Tag Archives: flat white

Bunnings

P1030576Bunnings, the leading Australian home improvement and outdoor living retailer whose products are often displayed in warehouse-style premises with an intimidating number of aisles to navigate. An unusual choice for a girls’ excursion on NYE, perhaps. Until I point out that many of the stores incorporate a café and kids’ corner (along similar lines to Macca’s), and often run activities for children too. Yup, the good people at Bunnings certainly know how to attract the family demographic.

Besides, after some impressive weeding and leaf clearing by Ickle and me earlier in the week, the little courtyard outside our front door was ready for some new plants. And Daddy Ickle had tasked us with finding a kitchen tap filter – the excitement! – so that washing up is no longer an excuse for an extra shower.P1030556Let’s get our priorities straight, though. We made a beeline for the playground as soon as we arrived. I sipped a (surprisingly good) flat white while the girls explored the space. Perfectly suited to Ickle now she’s almost four – don’t you know. She scampered up one plastic chute and slid down the other, made faces at her little sister through the perspex windows, and adjusted the hands on a huge clock face. Mivvy was limited in what she could do, but enjoyed looking on, and made valiant attempts to scramble up the slide.P1030554P1030561It’s a small space so things can get a bit manic with more than a handful of littlies at play, or when some of the big kids come in to let off steam. But great for a breather before the important business of tackling all those aisles.P1030568We didn’t find a tap filter despite our best efforts. And there wasn’t a miniature trolley in sight for Ickle to run around with, like on a previous visit. (Apparently they have a habit of disappearing). But we did come away with some beautiful plants and veg for our courtyard garden…and possibly the smallest pair of gardening gloves ever.P1030582P1030585

Macca’s

Those who know me well may be a tad surprised by this post in praise of…Macca’s*. After all, aren’t the golden arches best known for – gulp – cheap junk food? And, while we’re on the subject, are a Big Mac and fries really food at all?20151016_115154I am a recent convert to the delights of Macca’s. Apart from a few random stops on the motorway, I really haven’t frequented the chain at all. But a few mummy friends assured me that it was a great place for kids. And – you know what – they were right. Our local Macca’s is a mere 20-minute drive away in Swansea. Air con keeps it blissfully cool at this time of year (a real plus in the Aussie climate), and it also incorporates a McCafé, catering to the national obsession with all things caffeine and cake. No need to head to Macca’s for a burger and fries, then, when you can get your coffee and sugar fix there instead.

On Friday, the girls and I unexpectedly had a day to ourselves. The mercury was set to soar, so I hit on the idea of Macca’s followed by a visit to the library next door. Ickle knew exactly where we were heading; the golden arches soar above the roundabout into Swansea, and the soft play area adjoining the outlet is also easily visible. Someone at Macca’s clearly knows how to attract the ickle generation.

First stop, McCafé where Ickle selected a strawberries & cream macaron, while I opted quelle surprise for a flat white, along with a scone to share. OK, so the macarons are not a patch on the Ladurée delicacies I dream of from my Paris days (sigh), the scone wouldn’t get a look in at a Devonshire cream tea (um, squirty cream for one), and the much-publicised barista-made coffee is passable at best.

But – hang on – let’s not be snobby here. This is Macca’s and I’ve spent less than $7, in return for which I get to sit in a beautifully cool space with my girls and watch the world go by. And then, they get to use some excellent play equipment outside, on soft fall (love that surface – way less dirt for Mivvy to munch on). Like I said, the mummies were right: Macca’s is great for kids, and it’s a pretty good spot for their mummies too.Macca's1*Australians love their diminutives, hence McDonald’s becomes Macca’s.

Expedition Cupcake

Icklegen loves cupcakes, there’s no escaping it. I only have to mention the word “bakery” and a little voice announces “cupcake” with great certainty in return. We have now established that, on most occasions, Mummy is only going to purchase a loaf of bread or a couple of rolls, but the local cupcake offering – a very large one, topped with pink icing and covered in sprinkles – is always in temptation’s way, right where little eyes can see it.

Far from being mean about treats, I do let Ickle indulge from time to time. There’s nothing like a mummy with a sweet tooth for being so understanding. So, when I discovered there was a specialist cupcake shop and café in Wyong, about a 30-minute drive away from here, I knew I had the recipe for a fun girls’ expedition.P1020181

Kiss My Cupcake is located at the start of Alison Road, just off the Pacific Highway. It’s been open for a couple of years now, but unless you are a local, or someone with a cupcake obsession, it’s unlikely you will have stumbled on it. The interior is styled along retro lines, dominated by a vintage floral couch, but the end result looks more stark and functional than plush and cosy. Although, arriving to an empty café late morning last Saturday doesn’t assist in the atmosphere stakes. Isn’t 11 am cupcake o’clock? Not in Wyong, obviously. However, a team of girls were hard at work making goodies in the vast kitchen behind the counter, which I found reassuring.P1020194P1020192

Service was amateur, but well-meaning. My flat white lacked in presentation, but made up for it with a beautiful smooth flavour. And Ickle’s babycino was a passable first attempt from our waitress, despite being more milk than foam. The real stars of the show in this place, though, are the cupcakes. They are freshly baked on site each day, and beautifully displayed on old fashioned cake stands. And you really are spoilt for choice, especially on Friday and Saturday when a fuller range is on offer.P1020197P1020195

I opted for a vanilla cupcake, which combined a plain, not-too-sweet sponge with deliciously light pink frosting, while Ickle was immediately drawn to a white chocolate cake pop* decorated with pink sprinkles. Not being an expert on these tiny gems on sticks, I managed to negotiate a small sample from her before she devoured the rest in record time. And then requested several spoonfuls of my pink frosting in return.P1020183P1020184

And while we sat there, a slow but steady trickle of customers arrived. Not for coffee, but for the cupcakes; generally a mixed box of six. And passing by a couple of hours later after a run around in the local park, quite a few seats were occupied and the little place had a bit of a buzz about it. Maybe cupcake o’clock is closer to 1 pm on Saturday in Wyong.

*Cake pop: these chocolate-coated treats are typically filled with a rich mixture of cake crumbs and frosting. Yummy.

A Trip to the Nursery

A nursery is both “a room in a house for the special use of young children” and “a place where young plants and trees are grown for sale or for planting elsewhere.” Combining the two can make for a very successful trip out with a toddler, as we found out earlier this week.13-P1010368

Little Iz and her mummy had invited us to Wyee Nursery for a coffee. And a very nice flat white it was too; Icklegen’s milkshake was also pretty good, although the kid’s size is definitely aimed at an older child. It was GIANT! The nursery café is just a few paces from the gift shop in a small patio area screened with shrubs and flowers. The meals seem a bit pricey (e.g. $22 for a big brekkie), but maybe they are worth the money, I don’t know. Anyway, we stuck with drinks this time.

But Icklegen did not stick with hers for very long. She started wriggling on my lap, desperate to escape (no highchairs are available and she quickly gave up on the garden chair option where her chin barely reached the table). Besides, there were far more exciting things to be discovered in the nursery. Like the koi pond.01-P1010326

And water running down a beautiful glazed terracotta pot, or shimmering in brightly-coloured bird baths.02-P101033109-P1010345

Not to mention the vast menagerie of china animals and gnomes (the ultimate addition to anyone’s garden).04-P1010337 03-P101033612-P1010362

And then, there were the “young plants and trees”, everywhere you looked. Alleys lined with greenery and bursts of beautiful colour. Natives, fruit trees, row upon row of garden herbs, succulents…you name it and they’ve probably got it. Wyee Nursery is a paradise for those with green fingers, and an inspiration for this budding gardener. We have an unused patio space in our front garden and I have a vision of it in a few months’ time – actually, make that a year’s time – transformed into a small veggie patch. Nothing grandiose, mind, just a few tomato plants, some green beans, carrots and herbs, to start.08-P1010344 07-P1010343

Maybe I’m being a tad ambitious…but I think it could be a fun project where Icklegen can muck in with the planting and watering (and boy, does she like to get mucky). And she’ll also see that real veggies do not grow on supermarket shelves, but in the earth, over time. A post on our attempts to follow in due course!

What veggies do you grow in your patch?

Catherine Hill Bay

Icklegen and I have been waiting for a window of opportunity to hit the beach, but what with her hectic social schedule and the topsy-turvy weather of late, we never seemed to get around to it. So, on Sunday morning, when the cloud cleared and the sun started to beat down, I seized the moment and ran around the house frantically packing morning snacks, swimmers, nappies, bucket and spade, and all the other paraphenalia that makes up our seaside excursions. And off we set…into the cloud, which had reappeared out of nowhere, I swear it.07-P1010077

The forecast wasn’t too bad for the morning, so we carried on, and soon arrived at our chosen destination: Catherine Hill Bay. This beautiful spot boasts a 2-km-long sandy beach with an iconic old coal-loading jetty at its southern end (great for photos!) There is a small local community, whose residents mainly live in the 100 or so ex-miners weatherboard cottages that line the access road on both sides. It’s a little slice of history in our neck of the woods, relatively untouched by time. That though is all set to change with a 556-lot residential development already underway, and another large building project on the horizon.03-P101006304-P1010068

We parked in the dedicated area just before the Surf Lifesaving Club. Access to the beach from there is fairly flat and direct (and free, too). Less distance to stagger with a wriggly toddler under one arm and all the beach stuff dangling off the other. Icklegen only has to smell the sea to get fired up with enthusiasm and today was no exception. I had no sooner dropped the bags on the sand, than she took off at high speed towards the water.

We had a wonderful time: dipping our toes in the ocean, building sandcastles so they could be stamped on immediately afterwards, beachcombing for goodies, and running up and down the sand. But the weather was not on our side; the sun had all but disappeared within 10 minutes of our arrival, taking with it some much-needed warmth, and then it started to drizzle, just a touch at first, and then quite heavily, so we beat a hasty retreat. Well, as hasty as we could with all the clutter we had taken with us.09-P101008610-P101009211-P1010093

And we went to the pub, “The Catho”, just up the hill. This rambling, slightly ramshackle affair can get quite busy at peak times on a nice day, when you are presented with one of those awful your-food-is-ready-come-and-get-it-buzzers; at 10.30 am on a grey, drizzly Sunday, however, there was only a handful of customers. We settled in the “dining” area overlooking the bushland that burnt so terribly during the recent fires in our area. Icklegen tucked into her first ever chocolate milkshake (just a half, but that was more than enough) and I had a flat white (not the best in the world admittedly, but it hit the spot). I did eye up the big brekkies the elderly couple behind us had ordered, so that’s something to bear in mind next time we’re that way and ravenously hungry.14-P101010712-P1010103

Murrays Beach

On Friday, Icklegen and I headed to Murrays Beach. It is a top spot tucked away on the Wallarah Peninsula just out of Swansea, perched on the sparkling waters of Lake Macquarie and surrounded by national park. It’s a short windy road off the Pacific Highway to get there but worth every twist and turn of the steering wheel.P1000841It is so peaceful, or at least it was on the morning that we chose to visit. For the first hour after our arrival, we only saw a handful of people: three men fishing off the jetty that juts out into the lake and a lady out for her morning walk. Bliss. And yet, this is a residential area and it’s still very much under construction. There are signs up informing you of Land for Sale, and extolling the various key selling points of the development. But, when you are down on the lakeshore, the human aspect seems to blend inconspicuously into the surrounding bushland.

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We had brought Icklegen’s little trike with us, so our first stop was the “racetrack” to give it a bit of a spin. Well, it’s not really a racetrack so much as a concrete pedestrian circuit that runs parallel to the lakeshore, before looping back to the main settlement. The surface is smooth, so perfect for everyone, including this mum, her toddler and our little set of wheels. On this occasion, Icklegen opted to ditch the trike for most of the way and walk and run along the circuit, retracing her footsteps several times and giggling as she launched herself across the grass towards the lake. She expended so much energy in her excitement that we soon had to stop for a snack or two so she could recharge her batteries.P1000863

Next, we headed to the kiddies playground near the village green. It’s not huge, but the equipment is good quality and well thought-out. There’s a slide complete with runged ladder and fireman’s pole – I found it alarmingly high, but I’m probably being over-protective; Icklegen loved it, and so did her teddy! The two swings cater for all ages; the baby version is like a space-age reclining car seat with multiple straps to keep even the wriggliest child safe. There are wooden beams to run along and clamber up (a bit beyond Icklegen at the moment). And finally an abacus and noughts-and-crosses combination for little hands to move along and and spin around.P1000889P1000884

We were feeling a bit peckish after all of this, so headed to the Lakehouse Café. The café is what first brought me to Murrays Beach. I love cafés, especially ones that serve decent food, coffee and cake. I found this one on Google as I hunted around for decent places to hang out and chill near our new home. The café is light and airy, with a wrap-around sheltered veranda and fabulous lake views. It may be a bit on the pricey side, but worth a visit for a treat now and again.P1000913

Icklegen had her first babycino here one Saturday, and it was presented to us like this. Colourful and fun! And she polished the whole lot off too, marshmallows, sprinkles and all.Babycino

Today, we ordered a ham, cheese and tomato croissant from the breakfast menu. It was delicious – the croissant was buttery and flaky on the outside, the cheese melted through and tomato warmed to release its flavour. And it came with a decent side salad of mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. We shared it, although Icklegen possibly got more of the ham than I did.

The coffees alas did not compete with our last visit. The babycino was good, but not a patch on the dotty multicoloured froth Icklegen enjoyed last time; however it did come with a marshmallow on the side. My flat-white was disappointing: it lacked the silky smooth texture and slight sweetness of a really good coffee. And there was no heart or leaf design on top either – a travesty for someone like me who loves the emphasis on coffee art and presentation in Australian cafés.

My coffee aside (and I’m no real expert), we still love this place! It’s a peaceful, safe location, ideal for kids, and the café is an added bonus. You can also walk to the ocean (Caves Beach) from Murrays Beach, along the Wallarah Peninsula track. At two hours one way, Icklegen and I didn’t tackle it this time. We’ll have to look into the logistics and rope in a few extras before we set out on that adventure – watch this spot!

Do you have a favourite café? What makes it special?