Friday, 4 April 2014

Coca Chu-Hamilton Island

The family dined at Coca Chu restaurant on Hamilton Island for Pa's birthday dinner. It had a lovely ambiance with a delicious Vietnamese Thai fusion menu. Our meal consisted of many scrumptious share plates, most of which weren't safe long enough for me to take a photo of them as they looked and smelt so great that we couldn't wait to taste them-Lara included. I doubt there is a six month old in the world with better defined taste buds than Mark's and my child. We can't have a meal without her demanding to taste some these days, its hilarious.

The duck was our stand out course with the perfect balance of flavours. It was lovely to share a whole spread of different dishes, however, some of the waitstaff weren't as experienced as the others, and we had to request that the next dish wasn't brought to the table when there wasn't any where to put it....not to mention that our tummies weren't ready. But that said our main waiter Sam provided exceptional service, he was extremely friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about his job, it was obvious that he had tasted everything on the menu, and he could enthusiastically talk us through his favourites.

The restaurant has a lovely fresh ambiance.
When it came time to order dessert Mark and I struggled to decide on the mango pudding with raspberry, coconut, lychee and kaffir lime salad OR the roasted coconut icecream sundae with spiced donuts, chilli chocolate fudge and peanut salted caramel. So instead of doing our usual and sharing a dessert we got one each and shared so we got to have our cake and eat it too. As Sam said, you can't pick between the two, but the mango pudding is great if you are feeling a bit full and want a lighter sweet dish, but if you still have room in your tummy go for those delicious donuts and fudge. Yummo.

Overall the food, service and ambiance at Coca Chu was enjoyable, I would recommend it....along with some patience just in case you need to manage the new waitress who seems to think it is your job to figure out where to put a plate on an already full table.

Friday, 14 March 2014

This Week in My Garden

This orchid only flowers at significant moments, and now always in pairs-
even though her leaves are in a terrible state, poor ol' girl.

The last fortnight or so has been a bit overwhelming. The introduction of solid foods in to Lara's diet seems to co-exist with a massive interruption to our sleep. Our little lady who used to sleep for a minimum of seven hours, and often nine had a few nights there where she woke up every two to three hours. I turned in to a zombie. Luckily we are slowly getting things back under control and night sleeps seem to be extending to five hour stints (knock on wood). This has brought on another correlation with my mood suddenly improving and the house being slightly less of a disaster zone than it was at the beginning of this week. Lets face it, I go out to my garden for therapy whilst other people mop their floors, which seriously need doing, and yet I'm now writing, go figure. I'm sharing this info for two reasons 1) as a note to myself that getting out in my garden is a treat at the moment and I shouldn't judge myself for not growing the food on our table (most dinners are packed with herbs from the garden anyway), and 2) since one of my friends who has recently had a baby asked me how everything happens so easily for me, and I realised that my choice to not share the challenging parts of my life, which I don't find entertaining and chose not to dwell on, paints an unrealistic picture. Cue crying baby...I shall return later.

I'm returning much, much later, I'm guessing eight hours later. So the realistic picture is that being a Mum is hard work, it is a constant juggle and you never really switch off. Most days are unbelievably good, but every now and then when you are right in the middle of something and your baby wakes up you think "why couldn't you have given me just ten more minutes?" And there is nothing wrong with thinking that, it doesn't make you a bad Mum, it makes you a person that is adjusting to a HUGE change. So please don't think that I'm looking at the world through rose coloured glasses, I just don't share the dull parts since I try not to dwell on them. We all have good and bad days, don't worry, you aren't alone.

So, to the garden update. To my delight all four bean seeds that I planted early last week sprouted. I thinned them out to the strongest two (since I planted them in pairs) and tried my luck at transplanting the weaker seedlings. So far, so good. The smallest of them all didn't do so well with the heat wave yesterday, but it may bounce back, I haven't given up on it yet. Oh, and I also noticed a pea vine that popped up the other day after the seed lay dormant for months and I'd completely given up on it. Such a good surprise.

Bean seedlings emerging, now we cross our fingers for delicious, crispy veggies.

I'm also super excited by my first eggplant. I have been getting in all sorts of funny positions in my veggie garden to try and see the eggplant forming inside the flower without disturbing it in fear of its fragility. I would have loved it if Mark busted me with my bum up in the air and my head twisted under the eggplant bush like some sort of swamp bird. I probably would have encouraged him to take a photo just so I could laugh at how ridiculous I must have looked. When the first glimpses of eggplant emerged I sang "I've got an eggplant, I've got an eggplant, I've got an eggplant, hey, hey, hey, hey" whilst doing a little jig next to the veggie garden. As I often say to Lara these days "I'm crazy, but I'm fun".

My first eggplant ripening..lets hope the other flowers fruit soon.

Its delightful how much joy a garden can bring, particularly one that grows food, that you can eat!

Our new chickens Stevie and Snappy are also growing at an unbelievably fast rate. So much so that I've ordered a pet pen online so that they can have more space to run around in during the day since they can't join the rest of the brood whilst they are still eating their medicated food. The debate is out as to whether or not they are physically big enough to join Bernie and Holly, but since they need to be on their medicated food for a few more weeks I haven't thrown them in the deep end (yet). As for Snappy, I would really like to think of a nice, proper name for her, but since I'm still feeding her with a gardening glove on the name is sticking. Fingers crossed she is just a bit on edge from being all cooped up, and all the silly bird needs is a run.

I often forget about Mark's lemon and lime Citrus Splitzer tree since it is planted in the front garden. It has been giving us some delicious, juicy limes this season. There's still no sign of lemons, but the limes make up for it. I really need to remember to feed this poor tree tomorrow though. No doubt the only reason it is giving us limes is because I threw a whole heap of citrus feeder pellets at it months ago, but they aren't going to feed it forever. You reap what you sew as the saying goes.

My big job for tomorrow is to bath my dogs. For some reason my Labrador Baxter smells like popcorn when he is well past due for a bath. Sure, the smell is lovely, but the fur ALL around the house is doing my head in, particularly with a baby that loves army crawling to her Labrador and encouraging him to wag his tail so his whole body shakes fur everywhere. Lucky the two of them are so darn cute.


We FINALLY made it to SoCal in Neutral Bay for a weekend treat. I have been wanting to go to this restaurant since I saw them (on Instagram) preparing to open. Normally when you want to do something for so long by the time you finally do it the anticipation is so high that the experience is a total let down. However, this was not the case at SoCal.

When we arrived at the street front, as I had already assumed there was a flight of stairs to climb, and they were the only way in, so this venue isn't completely pram (or wheelchair) friendly. I left Mark and Lara downstairs as I quickly flew upstairs to do a sight inspection. Once at the top of the stairs I met a lovely lady who I informed what I was doing and she suggested a few places where we could comfortably park the pram. Excited I ran down the stairs to drag my family up for some tasty treats.

Image courtesy of SoCal.

We ordered the chorizo and cheese croquetas, and were informed by the waitress that they were delicious. She wasn't kidding. The blend of four cheeses and chorizo, that was just spicy enough, was delightful. The flavour and texture combination was perfect-I may have even been doing a little happy dance at the table.

Our second taster was pulled pork quesadilla with black bean and grilled eggplant, and it didn't let itself down after following the A-MAZ-ING croquetas. Mark picked up one of the hot sauces that was sitting on the tables and drizzled it on top of his quesadilla. It was so good he encouraged me to follow suit, and I'm glad I did as it was like botox for my cheeks, I couldn't stop smiling.

Since we had already had a light lunch and just needed something to tie us over until dinner time we decided not to order any more meals, but once we had finished our dishes our lovely waitress asked us if she could get us anything else, and if we would like to try the cheeros with chocolate and rum dipping sauce. I couldn't say no. I'm so glad that I didn't even bother trying to be self righteous. Sadly I haven't been to Spain to try traditional cheeros (yet) but I can say that these are the tastiest I've ever eaten. The outside was super crunchy whilst the inside was soft and donughty, and they soaked up the chocolate and rum sauce like a treat. I can highly suggest that once you finish off the cheeros you turn what is left of that dipping sauce in to the most decadent hot chocolate you have ever drunk. I did so unashamedly and I will do it again.

Image courtesy of SoCal.

The bar menu is also a treat for the senses. I indulged with a Mumma's Moonshine which I managed to make last for the whole meal. It was a delicious mix of vanilla infused vodka, pear juice, mint and lemon and had my name all over it. Whilst Mark enjoyed a beer that he hadn't tasted before, a Negra Modelo, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

The vibe is fun and relaxed with music like Very Superstitious playing at just the right volume for you to have a little bop along (yes, I'm officially old now) whilst maintaining a conversation without having to yell at your late lunch partner. However, this may not be the case as the evening progresses and the restaurant fills with lots of people ready to enjoy great food, cocktails and music. It must have been around 7:30pm when we decided it was time to leave-along with another family who followed us down the stairs with their little one in a pram.

At the end of the day this wasn't a cheap outing, but it was an enjoyable one. We shared two tapas, dessert, Mark had two beers and I had a cocktail all for approximately $90. We found everything to be great value, even though we are being somewhat surprised by how quickly things add up every time we eat out now. Do we sound like new parents?

----Ups to the tool who has messed with the Blogger code and made the use of some superlatives revert to the opposite during the publishing process. It encouraged me to explore my vocabulary and play with my writing style. Perhaps it will also encourage others to proof read their own entries.---

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Who needs TV?

Watching Lara explore her world is something that I could do all day. Some evenings I sit making a list of all the jobs I still need to do and think "where did today go?". Then I realise that I was watching Lara learn how to roll from her back on to her tummy and back on to her back, or I was watching her army crawl, or do pull ups on her play gym (whilst I worried that something would break and she would bash her head on the floorboards).

Recently I have spent a lot of time watching her play with Baxter the Labrador who I think is her main inspiration for wanting to crawl. Seeing her dogs get around on all fours is good learning through observation, and lately Baxter has made a habit of just sitting far enough away from Lara on an angle that makes rolling to him very difficult. I think it is his way of teaching her how to crawl....but he may regret that in a few weeks. As may I-I got on the computer to search for play pens so I don't end up with a baby at my feet in the kitchen as she is already rolling all over the lounge room floor. Plus, if I leave it too late we could have a wild tiger on our hands that will throw a massive tantrum if she is suddenly caged in.

Lara has initiated playing hide and seek for a while now with her blankets, but yesterday was a lot of fun when she pulled my cardigan off the TV unit with the intention of playing hide and seek with was also a timely reminder that I need to rid my old slobby ways and be tidy because Lara is now in to everything.

Whilst I'm entertained by her efforts to crawl, and proud of her determination, I'm also very aware that I don't have much time left before my life is going to have another complete change. It is impossible to keep Lady Lara still at the moment, so a crawling Lara is going to be exhausting. Lucky the cheeky little munchkin is so much fun.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Tricks (Tools) of the Trade

I picked this massive zucchini from the garden and have used the Just Squeezed tool to freeze more meals for Lara

Lately I've been flooded with articles and social media posts about stay at home mums (SAHM) and working mums (WM) and how difficult both their lives are. This post certainly isn't going to touch on any of those issues, it is about how I've made my job as a stay at home mum a little easier through finding my own solutions and taking the much appreciated suggestions of others that have tried and succeeded. It is also about sharing these findings with others to pass on the love. I'm writing this post as Lara is having her morning nap....and thanks to the rain she has gone in to a nice deep slumber.

As a stay at home mum I also consider myself a housewife that needs to maintain a certain level of cleanliness, and I'm working towards that level of cleanliness at a faster rate than I thought would be necessary as Lara doesn't like the confines of her play mat and will roll all around the lounge room floor. Her nice soft, dog hair free play mat doesn't always win over solid floorboards (that make attempts at crawling a little less frustrating) that sometimes look like there is a black rug lying on them due to my moulting Labrador and Kelpie X...slight exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

For a few weeks Mark watched me going absolutely bonkers dragging out the corded vacuum cleaner everyday, and eventually just leaving it out of the cupboard plugged in to the wall. Then he got me the best Christmas present ever...a cordless Dyson! He did tread very carefully talking to me about this decision beforehand as he didn't want to offend me by giving me a gift for the house, and one that encourages me to do a better job at cleaning no less, or get in trouble for spending so much money. But he was well in the clear for thinking of such a thoughtful gift and months later it is still making my day to day life better. I don't think I have ever say the praises of a product as much as I have this vacuum cleaner. It is life changing.

My latest addiction.
Photo from Dyson.
My other new toy is much more realistically priced, yet it means that I can clean the house in a flash now (even though as I write this I should be mopping the floors, but hey, its raining so there's no point). It is a Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop that removes the need to carry around a bucket of water and keep returning to that bucket to wet the mop. You simply 'spray and wipe' your floors. This amazing tool was recommended to me and after seeing it in action I trotted off to Bunnings to buy one. And after taking it to my sister's place to clean when she was moving house she was so impressed that she went out and got herself one. Sharing the knowledge.

I can clean the whole house in less that two hours with my Dyson Rubbermaid duo-baby permitting.
Photo from Rubbermaid.

I have one new toy to go out and purchase. So lame, but last night (Valentine's Day) I went out with my besties and we ended up talking about what a changed person I am, and how I clean in a flash now (cleaning has never been one of my strengths, the veggie garden is where its at) accept when it comes to the shower. At which point my bestie started telling me about this great Vileda tool that her Mum uses to clean the shower, and she now uses. Since they don't sell these online the shopping hunt begins. Again, women just chatting, passing on knowledge and making life easier for each other. We did have a good laugh about how much our lives have changed.

Going to find out if this will make me clean the shower more regularly.
Photo from Vileda.

The best tool I have seen in action is Lara's food machine that I put on her Christmas wish list. Whilst on a picnic with friends I spotted their daughter eating great home made meals from this fancy 'sleeve' so we got talking about the Infantino Fresh Squeezed station and hours later we were at the shops purchasing the system. Then this Thursday I took one of the sleeves to Mums group and showed the below photos to my 'colleagues' on my phone. Hours later a Mum had told me that she just ordered the system online, and others are probably going to do the same. Sharing the knowledge of resources that make like easier just makes me feel good.

Its as easy as one, two, three.

What 'secret' tricks and tools do you use to make your job easier?

Note: Sadly none of these companies have approached me and offered me cash to write this post (but I would gladly take it), I just wanted to share with others the few things that have made my life easier, and hopefully they can help you too.