5 Reasons To Renew Your Library Membership

Remember back in the day when you used to go to the library after school, pick up your books like it was the most exciting thing in the world, and head home to your juice box and teddy bears to read (chances are if you weren’t born in the 80s, you probably don’t)? Unsurprisingly, I had pretty high library attendance rates when I was a kid. I went through books like a pack-a-day smoker goes through cigarettes, and it wasn’t cheap for mum and dad to keep up with my habit. So I went to the library.

Many years later, not much has changed. I don’t smoke. I don’t really drink, other than the odd glass of wine. I don’t buy myself nice clothes, fancy shoes, new handbags or jewellery – my money goes towards books. That’s my guilty pleasure. But with my travel habit getting more and more expensive, something’s had to give. So I toddled on down to the local library, and signed myself up, expecting a half-decent collection of old books, at best. What I found instead, I was not expecting.

Libraries have upped their game since I was last a member back in the 1990s. They’ve got new books, old books, and so much more than books. I’m kicking myself for not having signed up earlier, because the easy access to books has meant I’ve been able to tear through 24 of them so far this year already! My habit is satisfied, and I’ve found a whole new world I didn’t know existed a few months ago. I’m really glad I went back to the library, and here’s why you should, too…

 

1. It’s not just access to your local library – it’s your whole council.
Say you live in the confines of the Whitehorse City Council. Say you live in the suburb of Blackburn. It’s not just Blackburn’s library you can borrow from; you can use your library card to borrow from Box Hill. Or Doncaster. Or Nunawading, Vermont, Bulleen or Warrandyte. You have no idea how nifty this is until you want to borrow a book on your way home and it’s way easier to drop into a different branch!

2. Easy reservations online or with apps.
You know how frustrating it is when you finally get to the library and they don’t have the book you want? Well that’s a thing of the past, now. Councils like Darebin have introduced an app you can download; from there, you can search the library catalogue and make a reservation! And, to prove step one really is efficient, it doesn’t matter which library the book is currently residing in – they can bring it to your library of choice for collection! AND you’ll get a handy sms to let you know when it’s ready for you, so you don’t have to make the trip down for nothing. Amazing!

3. They look after the kids.
Libraries have seriously upped their game when it comes to activities for the small ones. The City of Moonee Valley are outstanding, providing not only sessions for kids of all ages (rhyme time for babies, a mix of singing and stories for the toddlers, a story time program for pre-schoolers, and even an after school program for the older kids), they also have a gorgeous initiative called “Begin With Books” that gives a free book bag to all babies born within their council 🙂

4. Free community events.
Did you know that most libraries actually hold a ton of free events?! Libraries like those in the City of Yarra host regular events, ranging from social (crafternoons, Lego clubs and kids’ reading clubs) to educational (digital coaching and how to create your own food gardens), and all you have to do is register online and turn up!

5. Free books – duh!
Sooooo many books! All yours! For free! For a time, anyway. Oh, and it’s not just physical books that libraries lend out anymore; you can also get eBooks to download to your favourite electronic reading device! And as you can see on Moreland City Council’s library page, you can also get eAudiobooks, And eMovies. And eMagazines. Libraries are keeping up with technology to stay relevant and accessible, and that can only come in handy!

Bream Creek Farmers Market, Tasmania

Bream Creek Farmers Market
Held at the Break Creek Showgrounds, 138 Marion Bay Road, Tasmania
https://breamcreekfarmersmarket.com.au/

If you’re lucky enough to be around Hobart on the first Sunday of the month, you’ll be wanting to hire a car and take a drive, with the Bream Creek Farmers Market somewhere on the itinerary. We discovered it completely by accident when we visited last month, on our drive from Hobart to Port Arthur; I saw a sign for a farmers market, so we turned and followed the arrow and ended up at Bream Creek!

It’s a gorgeous little market, with some of Tasmania’s best produce coming out to play every month. Even more impressive is the fact that it’s run entirely by a volunteer committee with a passion for supporting the local community.

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After a year of successful market (they started back in December 2012), they gained enough popularity and notoriety to produce a cookbook, full of incredible recipes from the growers and locals, which I noticed being sold everywhere in Hobart and Port Arthur- they were even selling copies at the gift shop at the Port Arthur Historic Site!

They also have a wonderful concept of the “community stall,” best explained in their own words:

We are aware that some producers may not have enough stock to require an entire stall at each and every market, so we welcome you to make use of the BCFM Community Stall .  You might have a few bags of lemons or some freshly picked veggies – so bring them along!

All you have to do is bag or bunch your produce, clearly label with a price and pop into the Community Stall on the morning of the Market… Spend the morning shopping, socialising, listening to our great live music, relaxing on the beanbags and having a coffee and some lunch, then pop back into the Community Stall to collect your money and any leftover produce.  So easy!

 

It was pretty hard restraining ourselves, knowing that we only had limited luggage space coming home… Husband took some hot sauce home, and I got a nice big jar or apricot and walnut jam (actually the best jam ever) from Crooked Enterprises), and that most magnificent almond croissant you can see below (which was devoured with tea, coffee, and live music in the background)… soft and fluffy and perfect enough to rival any Melbourne hipster bakery. So happy we stumbled on this little market – it was picture perfect in the most stunning setting, with such a great atmosphere and seriously good food!

Cook this: orange, cranberry & rosemary cake

There are some really great things about being part of the food and travel blogging community. You make new friends all over the world, get some great ideas to add to the bucket list, always have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, and best of all, always have great new recipes to try  : )

I saw this one on Rachel’s site, Emerging Adult Eats, last week, and immediately added oranges and cranberries to my shopping list. I love orange and cranberry – one of my favourite old recipes is orange, cranberry and oat cookies. I was also really intrigued by Rachel’s addition of rosemary, for a savoury touch… I intended to make this as more of a cake than a bread, and planned on omitting the rosemary, but once the matter was made and tasted before being poured into the tin, I decided to add a little dried rosemary that I had in the spice cupboard anyway – it just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyway, I made my only little adjustments, as I am want to do, and here’s how it went…

 

Ingredients:
– 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– ½ cup olive oil
– ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
– juice of 2 oranges
– zest of 2 oranges
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– pinch of salt
– 1 tsp dried rosemary
– ¼ cup mixed seeds (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread loaf tin.

2. Combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt, orange zest and juice, and the vanilla.

4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour until completely combined – you may have to scrape out the whisk a few times.

5. Finally, stir in the cranberries, salt and rosemary, pour the batter into the tin, and sprinkle the seeds over the top.

6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Read this: The Wind In The Reeds by Wendell Pierce

The Wind In The Reeds
by Wendell Pierce

“We make our stories. And our stories make us.” 

Spending the weekend at home looking after a sick little puppy meant I had plenty of time to read (yay), so I thought it’d be good to start the week with a new book to add to your reading lists… This book was a beautiful read, but I’m truly struggling to know how to define it…

Written by New Orleanian Wendell Pierce, an acclaimed actor who was part of arguably one of the best television dramas of all time (The Wire) and probably my favourite series of all time (Treme), this book explores:
– African American history in the south
– his family’s specific history
– the importance of religion and education in African American families
– his path to becoming not just an actor, but a true artist
– the people who influenced both his life and career
– his role in bringing his city back together after the horrors that came with Hurricane KatrinaIt’s not a strict autobiography, in that Pierce tells so many more stories than just his own, and gives such a touching insight into the lives and trials of his family and community.

He wrote a lot about his family, and the enormous debt of gratitude he owed to his parents. He spoke of how hard they worked in a time where they were so oppressed, when segregation was as horrible as you could imagine, and he write with such dignity that you can’t help but feel so much towards their struggles. Reading about how his father worked two jobs so that Pierce and his brothers could have the education their parents both firmly believed they were entitled to was heart breaking and inspiring at the same time; Pierce also write about his father’s most prized possession, a letter framed and hung on the wall declaring his final mortgage payment and that he was in fact the sole owner of his own home. Something that I’ve never thought twice about, the ability to apply for a mortgage to own my own home – that was a battle for his parents.

He writes about his time spent filming both The Wire and Treme, and if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend making that a priority. Both are the creations of producer David Simon, and Pierce write about how they were created not just as stories or entertainment, but as true documentaries of life on the streets of Baltimore and post-Katrina New Orleans, respectively. Pierce’s work on both shows was incredible, and reading about his experiences at the times he was filming gave a lot more insight.

Those passages really struck me for another reason; I like to think of my blog as my time capsule, my running documentary of what my life is right now. Pierce writes about the fact that with something like Treme, future generations will be able to watch it with their grandparents and understand that that was really what they lived through, without all of the Hollywood dramatisation. That’s truly a precious gift to pass on.

While I’m not a religious person myself, my parents are, and I could relate to a lot of what he wrote on this topic as well. While not a strict Sunday church-goer, his faith and love for God came because he so loved and respected his mother and father, and they in turn loved God. His faith, in a way, was through and in his parents; that made sense to me. While the majority of his family were very religious, there were a few who shunned it completely. His mother said that men are fallible, but that’s no reason to turn your back on your faith. He and his brothers were encouraged to question the views that the church presented – perhaps if I’d had that encouragement rather than strict instructions to follow blindly and dumbly, I’d still have a little faith.

The importance of family also shone through very strongly – how having someone to lean on when times are tough is a necessity, and how you are never truly alone. And it wasn’t just his immediate family; it was extended family and the community. When one struggled, the others picked up the slack. He took that concept all the way back to a traditional New Orleanian tradition of second lines and Mardi Gras crews, group and clubs. Learning more about the traditions of New Orleans from someone who lived there was fantastic, too, and what held my interest the most.

So as you can see, it’s a bit of a mish mash, but at the end of the day, it’s about empowerment and overcoming. It’s a truly beautiful read; grab a copy here  : )

 

“Hope is a memory that desires. If we can remember who we were and what we had, and can act in concert to reenact the rituals that defined us, we might find in that the hope to go on, despite the indifference of others to our fate.”

Ladies who eat & blog: SCARF Community dinner @ Green Park

Hands up who’s heard of SCARF?! Not many, I’m guessing? That sucks… hopefully this will help spread the word about an awesome group who do some seriously good work for the community and also make some delicious food in the process!

So, my last attendance to a Scarf dinner was when I was in a past blogging life at Multicultural Melbourne, way back in 2011, and I’m a little ashamed that I haven’t been back since! You can read all about the amazing work Scarf do on their website, but the Readers Digest version is basically they’re an amazingly dedicated organisation taking disadvantaged youth and mentoring/training them up in all facets of the hospitality industry. Once a week, they take over a restaurant kind enough to donate their space for a few hours and run a full service. Told you they’re amazing! They are currently taking up residence at Green Park in Carlton North, where $40 gets you a two course set menu and the opportunity support a pretty great organisation that’s making a big difference. Everyone wins!

I can’t remember what made me think of it, but I simultaneously thought that I really wanted to head back for a long overdue Scarf dinner and organise a little catch up for some fellow lady bloggers. It really frustrates me to see how competitive women can be these days; at a time where we seem to be hearing about more and more women being attacked, bullied, hurt and victimised, when maybe more than ever we need to support each other and have each others backs (isn’t there already enough pressure on us without being mean and bitchy to each other, too?!), more and more women seem to be getting more and more competitive and judgmental towards each other instead. On the flip side, I’ve been lucky enough to have met some really incredible and inspiring women through blogging and would love to get to know some of them a little better! In the spirit of Scarf and doing good deeds, I thought it might be nice to get a group of women who’s work I really admire together for a great night  : )

IMG_8413So, allow me to introduce to you the lovely ladies who joined me for dinner this week:

Cass from Hungrycookie – Cass’s blog is about “all things fashion, food and travel” who brings you the latest in both food and fashion, both very important to Melbournians!

Terri from Little Wanderings – Terri is a bit of a blogging soul sister to me with so much in common – another Melbourne girl who loves her city, her food, and travelling the big wide world 🙂

Monique from Mon’s Adventure – Mon’s a foodie and a beautiful story teller, who always seems to be on and between fabulous adventures!

Sheena from Chasing A Plate – Sheena collaborates with Thomas for a beautifully photographed and written food journal, based on the belief that life is too short for bad food (amen!).

 

With the introductions over with, allow me to introduce the food and the host restaurant…

Green Park
815 Nicholson St, Carlton North, Melbourne
http://greenparkdining.com.au/

The Scarf menu, designed by Green Park’s chefs and executed by Scarf’s trainees, offered two entree and two main options (thank you very very much to Cass sitting next to me who coincidentally ordered the dishes I didn’t and let me try hers!)…

 

ENTREES:
Roast beetroot, feta, walnut and rocket salad (which I ordered, and was a really nice and light starter)…

IMG_8402… and the chicken liver parfait with onion jam and bread (so rich, so good!)

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MAINS:
Braised beef shin with cauliflower, bacon and hazelnuts (I was stoked with my choice – the beef was delicious and sooo tender, the perfectly little pile fell apart at the first poke with my fork! Also, the hazelnuts were the perfect addition!)…

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and the gnocchi with pumpkin, burnt butter and sage (it’s a classic for a reason, and it was done very well!):

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DESSERT:
Just the one option, and being lactose intolerant and quite unwell for the last week or so, I decided to forgo the deconstructed yoghurt cheesecake, but it looked very pretty and the ladies who did order it seemed pretty happy with it!

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The food was amazing, especially considering the fact that these were restaurant quality dishes made by trainees! They did a fantastic job and both the trainees and mentors should be incredibly proud  : )

Green Park on Urbanspoon

 

Everyone did a fantastic job, from the slightly nervous waitress who must have been at least a little daunted by the five loud women talking about everything from Hodor to potatoes, the waiter who wasn’t looking after our table but still more than happily took our photo at the end of the night, the mentors floating around making sure everything was running smoothly. Yeah, the food is great, but it’s about so much more than that.

If you’d like to do more than dine and support Scarf, you can book dinner right here, and someone will get back to you with a confirmation very quickly! And I must make sure I don’t leave it another four years before dining with Scarf again! Thank you for a great night, and we’re all wishing the trainees all the very best for the bright futures they’ll no doubt have in the hospitality industry!

Kaindia Fijian Restaurant & Menulog reviews

Full disclosure before I actually get started – this post has been sponsored by Menulog.com.au, who recently approached me with an offer to try them out and furnishing me with a very generous $30.00 gift voucher to do so. In return, I’ve been asked to write up a review on their services. I figured this was a great opportunity to actually try and support another small, local community restaurant, so I was all for it! With that in mind, this post will encompass two different reviews: a review of the services provided by Menulog, and a review of the restaurant we decided to order from. Please don’t think that the voucher kindly given to me has swayed this review one way or another; I have always, and will always remain very (too?!) honest and true to my opinions. Now that’s out of the way, let the fooding begin!

PART 1: Menulog.com.au


Now, all that said, Menulog has been on my radar for a while now, and has been something I actually have been keen to try. If you’re not yet familiar with it, you will be soon, as it is becoming the No.1 spot for online takeaway.

So it works like this:
1. You log onto the website.
2. Type in the suburb you live in, and hit the “Let’s go!” button. What you’ll get next is a list of takeaway joints nearby that will deliver to you. For example, I live in the northern suburbs, so I just popped in a suburb close by to me and it took me to this list here.
3. Click on your chosen restaurant, add the food you want from the menu straight to your shopping cart, and follow the prompts to select your delivery date and time, and make payment.
4. Receive confirmation email and text message, and prepare to eat.

Simple. The restaurant husband and I chose was one that we’d noticed a few times as we’d driven past – Kaindia Fijian Restaurant. More on the why later.

One of the things that had me hesitating on trying Menulog out was that (as with all things related to food) there were a few unfavourable reviews relating to unreliable deliveries, food arriving cold, etc. My experience with Menulog was very different. It was quick, easy, and very positive.

The things I loved about this service (and I think others would enjoy too):
– It is ridiculously easy to use, which it needs to be to replace simply calling the local pizza joint and placing your order. Literally a few clicks and you’re done. Love it.
– You have options. A lot of options. Choose what you eat, choose how you pay, choose whether you want your food now or at a nominated time later, choose whether you want it delivered or to pick it up yourself. Hell, I even got the choice of spice levels for my lamb curry when I added it to my shopping cart!
– It’s a hell of a lot easier to compare your options and pricing all in one place online than trying to pour over 5 different printed menus you have on the fridge, or checking one website’s menu at a time. For those of us who are a little indecisive and like to make sure they’ve really checked out all their options, this is fantastic.
– A lot of places on Menulog have minimum spend requirements and/or offer discounts for your first purchase – the fact that you get a running tally of this on your screen as you add items to your order is brilliant. For those of you avid online shoppers like myself, there is NOTHING worse than getting all the way to the checkout to realise you don’t reach the minimum spend for free delivery, or that your discount was more than you thought and you in fact COULD have purchased an extra pair of shoes. Well done Menulog, well done.

My only real qualm to be honest was that a lot of menu items were not descriptive at all – “chicken noodles” doesn’t really tell you a hell of a lot about that dish. Not sure if that’s Menulog not doing their homework or restaurants just being lazy and not supplying enough information, but I’d love to see that aspect tightened up a bit.

So in terms of this review, I have to say my worries and reservations seem to have been completely unfounded; it’s a brilliant idea for those of us who want lots of choices all at once, with the ease of deciding when you want your food, and getting it all done very quickly and easily online. Consider me a fan.

 

PART 2: Kaindia Fijian Restaurant, Melbourne
www.kaindia.com.au

So we decided on this place of all our options because we were intrigued. We’ve been to Fiji a few times now (husband twice, me seven times), and know that there is a strong Indian influence on their food. However, we couldn’t think of enough traditional Fijian dishes to make up an entire menu. Despite the fact that I was sick for three days the last time I had Indian food, curiosity got the better of us. We decided if we were going to do this, we may as well do it properly, and we ordered:

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– Cassava & Taro Wedges – $5.95
– Bhajia (fried spinach and chickpea flour dumplings) – $5.95 for 4 pieces
– Lamb Jhura Masala (lamb cooked in Kaindia style curry sauce) – $13.95
– Coconut Crab – $15.95
– Bhoojal Bhatt (rice fried with onions, cumin and clarified butter) – $3.95
– Roti – $1.95
– and we got 2 pieces of coconut ice thrown in, too!

Let it firstly be said that they arrived almost to the minute of the time they advised us via text message. That impressed me. Now, onto the food.

Entrees first – I’m a fan of taro and cassava, so I quite liked the wedges. I’m sure they would have been a lot more hot and crispy had they been eaten in the restaurant rather than at home after a car trip, but I still liked them. The Bhajia were delicious – a little bit spicy for my liking but they still tasted really good, and husband enjoyed them too.

Mains – I really enjoyed the rice, being that it was pretty simple. The coconut crab was a huge disappointment for us – not a lot of crab meat, very watery sauce with quite a fishy taste. Pity, because I was looking forward to this. The big surprise winner though was the lamb curry – it was really good! I wasn’t expecting to like it much, because I generally don’t enjoy curry. But despite the fact it was probably just a tiny bit too spicy for me, I still went back for a second serving – the flavour of the sauce was delicious, and the lamb was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Winner.

The coconut ice was a lovely thought as well, and a particularly nice surprise for me, because it was my favourite childhood sweet! For this part of the review, I’m going to say I’m really glad we did finally try this place out, and I’d possibly be interested to try it again, dining in, to see if some of those dishes are better fresh out of the kitchen.

Kaindia Fijian Restaurant and Takeaway on Urbanspoon