There is a house I pass on my way home from my usual grocery shop, that I’ve noticed for its decorations.
I’ve noticed it, because it stands out in a street where quite a few neighbours have gone to some kind of effort in decorating their front of house for Christmas. Matching red bows on the fence. Perfect lights hung across the roof. Festive Christmas characters on the lawn.
This house, has none of those. It has tinsel – two colours – green and red, and they’ve been strung throughout the beige picket fence.
Not in a perfect, deliberate, every 5th stump kind of way. More in a mismatched, let’s put it here, let’s put it there… maybe there, kinda way.
I noticed this house early on. And then, something about it, HIT ME.
It made me teary.
This house, this home, the people within it… I can guarantee you without knowing them personally, that these people are the embodiment of what Christmas is about.
Because the extent or magnitude of your Christmas decorations has nothing to do with how much you love it. Whether you spent $1000 in flashing lights, and 6 hours of your Sunday putting things up…
It actually means nothing. Sure, it does mean you love Christmas.
It also means you have two things. Time, and money.
The person who spent $5 on tinsel and 10 minutes on a Tuesday night to put it up, they ALSO, love Christmas.
And it tugs my heart so much, because they either don’t have the time, they don’t have the money, or maybe even both, and yet despite this, in a street full of so many perfectly placed and prettied Christmas decorations, they still put up their tinsel.
They still showcase their love for Christmas, with what little they have.
THAT is true love. That there, is what it’s all about.
I still smile at the fancy lights and decorations I come across at night, as baby girl wows in the car.
But this house right here…
It hits different. It hits in the heart. 💖
Don’t lose sight of what’s important at Christmas time. 🙏🎄
Cafes that stop making coffee, WAY before their closing time.
This one is WAY serious, more so because we are still in lockdown.
We have a local cafe that we go to, and we love it because all we need to do is walk there. There is a park nearby as well, and if you go a tiny bit further, you can even see the water.
But ever since lockdowns began last year, their trading hours have permanently changed to the closing time of 2pm.
That is such a sad thing for us, because we have our afternoon coffee at 3pm. Sigh. 😒
Anyway. The other day we noticed the signs out the front from the new kids on the block. Not even a year old, there’s a new cafe, just doors down from our dependable one. Its sign says, it closes at 3pm.
We headed on down the other weekend, all 3 of us, to grab an arvo coffee and try out these new guys.
We would give them a shot.
The whole time, Hubbie was like, “let’s get there quick, they’re gonna close soon.”
We were minutes away at 2:30pm. “No way!” I said.
We walked in literally at 2:33pm.
It was open! There were cakes and really delicious pastries and pies. We got excited ordering, and then another woman came over to the coffee machine right up behind the front counter, and removed the tray from it.
Hubbie was immediate. “Oh, are you not making coffees anymore?”
Their faces told us EVERYTHING.
But we had just chosen sweet things. There was silence. The coffee machine woman paused. Then after what seemed like an eternity of nobody saying anything, she said with extreme reluctance.
“Ok. I’ll make the coffees.”
WHAT THE ACTUAL F$#K????
It was probably 2:35pm at that stage. A full 25 minutes before closing time. The lady who had been getting our treats tried to smooth things over, saying “oh, we’ve had a quiet afternoon which is why we cleaned up earlier…”
Yeah, sure lady, then change your sign if you wanna do that. Don’t advertise ‘closing time at 3pm.’
Instead try a sign that says ‘closing and cleaning the coffee machinewhenever the hell we feel like it.’
I tell you, the anger was rife and growing the more time wore on. That day. The next day. Throughout the week. Every time I thought of that coffee lady’s face as she begrudgingly decided to grant us some caffeine and provide us the opportunity to give them a chance, I just wanted to scream.
We will not be going back.
You know this happens a lot. So many times, if a cafe is closing, they will make it their mission to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible if you decide to order a coffee (takeaway remember!) in their last 30 minutes of operating time.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened to us. In fact, it is so common, that when we ordered coffee at The Butchers Daughter Cafe in Mornington within the last 15 minutes of their day, the girl there told us so surprisingly:
“We are closing soon so don’t mind the tables and chairs, but please take your time and enjoy the coffee.”
OMG, what? Massive points earned, MASSIVE!
I recently came across a social media post displaying another cafe’s opening hours during lockdown. Have a look:
Note, coffee off at 1:55. 5 minutes before closing time! What a realistic time to stop making coffees! I don’t expect them to take my order at closing time, hell no… but 25 minutes earlier?
A coffee does not take long to make as these guys know, yet begrudged face lady can’t put on a smile long enough to make an impression on new customers!
Tsk tsk tsk. I am so angry, woof, I could name and shame SO easily.
But I won’t. Instead if you DM me, I’ll tell you that way. 😉
In January of 2019, we found ourselves in the most beautiful of places.
We found ourselves, in a truly secluded place.
So secluded in fact, that we had our own beach.
It was amazing, yes. Having so much freedom and space to roam as we wanted on a mini, mid-Summer getaway, felt like heaven.
And then we missed civilisation terribly.
We realised that when we came home days later, and actually vowed not to travel anywhere ever again until we had explored our own patch of ocean along the entire coast, in FULL.
Nothing to do with our destination. But we had magical waters too. 😉
Anyhow. Halfway through our stay there, we had to get away from seclusion.
So we headed a fair way out of our quiet getaway town, to Portarlington.
Portarlington is a historic coastal town on the Bellarine Peninsula, over 20 kilometres from the city of Geelong, and also on the other side of the Port Phillip Bay, the waters we look out onto every day. We heard it had a fairly good mix of ethnicities, and so with that in mind, and a few restaurant names off the guide left to us in our holiday house, we headed over on a sunny Tuesday to see what would tickle our fancy.
Vineyards, vineyards, oh the vineyards we passed as we drove. So many.
(But we have vineyards too).
The views when we got there, oh the views!
(But we have views too).
Okay, calm down SmikG. Just enjoy the holiday and stop comparing damn it.
We ventured to some restaurants, sussing out the vibe (it’s ALL about the vibe) before deciding on Portarlington By the Bay.
Firstly, there seemed to be available tables. (Well they were, but you all know they can be – surprise surprise! – booked).
Secondly, although we hadn’t booked, the thickly-accented Italian waiter made a spot for us.
Thirdly… the spot was outside, with a great view.
Okay, okay, they win… a little bit.
The décor was very beachy European, with blue and white everywhere. Beach elements decorated the interior, paintings, key pieces… and the open doors inviting the indoor diners out, well it was all tied together very well.
I went fresh and light with a freshly squeezed OJ, while Hubbie started off with a Carlton Draught:
And then baby girl’s kids meal arrived earlier, as requested. Chicken schnitzel, chips and salad.
Ours was soon to follow. Hubbie literally followed suit, with his meal being exactly the same as baby girl’s… just larger:
And meanwhile I went in the direction of the sea, when I got a Seafood Napoli pasta.
OMG. Let’s not worry about their meals. Chicken, chips, yada yada yada.
The sauce in my meal was delicious. Seafood-y, but still with this rich and wholesome tasting home-made like red heaven that was heaped upon my pasta.
Yum yum yum.
I remember feeling, like really happy. Really content. I was like yep, this is how people feel when they are on top of the world.
Life is good.
The beach is across the road.
It is summer.
And I have this awesome plate of seafood pasta that is just singing to my soul.
As for the other two… they were happy. Baby girl was satisfied. Hubbie was satisfied, but also not overly impressed. He didn’t think it was the best chicken schnitzel he’d ever had. (It’s just a meal).
We decided to follow suit with some dessert. That meant another drink for Hubbie, whereas for me it was tiramisu…
And for baby girl that was ice cream.
Look, I wasn’t actually planning on dessert. It was all entirely baby girl’s idea (a 5 year-olds idea, really?) She had seen the ice cream case when we visited the loo at one stage, and from then, it was ALL OVER.
Sadly for her, there was one problem.
The strawberry ice cream she had picked, had pips.
You know how real strawberry ice cream, will like, have remnants of strawberries? Yeah well hers did too. But that wasn’t good enough.
5 years old remember?
So even though she had wanted this ice cream so bad, as delicious as it was, it had pips, and that was a big kid no-no.
How do I know it was delicious?
Guess who had to eat it?
On top of my deliciously creamy Tiramisu?
I couldn’t let it go to waste! No way. After eating most of my Tiramisu, Hubbie and I dug into her ice cream (you can’t waste ice cream, no way!)
We were now definitely full, and organised payment of the bill before we headed back into seclusion.
But we got a bit of a surprise when we received the bill. They had charged us a full adult’s meal in lieu of baby girl’s kids meal. I had to go up to the counter inside and explain the issue, before the bill was rectified…
They removed the extra adult meal completely! They didn’t even charge us the kids meal. So although it was a little hiccup, they more than made up for the bill error.
And back out towards the bay views we went, following the crystal blue waters until they led us to our abode.
Food: 8/10. Although the chicken was okay, the pasta was uber-fresh and wholesome, a la Italiana.
Coffee: N/A… this time 😉 Bay views should be appreciated from every angle, especially on a return visit.
Ambience: It was chilled, but sort of bustly too, with people in a generally great mood to enjoy the Summer vibes. There was a distinct tourist-y vibe too, and it did have a slight upmarket feel as well.
Staff: They were friendly, they did their job, and went above and beyond to rectify our billing error.
People: Families, groups of people, and quite a few tourists too. I wonder if we stuck out to them as they stuck out to us!
Price: Well, the ‘adjusted’ price was $106. The ‘charged’ price was $130, but then $24 was removed when we told them that baby girl didn’t in fact have an adult-sized gnocchi… so the real price? Somewhere in the middle.
Advice: Check the bill. You know this is general advice, check the bill wherever you go. I even check the bill after I’m done doing the grocery shopping and I go to the self-serve checkout too!
Secondly, in peak season, warm nights and weekends, it’s best to book ahead. The views are great and would be heavily fought after if not a Tuesday like when we went.
In a nutshell: After all my cheeky jibes of having the same on our side of the waters, I would be more than happy to go back to Portarlington. It is a truly terrific location that you should check out, and the pasta ain’t bad too. 😉 I need to sip a coffee watching those views, right? Need to tick that off on my dining list. All in all, I would be happy to go back, to the other side of the bay.
I ordered a delicious and creative school holiday treat this last week for baby girl.
Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie in Flinders has a huge collection of online shopping sweet treats for you to enjoy. From hampers to fondue and brownie at home kits, and school holidays at home kits, as well as all the other little delectable sugary goodnesses they create, you can rest assured this place has something to help push any lockdown blues far, far away.
I initially wanted the cookie making and decorating kit, but alas it was sold out for days since I couldn’t locate it. So I decided on the Australian Animal Chocolate Making Kit, along with a little treat of my own (a packet of salted caramel coated pistachios 🤭).
The kit was super easy to understand with clear instructions for each step, and every item was labelled so well, it really is the stuff of an OCD-lister’s dreams. 💖
The pack comes with 3 animal stencils with ingredients to make all 3… and they are decent sized too. Baby girl and I decorated them with lollies and chocolate, and the final result?
Wait, but the taste?
So creamy, rich, this is the chocolate of royalty. An absolute must-try for everyone.
As well as a super fun activity for your kids (or human-sized kids) to enjoy, just as much is it funny, especially after we were done piping the chocolate and ended up piping it into our mouths.
I was such a bad, bad mum, and baby girl loved it. 🙂
Do yourself a favour and grab a kit, or any of their chocolates to appreciate the silky smoothness of their amazing chocolate creations. They deliver to all over Australia, so anyone can try a taste of a proper chocolaterie!
Every so often you come across a realisation that makes you stop and think, and it literally blows your mind.
You discover yourself in a whole other way.
I came across a blog post on Instagram recently, by author Sally Hepworth. She had been interviewed on a podcast and had happily shared her list of no’s… that is, things she says a firm NO to, time and time again.
Her list was so surprising, so long, so wide and varied, that she was asked to share it again… the short version, I believe. 😮
Here are some (emphasis on ‘some’) of the insane things on her list that she says NO to:
Entering the school grounds of her kids for ANY reason
2. Cooking dinner
3. Remembering birthdays
4. Entertaining at her home (apart from her close friends, and then it’s only takeout 😮😮)
5. Talking on the phone (unless it’s work or an emergency)
7. Playing with her kids – not like park outings or play dates, she means more like hide and seek or dolls 😬
8. Going to the supermarket
I KNOW! MIND BLOWN, right?
I was freaking out, because firstly she has 3 kids. And secondly, I do all of those things, sometimes daily!
It must be said here that Sally has a very supportive husband who pretty much does all the things she doesn’t as she goes about supporting the family with her day-job, i.e. writing.
Nonetheless, it was an enlightening and thought-provoking piece, and it left me with the ultimate question…
What is on my ‘no’ list?
I went to Hubbie the next day, a little upset. I actually felt like I didn’t have much of a ‘no’ list! Sally was so badass, sure of herself, laying down rules and foundations, etc etc.
And Hubbie said to me “that’s not a bad thing!”
Awww. Trust him to make me feel better.
He assured me that nothaving a big no list was not bad. It meant I was easy going and chilled about things, and that was great in itself, just as Sally is awesome for setting her boundaries!
We can all be awesome, and are awesome… just in different ways. 😁
So, I must ask, and I bet you’re already wondering, counting, pondering… what is on your definitive ‘no’ list? This is the list that you are very clear-cut about, no umms, maybes, sometimes yes, sometimes no.
This is dead set, NO.
Now that’s not to say that you aren’t allowed to ever change your no list. In fact I would be a little disappointed if you didn’t change at least some through the years. That’s life, and we are always changing and evolving, shifting as we enter different life stages and come across new realisations.
Do you wanna know what’s on my list? (But you have to promise to share some of yours!)
Here’s my very small ‘no’ list, and I’ve been sitting on it for weeks now so I know it won’t get much longer, despite my hardest to be super badass 🤣
Ironing. It is overrated, time wasting, and I hate it. I admit, if I have to do it (pre-fancy occasion), I begrudgingly pull out the iron… but I curse the whole time, and still think it’s shit when I’m done.
Super high heels. Like, why would I want to risk killing myself, and buckling my toes in the process? And walking like a baby horse that’s just stood up for the first time?
The cold, and cold activities. The snow can wait for me, like all my life.
Sucking up to people. I physically can’t do it. I recoil. If you think you need to suck up to someone, news flash, you don’t, you just need them out of your life.
Coke. Never. Ever. I found my kindred spirit without meeting them in my uni days, when scrawled along the outside of a building I saw the graffitied words “coke is great toilet cleaner.” Now when I ask baby girl what coke is good for, she says happily “cleaning toilets.” Case closed.
Any messy activities baby girl engages in, like play doh, glitter, glue, paint… must have newspaper underneath, and must be supervised! (Not so much a ‘no’, as a ‘no buts’). I’ve even been known to set her up outside on sunny days, on the grass, just so I have less mess to deal with.
That’s it. That’s my minuscule list, but I guess looking over it I’m a little badass about it. 🤣 It’s really easy to go the easy route and start listing food and drinks you don’t eat, but that’s cheating a bit, and unless it’s something truly shocking, I don’t think it counts as one to put on the ‘no’ list.
I had to share this beautiful moment from earlier tonight, even if just so it’s stored away somewhere, a back-up against unreliable memories, worries and useless facts.
Baby girl and I were watching The Babysitters Club on Netflix. When it first came out I was excited: I thought it’d be a good thing to share with baby girl, and I could relive the book series I loved so much all those years ago.
It HAS been a good thing.
Watching a scene tonight between Dawn and her mother, baby girl turned to me lovingly, with a wistful look in her eye:
“Mama, when I grow up… I can’t wait to look after you.”
Before adding sweetly “now you tell me that when you grow up, you’ll look after me!”
Darling, I’m getting there. I’m still trying to ‘grow up,’ whatever that means. ❤
Of course it was, when two generations of girls were getting together to eat, drink, and then…
Okay so the little girls wouldn’t quite appreciate the satisfaction in the latter task just yet…
But it was never too early to expose them, right? 😉
A long overdue catch up is what had me catching up with my cousin, and our girls. My girl, and her girl.
Girls girls girls. 💖💖
It was mine and baby girl’s first time at Fountain Gate shopping centre. We had trekked the 40 or so minutes over, and upon walking through the centre’s doors discovered a whole lot of really awesome shopping options. 😍
But we weren’t there purely for the shopping. It was the lunch time catch up. We found my cousin and her little girl, and with my slightly bigger little girl, headed on over to Switch Café.
It was a Friday in Spring, and it was still and sunny, though there weren’t many people lunching out that day. Inside it was quiet, perhaps a bit more upmarket and reserved, with diners scattered here and there close to the entrance doors, while we opted for a more, shall you say, child-friendly spot.
Outside. Where we could make as much noise as we liked 😉
The menu was a bit fancier than your standard lunch fare, and that reflected in the restaurant’s atmosphere. A wide range of pizzas, salads and burgers accompanied by more traditional sit-down meals like roast chicken, fish and steak elevated it to a nicer than average lunch time option.
And then there was the dedicated kids menu. Always a massive plus when trying to decide, as options to adults for their brood is like sprinkles upon an ice cream for the kids.
When it came down to ordering, I went for the Crispy skin chicken breast – with a warm salad of potato, kaiserfleisch, red onion, roquette, roasted garlic & lemon mayo, red wine jus
Baby girl had the kids meal chicken schnitzel – chips & salad OR peas, corn and crispy potatoes (hers was the peas and corn option)
While my cousin got the Hawaiian pizza without pineapple.
Baby girl also opted for apple juice with her meal, which made her tummy all the more happy, you can be assured.
So she was pretty happy, because it was good ol’ fashioned kiddie fare… chicken, chips, peas and corn. I loved the chicken schnitzel as opposed to nugget options, as the meat is far cleaner and better to eat. It was a healthy and satisfying lunch time meal. The extra veg on the plate, so cute and tiny? Awesome. Little fingers love little food.
I loved my meal. The chicken was so succulent, the jus it was surrounded by was so flavoursome and delicious, and tied together with the potato, onion and roquette (I call it rocket, but it still tastes just as amazing!) my mouth was dancing, so happy.
It was a really heartening but healthy meal. We followed it all with babycinos for the girls, coffees for us, and ice cream for them too (not pictured, it went too quick!) It was course after course of course.
Everything was great, and to be honest we were just excited watching our two princesses eat and drink alongside each other, that the food would have been great even if it was a bit below par, just for the fact of our attention being on the girls… but it definitely wasn’t that day. The food was delicious and watching the little princesses, it was a real “aww!” moment.
We walked off, hand in hand, ready to shop ‘til we dropped… or pooped. Whichever came first. 😉 🤷♂️
Food: 7.5/10. I loved the options on offer, from your everyday basic lunch fare to your classier sit-down options.
Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and accommodating.
Ambience: Pretty quiet and chilled. We were surrounded by other restaurants/cafes, but in our little sheltered corner there wasn’t much going on… bar the craziness on our table. Suited us just fine 😉
People: Friends and couples catching up from what I could spy inside.
Staff: Friendly, and helped with our questions.
Price: I have no idea! My cousin shouted! However, the menu will have likely changed from our dining experience to the posting of this review, so best to check out their website at https://www.switchlifestyle.com.au/ And also keep in mind any current covid restrictions while you’re there.
Advice: I can’t think of any, other to say if it bothers you that it’s quieter during the day, visit them on weekends or at night, and if you prefer the quiet… well a Friday afternoon seems calm enough. 😉
In a nutshell: I think this is a great stopping point between shopping or movie watching, a resting place to catch-up with friends, or simply somewhere to indulge in a really lovely lunch. And the dedicated kids menu, means that I am more likely to Switch on over to their dining next time I’m in the area. 😁
I didn’t know where I would be led that day as I travelled to the other side of town after having dropped off baby girl at kinder for the day. But what I did know was that I was meeting my old work colleague who was on maternity leave… meeting her, and NOW her new bub.
As it happened, I met her at her place and we then walked a couple blocks to High Street to get a bite to eat…
And suddenly, history was repeating itself.
Because she and I were going to a café to eat with her newborn… and SO many years earlier, she had met me in a café to catch up with me on MY maternity leave, while my newborn accompanied – baby girl. 😍
Now we were in Northcote. Then we were in Northcote.
She led me to a place called Sookie la la – so appropriate with her baby in tow. Alas, her bub was a gorgeous boy and did no such thing, although he probably was a tad jelly with all of our caffeine consumption at times.
It’s a scaled-back café right on High Street, think understated industrial fittings, painted brick walls and signs of the building’s age with decorative cornices and the back door hanging askew 🤣
But it’s very much your simple local café, and that is where the simple-ness STOPS.
Because these guys are very much trying to give you a heart-attack.
They had this American-styled classic diner with throwback to brekkie and lunch meals that you would swear would make you question what red/white and blue flag you were travelling within.
Southern-style options, lots of chilli, and options like sloppy joes fit the bill and paint the picture. The biggest image for me though? Their Elvis French Toast – with banana, bacon, maple and peanut butter.
MWA HA HA. So wickedly wrong and GOOD at the same time.
But that wasn’t the one I went for that day. Instead I went for the just as indulgent –
Brekky Brioche – Scrambled eggs, bacon, bell pepper and chipotle relish… with the optional potato gems too.
Why the hell not when in an American classic café, eat as they do too.
Accompanied by my ol’ faithful… cappuccino.
It was such a moist, soft and juicy burger! So delicious, but also, SO MUCH BEIGE ON A PLATE. Oh man. I couldn’t even get through all my potato gems, and realised the error of my excited eyes at the end, looking at my half-eaten plate like –
Why did I do that?
Besides the stuffing myself beyond breaking point part, this café serves up comfort food at its finest. The relish was a great contrast against the bacon and egg, and that bun…. So soft! Incredible.
And the bacon was clean! Like no gross fatty bits, just nice, clean bacon… just the way I like it 😉
But it was so good… I went on a fast food detox after that meal. It inspired it. So like, be warned.
Food: 8/10. For what they do in comfort food, incredible. For what they do to your waistline, also unbelievable 😂 It’s a great, satisfying ‘treat yo-self’ place.
Coffee: 8/10. Coffee in the burbs of ‘almost’ inner city Melbourne… you never disappoint. 💖
Ambience: Chilled and cas on that weekday, quiet with soft background music filtering through the café.
People: There were locals popping in (like my colleague and ‘almost’ former local, me!) with other friends meeting for brunch and lunch too.
Staff: You know the creative type, who only works to pay their bills so they can play in bands, busk, paint sidewalks on the weekend? They are too cool to serve you your eggs on bread but they MUST? Yeah, kinda like that, but with occasional smiles.
Price: I have no idea as my colleague shouted me! But individually my burger was $12, VERY decent in price (actually too cheap if I dare to say it!) and my coffee about $4. Awesome and reasonable prices here.
Advice: It’s the place to go after a break up, to catch up on goss with friends, in cold weather… or simply for a taste of yester-year.
But DON’T come here if you’re on a diet.
In a nutshell: A really interesting diner-style cafe that fits right into the creative and eclectic side of town that is Northcote. Although currently on a health kick, I wouldn’t go right now, but every phase of life passes and different things come up again, and the need for an Elvis themed French toast may arise AT ANY MOMENT… just saying… you never know.
Afterword: I always hate finding out that a place I went to closed before I had a chance to post my review… alas Sookie La La has stuck to its name and seems to have shed its tears with signs of permanent closure mentioned online. But I still post these reviews because I hope somewhere, in the infinite space of online web, that there is someone who will see it and realise it is not a lost cause, and it may just reopen somewhere, sometime…
Because comfort is something we all need at one point or another. If this place does pop up again, do be sure to check it out.