Go through to the food

Via Boffe
74 Main Street Mornington

Once again, Mornington. Our love affair with the Peninsula just keeps on going on. We had driven over for the day on Australia Day, and through the crazily-busy cafes and eateries swimming with tourists and dogs and practically anything else you can imagine, we found this quaint little café nestled amongst it all on the Main street.

I had one requirement – we needed at least a change table area for baby girl, and also hopefully a high chair. We had already rejected Biscottini because they had no change areas, and I needed one because, you know, possible call of nature. Baby girl is a person too. We were staring through the window into this Boffe of a café when the boss lady stuck her head out and told us there were plenty more options inside to choose from, and that it wasn’t just limited to the menu we were looking at on the door.

Smart move. She really, invited us in, and getting an invitation when you’re undecided, and confused about where to go? She won us over.

I did have my before-mentioned requirements. I asked about the high chair – they didn’t have any apologetically, but she was getting some in. Ok next question – change area? She led me to an outside toilet winding around the back behind the outdoor courtyard where we ended up sitting at, and with a key opened the door to a public bathroom with several toilets. There was a kind of bench area underneath the hand dryer… perhaps this could work? I could deal with the no high chair, all I needed was space to change her. This was adequate. This would do.

With the formalities over, it was now time to order.

I went in with baby girl and ordered at the front counter as is the norm there. I also received a jug of ice, which I could then fill up with water from a tap up at the counter. It was self-serve, but a classy kind of one, what with the silver saucer and all. Soon after we received

Drinks of Peroni and Moscato

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Followed by our meals: Hot Salami Roll for Hubbie

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Eggplant Parmigiana for myself

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And a Margherita Pizza for baby girl

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The presentation of the food on the boards was lovely. It matched the rest of the atmosphere there, the iron chairs complementing the mosaic tables in a Tuscan/provincial theme. Outside it was very courtyard classy, amplified more so by our neighbours, who were super-poshy. It actually made me slightly stressed and on edge, knowing there were no other kids around, with baby girl sitting on a slightly wonky chair, and the small table too close for her curious and prying hands. It’s the reason why I love high chairs – she can be controlled so much easier. But I had to deal with what I had.

Hubbie didn’t think his salami roll was that hot. Otherwise it was ok. I loved the sauciness of my eggplant parmigiana. The bread on the side was slightly tough, but softened easily under all of that sauce. Baby girl enjoyed her meal too, and I particularly liked pecking at her bocconcini and cherry tomato stray pieces.

After we ate, I realised baby girl needed a change. I was so grateful that I had chosen the change area requirement over the high chair one. I went into the café as I was told to do, got the key for the bathroom, and then headed down the winding path with baby girl in tow.

Following this, was the toilet debacle. Firstly, the bathroom wasn’t even locked. I opened it easily. As I started to set up baby girl for her change, a girl opened the door, and then called out over her shoulder “there are toilets!” before coming in with two other women. They had come from another street entrance and obviously believed these toilets were available to all public people. I was under the impression they were only available to customers and staff of the café – hence the key. Anyway, I minded my business, but because of the up and down of these people walking in, and then more people coming in, and subsequently these women using the hand dryer – baby girl didn’t want to lie down. I had to convince her repeatedly to lie down so I could change her, I had to in fact BEG her, while stupid women walked by and took their time drying their hands while baby girl CLEARLY got frightened by the loud drying noise.

I withheld slapping. The stupid women, obviously.

Once they were all almost out of there, I quickly changed baby girl, not even bothering to care when another lady needed the dryer. I was allowed there – she wasn’t! Yet none of those women coming in knew that. By the time I finished up with her, then went to the loo myself, Hubbie was waiting at the mosaic table for us about to send out a search party.

Note to management: get a solid key that actually locks/unlocks, as I sure as hell couldn’t work it out, and every Sue, Sally and Sharon was coming in off the street using the loo.

After that drawn-out ordeal, it was time for caffeine.

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We ordered a cap for me, flat white for Hubbie, and babycino for baby girl, in amongst some sweets of caramel macadamia slice, chocolate tart, and lemon tart. I loved the caramel and lemon slices the most, the lemon was definitely tarty and had a lovely zing! Stay away if you’re not into lemons. My coffee was smooth which I was happy with, whereas Hubbie wanted his stronger.

By this stage the atmosphere in the courtyard had changed dramatically. Our poshy neighbours had been replaced by a table of tweens, while their parents talked loudly at the next table. My how I would have loved to have them there the whole time. I just love noisy places now. Yes, the courtyard probably suited a quieter audience, but the louder it is for us, the more relaxed we are in case baby girl goes on a vocal rampage. We were more at peace by coffee time, but by that time it was also time to go.

Food: 7.5/10. Everything looked and tasted great, however Hubbie’s meal felt slightly short of the ‘hot’ tag.

Coffee: 7.5/10.

Ambience: Although it had a relaxed tone being out in the courtyard, it really was dependent on the clientele at the time. Inside there was some seating, and out the front too, where it was bustling on the main strip.

Staff: They were friendly, but busy being a public holiday… smiles were lacking in some, made up for by others. Boss lady was friendliest, but that makes sense doesn’t it?

People: A real mix. Super posh Portsea-types bragging about interstate trips while the thirty-something daughter asks “Dad, do we need to pay?” in a privileged fashion on one side of the ring; families with kids of all ages talking out loud in another fashion on the other side of the ring; and then throw in the odd couple and super-tanned 60+ woman eating alone sporting the latest high-end fashion in the 3rd corner. All sorts.

Price: $60-ish – that included our two alcoholic drinks, 3 meals, 2 and a half coffees, and 3 mini desserts. Not bad. Servings were modest. I think the price was spot on for that type of café in that location.

Advice: One. Maybe make sure your kid is toilet-trained. Step two, if you have littlies, go when they have high chairs or sit inside away from the iron chairs (they should have high chairs by the time I publish this post). Third, if you’re anyone other than those first two categories, just go and check it out. I’m sure you’ll like it. (Oh and D, try the eggplant parmigiana. Yummo).

In a nutshell: Seeing as we are frequenting the Peninsula more and more nowadays, (just check out my Sea change tag over on my other blog to see what I mean!) we can definitely see ourselves coming back here. It was a cute café, with lovely atmosphere, delish food offerings, and the courtyard is bliss in the warm sun. The boss lady really made an impression on us too, she was very clever to reel us in like that… we will be back.

Touche Boffe 🙂

Via Boffe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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How to do Port Douglas in 4 nights (with kids) – Part 2

(Travelled: Jan ’16)

This is part 2 of my Port Douglas snap shot which goes through the local attractions we experienced. For any information on Port Douglas Travel, Accommodation, Weather, or Food, click here to see Part 1 of this article.

ATTRACTIONS

Market – We went to the market at the end of Macrossan Street the first morning we were there, which was a Sunday. It was interesting looking around at the local fare and seeing what was happening in that part of the world. It’s custom to wear sandals and thongs, but there was mud here due to the recent rain, so beware. You’ll be obliged to buy something, just for the hell of it, just as I did with my body crystal and our shared mango drink (where else in the world do you buy mango drink from people who grow them in their backyard and then turn it into liquid in front of you?)

Summary: Nice to check out if you’re there on a Sunday for a bit of a stroll, but don’t lose sleep if you have other things to do either.

Breakfast with the Birds – An event at the Wildlife Habitat Centre, you can do either breakfast or lunch, but we opted for breakfast and arrived to a cold and hot assortment of breakfast foods, sitting amongst a large outdoor canopied area where birds suddenly appeared, or watched you from nearby trees! It was certainly an experience and something different, and if you have kids, (or a big kid who likes birds, *ahem Hubbie*) you can get up close and personal, talk to the experienced staff there, and take photos too.

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Just don’t go too close, please. I’m not saying it’s not allowed, there were just some visitors there who were asking for it as they shoved their big-ass lens camera into the black cockatoo’s field of vision and then DIDN’T get bitten. Unfortunately. Have some respect for these creatures and hang back. You have a big-ass lens, don’t you? Use it.

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Following this we decided quite spontaneously to join the Rainforest Walk – this was fantastic! Again, it was fun for baby girl, and the other big kid lover of birds as well as me because hey, I like hearing about these different animals and learning about their way of life, and our guide that day was fantastic, enthusiastic and very informative, making the experience all the more interesting. We saw a Cassowary bird, which baby girl fed watermelon to, an experience that has stayed with us all since, especially her! And got to meet and fly along with many cheeky parrots.

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Of course you don’t have to join a tour to check out the wild habitat there. At the conclusion of that tour we went to see some crocs (and one giant one!) on our own walk, and then we concluded with a bit of a shop in the retail section before leaving. Our tickets to the Breakfast with the Birds meant that we could also come back once more for free, which was a great offer, but we didn’t take it up. We had much more sight-seeing to do!

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Summary: A great experience for kids and bird-lovers alike, and quite informative too. Eating and being in the same room as the birds is an interesting concept, so I think this is one you have to do for something a bit different and memorable.

Mossman Gorge – If you were looking for paradise on earth, this is where you would find it. In particular, in the swimming hole within Mossman Gorge.

But what… ‘Hole?’ ‘Swimming Hole?’ That is the worst description I have ever heard to describe the beauty I came across that day there. And yet, that is how it was described to me. ‘Hole’ is nothing close to, nowhere near enough a word to describe this paradise. In fact, a hole is as far away a description to describe this paradise as literarily possible (did I just make up a word?) Here are some photos (which do no justice to the real thing):

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We came to the Mossman Gorge centre, having heard about the ‘swimming hole’ there, with that Rainforest being the one we chose because quite simply, it wasn’t too far from our resting point, and we wanted to make the most of our time. In another trip, we might do the Daintree as well (as well as the Mossman again!) but this trip we had to be time-efficient. At the centre, where there is a retail shop, café, and plenty of walkers refuelling or getting ready to set off walking around the rainforest, we purchased a ticket to board the bus that took us into the heart of the Rainforest, which was about a 5-10 minute drive. Many people did this too, coming with towels… Hmmm. The ticket specifically said “NO SWIMMING!”

We had no idea where we were going as we arrived at the destination, but we exited the bus and followed the towel-holders into the rainforest, amidst towering trees and walking on plank-like bridges. The lady at the retail shop had told me it was a minute’s walk to the swimming hole, and yet it was more like 5. Difficult only because I was carrying a tired baby girl in my arms.

But she sure woke up when we got there.

In the gentle slide as the earth dipped down towards the water’s entrance, there were people everywhere: amidst trees far back, along this sloping slightly muddy path, and then, in and amongst the beautiful and pristine waters. It ranged from people decked out in swimwear and the tiniest of bikinis, to people who had like us, not been prepared for an all-in-body-water experience, and had just come with shorts and thongs.

It was magical. Truly mesmerising. I took off baby girl’s dress and let her immerse herself in just her singlet. What the hell. She only had the best time of her life (well one of, we are pretty cool parents). I was happy I had on my high shorts, and took off my thongs, wading in the cool water up to my knees. We stood. We watched. We breathed. We took in everything, and I was moved to tears.

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Everyone who was there, was doing just as we were. Just being. All these people, ranging from the littlest of tots to the oldest grand-dads, were there, with accents from all over the world, and they were, just still in the water, wading or relaxing from a distance, and taking in the beauty that is Mossman Gorge.

And you know what I felt in that moment? I felt so damn proud to be Australian. This amazing country of ours had a rainforest and a special slice of paradise that people from all over were coming to see. I felt so blessed, and I still do. I think what made the moment even more special was the fact that we had come not expecting anything – all I thought we would do is wade in the water. That’s it. We waded alright. But we stepped into precious beauty and untold magic when doing so. It gave me chills, and when I think about it, I still get goosebumps.

Summary: If you can’t tell from my short essay on Mossman Gorge – GO THERE. Your children will love it, and so will you. And yes, there are signs and things that say ‘do not swim’… so I’m not telling you or endorsing you to swim. Just use your damn common sense. (If you see a fin or tentacles or jagged bits popping up through the water, run).

This place will remain in my heart forever more.

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4 Mile Beach – Another find. I said Mossman Gorge is like paradise on earth, right? Well if you’re looking for heaven on this planet, you need not go any further than down Macrossan street until you hit water. And then just thank me later.

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This was another unexpected ‘Wow’ moment. I think we had had many difficult moments with a tired and under-slept baby girl, so to not know how great it would be only to then discover that this beach was unbelievably unreal, was another very happy moment for all.

I was told by many people before coming to Port Douglas that you cannot swim in their waters due to creepy water creatures. I thank God that I did not listen to any of those people. I mean, we got accommodation with a pool in case, but still, I’m so happy we did it our way.

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See that? That is netting. It stretched fairly wide, meaning it kept out all nasties – crocs, jellyfish and sharks! Those were the creatures actually listed on a board at the beach, advising swimmers to beware. So if you want to have a pleasurable swimming experience, possibly the nicest of your life, then go ahead, swim safely within the large net. But if you like to live on the edge with risk of being stung/bitten/eaten, then by all means, BE MY GUEST.

Swimming in the netting did by no way diminish our swimming experience. It was clean, it was safe, and the water was exactly the same as the water that wasn’t protected by nets – just without the scare factor. Oh, did I mention this?

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28 degrees my friends. Read it and weep.

I loved this beach, and my only regret is that we didn’t have more beach days. We spent about 3 hours here, getting here early on a Tuesday morning before 9, grabbing an umbrella’d chair to leave our stuff (you need to pay though, it gives you a few hours) and then soaking up the incredible Port Douglas Sun, Surf and Sand.

My repetitive thought during our time there? ‘Take it in, take it in, take it in…remember this moment.’

I don’t need to sell you anymore on it, do I? Just in case:

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Summary: Go to 4 Mile Beach. Parents and children alike will LOVE it.

 

Calypso Half-Day Great Barrier Reef Tour – We had really wanted to see some of the Great Barrier Reef, but neither hubbie or I being scuba divers or snorkelers or having even tried it before in any capacity, we wanted a beginners version. We ended up going with Calypso only because our first choice, travelling to and spending a day at Quicksilver’s platoon, was booked out. With Calypso there was a half-hour boat ride to an island where there was either the choice of taking a glass-bottom boat ride to see the coral and underwater creatures, or do some snorkelling around the island. The option of either or with no real emphasis on having to snorkel, sounded great to novices such as us.

We had a bit of a ‘misunderstanding,’ we’ll call it, on trying to book the Calypso half-day tour. They had cancelled on us a previous day due to choppy winds, which means the boat does not go out and there is no tour. Our hotel owners advised that we should just arrive at their offices nearby where the boats are docked, the morning of when we wanted to go, because at least then we would be able to know if we could go. Booking in advance didn’t seem to help any extra, because we could just as easily be cancelled on. This was advised by both hotel management and apparently, Calypso too.

We went on Tuesday morning, the day before we were meant to jet off back to Melbourne. I ran into the office to buy tickets, while hubbie waited with baby girl in the car. Upon running in and seeing other people come in with tickets, I asked if we could book the half-day tour for that morning, only to be told by a girl behind the counter that they were all booked out for that session. I despondently asked if they had an afternoon availability, and she said they were completely booked out for that one too. Their next availabilities were for the following day, but knowing we would be on a plane the next day, I walked away.

Hubbie was there as I left the store, having come in with baby girl, being sure that I had already bought the tickets. After telling him what the lady had told me, he got fired up. He went in, asking the same question of the girl, and when he got the same answer, he told her that we had in fact been told to come in last second because Calypso had cancelled on us the day before. If we couldn’t book in advance due to fear of cancellation anyway, but we couldn’t rock up last minute either because everything was booked out, then how the hell could we organise this freaking tour?

(He didn’t say that word for word, but that way sounds better).

You know what she said?

“There’s just been a cancellation for the afternoon tour, I can book you on that one.”

This, literally 2 minutes after she told me there was no availability for the afternoon tour.

I paid, and we left. And all was good. After all we ended up at 4 Mile Beach that morning and had the most incredible time. We had lunch, and then went off to do this bloody tour.

Look, in a nutshell, it was alright. Upon embarking we took off our shoes, and were encouraged to just get a scuba suit and flippers, because ‘what the hell, you might as well.’ This actually excited us as we had never snorkelled, but one of the instructors implied he could show one of us while the other was with baby girl, and vice versa.

I admit I was a bit scared but excited. I was going to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef?!

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The boat ride up was beautiful. Travelling all that distance, going through all that water at high-speed, was amazing. This was a boat ride to the low isles. Basically I think that means that this is the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef, you’re not in the thick of the coral and all the underwater fish as if you would be if you travelled further in. It was still beautiful. We listened to instructions on board about how to wear your equipment and operate it, and it appeared we were the only ones who were there primarily to see the glass-bottom boat, apart from one other couple, but even they snorkelled in the water later, a little.

The glass-bottom boat was ok. We saw a few things, and I still enjoyed it, but I really think you need to be in the midst of the Great Barrier Reef to see anything really good. I wasn’t in complete awe or anything dramatic like that. Upon completion we went back to where the main boat had docked, wondering if now someone could show us how to scuba. There was an American girl instructor, a guy also her age instructing, and an older, perhaps 40 year-old instructor. He had been our tour-guide on the glass-bottom boat as the rest of our group went scuba diving off the main boat and towards the island. We hadn’t actually docked at the small island for some reason, I can’t remember why but there seemed to be a genuine reason for it. The guy who had implied he could show us to scuba, suddenly decided that he and this American chick would now jump on the glass-bottom boat and take it as a pair to the island, because they wanted to try and get some photos of a turtle or something. And then they were off, clearly with their own personal intentions, and Hubbie reckons his intentions were extremely personal, saying he obviously had the hots for the US chick and wanted to go alone with her. Leaving the 40 year-old instructor with us.

This instructor was good. He was just shitty. You could tell. He was shitty that the two young ones had left, leaving him on board the main boat with Hubbie, me, baby girl and another couple. The guy from the other couple was more confident heading out into the water, whereas the girl stayed back, closer to the boat. They had both at least scuba dived before. We hadn’t. We had been told by the young instructor that we could watch him. He went off because his head was leading him. But not his top one.

The older instructor gave us tips here and there, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was shitty, trying to be professional. I don’t blame him really. Everyone else was off either scuba diving and instructing the rest of the group, or cosying up and trying to get lucky with a colleague.

Both hubbie and I, at various times, with a few half-arsed tips from the 40 year-old instructor, jumped into the water, staying close to the boat, dunking our heads in and trying to breathe through the breathing apparatus. That was not bad, it was the water flooding into the part protecting our nose which made it difficult. It was a few minutes at best, but we could still say “We snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef!”

I was a bit disappointed that no one had taken the time to show us properly – they certainly had ample opportunity, but were busy making personal plans or were just upset. I didn’t want to focus on it, seeing as everything else about where we were was amazing, but even the girl from the other couple whispered to me later that Quicksilver’s tour of the Reef was much better, especially being a beginner. She had been on that one before, being a not-so-confident scuba diver herself, and said it was far superior to this Calypso tour. I told her we had tried to book but we were too late! Hearing her thoughts, and also criticism of the way some things were done there, only confirmed to me that there were many parts of this tour that could be improved upon.

Very small provisions were offered after all of that, some were free like fruit, and some payable like alcohol. The ride back to the docks was a quiet one, everyone happy to watch the surf spray up from beneath us, taking in the beautiful scenery that is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and getting decent colour in the hot afternoon sun.

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Summary: I enjoyed the experience and the location – the tour itself with Calypso, not so much. Many things could be improved upon, for example the professionalism. It was $120 per person, so there was value for money… but nowhere in the brochures did it say ‘Expert snorkelers only!’ so it wasn’t too much to ask for a little assistance for snorkeller virgins such as ourselves. Fortunately with baby girl being 2, she got in for free. It was a 2-5pm tour, and there is also a morning one, starting about 7ish.

If you don’t want to spend the whole day snorkelling, or out at the Reef, and you have some clue as to how to snorkel, well maybe you won’t mind the Calypso tour. That’s the only way I would recommend this tour, if you fulfil those above requirements. Otherwise, based on our personal experiences, I would NOT recommend it. Plus, I didn’t mention that the guy who was chasing the US chick was also arrogant. Just saying.

If you can spare a whole day at the Great Barrier Reef, and whether you are experienced or not, I believe Quicksilver’s trip to their Platoon where you spend the day there, is the best place to go. It’s the one I’d be recommending, and I haven’t even been, but I will, next time we go. Just book it in advance!

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So concludes our Port Douglas trip in a rather large nutshell. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions for anyone wanting some more information about any part of the trip, so please drop me a line if you plan on visiting this part of the world in your near future.

And if you weren’t planning on going to Port Douglas, I hope my experiences have inspired you to perhaps give this tropical paradise a go at some point, or maybe it will motivate you to seek out your own version of paradise, whatever or wherever that may be 🙂 Happy travelling.

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What (Aussie) Christmas means to me, my love

Sunny days and leafy trees

sprawled out in the yard on lounge chairs

squeals of laughter from the park children

the squeak of Mum and Dad’s backyard swing.

Prawn platters, Fruit pavlova

three courses and constant food in between

Ham is not the star – everything is

and it all goes down well with a glass (or few) of champers.

Flowy dresses and bows in tresses

the kids run barefoot on the grass

we can show some leg and we don’t care

Summer, holidays, carefree, go together.

Annoying things too, like crawling ants and invading-space flies

tightly-wound presents with ribbon, all screwed up

but this is the miniscule list I hold

for this oh-so-Merry day.

Balmy nights, revved up cars

light until past 9pm

cannot sleep, but not just for Santa

for waiting ain’t easy when it’s pushing 20 at midnight.

Eating drinking memory making

What do you talk about with those you love?

Why everything! And now let’s make some plans

about how we’ll take on the world together.

 

Hot sand replaces stinging ice

sunnies sit meandering instead of wrapped-around scarves

we still rug up on Christmas Eve

to our loved ones for warmth, but not heat.

Carols may sing of snow,

Santa may be in his jolly suit,

cards will show reindeer, eggnog, fireplaces

and the pine trees are not native at this time of year.

But those are idealistic visions

of a Faraway Place

a dream where one day I will be, and see, and touch

and live in reality.

My memories here are of sun, of outdoor fun,

sitting outside and making memories with loved ones

My Aussie Christmas

is the one I love the most.

 

(The above was inspired by a conversation I had with a work colleague about our different Christmas memories, since his ones stem from living in the UK. He found it odd that the Christmas we celebrate is so different from the one depicted in the songs we sing and the cards we send out. But like I said, faraway place 🙂 )

 

Happy Monday

As wrecked as I now am, ironically from the happiness of the day, I felt it ever so important to share in the joy and express why and how today was a ‘good news day.’

Because you can never have too much positivity.

It all started when I drove in to work, and found a park, in a really busy area where it’s usually really hard to find a spot at that time of morning. Lucky Tick.

I picked up a coffee and got into work before starting time. Soon after I had my yearly performance review with my boss, and was very pleased to hear she was very happy with me. I was appreciated, and they were glad to have me back, even in a part-time role. It’s always nice to hear that you’re wanted and appreciated. Job satisfaction Tick and Tick.

I caught up with a friend, who was now in a serious relationship with the guy she had liked for about 2 years. Hearing of how well things were going for her, made me so happy. I love stories like that. People who are meant to be, ending up together. She thanked me for helping her not lose it over that time, and for helping her ‘persevere.’ Awww shucks. Love and Happiness Tick. Dreams DO come true. You CAN get the guy!

I then got a random phone call from a health care business on my side of town. A former work colleague had put me down as a referee on her resume, and the place she had recently applied to was calling to get the low down on her! Being the fantastic person that she is, it was no problem to speak highly of her, tell them I missed having someone like her around in my current workplace, and that she was a very happy, friendly, talkative, yet hard-working and loyal employee. I messaged her later today, and she said she got the job! She had been looking for so long, and for so long I had wished there was something I could do to help her. And unwittingly, I totally did!

Job and Friend Helping Tick!

Then I happened across a programme at work, pretty much based on the changing face of Australia and how we have become the nation we are today through our people and achievements. I was proud to again be witness to the remarkable feat Cathy Freeman achieved at the Sydney Olympics, when she ran the 400 metre sprint and won, under the intense pressure and scrutiny of the world. Seeing the vision of her excel and succeed, amidst such public and also personal pressure, of being in the position to realise her dreams and became an Olympic champion, was truly motivational and touching. Inspirational Tick.

A horribly bittersweet story came next, of the Australian team that were one of the countries that had partaken in ‘Operation Babylift,’ where in 1975 they tried to rescue babies from orphanages in South Vietnam as a result of the war at that time. Although most of the footage of this event was re-enacted, seeing the images and hearing the stories of the people who fought against terrifying odds to take sick, close to dying children on a plane, crying and scared and set out in cardboard boxes, and nurturing them until they set foot on Australian soil, was truly moving. I struggled with great difficulty to fight the sobs as I watched one scene, of a woman run towards the bus which was taking the Australian team with the orphaned babies to their ready bound-for-Australia plane, begging them to take her child.

Crying, and begging, for them to take her baby. She wanted her baby to be saved, to be safe, in light of the harsh and sad reality that she, her baby’s mother, may never come out of the war alive. She couldn’t come with them. Being a mother, this scene was incredibly hard to watch, and it was only a re-enactment. Albeit a true story, nonetheless.

The happy ending out of it all, is that all the crew and the orphaned babies made it back to Australia alive. In sum, approximately 3000 babies were saved as a result of ‘Operation Babylift.’ And seeing that many of the adopted babies had grown and had families of their own in this great country of ours, made me so happy, made me so bloody proud to be part of a country that was part of such an important humanitarian effort. I am so, so proud to be Australian. Heart-tugging and patriotic TICK, TICK, TICK.

And then on a completely different, and lighter note: I came home and found a save-the-date card had been sent to us for an upcoming wedding of a really old friend of mine. I love weddings, and you know life is good when you have great things to celebrate. Celebration Tick. Milk it when you can.

I shared my ‘good news day’ on facebook, and funnily have had cousins messaging me asking if I’m pregnant again. No, for the record, I’m not. I’m enjoying my red wine too much at the moment to be ready for that again. But it was lovely to hear from people on the other side of town, whether 30 minutes away, 60 minutes away, or on the other side of the world (as occurred when my cousin in Germany messaged me!) Family Tick.

It’s been a great day. It’s been a great Monday. Today has been somewhat of an exceptional example, yet I think the lesson here is that you can find good, no matter how small, in every day.

Helping other makes you happy.

Sharing with others makes you happy.

Being rewarded makes you happy.

I forgot the best part of the day. Laughing with baby girl on the couch, as I blew air into her face, and she exploded wet raspberries onto mine.

Motherly, Tick. 🙂

Life is good. Life is great. Let’s not forget that.

O Come, All Ye Thickened Cream

I came home from work yesterday, to the beautiful smile of baby girl and the expectant and relieved glances of my parents. They love their bonding times with her when they babysit, but after entertaining baby girl for 11 hours, I know they need to just go home and relax.

I quickly went into the kitchen to drop off my stuff and organise a few things, to find a container of thickened cream sitting on the bench. I touched it, and it was still cold.

I asked my parents about it, and Mum said she’d been walking up and down the street with baby girl when an older woman caught up to her carrying her groceries. She told my Mum she’d bought an extra lot of thickened cream, and offered it to my Mum. In my Mum’s humorous words, she just wanted “to be rid of the woman,” looking after baby girl and all, so she took it.

I could see it definitely hadn’t been opened: it still had that ring part fastened underneath the lid. But still, I said to them “don’t use it.”

My Mum had wanted to see if I in fact wanted it, even though she was going to advise me of the same thing – not to use it. We had a brief to-and-fro about how it’s best to not take things from strangers, and how it’s better not to risk your health than save $2 before I promptly threw the entire thing in the bin.

This however, made me sad. Maybe 20, 30 years ago, you would have trusted the woman walking down the street who offered you an extra item from her grocery bag. You wouldn’t have questioned its authenticity, or her motive. It would have been a thoughtful and kind gesture from a neighbour, a generous and impromptu token absent of any ill intentions or malice.

Instead. Instead we’re living in a world where you could go into a coffee shop to buy your daily caffeine fix in between work, and suddenly be in the middle of a hostage situation, with the eyes of the world fixed intently on the café you are in waiting to see if you’re going to come out alive.

That was the terrible reality of yesterday. A man, a lone wolf, using God’s name to justify his unearthly and inhumane actions to hold many people hostage in a cafe on a beautiful Monday morning in Sydney. I, as many others, was glued to the screen, watching the rolling coverage unfolding in Martin Place live on TV. I kept it on up until midnight, in the meantime thinking of how fortunate I was to be safe and warm, in my home, with Hubbie and baby girl sleeping peacefully upstairs. I knew where they were and they, in their dreams, knew where I was.

I thought of the poor hostages. They were not safe. They were not in their homes. While I was getting ready for bed, they were experiencing anxiety and terror like never before. They were wondering if they were going to ever see their families again. I put myself in their shoes for a moment, and felt the stark horror of their situation. I thought briefly, of how horrible it would be, to wonder if I were ever going to see my husband or daughter again. It made me feel so, so sad, and also so sick. I hoped there was not a Mother being held hostage. Not to say that a Mother was any more worthy than another individual, more underserving of being a hostage, but I could only think that, because I could relate. Someone to separate a Mother from her children… it just breaks my heart.

I went to bed, praying that when I woke up, they would have captured the selfish bastard keeping these innocent people hostage.

As soon as I got up this morning, I got baby girl, and I carried her downstairs. I turned on the TV immediately. I gasped at the headline I saw: “Three dead as siege ends.”

I almost cried. I did, when I heard one of the victims was a Mother, of three young children. The other victim was the café manager, and the third was not a victim. He had brought it all on himself, so that was expected.

How was this incident, any different to any other that had befallen innocent victims? Why was I hurting so much? Why did the thought of going out and doing my weekly grocery shop with baby girl make me feel sick? Why did the thought of finishing up my Christmas shopping this week suddenly seem so insignificant?

There had been fear and terror in other parts of the world. People being held hostage, acts of terrorism, and I can’t believe this word is even in existence in our day and age, but, beheadings. I had felt sadness, and anger, and bewilderment when these things had happened, but not like I experienced today. Was it because it was happening on our front door? Our neighbour, Sydney, being rocked by such tragic events? Was it the simple act of going into a café that threw me? A simple task so known to me, so familiar, a part of my routine while out and about and at work… to think, something you do so, so often, could become the last thing you do. Was it all of these things? The patriotism I felt ran deep. I think to live in Australia, being of such easy-going and friendly nature, all of this just didn’t feel right. This wasn’t meant to happen. It was never meant to happen, anywhere, but here in Aus it felt truly out of place.

I went and I did my grocery shopping. And at the beginning of my trip, I went past the Santa photo set-up where kids line-up excitedly to tell Santa what presents they want this year before smiling happily before the camera.

Instead, I found a primary school choir setting up, their teacher coaching them while Santa ran around passing gifts out to the children watching on the sidelines with their parents. I did my usual bit with baby girl, exclaiming excitedly “look, there’s Santa! Can you see who that is? Wave!” Santa spotted us and a few others as newbies to the scene and came and gave us a gift. I was so happy, watching baby girl receive the present and smile shyly at Santa. Meanwhile the choir started up their rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” to photo flashes going off in front of them, Santa continuing her trek through the crowd,
spreading joy with her generosity and also by posing for photos and chatting to people.

I watched the scene, and listened to the school kids (their correct pronouncement of “Sing in Exultation”), getting very teary eyed. While Sydney mourned, here we all were getting into the festive spirit. Santa was in full swing attending to every single child and baby there, carols were in the air, and everyone was smiling and laughing. It was a beautiful sight that I had unexpectedly walked into.

We soon walked off, and I had to pull over to the side and gather myself. I felt like crying my eyes out, sobbing in fact. I was overwhelmed. I was so touched by the display I had come across, and yet was sad for the victims and their grieving families in Sydney. More than anything, I was happy that my faith and hope, though not absent had been wavering, was now fully restored. Australians are a beautiful people, and we have an unwavering, fighting spirit. Terror may try to come here, but anything that tries to shake us will only make us stronger.

I am so proud to live in this lucky country. I am so, so inspired by the genuine reaching out of humanity I have witnessed recently. Yes, there is bad in this world. But there will always be more good. The willingness to keep going and keep up, keeping positive and helping out your fellow human, will always win out.

I hope, that one day soon, we can accept some thickened cream from our neighbours. Just because.

R.I.P. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

The sweets aren’t too Fara-way on Lygon

Brunetti
380 Lygon Street Carlton

It’s an institution. Even in its pre-renovated days back in Faraday Street, despite the assumption of space it was always cramped. Brunetti has now moved to its new home within Lygon Court but still, despite the high ceilings and long passageway it now inhabits, with separate dining areas and eating experiences, the place is packed.

It will always be packed, Brunettis. That’s the other thing; to those who really know it, it’s Brunettis – as any self-respecting Aussie knows, an establishment only becomes truly endearing after you change it to its plural. Thus, Brunettis is the place that many, many people have been going to for years now, and it’s much adored by all. Venue change and all, I think it’s only gotten better.

It was packed when we went for Tuesday lunch during the school holiday period in October. Though it started off with ample space, by the time we’d finished our mains and had moved onto cake and coffee, the place was, as Hubbie would say “jamming.”

We’ve been to Brunettis heaps of times before, as it coincidentally and fortunately was off our favourite restaurant strip of this great city. We’d go out to eat, and finish by stopping by to salivate at the cakes and take some home for later. It would be a Saturday night, there’d be a line of people outside just waiting for a free table to open up, with the mass crowd inside the restaurant waiting to be served coffee and cake reminiscent of something you’d see in a mosh pit. I think even back then there was a section devoted to savouries, well within the venue away from the sugar-seeking crowds, but having never gone to Brunettis for something salty I couldn’t say for sure. It’s definitely there now.

I must admit, although the idea of so many petite and beautiful looking sculptures of pastry and sugar was always so appealing, it was never a really truly ‘wow’ experience for me. Sure I still wanted to come back and experience more of the cakes in the display, and to this day I still want to buy one of those $40 cakes to take home and eat over a week, but there were never any heavenly explosions in my mouth. I was really keen to give it a good go and be proven that these mouth-watering delights do exist. We hadn’t been to Brunettis in ages, and hadn’t experienced it in its new home, so when the opportunity arose Hubbie
and I went with baby girl and MIL into town, to check out the new digs.

They’ve really gone all fancy-schmancy. I loved it. We were having our mains right near a black and white photo of what looked like Sophia Loren standing over a multi-tiered wedding cake. If anyone can confirm this is Sophia, please let me know (I can’t find the image anywhere on google). The theme in the new venue is that of modern Italian opulence, with some great old reminders of yester-year like those awesome B&Ws. They have their cake display up one end of the shop, followed by the coffee-making team in a hub, much like it was before, followed by another sweet pastry section, then the savouries, with all the dining areas opposite, including a sectioned-off private dining area for the posher crowd in the far corner of the restaurant.

For lunch we shared the following:

Sopressa Roll, Ragu Arancini and Porcini Pizza

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I’m not a huge salami fan, but this roll was really yummy and fresh, so good. There was salami, peppers, artichokes, and it really felt like an antipasto party in my mouth. The Arancini was cheesy and saucy, and the Porcini Pizza was interesting with its choice of mushrooms, but still great. We easily cleaned it up between the three of us.

Because we were sitting under Sophia near the savoury section, we then decided to move closer to the sweet stuff and change locations, and fortunately Hubbie found a great table right between the coffees and cakes on the other side of the room.

What I also like about the place is that it’s brimming with waiters, but they’re not so focused on their task of clearing tables/delivering food that they won’t stop and NOT look annoyed when you ask them a question. For example I stopped one waiter to ask him if I could get some extra share plates, and despite the fact he was about to pick up and balance several precarious looking dishes, he warmly told me I was more than welcome to take more. Another waitress happily located a high chair for us, and another waiter who looked like his name would be Giovanni, young boy recently come to Australia from Italy to make a better life for himself, having gotten a job at Brunettis due to ‘family connections’ (I’ve got the plot all lined up), who was walking by clearing tables, very nicely said in his fine Italian accent that he would find us a high chair (we’d since moved tables) and came back after his search to happily provide us with one. Despite the busy-ness, another waitress played “hi” with baby girl (she is waving at everyone at the moment – baby girl not the waitress), and it just made me, us, feel good. I could tell all the wait staff are very on the ball when it comes to clearing things away – get people out, so more people can come in. Despite that, they’re not pushy, or trying to get rid of you, they’re just being efficient and making sure tables are cleared so new customers can sit down without rubbish at their tables. And in between I’m happy to report, they’re absolutely lovely.

After much internal debate and soul-searching, we all decided on three desserts with our coffee. I had the White and Dark Chocolate Mousse (pictured here with my cappuccino)

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Hubbie had the French Custard Tart

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and MIL had a chocolate mousse type cake, but we have no idea what it is, so we’ll just refer to it as the dark brownie-looking one in the photo with a cream bomb on top

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All the desserts were great. I think it was a tie between MILs and mine, as I tasted Hubbie’s and though I love custard, it was good, but that was it. Mine was velvety goodness, and I was so glad I went down the mousse path. I felt the prices were really decent for the inspirational creations on offer, but again I think they can definitely afford the prices when they’re producing all those cakes and savouries in such high volume.

That was the fear I had with Brunettis; because they do so much of a variety of food, both sweet and savoury, I wonder whether they are doing too much, but not doing anything well. That’s my thought whenever I come across an establishment that has too much to offer, but falls short of excellence with any of its products. Hubbie and I were talking about this just the other day, and referring to a local hangout which I won’t divulge the name of, other to say that they offer pizza, pasta, steaks, other mains, a wide variety of breakfast, dessert, and drinks, and each time I’ve been there in the past I have not been wowed, in any, ANY measure, being sorely disappointed on many an occasion. We refuse to go there now, and that’s where my thoughts went when I was observing Brunettis. However, that is NOT, definitely not the case there. The savoury was so delicious, and our cakes so scrumptious, that even though the mousse I had wasn’t that 100% piece of heaven I was searching for, it came close, and I have no doubt with more cake-testing journeys there, I will find it 😉

Food: 8/10. Really fresh, and some of those cakes… OMG. Just look at the case. Go on, look. I dare you not to buy anything, or at least salivate, just a little.

Coffee: 7/10. The coffee was strong, to Hubbie’s liking, and I found it not too bad, though I think I prefer my caps smooth. Still good though.

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Ambience: Cosy yet bustling, modern yet European vibe. It’s a really nice blend of cultures, and how could it not be on Lygon street?

Staff: Warm and friendly, though we had a bit of a ‘what the?’ moment when Hubbie asked the coffee staff for a jug of boiling water for baby girl’s food. We had to leave our food in the jug at their bench, rather than bring the water to our table, I assume for ‘safety’ reasons. That’s all well and good, just inconvenient, and terribly annoying. When I got up to get her food, another waitress said to me “do you want to take the whole thing to the table?” (as in, the boiling water we weren’t initially allowed to take to our table). Otherwise, they were great.

People: A lot of families because of the school holidays, older couples, and friends meeting for coffee/lunch. I’d say on the weekend it would draw a much younger crowd, if my memory of old Saturday night’s does not evade me. 

Price: The savouries were expense. $30 for the three dishes we had, and the pasta menu I perused the $$ were about the same and that was for singular dishes; unless you’re a high-flying businessman, I don’t know if you’d be paying that much on your lunch break, but still, I wanna go back and have it another day, only because our dishes were so fresh, I can’t imagine how beautiful their pasta would taste.
The desserts were more acceptable. Considering the visually stunning creations, quite appropriately priced. Our three desserts and coffees came to about $20, and then I just had to take a few more home in their very nice Brunetti box:

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And five of those beauties came to just under $17. Let’s just say I’m happy that I don’t work near Lygon street, because I’d be spending all my money there and expanding my waistline.

Advice: Go when you think it won’t be busy, and the crowd will be just manageable. During high-peak times, on weekends you’ll have to wait for a table, or stalk someone like you would in a shopping centre car park and wait ‘til they knock the last bit of their coffee back before lunging on their table. There are plenty of seats, however there will never be enough at Brunettis.

In a nutshell: It’s a Lygon Street right-of-passage, and until you’ve gone, you’ll never know how good it is to look at so many cakes and want to try them all at once, shovelled into your mouth. But that would be a culinary injustice to this place, so you’ll just have to do what I’m going to do, and go back, bit by bit, and try EVERY SINGLE CAKE they have there, ONE AT A TIME.

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