‘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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Spring on over to (glorious!) Panton’s

Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery
145 Manuka Road Panton Hill

Visiting a winery had been an event-in-waiting for over three years. Before we had fallen pregnant with baby girl, I had been desperate to go to one and quite honestly, get nicely plastered before officially getting off the alcohol wagon for my lonngggg stop-over to responsible-parentsville. We had managed to stop at one, but it hadn’t really fulfilled my winery desires: there had not been a menu available on the day we visited, and though we sampled some wines and did take a bottle home, I had really wanted the full winery experience: food, wine, sitting in the splendid sunshine, ALL OF IT.

I’m an elephant, and I don’t forget. These unfulfilled experiences stay in my mind until the mother-fuckers are ticked off my anal to-do-in-life list.

I don’t even know how we came to the idea though – I think it went something like ‘this Sunday is going to be super awesome weather/this Sunday we are free/what can we do on such a nice day/let’s eat out…. Winery!’

Yes something like that.

So, on the first super amazing Spring Day of September, we headed over to Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery to make my winery dreams come true.

Why Panton’s? Honestly, I was looking at wineries close to our vicinity of town. This one was a 30 minute drive, and compared with wineries of similar distance as well as neighbouring town wineries, this one had a menu on weekends and looked really lovely. The website mentioned something about blending Australian and European surrounds, and I immediately went ‘ding! sold.’

I called them on a Thursday to see if I had to book in advance (if you go somewhere with your child and you don’t book beforehand, you’re uber-confident as well as playing roulette with some gangster Murphy’s Law fairies) and when no one answered I left a message revealing our Sunday intentions.

That night I got a call back, advising that yes, we needed to book, especially as it was going to be a gloriously sunny day. The lady I spoke to was lovely and booked us for 1pm.

Come amazing Sunday lunch, and here Hubbie, baby girl and I are, driving through Eltham and then Diamond Creek, via winding roads and greenery in all directions to finally make our way to a gravel-y, slow, long, driveway leading to Panton’s. The first car park we came across was full, but Hubbie spotted a sign alluding to more spaces behind the building, and so he followed it to find it was so.

After walking into one of the buildings, where there was a private party at one end, and wine tastings up the other, there followed a bit of confusion. There were two nearby buildings, one opposite the one we were in, and one further along the trail, but those two I didn’t see people coming in and out of. Then there was the outside seated area besides this building, with some shaded tables and some next to unopen umbrellas. I had booked for 1pm, but where was the person to seat us? Not to come across all high-brow with my demand of being seated, but as I had been told we were required to book, with the time of 1pm given, it was almost expected that there would be a little reserved sign on a table somewhere with someone waiting to say “Hi Smikg, your table awaits.”

Nope.

I patiently waited behind a couple tasting wines to ask the older gentleman (he appeared to be the only one representing the property around) that we had arrived for lunch and didn’t know where to sit. He said “wherever you like,” and proceeded to point out all the areas we could sit. We headed outside, because we’d just come out of Winter and all.

Here too we hung out for a while. We soon realised there were numbers on other tables (the kind you get when you order so when you sit down the wait staff can find you), but again, no wait staff.

Wait! No, then they appeared. We managed to somewhat successfully flag one young lad down who informed us, once we’d explained our situation (we want food and drink please give it to us) that we were to order and pay inside the building with the gentleman who had been handing out wine tastings. Apparently there was a menu there. Alright then, and back I went. I felt a bit like a see-saw by this stage, but the sun was too damn bright to darken my mood.

I ordered some food and drink, before Hubbie went in to do the same while I now did the babysitting duties, making sure baby girl didn’t throw too many rocks into the nearby fountain and what not. She was having a ball, and usually distractions while we’re out and about, especially when dining, are heavily appreciated, however picking up rocks and throwing them into a pool of water, didn’t seem like it would be heavily appreciated by others. So containing her insane excitement at the task was not-so-fun.

But there was a dog! This was very exciting for baby girl, but we couldn’t let her just wander after it and grab at it, and at the same time, though this sweet dog did seem very hungry, sitting at our feet (and everyone else’s) hoping to be fed, its name tag informed us ‘do not feed the dog!’ Ok then.

We also had the issue of the sun. I know, I know us Melburnians, we whinge all the time “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too windy, it’s too still now I can’t breathe, it’s just too normal can we have all 4 seasons in one day again?” Anyway, yes we were rapt it was an amazingly beautiful day, and I knew so many people who were out and about and planning so many extraordinary things for this fine Spring day. It was the first one in a LONG time, which my facebook feed also gave testament too at the sheer volume of out-and-about posts that featured that day from almost EVERYONE. However, it was still, it was hot, and sitting under the sun without sunscreen (not used to the fear of not-being white yet so early into Spring) was intense, and then of course, was our sweet baby girl, who we protect like a magpie protects its young swooping down on unsuspecting passersby who hold no intention of malice, just because they are near this time of year. Her precious skin is not for the sun. Our umbrella though, seemed very hard to manoeuver, and it was only when a certain lady came out that I went ‘ahhhh.’

Boss lady. Because she was, it was so damn apparent.

She immediately came to us, knowing we needed it lifted without even asking. She moved through the tables, checking on people, getting things, talking to the suddenly present waiters about what to do. And then we had shade.

And then not long after that, food too:

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We had gotten a few things to share, along with a VB for Hubbie and a glass of Verdelho for me. The menu was primarily pizza, and even the specials that day included lamb on a pizza. It was a fairly casual menu, but still, I didn’t care. There was food, there was alcohol, and there was sun.

We shared the Potato pizza, Classico pizza and Cheese and Spinach Burek. What I had found humorous was when I had asked the man how large the burek was, and he proceeded to give me hand configurations adding that a Turkish man on premises made it. Dude, I know what burek is, my family makes it. That’s like describing to Willy Wonka what chocolate is. And his pronunciation of it was gold. He and his missus may have had accents, but that didn’t allow for the correct pronounciation of it. (Say bu-rek. Pronounce bu, not drawn-out ‘boo,’ but a short ‘bu,’ followed by ‘rek,’ rhyming with ‘neck,’ but the r is short as well, the r Europeans sound out, a bit of a rolling r. Anyway).

I now know that that ‘dude’ goes by the name of Teunis and boss lady, his wife, by Dorothy. I’m not psychic, their website says so. He may not know his burek, but he sure as hell knows his land, and his wine, having purchased that block of land in the ‘70s, transforming it single-handedly into what it is today. When you see the property, you know what an incredible achievement that is. I have such respect for individuals who turn nothing into something unique and spectacular, and Panton Winery sure fits that bill.

The classico pizza had salami, tomatoes, olives and cheese, with the addition of chilli. Hubbie, who had the majority of this one, said he couldn’t really taste the chilli, but still, he ate it all. I had most of the potato pizza, and its combination of rosemary, potatoes, Spanish onion and cheese is always a winner. We all shared the burek which was not served as a loaf as previously indicated (!) but cut up into tiny pieces, all the better as we all nibbled on it and easily fed baby girl pieces too. There were some marinated olives and mushrooms on the side too, and together we finished it all.

Hubbie thought it was fairly standard, however I loved it. Yes the menu was basic, but for me it was more the experience of the setting, wine and food together. Also what was perhaps slightly affecting him was baby girl’s inability to sit down and listen. We did the usual taking turns eating while the other watched her, and when it was my turn to keep her busy while he ate, she and I walked around the grounds while I took some photos of the surrounding bushlands, vineyard, and the picturesque buildings.

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It was getting peaking hot, and with it baby girl’s irritability was cranking up a notch. Getting tired, we didn’t want to push her, but before we left, there was just one thing left to do.

Hubbie watched her while I disappeared here for 20 minutes.

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At first Teunis was meant to give me some wine options, but he got busy and Dorothy stepped in. I had 6 wine taste testings, some red, some white, while two of them I tried decanted. She was asking me if I could taste the difference between the decanted and the standard, and you know, I could, but also, by then we were onto the 5th taste test and it all tasted fine by then. Then she tried to sell me a decanter, and that tipsy side of me was loose, very loose, and very easily persuaded, and Dorothy probably knows to try to sell the decanter on the 5th taste-testing rather than the first, but for some reason this narration kicks in when I start drinking, and the narrator was telling me ‘you know you’re well on your way, don’t just buy something for the sake of it.’

Fortunately for me, the narrator in my mind won out again and I didn’t make a flimsy purchase. I know her decanters were cheaper, but I think I’ll wait and buy a pretty one. Loved the tutorial on why you decanter though, it was very informative.

Anyway, from all of that I walked out with this

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All smiling into the sunlight and whispering to Hubbie as I approached “I just had 6 wine tastings and I’m drunk.”

Yep. Life of a Mum.

We left after that, relieved that baby girl was falling asleep in the car, with sweet memories of rolling hills and wine and mispronounced burek.

Food: 7/10. Yes it was a standard menu, but points for the fresh ingredients (I assume the rosemary we were picking from the shrub with baby girl was used for my potato pizza – but shhh!)

Coffee: N/A. We were really close to ordering it, but Hubbie just couldn’t take the heat (weak) and baby girl’s cheeky antics anymore so we thought we best not to push our stay.

Ambience: Very relaxed. Beautiful. Serene. Amazing surrounds. The buildings, reminiscent of something you may see in Tuscany, transport you to another place and make you feel like you are far, far away, rather than just 30 minutes from home.

People: I was surprised and relieved that we weren’t the only ones with cheeky toddlers. A big family was there, mostly though there were couples and older couples. Also that big party inside the wine-tasting building that was going through the bottles (and so they should).

Staff: I hate to say based on our lovely experience, but kind of not present at first. I put this down not to unwillingness to work or help the guests, but rather the demands placed on them by the people visiting and superb weather. Meaning, they were understaffed. Otherwise they seemed ok, but didn’t hang around to talk. Both owners were chatty, but due to the volume of people they also seemed rushed.

Price: We spent under $60 (and that wasn’t including my approximately $30 bottle of pinot noir), that included the two pizzas and burek all for $15 each, and then there was my white wine and Hubbie’s beer at about $6 each. Perhaps, a bit overpriced for pizza, but I get it, you’re paying for the surrounds, as well as the wine-tastings (how else are they going to justify giving each person 6 different wine-tastings?)

Advice: Go on a gloriously sunny day (have I said gloriously enough in this post yet?!), on the weekend, so you can enjoy both wine and food. Pay and order in the building where all the wines are lined up, and then sit ‘wherever you like.’ And just, enjoy 🙂

In a nutshell: I would definitely come back to this place. Taking baby girl with us, I’d probably go when we have other friends and their kids with us so she could play with them, rather than with the water fountain. Or I could even go as a brunch/lunch option when just meeting up with the girls only. It’s the right place for a relaxing gasbag. And a coffee too, must do that next time I’m there.

They have the right ingredients of setting, scenery, wine and food, but a little work needs to go into welcoming the guests and setting them up properly on arrival so they’re not left wandering the grounds, hungry and thirsty. All in all, an amazing find that I can’t wait to revisit.

To-do-in-life List:

Visit winery and drink and eat on sunny day.
Kiss in the rain.
Watch the sunrise come up while watching from a peak/hill.
See the Aurora Borealis.
See Madonna in concert – soon.
Get published.

Panton Hill Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rubens stays warm

Rubens
70 Main Road Hepburn Springs

On the first day of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford Wintry getaway, the name Rubens came recommended twice. This was both impressive, and yet not so. In a more area secluded area such as this, it can be expected that there may be not so many places to dine out at, making the same restaurant options pop up more than once. However on the flipside, we soon discovered that the countryside location actually had a decent abundance of eateries to accommodate for the constant influx of tourists wanting to spa away.

The man at the Dayget office mentioned the above when I first went to check in, and then the mobile masseuse lady who came for my massage also recommended it. Still, we drove into Daylesford town, and after finding not much open on a Monday night, decided to then Ruben it.

We were able to be seated near the front entrance door, with a high chair for baby girl in the passageway, or outside in the alfresco area. At first we opted for inside fearing the freezing temperatures that had all of a sudden appeared on the first day of Winter (even Melbourne usually waits a couple of weeks before really freezing us), but after Hubbie checked it out he discovered that the alfresco area was completely enclosed, and had some of those outdoor heaters warming the area. Deciding on the extra space, we went out. The staff were very accommodating with our change of mind considering we hadn’t booked on a night they already had a few functions and they had already arranged our table.

Ruben’s had been flagged as an Italian-style restaurant, and like the Dayget man had said there were several pages of menu to leaf through. The interior was fairly standard, and in the alfresco there were probably about a dozen or so tables.

I decided I wanted a bottle of red. So I got this:

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Sandy Farm 2013 Cabernet Merlot

And was very happy indeed. 🙂

Perusing the kid’s menu, I was very pleased to see this option

Vegetables with chips

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So I got it for baby girl. It was refreshing to see something other than your usual chips and nuggets, or spaghetti bolognaise options that you see in so many other places. I wanted something fairly healthy for her, and despite the vegies being drizzled with a olive oil dressing and some other flavour, it was still pretty healthy and had baby girl eating a fair decent portion of it all. I was rapt. We taste-tested too and it was yummy indeed. She got her meal earlier as requested, which helped our cause once again. Tick.

We had the same style of vegies that baby girl had had aside our mains that we ordered.

Tasmanian Salmon Steak- oven baked, with fried Kipfler, sweet potato, and seasoned vegetables for me

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Eye Fillet Steak- char grilled and served with a pepper sauce for Hubbie

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Both were very healthy, comforting and satisfying meals. Hubbie had requested medium for his steak, and it was a deep to light pink all the way through. The way it was cooked, for him was a pass. As he ate it he grew more approving. It would have taken longer for it to be cooked medium to well, yet his steak was still to his liking. I even tasted it and thought it was great, until the pepper sauce hit the back of my throat and sent me on a coughing fit en route to the end. My God, this Winter cough won’t give up. Anyway, it was great.

My salmon was lovely, healthy, and fried all the way through how I like it. We had all had healthy and satisfying meals, which were tasty but simple.

To end it I decided on this:

Affogato

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Which we all ended up sharing. Baby girl had some ice cream, Hubbie had some coffee and I had a bit of both mixed together. 🙂 It was good, but the coffee was very strong. At least if it was going to keep me up, it was going to keep Hubbie up with me 😉

Food: 7.5/10. Simple but hearty. A fairly standard menu, options wise, yet there were a lot of them, so that was good.

Coffee: 7/10. Strong. I wonder how their cappuccinos are like?

Ambience: On the quiet side, especially outside. This made us slightly nervous, with a hungry girl needing to eat beside us, but thank goodness she behaved. This once. Inside it was more rambunctious with a few big groups, and as the night wore on it the volume also increased inside the alfresco. It was warm and inviting, made additionally so by the heaters against the wall!

Staff: The staff were really good, in particular our waitress was amazing and very accommodating to our needs. She was attentive, warm, helpful and genuine. Her service was impeccable, we were very impressed. She also helped me out with the wine. 😉

People: Couples, and groups of people. 25+ up? We were concerned with an older couple beside us who were especially quiet over their meal, hoping baby girl’s possible antics wouldn’t totally piss them off, however she didn’t get vocal while they were there, and then when they left another couple of the same age bracket came in their place who actually acknowledged baby girl with a few smiles, so we breathed a sigh of relief.

Price: It was $130.50 all up, but that also included a bottle of red that came in at $38, so our grand total was a bit more than usual. With our mains averaging at about the $30 mark, baby girl’s meal at $12 (all kids meals are $12) and a couple of drinks, and the affogato, it was about on the mark.

Advice: If going over the weekend, perhaps book. Yes there were a few functions surprisingly on the Monday night we went, but you should be safe just rocking up during the week. If it’s cold out, don’t worry about seating in the alfresco, as it’s still warm.

In a nutshell: A cosy and inviting place that we would be happy to return to on a trip back to the Hepburn area. Happy staff and a vast menu make this an enjoyable place to dine at, and with the healthier kids option, I can see why this was recommended to me not once, but twice.

Click to add a blog post for Rubens @ Hepburn on Zomato

Happy Monday

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

Because you can never have too much positivity.

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

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

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

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

Job and Friend Helping Tick!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping other makes you happy.

Sharing with others makes you happy.

Being rewarded makes you happy.

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

Motherly, Tick. 🙂

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

Food for thought on writing

The challenge isn’t in trying to write when your circumstances back you. The challenge isn’t in trying to find the time, the opportunity, the inspiration or the drive, when you’re in the mood.

When your geared up on coffee, had a couple of glasses of red, or sitting by the window on a rainy day, your muse will come. In fact, in those instances, your muse will be waiting for you to jump on the writing train. The words will flow and the ideas will spring to mind faster than your fingers have the time to get them out. This is me, most of the time.

The challenge comes when you don’t have a 1 hour block (or 2, or 3 hours, however you work) to get into a real writing flow. The challenge comes when you’re tired, when you’re sick. When you’re just not feeling like it, when the ideas fail you. The biggest one for me, is when I’m sad. Anger drives me, frustration gets me writing furiously, but sadness…. This is a hard obstacle between me and my writing.

But I remind myself, this separates the real writers from the occasional writers. And I don’t want to be ‘occasional.’ I want to be there, on cue, always, showing up.

Besides, if I rely on the unpredictability of Melbourne weather, those rainy spells only really last for 5 minutes at a time, so yeah.

Write for life.

Annie are you ok, are you ok…. are you ok if I bring my kid?

Annie’s Provedore
Shop 2, 50 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

Annie’s was our first coffee stop during our Barwon Heads getaway on that brilliantly sunny first day. We were along the coastline, on the other side of the city, that part of town that Hubbie’s work mates affectionately refer to as ‘Little Essendon’ due to the number of their customers that holiday there.

Their exterior displayed eclectic beach/bush-funk, and a peek into the interior showed what looked like an exclusive little deli and bakery amidst indoor seating. I overheard one woman saying to her friend as they peeked inside “Oh, I wish we had seen this place first before having our chips!” I would have been spewing too.

There were quite a few tables adorning the sidewalk, all with umbrellas, expect for the one free table we made a beeline for. Despite the cool wind we had bright sunlight in our eyes, which made our initial visit there short and sweet, just like the subsequent coffee and cake that we had. We sat Parisian style, all of us facing the sidewalk watching the people and dogs (which baby girl loved) walk by.

We ordered coffees, a babycino for baby girl and a lemon and lime tart, as the vanilla slice hubbie had requested was unfortunately sold out.

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Both our latte and cappuccinos came with a choccie on the side, which I found a nice touch. They were decent sized coffees, another plus, however for me I found the flavour a tad too strong. Hubbie loved his though. As did baby girl.

The tart was nice and tangy, with a hint of creaminess. Nice and fresh, and a lovely accompaniment to the strong coffee.

On our second day in town, I stopped in to buy some much needed deli brie. I had decided after discovering the deli, that there was no way I was getting it conveniently from the local IGA. Nothing against the supermarket, but when I see gourmet deli, I’m like a little kid in a candy shop.

And so true to the cliché, I was, as I walked in to feast my eyes upon the offerings on that very hot second day. I was perusing the choccies, bikkies, cheeses and hams, and all the deliciously gourmet local/imported deli offerings available to be bought for good dough. Speaking of, they even had many varieties of loaf bread, both basic and gourmet styles. After having a good sticky-beak, I settled on a triple cream brie, some spanakopita to take back and share with Hubbie, some strawberry lollies, and some ginger and almond biscuits with lemon myrtle infused Belgian chocolate, to have with our takeaway coffees.

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That place seriously, is a deli lover’s dream.

I happily bought, paid, and then went to stand by the bread to wait for my coffees. And wait. And wait. And…. wait.

If I had known how long the wait would be, I would have gone there first, ordered, driven my car to the IGA to buy the groceries I had already bought that day, and come back to Annie’s to pick up the coffees which I reckon would have just become ready. Geez. It took forever. It probably felt longer as I was just standing there doing nothing but ‘taking in,’ but it really was a long while.

When I finally did get my coffees after what seemed like a forever of 15-20 minutes, I realised they had earned some brownie points: with the inclusion of two little pieces of brownie beside our coffees on the tray.

“The cappuccino is the one with the brownie on top,” said the young blond kid to me as he handed me the coffees.

I said thanks, but at first I was a bit peeved as I already had a bag to carry, another hand for the coffee tray, and then one of my taken hands also had to hold in place my dress with the massive slit going down the front, in fear the breeze outside blew the wrong way. And now I had to balance brownies, ON a coffee tray. Just to make things interesting. However as the human-multitasker, I even surprised myself with how well I manoeuvred to the car and back to our room with EVERYTHING intact. Score.

And, I had realised why the coffees had taken so long to arrive when I stepped outside. It was now absolutely packed, with what seemed like everyone trying to score an outdoor seat and enjoy some coffee and sweets in the sunshine.

Again, the coffee was strong that day, but I think I was starting to get used to it. The biscuits had great texture, and the filling was decadent and creamy. Finally, the spanakopita was just what we needed as we had pretty much forgotten lunch in our busy-ness that day. Later that day we tried the lollies, and they indeed were strawberry sweet, and the brie was well…. Mmmmmmm. Worth the wait and drive and everything. Perfect with crackers and a glass of cab sav.

On our third day there we went for breakfast. I had been very gung-ho about having to have brekkie there, since that first day when I’d noticed on the menu that they had coconut pancakes. Oh my. I just had to, it was a must. I’m a savoury brekkie girl, but the thought of coconut pancakes? I just had to see what it was all about.

Unlike our first two days, this day was almost pouring. There was consistent rain coming in from early morning, and we ran in with an umbrella trying to cover the three of us. No one was outside, bar two girls who bravely sat under an umbrella at a wet table. This time, the interior was fairly full, but this isn’t hard to achieve as you wouldn’t call their indoor area amply-spaced. We stood, looking around, thinking someone was going to seat us, and then I realised that we had to sit ourselves down. After all, when you pay and order you need to go to the counter, and only after that do you get your order delivered to your table.

I realised that was the odd contradiction to this place. It was homely, earthy, eclectic, and interesting. It seemed au naturel, with its back yard feel of baskets hanging from the ceiling, wooden chairs that were all different colours and sizes, and bakery and deli goods just hanging around waiting to be grabbed by outstretched hands. But there was a definite poshy undertone, and I don’t know if it was the staff, the clientele, or a bit of both that made the air so. Either way, it was a definite mix.

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We sat at a communal table and after asking a waitress clearing plates nearby, she brought over a highchair for baby girl. During our time there we had some difficulty keeping her entertained and shriek-free, having to endure some looks from other diners. In particular was the fine group of three pole-bums at the other end of our table who couldn’t even smile at baby girl as she grinned happily in their direction. I don’t expect people to make conversation and goo-goo ga-ga with her, but I’ve discovered one very important and factual life rule since having her: people, even rude people and mean people, will still smile and get all soft when a baby smiles AT THEM. People change in the presence of such innocence, and so I have to wonder what type of woman would ignore a child and turn away, feigning ignorance, when such a beautiful girl smiles AND WAVES, in her direction. I’m bias, because she’s mine. But like I said, what kind of heart would do this? Someone with the absence of one perhaps?

Anyway, back to the brekkie. We got our coffees surprisingly quick, quick compared to how long I’d had to wait the previous day.

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This time with cookies! Great job guys, loving the sweet extras.

Then minutes after, our food arrived. I had ordered:

Coconut Pancakes with pineapple

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And Hubbie had ordered:

Bircher Muesli with berries & Shaw river yogurt

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My pancakes were nice, but not what I had expected. They were warm and beautiful, but a bit doughy. The cream atop them was nice and fresh, and I had most of the pineapple, but together I had expected more. It was lovely, but maybe my expectations of what coconut pancakes would be like were too high, especially with the build-up over a few days. I’m not sure. Then again, I think it was just a case of me being a savoury-brekkie girl. The sweet temptation had tempted me into going the sweet route, and once again I was thinking ‘I should have gotten my usual eggs.’ Next time.

Hubbie wasn’t a fan of his bircher muesli, but then towards the end he didn’t mind it. I should probably explain that here’s a man who’s recently decided to go fairly carb-free, right before going away and then has tried to eat lighter meals while we go out. He never eats bircher muesli, and then he’s ordered it in an attempt to avoid his usual ‘big brekky’ style meal. I tried his meal, and agreed that it was very sweet with a definite all-spice taste, which is probably where the sour yoghurt comes in, to offset it. If I were him I would’ve preferred eggs too. As it was, I was.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 7/10. My score would have been lower if the serves weren’t so big, as the coffee wasn’t to taste for me, although I did grow accustomed to it after each visit. Points for free sweets on the side too.

Ambience: Relaxed surroundings, with a poshy, sometimes stuck-up vibe. As we were coming to realise, this was almost like another Noosa, but here unfortunately, we experienced more snootiness. It didn’t contain the commercial aspect that getaway spots like Noosa does, so in that it was good in retaining its local vibe. And despite the nose-up factor, it actually seemed very family and dog-friendly.

Staff: Friendly, but not enough smiles. I did also notice that they are quite pedantic about placing coffees in front of the correct person when they deliver them to the tables, something we experienced and what I also witnessed both times we ate in. I like that kind of attention-to-detail, but it does make me wonder which idiot didn’t know what coffee they were drinking and caused such a fuss due to their own lack of common sense to make the waiters so fussy now.

People: Family-types, with-money-don’t-care-attitudes, though they care enough to want to look at you and see who you are. A good smattering of older customers too.

Price: Medium to the up-side. For example our first visit of coffees and cake only came to $15-ish for the lot, which I thought was not too bad for some afternoon treats. My deli and coffee order the following day was a bit higher, and I think that was due to the $55.00 a kilo brie and $16 packet of cookies. That I was kinda expecting, buying from the gourmet deli and all. And then on day 3 we paid about $41, for 3 drinks and 2 meals. That was a tad much, also because we didn’t walk away totally satisfied. If our brekkies had been worth it, I wouldn’t have minded how much they charged on our 3rd visit.

What did peeve me off though, was that baby girl’s babycino was $1.50, and I reiterate again on this blog that babycinos should be for free. Yes there were marshmallows on the side, but then the babycino was just froth, on top of some milk in a little cup. And $1.50. WTF seriously. Get your menus and replace that price with ‘No charge!’ followed by a genuine smiley face. 🙂

Advice: Get some umbrella shade on a hot day if you can. If you go with kids, don’t expect to feel overly comfortable. When you order, remember what number was on the table you sat at, unless you like being descriptive.

In a nutshell: A really lovely place to have a sit-down and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle that Barwon Heads has to offer. This is one of the prettiest places on Hitchcock Avenue that you can dine at, so definitely do it. The food could be better, however the provedore did live up to my expectations. I would not recommend this as a child-friendly place, solely based on my experience of the people that dine there. I would come back and try the savoury dishes next time we’re in town, but only if I had a tonne of toys to keep baby girl occupied and shriek-free.

Annie's Provedore on Urbanspoon

Take a walk in my shoes, Baby

Today I’m tapping my fingers together in cheeky anticipation, Montgomery Burns of Simpsons-fame style:

Excellent.

While I’m at work, Hubbie has the entire week off, so he is doing the looking after baby girl duties.

Changing nappies.
Feeding.
Cleaning up.
Preparing meals.
Rocking to sleep.
Amusement and Play.
EVERYTHING.

🙂

My happiness is two-fold. One is attributed to the fact that I am so comfortable in the knowledge that she will be at home with her Dad, bonding with him, and because he is my Hubbie, of course as with many things he and I do things the same in our house, and I don’t have to worry about other people coming in to look after her and doing things different.

It’s a comfort thing.

The second has to do with the ‘let’s see how you do it’ approach. I am so fortunate to have a husband who is truly understanding and accepting of how hard it can be to get anything done during the day, even though at times I’m ‘just’ at home, all day. He won’t ask, but I find myself explaining why –

dinner is late/the house is a mess/I haven’t burnt the cds he’s wanted for 2 months/the laundry is drying all over the house 2 weeks after the fact

again and again and again. And the most common phrase out of my mouth is “be quiet, I don’t want her to wake up,” more common than your everyday usual “hi’s” and “bye’s”.

I am gaining so much satisfaction sitting here at work, wondering how he is tackling the looking after baby duties whilst getting everything else done.

Tee hee hee.

Just yesterday we had this convo:

Me: “You’ll have to do the grocery shopping tomorrow.”

Hubbie: “But I’m looking after baby girl.”

Me (with raised eyebrows): “so does that mean I don’t ever have to cook and clean when I look after her?”

(Another moment later on).

Me (breaking down baby girl’s schedule): “And then you feed her, and change her nappy…”

Hubbie: “So when do I do the shopping?”

Me (smiling with obvious glee): “in between changing her nappy and lunch. Everything you do has to work around HER.”

Excellent.

Despite my clear joy at Hubbie doing my usual job today, I am truly rapt with the arrangement, and I think to myself that this could really work: me working, while Hubbie looks after baby girl.

I don’t know if I’m looking forward to the end-of-day report from Hubbie (mischievous anticipation), his holiday vibe rubbing off on me (because who doesn’t love time off), whether it’s the recent re-introduction of alcohol into my life (last night’s red wine still in the system) or this morning’s coffee (coursing through my veins), but, all things considered, life is feeling pretty freaking good right now.

🙂 🙂 🙂

The Happiness Project says that one instance of happiness derives from the state of learning, discovery, growth. It’s the journey, not the destination, and boy are we on the journey of a lifetime right now.

This is life, and we’re living it.

Ahh. The over-analytical life of an aspiring writer.