Arabian Sandcastles by the Bay

Now, that doesn’t sound right, does it? We should be in a desert when it comes to any kind of Aladdin-inspired tale, am I right?

Well, not if we are talking about the ‘Aladdin & The Arabian Tales’ event currently being showcased at Sand Sculpting Australia on the Frankston Waterfront. Baby girl and I headed over last week to check out the magnificent sand creations, and see what all the fuss was about. Plus school holidays ‘killing time,’ and what the hell let’s just go out and have some January fun…

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The Genie-rific (see what I did there?!) event is a several months long attraction, running up until the 25th of April, and is located along the great winding part of Nepean Hwy that shows off the curved and stunning beauty of the Frankston beach and coastline, and now also, the sky- high sculptures made of sand and clay that are inhabiting the area for the next little while down South.

Once in, baby girl and I went fairly quickly through the sand sculptures part of the exhibition. Sure, we could have taken photos at every sculpture, and sure, we could have read every piece of info on each sculpture there, and SURE, we could have stood for 5 minutes per sculpture just staring, and analysing, and critiquing/appreciating all of its magical sand glory.

But she is 4. That was NEVER gonna happen.

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The sand creations ARE marvellous. Very intricate, detailed and let’s face it, size DOES matter, as the sheer magnification of these things just makes them all the more incredible and fascinating to look at. I read up a little here and there when baby girl was within sight, and then when she ventured off to play in the sandpit on the far left of the event, I had to leave my study at home and follow.

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The sandpit offers relief for parents and kids alike, with a couple of umbrella’d tables available to rest those sandy feet. (Yep, I went there again). This area is probably best suited for the younger kiddies, probably no older than 7 or so.

What I did realise after my quick and brief walks around the sculptures, was that they were based on the traditional Ali Baba and Arabian Nights stories, and as such, there were no actual Aladdin movie-based displays to see there. Initially a bit of a letdown, if only because I love the movie and knew baby girl would have understood / been able to relate to it all a bit more from her Disney-fests, but thats just how it was, there was no false advertising, as the brochure did showcase the traditional sculptures. Nonetheless, she still pointed out with glee at an Aladdin and Jasmine-like sand sculpture sitting atop a magic carpet, so that was pretty cool.

Between the entrance and the sandpit, was a marquee with some free activities and games for the kids to enjoy – think tables with Lego, bowling pins, and a life-size Connect Four game.

There were two girls also there providing free face painting for the kids (or as in baby girl’s case, hand painting!) and then to the far right of the marquee, a café, with lollies and drinks for both young and old to satiate their naughty hunger pains on, but the main attraction, ice cream, which baby girl did have later on right upon us leaving, and where she promptly told me multiple times that I was not allowed to share in on her icy cold treats. So just beware, parents.

But, the best part of our visit there had to be from the other marquee. Located at the far right of the exhibition, after entering, was another activities tent, but this one, more dedicated to the sand tasks at hand.

Here there was some sort of clay creation on one side of the room, that kids could literally get their hands into… that we didn’t try out. Instead we headed over to the counter to discover just what baby girl could do since she had a special pink band from our purchase of a Super Pass ticket for her, and we soon found out she could fill a sand jar, and create sand art.

There was coloured sand of all kinds on each table to explore and be creative with, and so she filled up the jar first, before proceeding to the sand art.

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This was more time-consuming, as it required peeling off the yellow paper to reveal a sticky substance beneath that the sand would stick to… shake it off, and hey presto, your coloured sand remained!

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Sure, it WAS messy. This is sand peoples. Not only was it all over the tables (the girls working there were doing a fantastic job of cleaning up after people had left though!), but the floor was sand too. I would never ever EVER willingly take my daughter to a sandy place that WASN’T the beach, so for me to be having a ball there? Unheard of.

But so, so true. It was the highlight of the day. I had left my sandy reservations at the door, and baby girl and I had a truly beautiful time, peeling back sections of the picture, applying coloured sand, and watching it slowly transform to something bright and magical.

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We were both really happy. This section is probably best suited to kids showing an interest in art, up to adult age. So maybe 4 onwards, but if your younger littlies are patient enough to stick out the end result, go with it. I could see many parents enjoying the creativity as much as their brood, so it really is a fun activity for all, including the older kids.

I left thoroughly pleased, and baby girl even thanked me for taking her to see the sand castles. Aww 🙂 A heart-clawing gratitude post on the above experience can be found at my other blog here, but keep reading below for all the deets you sooo need…

Where: Frankston Waterfront, 510N Nepean Highway Frankston

When: Now ’til April 25th 2018. 10pm ’til 4pm every day, except for school holiday periods when they close at 6pm.

Parking? There are 4 hour ticketed parkings available all along the Nepean Highway, or else turn into the Frankston Waterfront parking near the big playground/Sofia’s and you should be able to find something.

Price:

Adults $11

Kids standard entry $9; Super Pass $18.

Concession also available.

The Super Pass entitled baby girl to the sand art and sand jar without us having to pay extra at the counter… however if you decide on the basic entry, you can then choose to pay for however many sand arts/sand jars you wish to for your child inside, so it is not an either/or situation.

The sand art and jars are all about a couple of bucks each, and the only other addition she got was a little packet of pencils and activity book to fill out, which for a 4 year-old, she wouldn’t do much with. In my opinion (especially if you have a toddler), pick the $9 entry and then see what your child wants to do activity-wise, if anything. The $18 price was a bit silly considering we could have chosen basic entry and then gotten the same jars and art we did for a few dollars less…

Anything else?

YES. Wear thongs. Please for the love of God. I wore ‘nice’ sandals, and let’s just say… yep. They were nice.

Due to the time of year, bring a hat, especially for the kids, and sunscreen too. The golden sandcastles can be very glare-y.

Final word:

Although with child, viewing the sandcastles can be kind of a super short trip, the bonus additions of the sand art activities, sand pit, other kids games and free face painting (and there are also sand art-making workshops which we weren’t there for) there is honestly something for everyone here, both young and old. The babies can play in the sand pit, the toddlers and older kids can engage creatively with some sand creations, and the adults can take more time and pleasure (if kids allow!) to discover the wonderful world of Ali Baba in sand-form.

A great day out for all, and then… you also have the beach nearby. Somewhere to continue practicing your sand-castle making. Why, you can’t really lose, can you?

 

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Locals, take flight

Flock
2/25 Dava Drive Mornington

(Dined November ’16)

From the moment we discovered this little corner café, an awfully convenient, 5-10 minute WALK from our house, and saw its back-street, hidden, beach/park side location potential… we were excited.

You see, we had always longed to move to a place that was within walking distance to a café. At one point during our real estate search, we even tried searching in relation to how close some houses were to nearby cafes. Our wish for good food, great coffee, and friendly/casual convo with café staff over stupid Melbourne weather, within walking distance from our ideal home, was a high priority.

Somehow that all got lost and a bit forgotten when we saw the beach views of our now home. I did have a quick google search at one stage for nearby cafes, but I mustn’t have searched too well…

Later though, once we had moved, a common name kept popping up on my Google maps.

So on our first walk, we ‘flocked’ there.

And said “My, Mofo, we’ve done it. We’ve got the freaking café within walking distance.”

And we hadn’t even known it.

And we hadn’t even eaten or had coffee there yet. (Now I’m beginning to sound like Bana’s Chopper Read…)

On our first opportunity, we went over to fulfil our café destiny.

We had to drive though, not walk. It was a cold, windy day, rain threatening to spill at any moment. So we rugged up, and walked into the small, intimate café, weaving around tables and chairs and finding our seats at one end of the medium-sized communal table in the middle of Flock café.

There were people sitting all about, but of course it was full what with the tiny space the café occupies. They were so clearly locals, that for us recent newbies on the block, I felt like putting the disclaimer ‘don’t shoot us, we’re not from out of town!’ on my forehead. Instead I stuck my head in a menu on the table and then went up to order and pay once we knew what we wanted.

Hubbie started the ball rolling with a necessary flat white

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… while I looked on in envy. I waited for his verdict. He nodded. The coffee was good.

Soon we all received our meals. Baby girl with her 7 Grain Organic Sourdough with vegemite and butter

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Hubbie with his Breakfast Roll w’ smashed eggs, bacon, swiss cheese, roquette & tomato jam

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And my Shakshouka Baked Eggs w’ organic ciabatta

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Baby girl got really excited when she saw the vegemite, thinking it was Nutella from when we last had breakfast out at The Winey Cow… so excited that she dipped her finger in it, got a huge lob of black stuff and put it straight in her mouth.

A second later, and her face didn’t paint an impressed picture. Classic yankee mistake.

So, after I cleaned her up, and applied her spreads on her bread, she went on to eat. It wasn’t the sweet stuff, but she ate it. Again, the hard crust. I trust the sourdough bread is unreal and super-healthy, but sometimes for kids, or generally for people who don’t wish to cut their gums on hard-toasted crust, a softer bread variety will do. Anyhow.

Hubbie said his breakfast burger did the job, it was ok, but it wasn’t anything that left him wanting or dreaming of future breakfast burgers there.

I had been thinking of baked eggs for several weeks, so I was really happy to order a meal like this. It was good, perhaps not my best baked eggs/shakshouka meal I’ve EVER had, but it was good. It was extremely saucy, with many peppers/capsicum within the little ceramic hot pot of baked egg goodness.

By this stage, the corner café was rocking. There were people coming in at an ongoing rate, both newbies trying to cram in for a seat since the weather outside was not beckoning people to sit on the outdoor chairs, and also from locals in trakky-pants dropping in for their usual coffee and toastie order.

After ordering some drinks, we waited a while more before we got our babycino and  cappuccino.

Baby girl scoffed her marshmallows, while I carefully pondered my first sip of coffee. This was the dealbreaker. Would the coffee be good enough to make it a local? The food was good, but only, if only, the coffee were great. Hell, we were so desperate for a local café to call a home away from home, and this one with a convenient park/beach locale, had us even happy with a half-decent coffee. That’s all it needed to be, half-decent.

Dum, da dum dum.

And it was…

GREAT.

It was truly, very, very, very good coffee. It was ultra-smooth, with a swift caffeine kick. I realised in awe, and verbalised to Hubbie, how rare it is to find a very smooth, yet very strong coffee. This was both. I was rapt.

I was so rapt, I talked about it all the way to the shops. The caffeine had surely kicked in, and the realisation it was our now-local had me high as a kite.

Food: 7/10. It was good for a corner café. They have some other interesting menu options that I’m wanting to try in the near future. We also took-away some Nutella and jam doughnuts, courtesy of the locals Chocolat that bake off of the Main street… OMG. Is it possible that there is a doughnut as good as the famous donutella, that rules the roost back in our old neck of the woods?! WOW. Head on over to both Flock and Chocolat to try these babies out.

Coffee: Can you believe… no I can’t. 10/10. Yep. Currently up there on my leader board of best coffees, alongside caffeine greats such as that in Farm Vigano, Dark Rye in Westfield Doncaster, Story at Docklands, and also recently Mercetta on the Main street in Mornington. I really need to start another page on my SmikG site, stay tuned…

STOP! Update!

The above was my true and honest verdict as of the first two times we had coffee there… and unfortunately, on every other visit there, the coffee has been bitter/burnt/tasteless. It has been really upsetting and confusing, and even stopped us from going there for a long while – because if the coffee ain’t good, it just ain’t worth it.

However, because I am so damn eager to make this work, I still go there occasionally, and the nearby park for baby girl makes it difficult to ignore too. And happily, on the last visit, it wasn’t that bad… the coffee was actually good! I have no idea if this has anything to do with the fact that the café itself was up for sale quite recently, and if indeed there may be different owners/managers/baristas there… but I will keep trying, damn it.

For that reason, I can’t score this one. You make up your own mind.

Ambience: Cosy, corner café. Relaxing, charming, and all-encompassing of the beautiful surroundings when the weather is fine and their windows are WIDE OPEN.

Staff: Friendly, and they took the time out to greet us and thank us for coming at the end, despite how busy they were. This is a well-oiled, professional and friendly machine folks.

People: Locals, as I’ve already mentioned, that consisted of some older folk, bike dudes, a gaggle of 20 something girls catching up for brekkie, and random’s dropping in wearing their PJs and wiping the sleep from their eyes. I love it.

Price: It was about $60, but keep in mind we also got some takeaway doughnuts, which means the price would have been much less… price-wise for what you get, you get a lot, so in that respect it is well-priced… however I also think what you get, accurately portrays what you pay… capiche?

Advice: If you’re not a local, do not go there. Please just stay away. It is MY local. Mine and the neighbouring residents of Dava Drive. That is all. Just live vicariously through me, and go have brekkie and coffee on the Main street. Go on… what are you waiting for?

In a nutshell: Well, we’ve found our local haven’t we… or have we? The food is great, the coffee is mmm-hmmm undecided, however I can just see an endless amount of sunshiny days where I am sitting in the café, or taking coffee away to go to the park with baby girl, or walking it over to the beach, or simply dropping in to grab some doughnuts because they are way closer to us than Chocolat… I hope. I sooo hope. (Clutching at straws much?)

I’m just bloody rapt. We’ve got it. (?)

We’ve darn well got it. (?)

I’ll flock here alright. Just try keep me away…

Flock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Umpteen reasons why you should LOVE Winter

It hit me one Saturday morning during a work shift, as I left the warm confines of my place of employment to walk down the road and grab a coffee. Feeling that fresh air, that Winter chill on my face, reminded me of the time I felt it last year, and suddenly I was down memory lane, remembering the things about Winter you choose so hard to forget when it is done and dusted for the year.

So, then, I tried harder to remember. What fascinates me about this time of year, is that once it is upon us, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it – that is the shits, and one of the major factors of making the entire season that much more unbearable.

Hey, calm down… I’m not like, a ‘Winter ambassador’ or something! I am the first to put up my hand and forge ahead with the get-rid-of-Winter fan club. I wouldn’t say I HATE it, since that is a strong word, that I HATE to use (see what I did there?) but I do in fact, detest the coldest of seasons to a degree that once the longest day has come and gone in January, I am in slow grief over the gradual dissemination of Summer.

But like I said above: it ain’t too bad. I’ve been most surprised by my own attitude towards it, in finding that there are actually plenty of great things to enjoy, and celebrate, about the coldest time of the year! You don’t say! Let me hear it! Well ok then, here is my list of things to get your blood boiling…

(And don’t fret, this isn’t one of those bullshit ‘buy a really good coat and scarves’ nonsense post. We all know that we need more than layers to make up for the fact of Winter, duh).

1. But First, Coffee.

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And so one of my fave coffee quotes signals the beginning of this Winter Warm-up list. When else to drink, and enjoy coffee most, than in Winter? Not only does the caffeine hit give you a burst of much needed non-hibernating energy, but it is WARM, and therefore, heats you up from the inside-out. This is a super simple and accessible way to keep you happy, buzzing and hot, ALL DAY LONG. Make it at home, or buy it out and about… really, this one is a no-brainer.

 

2. To café, OR, to café…

And, how to get to your hot coffee? Why, you enter a café of course. Just picture it: you are in the freezing winds, walking briskly to your café of choice so as to remove yourself from the unnerving elements, when you finally, step inside, and –

Ahhh. That moment.

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You know that moment, when the feeling of cold is replaced by the scent of coffee beans, and you are away from the outdoors, but can still see everything including all the fools still stuck out in the real world? And you’re ‘in here?’ and about to get a coffee? Yeah that’s great. Café-ing it, not just for coffee, but for anything in Winter – be it brekkie, lunch or any other fare – is a beautiful way to while away the day. Choose a good one, a cosy spot, and watch the world go by… just see if you don’t feel better about Winter when you put yourself in this supreme predicament…

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3. Walk This Way…

On a contradictory note, on those cold and still Wintery days, sometimes it can be somewhat, what is the word, rejuvenating! to take a nice long walk.

Yes, the air can be biting. Yes, the cold will still seep through your clothes. But there’s something about a fresh, freezing-cold walk that awakens the senses, both physical and mental, as it is often when I am walking in the cold that my creative mind is switched on. I don’t know why, but a brisk walk in Winter allows me to daydream and plan for any future blog posts (how this one came about) much more efficiently than in Summer. Maybe it’s the fact that other than getting into a heated area immediately, there is no other thought trying to take up head space like it does in Summer, where I would be planning future events and social gatherings, and the things I’ll be doing for the next 3 weekends. In Winter, it’s just Winter, and my creative thoughts are allowed to fly beside the recurring thought of ‘get inside.’

I don’t like to be in the cold, and yet a walk like this brings about a whimsical dreamlike effect to my walk, where I find myself observing, being in the moment, and smiling often. I’m not wishing myself out of this hellhole, I’m just smiling. I’m not trying to prove a point… Next.

4. Stay IN

Although I absolutely love Summer, there is one thing that gets tiring by the end of the season: the constant go-go-go. Summer makes you feel like you have to be super-efficient and on top of the world, heading to every social event, enjoying every ounce of sunshine, waking at the crack of dawn, and starting a new body-building course when you’re not preparing your new gluten-free, dairy-free, animal-free, everything of any joy or texture or enjoyment-free diet. It is FULL on.

But Winter allows you to just chill. Hibernate like a bear, and in doing so, drink all the hot chocolate/tea/coffee before doing so. If there is any season where you should feel the least guilt about doing nothing, and where you should completely and utterly embrace the act of doing absolutely nothing, it is Winter. It’s okay, you will be at it again in a couple of months time…

5. Pimp up your home

But, if you absolutely HAVE to, you could always forgo sitting around and chilling on the couch, with doing something around the house. Just as our sanity and ‘me time’ gets neglected in Summer, so too does the house, and house ‘stuff.’ You know those odd jobs. The broken door handle. The 3rd light bulb that has been burnt out in the lounge room for 4 months. The pile of boxes that hasn’t been broken down into pieces. That heap of junk in your garage that you know a charity would love, but alas, Summer time.

In Winter, it is ALL possible. Case in point. We had bought new door handles from Bunnings to replace our old ones, as we wanted to spruce up the 80s-style house we had recently moved into. They remained untouched for months and months, ALL THROUGH SUMMER, and it was only when the cold hit, that Hubbie finally started replacing them.

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Winter is the best time to look outward-in. Look around you and see what needs a little TLC, and then proceed accordingly. Home improvements, up-dos, renos – whatever it is, you will feel soooo much better for it, and not at all like a lazy bear once you are done.

6. Go OCD, mofos

And for those of you like me, that love to sort and clean and organise… well, what are you waiting for? Use these cold months to file away. File to your freaking hearts content. Label and shelve and box. Store those photos in chronological order, organise your home family videos, and clean up your menu folder so that you don’t have crappy old recipes in there that you won’t even sniff at again. There is no better feeling then tackling a long, put-off job, and I swear, as Winter ends and Spring begins, the sense of accomplishment you feel in knowing everything is sorted and ready for another season/year… GOLD. GO you OCD peeps, GO!

7. Jump!

Ok, so this is kinda parent-specific. But, you don’t need to be a recently-acquired trampoline owner for a cheeky monkey princess like I have, to jump. You probably do need a child of some kind, so if you don’t have any of your own, borrow one – like you probably have a niece, or nephew, or know someone who would LOVE for you to kindly offer their brood a day out? (You will be on their Christmas card list FOREVER, I promise you).

But my point is, be childlike. Jumping is not only fun, good for you, and is healthy (hey, exercise), but it warms you up too! And if you think jumping is only for kids – 20 seconds on the thing and you will remember what a jumping extraordinaire you used to be 20 or so years ago… and then it will be the kid trying to get you off the trampoline, not you, them.

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8. A good book

So, a no-brainer. Totally. But when else is it more acceptable and necessary to snuggle up with a book and lose yourself within its pages? Never, ever, EVER. Even on holiday, you should be doing things and seeing things, but at home, in Winter? Perfect reading weather.

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Whether it’s at home, on your lunch break, or on the train, waiting for your doctors appointment (that brisk walk/jumping probably gave you a little cough, ahem*) or at the park while the kiddies play, there is really no better time to invest in a good book.

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9. SLEEP

So a totally acceptable place to read is in bed, but if you’d rather not even do that, you can just sleep. I know this is such a ‘Duh, Fred’ point, but still, it HAS TO be said. Fred.

Sleep ’til your big hearts content. Of course this is totally dependant on whether you have a paying job or go to regular schooling (most of the Western population), but in your down time, this is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Yep. Even if you have kids that don’t let you breathe, just pull them in, throw a blanket over your heads, and once the hilarities have died down, watch them fall into a slumber. You will be there too soon, don’t worry.

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Sleep on the bed, sleep on the couch… wherever you wish. Just make sure it’s comfy and inviting, there are plenty of blankets, and a real nice place to rest your head. Ahhhh.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

Let’s change tack and ramp it up a little, to my favourite past-time! Like seriously, how annoying is it in Summer, when you need some new clothes/shoes/pillows/coffee beans, and you head into the confines of a multi-level shopping centre, but it’s a stunning, and I mean STUNNING day out? You don’t want to miss out on that, and stay indoors most of the day? This is so especially true for us Melburnians, as sunshine, even in Summer of all seasons, can be soooo fleeting.

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But in Winter? Hell, bring the shopping on! You won’t miss out on ANYTHING because its so cold and miserable out! YAY. Shop to your hearts content, in fact, shop for all seasons, and stay ahead of the pack.

11. Work it out 

Ok, so I know some of you might wanna swipe me over this one, as I am known for finding gratitude in the most wide-ranging of places… but I tell you, work really IS better when it’s cold. I mean, just look at the below:

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How miserable is the above photo? Okay well it is oddly pretty in the dim light, but you know what I mean… I am not really missing out. It’s taken from my work window… do I wanna go outside? Hell no!

Work is actually not too bad, and you can almost be grateful to be in the confines of work, when it is so shit-faced outside. You will never be sad being at work during Winter, unless of course you had to get up at 5am like me, and are staring out the kitchen window at 7am thinking of Hubbie and baby girl asleep and warm in bed… damn.

TRY to be grateful for work while you can, in Winter, at the very least.

12. Let’s go to the beach

Your welcome. Ok so maybe not Summer-thumping-beach-vibes weather at the mo, but you know where I’m headed.

This may be a bit left-of-centre for some, but for me being fortunate enough to live BY the beach, not so. But either way, a trip to the beach is for most in our fair country, accessible and do-able.

Why should you do it, you cry? Cold, winds, uninviting waters…

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What do you think? I’m not telling you to jump in. No, hell no. I’m just saying that the ocean views bring about a sense of calmness, of peace, of reflection, and retrospection, and the waters don’t even have to be still and unrippled. No. They are in fact most beautiful and spectacular when they are savage, wild and unleashed, ripping against the shore or pier or rocks, and showing you the brutal nature of Mother Earth herself.

Rug up and try it. See how your mind feels afterwards.

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13. Do something NEW

While you’re out and about at the beach, how’s about you keep trying new things, and enrol in a course of some kind. (Like not literally walk down the road, just think about it). Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Like maybe, learn a new language? Try your hand at some knitting? Learn how to cook like a chef? Drive a manual car? For some creative pursuits, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home – just log in and you’re connected.

Doing something you’ve been wanting to do for a while is not just fulfilling, as you are catering to yours truly, yourself, but you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position. Only when you are vulnerable, can you really learn anything. Since everything is on the down-low in Winter, there is no time like the present to focus in on yourself, and give something new a go. Time to study, reflect on where you want to go in life, and centre yourself both spiritually and mentally, is the perfect cold-time creative pursuit. Just try. You won’t lose a thing.

14. Cook up a storm! 

While doing something new, you may want to try your hand at some new recipes.. or old, whatever tickles your fancy. But what I love about this coldest of seasons, is the deliciously warm dishes to match. Or should I say, warm you right up. Whether it be a vegetable curry

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a cauliflower soup

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or some yummy baked goods

there is nothing quite so inviting on a cold Winter’s night, than to indulge in warming, delicious and comforting, Winter-specific foods. Slow-cooked meals, lasagnes, roasts… the list goes on and on and on. And the upside? When you are buying Winter-y things like cauliflower for your soup, you are buying in season, so it is cheaper! Winning 🙂 Go foodie mad.

15. Catch up with some old ‘friends’

Now, I don’t mean ACTUAL friends, and boy would it be appropriate here if I actually  loved the show of the same name. Instead I’m talking of your movies and your DVD box sets. Plop yourself in a comfy place, and get ‘re-acquainted.’ I feel forever-guilty whenever I sit on the couch – I always feel like I should be doing something more worthy, more important, and being a Mum makes the feelings more so. This is an activity I rarely indulge in.

But this Winter, I am really going to take it on board… and what better way to feel better about the blowing winds outside, than to be laughing/crying/hysterically shaking, over the antics of some old faves.

You don’t even have to have the DVDs. Shows like Sex and the City are on repeat on TV, there are streaming devices, and have you heard of Netflix? People even ‘download’… I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, ok?

It’s never been easier to catch up with, or watch a brand new series to get stuck into. Need tips? Some of my old faves:

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The above mentioned, my fave gal pals. “Abso-fucking-lutely” amazing.

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Angel. An amazing series that is 5 seasons long, and is totally worth investing your life into. Get ready to have your soul literally ripped apart, thanks Joss Whedon (no really, thank you!)

Dawson’s Creek is actually on free-to-air Go! at the moment. My face when I realised this? Bliss 🙂  I know it’s a teenage show, but it’s one of my ol’ faithfuls, and besides, the actors were probably my age when they filmed it, so….

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my current must-watch on TV, Shark Tank. This is splendid in every way. Seeing the investors rip through and tear to shreds some of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inventors, is just brilliant. You must watch this show.

So grab a warm drink, snuggle up on the couch (child or partner is optional) and chill-ax….

16. Bust a move.

Exercise. I know I know, it’s not bikini time, and it’s probably the only time of the year when there is no pressure to be beach-ready… but it doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to yourself to be healthy.

Still not sold? You don’t even have to leave the house. There are a world of gyms, gym classes, personal trainers, and get-fit programmes out there, and there as just as many exercise DVDs! Find what tickles your fancy, and do it in the privacy of your own home.

Do as I do, and pop on some trakkies, put on that old Zumba DVD, and get dancing! Exercise gets you going and warms you up at a time when it is so easy to be sluggish and sloth-like. And you know what I was so surprised to find? Even one session a week (baby steps) has given me increased flexibility and energy to run after a certain 3 year-old rascal. True story.

17. A ‘warming’ drink

I couldn’t bulk ‘warm drinks’ with ‘coffee,’ as coffee is just too damn important to me to be watered down like that… but I conclude with the option, that if you don’t like coffee, maybe tea is more your fancy?

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Or maybe a spicy chai latte can rub you totally up the right way

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No? Vino? There’s nothing like a good glass of red to get the fires burning

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Wanna get more creative? I give you, a combination of the last two options, Gluhwein…

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/german-mulled-wine-gluhwein-30925

Which is German Mulled Wine. It’s a whole lot of fabulous spices and wine/alcohol, warmed up, and you will create some GREAT memories in the making and drinking of it, let me assure you.

If you can’t be happy with a glass of wine/mug of tea/brew of gluhwein, while the winds are raging outside your window, well then YOU CAN’T BE SAVED!

 

So, how did I go? Have I given you renewed (or maybe just NEW) inspiration to totally LOVE Winter? We may be about half-way through the coldest of seasons, but living in Melbourne, we ALL KNOW it’s going to totally screw us up right up ’til November, if we’re lucky.

So guys. Pick a point and get to it. If you think I’ve left anything out, drop me a line!

(I say as I finish off a warm mug of tea…)

 

 

Combing for a Cafe

Beachcomber Café
St Kilda Sea Baths, 18 Jacka Boulevard St Kilda

After our disappointing dinner at Lygon street the night before, we put the bad memories behind us, deciding to take advantage of the continuing summer weather by journeying to the beach.

St Kilda beach.

It was a weekend or two before the huge St Kilda festival, so fortunately for us it wasn’t overrun by people. As it were, it was still overrun by people when we arrived after lunch that Sunday. We found parking on the side of the road and headed on to do the walk, in between the sand and surf on one end, and an array of stylish eateries on the other.

We walked to see, and we were seen. We came across an adorable Rottweiler pup that we stopped to pat, before deciding to be the ones people watching as we stood in line at the Beachcomber Café. We had actually attempted other places, but the lines were actually ridiculous. It wasn’t the St. Kilda festival, and though it was a warm day, it was extremely windy out there near the bay. As one man walking past me observed to his friends “imagine how busy it would be if the water were actually good?”

Touche my friend.

We waited in line at the Beachcomber for about 5 minutes. There were perhaps 2-3 groups of people in front of us, but seats were found for them quickly. Obviously, the most desirable seats were those outside, looking out towards the water. And the best of the bunch was those right at the fringe of this outdoor seating, next to the enclosure that separated the café from the beach walkway.

When it came our turn to be first in line, the door man appeared, disappeared, and then came back with a whisper “did you have a booking?”

We replied no, apologetically. He skimmed the room and then said again in a low tone “there’s a table at the front over there with a reserved sign – you can take it.”

We gratefully thanked him and went on over to see that he had just given us, the best table. Prime position: outside, right next to the enclosure, perfect for people watching. What a star.

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We totally hadn’t planned for this trip, seeing as we had already eaten at home. And we had actually planned for coffee… but after seeing the food and drink being delivered to other tables, we knew we had to go that step further.

As a sharing snack, we got the Turkish Bread with Trio of Dips

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Hubbie got a 500ml Peroni, while I got an impressive Pina Colada, served out of a coconut no less

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While baby girl carried the coffee flag for us and got a babycino

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(note, no actual caffeine in there!)

The dips were really good, so incredible moorish especially considering we had already eaten. All the dips tasted great to me. We finished it off really easily between the three of us.

And my drink was strong. It was summery and everything I thought it would be served out of a coconut, but gee, it gave me a good hit.

Although it was windy it was still relaxing sitting out there, because the huge orange umbrellas covering each table shielded us, while the view before us of the people walking by and the water, gave baby girl plenty to look at and keep her busy while we enjoyed the surroundings. We chilled, orange-topped staff walked around keeping everyone happy, while amazing food and drinks were delivered to eagerly-awaiting beachgoers.

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We had had a spontaneous though terrific time there. Aren’t they the best ones though? We hadn’t been prepared for a meal otherwise we would have indulged there… next time, just another reason to go back.

Food: Just based on those dips, 8/10.

Coffee: Sadly not on this occasion, but baby girl’s babycino did look lovely

Ambience: Relaxed with style… how can you be anything else when you’re by the bay?

People: It was funny to observe, but I later saw the same door man sit another family close to us near the enclosure towards the end of our experience there… coincidence, or was he pro family? Ha ha. There were generally groups of people, but there were couples and friends and just everyone wanting to get a view of the water. The only off-putting thing was the group of 30ish guys sitting on the table next to us, as I easily deciphered their guy code and heard them as they ogled women walking past. Men like that are the reason I get overly paranoid walking alone. I just didn’t like it. But, Beachcomber can’t help that unfortunately. Perves will always come to beaches, to well, perve.

Staff: Really lovely and attentive, and the door man was just my favourite there wasn’t he?

Price: Under $60 for the lot, so it was definitely St Kilda prices. I did have a rather large and impressive drink, and Hubbie’s was more than his usual standard size of beer.

Advice: Either book for front seat, beach-view dining, or come at a time of day where there may not be many people queueing up. When we arrived post 2pm, the line was getting smaller, and soon after we were seated it was non-existent. Either way, wherever you sit you will see the water, the people, and smell the fresh sea air.

In a nutshell: We all loved this place for many reasons, and all the important ones: the atmosphere, the location, the view, and the food and drinks. The current menu does not list the Turkish Bread with Dips, however I’m fairly certain that the other items on the menu should not fall short.

These people live up to their name, as they have definitely identified something of value that people will keep coming back for. Because we will.

Beachcomber Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bacon, Brioche & Co.

Milkbar & Co.
1/42 Lochiel Avenue Mount Martha

It was the morning after deciding to randomly stay over in the Peninsula. Our accommodation in Martha was great, however, when you come unprepared, it means you might suddenly get freezing cold at 5am because you’re up in the hills, and you sleep half-naked because you didn’t bring anything other than your swimwear underneath your dress.

So needless to say, we were a tad tired that Monday morning. We ventured down to the little strip of shops we had run off to the previous night to buy much-needed supplies, to a quaint and funky place called Milkbar & co.

I had been drawn to the place ever since I’d seen the handwritten poster up against their outside wall.

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For those of you who can’t read sun-glare writing (who can?) it says “I hate when people say you don’t need alcohol to have fun. Well you don’t need running shoes to run but it helps.”

This made me LOL inside. It made perfect sense that we should eat there.

However we immediately encountered massive pole-bum attitude from the young waitress who tended to us. She was too cool for school. Literally. Like she had just finished holidays and was jealous she wasn’t out there beach-bumming it like all her friends. She was very sour, we had to call her over several times, and she made it out like we were doing her an injustice by calling her over. She was only moderately-tempered later when I paid at the end of our meal inside the café, and maybe that was because her boss was nearby. I don’t know. I usually save my report on staff ‘til the end of my review, but her disdain for everything was so apparent that mention must be made first.

We sat outside, and placed our orders. A very kind local was sitting alone near us, and heard us telling baby girl to behave. Baby girl, was not. This lady mentioned that we could get colouring pencils from the staff, seeing as she usually does that with her own cheeky brood when they are there with her. That day, she was enjoying some temporary peace. (How I was jelly). Upon her kind suggestion we got some from another passing waiter (not Grinch-girl).

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They kept her kind of busy.

Hubbie’s cappuccino came first. It looked awesome after 5 interrupted hours of sleep.

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And I ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice, which was uplifting and refreshing. Hubbie loved it as much as I did, as he kept stealing sips.

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Then our meals:

My Brioche French Toast, with organic maple syrup and streaky bacon

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And Hubbie and Baby girl got the same meals – Fruit toast with butter and jam2016-01-11 09.49.38

My meal was really nice, however I seriously wasn’t expecting that much bacon. I need to say that I am not necessarily a bacon girl, but I will eat the ‘clean’ pieces if it comes in a meal of mine. If you’re a bacon lover, you would LOVE this meal. Even though the pieces were ‘clean,’ and I was impressed by that, still consuming the lot (I hate wastage) it made me slightly ill later, only because I’m not used to so much of it.

The fruit toast was thick and soft, with very chunky fruit pieces inside. Again, if you are a fruit toast lover, this is fab. The chunky fruit pieces were a bit too chunky for baby girl, however it’s something I know I would have enjoyed. It was a generous fruit toast in my book, and very sweet.

Later I had my cappuccino and enjoyed it for a few lovely and lonesome minutes while Hubbie walked a squirmy baby girl up and down the footpath.

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Their coffee is Dukes, and at first the flavour was quite strong, but like Dukes usually is, it softened and gave way to a gentle smooth flavour by the time I was taking my last sip.

I paid Grinch-girl inside where she suddenly had found the mechanism to turn her face into a somewhat upward turn, and we left for Mornington Beach.

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Food: 7.5/10. It was generous, and done well.

Coffee: 8/10. Dukes: strong, then smooth.

Ambience: Chilled beach-vibe, what with the surf hidden behind the tall trees just across the road. It had a very local feel sitting in amongst all the other convenience stores and eateries there.

Staff: Hmmm. So should I reiterate? Our waitress was ill-mannered. Other wait staff there seemed ok. The management needs to either be careful of who it hires, or put their staff into an aggressive waiter boot camp, where snobbish, rude, arrogant and unhelpful traits are stamped out. You can’t serve people like that, you just can’t.

People: I could heard a lot of ‘local’ talk, and you would, as I said, being on a small strip within Mount Martha. Families, ladies catching up, and older people too. We also saw a well-known underground figure walking his dog… All sorts.

Price: In the $40s for our lot. Within reason.

Advice: Try not to get served by anyone that looks like they have just bitten into a lemon. There are colouring pencils there for the kids, so if you’re not given any and you just can’t handle the whining anymore, call over a ‘lovely’ waiter to pass some over thank you very much. Listen to the menu descriptions too. Bacon on brioche means “lots of!” bacon. Fruit toast means “lots of!” fruit chunks. Take note.

In a nutshell: Despite the fact that our waitress left little of her service to be desired, this would be a cafe we could happily go back to. The food was great, coffee too, the beachside proximity was desirable, and it was a nice lovely strip to stop for brekkie. Plus, we’re kind of in love with the Peninsula. So fortunately for this establishment, we’ll be back.

But Grinch… me (and co.) will be watching you…

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Milkbar & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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The Main Hotel

Bay Hotel
62 Main Street Mornington

Not even a week after returning from Port Douglas, we were down at Frankston beach, rapt with all the kid and family-friendly features and surroundings – grass, shady trees, big change rooms for children, accessible (but heavily fought for!) parking, nearby café and ice cream – that after we were done there for the day, we kind of drove further into the Mornington Peninsula just to get baby girl to fall asleep in the car… and we ended up staying in Mount Martha overnight. As you do.

It was spontaneous, exciting and so different. We hadn’t packed, we didn’t have nappies for baby girl, and all I had on me was my bikinis with my very tropical-fringed dress draped over me. We were definitely not prepared. After organising overnight accommodation, we bought a few key items, and headed on down to Main Street in Mornington, where we have been so many times before, to get some tucker into us.

We decided on The Bay Hotel after a bit of to-and-fro up the street, only because we were looking for something a bit kid-friendly, both space and food wise, because she had slept very little in the car and we didn’t want to piss her off even more.

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It’s a grand old building, visually striking, and used to be a bank back in the day before being transformed to the restaurant and bar that it is today. There was seating outside but much more within its doors, with some casual lounges on the right by the window to perhaps sip on a coffee and window-watch people stroll by, with the majority of the seating on the left of the venue, beside the long-stretching bar. High ceilings, echoey spaces, and dark wood gave this venue even more of an esteemed aura, making me a tad nervous with baby girl’s intermittent outcries. Add to that the few people actually sitting inside, none of them making noise, and it didn’t feel like the best place to bring along a toddler.

However the staff didn’t make us feel like that. The waiter who served us in between spending the majority of his time behind the bar, and our main waitress, both made us all feel welcome, getting us a high chair, giving baby girl pencils and paper to colour in with, and just being very kind and gracious about her ‘noise.’ They were awesome. And of course, there was a kids menu, so they expected kids to come in and yell, right?

We ordered as quick as we could.

We needed something to peck on first, so we got the

Duo of dips, cumin oil and flatbread

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The flatbread was warm and eagerly devoured by baby girl. In fact we could have just let her eat that, but we had gone and ordered a proper main for her as well which in hindsight we could have gone without going by the flatbread portion. The dips were both great, and though I completely forget which was which, I know I liked them both, whereas Hubbie only liked the green one.

We had ordered drinks too – I had a Pinocchio Pinot Grigio, and Hubbie ‘double parked’ as the waitress coined, with a Johnnie Red and also a Crown

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Baby girl was kept busy with this picture of a cat (colouring in by Mum and Dad)

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After, our meals came.

My Paella – prawns, chicken, chorizo, mussels, saffron, olives and smoked paprika

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Hubbie’s 400g T-bone with chips and salad

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And baby girl’s Kids parmigiana and chips

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While we also had a side of steamed vegetables, for anyone that cared for them

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(Note: the uglier my food photos, the harder the meal was with baby girl. Just a late disclaimer).

Baby girl’s meal was huge! She pecked at most of the chips and we found bits of tomato in her salad too which she loved, but she didn’t have a lot of the chicken, which we tried to finish ourselves despite our huge plates. Nothing against the chicken, but she isn’t a huge fan of meat. Too much chewing required. Sigh, children nowadays. It was a massive kids meal, well worth the $12, and probably better suited to older children than toddlers like herself.

Hubbie enjoyed his T-bone steak, saying it was cooked to his liking, had a great char-grilled favour, and in total was a generous, comforting meal. He was a happy chappy.

My Paella was nice, however there was no overriding smoky flavour, or other discernible flavours as suggested in the meal title. It was a nice dish, but there was nothing noteworthy about it. As a paella, it was fairly bland. However, being hungry, and the fact I had seafood and rice in front of me, I ate as much as my stomach allowed.

Baby girl had been going a bit crazy during our meal time, and we had had to take turns watching her (walking outside with her while she waved at all the passers-by) while the other party ate alone inside. Seriously, this is why parents do not eat out with toddlers. My food posts may cease altogether if we continue at this rate. For some unknown reason, we still thought it appropriate despite her unsettledness, to order short blacks for us, and a babycino for her.

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She was happy with the marshmallows that accompanied her babycino. We both skulled our coffees, however mine was very much on the strong side, a bit too much for my liking. Still, coffee: I drank.

I up and paid and we left. Sorry folks, hope we weren’t too much of a racket. Bloody Melbourne folk.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 6.5/10. Based on my short black, too strong for me.

Ambience: A bit too quiet and refined for my liking, with baby girl I mean. Chilled out Triple J-like tunes playing in the background made it out to be more of a place you catch up with friends, than one you take your toddler out to dinner with.

Staff: Really friendly, smiley and helpful, and I’m grateful for this because I’m sure they thought we were a bit annoying. (I say ‘we,’ but I mean ‘baby girl,’ because I’m trying to be overprotective and defensive of her you see 😉 )

People: Couples, an older mother and daughter duo, and another family, but this family had older kids with ipads, with the Mother looking over to me every now and then with the look ‘why have you taken her out with you?’ while I stared back with ‘Have you forgotten how it’s like to have toddlers you nasty piece of *^&%!’

Price: $122.10 all up. That was one starter, 3 mains, 1 side, 3 alcoholic drinks, and 2 and a half coffees (they charged for the babycino…. Grrr, Argh). The price was actually reasonable considering what we ordered. I just wished some of it had been to a higher standard.

Advice: Maybe eat outside if you’re coming with kids – the outdoors will cloud their cries of discontent/amusement/toddler talk.

In a nutshell: It was a lovely place, and though some things we felt needed improvement, the staff more than enough made up for it. The fact that it’s on the Main Street and within a place we love to frequent (watch this space…) we would probably come back in the near future.

Who doesn’t want to be by the Bay?

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😉

Bay Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little, with Big Love

Little Larder
48 Macrossan Street Port Douglas

We had planned to take a reef tour the morning of Day 4 of our Port Douglas trip, however a spanner was thrown in the works, and it turned out we were to go in the afternoon instead.

So what to do in the meantime? Well beach it of course. We had only driven past 4 Mile Beach, and hadn’t even stopped to survey it’s yet-unknown-as UNBELIEVABLE breathtaking beauty.

As with all things though… ‘But first, coffee.’

Ahhh.

We were going to takeaway initially. But my Hubbie being the coffee snob that he is, despises the takeaway cup. He wants to sit down and drink his caffeine hit from a mug, and see it, too. I had been hanging to try out Little Larder, what with its great reviews, funky street locale, and the fact that half its name is shared with the café we went to in Daylesford and loved. My reasons and his combined, led to us sitting underneath the umbrella there on a Tuesday morning, baking underneath the part-uncovered shade of the Port Douglas sun.

We got coffees for all, plus a little something to keep us going – a Banana and Caramel Muffin.

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The muffin was really lovely and warm, sweeter by the, what I believed to be demerara sugar sprinkled on top. We had some there and kept nibbling on it at the beach later, it was that big (and moorish). Loved it. Hubbie enjoyed his latte as I did my cappuccino, and baby girl loved the abundance of froth in her babycino, not to mention the not one but two marshmallows she got.

Our waitress was great, and busy, interestingly so since they had just opened at 8am and already people were flocking in. She was friendly but not try-hard, quite genuine despite all her running around.

As I went to pay inside, it was already bustling… definitely the place to be on a Tuesday morning, and it wasn’t even 9am yet. And inside, yep it was little alright. Added to the happening vibe. Outside there were umbrella’d tables, so if you want to go you have to book, or get in quick.

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In between the above morning, and the following one, so followed the best beach experience ever.

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(Details in an upcoming post).

But yes, we did go there the next morning. Unsatisfied with just trying the coffees there, we wanted to brekkie it before finishing our packing and jetting on back to Melbourne.

So again we went, just post 8am, without a booking, and got a table. Part sun, part shade again. You can’t escape the striking sun in these parts.

Baby girl got the Rye Toast with Strawberry Jam

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Hubbie got the Nutella French Toast

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And I had the Harissa Beans with Poached Egg

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The presentation was great, however baby girl’s plate did look fairly bland, as all restaurant toddler food generally appears. She did eat it though and I was happy the bread wasn’t hard as rock like it is in other places.

I loved mine. It was most definitely spicy! The sauciness of the dish, texture from the beans and spice of the harissa was complemented beautifully by the fetta, poached egg and buttered bread. It was a welcome “ahhh!” because like I said, it was spicy! My bread was also soft which made it a joy to eat. It was a generous breakfast dish, but not one that left me feeling overfull, as some breakfast dishes have in the past.

As for Hubbie’s meal? What can I say. I mean, Nutella French Toast. You aren’t sold yet? What, you don’t like hazelnuts? You poor fool. You are missing out. Don’t think you’ll come back in another lifetime and try it, try it now! I had actually eyed his meal on the menu the day before, and had considered getting it, if only I didn’t have a huge propensity for savoury breakfasts. They just agree with me; when I go sweet, it’s usually a tad much. (I know, soft). Anyway, him being my Hubbie and all and the fact that he has to share, like it or not, I did try his dish… and it was good. Nom nom nom. It looked really, very pretty too. Nutella does that though. I think if you smeared Nutella on your walls, it would look quite attractive, and not dirty at all (think Willy Wonka).

We also got our round of coffees again and this time my cap was stronger. Despite drinking it much later than when it arrived, it was kept hot hot hot by the assisting Port Douglas sun, so winning!

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Our waiter that day was once again friendly, and I can swear we were sitting next to the owner of the joint, with his missus, outside… he was overly confident, ordering without looking at the menu, asking the waiter details of his personal life (stuff like “Did you organise your trip?”) and you know, I just got that slightly-on-edge nervous vibe from the waiter, that of to not stuff up. He also eavesdropped (I know because I do it so well) on my loud remarks about how great our meals looked. For sure, he was the boss. He was ‘invested.’ And I totally understood the European language he peppered his normal conversation with to his lady. Native tongue, let’s call it. Good job boss, you’ve got yourself a winner here, cestitamo. 😉

Food: 8.5/10.

Coffee: 8/10. Strong on our second visit.

Ambience: Amazing. I loved it. Cheeky sign out front advising us to talk to each other and not ask for wifi; the location on Macrossan Street; and the bustling inside vibe, combined with the chilled out outside feel, make it a cool place to be.

People: Tourists, locals. Lots of accents. Hipsters go there too, they were inside, so beware. (!) No really, couples and families, but generally I saw more bearded types there than any others 😉

Staff: Very friendly and accommodating, and nice to see but also importantly genuine.

Price: About $15 on our first visit, under $50 for our second. Standard for a café, yet somewhat inexpensive for the food and place and what you’re getting and experiencing. Bargain.

Advice: Book if you’re dead-set on a certain time. Get there early in the morning for brekkie. Have a muffin. Sit inside if you can’t handle sun (why are you in Port Douglas?) If you like me, feed the littlies and can’t have your coffee straight away, place it in the sun – it will keep it warm for you.

In a nutshell: I think I am favourably skewed from now on out to any eatery with the word ‘Larder’ in its name. A funky place, with delicious, generous food portions, moorish muffins, a quirky cool vibe, and all in a great locale served by lovely waiters? Its inside ‘cupboard’ may be little, but this place has a lot of Ljubav 😉

We’ll be coming back, here, and to Port Douglas again. Thanks guys.

(More info on our Port Douglas holiday will be coming up in a later post).

Little Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato