HOT: Cheeky Dolls and Mia


On a recent visit to Sydney’s Glebe Markets , NKOTB’s Uncle Ian brought her back the most adorable handmade cloth doll called Mia.

You should have seen NKOTB’s face light up when she met Mia! You could see her little brain working – she was a bit unsure of Uncle Ian but since it appeared that he came with the doll she guessed that she’d be ok with him too.

Mia is the work of Yi Papworth of Cheeky Dolls and she’s made of soft linen, cotton fabric and stuffed with cotton. Each doll Yi makes is hand sewn, stitched, and embroidered. The limbs are fully articulated at the shoulder and hips so you are able to move the arms and the legs freely – Mia sits very nicely.

Mia wears a cute floral dress and the sweetest beehive hairdo, with a tucked flower in her hair – but the best thing about Mia is that she has slanty eyes. As a young child in Tasmania I was one of only three Asian kids in my grade and as a teenager I just wanted to hide my ethnicity and blend in like everyone else. NKOTB gets her slanty eyes from me and we want to let her know from a young age that it’s cool not to look like most of the population.

If you can’t get to Glebe Markets you can buy Mia and other Cheeky Dolls (including a little Asian looking boy doll) from Yi’s Etsy shop. You can even choose to have a custom name or short message hand stitched onto your doll’s leg at no extra charge.

 In the meantime, I think NKOTB and Mia are going to become good friends :–)

Week 33: Indoors and outdoors

This week has mostly been rainy in Melbourne so we’ve been spending a lot more time than usual cooped up indoors.

Fortunately NKOTB isn’t mobile yet so I don’t think she really notices whether she’s spending a lot of time inside or not. In fact, it’s almost good for both of us when the weather is dark and stormy as the evening light disappears earlier, making it easier for NKOTB to sense that it’s bedtime. Also I think she sleeps better when it’s a bit cooler – I imagine it’s much nicer to be snuggled up in her Grobag sleeping bag rather than feeling hot and bothered or dry-mouthed because of air conditioning.

We had a huge storm on Wednesday and I thought she’d freak out with the loud thunder and crackles of lightning visible from the window, but she was completely unfazed. In fact, she’s more scared of Tim’s sudden, forceful sneezes! Poor little thing cries every time – fortunately Tim’s hayfever appears to be in check this year.

The rain has meant that we’ve had to swap the kind of outings we normally do for a lot more reading and playing. Now that she’s a bit older I think NKOTB gets a lot more out of books. I still think her primary enjoyment is her ability to chew on them and she likes the sound of paper flicking (or tearing) – but I think she does appreciate some of the colours and pictures in her books now.

I was starting to feel guilty about failing to read to her and so I’ve started a pre-breakfast reading routine. Now after her morning breastfeed we snuggle up in bed and read a story before we have our breakfast together.  This timing really works for us – I think she enjoys the cosiness and she’s more attentive in the mornings than at any other time. Also, I found that if I left reading to later in the day I would never get to it – there was always admin to do or errands to run or places to go.

In a bid to provide NKOTB with a broad-ranging international education, this week we’ve read Elinda Who Danced in the Sky, an Estonian folktale about the creation of the Milky Way, Guido’s Gondola, a gorgeous rhyming book about a gondolier mouse in Venice and the Lonesome Puppy with illustrations by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara.

After almost a week spent indoors, on Sunday the weather turned and we went out to Heide Museum of Modern Art with some friends for lunch. I think she enjoyed being outside again – she loved tummy time on the grass, patted the flowers gently and enjoyed being carried around in the fresh air in her ERGObaby. Weather forecast this week is fine, fine, fine so there will be lots more walks and time in the park I think.

HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East


  • high chair
  • pram access
  • kid-friendly standard menu
  • crayons and paper for the kids

Thanks to great reviews and of course the Masterchef effect, George Calombaris’ casual Greek eatery Hellenic Republic has been humming steadily ever since it opened in 2008.

A warning: if you want to eat Sunday lunch at Hellenic Republic, give yourself a good 2 months to ensure that you can get a booking.  Also note that on Sundays (and possibly other days of the week as well) there is a 2 hour turnaround time for tables. Table-turning is a practice that I dislike immensely, especially as I would like to be able to enjoy a leisurely Sunday lunch, but if stuffing myself steadily for 2 hours straight is the only way I get to eat at  Hellenic Republic, then I guess so be it. Also, I guess the reality of dining with a little baby is that 2 hours is about all NKOTB can bear before she becomes tired and grumpy.

Our group of 12 gathered to sample the $55 Trapezi meze sharing menu (which is required for groups of 10 or more). To confirm the booking I was asked to complete a comprehensive list of the guests’ dietary requirements – when they say they cater for all dietary requirements, they really mean it! Gluten and dairy free alternatives were prepared especially for certain guests, and nowhere else have I seen ‘pescatarian’ acknowledged as a dietary requirement.

It also means that they should be able to cater for little people’s appetites and tastes and I think all the menu is suitable for children – lots of sharing, small bites and finger food.

The Trapezi is a multi-course tour through most of Hellenic Republic’s menu. I’ve been told it is excellent value for the amount of food you’re served relative to a la carte. It certainly left me full enough that I didn’t need dinner that night.


Local and Hellenic olives
Kefalograviera saganaki – a real winner of pan fried salty saganaki balanced with sweet dollops of peppered figs.

DSC05712v1 HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East

Two housemade dips – a rich and smokey eggplant dip and taramasalata without the fake pink food colouring
Seriously moreish warn pita bread
Seasonal salad of cucumber and olives
Rosettes of cured Hellenic meats (oh and the wine is served in shiny red carafes)

Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East

Htapodi – octopus doughnuts!
DSC05722v1 HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East
Char grilled fish of the day (ours was swordfish) with latholemono, or a dressing of oil, garlic and lemon
Thalassino youvetsi – braised seafood in a tomato-based sauce with tiny rice-like kritharaki pasta and feta
A super-fresh Cypriot grain salad of freekeh, coriander, almonds, raisins and yoghurt
DSC05735v1 HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East
As you can see, here the amount of food starts getting a little out of control. Wish I hadn’t had so much pita bread at the beginning….
Succulent marinated lamb and roasted chicken. We couldn’t finish a lot of it so it ended up as home care packages. My takeaway container lasted me for the next three days and was delicious sandwiched in pita bread with the cabbage salad.
DSC05726v1 HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East
Hand cut potatoes cooked in olive oil and oregano, presented in a bowl lined with Greek newspaper, a nice touch.
Tzatziki (cucumber, dill, garlic and yoghurt)
A refreshing Lahanosalata, crunchy shaved cabbage salad with an olive oil and lemon dressing.
DSC05740v1 HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East
Unfortunately at this stage we had to be turfed from our table – but the staff were very understanding and packed up a lot of the leftover meats and salad along with our dessert, a colourful selection of fresh fruit including watermelon and strawberries.

Despite the unceremonious end to our meal, I really loved the convivial atmosphere and massive amounts of food served for lunch at Hellenic Republic. For those with kids you’ll also appreciate the high chairs and crayons and paper for entertainment and the atmosphere is so boisterous and laid back no one will care about your baby’s squealing.

Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East +61 3 9381 1222

HOT: Play Again at Environmental Film Festival Melbourne 2012

One of the mums from my mothers group is a committee member for the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne. This year, hospital thanks to her efforts, cialis there will be a Mum and Bubs session of one of the films which is particularly relevant for those with kids.

Children these days are more likely to play behind an electronic screen than outside and Play Again is a documentary which explores the impact of screen time on children – and thus our society and our planet. The film follows six American teenagers who unplug from their electronic world and go on a wilderness adventure without electricity, mobile phones or computers.

Play Again is having its Australian premiere at the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne and the baby-friendly screening is on Friday 14 October at 12pm at Kino Cinemas, 45 Collins St Melbourne. Tickets are $18 and kids are welcome for free.

The cinema is easily accessible via public transport – the 112 and 109 trams stop outside, as do trains at Parliament Station. There is also a carpark entry in Flinders Lane.

Check out the trailer here.

HOT: Hallmark’s Recordable Storybooks + Giveaway!

Tim and I are big fans of the TV show Modern Family. In one of the episodes, Gloria buys a recordable children’s book for Lily’s birthday so that she, Jay and Manny can record together for Lily.  I turned to Tim and said ‘What a great idea! We should get them for our families so that they can record stories for NKOTB.’

You see, all of our family bar Tim’s uncle live interstate. I really liked the idea of a book that would allow our family members to have fun with NKOTB, even when they can’t physically be here.

By coincidence, a few weeks later we were given a chance to review a title from Hallmark’s range of hardcover Recordable Storybooks. We decided to test-run one of their newest titles, Winnie the Pooh’s Plan Bee, given the classic A A Milne character is one of our favourites.

The recording process is simple – you unscrew the battery case and click ‘unlock’. Then press record and start speaking after the beep, pressing ‘stop’ at the end of every page. To save the recording just ‘lock’ and close the battery case. (Don’t worry, the book comes with very simple instructions).

A useful feature of the Recordable Storybook is that every page is recorded separately, so that it automatically knows which page the reader is on. That way you could even pass the book around so that each family member could record a page in the book.

I had some trouble at first with the recording – because I skipped the dedication (as it’ll be a book from someone else to NKOTB and I was just testing out the features) the recording was one page out with the text on the page! Fortunately, to erase the whole recording, you just press record and stop together for 4 seconds.

The story itself is quite sweet – it’s about friends helping friends – and the recording comes with music to introduce each page. My voice sounded good recorded too, not too fake and tinny and recognisably me. The only thing I didn’t like was the ‘moral of the story’ phrase that ended each page – it would have been much better in my view to just let the story speak for itself rather than hammering home a message and breaking up the flow of the text.

I think that Hallmark’s Recordable Storybooks make great gifts for your little one or for new parents. The books are currently available for purchase via the Hallmark Australia’s online store which ships out all orders within 48 hours.

Giveaway! Thanks to Hallmark we have one Hallmark Recordable Storybook to give away RRP $34.99. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us which book you’d like from the following titles on offer – Lightning McQueen and his Winning TeamWinnie The Pooh’s Plan BeeAll The Ways I Love YouMy Little Princess and Hey Diddle Diddle. The winner will be drawn randomly on Monday 3 October. Good luck!


HOT: ArtPlay Bubs, Artplay, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

I don’t know about you, but even though I’m staying at home and only have one child, I actually don’t think I dedicate much time to one-on-one fun with NKOTB. She has to just fit into my schedule and workload during the day, which often means leaving her on a mat or the rocker with a couple of toys to keep her amused while I do other things.

While there’s nothing wrong with that (part of the strategy for teaching independent play, I say), it is nice to do something fun together once in a while, which is why I signed her up to an ArtPly Bubs session.

ArtPlay is a City of Melbourne funded art studio with a mission to involve children and their families in artistic, interactive and creative projects. They run free and paid workshops throughout the year, with activities suitable for all ages.

ArtPlay Bubs is an hour long class exploring music and playful movement with babies up to 2 years old and it’s run by Susan Maling, an early childhood movement and dance specialist. The hour had a good mix of high and low intensity activities, as all that movement and noise and other people can be a bit overwhelming for little ones.

All the segments absolutely delighted NKOTB. We started off with rocking/dropping/spinning in time to music, then a little rhyme with actions, throwing colourful silk scarves up in the air and watching them float down, bouncing on my knee and high up in the air, swinging her in a blanket hammock and her favourite, watching a piece of chiffon threaded with stars wave above her.

I think I’ll be able to incorporate some of the ideas into every day play and it’ll be good to show my mothers group the kind of things we can do together as the babies get older.

After the session I had a cup of tea and a chat with Susan and some of the other mums and to complete the pleasant morning out I wheeled her down to have lunch at Riverland by the Yarra.

We’ve booked for the next session which is suitable for babies – This [Baby] Life on 13 October. I think there’s 10 spots in each session. See you there!

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