It’s just easier. And when there, don’t talk about the staff if they’re out the back, or else you’ll have to stalk them to order your coffees.

Ha ha, only kidding (kind of). If you’re really keen on a dish, maybe just make sure it will come exactly as promised on the menu? Make sure you order drinks of any kind before they walk away from you, and also, grab a coffee. It was yum.

In a nutshell: Despite all of the above – and look, maybe I have been a bit nit-picky, but unfortunately for Mamma’s Hubbie and I have come off the back of some very memorable and awesome dining experiences of late, so fussiness is at a high – I would go back. I would just take my own advice (above) and try some other dishes, as bestie and I were at a loss of what to order at first due to the delicious and vast menu on offer. Glad there’s a place like this in Fairfield that Mums can (hopefully) feel at home at with their littlies.

Mamma Says on Urbanspoon

The Difference

I can’t remember exactly what quote it was that inspired my thought. Come to think of it though, upon searching through images on my phone, it may have been this one:

“The integral part of being a star is having the will to win. All the champions have it.” – Betty Cuthbert.

The thought came to me so clearly, I knew instantly it was true. I shared my musings with Hubbie that night.

What do all successful people have in common? They never gave up.*

It is so simple. Define successful, you say. Well, my definition of success comes from a state of achieving that what you want. Success then, comes from not giving up, from perseverance, from having the drive to keep going NO MATTER WHAT. No matter what the people say, no matter what society says, no matter what odds or obstacles are thrown in your direction. Despite everything, choosing to go forward and pursue your dreams, despite everything, and everyone.

To live life the way you want to, I also consider, success.

What do you define as your success? How far will you go to get it?

The next question would naturally be, how important it is to you…

(*Smikg – I’ll be in that group soon).

Cafe Mari-tapas

Café Maritana
1 Flinders Parade Barwon Heads

From the beginning, there were very high hopes for this restaurant.

I had seen it listed high on the Urbanspoon Barwon Heads list. We had originally wanted to have dinner there on our 2nd night at Barwon Heads, which was a Monday, but upon calling them I discovered they weren’t open Mondays.

So then, it was to be our last night there, a Tuesday night.

I called after midday that Tuesday, and an initially-sounding poshy lady answered the phone. After requesting a table for 2 adults and a toddler, she asked me if we had been there before, explaining it was no BYO as they were fully licenced.

She then asked how I had heard about them. I said intentionally, vaguely “oh, online. Some restaurant web site.” (Never mind Urbanspoon is a favourite on my toolbar).

“Like Urbanspoon?” she asked.

“Yeah, something like that.” Tee hee hee. I can’t reveal my blogger identity!

She then softened and took on a friendlier tone as she explained that Urbanspoon had been displaying some incorrect trading hours information for the restaurant, and my phone call must have meant they had rectified it. I did know what she was talking about, as their listing had led me to believe they were open on Monday. Also though, I’m a bit of a detective so I don’t rely solely on one website to help me find
what I’m after. When I want something, I enter stalker-FBI territory.

We had already had a great, fantastic night at Beach House the previous night. I wasn’t expecting another night like that. Although the Café Maritana web site mentioned Italian-style tapa dishes that I was really excited about, I wasn’t expecting that the entire night and the atmosphere and the food and the staff and the EVERYTHING, would equal that. It wasn’t likely, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to then be let down.

However, my hopes were up. Because it was our last night there, at Barwon Heads. In just less than a week we’d be back at work, our holidays over, and I’d be thinking of our next getaway. I was saying “I just want good food,” but I was lying. I wanted MORE.

We arrived at 6:30pm. We were positioned right near the front door, near a window that overlooked the Barwon Heads Bridge over the Barwon River. I had the view, and it was great.

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The staff were immediately appealing and friendly, very much so to baby girl. Phew, it was a good start. Also, there was already a families in there as well as a group of older women. Even with just those, it seemed echoey. We were sooooo relieved.

The woman who I’m guessing was the boss-lady, and quite possibly the one I spoke to on the phone, very quickly explained the menu concept to us. The menu was comprised of many share dishes, and diners were to tick with the pen supplied what dishes they wanted, and they would then slowly come out in a grazing fashion, the order at which they came out decided completely upon by the chef. I liked this. It was interesting, different, and would keep us guessing.

Boss-lady helped Hubbie work out what beer he should choose, and I got a lovely Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio. Following that we started to receive the 5 share dishes we had ordered. First up was the –

Saganaki and Chorizo

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I am not the biggest fan of chorizo, but I loved this with the cheese. The saganaki was salty, and the chorizo was a nice meaty offset. With a squeeze of some lemon, this was made a very simple, yet divine dish. Warm, tasty, various complimenting flavours… I could have had more. We ate it up quickly.

Next up was the Garden (Green) Salad

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By name the garden salad sounded simple, but it was oh-so-yum. So yum and fresh. It’s made me think differently about salads to be honest, and now I want to reinvent the way I do salads because of that salad! Salads don’t have to be boring! This one had yellow, green and red tomatoes, fresh lettuce and feta cheese that wasn’t overpowering, and I say this not because I don’t like cheese (I LOVE CHEESE) but because I was surprised it didn’t have a stronger feta taste. As it was it totally blended in to the other ingredients.

Then, came the Beer Battered chips

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These were the majority of baby girl’s meal! They were great, but as chips go kind of what I would have expected, nothing out of the ordinary or special to be honest. They came with aioli on the side, and I did notice the darker than usual chip colour, at first wondering if the oil they used was as fresh as it should be, and even Hubbie thought the same. But we both realised that perhaps it was the batter that made it look darker, and I had reason to question and compare, as the fries we’d gotten at Beach House the previous night had been golden and crisp.

Fourth of our selections was the Eye Fillet with a beetroot salad

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It was cooked perfectly, pink and moist in the middle, however the marinade on the outside had made it char slightly whilst grilling. Still lovely, but I had preferred the one I’d had the night before. This was Hubbie’s primary dish though, so I didn’t mind.

And finally… the Garlic Prawns

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My dish came last: the garlic prawns in broth. Yum. The prawns were beautifully warm, hot even, kept so in the broth, and there were some hard pieces of bread on the side. With the carb overload on the beer battered chips, my initial response was to leave most of the bread, as by this stage I was starting to fill up. However all that garlic-y prawn-y liquid looked too good to waste, so I decided to do what was clearly suggested to me by the meal and dip some bread into the broth. The flavour of the prawns kept well in the hard bread made soggy, and surprisingly I had most of the bread this way! It made it very edible. This prawn dish was just superb.

I think the order of arrival was spot on. It wasn’t in order in terms of where they had been on the menu, but in terms of what you should graze on first, it was perfect.

We were on a bit of a roll. Our dishes had been great, and the ambience and staff were matching too. The restaurant had steadily filled up post 7pm, and there were more families in there as well as couples. Generally, more of an older crowd were in at this time, and happily, at least one person from each party smiled at baby girl as they walked by us near the entrance. It was hard to ignore her there, what with her waving at them on arrival and reaching out and trying to grab people! They were all so lovely though. The volume of people made the noise in there even more so, so we were blending in really nicely.

Our waitress was really very friendly, and so sweet to baby girl. She acknowledged her all the time, even doing a little peek-a-boo with her as she stood in the kitchen where baby girl had spotted her. She was genuinely sweet and friendly, and this makes a difference too, as you can spot pretension and fake-friendliness a mile away. She was a breath of fresh air.

Unlike Annie’s, this place just had a happy, more jovial mood, and as Hubbie observed, even one of the crankiest looking diners sitting nearby, an older man, smiled when baby girl started her usual squeals of delight.

I wondered: was it the place, the vibe that was different? Was it the fact that people are more relaxed at the end of the day and more allowing of noise emanating from young children, more so than at the start of the day when they need a little longer to get used to short outbursts? Did dinner at Maritana win out over brekkie at Annie’s solely due to the time of day? That may have had a little to do with it, if I’m going to allow that tiny out for Annie’s. But it wasn’t the only thing that made it different. Without a doubt, the feel at Café Maritana was far more welcoming, and I guess I’ll know for sure next time we’re in town and we head over for breakfast to confirm.

We couldn’t fit much more in after all that food, but it was our last night so we had to have our fave, the affogato

And I just couldn’t go past my old faithful, the chocolate mousse

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They arrived as Hubbie was walking baby girl around outside to give her a high-chair break, and having had such an amazing night so far, in all aspects, I was slightly horrified when the affogato was set down at the table, like this:

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Coffee was already poured over it. (If you don’t understand my horror, click here for an explanation). I tried to keep in mind that everything else had been great, trying to still the disappointment that was brewing inside. I waited for Hubbie to return and we exchanged a bit of a look. However, he didn’t seem too fussed as he tasted it, informing that it was spectacular. I had to agree. Even the presentation, though very simple, was done in a rather rustic look, much like the French old-school style that was evident throughout the restaurant, with little French mementos and Parisian city-landscape decals planted on the windows, and the big barrel that sat near the front entrance making you feel like you’d just sat down at a winery on that side of the world.

But still…. I really would have liked to taste the coffee on its own first.

The choc mousse was nice, and at one point I found it a bit much on top of all those share meals in my tummy, but then I think I got used to it and I even found it quite light to eat. I ate almost all of it before hitting a food-wall, which is when I got Hubbie to help me out.

The nice touch that took the restaurant from evening to night was the string of fairy lights that turned on above us, scattered across the ceiling in a romantic fashion, and surprisingly a movie was also projected onto the wall near me, an older movie that I didn’t catch, but I saw Audrey Hepburn and could immediately understand the old-school feel they were trying to emulate with it. I found it interesting how they did appear to go from family-friendly to romantic and still keep everyone happy throughout the night.

Food: 9/10. Taste and presentation, as well as the premise, were on the money.

Coffee: 7.5/10. It tasted good, I just needed to try it on its own!

Ambience: Fantastic, perfect for us. It was busy, family-friendly, yet was still able to retain some sense of intimacy and romanticism as the night wore on… maybe due to the fairy lights, the movie on the wall, or Audrey?! It had a lively happy vibe.

Staff: Great, exceptional. From our waitress to boss-lady, even to the chef who smiled over at baby girl’s shrieks, they were all AWESOME.

People: Family crowd, older couples, mid-40 couples, making way for slightly younger couples and smaller groups as the night wore on (maybe the fairy lights wooed them in :))

Price: Actually, pretty decent considering what you’re getting. Our bill came to $136, slightly less than what we’d paid at Beach House the previous night. And that total included 5 share meals, 4 drinks and 2 desserts. Not bad. The most expensive meal on our bill was the eye fillet, and at $26, for what you’re getting, even with the ‘share’ serve, it was a steal. This place isn’t expensive at all, maybe mid-range I’d say. Definite value for money here.

Advice: Book ahead. I think everyone generally likes that. You can sit inside, or in the two outdoor areas on the sides of the restaurant. Go on a lovely day, so you can work off your scrumptious meal with a short stroll across the road at the park, or the beach.

In a nutshell: Italian-style tapas is something that excited me, and I’ll keep thinking of them for a long time after, until we get a chance to go back and sample some more amazing share meals. We’ll definitely breakfast here next time we’re in town. The price and staff and ambience and amazing location are all the bonuses that make this the best place to dine at in Barwon Heads. Hands down.

Cafe Maritana on Urbanspoon