1 Year?

What? Happy Anniversary from WordPress? I joined one year ago today… but that seems like a lifetime ago!

I guess that’s a pretty good sign. Things must be happening, I am constantly growing, learning and so much is always changing that the last year actually feels like three.

That’s a good thing. Let’s jam pack our lives. Because, unless your Angel, you ain’t coming back in another lifetime, true? This is no dress rehearsals people. As Hubbie says “We’re LIVE.”

So let’s LIVE.

Happy Blogging Everyone 🙂

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Sun Room Buffet

The Conservatory
Level 1 Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman Street Southbank

Something about the word ‘buffet,’ just makes you drool that little bit more. Is it the thought of an endless amount of food on offer for the one price? Is it the thought that rather than agonise over the seemingly endless food choices in the menu, you can try a little bit of everything? Or are we a gluttonous breed that just wants to nom nom nom?

Does anyone actually realise that our stomachs can never digest more than our eyes can absorb?

With high hopes of a banquet feast, we ventured off to The Conservatory on a Sunday for lunch, to celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary. Awww. I had booked in advance, and upon arrival we were immediately seated at a table with high chair for baby girl ready and waiting. Superb.

The room was amazing. We weren’t seated near the windows, but even so you could see the city skyscrapers and the Yarra River below. Sun room indeed. It was an amazing location. The interior had great high cathedral-like ceilings, and though everything, from the white décor to the staff presentation to the customers themselves, were of a very high and poshy standard, there was a warmth to the atmosphere too. Maybe it was the surprise of the glorious sun shining through on that Autumn day.

It was a very nice feeling to know we were going to be there for the next few hours.

Our lunch buffet session was to last from 12:15 – 3:00pm. I had plans to have little plates and try to taste a little bit of most of the dishes on offer there. I certainly couldn’t try a bit of everything, not only because not everything is to taste, but really? It would be a difficult job stomaching too many flavours together.

As I haven’t food-blogged recently, and having the wonderful bonus of our daughter getting cranky in her high chair, I forgot to photo my first dish. So I kind of had it again for this posts’ sake.

Following are the photos I took on the day, with some brief descriptions.

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My lovely wine, with the unmistakable white background and Hubbie’s meal.

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No I don’t eat prawns, cheese and bread together – the bread and cheese were for baby girl. The prawns were lovely and fresh, really enjoyable.

She didn’t like the cheese, I think it was a bit of a rich, heavier cheddar, so I later brought back bocconcini which she loved.

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I had a kind of sweet chilli chicken salad, which had a decent kick to it – I liked that. I had a few rice paper rolls, which also had a bit of bite due to the lemongrass I think, and I chose those specific ones because I was on a prawn-fest and was craving seafood.

The sushi had cucumber and prawn with some kind of paste, and also not pictured I tried a mussel which had spicy oil flavours drizzled over it. All were great. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the chicken salad though, considering there were no carbs in it.

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I next had food from the Indian/Asian station, which comprised of vegetable and pork dumplings with soy sauce, a spicy papaya salad, tandoori chicken, a mild potato curry, and I think what was saffron rice.

I loved the vegetable dumplings – I should have gotten more of those. The papaya salad surprised me too with its spices, whereas the chicken, potato curry and rice were warm and comforting.

By this stage I had had 4 plates. Some were small, some comprised of light seafood, but still four plates equalled a bit of consumption. I took that opportunity to give myself a needed food break and try to find a change room for baby girl.

*Parents, take note.* By all means, take your nappy-wearing children out with you, everywhere, anywhere you dine, much like we do… just be advised that if eating at the Conservatory, you will have to jump on a golf buggy to find the nearest suitable toilets.

I went through two levels before I found a very kind Crown employee who discovered there was a baby change table in the disabled toilets of The Waiting Room, one ground below Conservatory. Take note parents!

It was probably a good half hour by the time I came back to the table, to see Hubbie brimming with happiness over his half-eaten smorgasbord of a dessert plate, telling me he’d just ordered a latte. So I had to catch up.

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So did baby girl.

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Above dessert plate: A raspberry tart, brownie, goats cheese cheesecake, macaroons, and some fruit with chocolate-dipped strawberries in the middle.

And I seriously thought I was going to go back for more! I couldn’t. The dessert station was a work of art in itself, my God. There were so many things I wanted to try, that I just couldn’t after I’d finished my plate… sigh.

I actually enjoyed my raspberry tart the most, although everything tasted great. Baby girl had bits of dessert here and there as well as some fruit, and then of course she had her babycino which looked great.

My coffee was great too, a much needed finishing-line drink after all that food.

Apart from the day being a celebration of when Hubbie and I exchanged vows to each other, it ended up being surprisingly punctuated by more nostalgia when I discovered that my high school homegroup teacher was eating with his family for a birthday celebration, just two tables over. I haven’t seen him for 13 years, yet we recognised each other almost immediately! It was a happy addition to a wonderful day, and it was great to see again, one of the people who positively impacted me during those crucial high school years too. What a (not) coincidence 😉

Food: 8/10. A lot of it, of a great standard, and very fresh. I almost find this difficult to rate, and explain, because usually when you eat at a restaurant you have chosen a meal that has most times been created by the chef, a meal that should be a wonderful balance and/or contradiction of flavours that dance in your mouth and that leaves you feeling satisfied, happy you ate there, and amazed at the creativity of the dish. When you dine at a buffet, YOU create the way your dish looks, YOU decide what is going to go with what and at the end of the day YOU are the responsible one for what you have eaten. Singularly, the dishes at the Conservatory were consistently great-tasting and the presentation of their food in the stations and of the stations themselves, was amazing. It’s the only food-presentation they are in control of, before we come in slap it on our plates and upload it online to show off to our friends.

Coffee: 7/10. Smooth. We discovered that the first round of coffees was free (part of the price you’re already paying really) when you are lunching there, with any subsequent coffee rounds at an additional price. With a coffee/foam each, we left happy about that.

Ambience: Really lovely. Everything looks so polished and refined, the staff breeze on by, and the people dining there are all dressed up and looking so smart… it’s an upmarket buffet experience. With views of the city coming at you through the windows, you kind of lean back in your seat and go “ahh, I could get used to this.”

Staff: Fantastic, accommodating, which I expected nothing less considering the establishment and price we paid. Our waitress in particular was really kind and friendly, explaining everything to us on arrival, and tending to our needs and baby change requests 🙂

People: There were those celebrating milestones like us, and then there were those that are so rich they rocked up an hour into service and left earlier than everyone else because they do it once a month. Generally an older crowd, I would say 30 +. A few families though, and many large groups of people, it seems to be a social gathering meeting ground.

Price: Our Sunday lunch was $95 pp. We ended up paying $212 in total with my $10 wine and Hubbie’s $12 beer. $12 for Crown?! Get your wallets ready drinkers. Children under 4 do not pay, which is great seeing as most toddlers appetites are so all over the place. (I think children 4-12 years pay 50% of the adult price). Baby girl enjoyed her bread, cheese, cheesy pita bread and bits of vegies, and of course the cake. There are things to suit the kiddies, don’t worry, especially from the dessert station – make your own ice cream cone? Hell yeah even I’ll do that!

Advice: Book in advance, no matter what. I booked 6 days in advance and lucky I did, as I hadn’t realised the Logies were on that night at the Crown! Booking wasn’t an issue though.

As for the food, I would suggest two things.

1: eat the things you like, whether they are a tired and true favourite, like in my case the fresh prawns, and the vegetable dumplings. Eat a lot of them too.

2: try different and interesting things that you have always wanted to try. I know this is in contradiction to the above point, but if you take these two things on board, you’ll leave happier. For example, I had the saffron rice, the sushi and then the macaroons for dessert – all great items which I enjoyed, but these three things I eat quite regularly, and if we’re being honest, they tasted about as good as all the other times I ate them. I was happy I tried the spicy chicken salad, because it was a different dish for me, however I wish I had also tried some of the Asian stir-fry and noodle dishes. It had been my intention, I just got too full and then it was dessert time. Also, rather than the macaroons, I should have tried one of the other magical looking sweet treats… you just gotta check out that food station. Food for thought.

In summary of the above, eat what you like but that which you don’t get to eat often!

In a nutshell: I would love to go back. They cater for dinner and breakfast as well, so you can always find a suitable time to buffet there. Taking my above two points in mind, I would go back with a vengeance. A beautiful food-lovers experience.

Conservatory on Urbanspoon

Cadbury on Toast?

In the first (and possibly last!) of my solo food product reviews I have had to review this:

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When I first feasted my eyes upon this unbelievable sight on my facebook feed, I had to question whether it was in fact, a joke. Vegemite, and chocolate? You’re kidding me. But in the land of the Aussie, anything is possible here.

I love chocolate (uh, hello!) and I do love vegemite. The correct application of vegemite spread across some freshly hot, straight out of the toaster buttered-bread is H-E-A-V-E-N. Note this is in italics because the angels even sing it. Those yanks who eat vegemite straight out of the jar with a spoon  – puh-lease, you are SO not doing it right. You need a true blue Aussie to show you how it’s eaten correctly (see above) and not some shit-talker just trying to get the maximum facial effect out of you.

But chocolate, and vegemite, together? A reliable friend posted this online, and as soon as I saw it I knew I just had to try.

At the end of a very busy shopping trip last week, a trolley FULL of groceries with an increasingly impatient baby girl chomping on rice cakes in front of me, I headed to Coles (which is one of the places they are stocked, I believe) and searched the entire store before finding them conveniently located near the front registers. A huge sign with a massive arrow should suffice next time, guys. (As if they’re not well acquainted with that oh-so-cheesy ‘finger pointing sign.’)

At home, after baby girl had gone down for her afternoon nap, I fixed myself a tea, and sat down to discover if this unlikely combination was indeed, up to scratch.

What I didn’t realise was there was a caramel addition, and it is this that probably makes the vegemite acceptable in the chocolate. The caramel camouflages the strong vegemite taste that you’re used to, and only after you’ve chewed your way through most of the piece of chocolate do you get the vegemite after-taste, as it kind of very subtly lingers in the back of your throat. It’s interesting, is my best and not so specific verdict of it.

Being a massive fan of salty + sweet (think Reece’s chocolates, and peanut butter cheesecakes, uhhhh drool), I could see how this combination may work. I cannot for the life of me imagine which food invention guru actually came to the insane idea of gelling vegemite and chocolate together though.

The caramel addition is a bit of a cheat. The true way to have vegemite and chocolate, is to literally smear some vegemite atop a block of solid Cadbury’s. That would be harder to swallow, but are you a true blue Aussie or what?

Having said that, the stuff wouldn’t sell. The caramel makes it edible.

So my verdict? I went back for more. And then said I wouldn’t buy anymore. But then went back for more…. and then said I’ve had enough… and now I’m still eating it.

I think I’ll stick to my standard peanut butter and chocolate for contradicting flavour combos, thanks. I will not be buying it again. I’ll have my beautifully toasted butter and vegemite on bread, and on the side have chocolate on its own.

(I have not in any way been sponsored or paid by Cadbury for this review… however with the amount of people who have bought the stuff as a result of my facebook post about the above said venture, I am certainly open to payment. Cadbury, anyone? 🙂 )

Happiness Is… #10

My Sister.

You know how most people only have time for themselves? I don’t mean that in a selfish way, I mean just generally how people can barely look after their own dramas, let only those of others?

You know how people promise that they’ll show up, or help you, and most of the time they’re just empty words?

You know how people pretend to care, but secretly they’re envious of your position, what you have, or something you’ve achieved?

All of the above: not my sister.

If everyone had a sister like mine, there would be no war in this world. Because if they did, she would talk them out of it, so that everyone would be singing and dancing and holding hands ‘We are the World’ style.

I don’t say this because she is my sister. You may think I am bias, but trust me, I am not. I am the luckiest person to have someone as beautiful, inside and out, as her in my life. Growing up, my friends without sisters, wished she was theirs. Even my friends with sisters, wished she was theirs too.

I have never met anyone else so giving of her time and energy like her. She will lend an ear when you need it, and not even be irritated if you call at the wrong time. She will drive across town to help you out, despite having to take her boys to school or get them babysat. She will move all her events and plans around, so she can get to the other side of the earth, and help you, willingly, and happily, with a smile. She will do so, genuinely, and not expect one ounce of help for her, in return.

Despite hardships she faces, she will give you her time and wisdom when you’re facing a problem. She won’t get mad when you whinge about something trivial, and she won’t have a go at you because your problems aren’t as big as hers. And God knows, she could complain, if she was that kind of person. She has problems, she has challenges. If anyone were allowed to be angry, or sad, she would be completely forgiven for it. And yet, she smiles. She continues to be positive and thankful, and does everything at once, to please everyone at once, because that’s just her.

She gives so much of herself, of her inspiring, beautiful energy, to everyone around her… even those who don’t deserve it. I get mad sometimes, because I find myself thinking ‘why are you so nice to them!’ That’s her greatest fault, right there. She is too nice.

She is so selfless with her time. She will drop the 101 things on her plate to help you out. I am still sometimes bewildered by how giving she is of herself in spite of all the things going on in her life. She works, has a husband, and 2 boys, and I just don’t know how she fits it all in, and is still able to be there for others. She is wonder woman.

She’s one of those people, that everyone loves. If you were to not like her, sorry (actually I’m not) but something is severely wrong with you. You can’t even say she’s too nice, because she is so much fun, so happy, so up for doing new things and partying and drinking with you, that she is genuinely an EVERYBODY’S person.

I actually can’t put into words, how amazing she is. Because it’s one of those things, that until you see it, and experience it for yourself, you just don’t know. She’s one of those special, once in a lifetime people, that once you find, you hold onto with all your might.

She’s my sister, and I’m so freaking blessed and lucky and stoked that she is mine.

Thank you Big Sis, for being the best person there is. You make the world a much happier, lighter and brighter place with your presence.

I love you. We all do.

Love, Little Sis.

The Age of the Epiphany

If you’re anywhere under the age of 30, remember this: Your parents are right about EVERYTHING.

I’ve always listened to my parents advice, don’t get me wrong. I guess I was just kinda like working things out for myself, and thinking, like the over-confident Leo I can sometimes be, that I can do it differently, and better, my own way.

Ha.

My parents and my MIL are all super-paranoid when it comes to their babysitting duties with baby girl. They’ll cover the coffee table with the throw we have draped over our lounge, trying to cushion the pointy corners so that if she were to fall the material would soften the blow. When she runs around the dining table at full speed, they cringe. They used to barricade the bottom of the stairs with the pram, so that she couldn’t climb up them.

I didn’t so much mind all their little additions, but I told them to stress less and to not spend so much time worrying. Yes, sometimes she fell. It was never anything major, it toughened her up and taught her a bit about what she should and shouldn’t do. For some reason though, having them put the throw on the table… well it just shit me. I don’t know why. The throw was for the couch, and they were covering the coffee table with it. I felt like saying ‘she never falls near the table with us, stop over-reacting!’ To add to it, Mum further aggravated me with her comment “That’s ok, we put it on when you’re not here.” And then she laughed. Grrr.

Last week, baby girl fell while running around with her Dad, and hit her head on the tiles. It was the smallest of hits – Hubbie didn’t even think her head touched the ground. But the blood splatters on the floor and the drops down her jumper told us otherwise.

I can’t begin to express the chaos that followed that incident. There were tears and freak-outs, mostly from me. She had hit her head, but it was a minor graze, and she settled very quickly after. Thank God. But it was a major wake-up call for us. Our parents’ constant stresses and worrying was for a good reason. They had raised us. They had been through all of this before.

I haven’t said boo about the throw on the coffee table since.

On the weekend, Hubbie and I had a decent blue. We were arguing, and were both very stubbornly holding our individual positions. We were shouting angrily at each other, and not because of something we had done or said to the other- it was about a family member. I went to bed that night seething, yet so sad. And I contemplated how every single time we’ve had a big argument (minus the every day nagging stuff you just get used to) it was about a family member. I fell asleep on that.

To my surprise, we made up immediately the next morning. I didn’t think there was any going past it. But Hubbie was adamant that we weren’t to yell at each other like that again, and made the same observation that I had: all our big fights weren’t about us.

We are good, so good together. And we realised, through this struggle, that we shouldn’t let outside interference get in the way of our relationship. In fact that weekend I had read a quote about struggles being the instigators to find another way forward. Which we had. I also heard my Mum’s words circling around in my head:

“Never let anyone get in the way of your family. People will always try to make trouble between you, but don’t let them.”

Even though there was no one intentionally making our lives difficult, it was so true that we shouldn’t be letting an outsider get in the way of US.

You might be lucky, and under the age of 30 and know all of this. You may be older, and still learning. That’s ok. Life is a process. It’s fortunate if you can learn from the experiences and words of others, but often the best way to learn is when you live the lessons yourself. Just try to make the tough lessons a vicarious experience, if you can.

Happiness Is… #9

Living so close to your parents that you bump into them at the local shops.

I’m pretty fortunate (and it is truly convenient) to have my parents, oh, a 7 minute car drive away. Bumping into my Mum today while doing my weekly grocery shop was truly sweet. Having her run up to me from behind to surprise me, baby girl in the trolley staring at her wide-eyed like “What? Where did Baka come from?” was a really happy moment.

It was an unexpected, beautiful surprise. Often it’s the things you don’t expect, that make you truly grateful for what you have. I count my blessings.