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amor mexico

This Sunday, my oldest friend Rachael came down to stay, the first time she’s slept over at my house since sometime in high school. She lives two hours away now and we don’t see each other often, but whenever we do it’s like it was when she lived around the corner from me when we were four years old, and we ate candy and watched tv and didn’t talk about boys because Teach was in the room, but we would have, believe me. Anyway, so we’re vegetarian and she is most definitely not, and one of the easiest places to deal with such situations is a good Tex-Mex joint. Not too far away from us in Forest Hill is Amor Mexico, a cheerful bright place with stellar service and good food, and they note on the menu that they’re happy to adapt food for allergies, and they mean it. This is only the second time we’ve been there, and they already remembered the Rocket and didn’t bat an eyelid when I ordered the vegetarian La Combinacion without any cheese.

There’s a little dedicated corner with some Duplo, books and toys, and they brought the Rocket a jar of pencils and a page to colour while she was waiting. (In that picture above, she’s not bored, just concentrating real hard.) She had rice and part of an enchilada for dinner, then sat quietly on the floor letting us completely ignore her while the rest of us finished our food. And it’s good, hearty fare, lotsa frijoles and hard-shell tacos and rice and, well, you know the drill. Like last time, I ordered the strawberry virgin margarita and made everyone jealous because it is DELICIOUS.

It’s made it swiftly onto my list of Nearby Restaurants To Take Friends (along with Vegie Hut and basically nowhere else in the eastern suburbs), because I love hanging out with friendly people and they are the friendliest, and they give out free corn chips with salsa when you arrive. Not even my favourite friends do that. NOT YET, ANYWAY, RIGHT GUYS? *pointed glare*

 

Amor Mexico

13 Mahoneys Rd

Forest Hill

ph: 9878 9508

website

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The other day we were doing one of our numerous trips to our local IGA for something stupid because we are constantly unprepared shoppers (“Honey, get your shoes on! We’re going for a walk to get a tomato!”), when the Rocket said out of nowhere, “I want to go to big movie. Big TV. Mummy had a drink. And the dog!”

This, for anyone not there at the time, was a recollection of when we took her to the flicks early this year to see Mr Peabody and Sherman, and she became fixated on my enormous cup of cola and was generally annoying. We’d put off seeing anything with her since then because no one wants to spend sixty dollars chasing a child around a dark room when you can do that for free at 3am if you want the experience, but because she’d suggested it, I thought maybe it was time to give it another go. I’m putting that mildly; what actually happened was Teach came home from work and I shouted in his face, “THE ROCKET WANTS TO GO TO A MOVIE AGAIN CAN WE GO NOW, HUH? HUH?”

Anyway school holidays are now upon us so we ended up going on Monday morning, at ten past ten, to perpetually quiet Forest Hill, and saw House of Magic. Most people I’ve told about this have stared at me blankly, because this movie’s had virtually no advertising. It’s a grim holidays for movies this spring, either way. There’s the Boxtrolls, which looked fun but the Rocket declared “too scary”, or Planes: Fire and Rescue, which is getting terrible reviews and looks like complete nonsense (and this is coming from someone who saw Cars 2 twice.) House of Magic was about a cat, and the Rocket loves cats, so off we took her.

There were maybe ten other people in the cinema, and she wasn’t even the only scrappy toddler, so I didn’t feel too guilty. And for the first half of the movie, she was great, squashed up next to her dad, watching intently. Thunder, the cat of the movie, is ditched by his family and seeks shelter in a creepy old mansion. Turns out this house is owned by Lawrence, a grey-haired magician who is also kept company by a crotchety old rabbit, a codependent mouse and an array of robots and dolls who come to life, because the house is magic or Lawrence is or something, who knows. Anyway the rabbit doesn’t want the cat to stay around for reasons that are never fully explored, and Lawrence is threatened by his dickhead nephew Daniel who wants to kick his uncle out for reasons that are never fully explored beyond “greed”. Chaos ensues, etc. It’s no Pixar film, but there are some kickass moments, especially when the camera is from the cat’s point of view, or darts around in tiny spaces. The fx are good enough, the plot didn’t make me yawn too much, and I still think it’s probably better than Planes. As for Rocket’s opinion, about halfway through she got bored, kept trying to leave, and then when we hissed at her to stay on her seat she crawled onto our laps and then tried to eat our noses. She also said, “Where’s the remote?” and, “I’m done.” But on the upside, she didn’t squeal, or run up to other people; it could’ve been worse, but I don’t think we’ll try again until next year. Next time a good children’s movie comes out (Big Hero 6, I’m looking at you) I’ll do the grown-up thing and go without one of those pesky kids.

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I’ve always had this kind of building dread for the parties that lie in my future due to the Rocket. Teach and I are not 24 Hour Party People, or, let’s face it, Twice A Year Party People; we tend to celebrate our birthdays with dumplings and a movie. I love people, but I am still a socially awkward penguin who gets nerves before any type of catchup with more than two people, afraid that I’ll say something dorky, or look like a dweeb, or other emotions I should have left behind in primary school. So we’re not good at parties; I don’t know what I’m going to do when the Rocket is old enough to make demands about places and friends, apart from hope that we’re rich enough by next year to pay for a party planner to make some kind of Pirate Astronaut Butterfly Lion Extravaganza. And then there’s attending all these parties; how much do you spend on a present? Does the kid wear a foofy frock? Will all the other mums sit around smoking and judging me on the colour of the Rocket’s hair ties? AM I RIDICULOUS?

The answer to that last question is, always, yes. We were invited to a party for one of the Rocket’s little friends – I’ll call her Curly on account of her amazing hair – and it was a) fun, b) full of normal people, and c) totally something I grabbed the leaflet for on our way out. We went to Lollipops in Forest Hill, a giant, shiny-new play centre that I’d only peeped in at after going to the movies, and which had seemed enormous and terrifying. But we received our invitation, dressed in our nicest climbing outfits (have you tried to climb in a party frock? It does NOT work), and away we went.

It cost us nothing as we were there for Curly’s party, but usual entry fees on a school day run at around $9 for a two-year-old and $3.50, I think, for an accompanying parent. There was a party room set aside specially, with bright colours, cute little chairs, and a special elaborate throne chair for the birthday kid. We kicked off our shoes (and by the way, it’s both a requirement and a good idea that everyone wears socks – they sell them for $3 if you forget them) and dove into the toddler area. Basically everything in Lollipop’s is squishy, so there were some oversized squishy blocks, a squishy castle that led to a slide, a ball-pit underneath, and assorted children to squeal excitedly at. It held her attention for a solid fifteen minutes until she decided to scurry over to the part for the older kids opposite and watch her other friend June go down the super terrifying giant slide with her mother. While I stared in terror, June’s mother told me it wasn’t as bad as it looked, and then led us on an adventure up to the top. And eep! Such fun. I don’t know what I thought was underneath all those foam beams and slides (snakes? spikes?) but it’s just a cleverly built, boxy, multi-level maze of different things to climb and do. Another ball-pit here (the Rocket lives for ball-pits), a few spinny poles there, some clambery ladders, a wheel to spin, stuff to jump over, ropes to climb, swinging bags, stairs, parts to squeeze through – then suddenly BAM, you’re at the top of the slide, and the Rocket’s saying “no slide! no slide!” and you’re all, “It’ll be fine, let’s hold hands,” and then you go down together and as soon as you reach the bottom she yells, “MORE SLIDE!” and runs immediately back into it all.

Over the other side, there’s a spider maze for older kids only; behind that, there’s a noisy and fun part drowning in foam balls, with a variety of air machines which means you can watch the balls float, send them up a pipe to fall into a trough, shoot them out of a cannon, or fire them from some guns up high. I wish I’d taken pictures, but I was too busy enjoying myself.

There’s a huge cafe area for exhausted guardians, with tons of snacks for young and old (veg-capabilities not checked out, but the parties cater for allergies if necessary so you never know.) The party was catered by the centre, and there were a bunch of sandwiches, chips, muffins, fruit, and crackers. (You can pick the healthy option, which Curly’s mother did, or the one that gets you party pies and cocktail franks.) There was water, and Curly’s mother baked some super little chocolate cupcakes and all the children sang and smiled and ate and smeared food everywhere. It was grand. (And, for anyone interested, runs at around $170+for eight kids, and around $15 for any additional kid: more info here.) The Rocket wept when I asked her to eat some rockmelon, but June’s very lovely big sister Belle gave her a hug and kiss to make her feel better, and I felt a thousand times better in turn.

Before we left, I noticed that beyond the sea of high chairs in the cafe, there is a totally real pirate ship ride – one like you see at Luna Park, though obviously scaled down. So basically, we were there for about two hours, and still didn’t explore everything. It was fun for everyone, the birthday girl seemed very pleased with her day, there is basically no way your kid can injure themselves, and – best of all – there is no way for them to escape; when you go in, your kid gets a numbered wristband and you get a card with the same number, and you have to match up when you leave, so no one can run off with your kid. We even got a lollipop on the way out. So, thanks Curly’s mum – you held a party that succeeded in making the Rocket’s very first friend-party a triumph, and now I want to drag Teach back there and shoot him in the butt with some foam balls too.

pretty great picture from the Lollipops website, clearly taken before the children ruined everything with their squalor

Lollipops Playland

Level 3, Forest Hill Chase

Canterbury Road

Forest Hill

website

phone: 9878 1110

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I don’t know about you, but I find it ridiculously hard to go to the pool. It’s cold, it’s wet, and getting dry and changed is a pain. If I’m going to get fit (insert laugh track here), it’s something low-maintenance, like running. Well, walking. Well, strolling.

But then I had a kid and I wanted to take her to the pool, and not be a whiny pool-goer like her mother. So when she was about six months old, and I wasn’t so afraid of dropping her all the time, I took her to the pool. Now, we go about once a week, and it is EXCELLENT fun. Nunawading Aqualink, i.e. the nearest pool to us that isn’t currently under construction, turned out to be huge, with a bunch of space for kids to splash around in. There’s a baby pool, which starts super shallow so the Rocket can crawl around in it (she has figured out how to crawl at speed, and takes every opportunity to motor her way to the cat food, which she is so far unsuccessful at getting her hands in); the deepest part of that is about thirty centimetres, and there are some light fountain sprays and some little bubblers that go off every few minutes. It’s a good place to start, as the Rocket can sit up by herself and get used to the water for a bit before we go hang out in the deep part, going underwater like that baby on the cover of Nevermind and swishing about. One thing I love about the pool is that we always find a baby about the same age and end up floating towards them, or they float towards us, and then you make a new friend and they shriek at each other and one will splash the other who will cry. When I went the other day, and we’d made friends with a very cute chubby baby, I did my head-first underwater time with the Rocket, and the other mother saw and did the same trick with her baby (the idea is to not just get dunked and water up your nose, but to be smooth) – and it’s something I learned from my friend Sarah. Basically, it’s a good place to feel a sense of community, which is why I’m being ridiculous and reviewing a pool, as if you don’t all know what one is.

Now, will I continue to go in winter? LET US HOPE SO.

Aqualink Nunawading

Fraser Place

Forest Hill

9878 4576

website

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