Monday, February 28, 2011

Vintage Charm

image via antiques plus
Boys can be rough.  My youngest son Will broke one of our Art Deco dining chairs last week.  Mr R called the owner of Heidelberg Road's Vintage Bazaar (an antiques and collectables centre) in Alphington to ask for some help.  They recommended the workshop at the Darebin Enterprise Centre as well as Burton's Workshop Antiques in Fairfield.

Whether you're into modern, vintage or antique furniture - the Vintage Bazaar and Antiques As Well on Burgundy Street in Heidelberg are both worth a look if you have time to browse (sans children).

After we dropped our chair off to be repaired in Fairfield, we lobbed into APTE cafe in Alphington for lunch and scored a table in the courtyard.  I love the owners there - after my eldest son Thomas dropped a glass and started crying - it was picked up straight away and he was consoled with a complimentary chocolate milk shake.  Bless them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's all Greek to me

Mr Rosanna and I both love Greek food especially in the warmer months.  In fact, Mr R had his buck's night at Jim's Greek Tavern in Collingwood.  And then there was the time we went to The Press Club for a special dinner and ate so much we couldn't sleep...a little ironic too that Hellenic Republic opened at what used to be our local shops after we moved from the inner city to here.

There is still a lot of delicious Greek food to be had in the burbs.  Newcomer Byzantine (image via rosanna village) in Rosanna opened less than a year ago - I've heard that it's good modern Greek but a little pricey.  My Greek nanny Maria has said that Village Square Greek Tavern in Heidelberg is pretty authentic.  I've eaten at Plaka in East Ivanhoe a number of times and Terry, the owner, does a mean espresso.  Trapezi in Station St, Fairfield has a more urban feel - it is small and with concrete floors, if you don't like noise, ask for a table at the back.  I'm yet to go to St Katherine's in Kew - which is more Middle Eastern-inspired than Greek but will let you know once I do.

I neglected to mention Paladarr Thai in my Thai round up last Friday.  It's more special occasion Thai food given the prices but has a lovely ambience  and is housed in an old art deco bank building in a quiet side street in Alphington.  It also has an outdoor courtyard and fireplace.  Last mention is for the Monty Farmer's Market which is also on tomorrow.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Play

It's been a cool summer but I haven't minded it that much - with kids it's actually been a better temperature for playing outdoors.  I've mentioned the sheltered Eltham North Adventure Playground before.  Apparently Beckett Park in Parring Road, Balwyn is also a goodie as it's set on a hill and protected by old cypress trees.

My boys' two favourite parks are Hay's Paddock in Kew (photo above shot at Hay's Paddock by Siobhan Wolff) and Wombat Bend in Templestowe.  Both cater for disabled children and are fenced off.  If you plan on going to either, go in the morning before the crowds converge - they are both extremely popular.  I haven't been to Ruffey Lake park in Doncaster but friends and family have given it the thumbs up.

Closer to home is Rosanna Parklands which has two play grounds (plus the giant slide from the 70s!) but are not shaded.  Warringal Park playground on a winter's morning is bathed in sunshine and there are plans afoot for a 'signature' park.  The Greeks and Italians love having a picnic under the trees in the summer and the Banyule Festival is also held at the park.  Finally, Macleod playground is great for little kids and with the shops across the road makes a good venue for outdoor playdates.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weekend fun

There's a fair bit on this last weekend of summer.  The Blind Side (image via wikipedia) is showing at Price Park in Viewbank at 8pm on Saturday night.  Don't forget to BYO low chairs, picnic rug and insect repellant - the mozzies have been vicious this year with all the rain.

The first Preston Farmer's Market is also on this Saturday and the  Darebin Kite Festival is being held on Sunday.  If you're heading over to Preston way, there is another cafe worth checking out called Jackson Dodds.  Grabbing a bite there or at Boundary Espresso might be a good idea if you're like me and need to constantly graze...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just do it

My eldest son has been swimming at the Ivanhoe Aquatic & Fitness Centre for a little while now and has really come a long way.  Swimming and/or fitness classes are also available in Bulleen, Doncaster, Heidelberg and Greensborough.

Your local centre is the best place to start when you're trying to get (or stay) fit.  A lot of fitness centres also offer other classes such as cycling, circuit, gym, zumba or yoga.  I've been to a few in the area including YMCA Macleod which has won a number of awards and offers kids gym classes as well as occasional care.  There's also Jets gym in Eltham which can be booked out for kids' parties - a good idea once the weather starts to get cold and wet.

If your New Year's resolution included getting fit, then the time to start is now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Out and about

The Manningham Healthy Lifestyle Week starts on 26th February.  The week aims to provide the community with activities or workshops that promote active and healthy lifestyles, mental wellbeing and initiatives that promote safety. 

Mr Rosanna and I are desperately trying to regain some fitness.  Whether you study, work or have a young family like us, it's not always easy fitting exercise in.  You can often see our family at Rosanna Parklands where Mr Rosanna and I take turns running laps while one of us looks after our boys in the playground. 

There was a great feature article on living in leafy Rosanna by Lou Sweeney in yesterday's Age Domain.  Indeed one of the reasons we chose to move to Rosanna was because of the abundance of parkland and the plethora of bike paths and running tracks.    There are a number of cycling groups in Banyule, Darebin, Manningham and Boroondara.  I am determined to get back on my bike again before the year is out!  I'll talk about fitness centres in my next post.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tic Tac Thai

I love Thai food.  But then again I love most food.  I'm always game to try something new and that's one of the best things about living in Melbourne.  I went to Longrain in the city a few years ago and both the food and interior were pretty amazing if you ever get the chance to go.  Mr Rosanna and I have also tried a number of different recipes from David Thompson's book Thai Food (pictured right).

I was quite excited when Baan Thai opened a year or so ago in Rosanna.  It does modern Thai quite well and is a nice place to go for dinner.  Before that Mr Rosanna and I used to get takeaway from Tarin Thai in Burgundy Street Heidelberg and more recently tried Piyada Thai in Macleod.  They're both more traditional in terms of decor and food.

My in-laws are regulars at Thai Lantern in Ivanhoe and it also does a nice take on modern Thai but can be a little squishy inside.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Om shanti

I've practised Iyengar yoga for as long as I've worked and it is one of my great passions in life.  While I run as well, I know I'll still be practising yoga well into my old age - it has become a way of life.

While I go to Clifton Hill Yoga Studio, there are a number of other centres around that offer Iyengar yoga (based on the teachings of Mr BKS Iyengar who is now in his 90s) including Luna Studio in Fairfield, Yoga Jivana in Northcote and Greensborough Yoga.  I'm sure there are many other centres and gyms around that also offer yoga courses.

Yoga's benefits are many as it works at both a physical and mental level and builds strength and flexibility.  While I'm not particularly religious, I think there's also a spiritual element to it as well.  At times when I've led a particularly fraught and stressful lifestyle, yoga has been my saviour.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coffee is my BFF

OK.  I will admit it.  I am fussy about my coffee and my cafes.  I think it comes from having Italian friends, living in the inner north for many years and having travelled to Italy.  All of which has given me a decidedly European sensibility despite being Asian (and supposedly lactose intolerant).  Coffee was my best friend before I had kids and man, it's still definitely the case now (I was never a morning person).

So moving to suburbia has seen me on a coffee quest these past few years to find a place that does good coffee as well as has more of an urban feel to it.  Before Miss Marie opened in Rosanna, I would often drive as far as Alphington to APTE cafe for a coffee or brunch with my girlfriends.

The middle ring suburbs are slowly changing as a new demographic moves in.   A couple of other places I'd recommend are the Were St food store in Montmorency and Lip cafe in Waterdale Road Ivanhoe North.  For a true Italian coffee experience, Caffe Romeo in Greythorn Village North Balwyn is pretty authentic.  I haven't been to Boundary Espresso in Preston but it also looks pretty hip and happening and apparently is a great pit stop for the cycling fraternity.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A bit of culture

Banyule City Council is holding free movies in the park this summer.  The first is 'Up' (image via wikipedia) which is showing at Malahang Reserve in Heidelberg West this Saturday night from 8pm.  The second movie is 'The Blind Side' which will be showing at Price Park in Viewbank next Saturday night (26th February).

If you are a bit of a culture vulture, Heidelberg Theatre Company also starts it's season of 'Enchanted April from 17th February.  I think most of us can relate to the story of moving from dreary London to  sunny Italy even if it's set in the 1920s.   There are a couple of other local theatre companies around including Eltham Little Theatre in Research and Amateur Repertory Company in Preston who are doing the musical Grease this year (auditions are on at the moment).

Finally for classical music lovers, there is a series of nine musical afternoons throughout this year as part of the Arden Crescent Concert Series 2011 held at Rosanna Uniting Church.  Proceeds of these concerts are donated to a number of local charities.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feeling the love

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow.  I must admit, I'm not a big fan of commercialised romance and the irony is that most loved up couples don't celebrate it once they're hitched.  Mr Rosanna and I prefer to go out for our wedding anniversary or - call us crazy - be romantic when we actually feel like it.

I reckon the simplest things are the best.  Mr Rosanna cooking me a special dinner from scratch.  Picking up some gourmet goodies from Leo's and having a picnic in the park at Heide.  Ordering a takeaway sushi platter from Kanda or Toyama on a balmy summer evening sitting on our deck watching the sun go down.  One of the most romantic things Mr Rosanna does is walks up to our local shops to buy me an ice cream whenever I feel like one.  I knew there was a reason I married him : )

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Night fish and chips

Yum!  I love Fridays nights when I don't have to cook dinner.  I'm really lucky in that the best fish and chip shop around just happens to be my local.  That's right, the Banyule Fish & Chippery run by Michael, Rita, Fidel, Hannah, Claire and co in Rosanna has received a number of mentions in The Age Epicure and Herald Sun over the years including best metropolitan fish and chip shop.  I've heard people come from as far away as Eltham to buy their fish and chips from them.

We also occasionally get pizza instead.  For families, Pasquale M on Lower Plenty Road in Rosanna is great - you can either dine in, pick up via their very clever drive through area out the back or get your pizza delivered.  If you crave something a bit more sophisticated - Amici Pizza in Burgundy St Heidelberg is the real deal and does both authentic and designer pizzas.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More markets...

I'm discovering even more markets and the best time to go is now while the weather is still warm.  I forgot to mention the Kingsbury Drive Community market which is a local market in Bundoora held every Sunday.  It has a bit of everything and Mr Rosanna's Aunty Leah is a regular.

There's quite a few markets in Bundoora, the Bundoora Park Farmers Market is held the first Saturday of every month and the University Hill Farmers Market is held the second Saturday of every month.

The Warrandyte Market and Westerfolds Park Farmers Market (in Templestowe) are both held on the first Saturday of every month and two other farmers markets - the Monty Farmers Market and the Preston Farmers Market (image via inseason markets) are both held on the fourth Saturday of every month.

 Finally, the Diamond Village Craft Market is being held this Saturday 12th February and is usually held on the second Saturday of every month.  Phew!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The kids are all right

It's that time of year when kinder and school start and our working lives begin again after the bliss of summer holidays.

If you are new to the area and have children, you should go and check out your local childcare centres, kindergartens and schools.  There has been a population boom the past few years and getting a spot at your preferred place is not as easy as it used to be.  You may even find that there are no vacancies at the closest place to you or it's not the one you'd actually prefer your children attend.

Here's a link to information about childcare centres and kindergartens in Banyule.  Kinder enrolments (4 year old kinder) are currently being accepted for this year and 2012 so you should apply now via the Banyule Council website.  Enrolments for 4 year old kinder in 2013 are not being taken until after 1st March this year.  3 year old kinder is also changing next year (Victoria has one of the highest rates of 3 year old kinder in Australia) so do your research now.  There is a kindergarten Open Day every year in May which is a good opportunity to visit the centres closest to you all at the same time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Home again, home again

I love a good market and mentioned the Hurstbridge Farmers Market  last week.  I've actually been a couple of times to the Ivanhoe Makers Market at the Banyule Arts Space (image courtesy of creativespaces.net.au) in Ivanhoe.  Some gorgeous things from local artists are available for sale on the third Saturday of every month.  For all you organic fans out there, Yarra Organics at Petty's Orchard market is held in Templestowe every Friday while the Eltham Craft & Produce market is on this Sunday (and held on the third Sunday of every month).

Two of the oldest and more regular markets are the Preston Market and St Andrews Market.  I've been to Preston Market a number of times, there's a great stall that sells really cheap cannolli and Gold Leaf Chinese restaurant is also a hop, skip and a jump away. It's been a long time since I've visited St Andrews market - it is pretty hippy/alternative but also worth a visit on a Saturday if you can get up early enough to make the most of the day.

The other two markets I also wanted to mention are the Coburg Trash and Treasure Market held on Sundays and the Fairfield Farmers Market (3rd Saturday of every month).  I've not been to either so if you have please let me know what your experience has been like.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Choo Choo!

My boys are more than a little bit obsessed with trains.  To be honest, so are Mr Rosanna and I - I think there's something quite old fashioned and romantic about catching them.  We've been on a number of different steam trains around the place but our favourite for sheer value and convenience is the Eltham miniature railway held on Sundays.  The train also runs on Wednesdays during school holidays but always check the website for further info.

Tickets are around $3 for a 5 minute ride and well worth the money.  There's also a playground, BBQ and picnic facilities as well as pony rides.  You can even hire your own private picnic site and steam train for special events.

There's also a lesser known miniature railway in Box Hill.  I've not been but have also heard good things about it.  All aboard!

Tip: If planning a repeat visit, buy extra tickets and avoid queueing next time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

To market, to market

I mentioned the Fairy Floss baby and kids market yesterday.  Today it's the Hurstbridge Farmers' market (photo courtesy of freefoto.com).

This market is held from 8.30am - 1pm at Ferguson's Paddock Reserve on Arthurs Creek Road in Hurstbridge.  It's $2 entry with proceeds going to the CFA and you need to bring your own bags and baskets (it's plastic carry bag free).

My family have actually caught the train to Hurstbridge from Rosanna and back on a rainy day which my boys loved.  There's also an annual Wattle Festival in Hurstbridge every year where you can catch a steam strain there and back.  More on trains and markets in my next few posts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Get with the program

I mentioned Rosanna library the other day (photo courtesy of WikiNorthia).  It's actually part of a network known as the Yarra Plenty Regional Library covering the north east region.  I joined the library very soon after moving to this area.  They have loads  of activities on for kids and adults and their own bi monthly newsletter.  There's a stand in the foyer with heaps of info about other local events and organisations.

The other place I wanted to mention is the Rosanna Fire Station Community House.  Outside of activities such as Art & Craft, Computers, Music & Dance, Health & Wellbeing, they also have a special needs program as well as offer children's activities and occasional childcare. 

Final mention today goes to Fairy Floss Markets - a gorgeous travelling market selling hand made goodies for babies and children.  The next market in Doncaster is being held this Sunday 6th February at the Manningham Function Centre at 699 Doncaster Road.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

Goong Hei Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year to you.  It's the Year of the Rabbit and I'm not sure where I'll be celebrating with my family this year.  The Chinese love to celebrate family and food, that and money make up the Asian holy trinity.

We do go to yum cha from time to time.  I've been to Golden Dragon Palace in Lower Templestowe a number of times and never been disappointed.  The interior is quite amazing - very luxe.  Tai Pan in Doncaster East is also always a good bet - it's usually packed with families on a weekend.

Mr Rosanna and I found ourselves in Preston the other weekend and needed to feed the boys fast.  I remembered my sister-in-law had mentioned Gold Leaf for yum cha and we ended up having an impromptu lunch there - it's fairly basic but quick, easy and affordable which is what you want when you have kids.

Keeping cool

It's been a scorcher these past few days.  Not easy with two kids aged 5 and under keeping them amused in the heat.  I'm lucky in that my in-laws have a pool that we can escape to in the absence of a beach house.

What do you do around here when it's hot?  Drive to the shopping malls and cinemas at Northland and Doncaster.  Visit the Rosanna or Ivanhoe libraries to borrow some new books or attend story-telling. Go to a shaded park in the morning before it gets too hot.  I drove to the Eltham North Adventure Playground the other day which my boys loved.  Wherever you are I hope you are staying cool.