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I know that Summer has yet again passed us by here in Australia but I am pleased to say that there has been a residual heat hangover into Autumn (which traditional "Melbournites" will say is just not on) but I for one am absolutely loving.

Melbourne is a great city and having lived in Sydney for many years I definitely have the ability to recommend one over the other - but I won't. I will although point some of the lovely things you can do in and around Melbourne, especially with kids.

I have made this little trip across the bay before but the first time I did it, it was by accident. This time, we planned our little sojourn to Sorrento and back across the bay and it was delightful.

On this particular day one of our best friends was down from Sydney and we really wanted to show him what Melbourne had to offer. So we packed a few snacks and drinks to keep us going and drove down Melbourne's west to Queenscliff (which is a beautiful place in itself and deserves a more thorough investigation - mental note: add that to my must do list). The ferry to Sorrento leaves every hour from 7am to 6 pm (but may change during the year - so don't take my word for it, check before you head off) and it was a pleasant journey across the bay.

There is a place to buy coffee should you be so inclined and even a small kids play area on board to keep small people entertained. You can take your car with you (on the ferry) but on this day we chose to travel across on foot and just walk around Sorrento once we got there. The ocean views are beautiful and the ride was relaxing, even with kids (which is something you can't always say).

The views as we came across the water and into Sorrento were spectacular and as the day began to warm up and we spied that beautiful clear water I was glad that I had packed our swimmers and some towels.
We walked around and looked into all the little specialty shops and stopped for lunch at the Three Palms cafe - which was a little more upmarket than we usually go but was delicious regardless. There were lots of child friendly eating establishments on the main street which was a bit of a climb up the hill to reach but not a long one (and again the views were really worth it!)
The view on the beach was just as lovely and there were standing paddle board lessons taking place - I really wanted to give it a go.... maybe next time.
The kids got in to have a swim - nothing deters kids once water is involved and they loved it. They collected shells and played in the sand. It was a perfect beach for smaller people - not so great if you are into surfing or catching the waves into the shore.
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Me and the hubby on the beach. I'm the sun smart one wearing all the sunscreen, hat and glasses. My husband is not.
Before we knew it, it was time to bid farewell to Sorrento and head back across the bay again to Queenscliff and then the drive home. It is a really lovely day and I would totally recommend this for a family day out if you're in Melbourne.


Seeing as we are still looking forward to a little bit more of this luscious hot weather - you may just have enough time to squeeze this trip in before it's layers, winter coats and I am recommending the best place to get a hot chocolate in Melbourne.

Cheers,

Lee
 
 
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If you are visiting Melbourne or live in Melbourne and have not made it to the Queen Vic Night Markets yet, here is your call to action.

The Night Markets run on a Wednesday night through the summer season and are a great place to take the whole family. There are 101 (well I don't know how many exactly - I didn't count) food stalls with a wide variety of foods to suit a range of tastes. There is also a Sangria Bar, cocktails and the most delicious desserts.

Whilst all this tantalising food is grabbing your attention there are also lots of arty, crafty stalls to look at and bands playing. The atmosphere is amazing but it gets crowded early - so get in earlier if you would like time to grab a table to enjoy all this delicious stuff.

The Night Markets are still on until Feb 27th so get out there and experience all that Melbourne has to offer.

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Get there early to get a table - as you can see the Markets are very popular!!
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Bands and Buskers. Music is all around - lots of stuff to get you tapping your feet.
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A look at some of the tasty desserts available. These are honey dumplings with ice cream and chocolate. It was as yummy as it looked!
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Lots of atmosphere, things to see and spaces to hang out.
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Cello Joe the busker.
Don't forget that the winner for the Awesome Personal Planner is being drawn tomorrow and announced on Friday. So you still have a little bit of time to enter this survey and be in the running to win.

Cheers

Lee
 
 
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It's always nice to do something a little different with kids. I mean, you can buy them stuff but nothing really beats experiences. So this past weekend we decided to head on over to Bacchus Marsh for the Strawberry and Cherry Trail Festival for some strawberry and cherry picking fun. Bacchus Marsh is around 50 minutes west of the Melbourne CBD.

Of course the two year old was all in no questions asked and once he saw a bouncing castle it was like all his Christmas' had come at once but the nine year old took a little longer to warm up. First with the "Why are we here?" then onto the "How long do we have to be here?" and eventually ending up at the "Wow, look at the size of that strawberry!". So it was nice to have him come around in the end. We have intended to visit the festival for a number of years but have always managed to just miss it, so this year it was up in bold letters on the calander. It was fun, the kids loved it and now the house is full of tasty fruit, so it was a very successful outing for everyone involved.

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To be able to drag him away from his hand held games we had to offer up something amazing - a strawberry as big as an apple.
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Beautiful ripe cherries and they were as delicious as they looked!
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The little guy, really happy to be involved in the whole cherry picking process.
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My three happy guys. Who knew you could get kids so excited about fruit!
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We ended up at a little winery on the hill in Bacchus Marsh with this delicious platter of food. The only bad part was that there was so much food we had no room left for dessert - and they looked amazing.


If you have never made it to the Festival make sure you check the website and write it up on your calendar for next year and if you are in the Bacchus Marsh area and it's not festival time the farms are often open for you to pick your own strawberries or cherries, if it is the season to do so. So check it out!

Cheers,

Lee

 
 
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It's always hard trying to find something interesting to do with the kids. Each weekend we make a promise to ourselves that we will not just hang around the house and that we will try to come up with new and interesting ideas that go very much like this, "So, what do you want to do?", "I dunno. What do you want to do?", "I dunno...... Well, we should do something?". Often this may take until lunch time at which point the 2 year old has to go and take a nap and the day is pretty much on the downhill slide by the time he gets up anyway. 

Having a 2 year old and a 9 year old adds to the degree of difficulty on decision making front, as everyone likes something different. The hubby and I would be quite happy to go to a nice quiet cafe and have a hot chocolate and a piece of cake but that is impossible with a 2 year old. Well, not so much impossible as having the fun and relaxation sucked out of it by a 2 year old. 

The 2 year old requires a space which is entertaining, with enough room to run around in, without being able to get into too much trouble. The 9 year old, likes what he likes ... which sometimes feels like nothing (I can hardly wait until he is a teenager) so it's hard enough forcing him out of the house and away from his handheld games in the first place. 

The thing is, if you can be arsed there is always something happening or somewhere to go in Melbourne. So I decided to add to the excitement of the weekend by not actually telling them where we were going and just all piling in the car. Seeing as we can only be out for the morning anyway, before nap time, it's not really a huge undertaking. 

So in we got and drove to our surprise destination. Altona. Yep, bet you didn't see that coming. But I have to say it was a really nice morning. The kids love looking for fish, jelly fish and other sea creatures as we peer into the water from the pier and who doesn't love catching a ball, throwing a frisbee by the water or digging a hole in the sand?? 

  

We finished up with a play in the park across the road and sat on the grass to eat our hot chips. So a fun morning was had by all and as the crowds gleaned onto our good idea and started to turn up in numbers, we had to head home for nap time anyway. Nice.

Hope your family weekend was just as nice.

Cheers,

Lee
 
 
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Hi, Hello and Welcome back to Motherload. You may or may not have noticed but I have taken a little break from blogging this past week, so that I could spend some time with my family during the last week of the school holidays here in Melbourne. I would like to say it was full of adventures and so lovely and warm ... but this is Melbourne. So it wasn't warm. We did although manage to fit in a few small adventures and there is one in particular I wanted to share with you.

Now being a parent of a two and a half year old has it challenges. The least of these being that it is often difficult to go to a cafe and have a nice quiet coffee (or hot chocolate in my case - coffee makes me angry... don't ask) or even enjoy a lunch out. So I was looking for opportunities that involved lots of space to run around in but not enough space to run off - so I don't have to spend my whole morning chasing after him.

Anyhoo, I scoured the internet for something we hadn't done before, something that would keep a two year old entertained whilst also appealing to a nine year old and I came across the St Kilda Adventure Playground. Now I have to add, if I had not googled it - I never would have found it and it was so worth the find!! What a wonderful space for kids and not bad for adults either. It is located just off Neptune Street in St Kilda and you really have to be looking for it because it is very well hidden from street view.

It was a free activity (which is always nice) but there are opportunities to donate if you are feeling generous to keep the place going. It was probably more suited to kids over 5, seeing as they can just be let loose and you can relax. Whereas smaller people require supervision (seriously though, it's a rare moment when a two year old doesn't require supervision). I have put together some images so you could see what it's all about and we did go out for ice cream after (C'mon - we were in St Kilda and it was actually hot that day!). There are spaces for picnic blankets, tables and chairs for the adults to mill about and tea and coffee facilities. A word of caution - it is not open every day (sometimes closed for groups) and it does not open until 11am (we had to sit at the gate and wait a little while) so make sure you call before you go.

There was so much more there than I have included in the photos - if you're in Melbourne (or coming to visit Melbourne with kids - cause you can't get in if you don't have one) go check it out.

If you have any places for kids that not everyone knows about (wherever you are - you never know, I might get there one day!) I would love to hear about your secret finds if you would like to share them!

Cheers,

Lee
 
 
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Due to a run in with homemade chicken nuggets (I came off a little worse) using the keyboard has been made a little more difficult so instead of starting my "From Scratch" series this week (and since school holidays start in Melbourne tomorrow) I have decided to share with you my Five Favourite Free Things to Do with Kids in Melbourne (try saying that five times fast!) these school Holidays.


1. ACMI - The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, located at Federation Square. Screen Worlds is a free permanent exhibition which is lots of fun for the whole family. There are heaps of things to do and touch, video games to play, things to watch and interact with and it's all FREE! There are also paid activities like workshops, movies and other great exhibitions. But you could easily entertain kids in the free area for a whole morning or afternoon (maybe longer).

2. NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), Kids Space. Great exploring (and dare I say learning) opportunities for kids aged 1 - 8. Again lots of stuff to touch and play with. Interactive stars that follow your every move, a sea room with port holes that actually made me feel a little seasick (which was weird - cause we weren't actually moving). There are also the permanent exhibitions on in the NGV which you can take a stroll around and look at (no touchy though - which is hard for little hands). I would totally recommend going to visit the "Never ending illuminated staircase" on level 3. Spooky.

3. Birrarung Marr and Playground, located on the north bank of the Yarra River next to Federation Square. Plenty of space for web climbing, swinging hammocks, tube slides and lots more. A chance to get outside and run (not you - the kids .... well, OK, run if you want to).

4. Melbourne Museum, which is located at Nicholson Street, Carlton Gardens. Which is a bit of a stroll up from the city (or there is plenty of parking underneath). Whilst the Museum is not "technically Free", it's not overly expensive and it is FREE for kids. The thing I love about Museums today is that there are always lots of things to touch and interact with! So it's great for kids. There's everything from butterfly collections and dinosaurs to how the body works and what wierd and wonderful creatures are lurking deep down in the ocean! Think that long toothed fish with the light dangling in front of it from Nemo - only stranger!

5. Now this is technically two in one but I LOVE the fact that you can get a family around Melbourne for FREE!! So if you have never taken a ride with the kids on the FREE brown City Circle Tram (here's the timetable) or the City Tourist Shuttle buses - you are missing out on a treat!! You can get on and off as much as you want and the bus actually stops right next to each of the attractions I have  in my top 5 list! Awesome! I can't actually find a link to share with you about the buses - but it stops outside all the main attractions in Melbourne (it has around 13 stops) and it is FREE! (Did I mention that?)

My top 5 are not set out in any particular order or preference - but they are all FREE and we, as a family have visited each one numerous times and continue to go back. So get out there and enjoy some new (and Free) activities.

Cheers,

Lee

 
 
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What do you do with a two year old who is constantly on the lookout for mischief? OK, well maybe not mischief, maybe he is just checking out the world around him and trying to find out what everything looks like, tastes like, feels like and does before he reaches the ripe old age of three. And as luck would have it those things are often accompanied by a little bit of mischief.

We had a really nice Sunday in Melbourne, weather wise and my little guy cannot get enough of getting outside. We find that he usually plays with the stuff which was put there for him to actually play with for the first few minutes and then starts investigating the stuff he's not supposed to be touching for the rest of the time. Now, I cannot claim ownership of this idea as it was suggested to me by a friend (so thanks Marg) but when I heard about it, it made me wonder why I didn't think of something so obvious myself!! But, that's how it goes sometimes, the simple ideas are often the really good ones!!

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You may or may not have noticed his father in the background of this image - before he was sent on his mission to paint he spent time opening a drain cover and dropping lemons in..... just to give his Dad something to do with his Sunday.
So here it goes, a paint brush, a cup of water and a blank outside wall. Who knew something so uncomplicated could be so much fun?! He loved it and it kept him out of trouble!

Short post today, go out and enjoy the Melbourne sunshine before it's gone, again.....

Cheers, 

Lee

 
 
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Father and son on Fathers Day
Yet again, Fathers Day has flashed by and Spring has Sprung. Yay!!  (yay, to Spring - not Father's Day flashing by).

I feel like I have waited an eternity for a lovely warm spring day to arrive. Now I am not going to lie and say it was hot (c'mon - this is Melbourne after all) but we did reach a very nice 19 (Which for me - is a one jacket day - ahhhh lovely). 

After my original dilemma about what to buy for Father's Day it all went down well on the day. We ended up with some hardware type stuff - which he always seems to like (and had expressed an interest in), dark chocolate (which I suspect he likes even more because no one else in the house actually likes it) and some of his favourite chilli hot sauces (personally selected by the nine year old).

Now even though I had all the intentions of cooking him breakfast in bed (which seems a bit rich, seeing as he is not my father.... but then again, I still have reservations about a two and a nine year old being in charge of the oven). But whilst I had my back turned toward said oven, the two year old made a break for it and by the time I got to the bedroom (for a little pair of legs, he moves like lightening) there was one awake father in it and two smaller people pretending to be asleep. With minimal grumbling (from my husband - not the children) we were able to put together a breakfast of bacon, eggs and croissants (yum) and after cleaning up, headed into Melbourne city. As was the special persons (ie, the father's) request for his special day.

We ended up at our favourite Yum Cha restaurant West Lake in China town (on Little Bourke St) for our Father's Day feast, where the two year old will eat anything set in front of him and the nine year old (we affectionately call him Mr Bland) will eat only boiled rice. After a delicious lunch we then headed home for a nap (toddlers and Fathers that is - well it is his day, I can't really complain about that) and everyone was both full and happy.

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Taking over the world one chop stick at a time! Actually he uses it to stab the food - who needs two chop sticks!
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Some of the yummy dishes from West Lake.
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Our nine year old son and one of our best friends - who drove all the way from Sydney to Melbourne to share the weekend (and some Yum Cha) with us!
How did you spend the day and was the present buying for your Father (or husband) any easier than mine? I hope that your Father's Day was just as nice as ours.

Cheers,

Lee
 
 
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The outdoor garden area at Sugardough.
Here we are again and it's Monday already. The weekend always seems to pass so quickly and it's nice to not have to race kids from school pick up to after school activities. The weekend is our families chance to take a breather and try a few new things out. 

So here's the thing. Everyone that knows me well (oh, alright even people I don't know that well) know that I love cake. I mean what's not to like!!?? Don't answer that.... it was rhetorical anyway. I have my favourite places but I have also been known to drive across town to try a new one out. So when I read an article a few weeks ago in the Sunday paper about the top 5 cakes places in Melbourne, my first thought was .... What!! I've only been to one of these places, how can that possibly be? My second thought was, Challenge accepted!!

So after spending the morning organising everyone else's breakfasts, getting them dressed, packing bags with the multitude of things you have to take with you "just in case" when you are out and about with a toddler and a little bit of kid (and husband) wrangling and we were in the car on our way to Sugardough, Panificio Patisserie. It's located at 163 Lygon Street in Brunswick East (just in case you would like to pay them a visit yourself).

Once we finally arrived at our sweet destination we found that there was not a seat to be had. While our 9 year old and his toddler brother pressed their faces against the glass it was  hard to even see the cakes let alone move around the cafe, I've been in ensuites that were bigger. But, having said that once we did get a look at the cakes, they were amazing. The kids of course, picked their usual cupcakes - I don't think they even noticed anything else. I picked a couple of yummy treats to take home; a three layered vanilla cake and a chocolate brulee. We found a couple of seats outside for the kids to eat their cupcakes. You know, because there was no way they were going to last until we got home and when the kids were almost done, we realised there was a lovely little garden seating area out the back. Oh well, next time.

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My photo's really don't do these justice - but due to the difficult nature of food photogra.....oh, alright. I ate them.
Now even though this was an outing for cake we decided to stop in and visit a little deli on Lygon St which we had seen featured on Getaway and it was so worth the visit!! More cake which was of course, delightful. But the real reason we went there was the cheese. La Parisienne Pates is located at 290 Lygon St, Carlton and they had the most amazing selection of cheese and cold meats. I had to try the cheese which was shown on the episode of Getaway which made me want to go and visit in the first place.  You heat up the cheese in the little container it comes in and then dip crusty bread straight into it. Yum!
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The cheese comes like this.
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It's making my mouth water just looking at it.
I ended up taking a small portion of the cheese and putting it into a ramekin to heat up and eat. (You can only eat so much cheese in one sitting!)
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The cheese ready for dipping with the crusty baguette. Yum.


I love a lazy Sunday where you can just wander around with the family and try out a few new tasty treats. So we took our booty home and had a crusty baguette with cheese and olive salami for lunch with beautiful cakes for desert. It was like the best day ever!!

Hope the weekend with your family was just as nice.

Cheers,

Lee
 
 
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Melbourne arts precinct.
The special thing about relocating from one major city to another one (in a different state) is that you get to look at everything from a fresh viewpoint. You see and try things that people who have lived there their whole lives don't bother with because they feel like they will just get to it eventually (and don't).

Moving to Melbourne from Sydney was a very hard time for me. We left behind our friends, our family and our home to support my husband in his new position at work. When we first moved here we didn't know anyone and in fact I had only been to Melbourne once before and that was only a day visit for a mystery flight (which was nice .. but what can you tell about a place in a day!?)

One of the most difficult things about moving is that you have to find new people. Not just friends and some kind of a support network but all the other little things you take for granted. Like a new hairdresser, doctor, chiropractor and dentist. Not to mention trying to work out the subtle but important differences between one state and another ( I honestly didn't think there would be any) like wording. For example, when we got here my husband went to buy some fish and chips and when he got home he was complaining about how expensive it was. It turned out that he had bought seafood scallops instead of potato scallops - which are actually called potato cakes in Victoria and not scallops at all. And don't even get me started on castle. In New South Wales it is pronounced Car-sal, much like it is in that iconic Australian movie 'The Castle', in Victoria it sounds much more like the British Cass-sell. Only small things I know but it highlights you as an outsider if you are unaware.

I do have to say though that having kids is a bit of a blessing when trying to meet new people. It forces you to get out and meet new people if only for the sake of your children not being "nigel no friends". A lot of my Melbourne friendships have been made through kid connections.

The difficulty though is that you have to start telling your story again. Your old friends know who you are, what you like and pretty much what you're about. With new people the small talk starts, where are you from, how do you like it here.. that kind of stuff, until you find people with which you can make real connections.

Well, five years and a bit later and I do have new people. A doctor and chiropractor and a network of wonderful people I am happy to call my friends. I don't know that we will live here forever but I don't have any plans to go anywhere else either. I think once you make such a big move, nothing ever feels as permanent to you anymore. I mean, I never thought I would leave Sydney to start with. After I have been back to Sydney (which just happened recently), when speaking to people in Melbourne I refer to Sydney as home. As in, "at home we used to do this". Which annoys my Melbourne friends no end, who say ... "well actually, this is your home now,  this is where you live" . And it's true, Melbourne is home.

I am really enjoying living here. I love the cultural quality to living here. I love the artistic freedom. I love that Melbourne adds those little special touches to things. They keep old buildings because they are beautiful, they fill little alleyways with magical cake, coffee and book shops. They add sculptures to the side of the freeway because it adds interest to the horizon. For all those things I thank you Melbourne. Although I still miss "my old" friends, thank you for my wonderful people, the beautiful new friends I would never have met if I had stayed in one place. Thank you for your art galleries, museums, free tourist trams and funky little alleyways. But if you could turn the heat up a little bit right now, it would be perfect.

Cheers,

Lee