HOT: Ecostore Practical Parenting Magazine Cover + Giveaway!

I’ve written several times about how much I love Ecostore products and they recently launched an innovative awareness campaign in partnership with Australia’s No. 1 parenting magazine, Practical Parenting.

If you go to the microsite you can upload a picture of your child(ren) and Practical Parenting magazine will personalise a front cover for you using your photo and post a copy of your unique magazine out to you. It doesn’t cost anything to participate and is a nice keepsake for your family. (Sorry, I didn’t realise the campaign finished on 15 November! Hopefully they’ll run another campaign soon?)

I had fun trying out several photo before finally settling on this cover of the magazine with NKOTB as cover girl. I love the expression on her face (and Tim’s) and her dress matches the green text. I believe that’s what Vogue does with the art direction of its covers :–)

Another Ecostore promotion that’s running at the moment is if you LIKE Ecostore’s Facebook page you can download a voucher to buy 1kg of laundry powder at half price from Woolworths (look for the Ecostore Big Give on the left sidebar). It’s good stuff!

Fun, free and cheap! What more could you ask for?

Giveaway! Thanks to Ecostore I have a fabulous product pack to give away to one reader. The pack includes:

1. Baby Body Wash Aromatherapy 200ml
2. Baby Bubble Bath 200ml
3. Baby Shampoo Aromatherapy 200ml
4. Baby Moisturiser Aromatherapy 200ml
5. Baby Nappy Balm 60ml
6. a box of Ecostore laundry powder; and
7. a body lotion for mum.
All you have to do is leave a comment below. Good luck!

The winner of last week’s giveaway of the Springhill Farm Gluten Free Kids Baking Kit is Belinda. Your prize is on its way!

HOT: Make Me Iconic Melbourne Toy Tram

I’ve featured Melbourne homewares business
Make Me Iconic before – we’ve bought cushions and mugs and tea towels from them as their well-designed products are great souvenirs and stylish gifts with a ‘Melbourne’ element.

So I was most excited when I received their Iconic Toy Tram as a thank you for featuring them on the blog!

The wooden toy is made by a toy-maker called ‘Mike’ and is based on the iconic W-class Melbourne tram – yes route 79 does exist, it runs down Church St and Chapel St. Under the removeable lid sit  twelve wooden passengers and two tram conductors, all painted with different features.

I’ve been saving the toy for NKOTB until she’s old enough to use it. Now that she’s sitting up for long periods and has good fine motor skills she’s having a lot of fun with it. Mostly she grabs the pieces and throws them back inside the tram, hits them together for a satisfying wooden clack and occasionally has an exploratory chew (don’t worry, non-toxic paints are used and the pieces are too big to choke on).  She also enjoyed playing with the cardboard packaging :–)

Given that the box says the toy is for 3+ years, I expect that the Iconic Toy Tram will provide lots of opportunities for imaginative play in years to come. If nothing else, she hasn’t worked out that there are wheels yet but once she starts crawling it’ll be great fun!

The Iconic Toy Tram is $90 and makes a great gift for your little Melburnian. Make Me Iconic are also launching a Sydney Toy Ferry soon – cute!

For other great Melbourne inspired gifts (for little ones or big people), check out the series of pop up shops opening in the lead up to Christmas in Melbourne CBD called ‘Melbournalia‘.

Week 39: The childcare dilemma

As we’ve noted before, childcare is incredibly scarce in inner-city Melbourne. So even though I’m not due to return to work until March next year, I put NKOTB onto childcare waiting lists when she was born and this week I visited my first childcare centre.

The experience depressed me a little.

Given it’s the first centre I’ve seen I’m not sure whether my disquiet about this particular centre was due to features which are universal to all childcare centres, or were particular to this one.

The entryway was dull and grey. Not a great first impression.

One of the managers showed me around and the two nursery rooms (of which NKOTB would be in one) were small, windowless rooms. The kids slept on what looked like thick gym mats. The rooms felt institutional though the multi-cultural staff seemed to be quite nice and smiled at me and NKOTB when we walked in.

The toddler rooms from 18 months did have some natural light as they led out onto the outdoor area, but had the stale smell of baby to them.  I’m not saying that they were unhygenic, but with that many children in a small space it’s inevitable that things will smell a bit dank.

I did like the large outdoor play area – lots of equipment and undercover so that the kids could play even when raining. Each room gets an hour to play outside in the morning and an hour in the afternoon and when there’s not too many children in the early morning and late afternoon all the kids play together.

However, overall I didn’t like being there. Tim pointed out that if we enrolled NKOTB she wouldn’t even remember her time there. But I  just didn’t feel comfortable about leaving her there and clutched her a little tighter when we left.

I’m going to check out a couple more places and if I don’t find any places I like in convenient proximity I’m going to start investigating nannies. While nannies don’t attract the childcare rebate we’re in a fortunate financial position where we can choose to employ a part-time nanny, particularly if Tim and I are able to work from home regularly. I will just have to accept that all my salary will be going to childcare costs in return for peace of mind.

Also I figure I could try a nanny for 6-12 months until NKOTB is older – that way when NKOTB is able to walk and talk better being around other kids in childcare might actually be beneficial for developing her social skills and learning routines like setting a table or putting toys away.

What was your childcare search experience?


HOT: The Wine Bar Restaurant, Yering Station, 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen


  • high chair
  • pram access
  • playground
  • change table
  • standard menu suitable for kids

Fancy a day out in the country? In just 45 minutes from the city you can be out in the vineyards of the Yarra Valley.

One of the most popular wineries in the Yarra Valley is Yering Station. It’s the first winery established in Victoria and is definitely worth a stop for the cellar door/art gallery, produce shop, boutique accommodation, restaurant and small Farmers Market open every third Sunday of the month.

It’s also the perfect place to take your family too, with easy parking, lots of green grace for kids to run around, interesting sculptures, a playground and a restaurant that caters well for the needs of little people, such as high chairs and change tables. When we were there it seemed to be a popular destination for the multi-generational family Sunday lunch.

The Wine Bar Restaurant is a lovely place for a weekend lunch on a sunny day. Every table is bathed in the afternoon light streaming from the floor to ceiling glass wall that fronts onto a magnificient view of the Yarra Ranges.

The menu is Mod Oz, with Asian and Mediterranean influences. To start we dipped into the crusty bread and dukkah while waiting for our entrees – tempura soft-shelled Singapore crab, coconut rice, mint and crispy shallot ($24) and glazed duck breast with porcini, eschallot and leek dumpling, tatsoi and port reduction ($24).

The crab was delicately battered and the light crunch combined well with South East Asian influenced ingredients. My duck breast was very tender but the dumplings were not very successful, with a very thick dumpling skin that was still floury in the middle.

A similar heavy-handedness with dough seemed to afflict RM’s stodgy butternut pumpkin and spinach tortellini, which was combined with soya beans, miso and the overpowering flavour of the very pungent blue cheese ($34).

My main was very prettily presented but the quince glazed pork loin was over-cooked. Fortunately the slab of pork belly was pull-apart tender and sat atop an apple rosti with a dab of quince aioli ($38).

Overall the menu read better than the actual execution of the dishes. Given the glamorous location and fine dining feel of the restaurant we were a little disappointed with the imprecision of what I’d consider to be basic cooking techniques like making pasta dough and roasting meat.

However, Yering Station in general still gets a HOT. Why? Basically, the view, the ambience and the facilities are wonderful and it’s the kind of destination that I would bring overseas guests, especially those with kids. If you catch the right Sunday you can walk off your lunch with a visit to the small Farmers Market stocked mostly with Yarra Valley gourmet products.

The produce shop has even more opportunities to buy jams and relishes and we finished off our meal with single-serve takeaway tubs of Gundowring icecream sitting in the sun.

So despite the below-par experience at the restaurant, overall you can still enjoy a great afternoon out at Yering Station.

The Wine Bar Restaurant, Yering Station, 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen +61 3 9730 0100
10am – 5pm daily
Serving lunch between 12pm – 3pm with extended hours on the weekend and Public Holidays from 12pm – 4pm.

HOT: Parents Retreat, Level 2 Melbourne Central, cnr Swanston and Latrobe St, Melbourne

Like all great things in Melbourne, the Melbourne Central Parents Retreat is hard to find.

It’s unmarked, unsigned and down an alleyway in between Decjuba and a jeweller on Level 2 – but instead of an underground bar you have a bright, spacious parents room.

The room has all the facilities you’d expect from a parents room – change tables, bins, toilets, breastfeeding cubicles, microwave – as well some unexpected pleasures. I loved the mini climbing wall and child-sized rails and tunnels for exploring, the swinging sitting ropes for impatient toddlers waiting for their parents, the bright booths for eating and activities (plus child-proof gates for any bolters) and the cheerful colour schemes in the comfortable furniture and the wall decorations.

Furthermore, the place is scrupulously neat. The many change tables are all clean, the floors have been vacuumed so no random items will find themselves into little mouths and all the benches and chairs seemed to be almost unused. I didn’t hesitate to plop NKOTB on a table so that I could feed her lunch.

Designed by Clare Cousins Architects, the Parents’ Retreat is a really nice place to hang out away from the bustle of the city and the shopping centre. On a weekday lunch hour we were the only people there, bar the cleaner, so NKOTB could bang plastic lids and babble loudly to her heart’s content.

My only quibbles are minor – if they could transfer a few of the high chairs from the food court to inside the Parents’ Retreat it would make feeding much easier. Also, some paper towels for cleaning up and paper/plastic cups for the water fountain would be appreciated.

HOT: Springhill Farm Gluten Free Kids Baking Kit + Giveaway!

It must be hard for kiddies who have food allergies or intolerances when it comes to party food.

No birthday cake for the coeliac. No peanut butter sandwiches for the nut allergic. No ice cream for the dairy-free.

Luckily, Springhill Farm have created Australia’s first gluten free kids baking kit for food sensitive kids. The cute box includes a mini apron, four farm animal-shaped cookie cutters and a biscuit recipe. Most importantly, you receive a 300g  flour mix that’s free from wheat, gluten, dairy, egg, nut and soy.

Given that NKOTB is too young to be baking I dispatched the kit to my bestest god-daughter, the budding baker Miss G. Five year old Miss G and her mum had a fun cooking day and here are their thoughts on the kit.

  • The apron was appropriately sized and had an adjustable neck strap which was great – we have other aprons and I usually have to tie a knot in them so they fit Miss G.
  • Fairly easy to make – although did require an electric mixer.

  • Cookie cutters were very cute shapes (pig, cat, duck and lamb)

  • The kit only came with the exact 300g of gluten free flour needed for the biscuits, but recipe required extra flour to roll the dough onto. (Gluten free people probably have gluten free flour in their pantry – we didn’t so we just used plain flour, but obviously the biscuits weren’t gluten free!)
  • I would have preferred the kit also came with a packet of sugar and possibly even vanilla as you may not have these at home if you don’t cook a lot.
  • Overall they were pretty fun to make. We added white choc chips (I had some left over) and we took them to preschool for Grandparents Day morning tea. The biscuits tasted good!

Miss G, her mum and I all agree that the Springhill Farm baking kit is the perfect gift for a child with food sensitivities – they learn to bake goodies that they can eat and share! The kits are  $25.00 each or 4 kits for $80.00 (includes delivery within Australia) available online along with other items from the Springhill Farm range.

Giveaway! Thanks to Springhill Farm I have one gluten free kids baking kit to give away. To enter, just add a comment below and the winner will be drawn randomly on 16 November. Good luck!

The winners of the Hooked giveaway are Christy and  Amy! The vouchers are on their way to you.

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