Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

We had trekked over to San Remo for a couple of nights during mine and baby girl’s birthday period. While café-ing out in the main strip one windy Tuesday, Hubbie asked the nice guy delivering coffees out to everyone, “can you give us a good dinner recommendation?”

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

He mentioned a few more, but his description of the place and the food it delivered won us over, and we planned to book ahead. Upon driving back to our accommodation a short while later, we looked at the area in which it was meant to be, as directed to us by kind waiter.

And suddenly, we were time lapsed to 5 years earlier.

Because we had been there before. Pre-food blogging days. Pre-baby days. Pre-Sea change days.

It felt like a long time ago, and yet the memory of that visit was strong because we had sat outside on a warm Summer’s evening, had enjoyed a delicious drink and dessert, and snapped an amazing selfie of ourselves, and let’s face it when you get one where you BOTH look great, it’s immediately one for the memory bank (and photo album – old school, yes).

It made total sense to be returning to this restaurant 5 years on.

Although things were a bit different. We were with baby girl. We absolutely HAD TO sit inside. And we absolutely had to, because we almost didn’t make the drive over from San Remo to Cowes, it was raining that much.

We burst in through the doors a bit sprinkled on from our mad dash from the car, and chose a table alongside the wall with booth to sit at, alongside another couple who were entering at the time.

I honestly can’t speculate at what had changed in the 5 years or so that passed between our visits. I couldn’t remember. All I remember was we had been seated at some kind of outdoor alfresco area, so the interior – I wouldn’t have a clue.

Now it was warm, illuminated by warm and sparkly lights, and the ample seating and ambience made the setting quite refined. However the orange-red wall brought it a playful burst of colour, taking it closer to its ‘Relaxed Casual Dining’ web site tag.

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I was happy when they brought over some pencils and colouring-in paper for baby girl, as there is never such a thing as ‘too much distraction’ when a toddler is out with you.

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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Hubbie got a VB, and I got a glass of the ‘Dance with the Devil’ Cab Sav

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Of course we had to try the appetiser of the restaurant name, didn’t we? I’ve been getting right into olives as an entry to main meal, ever since we started getting them at Manhattan. They were great and the bread was lovely to dip into the oily concoction and soak up all the goodness.

It was pretty quiet, being a midweek Winter’s night and all, but happily for us (those noise levels are preferred to be always loud in case a certain toddler decides vocal aerobics are necessary) some more groups of people soon came in, though at the most there was still only 4 or 5 groups that whole night.

Baby girl’s meal of spaghetti bolognaise immediately followed the olives

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And then soon after ours came. Mine was the pumpkin risotto with goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket

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While Hubbie had the 300g scotch fillet, with potatoes, broccolini, and creamy peppercorn sauce

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So baby girl loved her spaghetti, though it may have been hard to notice since I literally had to spoon-feed it to her – as I said before, distractions. She was quiet, so it was good. Even Hubbie and I took fork stabs at it occasionally since it did look so delish. Sometimes it’s the simple things… like taste-testing from your child’s plate.

My risotto was sensational. Rich, but not too rich. It was quite liquid-y when it arrived, leaving Hubbie with a puzzled look on his face as it was brought to the table, but this is why I am the food blogger and not him. There were pumpkin pieces in there that brought it texture, the liquid made it moorish and smooth, and the complimentary tastes of goats cheese and rocket were YUM. Did I mention anything with rocket added is immediately made better? Well there it is.

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

So I loved mine. Hubbie enjoyed his too, and that in itself is a God-send. Angels sing! The meat was cooked exactly to his liking, and it was tender too. All hail Fig and Olive.

Since it was our last night on that side of town before we were due back home the next day, and also as I already mentioned, ‘birthday month,’ I had to have dessert – whether I was full or not.

I was kinda full. But it would fit, I assured myself.

Hubbie went with our old holiday fave, the Affogato, and got himself a shot of Frangelico in addition on the side.

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He ended up pouring all the coffee over the ice cream, which he immediately regretted since he and I could not then actually taste the coffee on its own. Oh well, it still tasted good.

I went for the warm chocolate fondant – chocolate sauce, crumble and vanilla ice cream – because really, how does warm and melted chocolate NOT sound good on a cold Winter’s night?

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And baby girl was more than content with her vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping

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My dessert was oozing with thick melted chocolate, so my heart naturally followed.

I enjoyed it very much, and the chocolate crumble, was a really lovely addition to break away from the gooey-ness of it all. Vanilla ice cream to lessen the sugar-rush impact. Yes.

We had been first to arrive, and almost a couple of hours later, we were last to leave. We paid our bill, said our byes, and hurried back to the car, to drive through the rain once again.

Food: 8.5/10. The standard was there as it was years ago, and whether or not a change of ownership has occurred, I don’t care. It was wonderful. Dreaming of that risotto.

Coffee: Since it was had alongside the liqueur and ice cream, it was hard to ascertain on its own, other than to note that it was strong, so I can’t give a proper score here.

Ambience: Quiet and refined, though there was a casual element to it too.

Staff: Professional and friendly, and helpful when it came to our main orders.

People: There was only a handful that night: an older couple; a group of tourists from out-of-town; and another group of 3 that I can’t remember, other than to note they were near us… a real mixed bunch.

Price: $129 for 3 mains, an entrée, and 3 desserts alongside some drinks. On the money.

Advice: Perhaps book ahead on the weekend in warmer months/holiday season to avoid disappointment. Eat the risotto.

In a nutshell: We really enjoyed this place, and being the destination of fond memories, we will definitely be back. It has something for everyone, and next time we will be back, basking in the sunshine, or basking in its interior orange glow…

Either way, it is sure to be warm. It’s definitely a place I would love to revisit, but I won’t wait 5 years next time 😉

Fig & Olive at Cowes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mediterranean in Mornington

Manhattan in Mornington
55 Barkly Street Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

Lucky Duck. This was our first restaurant birthday celebration in our Sea change location, and it was going to be for Hubbie’s birthday, just a few weeks after moving in.

We had booked ahead, and arrived to a small table awaiting us just opposite their front door.

Opulent, classy, yet warm and inviting. That is the upper-class yet traditional Italian vibe I got as we sat down. There was seating on the ground level, and I could see the stairs beside me spiralling up onto another higher seating level. Elvis watched us from one wall. Waiters and waitresses were in professional uniform. It was a perfect place to celebrate something special.

We soon ordered some drinks – for myself the Di Giorgio’s Cab Sav from Coonawarra – an old fave from a certain questionable restaurant that will not be named in this review for fear of unfairly negatively influencing this review in a bad light – and a beer for Hubbie, along with some Chefs Dips – tuna, pesto and beetroot with house-made bread

I enjoyed all the dips, and interestingly the tuna was good as well, which I didn’t think I would like. The waiter took great care to explain to us which dip was which, which showed the much-appreciated attention to detail.

Baby girl received her ‘no delay’ order soon after the dips arrived: Chicken tenderloins and chips.

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I was really impressed with the quality of chicken. I am always happy when they offer a softer piece of chicken meat for the kids meals, as I think it says a lot about food care and consideration, especially for our most fussiest of eaters.

By this stage the restaurant was quickly filling up, and suddenly I was grateful that we hadn’t just fluked it and walked on in because it was a Wednesday night – because for a Wednesday, this place was packed! It certainly seemed like the place to be in Mornington.

After much talking, drinking, and pecking at baby girl’s yummy chicken and chips, our meals finally arrived.

Birthday boy had ordered the Pancetta Di Maiale – Twice cooked pork belly resting on sweet potato mash served with an apple crackle salad

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While I had ordered the Mare e Monti – Linguini pasta, fresh prawns, scallops, calamari, pan seared Moreton Bay bug, chilli infused virgin olive oil, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes

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Hubbie really enjoyed his meal. Like, so much so, that he has continued to order it on repeat visits to the restaurant, a clear good sign of a winner dish. Crunchy crackling with super-soft falling-away-at-the-fork pork underneath it, make him a very Happy Birthday Boy.

I enjoyed mine too, however it wasn’t as perfect as I would have expected a restaurant of that calibre to produce… I loved the Moreton bay bug, that was delicious and fresh. However at the same time, I found the scallops too undercooked for my liking, so I couldn’t eat those unfortunately. The rest of the seafood infused with the extremely spicy chilli olive oil was delicious, but also, that was part of its undoing when it came to enjoying the meal, because it became too much by the end of it, so much so that I actually felt a bit sickly from the overuse of oil and chilli. If the seasoning and oil had been scaled back a little, I think I would have preferred it a lot more.

I let my stomach settle and took baby girl to the change room, to come back and get some coffee and dessert. I mean, what the hell. It was a birthday celebration after all. We decided to share the Profiteroles because we were really stuffed with food, and get some coffees, a latte, cap, and a babycino.

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We got two big profiteroles which were light and creamy, so that was easily enjoyed. My cap was smooth, not so strong, but that I didn’t mind as it was past 9pm. We received some cute bikkies on the side which I’ve noticed a lot of Italian places tend to offer with coffee, and I do like this tradition… so does baby girl, taking it upon herself to eat ours as well as her own. We were happy, we were full, and we were full of birthday festivity… and when baby girl shoved her hand into the lolly jar beside the counter, we knew it was time to go.

Food: 7.5/10.

I have to explain, the food, the presentation, and the quality of all we received was of the highest standards, but after repeat visits here, I’ve come to realize that all the food I receive here is extra oily and especially-seasoned, something my stomach complains about after every visit. It is the rich Italian style of cooking, something I can’t really fault, even though my tummy does…

It’s an Italian thing.

Coffee: 7/10. Smooth.

Ambience: Classy yet comforting. Warm polished wood undertones are displayed throughout with that coastal mediterranean-style that makes you feel like you’re holidaying away in a little secluded and exclusive town in Boot-country.

Staff: The friendly but professional Italian-speaking types, if you get my drift. I’ve seen them sooo many times before, and if you’ve eaten at the expensive side of Lygon street, you’ll know what I mean. They did their job well, and our lovely main waitress was kind enough to wave at baby girl every time she walked by, because baby girl just couldn’t stop trying to get her attention!

People: Those with $$$ come out to play here, and the menu prices are indicative of that. Lots of families, young and old, and big groups of people… like I said earlier, this is the place to be when you have something to celebrate.

Price: $151. On the ‘up’ side, for 3 mains, an appetiser, a dessert, 3 alcoholic drinks, and 3 coffees. But the quality of the food and the service were also on the ‘up’ side, despite my extra-rich linguine…

Advice: Definitely book! Everyone goes here! If your stomach tends to get affected by very strong and heavy flavours, best you avoid the linguine… or most things for that matter…

In a nutshell: Despite my meal on this occasion, we have come here on several many other occasions. Their menu is diverse and interesting, and the ambience is spot on, making you want to keep coming back. The service is especially caring and attentive, as it should be. I was also impressed with the baby change room, it was new and impeccably clean. I am really excited about this find, and I think the rest of the Peninsula is too… I think they should have stayed true to their style though, and instead of their existing name, gone with ‘Florence in Mornington’ or something along those lines… it would be truer to their restaurant character. Anywho…

Potat-oe, Potat-o….

Tomat-oe, Tomat-o…

Messina, Manhattan…

Manhattan in Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Café Bugia

Café Trevi
294 Lygon Street Carlton

We were tired and hot after a long day at a birthday up in the North. We were fairly undecided about where to go on that Saturday night in February, but still being summer, warm, and the party season, we decided to give Lygon street another shot despite our last disappointing attempt. I mean, it was our old food-stomping ground. Surely we wouldn’t have another bad experience, would we?

???

We decided very quickly to go to Café Trevi. In fact, Hubbie decided it for all of us with the free pizza being handed out at the front of the establishment, tempting him in. If this were the old Trevi, I wouldn’t have bothered. We have had bad experiences there with food in the past, which is why we hadn’t gone there in years. But I could see that there were new owners, and it was newly renovated, and along with needing to get food into baby girl and myself, I just went along with it.

Free food tempting foodies in? Clever.

Hubbie asked for a table for us all, outside, while I asked the real question: was there a baby change facility in their premises? The girl holding the pan of pizza nodded yes, but I vaguely didn’t trust her, not knowing if she was just nodding above the noise, or just used to saying ‘yes’ all the time. So I turned to the door man, a friendly-looking man with an accent. I asked him pointedly if they had a baby change facility. He answered yes.

Let’s just store that in the memory bank for later.

Content with TWO YES’S, we moved to a table outside.

Hubbie and I got some drinks, a white for me, beer for him

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while we struggled to keep a hungry and under-slept baby girl happy. Fortunately for us, our entrée of arancini and her main of a chicken and chip pizza, arrived very quickly.

Arancini classici – rice ball made with cheese, peas and quality mince served with bologna sauce.

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Chicken and chips pizza – mozzarella, fried chips, chicken

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The arancini starter was not bad, I think it was a tad dry but the sauce on the side saved it. The chicken and chips pizza was moorish, an interesting combination and one that I think was great. We all enjoyed eating that one.

After a while, we received our mains:

Hubbie’s Eye Fillet Steak with potatoes

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And my linguine ai frutti di mare – spaghetti pomodori and fresh seafood, chilli

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My pasta was ok. I was initially worried it may have a strong chilli taste, thinking baby girl might want to taste-test, but I soon found out I had nothing to worry about – no strong discerning chilli taste here. Which actually was a bit disappointing. I wanted some flavour, and this was actually quite plain as far as seafood pastas go. I enjoyed the prawns and the one scallop on my plate, but the mussels were tough.

Hubbie’s experience left little to be desired. Firstly, he had an item off of the specials, so it wasn’t a usual menu item. He didn’t like the smell or taste of it, saying it smelt fishy and just didn’t taste right. It was turning him off, so he spoke to the door man who said he would take it to the kitchen and ask the chef. It was returned to him, with the explanation  “that’s the taste.” He was given the option of having another cooked for him, but hubbie didn’t bother. I mean, if that’s the ‘taste,’ won’t every other one taste and smell the same?

Hubbie butchered the steak, trying to find any reasonable meat to eat, leaving most of it in tatters on his plate. We’ll get back to that story soon.

I wanted to change baby girl, now being at the tail end of our dining experience at Trevi. We weren’t overly rapt, especially Hubbie, but I wanted to end the night on a good note by getting dessert or ice cream somewhere else before we headed home. So of course, I wanted her fresh, and I wanted to change her. I went over with her to the doorman who had been lovely all night, and very friendly with baby girl, and asked him where the change facilities were. He mumbled something about something not being there, but pointed to upstairs. So we walked up the stairs, change bag in one hand, holding baby girl’s hand in the other. I entered another seating area, probably reserved for private parties, that was empty. Here were the toilets: men’s and women’s. I entered the women’s, and did a double take. I went in, and then out. Looked around. Back in. Looked in toilet cubicles. Even sussed out the back of the toilet door entrance. I could see no change table or pull down table anywhere.

I walked out of the women’s toilet with baby girl, and stared at the men’s toilets. Surely they wouldn’t have the only change table in the men’s toilets, would they? I seriously contemplated going in there, but luckily I didn’t as a man came up minutes later to use the loo. I looked around the room racking my brain. It didn’t make sense. I was told at the beginning by two separate people who worked there that they had a baby change facility!
I walked back down with baby girl. Bag in one hand, holding her hand in the other. I saw the door man walk past near the foot of the stairs. “Excuse me,” I asked. “I can’t see a baby change table anywhere.”

He proceeded to tell me, very apologetically, like a dog with his tail between his legs and his head lowered after the owner’s have come home to find their laundry trashed all over the floor, that there was no change table. They didn’t have one.

I sighed, and nodded. I didn’t say a word. In my head I screamed ‘but you told me there was one! Both of you!’ Although he had been lovely to us all night, and to baby girl, he had deliberately lied. I went to the table and told Hubbie we were getting out of there. As Hubbie was paying and I was standing outside the café with baby girl, I saw a zomato sign stuck beside the front entrance. ‘Review us on Zomato,’ it read.

Oh I will, I thought.

Food: 3/10. Points obviously taken away for Hubbie’s steak, my bland pasta, and the uninspired arancini.

Coffee: N/A, and now, never.

Ambience: It was chilled at the beginning, and surprisingly when we were there it wasn’t too busy, but having said that it was 7-8pm on Lygon street on a hot summers night, meaning everywhere it was fairly bustling. We just wished more of the experience had been up to scratch to match that vibe.

Staff: They were friendly, especially the door man. But he, and the girl holding the pan for free tasting of pizzas, LIED.

People: Near us were an older couple at the beginning, then as we were finishing up a larger group sat near us, and a couple about our age, 30s, arrived with their motorcycle helmets. It was a quiet night for them, but it was gearing up a notch as we paid and left.

Price: I think the total was about $120-$130 – that consisted of several alcoholic drinks, an entrée, and three mains. However upon paying, Hubbie’s steak, or a portion of the price, came off the total, so it ended up being more like just over $100. They had seen his butchered steak, what was left of it anyway, and the chef had said to him at the register, “we could have given you another one!” Hubbie responded as he had to me – “but wouldn’t it have tasted the same?”

Advice: My personal advice would be to not go here. I was disappointed that Hubbie’s steak wasn’t to scratch, sure… but the fact that I was lied to about the baby change table? That left me really sour. And I saved him some verbal abuse due to it too. I chose to walk off. We didn’t end up going anywhere for dessert after, because I couldn’t change baby girl. We just went home. His lie had shortened our night out, and we don’t get many of those. Not happy.

In a nutshell: Feeling pretty damn shitty about Lygon street now. Both Hubbie and I were in agreeance over the fact that Lygon street, ain’t what it used to be. I think the good old-fashioned Italian fare and sincere service has gone out the window. Serve as many as you can with the cheapest quality cuts. Just get them in – then get them out. Don’t worry about change tables. Yeah we’ve got them. Oh no, that’s right we don’t. Sorry.

Too late. We won’t be coming back. I don’t take kindly to lying. Copperwood insulted us with ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ Buzz. Wrong answer. Parents read that, they said ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ What century are we in? And now, for Trevi to say they had one, but lie about it just so we could sit down and fork out over $100 for sub-standard food? That money needs to be worked for, it doesn’t fall off our money tree at home!

If we ever get over this slight (and we still haven’t) and we decide to head out Carlton-way again, I think we will definitely be avoiding Lygon street, and opting for the parallel and intersecting side streets instead…

R.I.P. Lygon street. Trevi and many of its neighbours aren’t doing you any favours in upholding the Italian-food tradition in your parts.

 

Update!

Ha, well what do you know. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies… and this isn’t one, they are Permanently Closed. Or so Google tells me as I try to place my zomato spoonback for this post. So there you go peeps, KARMA.

That tells me to quickly update my blog posts from the start of this year (in case they have closed), but from memory I don’t think we ate anywhere where their noses grow long, so…

But I should update them. Because you know. Posting about last summer, when it’s almost new summer? Uh uh.

Cancelling Plans

You’re either a person who cancels, or a person who commits and comes through with your pre-spoken words… right? Well, that’s how I saw it for a LONG time. People who cancelled plans, cancelled appointments, made last-minute changes, and didn’t come through on what they had promised were all part of one big category for me – the unreliable and scatterbrained ones were the ‘cancellers.’

It was awfully inefficient to cancel on someone. I didn’t really notice how much it bugged me, but every so often when a fellow friend would say “sorry, my kid is sick,” or a meeting was stuffed up on the other end, or someone arrived at my house an hour past the expected time while I twiddled my thumbs staring at the clock, it kind of grated on my nerves. I mean, I was a Mum. I had a child. I worked, I kept the house (somewhat) clean and in a state of organised mess. I cooked. I saw my parents. I wrote as much as I damn well could. I shopped a fair bit, with caffeine inserted in the blank spaces in-between. So if I could get my shit together and not cancel on someone, and always come through on what I had promised somebody, well what was their excuse?

I wouldn’t get upset or anything. You know the normal “no, that’s ok!” response you do when someone is profusely apologising to you, smiling through your teeth. That’s ok, I love my plans being turned upside down. Mums LOVE unpredictability, it reminds them of how fun it is to have a toddler. (No really, I’m being sarcastic). I’d move on, a bit peeved, but I’d move on. I was not a canceller. I was efficient, and despite some of the hardest of times, I tried my damn-dest to succeed at following through on my plans. You know that quote from Jerry Maguire, where the father of the sports kid that Jerry is chasing to represent, says to Jerry “My word is stronger than oak!” (Before completely doing a 180 on him in a following scene and proving that his word was actually more flimsy like tissue paper). Well that was me. My word was oak. Strong and solid, like the first scene, not the second.

Cancelling isn’t only annoying when plans don’t go ahead… it’s an inconvenience. I am so busy, and not only that, I’m in a regular routine especially with a toddler in tow who also depends heavily on it, that it takes much effort and faith to just schedule time in for someone, and then to have that person go ahead and make other plans last second. Even if they are sick, a little part of me is thinking ‘hypochondriac… toughen up.’

A little while back, (not my last cold but a previous cold) all of a sudden, out of the blue, I got sick. Not runny nose, sore throat, sneezing like Snow White’s dwarf sick. I woke up and vomited. And then vomited. And vomited. And not much was being kept down. I had camomile tea, I had black coffee, and I had plain bread. And I still vomited. It was like the deepest depths of my stomach were being unearthed to unseen archaeologists digging away at it, throwing up bits of food as they went.

And what happened? I became the ‘canceller.’

I hated it. I called one person to cancel an appointment I’d had for baby girl. It was literally an hour before I had to go, and I cancelled on her, practically last second. Then the following day, when I was still getting over my stomach heaving, and getting used to that constant feeling of intense nausea, I had a friend message me:

“Still good for lunch today?”

Crap. We were meant to be meeting for lunch at work, and here I was at home, feeling sorry for myself on the couch.

Toughen up, hypochondriac.

Oh God, not another one. With remorse I messaged her back telling her I was sick and was actually at home. She replied this:

“Oh sweetheart. That’s terrible. Hope you feel better soon.”

She went on to say what other days suited her for a lunch date, but those first few lines stayed in my head. What she had written had shocked me. They shocked me, because I had felt them to be genuine. For all I know she could have been doing the typical “oh no! That’s ok!” line I used to do, but I didn’t believe it to be so. This felt real, and all I remember thinking is ‘She cares about me, more than our plans.’

That realisation really hit me. I had been so concerned about life and things running to schedule, that I’d forgotten that life often throws us things and puts us off track. It can sometimes take a while to jump back on. But with the help and support of loved ones, it’s often done faster than if you have people jeering you from the sidelines calling you a hypochondriac. I was also touched by how Hubbie took over and did everything for baby girl and I in those days that I was incapacitated. Hypochondriac, I know. But I’m always doing EVERYTHING, so for me to just lie there and whisper repeatedly “I can’t,” he knew something serious was up. He came through for us all and had me saying “thank you” like a very broken record.

I had a great opportunity to test my new found realisation of ‘shit happens, people matter more than plans’ discovery very soon after. The following night, Hubbie grew increasingly ill and took to the couch complaining of nausea, 3 hours before we were meant to go out for my bestie’s birthday. He had caught what I’d had.

Now the old me, would have been a little shitty. The old me would have been like ‘are you sure you’re sick? Come on, put on this shirt.’ The old me would have been upset at the sight of Hubbie lying on the couch while I imagined all my friends together at a rooftop bar. The old me would have been, slightly resentful, just at the situation, and how shit the timing was.

Bu I’d had a few days to think. Going through my head were these thoughts:

1. Remember, people are more important than plans.

2. Hubbie looked after me days ago.

3. He’s only sick because he caught what I had.

I was soon running off to the pharmacy for late night medications and messaging bestie a ‘sorry’ message on the way.

Being sick had taught me many things.

We’re all human.

Shit happens.

People are more important.

Don’t lose sight of that.

I used to fight against reality, pretend to be superhuman, and get upset when other people didn’t try to be a superhero too. But, we aren’t in an episode of Angel (unfortunately). I can’t stay up fighting demons all night and then expect to be cheery the next day and ready to tackle my Mum duties with a hop, skip and a jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t become a ‘canceller’ over this, and I will be slightly wary whenever anyone changes plans on me… but I will be softer about it, and when I say “no, that’s ok,” I might just half mean it.

Women vs. Men #4

Rewind around 4 years ago. Hubbie gets an electric shaver pack for his birthday including a very metro-man moisturiser, body wash, and other bathroom pushing-the-boundaries-of-masculinity-for-him, ‘products.’

Me: “You should use this moisturiser, it’s really good. And it’ll help the flaky skin on the side of your face.”

Hubbie: “I’m gonna use that moisturiser?!”

Me: (sigh).

Fast forward to last year. I buy him a moisturiser this time, as part of his Christmas present.

Christmas morning. Unwrapping presents. I have killed it in the presents department that Christmas. Every present he opens – boom! I’ve nailed it.

He opens the moisturiser.

Hubbie: “Why did you buy me a moisturiser? I already have one! You’re just wasting money!”

Me: (unsure if the last good moisturiser went missing) “Well just use it!”

Hubbie: (sighs).

– Moisturiser stays untouched –

Months later, a wedding.

In the car.

Me: “Look at you!” I scrape my fingernails against the dry skin on the side of his face, drier because he jumped out of the shower half an hour ago. The flakes fall to his suit jacket, and I dust them off his shoulders hastily.

“Why don’t you use the moisturiser?! I don’t know why you don’t use it, it will help your skin!”

Hubbie: (ignores me).

Me: “You spend so much time looking at yourself in the mirror, making yourself look good, and then THAT-” I point threateningly at the side of his face ” – that let’s you down.”

Silence.

I give up. No more word on the moisturiser. I can’t change the spots on this leopard.

(Or can I?)

Fast forward again to a few nights ago. Baby girl is having a bath. Hubbie sits as usual, up on the bench near the sink, while I crouch beside the bath near her.

Randomly. Out of nowhere. Hubbie picks up the moisturiser I bought him that has just been sitting there on the bathroom bench for yonks, gathering dust (literally, I dust around and on top of it all the time).

“I might put some of this on.”

Focused on baby girl, but still hearing him, I’m slightly shocked. “Yes! Use it!” I urge him. She splashes, and I’m only half-aware as he lays it on.

The following night.

Hubbie: “Hey, you know that moisturiser? It actually worked!”

(FACEPALM).

Me: (a strong combination of frustration due to intense I-told-you-so, and relief, and yet still the need to heavily promote the moisturiser).

“Of course it worked! Why don’t you like, actually listen to me a bit more, because I am right! I use moisturiser ALL THE TIME! You know I put body lotion on after every shower, because I don’t want dry skin. Who wants dry skin? You don’t want dry skin…”

But I’ve lost him again. I lost him at

‘I am right.’

Of course I did.

Women vs. Men #4

Worshipping the Samovar

Travelling Samovar Tea House
412 Rathdowne Street Carlton North

I had no idea where Hubbie was taking me for the final part of our birthday experience. We had already had a very forgettable lunch at the Farm Café, followed by a quick tour through the Collingwood Children’s Farm… he had hinted at some ‘drinks’ that we might have, and all I could think of was boutique coffees and elaborate cocktails.

But no. He had taken me to my very first love.

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Tea. At The Travelling Samovar Tea House in Carlton North.

I was amazed when first entering the small store. The front room was highly decorated with beautiful ornaments, tea accessories, and of course teas that you could take home with you, alongside tables that you could sit and discover the many varieties of their tea.

The room we sat at was the second one in, and again, was just so full of character and interesting finds that it was hard to rest my eyes on any one piece.

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From intricate tapestries and pieces of art draped on walls and set up against cupboards and dressers that you would find in an eclectic shop at a getaway retreat, as well as cute little bowls and candles, vases and decorative pieces, alongside a warm fireplace and stunning chandelier, there was so much to see and yet it all had a purpose, there was a reason for its being.

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After going through the huge menu of tea selections, browsing through teas from pretty much every part of the world, from black teas to herbals, oolongs to greens, and so many more, I decided on an Indian chai, because I’d recently gotten right into the spicy earthy flavours of the drink, while Hubbie went basic and got a chamomile.

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Baby girl even got involved and we got her a tea from the children’s menu, which was a Turkish Apple tea.

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I loved the presentation. We had entered some kind of portal into this magical mysterious tea universe where the ‘real stuff’ was on offer, and now even the act of observing, and preparing, and drinking the tea was an adventure in itself.

With my chai I had the option of adding more sugar if required, however it had almost the perfect amount of sweetness as it was, and was so deliciously spicy and comforting. I loved it.

We both also loved the little hourglasses that came with Hubbie’s chamomile. Mine had been prepared already, but his chamomile needed steeping, so it was great to have such control over it and decide for ourselves how strong it was to be! It was perhaps a bit on the gimmicky side, but still, I loved it.

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Baby girl still hasn’t gotten into the tea thing yet. But she tried a bit of her Turkish Apple nonetheless. And instead, devoured some of the biscuits we had gotten on the side, as well as nibbling into our cake.

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We felt a bit bad that she got to taste it. How could we deny her when she was pointing and grunting for us to give her some? It was a white chocolate, walnut and vodka cake, and yes, you could still kind of taste the vodka. Whoops. But having said that, it was baked, and so most of the alcohol would have cooked itself out. Anyway she had mostly the crust, the heavily baked part. It was deliciously warm, sweet and very comforting alongside the tea.

The service was welcoming and genuine, especially for us Samovar newbies, and was especially gracious when Hubbie told the woman (who we assumed was the boss/owner) after we paid that he had been recommended the Tea House by a work colleague.

There is space in the first two rooms to sit as well as an outdoor area which I didn’t see but was told that it was an especially special and serene place to sip at your tea, especially on a sunny day.

It’s the kind of place you can easily miss while walking by, and it has the real sense of a special find or a hidden secret, although it shouldn’t be. Everyone should be privy to this secret world of proper tea, something that is definitely missing in our generation.

Yes, it’s all about the coffee movement at the moment. Even I’ve been swept up in the force of coffee for the past 3 years or so, and I don’t think I’ll allow it to unclench its grip on me anytime soon.

The ‘Samovar’ is traditionally a kind of tea urn which would be used for boiling water, which in Russian culture became a symbol of coming together in the home. And that’s just what we need. This city, this world needs a good injection of good old-fashioned, properly prepared tea in a comforting experience, where you can share your happiness, your woes, your hopes, your fears, and most importantly, your dreams.

As I always say “I love coffee… but tea is the only one that can soothe my soul.”

That first hot sip, when you’re in dire need first thing in the morning… ahhh. Nothing satisfies as much as that.

I will be going back.

Travelling Samovar Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Farm in the City

Hectares of park land in city surrounds, where animals are chilled out in their farm life yet the folk visiting come from all high and low ends of the city, is what the Collingwood Children’s Farm is all about. I came to discover this as we ventured out there for the day to celebrate both mine and baby girl’s birthdays.

Firstly, getting there. If you’re walking over (fortunate local) or public transporting it down, well you’re doing it the easiest. If you are driving down on a weekend or a sunny day, BE WARNED. Trying to park at the St. Helier Street car park is probably best done when it’s cold, early in the day or a weekday.

Since we headed over at lunchtime on one of the first sunny Sunday’s in August, we were met with a formidable line leading up to the car park closest to the farm, with the sign up the front of the car park ‘Full’ not seeming to deter many drivers.

If you do happen to find a spot in there, note that the first half hour is free, with fees increasing as the hours tick on. However, this is not relevant on a weekend, which let’s face it is when you’ll most likely go, am I right? Fees all around then. (If it makes you feel better, proceeds go towards the Children’s Farm and the Abbotsford Convent also located there).

After circling around blocks for a while, we parked where many others were, on Johnston St/Studley Park Road, but we made sure to park AFTER a certain section (I think it was over the Yarra River bridge heading towards the Studley Park Road part of the street, past a street sign symbol) because a fellow driver was kind enough to point out to us when we parked in the earlier section of road of the many parking fines on all the cars currently parked there. How the others didn’t see it was beyond me. Park desperation = herd mentality.

This was a 5-10 minute walk to the farm, made slower by the fact that baby girl was set on walking slowly through the gravel car park we cut through.

Entry was $18 for a family. For us this was cheaper than the normal $9 an adult and $5 per child. If you have a concession, it’s even cheaper.

Because we wanted to lunch at Farm Café first, we received a stamp so that we could return to the farm grounds later without having to pay again. After our lunch (read the ‘interesting’ account here) we headed around the corner to the farm.

We saw chooks, birds, roosters, a peacock, cows, goats, ducks and pigs.

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Everything seemed to be within close walking distance, which was great, but I’ll be honest I’m not sure we got to see everything, leaving soon after because baby girl was
a) Getting tired, and
b) Was much too interested in messing about the gravel dirt underneath her feet (with her hands of course) than the animals before her.

It was her birthday, so ultimately she could do what she wanted.

Age wise I think it’s a great place for kids a bit older, say 3-4 onwards, as they would probably appreciate the animals more and not be so distracted by random elements (!) while those a bit older, say 6 up, would appreciate the educational elements: if you’re there at the right time you can even experience the milking of a cow!

We would probably go back to the farm, but to be fair to all of us, in a couple of
years time.

All in all, a lovely day out in the country/city 🙂

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Collingwood Children’s Farm can be visited at 18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford.

(Part 3 of our birthday outing can be read here).

Piggyback Cafe

Farm Café
18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford

This seemed like the perfect place for both adults and children. Which is what I was after (and really every other family out there too) but more so, because we were heading out to celebrate baby girl’s and my birthday. There were meant to be farm animals for the kids at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, and the Farm Café and luscious green surrounds were there for the big kids. I mean really, how could it go wrong?

The weather started off right. It was a sunny Sunday in August, the first weekend that we got a real taste of the impending Spring/Summer. I was excited. I’m constantly telling people how by the time my birthday pops around, the winter cold is diminishing and bursts of warmer weather are starting to infiltrate the cold. Maybe because I’m clutching at (Spring) straws; maybe because I’m defending my birthday month; maybe because I’m right. This day had me smiling in pleased confirmation again.

It’s hard to believe that there is 7 hectares of land nestled along the Yarra River, of which the Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Café lies. I realise that city parks are not a rare thing, but to be so close to the city (5 kms) amidst those busy inner-city suburb buildings and surroundings, it just felt odd. Like how could this happen? Until we got there it was like ‘is this for real?’ It sure was. Driving around for a good 20-25 minutes made us realise that it was definitely real. Almost everyone was trying for a park in St. Heliers Street, and the long wait made us do a U-turn and try our luck elsewhere. The sign up ahead in the cark park had read ‘Full.’

With much focused staring and stalking, we finally found a park along Johnston St/Studley Park Road, and proceeded to walk on over about 5-10 minutes to the farm. (Click here for more info on parking there).

We chose the family pass of $18 to get into the farm, and received a stamp allowing us to first go into the café, before exploring the farm grounds. You can solely attend the Farm Café without payment, because the café is positioned and set in such a way that you can’t eat and then sneak through into the grounds without the entry fee. You can look from there, but you can’t touch.

So, payment = café and grounds entry (with stamp)
No payment = café only entry

We went straight to the café knowing that there might be a wait post 1pm, and sure enough there was. We received a buzzer that would inform us when it was our turn to be seated, and while we waited I took the opportunity to explore with baby girl and take photos of the surrounds.

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It didn’t end up being the half hour wait as told, perhaps a bit less. We sat down in an open area that was still covered, amidst tables tightly crammed next to one another, with views looking out to the farm beside/below us, of chickens roaming about, and a peacock doing a casual little walk.

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There was an outdoorsy feel. It was a farm after all.

We had to quickly order, as we were now very hungry and I didn’t want our little birthday girl getting cranky on her special day.

I got the Mushroom Pie – Mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and white wine served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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Hubbie got the Organic Beef Sausage Roll – House-made served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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While Baby girl had the Kids Egg & Bacon – Poached Fried egg on toast with bacon with a side of cheese

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I was a tad disappointed that I couldn’t get the kids lunchbox (cheese sandwich, a house-baked treat and a piece of fruit) for baby girl, but they had run out. Instead I swapped the poached egg for fried, removed bacon and added a slice of cheese, which they quite simply placed on the side of her dish. It was fairly uncreative, really. They could have at least put the cheese, on top of the bread, under the egg, so it melted slightly.

Mine and Hubbie’s meals looked ok, but in the end they were nothing special. To be honest, they were below average and fairly bland. My mushroom pie had no other discerning or interesting taste to it, all I could taste was mushrooms as I bit in. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms. I just expected the sauce or gravy of the pie to have some hint of salt or flavour in it, to further complement the earthy mushrooms. None.

The accompanying potato salad was rather standard, again nothing special. Hubbie felt the same about his meal, and the only reason that we ate it without much antagonism was because we were spending a lovely day out for our birthdays, we were in such a good mood, and we were hungry. That was it. Baby girl’s meal was very standard, and I concur that most children’s meals out there tend to the ‘plain’ side, but this, with the cheese placed on the side as if it was just tossed there, took the meaning to a whole new level. She also like us was hungry, and ate most of it.

Following that meal, we were almost uninspired, tending to just head out and not worry about a drink. However Hubbie had some kind of surprise location planned next, (link) and kind of hinted that we may have some kind of drink there, but didn’t say what kind. I assumed it was coffee, so suggested we get hot chocolates at the Farm Cafe instead (again, the weather and the day and our birthdays was saving the Farm Café’s arse).

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We each got a hot chocolate in a mug, and baby girl got her necessary babycino. The hot chocolates were huge! They were served in mugs, tasting mild and softly sweet, which I didn’t mind, but I think Hubbie would have loved a more sugary, sickly-sweet hit. Baby girl happily drank all of hers, leaving chocolate stained marks on her face. But alas, it was a rather plain babycino, mostly milk and little froth, making the fact that I don’t believe they charged us for it (there is no babycino on the menu) more than adequate.

We then headed out on our way to peruse the farm, happily leaving all memories of the Farm Café behind (read my review of the Collingwood Children’s Farm here.)

Food: 4/10. Below average. Nothing made me want to try anything else, and I just felt the lack of food quality and presentation let down the beautiful location and serene atmosphere of the adjoining farm.

Coffee: N/A, and I’m not overly bothered I missed out either.

Ambience: As mentioned above, it has a very relaxed vibe. The surroundings were calm and placid, best enjoyed on a sunny day, which is fortunately what we had.

People: There were generally those with kids there, but I also saw duos of friends, younger couples, and older couples. I think the location brings a variety of people there, but most prominent are the families.

Staff: They were ok. Again, nothing above average, they weren’t rude or anything, but they didn’t really give us any smiles or necessary attention. They were busy though, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Price: It was about $50ish, and I say ‘ish’ because the lady up at the counter kept our receipt so I have to go off the prices listed on their website. The hot chocolates were the only half-enjoyable items. The rest made the total bill not worth it. Had the food been up to scratch, it would have been.

Advice: If you are going to the Collingwood Children’s Farm, save yourself the hassle and eat elsewhere. You probably won’t have to waste time waiting for food that is below par. If you are seriously not fussed with food, well then you probably won’t mind the quality of it. Perhaps the breakfast options are better.

In a nutshell: The Farm Café should consider itself very lucky. I said to Hubbie very early on into our lunch that day that the only way it was surviving was due to its location and proximity to the Children’s Farm. It was not surviving based only on the food, because if so then on that day we wouldn’t have found the café there at all, just remnants of what used to be one. Which is a shame, when I think of people I know who have put much effort and money into their own little works of art café creations, and poured so much research, energy and time into an amazing menu and superb coffee, only to have to close due to the people in the area NOT WANTING TO SPEND THE MONEY ON QUALITY. It’s sad, yet true. And here is a very average café with such a high turnover that their kids meals run out, who are able to ‘produce’ the kind of food that we got that day, and they still keep on going on, solely due to the high paying folk of the area and their fortune in being alongside an animal farm. I am really surprised. I hold no malice, yet based on our first and only experience there, Hubbie and I will most definitely not be going back to the Farm Café.

The Farm Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

(I am a glass half-full gal though, and the experience did not ruin my day, not in the slightest. Read on to find out how our day ended fantastically, here :))

Wrecked fingers

I just finished writing up 31 invitations and 31 envelopes to send out for baby girl’s 1st birthday. My index finger was totally crooked and bent inwards with grooves along one side where the pen was practically cemented. The feeling is returning, thank God. It didn’t look pretty.

Fortunately those muscles are now resting as I type. But it occurred to me. One of those ‘absolute truth’ insights that I’ve been reading about courtesy of my year-long reading task “The Happiness Project.” It’s nothing magnificently profound, but still, made me smile.

More often than not, the people who you can count as the closest in your life will be those who can identify your handwriting amongst those of strangers; and in my case, actually be able to read it too.

Having this lightbulb moment, I remembered a friend’s Baby Shower I attended earlier this year. She was in the ‘opening presents’ part of the afternoon, and upon coming across my present, looked at the card stuck on top of all that cello and immediately looked up at me. I was like “how did you know it was mine?” And she replied “I could tell from your handwriting.”

We’ve known each other for over 20 years. Although my handwriting has changed slightly every now and then, little subtleties have remained the same. Much luck our friendship I guess.

It’s moments like those that really make you think, when you discover with pleasant surprise that there are those around you, who really KNOW you.