An Enchanting Time

The crazy Christmas lead-up in early December saw me say “no, I want MORE mayhem!” as I headed over to my second bloggers meet-up at The Enchanted Adventure Garden.

Only ‘crazy’ was not what I felt as we wound up higher and higher up Arthurs Seat road, watching the Eagle chairlifts hover over us temporarily as they made their casual descent/ascent…
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and ‘crazy’ was not what I felt as we first passed Bowens Point

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And then Franklins Lookout

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Murrays Lookout

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and then finally, Chapmans Point

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It was serene, with a small dose of beautifully scary as I viewed the perilous drop from the cliff face. No, my memories of last travelling on that stunning Arthur’s Seat Rd hill, were from about 7 or so years ago before baby girl came along, when Hubbie and I, having not even considered the words ‘Sea change’ then, were heading to our beautifully intimate Arthurs Seat hill accommodation for the night, and as I observed that it was pitch black and almost scary how there were no lights around, he turned to me devilishly and gave me his best ‘Michael-Jackson-as-possessed-zombie-in-Thriller’ face look, to which I screamed and started to cry.

So no. These views were NOT scary compared to that strong memory.

And crazy was suddenly so far from mind, so removed from my being, that the Christmas rush was only a faint memory as we parked and observed the car park and surrounds…

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And I realised, we are not in Kansas anymore baby girl. But that’s what happens when you come to the Mornington Peninsula now, is it?

Us bloggers were greeted to a lovely morning tea and a brief introduction to all that the Adventure Ground is, and does.

Immaculate gardens, picnic area galore, mazes, Adrenalin-junkie fun, kids paradise, relaxing walks, and even a sweet-tooth’s dream! Why, is there anything Enchanted didn’t cover?

I was soon to find out. Off I went with baby girl with my map of the grounds, my critical eye out and ready for my review…

Statues – tick. √

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Finely trimmed hedges – tick. √

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Brightly coloured flowers – tick. √

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Ok, so this was all well and good for the adult eye, but I needed to keep my daughter happy, and looking at trees was something she had not grown to appreciate as yet.

We followed a path and soon found ourselves in the Turf Maze, a fantastic and relaxing premise based on a practice by Monks in the Middle Ages, used as a meditative tool as they would walk around and around in repetitive circles in silence, aided only by their feet and their thoughts. I got baby girl started on one end as I started taking photos of… the trees.

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I LOVED that tree. Just l♥ved. I developed some serious tree envy as I took several dozen photos of it, and baby girl skipped through a few maze lines, and then was suddenly at the exit of the maze.

Right-o. I don’t ‘quite’ see her meditating in that space, but at least it kept her somewhat busy.

I had promised her a playground (with absolutely no idea whether they had one or not – massive parenting risk), and so that is what we were looking for when we came across this sign.

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It seemed the only fun active activity we could do together, in lieu of getting my 4 year old to tree surf by my side, which I was not going to do solo (again, parenting-risk doing it ALONE). Zip-lining was out too.

W observed the tree surfers in the trees up ahead of us, blending in quite nicely I might add, and immediately decided I would come back there with my adventurous, scare the living daylights out of me Thriller-seeking Hubbie.

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Finding the tube slides was fairly easy, as it is actually hard to ignore five 100-metre long slides that steep down from the hill decline.

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There are tube slides for littlies, from 4 and up, so baby girl could have very well gone on it by herself, since the smaller weight actually makes them travel down slower… but no. I decided to take her with me on the adult ride…

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and then plummet down super fast while I thought “oh shit we’re going to flip.”

We didn’t. In fact we went up twice, and on our second trip down the tube turned backwards, so that I really was freaking then “we’re going to flip! We’re going to flip!”

WE DIDN’T. It was the best fun, but the fact of having to haul a huge tube up a steep hill, carrying a fairly heavy handbag, in heat, and while wearing inappropriately heeled shoes, well, it kind of influenced me to cap the tube slides at TWO.

Baby girl was left thoroughly captivated. And yet still, as we headed off down some other paths to explore, she had not forgotten about that damn playground I had promised.

She looked here and there

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She did the usual whine and moan and unsatisfied toddler routine. Damn me. Why had I gone and said something I had no clue about?

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(Baby girl going all 14 year-old hormonal on me)

I stopped to view some interesting sculpture art along my tree-lined walk.

Art and sculptures from Aboriginal, Australian and European artists collided and worked magically together in this most wondrous of gardens.

And then we got to another maze, the Blue Gum Gallery, and I followed a fast baby girl around it, as she laughed at how incompetently slow I was.

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This cheered her up somewhat, and since by this stage we were close to the café from where we had started our walk, it was soon time to go, and clearly I had come across no such playground from the depths of my imagination. I shut down another protest from her with an insane idea, but it worked.

“Do you want lollies?”

And just like that, a 4 year-old’s face lit up.

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We went inside, paid $5 for a cup, and filled it to the brim with all kinds of devilishly sickly sweet goodies. She ate them slowly in the car, stopping every so often to mumble “mmm, yummy…”

Parenting done right. 😉

The deets!

The Enchanted Adventure Garden

55 Purves Road Arthur’s Seat

General Park Entry for Adults: $30; Child/Seniors $20

this includes:

Mazes, Giant Garden Brainteasers, captivating Gardens to picnic at and view in all of their pristine natural glory;

Tube slides – of which there are 6 to choose from: 3 Big Twisters, 2 Straight Giants, and 1 Kids Only slide. Kids need to be 4 to ride on the Kids slide on their own, any smaller and they must ride with an adult.

Canopy Walk – a suspended path that brings you in amongst the trees, that runs through the park, ideal for small children, older people and people with prams.

a 3D indoor spooky maze – pop on your 3D glasses and watch things pop out at you! Ideal for teens and older kids.

Plus MANY more fun things to discover as you meander around.

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Both kids and adults alike can experience the Tree Surfing on offer. The little nippers course is for kids aged 4-12, though kids aged 4 and 5 need an adult to accompany them on the course.

The tree surfing has various degrees of difficulty for both amateur and professional, mild and reckless adult thrill-seekers alike! Includes bridges, zip lines, obstacles and tree platforms, prices for both Nippers and Grand Tree Surfing courses start from $50 for Adults, and $40 for Children/Seniors, with a 2 hour limit per activity.

But if you need your adrenalin rush and lack the time, need not fear! The Tree Zip Line may be just what you need, and those competitively charged, you can even Zip alongside a friend and see who gets to their destination first! Prices are $40 for Adults, $30 for Children/Seniors.

Active wear highly recommended for these ACTIVE activities, and closed-toes shoes a MUST!

I must reiterate again, despite baby girl’s temperamental attitude towards a lack of playground, there ARE kid-friendly activities and things to do, and they abound. However on that day there were several tree-top renovations happening up above, getting all geared up for the crazy holiday season, and so a couple of areas of the Gardens appeared incomplete. The above is an indicator of what is up on offer, but isn’t a complete list, as there is also a Children’s Maze, something we didn’t see on that day but I think would be perfect for a curious baby girl.

Tips:

Need I say again, closed-toed shoes?

Make your life easy and don’t wear heels.

More advice? Carry light. When I hauled that tube up the hill twice, in my heeled shoes carrying my heavy handbag, I developed lower back pain two nights later and immediately knew where it had come from.

For God’s sake don’t be like me, wear appropriate footwear, pack light, and carry the tube as unforcefully as you can. Or bring Hubbie along and he can do it.

And if all else fails, remember…

LOLLY SHOP.

(Mwa ha ha!)

At first glance perhaps pricey on entry, but when you see all the beauty and fun, relaxation and learning that these Gardens have to offer, you will see that it is well worth the price.

Our visit there was rushed, so I cannot wait to go back and explore some more.

And for something different, an alternative and highly entertaining present would be the Tree Surfing and Zip Lines as a fabulous and inventive gift idea.

So, what are you waiting for… Upwards! ↑↑↑

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Unannounced Cake in a Nanny State

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Photo by Lorene Farrugia on Unsplash

Something unbelievable happened today when we picked up baby girl from kinder. And it was so unexpectedly liberating, innocent and reminiscent of when I grew up as a child, that when I realised what it was, only then did I truly recognise that in this day and age, this was a thing to be noticed.

Baby girl, along with all of the kids in the class, was eating… chocolate cake.

All of them. They were on the floor, cross-legged, some of them asking for spoons so as to not get their fingers dirty (ahem my daughter), smears of brown sponge smeared across their faces, as happy as Larry’s and Lassie’s that it was someone’s birthday.

But more profoundly shocking of the fact they were eating chocolate cake at the end of their kinder session was that…

… wait for it…

The teachers had not informed the parents about it.

(Dum da dum dum!)

And I couldn’t have been happier about it.

I grew up in a time where my Mum was able to bake a whole damn cake and bring it into class, and as the birthday girl I was a God-damn legend. You could hand out lollies, share snacks, and no one batted an eyelid.

I ain’t talking allergies here. No I totally get it if you have some. I had an allergy myself growing up, so I am not putting down the fact that there are some kids that can’t eat certain foods.

I am talking about the fact that we live in a precious nanny state, where every little thing has to be recorded, and every little thing needs asking, permission, and a written personalised autographed hand slip.

For God’s sake.

I have TWO prime examples I came across just in the last year, and I’m only one year young into this whole ‘schooling’ thing too. I came to pick baby girl up one day, and the teacher informed me that she had hurt herself – the poor thing had poled herself climbing down on an A-frame. Ouch. She had been checked out and all appeared fine, but because of this I had to fill out an incident report.

An incident report. I scraped my knee in grade 3 and was sure I could see my bone, there was NO INCIDENT report then.

A second example. A letter taped to the door at kinder last year informed parents that Christmas songs may feature in some of the end of year activities with the children… however if anyone opposed, they would not be included.

Hold up…. WHAT?!?!

Do you see what these two examples represent? A nanny state that is afraid of offending others or getting things so wrong so as to make themselves vulnerable to lawsuit…

Seriously, is this the world we are living in???

When did we start needing permission to eat dessert? To have fun? To sing a freaking Christmas carol???

NO, don’t get me started on Christmas songs. DO NOT touch Christmas festivities. If they don’t let my daughter sing Jingle Bells, I am gonna get violent on their arses.

I can only imagine what lies in store for me for the many decades worth of school years ahead of us, but my hope is that this general wide-spread stupidity dumbs itself down enough so that people stop tip-toeing around each other, and start living with freedom and happiness and trust, so that if anyone DOES want chocolate cake…

They should damn well get it.

Sure, the cake did kinda ruin baby girl’s lunchtime meal… but I was so happy I hadn’t been asked, I didn’t even care.

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Photo by Becca Tarter on Unsplash

 

Winning at the season

Today my daily calender told me this:

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And if you follow my carcrashgratitude blog you may have seen this post, where I posted this pic:

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Baby girl’s Christmas tree.

In baby girl’s bedroom.

Which baby girl decorated herself.

Winning at Christmas AND parenting.

Score 🙂

Things that shit me… #14

…People who ask you unreasonable questions that you will undoubtedly give a negative answer to, making you feel like a total effin failure in the process.

Examples:

“Have you made a Christmas tree-shaped watermelon with your daughter yet?”

Nope, I’m a shit Mum. Not carving up fruit together makes all of my Mothering useless.

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(Pointing to a clearly Masterchef-styled ice cream cake) “Did you make that?”

Nope, I bought it AT A SHOP. I’m a cop-out for not spending 12 hours of my day sweating it out in the kitchen, layering different textures together and freezing them individually, to bring you the absurdly Heston Blumenthal-style design in front of me.

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“Please don’t go to any effort for us.”

Actually, I wasn’t going to, but your passive aggressive request makes me feel like an unhospitable tool for not even considering giving you a 7-course degustation meal in the first place.

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Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash

“Can I have some salt?”

Apologies my food tastes like shit.

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Photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash

“Wow, that is so good of you to do that, I never would have expected it!”

Because I am a horrible, HORRIBLE person.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

You: “What would you like to drink?”

(Asks for a specific drink that you will not have)

Sorry I am not Dan Murphy’s. But I will give you a good dose of scotch, coke, and a refreshing lemon wedge of swift kick-up-the-arse…

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Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

 

 

 

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

‘Change’ the wood

Copperwood
318 Lygon Street Carlton

We made our way here for dinner on Boxing day, winding down from the massive Christmas that had just passed. It was exciting, because we were returning to our old dinner grounds – sure we had lunched and cafed at Lygon since having baby girl, but this was our first time coming around for dinner with her. That was exciting. She is currently passing Bs in the café culture scene, and is pushing a C+ for her restaurant savvy-ness. She’ll be a coffee and food snob like us in no time.

So it kind of made sense that we would end up at the place that we had visited so often in our pre-baby days, when we talked life, love and our passions, while sipping on a glass of Di Giorgio’s and sculling some beers – Copperwood.

It’s positioning on Lygon street makes it continuously busy, but it can deal with the masses because it’s a long venue, and there is plenty more seating far behind the first seated area you walk into, which they always tightly-pack to make it look more appealing to passers-by.

We’d always had great experiences there. Nothing was particularly mind-blowing, but both food and wine had been thoroughly enjoyed. In my pre-baby era I was in love with the Di Giorgios Cab Sav from Coonawarra, even going so far as to track down the supplier and almost order a box (or 5) to be delivered interstate.

Almost.

This Saturday that we ventured upon Copperwood, we were seated initially not in the first section, but the seating that passed the little Christmas tree they had positioned high up near the bar. The old man, a regular there that we remember well, led us to a small table with regular chairs. I asked if they had a high chair, to which I received “no.” Just plain old no. No, apologies, no ‘let me try to make something else work for you.’ No. I don’t know if common sense prevailed him, or whether he’d been removed from the child-rearing years for so long that he’d actually lost touch, or maybe they were just very busy and he couldn’t think. I went for the latter in my mind, because we were hungry and we had returned to a favourite Lygon haunt. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and turned to the booths against the wall in the first section of the restaurant, and asked “can we sit there?”

So, in effect, I seated MYSELF. In light of a high chair, baby girl and I sat in the booth, while Hubbie sat opposite.

Soon, menus arrived. Our waitress was lovely, and when we told her to bring baby girl’s meal first, it came very quickly with no delay. This was a plus.

But first were our drinks. Of course you can guess what I ordered:

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My old fave, Di Giorgios, while Hubbie got a beer.

Very soon after came our appetiser of Bruschetta, while baby girl got her chips here too.

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The bruschetta actually came with 3 pieces, however we were so keen on getting it in our mouths that I only remembered to take a photo when there was one left. Oh well, you get the picture.

Everything was going well, and we were happy. Baby girl was eating and being relatively good, there was still some festive spirit in the air with a little Christmas tree near the bar, plus a modern take on a decorated leafless tree in the middle of the room. I loved it.

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Soon after, the mains. For me:

The garlic prawns – sautéed prawns with garlic, white wine and cream sauce accompanied with steamed vegetables

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And for Hubbie, the Rib Eye Steak, accompanied with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed vegetables

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My description had said vegetables, so I had been expecting many different colours on my plate. To see an abundance of broccoli laying on top of my prawns, I found a tad annoying. It’s annoying because they got away with it, because after all the menu just said ‘vegetables,’ not ‘varied vegetables.’ The broccoli atop the prawns gave it an appearance that I didn’t particularly like. But the meal itself was ok. A very mild garlic flavour, plenty of prawns, and moor-ish rice. I wouldn’t say it was the best garlic prawns I’ve had, but it was good.

Hubbie was in love with his meal. “This,” he told me with passion, “is char-grilled.” Oh Lord, thank you. And guess what? It hadn’t even been advertised as char-grilled, so his adoration was even more intense for this hunk of meat on his plate. I did try a bit, and yes it was very flavoursome, so I could understand his excitement. He was understandably (when you understand my Hubbie) happy. He was talking about coming back already, and just couldn’t get over his amazing steak. But like my meal, his vegetables were also just broccoli.

As we were getting through our meals, I realised that I needed to change our baby girl. I told Hubbie to not let the waitress take away any of our meals, since I was still unfinished, and tried to flag down a waitress to enquire where I could find a baby change table. I was soon informed, and shocked to learn that there was NO BABY CHANGE TABLE. Nothing.

Still in a bit of disbelief that a long-standing restaurant such as Copperwood, on Lygon street, in an inner-city suburb like Carlton, that has toilets, and room for a baby change table, (albeit a fold-out one is more than ok – Common Place had exactly the sort in their women’s bathroom when we went there) yet DID NOT have one, was utterly surprising. I knew the only thing left to do was to quickly scoff the rest of my meal down and pay and leave, with baby girl resigned to being changed in the boot of our car. That was our only option.

However as I tried to eat, I got increasingly frustrated thinking of the ludicrousness of the whole situation, and flagged yet another waitress down in the hopes that the first one had been severely misinformed. She had to find out upon my question, but came back apologetic and saying that they most definitely DID NOT have a change table.

“What era are we living in?” I asked Hubbie. “Seriously, little cafes have change tables, and this place doesn’t?”

Baby girl was in need of a change and starting to get really irritable, and was barely letting me finish the rest of my meal, though I managed it down. Hubbie had to go outside with her while I packed up our things and went to the bar area to pay. It was a quick getaway, and a disappointing one too.

As I approached Hubbie outside, he was holding baby girl in his arms and in the midst of a decent disagreement with the floor manager – you know, the person in charge of overseeing and seating the customers. He was an accented man, and they were going back and forth as people around the front started to tune their ears in. Hubbie had been asked by our specific waitress if everything had been alright – Hubbie had said the food was great, but was disappointed there was no change table, and no high chairs.

“We have a high chair.”

“The waiter told us there weren’t any.”

“It must have been in use?”

“You’re telling me you have one high chair for all of these people?” Hubbie motioned behind him to the people inside.

“I’m sorry we are not a kindergarten.”

Oooh. Ouch. Let me be clear. The way the man said it, was not in malice. He was being defensive in Hubbie’s angry onslaught of complaints. But still. Do you know I could have gone to facebook with that comment? If I had gone online with that quote “we are not a kindergarten” unquote remark from the door manager of Copperwood on Lygon Street, in this day and age of instant news, that would have made it on all the morning shows. That was the wrong, wrong, wrong thing to say.

Hubbie continued angrily, saying it was a matter of seating your guests, not about being a kindergarten, and by this stage I was shooing him off and the manager was apologising for us being upset, as we walked away.

Far out.

Food: 7/10. That’s averaged because mine was ok, whereas Hubbie’s was great.

Coffee: N/A previously, N/A now and N/A never ever after….

Ambience: It was busy and bustling, noisy, perfect for having kids in tow as you’re not concerned about any noise your child may contribute to. But remember that’s a contradiction, because they don’t have ample high chairs and a change table, so it’s not perfect for kids after all.

It’s modern and dim interior makes it a lovely place to dine and wine away, if you don’t have small children.

People: A mix, there were all kinds, in particular a large group of men on one table near us (must have been some kind of late Christmas party) and some friends catching up for dinner beside us. All kinds were about on this Boxing Day evening. I didn’t see too many toddlers like baby girl, so maybe other parents of younglings have cottoned on to this child discrimination before we had.

Staff: They were attentive, in particular our waitress was ever too nice and bringing over extra napkins and plates for baby girl, especially after she witnessed me taking photos.

Price: It was $102.50 for an appetiser, a side, two mains and two alcoholic drinks. It was on the mark for the amount we paid. However as we walked away that money missing in my wallet stung as I recalled the ‘kindergarten’ remark.

Advice: I don’t think you have to book, unless you want seating in a particular location in the restaurant – there seems to always be seats if you’re not fussy. If you have toddlers and babies that require changing as children often do (newsflash!) and high chairs so that they don’t fall off adults chairs, maybe it’s best you don’t come. You can wing it by hoping your child won’t poop her nappy while you’re there, and just sit her beside you in the booth… but that’s a fun risk to take, parent.

In a nutshell: In a LONG nutshell – the food was great, the ambience was great, the waitresses were good, and yet the deliberate exclusion to children there, was absolutely unacceptable, wiping out any plusses we may have experienced that night.

We used to like it back in the day… and I’m sad to say those days are over. Just like the wine that I used to favour so much, honestly, even before the change table incident, it didn’t taste as good as it used to. As time goes on, tastes change. And unfortunately for Copperwood, a restaurant that should be growing with the times, one that is continuously busy and can afford a couple more high chairs as well as a change table to cater for ALL its customers, has clearly made their minds up over who is important to them.

If you don’t have children, never have and never will, well you’ll love this place. So did we once upon a time.

If you have small children, had them, or are planning on having them in the future, please, I ask you to boycott this restaurant UNTIL THEY GROW SENSE ON THEIR TREES (and not just the lamps and Christmas baubles) and get a bloody cheap arse change table and some more high chairs. Then, and only then, should anyone with an inkling for liking little ones even consider going there to eat.

I don’t know if that day will ever come for us. Because really, in a NUTSHELL –

They don’t care for our kids; therefore, we don’t care for them.

Sit on that wood.

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

(Just for fairytale ending’s sake, the night did end nicely with superb coffee and cake at Brunettis, where our darling girl received some surprise, special treatment to make up for the other.)

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This should be more Common

The Common
26 Commercial Place Eltham

We were looking for a place to eat in the Eltham/Greensborough region one Saturday night, and the picture of the restaurant’s interior on their web site looked bustling. In addition, the menu looked interesting and Indian-inspired, and so the easy choice was made to go to The Common.

When I called there was jazz music blasting through the phone, making it difficult to hear the woman I was speaking to. Was this just background noise, or a band? I asked her if it was too late to make a reservation for oh, an hour’s time. We were wanting to come at 7pm, and she sounded unsure, like the booking was pushing it. She spoke to someone on her end for a moment, and then came back to me saying “can you come 6:30 to 6:45?” Sure thing, we would rush to get out. This sounded good. I could understand why they may not want us arriving at a time when other diners were also arriving, as it may cause kitchen chaos as we then all ordered at the exact same time.

We walked in at 6:50… to an almost empty restaurant.

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It was so weird, I had to question the music I had heard earlier. Turns out, their website says they have live jazz music leading up to 6pm on Saturdays, which would have been great for us, but bad that we were now past that timeslot, and I was slightly concerned that the lack of atmosphere would make any cry for attention from baby girl that much more noticeable.

There was only one other couple there and two individual ladies sitting on their own. It was pretty quiet for Eltham on a Saturday. But then again, we weren’t locals.

It slowly filled up during our time there. A group, a duo of friends, some older groups arrived too. It was more of a reserved dining experience, for those with elegant tastes and quiet voices, even though there was ample amount of high chairs in one corner waiting to be used. It was an earthy-looking restaurant, on the corner looking towards the shops behind Main Road, including the Safeway there. Parking had been a breeze, since there was undercover parking for all the communal shops on that strip, so that was an added bonus. There was a lounge in the middle of the restaurant which gave it a more laid-back feel, encouraging locals and casual diners to sit and sip on their coffee while they flipped through some newspapers. And being the festive season, the place was decked out in Merry cheer and little Christmas trees. I loved it.

From the onset, the staff were very professional and on the ball. Our waitress immediately informed us that their oven was out of order, which meant there were a few dishes on the menu that were unavailable. Fortunately they weren’t any that we would have gone for, so that was great. (Thank God it was the oven and not the stove huh?) We ordered our drinks of wine and beer

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and then the mains of:

My Chilli Prawns – Fresh prawns marinated in a chilli tomato sauce with a trio of capsicums and served with orange infused rice

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Hubbie’s Porterhouse Steak – Char-grilled porterhouse served with roasted baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, rosemary potatoes and a red wine jus

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While Baby girl got the Popcorn Chicken – crispy chicken pieces with aioli and lemon, with the Rosemary Potatoes on the side with Dijon remoulade (kind of for all to share).

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The presentation was sensational. Very visually pleasing. I love black servingware, and these colourful flavours were just bursting out at us. I especially loved the black slate that baby girl’s food was served on, it was very modern.

Hubbie had made a point out of checking if the steak he ordered was definitely going to be char-grilled, telling our waitress that he had had ‘fake’ char-grill before. God help me. He is obsessed with this char-grilled thing. He enjoyed his meal, but again, didn’t believe that his Porterhouse was char-grilled. What am I going to do with this man?

I loved my dish. There were many many prawns, which was such a fresh change from prawn dishes that give you like 3, or 4 prawns, if you’re lucky. Everything was saucy and flavoursome, however there was no real hint of chilli. Maybe the slightest warmth, but nothing that I would personally call spicy.

In terms of kids meals, these guys have won on the presentation front by a long shot. So often when I order kids meals out, we get such a sad and boring looking dish, that I feel bad encouraging baby girl to eat it as I am so uninspired myself. Even though the presentation was simple, it was smart, using colour to wow the diner even more. I was very impressed. And the popcorn chicken and the side of potatoes, not only looked good on the plate, but they all tasted good. Baby girl interchanged between the two happily before going walkabout. It was refreshing to see a variation on the standard chicken meal you find so often on offer for the kiddies.

Soon after this, I had to do a nappy change for baby girl, and thank God they had a change table. It was a fold out compacted next to the sinks in the women’s bathroom, but it was light and easily manoeuvred, and I was able to do my change on baby girl with no problems. It would have been a tight squeeze had someone come into the bathroom while I was doing this, since there are only two cubicles and I was right in front of the basin area, but fortunately this did not happen. The bathroom was modern and new, another plus.

I herded baby girl back into the dining area and we decided to share some dessert, while Hubbie opted for a short black. I decided against caffeine, only because I’d already had two that day. I wonder now why I didn’t just go a third, really, but now knowing how Hubbie’s experience was, maybe it’s better I didn’t.

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We all shared the Deconstructed Cheesecake. With a pistachio biscuit crumb foundation, topped with a light white chocolate mousse and served with a mixed berry coulis, this thing really did look divine. The biscuit was crunchy with great texture, and the cheese part was just that, definitely more cheesecake then chocolate mousse, but still, amazing. There were no problems in finishing that dish between the three of us.

Hubbie’s coffee wasn’t as impressive. The crema looked alright, however it was a very short black, short even for the short cup it was in. And then when he tasted it… he didn’t like it at all. I’ve been trying to ascertain this ‘bad flavour’ he said, so as to avoid writing ‘bad flavour’ in my review, but he couldn’t put his finger on it, other than to say it had a bad taste. Not burnt, bad. Being the end of our meal, it was slightly underwhelming to hear.

It had been an odd night, with some really exciting finds and then some average ones. We were still puzzled by the need for us to be there before 7pm, and arriving to an almost empty restaurant. We rushed so much, for that. The only thing I can think of, which seems the most likely, is that there was only one chef in the kitchen, and perhaps they had to think of that when seating people down and placing orders. There were two other people ‘on the floor’ and towards the end of the night another man was there too, so there wasn’t a huge amount of wait staff. They were all lovely though and it was a great night… just with a dose of puzzlement, that’s all.

Food: 8-8.5/10. I waver here because my prawns were not chilli, and Hubbie’s steak wasn’t char-grilled, OR SO HE SAYS. Everything else was great, and the menu is one to be explored further.

Coffee: 4/10. I have to go off of Hubbie’s rating in lack of my own caffeine beverage there, and he just didn’t like the taste.

Ambience: Quiet, post 6pm. Relaxed, but in a refined manner. I think it’s a different story when the music is on, that’s what it sounded like anyway. Would have loved a bit more pizazz while we were there (which can’t be helped by them I know), it was just really-toned down.

People: Friends and older folk catching up. I didn’t see any other kids that night, but there were high chairs.

Staff: They were really good and very friendly. Informative and professional.

Price: It was about $130 all up – that consisted of 3 and a half mains, 3-4 alcoholic drinks, dessert and coffee. Some dishes were on the ‘up’ side, but having said that the quality and presentation of the food was up to scratch.

Advice: I don’t know whether to say ‘reserve ahead’ or ‘just rock up’ here. They seemed quite definite on the phone about what time of night we were arriving, whereas while there I saw a few people come in with no reservation. Do what you feel is right for your crew.

In a nutshell: Despite some mixed feelings about various components of the night, it was favourably skewed to the positive overall, and I was impressed with the surroundings and elegant ambience of the restaurant. The menu is worth perusing and exploring, and God damn it I’ll even order a coffee next time to see what Hubbie was going on about. Seeing as this is an area we may often frequent in the future, I think we will definitely be coming back to this place, more Commonly.

The Common Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bill in the hand, Bird in the Sand

Birdie Num Nums
745 Nicholson Street Carlton North

The annual KK Christmas catch-up, originally girly but now inundated with littlies, was the reason for our get together at this Nicholson Street eatery one cool yet sunny Saturday morning.

Knowing it was in Carlton North, and the street it was on, parking was always going to be an issue. Fortunately, there were loads of car spaces (not so much available ones) in the block behind Birdie Num Nums, so after a bit of concerted driving we found ourselves a 2-hour park.

It’s a funky, airy café upon entry. High ceilings, quite spacious, with a kind of minimalist industrial feel. And some birdcages hanging from the ceilings thrown in too, of course. I wasn’t too concerned with the interior – the courtyard was what I was finding myself terrified about, and it had even been mentioned on a sign at the front of the café, heightening my sense of trepidation even more.

We walked through the indoor section, past the kitchen and toilets, to the tables surrounding the –

DUM DA DUM DUM.

Sandpit.

This bloody sandpit had been the primary motivator in our decision for going there. There were five of us girls, and between us, 4 kiddies. KK wasn’t what it used to be anymore: there was no more gossip about who did what and when by then; we didn’t all sit hunched over the table in deep discussion and D&Ms about life and our reason’s for being on this earth; and we didn’t stay seated at the table for the full duration with only a toilet break to freshen and reapply some gloss.

No. Now our banter about random events and everyday life was often interrupted with “baby girl! Stop that! – What were you saying about that colleague?” The topic of kids heavily dominated our conversation, even those of us who had none spoke of their nieces/nephews/kids in the fam and just about everything relating to kids possible. “How do you get your girl to brush her teeth?” “Have you heard him saying fuck? He says fuck now.” “Baby girl blow a kiss – good girl!” And it was impossible to stay seated for more than 15 minutes at a time, as we got up to clean our kids/assist them/stop them crying/starting a fighting/losing their shit at a toy, even those without kids were often reeled in and made to follow them around (ahem, my daughter). There was no rest for ANYBODY.

But, it was as we had always dreamed. This was the stuff we had spoken about in high school – catching up, and our kids playing together. It was awesome that it was now reality.

So, naturally, having so many kiddies to reign in, one of the girls mentioned this sandpit place she had been to. Their website even says the sandpit is great to keep the kids amused while the parents can sit back and have a break.

You know, that’s fine and all… it just occurred to me days before the actual KK catch-up: ‘How do you consider cleaning sand off of kids after-the-fact, a break?’

Cleaning sand? Is this most annoying and irritating of cleaning tasks, off of kids out of all things, considered a break? Are you kidding me? The mere thought of getting rid of all that crap, even if you had the most blissful uninterrupted two hours of your life while your child ground down sand into every crevice of their body, rubbing it deep into their hair and rolling around in it like a pig in mud, that my friends would surely diminish any happiness I had previously felt. No, knowing that after your amazing coffee-time, you had to scrub and clean and rinse, and still find sand in your child days and many baths later, no, there could be NO happiness there.

This was the dread I was feeling as we ventured into the outdoor area.

Back to Birdie’s. There were quite a few outdoor tables and options in the large yard, some with umbrellas, and this was good since we had failed to remember to reserve a table for our large lot. Fortunately we sat down straight away, within easy access right next to the sandpit (yay).

Soon we ordered, and the kids meals arrived first.

Baby girl got the Pikelets, maple syrup (on the side) & fruit

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The meal didn’t look spectacular, but she did love the pikelets, in particular the seasonal watermelon that was present, so kudos for that. Soon after the rest of us received our meals, and we fit it in in amongst the ripped paper and cards and new-found goodies from our Christmas exchange, to the background sound of baby girl’s squeals of delight at the sight of MORE food arriving for us.

I ordered the Portobello Caps – baked Portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, poached eggs, cheeses and a drizzle of truffle oil, served on sourdough toast

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With a cappuccino.

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Lucky I actually took a photo of the menu, because I was sure I was getting many mushrooms, rather than the singular large one that was on my plate. Despite the menu saying Portobello mushrooms, I didn’t mind, I realise it may have been a seasonal thing where they didn’t have a particular menu item available. All in all it was a good meal, the eggs were poached well with a lovely runny yolk, but nothing was really wow. I guess with the garlic flavour atop the mushroom, that was strong in itself and the rest of the meal was fairly bland in flavour to compensate. I still ate it all as I was really hungry, but it just wasn’t spectacular.

To top it off, I had mistakenly ordered my cappuccino at the same time – my bad. It was just easier doing it all at once rather than later. However when I did sip my coffee, a tad after receiving it, it was unusually lukewarm, which makes me think it wasn’t hot at all on arrival. This was a bit disappointing because with the (lack of) speed at which I drink coffee with baby girl besides me, it ends up being quite cool. This day, my cappuccino was had cold. Damn.

Nothing was that ordinary though that a bad time was had, and again, we had the best company to compensate for any shortcomings brought on by food, drink or otherwise. The service was great and we had one lovely lady take a photo of the group of us – lovely until she denied us to pay separately up at the counter when we were paying our bill. We had first been told by another waitress that they usually don’t split bills on the weekends, but that it may be possible if they weren’t busy. Considering the entire courtyard area had emptied out in the last 20 minutes prior to our departure, bar one other group, we thought we could definitely get by with a split bill. However when the photo-taking lady told one of us she couldn’t put our bills through individually, we then had to stand there at the front counter, with prams and bags and kids milling around, and take up one end of an empty table as we tried to work out what we owed, in doing so heavily inhabiting the front part of the shop for the next 5 minutes. Lady, I realise it’s against policy to split bills on weekends. But 1) you weren’t busy, 2) instead of getting us out quicker we turned the interior into a fiasco as we tried to work out what we each had to pay, and 3) we left with bad feelings. Tsk tsk tsk. I don’t think it’s worth it from an owner’s perspective, don’t you?

However, I did leave feeling rather accomplished. Right after our arrival there, baby girl had touched a toy near the sandpit, and had immediately come to me with hand outstretched – she didn’t like the sand on her hands. Bless. Thank you Lord. She is most definitely my daughter. She didn’t go into the sandpit the entire time, nor did she play with overly sandy toys (tee hee hee).

Food: 6.5/10. Okay, but I expected more.

Coffee: 6.5/10. It wasn’t delivered hot, and it wasn’t my preferred coffee bean flavour.

Ambience: It was very cas in the courtyard, what with the colourful chairs and sandpit and toys occupying all spaces.

People: Lots and lots of families out back. Inside they seemed quieter, and there were much fewer kids. The courtyard is THE family hang out.

Staff: They were lovely, and we were happy right up until bill time…

Price: My orders tallied up to just under $30, which I think is spot on for this kind of eatery in Carlton North.

Advice: You might need to search for parking behind the café. Give yourself extra time to do this especially on weekends. Bring money too, because like one friend of mine, you’ll be shitty when you realise you can’t pay by card in your denied split bill. The courtyard is the place to go for families and kid playdates, but as my friend well acquainted with sandpits says – “the less layers the better!” Just beware.

In a nutshell: If you don’t mind your child getting covered in filth as you sip your lukewarm coffee, then this is the place for you. I didn’t mind it, and seeing as baby girl didn’t bathe herself in the grainy stuff, I feel okay about going back. However there were a few downers, and so with that in mind it may take me a while to forget these Birdies – I mean boo boos – and consciously decide to venture back.

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Birdie Num Nums Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The true meaning of Christmas

‘Be Nice to People. This is a stressful time of year for many.’

Is what my daily calendar said to me on the weekend. I was fortunate to have the only problems of trying to find some last-minute presents amidst the madness of shopping centres, with the addition of cramming in time amongst work and baby girl and writing to make gingerbread cookies, and a gingerbread cheesecake for Christmas day.

I am so, so thankful to have these festive challenges. I will not call them problems.

You know what a problem is? Terminal illness. Disease. Young children fighting for their lives. Being unable to move, or speak, or do anything for yourself, because an illness has taken hold of your body and has you captive against your will.

I was thinking about the concept of giving earlier this month. It’s a time of year when there is such an emphasis on gifts, and an abundance of stuff, that the true meaning of Christmas is often forgotten. Along with family, and love, and appreciation, I believe one fairly prevalent theme behind this time of year is in giving to the unfortunate.

I was at a shopping centre and was stopped by a young guy trying to organise monthly donations to the Starlight Foundation – a fabulous organisation that grants wishes to children with terminal illnesses. Terminal and children. Those words should not belong together in a sentence.

I wanted to help, but I couldn’t dedicate my money in such a consistent manner as to be donating a certain amount every month. I wanted to do a once-off donation, but his stall that day was to gather as many consistent donations as he could. He let me off gently by saying “You can make a once-off donation online – just promise me you’ll do it alright?”

I often get letters by the Stroke Foundation too, ever since a family member suffered from one and I decided to donate. That reminder, along with the above incident, and Christmas lights strung outside houses and carols warbling about “good tidings to the world” ringing out through stores, I approached Hubbie with an idea.

On a particularly low day, days later, I went online and donated to three organisations. Two were for conditions that close family members of ours had been affected by – Stroke and Brain Cancer. The third one was The Starlight Foundation. I don’t go back on my promises.

They were the best presents I’ve given this year, and it’s not even Christmas day yet. I had been feeling low, but I knew it was no where near what people dependent on these organisations were feeling.

Together, Hubbie and I decided, that we’ll have a new Christmas tradition. Along with the Buble songs playing throughout our home in December, my kikki.K advent candle burning down to the number 25, and the smell of gingerbread occupying the house leading to the Merry day, we’ve vowed to make a donation to organisations important to us each Christmas.

Because, when you think about it – if you can buy $50-100 presents for members of your family, I’m sure there’s $30 or $40 bucks somewhere there to spare for an organisation that you think matters. If we all made a little contribution, no matter how small, imagine the tremendous impact it would make for the people with REAL problems at Christmas-time.

Just imagine. Now is the best time to make a difference.