Men make a Bar out of Brekkie

Eira Café and Lounge Bar
1 Pryor Street Eltham

(Visited August ’16)

It is not good when best mates get together

It is good when best mates get together.

When men get together, shit happens

When men get together, the best stuff happens.

When best mates hatch a plan, watch out…

When best mates hatch a plan… watch out…

And so it is when Hubbie and his best mate are together. It’s a manly match made in heaven: they were each other’s best men at their respective weddings; they are both so fond of their hair and appearance; and they love beer, and alcohol, and COFFEE, oh, so, much.

Oh, and they don’t mind us wives either.

But really, truly. We get along smashingly.

So on a Saturday night at a birthday party, when within 5 minutes of being in the same room as each other, they came looking for me and Best Man’s wife, exclaiming “here they are!” as they walked into the room, you just knew, something was up.

Not up in the way it was many, many, many moons ago when they decided to trespass on the grounds of a piece of Melbourne criminal history and nearly got eaten by Rottweilers. Not that kind of ‘up.’

They’re Dads now. We would actually kill them if they decided to pull shit like that again.

So, this was a more ‘let’s go out, let’s get hammered’ type of hatch plan.

“We’re going out to brekkie tomorrow!” is what they told us.

Like I said, they’re Dads… they’ve mellowed out.

I personally had not been out to brekkie with baby girl in yonks. Other than the times we’ve been on a weekend away and a café has literally been a 5 minute drive so that her morning hunger nerves aren’t extended any more than they have to be, I gave up the thought of breakfasts out a while back, only because I don’t want to torture her, just because I need to be a Melbourne hipster eating my Avocado smash with gluten free mocha/Frappuccino/Matcha blend with raw sugar from the Jungles of the Amazon. Nah. I’ll wait for her to be a little older.

However, as it is when you’re in a group of over-excited-testosterone-planning-the-beer-they’ll-drink-before-breakfast neanderthals, I thought ‘what the hell.’

It was very different the following morning as we, and they, woke up in our separate houses feeling groggy and sleep-deprived from a late night and early morning. We had to beat ourselves out of bed, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, and ringing around, decided on a place not too far from either of us, Eira Cafe and Lounge Bar in Eltham.

It is a café situated on a corner not far from the Main Street, opposite Common Place where we had previously frequented, and near a public car park, with many shops, cafes and supermarkets all around. It was a stunning Sunday for Winter, and we arrived first, sitting at our Reserved table nearby the fireplace.

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It isn’t a huge café, and most tables were taken. There was a lot of wood about, and even the long table we were on had long stools for sitting rather than individual seats, adding to the earthy aspect. As is the norm nowadays, suspended lightbulbs hung down low from the ceiling, which I love to see no matter how many Cafes showcase this trend. And the floor length windows allowed you to get a good look at the passers-by and goings on in the street outside, from wherever you were sitting.

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I FORTUNATELY ordered baby girl’s meal before our friends came. I am so grateful I did that.

We got for her the Pikelets with maple syrup and ice cream, and though she was rapt with the cold stuff, I think the maple syrup was just not to her taste.

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I forgot to take a photo because I was so concerned about baby girl getting some food into her. Here is her 2 and a half pikelets (originally 3), a decent serve for a child I think, albeit a toddler like her. However I hadn’t needed to use the standby piece of bread I had ready and waiting in my bag in case she couldn’t take the hunger no longer. She was occupied with our friends’ kids across from her and their gadgets. She ate a decent portion and seemed happy, and the presentation was nice.

We had all ordered at the same time once our friends were here – our adult meals plus their kids’ meals. Everyone watched baby girl’s pikelet plate as we waited. And waited. And waited. Not even the kids meals were coming out! Our kids plus now a content baby girl walked around, jumped over the nearby couches on the stage area, which was a step up from where we were seated. Some areas of the café appeared zoned, such as this step up area which we assumed might be for a band on a music night; and then there was another couch in front of the fireplace. It was homely and comforting, sure, and it all looked good… we just wanted our food!

The boys were drinking pre-brekkie beer as discussed, but getting hungry. Us girls were getting hungry. The poor kids were getting hungry. It was obvious it wasn’t only limited to us, as around me I could see plenty of empty tables with people looking around with curious eyes, and yet no staff came over to say anything. We withheld comment for over an hour… and then as expected, as soon as baby girl needed a nappy change, our food came out.

Great.

However, it was great, since a waitress informed me they did have a change table in the disabled toilets (take that Lygon street!) I sacrificed my warm, arrived brekkie, and went into the loo with her, only to first hear from the waitress delivering our food that a chef had gone home sick, which is why a huge backlog of dishes had occurred and been delayed.

Well, that made sense. Now we would stuff ourselves.

By the time I came back with baby girl, I pretty much passed all responsibility of keeping baby girl out of trouble (like running behind the counter and making a coffee for herself) over to Hubbie, as I proceeded to eat very quickly.

I mean, it was almost 12. It was now practically lunchtime.

I had ordered some kind of Vegetarian breakfast: mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini atop sourdough bread, cherry tomatoes on the side and 2 poached eggs, with a balsamic glaze.

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Not their fault, but because I had tended to baby girl, my meal was lukewarm. I ate it quickly, and even the sourdough had gotten a bit tougher in that time. I still enjoyed it, as a person stranded in the desert enjoys water, but I still felt I could have had more, and I don’t know if that’s because it took so long to arrive, or because the meal could have been larger.

Having waited so long for the food, I still needed something else to satisfy my Sunday morning craving…. Caffeine. We all got coffees, and both Hubbie and I enjoyed ours, though I forgot to photograph them… again, hunger and thirst pains. But they were good, strong, smooth. Ahh. When I go “ahhh” all is good.

I didn’t however, forget to photograph the best looking one:

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Baby girl’s babycino.

Kudos for creativity, bravo. And baby girl LOVES marshmallows. I found it very clever indeed 🙂

After our marathon wait and then elevator ride finish, it was now lunchtime… and time to go home and eat and catch up on some sleep.

Food: 7/10. I’m not deducting points just because someone was sick in the kitchen – shit happens. The rest of the menu looked really good, with their variety of lunch meals, tapas, main meals, and all kinds of other bits and pieces like desserts and kids meals.

Coffee: 8/10. It touched my soul on that Sunday morning. Strong and smooth.

Ambience: Comfy, with a touch of Eltham class. The wood panelling gives it that homely feel, and I really like the various areas of seating creating little zones within the small café.

People: Family types out for brekkie. Younger families, older families, Dads with kids, Mums with kids, and large groups.

Staff: They were busy. Nice, but shit was happening in the kitchen you see. They did their best and they were good with our requests.

Price: I have no clue on the final countdown because our friends shouted us on this occasion, but the prices on the menu show the $15-$19 mark on all the various ‘adult’ breakfasts, which I feel is on the money… However where my meal felt not so large, baby girl’s was generous.

Advice: Book ahead, and maybe try and go on a night where they have their live music playing… it would be a treat to experience in that homely environment.

In a nutshell: I would go back, and have no reservations despite their unfortunate bad luck that day. Perhaps they could have informed the customers of what was proceeding so that the people in the café weren’t looking around for an hour scratching their heads… but oh well.

Still a nice place to Lounge away on a Sunday. With the big kids, AND the little kids – the little kids being our Hubbies, of course.

Of course 😉

Eira Cafe Lounge Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hipsters and salads at the Biscuit place

Biscottini
157-159 Main Street Mornington

(Visited and Written pre-Sea change)

We day-tripped it yet again to Mornington one Sunday in March. We arrived right at lunch time, with initial plans for ‘First, Coffee.’ But seeing the time, we re-evaluated and decided to fill our tummies first.

This wasn’t our first visit to Biscottini, or to the Peninsula, which you would know already if you’ve been reading any of my blogs. Although Biscottini is situated in fairly prime position, right in the middle of the strip of shops on Main Street, allowing you to easily people watch from the outdoor seating, or even the tables inside through their big window, it still has a very laid-back, seaside town kind of feel. We decided to sit outside since it was a pleasant day out, and do some people watching ourselves while trying to blend in.

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(Hipster sunnies, courtesy of Hubbie)

At Biscottini you order inside at the counter, beside the counter showcasing all their little cakes and sandwiches. I stepped up there and ordered, besides our lunch, some drinks to get us started.

Moscato and Beer.

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I was surprised with the plentiful quantity of Moscato I received. Despite it being a light wine, it hit me straight in the head and I giggled my way through lunch, which was this:

Grilled haloumi and prawn salad – leafy salad, chilli, zucchini and semi-dried tomato

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While Hubbie had the Caesar salad with chicken – crisp cos lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, anchovies and house-made dressing, topped with soft poached egg and crispy pancetta

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And baby girl had the Fish and Chips

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I enjoyed mine, however it was a bit heavy on the dressing. There was loads of rocket, which I love… if you don’t, better luck next time. Only 3 or 4 prawns, so it could have done with a tad more since they were good. And there was plenty of Spanish onion and fetta cheese alongside the sundried tomato thrown in for good measure.

Both mine and Hubbie’s meals made us feel good for ordering them, but after completion we realised there were a lot of things added to compensate for the supposedly light ‘salad’ component. Hubbie’s Caesar salad was a decent portion, yet he found it too hard for him to eat due to the rich aspects, like the dressing. He enjoyed it though, and then we both enjoyed pecking at baby girl’s meal. She of course loved hers, and we were pleasantly surprised that it was of a decent portion too.

Following all of that it was now time for coffee… but we decided to hit foot to pavement, just for the entertainment of moving on.

Food: 7/10. It’s standard café fare, with decent portions. The menu looks quite good too, and I know from experience it’s ever-changing.

Coffee: Not on this occasion, but having had it there many times before (and since) I’d give it a 7.5/10.

Ambience: Outside it was laidback. Inside there is a TV and a large seating area, so if you prefer not to people watch you can just glance outside through the windows when you wish.

People: This is the place you expect to see a few tourists pop in and mingle in amongst the locals sipping their lattes. We’ve been here many times now, and I can just spot the locals with their dogs a mile away (they love their dogs in Mornington).

Staff: Friendly and busy, usually getting down to business.

Price: Really reasonable. We paid $54 for 3 meals and 2 alcoholic drinks. The meals were of decent size, and I was impressed that baby girl’s considerable serve came in at $8, a real bargain when I remember how great it tasted.

Advice: Also from personal experience, I know they don’t have a change table – tsk tsk tsk. So beware! We didn’t place baby girl in a high chair on this occasion, but the chair she sat in had a decent backing, with no gaping holes for her to fall through. That was great, especially with a 2 year-old toddler going on 12.

In a nutshell: We’ve been here many times before and will undoubtedly find ourselves here many more. The food is reliable so you can be assured to find something you’ll enjoy – however on another visit there I noticed their menu had been spiced up a bit, which was interesting. The place doesn’t have any real pizazz for me, but I still like that we can depend on them, and their positioning on the main strip doesn’t remove them from the customers either.

Maybe if I try their biscuits I’ll be sold further???

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

Combing for a Cafe

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

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

St Kilda beach.

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

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

Touche my friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(note, no actual caffeine in there!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee vs. Tea…

My boss made the most brilliant comment regarding these two caffeinated beverages.

So a while ago I’m at work, about to head off on my usual, post 9:30am coffee walk with colleagues. I ask her if she wants us to get her a coffee – she stops and pauses, and after some to-ing and fro-ing in her mind, she makes it up.

“No, I think I’ll have some tea.”

Fair enough, I respond to her. I can’t contest – after all, it was only some years ago that I never drank coffee, like NEVER, and only drank tea. Blacks, whites, herbals… as long as this letter was in it  – T – I happily tried them all.

We start talking about how sometimes, you just need a tea. Coffee is great, sure, hell yeah… but there are some Sunday mornings where I wake up groggy from a big night, and immediately think ‘tea.’ I need the hot quench of the liquid to satisfy my dry throat. Coffee can be too milky and often not hot enough, and I’m not going into the business of burning my beans or milk just to get the coffee hotter. No, I repeat to them. Sometimes you need tea, and only tea can touch your soul.

You know that first sip? Ahh. I wrote about it in-depth in my review on a magical little Tea house in Carlton North called Travelling Samovar. That first sip can literally, send chills through your body.

And then the clincher. All this talk, and boss comes out with an almost perfect caffeine-to-life comparison.

“Tea is like love… and coffee is like sex.”

We all pause, wanting to say something, cheeky grins on our faces, yet not sure if opening our mouths at this point will exact to a good idea.

“Well yes,” I begin. “They’re both important.”

I almost said more, but stopped myself. Enough. Enough had been said, and enough of a picture was made in our heads as we headed off to our sex/I mean coffee walk.

You can’t deny the soul-touching elements of tea. But coffee is extremely vital. Every so often/ 3 times a week you just need to knock one back and feel the buzz rush through your body.

I think the argument should be that there isn’t a caffeinated beverage that’s better than the other. Tea and coffee are both important for so many reasons, and without each other, the other becomes bland, and empty. Monotonous. Incomplete.

You need balance.

I think this is the perfect metaphor 🙂

 

 

 

Turn towards this Bakery

Turners Bakehouse Eatery
107 Schotters Road Mernda

We decided to head out to Turners Bakehouse Eatery for breakfast one Sunday in mid-January. We had ventured there before, pre-blogging days and when baby girl was still learning about her tastebuds. Now, she would have a meal of her own. And a babycino to boot.

Turners is a boutique bakery originally established in 1892, and recently restored after being closed since the 1940s. It’s a beautiful and quaint building, reminiscent of a working farm house back in the day. It sits on a residential street just past the Fire Station but before the Church. That in itself paints a pretty picture right there.

It was the start of a hot Summer’s day, but sitting underneath the tall trees out in the yard of the café, it was perfect. There is seating inside, though it always looks so squashed to me, that I think even if we went there in Winter I would rather rug up and be amongst the plants and birdlife.

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And there were birds alright. The cockys were flying overhead and squawking from perched branches on trees above us. The surroundings felt rural, yet being a short distance from other neighbouring, more built-up suburbs, it was only a stone’s throw away.

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I had ordered the Eggs Florentine – Poached eggs served on toasted ciabatta, with wilted spinach and hollandaise sauce

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Hubbie got the French Toast – Bakehouse brioche, topped with whipped mascarpone, berry compote, pistachio crumb

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While baby girl got a Cheese Toasty

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All our meals looked great, even baby girl’s simple melted cheese on bread. She seemed to enjoy it, as did we, eating her leftovers.

The hollandaise sauce on my meal was of the perfect quantity, and not swimming in it like other poached egg meals I’ve had. It can be so overwhelming when you have eggs dripping in hollandaise. Thankfully this was not. The first poached egg I had was perfectly runny, while the second one had a stronger formed yolk. Lucky I had the runny one first, since I had been craving poached eggs for a while. And the bread was light, not hard, which I was grateful for. There’s nothing worse than slicing your gums against too-tough bread because the crust is super-sharp/over-toasted.

Hubbie enjoyed his meal, saying it was just enough for him… well maybe he could have done with a tad more. But he wasn’t left with that over-full feeling he usually gets when he orders meals like a ‘Big Breakfast.’

Funnily enough, I had felt like I had had the big breakfast! I couldn’t eat for hours after that meal, as I just felt so bloated and heavy. Maybe it had nothing at all to do with the meal, and just the way I processed it that day. I don’t understand it, I’ve had eggs Florentine before… just this time it really weighed me down, to the point that when I did eat at 3pm, it was 2 minute noodles from the pantry. I just couldn’t fathom anything more.

I know, I know – a food blogger to eat 2 minute noodles? That’s blasphemous. However I am a time-poor Mum, and I need emergency food for ‘in case’ situations, which this was…)

After our meals we got some coffees: latte, cappuccino and babycino

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I found my cap exceptionally strong, yet it was still smooth, so I enjoyed it.

The rest of the morning there was spent looking at the watering can fountain (and advising baby girl repeatedly not to touch!), wandering the yard a bit, and waving to fellow breakfast-goers – oh that’s right, that was baby girl, not us. It was actually a perfect morning, so warm, so peaceful, yet there were plenty of families around so we felt right at home. The best way to feel on a lazy Sunday morning.

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Food: 7.5/10. Filling.

Coffee: 8/10.  Strong, smooth.

Ambience: Really peaceful, I loved it. There were a few people out in the yard that day but everyone was in Sunday mode and just chill-axing. Trees, birds squawking, sun shining… it really was ideal.

Staff: All of the waitresses were very friendly, and our waitress was very kid-savvy which was great. She was genuinely friendly and good with our princess.

People: Generally families, but there were a few duos, and people without children arriving in groups to brunch away.

Price: $49 for the lot, which I considered a bargain for what we got and what we experienced.

Advice: Sit outside. Maybe buy one of their famous loaves of sourdough bread to take home (something I’m yet to do and reading their website I’m sorry that I didn’t!). It’s made in their traditional wood-fired Scotch oven, built way back in the 1890s (!) while their sourdough bread is made with a natural, long-fermenting yeast that not only tastes amazing but is good for you too. Man, I’m going there tomorrow since we’re currently out of bread!

In a nutshell: It’s a fabulous find up in the North that is well worth the venture, not just for the serenity, the service or their famous breads, but just because it’s a little piece of history that has been restored, and that alone should inspire you to Turn around and check it out…

Turners Bakehouse Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How to do Port Douglas in 4 nights (with kids) – Part 2

(Travelled: Jan ’16)

This is part 2 of my Port Douglas snap shot which goes through the local attractions we experienced. For any information on Port Douglas Travel, Accommodation, Weather, or Food, click here to see Part 1 of this article.

ATTRACTIONS

Market – We went to the market at the end of Macrossan Street the first morning we were there, which was a Sunday. It was interesting looking around at the local fare and seeing what was happening in that part of the world. It’s custom to wear sandals and thongs, but there was mud here due to the recent rain, so beware. You’ll be obliged to buy something, just for the hell of it, just as I did with my body crystal and our shared mango drink (where else in the world do you buy mango drink from people who grow them in their backyard and then turn it into liquid in front of you?)

Summary: Nice to check out if you’re there on a Sunday for a bit of a stroll, but don’t lose sleep if you have other things to do either.

Breakfast with the Birds – An event at the Wildlife Habitat Centre, you can do either breakfast or lunch, but we opted for breakfast and arrived to a cold and hot assortment of breakfast foods, sitting amongst a large outdoor canopied area where birds suddenly appeared, or watched you from nearby trees! It was certainly an experience and something different, and if you have kids, (or a big kid who likes birds, *ahem Hubbie*) you can get up close and personal, talk to the experienced staff there, and take photos too.

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Just don’t go too close, please. I’m not saying it’s not allowed, there were just some visitors there who were asking for it as they shoved their big-ass lens camera into the black cockatoo’s field of vision and then DIDN’T get bitten. Unfortunately. Have some respect for these creatures and hang back. You have a big-ass lens, don’t you? Use it.

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Following this we decided quite spontaneously to join the Rainforest Walk – this was fantastic! Again, it was fun for baby girl, and the other big kid lover of birds as well as me because hey, I like hearing about these different animals and learning about their way of life, and our guide that day was fantastic, enthusiastic and very informative, making the experience all the more interesting. We saw a Cassowary bird, which baby girl fed watermelon to, an experience that has stayed with us all since, especially her! And got to meet and fly along with many cheeky parrots.

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Of course you don’t have to join a tour to check out the wild habitat there. At the conclusion of that tour we went to see some crocs (and one giant one!) on our own walk, and then we concluded with a bit of a shop in the retail section before leaving. Our tickets to the Breakfast with the Birds meant that we could also come back once more for free, which was a great offer, but we didn’t take it up. We had much more sight-seeing to do!

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Summary: A great experience for kids and bird-lovers alike, and quite informative too. Eating and being in the same room as the birds is an interesting concept, so I think this is one you have to do for something a bit different and memorable.

Mossman Gorge – If you were looking for paradise on earth, this is where you would find it. In particular, in the swimming hole within Mossman Gorge.

But what… ‘Hole?’ ‘Swimming Hole?’ That is the worst description I have ever heard to describe the beauty I came across that day there. And yet, that is how it was described to me. ‘Hole’ is nothing close to, nowhere near enough a word to describe this paradise. In fact, a hole is as far away a description to describe this paradise as literarily possible (did I just make up a word?) Here are some photos (which do no justice to the real thing):

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We came to the Mossman Gorge centre, having heard about the ‘swimming hole’ there, with that Rainforest being the one we chose because quite simply, it wasn’t too far from our resting point, and we wanted to make the most of our time. In another trip, we might do the Daintree as well (as well as the Mossman again!) but this trip we had to be time-efficient. At the centre, where there is a retail shop, café, and plenty of walkers refuelling or getting ready to set off walking around the rainforest, we purchased a ticket to board the bus that took us into the heart of the Rainforest, which was about a 5-10 minute drive. Many people did this too, coming with towels… Hmmm. The ticket specifically said “NO SWIMMING!”

We had no idea where we were going as we arrived at the destination, but we exited the bus and followed the towel-holders into the rainforest, amidst towering trees and walking on plank-like bridges. The lady at the retail shop had told me it was a minute’s walk to the swimming hole, and yet it was more like 5. Difficult only because I was carrying a tired baby girl in my arms.

But she sure woke up when we got there.

In the gentle slide as the earth dipped down towards the water’s entrance, there were people everywhere: amidst trees far back, along this sloping slightly muddy path, and then, in and amongst the beautiful and pristine waters. It ranged from people decked out in swimwear and the tiniest of bikinis, to people who had like us, not been prepared for an all-in-body-water experience, and had just come with shorts and thongs.

It was magical. Truly mesmerising. I took off baby girl’s dress and let her immerse herself in just her singlet. What the hell. She only had the best time of her life (well one of, we are pretty cool parents). I was happy I had on my high shorts, and took off my thongs, wading in the cool water up to my knees. We stood. We watched. We breathed. We took in everything, and I was moved to tears.

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Everyone who was there, was doing just as we were. Just being. All these people, ranging from the littlest of tots to the oldest grand-dads, were there, with accents from all over the world, and they were, just still in the water, wading or relaxing from a distance, and taking in the beauty that is Mossman Gorge.

And you know what I felt in that moment? I felt so damn proud to be Australian. This amazing country of ours had a rainforest and a special slice of paradise that people from all over were coming to see. I felt so blessed, and I still do. I think what made the moment even more special was the fact that we had come not expecting anything – all I thought we would do is wade in the water. That’s it. We waded alright. But we stepped into precious beauty and untold magic when doing so. It gave me chills, and when I think about it, I still get goosebumps.

Summary: If you can’t tell from my short essay on Mossman Gorge – GO THERE. Your children will love it, and so will you. And yes, there are signs and things that say ‘do not swim’… so I’m not telling you or endorsing you to swim. Just use your damn common sense. (If you see a fin or tentacles or jagged bits popping up through the water, run).

This place will remain in my heart forever more.

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4 Mile Beach – Another find. I said Mossman Gorge is like paradise on earth, right? Well if you’re looking for heaven on this planet, you need not go any further than down Macrossan street until you hit water. And then just thank me later.

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This was another unexpected ‘Wow’ moment. I think we had had many difficult moments with a tired and under-slept baby girl, so to not know how great it would be only to then discover that this beach was unbelievably unreal, was another very happy moment for all.

I was told by many people before coming to Port Douglas that you cannot swim in their waters due to creepy water creatures. I thank God that I did not listen to any of those people. I mean, we got accommodation with a pool in case, but still, I’m so happy we did it our way.

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See that? That is netting. It stretched fairly wide, meaning it kept out all nasties – crocs, jellyfish and sharks! Those were the creatures actually listed on a board at the beach, advising swimmers to beware. So if you want to have a pleasurable swimming experience, possibly the nicest of your life, then go ahead, swim safely within the large net. But if you like to live on the edge with risk of being stung/bitten/eaten, then by all means, BE MY GUEST.

Swimming in the netting did by no way diminish our swimming experience. It was clean, it was safe, and the water was exactly the same as the water that wasn’t protected by nets – just without the scare factor. Oh, did I mention this?

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28 degrees my friends. Read it and weep.

I loved this beach, and my only regret is that we didn’t have more beach days. We spent about 3 hours here, getting here early on a Tuesday morning before 9, grabbing an umbrella’d chair to leave our stuff (you need to pay though, it gives you a few hours) and then soaking up the incredible Port Douglas Sun, Surf and Sand.

My repetitive thought during our time there? ‘Take it in, take it in, take it in…remember this moment.’

I don’t need to sell you anymore on it, do I? Just in case:

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Summary: Go to 4 Mile Beach. Parents and children alike will LOVE it.

 

Calypso Half-Day Great Barrier Reef Tour – We had really wanted to see some of the Great Barrier Reef, but neither hubbie or I being scuba divers or snorkelers or having even tried it before in any capacity, we wanted a beginners version. We ended up going with Calypso only because our first choice, travelling to and spending a day at Quicksilver’s platoon, was booked out. With Calypso there was a half-hour boat ride to an island where there was either the choice of taking a glass-bottom boat ride to see the coral and underwater creatures, or do some snorkelling around the island. The option of either or with no real emphasis on having to snorkel, sounded great to novices such as us.

We had a bit of a ‘misunderstanding,’ we’ll call it, on trying to book the Calypso half-day tour. They had cancelled on us a previous day due to choppy winds, which means the boat does not go out and there is no tour. Our hotel owners advised that we should just arrive at their offices nearby where the boats are docked, the morning of when we wanted to go, because at least then we would be able to know if we could go. Booking in advance didn’t seem to help any extra, because we could just as easily be cancelled on. This was advised by both hotel management and apparently, Calypso too.

We went on Tuesday morning, the day before we were meant to jet off back to Melbourne. I ran into the office to buy tickets, while hubbie waited with baby girl in the car. Upon running in and seeing other people come in with tickets, I asked if we could book the half-day tour for that morning, only to be told by a girl behind the counter that they were all booked out for that session. I despondently asked if they had an afternoon availability, and she said they were completely booked out for that one too. Their next availabilities were for the following day, but knowing we would be on a plane the next day, I walked away.

Hubbie was there as I left the store, having come in with baby girl, being sure that I had already bought the tickets. After telling him what the lady had told me, he got fired up. He went in, asking the same question of the girl, and when he got the same answer, he told her that we had in fact been told to come in last second because Calypso had cancelled on us the day before. If we couldn’t book in advance due to fear of cancellation anyway, but we couldn’t rock up last minute either because everything was booked out, then how the hell could we organise this freaking tour?

(He didn’t say that word for word, but that way sounds better).

You know what she said?

“There’s just been a cancellation for the afternoon tour, I can book you on that one.”

This, literally 2 minutes after she told me there was no availability for the afternoon tour.

I paid, and we left. And all was good. After all we ended up at 4 Mile Beach that morning and had the most incredible time. We had lunch, and then went off to do this bloody tour.

Look, in a nutshell, it was alright. Upon embarking we took off our shoes, and were encouraged to just get a scuba suit and flippers, because ‘what the hell, you might as well.’ This actually excited us as we had never snorkelled, but one of the instructors implied he could show one of us while the other was with baby girl, and vice versa.

I admit I was a bit scared but excited. I was going to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef?!

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The boat ride up was beautiful. Travelling all that distance, going through all that water at high-speed, was amazing. This was a boat ride to the low isles. Basically I think that means that this is the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef, you’re not in the thick of the coral and all the underwater fish as if you would be if you travelled further in. It was still beautiful. We listened to instructions on board about how to wear your equipment and operate it, and it appeared we were the only ones who were there primarily to see the glass-bottom boat, apart from one other couple, but even they snorkelled in the water later, a little.

The glass-bottom boat was ok. We saw a few things, and I still enjoyed it, but I really think you need to be in the midst of the Great Barrier Reef to see anything really good. I wasn’t in complete awe or anything dramatic like that. Upon completion we went back to where the main boat had docked, wondering if now someone could show us how to scuba. There was an American girl instructor, a guy also her age instructing, and an older, perhaps 40 year-old instructor. He had been our tour-guide on the glass-bottom boat as the rest of our group went scuba diving off the main boat and towards the island. We hadn’t actually docked at the small island for some reason, I can’t remember why but there seemed to be a genuine reason for it. The guy who had implied he could show us to scuba, suddenly decided that he and this American chick would now jump on the glass-bottom boat and take it as a pair to the island, because they wanted to try and get some photos of a turtle or something. And then they were off, clearly with their own personal intentions, and Hubbie reckons his intentions were extremely personal, saying he obviously had the hots for the US chick and wanted to go alone with her. Leaving the 40 year-old instructor with us.

This instructor was good. He was just shitty. You could tell. He was shitty that the two young ones had left, leaving him on board the main boat with Hubbie, me, baby girl and another couple. The guy from the other couple was more confident heading out into the water, whereas the girl stayed back, closer to the boat. They had both at least scuba dived before. We hadn’t. We had been told by the young instructor that we could watch him. He went off because his head was leading him. But not his top one.

The older instructor gave us tips here and there, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was shitty, trying to be professional. I don’t blame him really. Everyone else was off either scuba diving and instructing the rest of the group, or cosying up and trying to get lucky with a colleague.

Both hubbie and I, at various times, with a few half-arsed tips from the 40 year-old instructor, jumped into the water, staying close to the boat, dunking our heads in and trying to breathe through the breathing apparatus. That was not bad, it was the water flooding into the part protecting our nose which made it difficult. It was a few minutes at best, but we could still say “We snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef!”

I was a bit disappointed that no one had taken the time to show us properly – they certainly had ample opportunity, but were busy making personal plans or were just upset. I didn’t want to focus on it, seeing as everything else about where we were was amazing, but even the girl from the other couple whispered to me later that Quicksilver’s tour of the Reef was much better, especially being a beginner. She had been on that one before, being a not-so-confident scuba diver herself, and said it was far superior to this Calypso tour. I told her we had tried to book but we were too late! Hearing her thoughts, and also criticism of the way some things were done there, only confirmed to me that there were many parts of this tour that could be improved upon.

Very small provisions were offered after all of that, some were free like fruit, and some payable like alcohol. The ride back to the docks was a quiet one, everyone happy to watch the surf spray up from beneath us, taking in the beautiful scenery that is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and getting decent colour in the hot afternoon sun.

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Summary: I enjoyed the experience and the location – the tour itself with Calypso, not so much. Many things could be improved upon, for example the professionalism. It was $120 per person, so there was value for money… but nowhere in the brochures did it say ‘Expert snorkelers only!’ so it wasn’t too much to ask for a little assistance for snorkeller virgins such as ourselves. Fortunately with baby girl being 2, she got in for free. It was a 2-5pm tour, and there is also a morning one, starting about 7ish.

If you don’t want to spend the whole day snorkelling, or out at the Reef, and you have some clue as to how to snorkel, well maybe you won’t mind the Calypso tour. That’s the only way I would recommend this tour, if you fulfil those above requirements. Otherwise, based on our personal experiences, I would NOT recommend it. Plus, I didn’t mention that the guy who was chasing the US chick was also arrogant. Just saying.

If you can spare a whole day at the Great Barrier Reef, and whether you are experienced or not, I believe Quicksilver’s trip to their Platoon where you spend the day there, is the best place to go. It’s the one I’d be recommending, and I haven’t even been, but I will, next time we go. Just book it in advance!

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So concludes our Port Douglas trip in a rather large nutshell. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions for anyone wanting some more information about any part of the trip, so please drop me a line if you plan on visiting this part of the world in your near future.

And if you weren’t planning on going to Port Douglas, I hope my experiences have inspired you to perhaps give this tropical paradise a go at some point, or maybe it will motivate you to seek out your own version of paradise, whatever or wherever that may be 🙂 Happy travelling.

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The ‘Truth’ in my head

Let’s start the New Year with some enlightenment and self-awareness.

True Rules, as coined by Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project, is what she calls a collection of principles, to help make decisions and set priorities in your life. Defined by you, they work for you, which is why they are true; and they are used time and time again, which is why they become rules. I’ve outlined some of mine below. Although many of them are perhaps more like life reminders than rules to live by, there are many I hold dear to me that blur the lines between advice and rule, and so I’ve decided to include them all.

  • If you have the opportunity, always choose going out over staying home. When you’re at work later and sad you’re not at home doing your own thing, at least you’ll be satisfied with the happy memories you made on your time off, where you utilised your time well.
  • Where one door closes, another one opens.
  • There’s a reason for everything.
  • Treat others how you would like to be treated. And if they don’t treat you right (even if they’re older) fuck them off.
  • TV eats your time. TV can wait.
  • Home-cooked food is best.
  • You won’t get this day again/Absorb the moment you’re in/Take Note.
  • You’re only young once – so buy that dress/those shoes/show some leg, cleavage, ass (respectfully if you can – and if you can’t, just flaunt it).
  • Writing is more important than cleaning/tidying/washing/sorting/insert house activity (excluding home cooking, see above – not to say the cooking is more important than the reading, but to eat well refuels our energy stores and better prepares us to tackle our tasks and passions – so it is a necessity). Which is why I am never on top of any housework, but we are always satisfied and content in our tummies if nothing else.
  • Reading and Writing FIRST (Facebook and The Bold and the Beautiful sometimes win when I’m tired – I’m human).
  • Don’t get too hungry.
  • Always skim the edges and top of hot soup (many debates over how Hubbie cannot eat hot soup properly over this one).
  • But first, coffee.
  • Try to make everyone happy.
  • If a great song comes on while you’re in a clothing store, chances are you should buy something there.
  • If it’s not meant to be now, that means something better is waiting.
  • Life goes up; life goes down. Then repeats.

Some of my regular thoughts aren’t necessarily true, or constructive for a happier life. For example, making everyone happy is almost always a death sentence – I should be trying to do that for myself. And I don’t always find something I want to buy when a great song comes on in a shop I love, leaving me feeling unsatisfied when I walk out empty-handed. I don’t always get to put writing first, which leaves me feeling frustrated most of the time, and I don’t always find a ‘reason’ as to why things are the way they are. Sometimes I’m left wondering for a while, a very long, long while.

And yet, these are the things we think and feel in our day-to-day lives, whether they are true for us every time, or helpful for us to think, we still think them, out of habit, out of experience, which makes becoming aware of them all the more important. If we can pinpoint any troubling repetitive thoughts that aren’t conducive to our way of life, we can try to make things better, and us happier in the process.

Not letting myself go hungry is a good thing, and makes sure my energy stores are usually on the up especially with the demands of life as a Mother/Wife/Daughter/Sister/Friend/Butler/Driver/Cook/Whoever else can you think of?

Heading out when faced with the other possibility of staying at home, means I am filled with happy memories, and now for example as Hubbie is at work and baby girl is asleep for her afternoon nap, I can recall our lovely breakfast we had at a nearby café yesterday morning, where the sun was shining, baby girl was content, and the food and coffee were great. That is a memory worth remembering, rather than the usual butter-and-vegemite toast Sundays.

And thoughts like ‘something better is waiting,’ and ‘life has its ups and downs,’ puts me in a conscious and balanced state, aware of the force of yin and yang. Knowing that life is a rollercoaster we are riding, with occasional things to jump out and scare us, with others to delight and surprise us, keeps me on my toes, and grateful for the joyous moments I receive. Additionally, if I don’t get my turn immediately on that rollercoaster, I tell myself ‘My time will come. Everyone gets a shot.’

What are some of your True Rules? What goes through your mind when making decisions and setting priorities in your day-to-day life?

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

Farm in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piggyback Cafe

Farm Café
18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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