Monday, 21 January 2013

A Love Affair and A Beer Fest

By Steve and Angela East


Once upon a time I was a young, bright-eyed suburban girl who decided to reach out and gain some independence. I moved to Ballarat where I was currently going to uni. It wasn't long before I fell in love...

With the town that is.

Before I knew it I was breathing a sigh of relief every time I took the Ballarat exit off the highway and drove into town and through the picturesque streets, which by the way, are beautifully maintained. The streets are clean, the gardens and nature strips are always adorned with foliage and flowers and the buildings ooze vintage nostalgia. I had so much time on my hands back then, so when I wasn't in the car, sometimes I gazed upon its beauty while walking, other times I nourished it and fed its soul by spending far too much cash at its ridiculous array of shops, cafes, restaurants and clubs.

It wasn't just the town itself though...there was an air about the people who lived there too. So much breezier than the its suburban counterpart that I had come from, and before I knew it, whenever I was away, I longed to be back there, just BEING. It was honestly the first time I had ever been in love with a place.

I cheated though. I had to move. And so off I went to Castlemaine for a few years, then St Arnaud which is my current place of residency. I got married too, and thus, my love affair with Ballarat ended.

Like all good love affairs though, the flame can be rekindled at anytime, so it was with absolute pleasure that I took the opportunity to attend (and review) the Ballarat Beer Festival.

As we arrived I knew Ballarat was not going to let me down. The sun was shining, the crowds were bustling and the air smelt of beery, foody goodness.

The lines were fast moving and it didn't take us long to get into the gates. The first thing I noticed was how impressively large the marquees were and the seating areas. There was plenty of shade and if you didn't make it under the marquee, then you could always lounge under an umbrella or just park yourself on a patch of grass. 50 micro-breweries, 25 food stalls and children's entertainment ran a ring around the entire oval and bands rocked their hearts out from the main stage.

Having the little guy on my tail meant I was all for the children's entertainment, and so off we went. Breeze hosted face painting. Who doesn't love face painting?  I didn't think my little guy would sit still for long enough to have his face painted though so we headed straight to the animal farm.

They were fabulous! There was plenty of room for the children to move around and if you wanted to take something a little precious out for a pat you could, like the little duckling Mr.T got his hands on...

There was of course, the classic jumping castle too, to keep kiddies well and truly, jumping!

There were such a large variety of food stalls that it was hard to choose. It varied from usual fried food, to gyoza dumplings and Spanish paella. I liked the concept of using your tokens for food and drink but did feel there was a massive change in the amount of tokens food vendors were charging.

It's fantastic that the festival caters for families and young people alike. It really was a fantastic mix in the crowd. While I couldn't stay as long as I would have liked, I still got a fantastic experience to boot! So if you think a Beer Festival isn't really a family outing, then think again my friend, because Ballarat has managed to wrangle it.

It was about the Beer though. And The Beards...and so I give you...


The sun was shining and I'm sure there were birds singing somewhere. I was there for two things. Beer and beards! The Beer Festival supplied patrons with a tasting glass that was attached to a handy lanyard.  I was able to click my glass on and off my lanyard which was handy as it meant that I couldn’t lose my glass after I had finished my drink. This also helped to keep the area tidy.  For a festival where everyone was drinking and eating I thought that the oval remained remarkably clean.

There were SO many drinks to choose from!  Of course there was beer and its many, many varieties, but there was also a great range of ciders and some wineries were present as well.  Some people had made a list beforehand of drinks they were planning to sample, and others, like myself, just went to a stall at random or one that I thought had a cool name.  This was a bit of a hit and miss affair but it also meant that I got to sample drinks that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, like a “pink grapefruit & Darjeeling tea premium lager fusion”.

The pamphlet that they handed to patrons as they came through the gates was very clear and informative, which was wonderful for those who wanted to make their lists.  They had also developed an app which did the same thing but also allowed you to take notes. I used this function for my first few drinks and then didn’t worry about it.

The interactive information sessions that they held at the “Eureka Marquee” were fascinating!  I went to a session called ‘It’s just like Chuck & Cheese”.  It was led by Dr Charles (Chuck) Hahn, Master Brewer, who has been in the game since the 70s.  It had been advertised as a session to inform us as to “why the humble amber nectar actually creates a fine partner of all kinds of cheese” but Chuck was also a wealth of information about not just matching beer to cheese but to all kinds of food. I left that session full of good cheese, good chocolate and good beer!

I also must add that there was an ample supply of FREE clean, fresh water.  The St John’s First Aid crew were also present and they even offered free sunscreen.

The entertainment on offer was top notch!  While sampling the many varieties of drinks, patrons were treated to an audible delight as bands such as the Royal Jelly Dixieland Band and the Sweethearts provided music to help set the mood.  But at 6:55 the crème de le crème of music took the stage... The Beards! This was what I had been looking forward to for weeks in advance, and with good reason.

If you like folk-rock music and you love beards then The Beards are the band for you.  I was up front and centre with a mate and our beards as The Beards took to the stage and churned through an hour of beard related music from their 3 album catalogue to the delight of a very beard happy crowd.  I always enjoy it when a band interacts with their audience and it doesn’t matter if you’re Eddie Vedder or Johann Beardraven, good audience banter goes a long a way and the Beer Festival crowd lapped it up.

The Beards finished their set right on closing time for the festival.  People were able to depart City Oval in a quick and orderly manner.  There were breath testing booths set up for those who were planning on driving home.  I didn’t worry about such things as City Oval is close to Ballarat’s CBD and after a short walk many people were able to be at their accommodation, a restaurant or even a hotel (if they wanted to kick on).

The Ballarat Beer Festival is an Annual event and we are hoping to be there next year! Keep your eye out in 2014, or go and like their Facebook page so you can stay updated!

Thanks to Jedo for allowing us to review the festival. Jedo is a great resource for thousands of events across Australia. Check them out!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

"You're doing WHAT for your Blog this weekend!?"

I have the biggest blogging weekend I've ever had. I'm overwhelmed and excited with all the things I will be able to experience, write about and share with my readers. The reaction in my title is what I've been getting lately, mostly from my brothers (who are totally jealous, mind you).

Never in my right mind would I of thought I would be blessed with this many perks as a blogger. I know what people say. I read the 'politics' about sponsored this, biased that...and to that I say, whatever! I GENUINELY get excited when PR companies contact me with an opportunity, and it's not just because I'm a 'newbie'. I'll always get excited! Because I love experiencing, writing, mingling, communicating. I really am enjoying what I do.

I do turn down products and events. I turn them down if I don't think I will like it, enjoy it or if it doesn't fit my Blog. The reason I don't rubbish a product in a review is because I research effortlessly to make sure I'm going to like what I get. Why would I want to bring something rubbish to my readers and then try to give it away to one of them? Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I can honestly say I haven't received something and been 'surprisingly disappointed' yet, so I'll keep bringing you great things!

What I'll be bringing you stories of after this weekend...


KidsBusiness Event:
This is only my 2nd event so it's safe to say I'm excited! There's going to be some amazing brands and businesses to try and experience. There will also be plenty of activities for Mr.T to enjoy and lots of yummy goodies to taste! Looking forward to putting some faces to blogs too.

Ballarat Beer Festival: Thanks to Jedo, advertisers of the festival -  My husband and I are heading to the BBF. I love Ballarat. If you haven't been to Ballarat, jump on board. It has a soft spot in my heart which I'll tell you all about later! The Ballarat Beer Festival is a huge hit for the town. It's going to be full of boutique beers, petting zoo, bouncing castle, gourmet food and fantastic live entertainment. My husband is bursting out of his skin to attend this and has grown a beard JUST so he can see The Beards while he is sporting one.


Tuki Retreat:
I'm calling this our 'belated anniversary'. We will be heading 40km out of Ballarat to a beautiful retreat where we can go fishing for trout and enjoy it in the restaurant, laze around the beautiful stone cottage complete with king-sized bed and corner spa. Bring it on!

I'm certain I'll be ready for the wind-down after such a busy weekend!

How busy is your weekend? Which part of mine are you looking forward to hearing about the most?

Linking up with the ever-awesome Grace for for FYBF

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Kid-Free Anniversary? I think not.

It's our wedding anniversary this Thursday, the 17th of January. 3 years have flown by and we've been through thick and thin (though nothing too dramatic), it's mostly been smooth sailing.

Our wedding was a big mish-mash of two cultures. We got married in a Coptic Orthodox Church and had our photo shoot and reception at a beautiful winery.

In true Steve and Ange style, our wedding was not without its quirks. We had some interesting photo shoot photos done (see below) and a photobooth at our reception. Then there was the time the Egyptian music cut loose and so did the Egyptians (And some Aussies) as a hilarious belly-dance off took place. Oh, and we can't forget that our best man wore a kilt during his speech and that my husband got my garter off by getting on a car trolley thingy...oh dear.

Our first anniversary was spent the way a typical, romantic anniversary should be. We drove around wineries in Coonawarra, had a picnic on the beach and ate at an amazing Thai restaurant so we could get all nostalgic about our honeymoon in Thailand.

Our second anniversary was a little different. Mr.T was a mere 10 weeks old or so. I cooked up a dinner which we had nice and late after he was down for the night...(or a few hours anyway)

And now we come to the third. One year ago, I would of thought Mr.T will be ONE and surely we can drop him off somewhere and party on and do all those romantic things!

That's not happening.

Some people might think it's crazy. Just do it. He's too attached. YOU'RE too attached. People don't consider the fact that we live so far away, with no immediate family in town, and to be honest, the thought of having to go to so much organisation, just to get out for a couple of hours, really isn't worth it. And yes,while people might disagree, he ISN'T the easiest of babies. There's only a couple of people I know that I think I could leave him with. There is a strong possibility he could cry and cry or be a royal pain in the bum. Maybe that's because he's not used to it, maybe it's not. Maybe it's just because he is who he is. Intense, happy, beautiful, exhausting and hyperactive.
Photo by Nadia Hall
So I'm embracing this anniversary as a day where we can watch our wedding on DVD and show our darling bubs the day Mum and Dad got married. Then maybe we will go out together for lunch or a picnic. Then perhaps once he is snuggled up and in bed we will get to have a special meal or chill out and watch a movie, at home, on the couch, cuddled up. I'm happy in my husband's nook (the crook of his arm) wherever we may be.

Besides, isn't Mr.T the fruit of our marriage?

FYI: I'm totally jealous of people who CAN leave their kiddies on a blink's notice and get away for the time of their lives. But I'm starting to accept the fact that our time is soon. But not now. :-)

And to sign is our wedding waltz. Still love this song and see if you can spot our nephew conducting our waltz on the side near the end of the dance!

Double FYI: The professional wedding photos were taken by the beautiful Clare Metcalf. You can see her website here.

Have you had a kid-free anniversary yet or are you still waiting?

Monday, 14 January 2013

$160 GIVEAWAY: The Trendiest Products 4 Back2Skool!

When you're a teacher (and an organisational freak) like myself, you know what you love and what you detest when it comes to students' school supplies and stationery. Sometimes you're a big kid at heart too and you marvel at all the new and wonderful things kids bring into school. I don't know how many times I've said "What is that? A sharpener?" Only to hear, "Yeah Mrs East, it works like this!" "Wow, cool!" I reply, secretly wishing that it was sitting in my stationery cup on my desk!

So when Blogs & PR contacted me to review and giveaway $160 of 2kool4skool's products, I had a look at their website, decided pretty quickly I would LOVE their products, and had them send it out to me to try. Here's what I loved and I know you will too!


Contacting books is important. It extends the life of exercise books and children tend to want to maintain their books better rather than scribble, bend and sometimes, tear them! Often you have amazing parents or a teacher aide contacting books and sometimes (groan) the teacher has to do the lot themselves. It's hard work, tedious, there's that really annoying bubbling of contact if you don't do it right, and did I mention it's really tedious?

OUT with contact and in with this brilliant invention please!

The covers just slip over the books like a dust jacket and has this neat inside pocket to hold a pencil or pen (see below). Fantastic! No more "Why haven't you started yet?" "Because I can't find my pencil..." as they dig through their pencil case that's as big as their school bag *sigh*. Love that this simple pocket can eliminate THAT problem. And the cover designs are super, super kool!


So, Mr.T obviously can't use everything I received and I am totally nabbing this cookie-smelling pen for my business' office that I'm currently designing. I figure every time I need a sugar craving I'll give this deliciously smelling pen a whiff and voila! I'll be satisfied and sugar-free...

There's also the scratch and sniff labels. The scratch and sniff is back! Loving it. Brings me back.

Now something Mr.T could get into was the crayons. They have a unique peel design which I really liked. They are so much better than crayons that wind-up, wind-down, then break. You can keep using these crayons until they actually run out. Their colours are really nice and bold and well. Our little artist agreed... also carry a range of great products like rubbers, ID wallets, headphones, combination locks and more. They also donate 10% of their profits to Demazong Academy in Sikkim, which is the smallest Indian state on the Nepalese border. This helps the academy build up their own educational supplies.

Overall, I'm proud to be supporting and endorsing a fantastic Australian business, with a great range of products and one that contributes to the less fortunate too.

I received products to trial, and keep in exchange for this review and giveaway. All opinions, however, are my own. I only review and give away items I fully endorse and believe to be of quality, to my readers,

GIVEAWAY: The exciting part is, with the help of Blogs&PR, is bringing $160 worth of products to one of my lucky readers! And best of all, it will be TAILORED to suit your family's needs.

Fill in the Rafflecopter form below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Before actions come to life - The little connections.

I've been reminded why I became a teacher over the last few weeks. I've been watching Mr.T make some amazing pre-speech connections. I've been an active spectator as his brain develops at a rapid rate and his problem-solving skills go through the roof. Sounds dry and technical but isn't it such a beautiful thing? I decided I wanted to know more.

I found an amazing website called You can click on an age range and it shows you a picture of the brain and areas of development. It tells you in basic terms what's going on in the brain at that age group and what you can do to help develop that particular aspect. I know. I'm a nerd! But I did find it fascinating. There's some facts below. Please note, this is a guide. All children learn at different rates and it doesn't matter when it happens! It's just fantastic when it does. 

At 12-18 months is when toddlers can recall another person's earlier action and repeat it later. This part of their brain, called 'deferred imitation' becomes well established.

Well at 14 months I see those beautiful moments coming to life. Like when Mr.T waves goodbye and starts heading to the door. Or even the simplicity of copying me when I bang a toy. He also remembers when he puts his shoes on, it means he is going outside. Bless.

Between 13 and 20 months a toddler's brain becomes more focussed on the way it responds to words. This change allows speech to be processed more rapidly and toddlers can understand what is being said to them.

I'm loving this stage! I say "bed and bath" he heads to his bedroom. I say "Let's read a story" he goes and gets me a story...or two...or three. I say "no" he sits on the floor and has a big boohoo. Oh well, you can't have them all.

Really though, I sometimes forget about the insane amount of things that are going on in Mr.T's brain. Then he goes and does something that completely blows me away. He is such a busy boy, and of course he is! He's got so much of the world to see and do and so many little connections to make and I can't wait to be a part of every one of them.

On Facebook on Friday we had a discussion going as to what some activities are that you can do to fill up a toddler's day. There were many suggestions like:

* Read stories
* Water play
* Sing and Dance
* Shape sort
* Paint
* Play hide and seek
* Playing catch/soccer
* Collage

And they are all great ones, and I strongly believe they help all these little connections to take place. However, just engaging in play with your little one can help, giving them downtime to play independently can help too. I often think, imagine if me, as an adult, had someone in my face talking to me and engaging me ALL day? Why, I'd be exhausted! And my brain's not developing or moving nearly as fast as my little guy's is! So sometimes it's good to just sit back, observe and watch that brain grow and come to full bloom.

"I'll get the keys Mum, you drive."
What were those favourite little connections your toddler started making?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

GIVEAWAY: Can you really have a birthday party Additive Free?

Being in a small country town I'm not really a part of any mother's groups or the like. But I do constantly hear the battle that goes on between parents and the search for the 'best' party. Sometimes I see parents trying to make things SO much fun and put in so much effort because they are worried that the kids won't enjoy it. They forget - Children, especially babies and toddlers, are easy to please.

And how good would it be, to host a party where all those little things that make children happy - chocolate cake, icy poles, lollies, etc. were readily available, but they don't leave you with hyperactive  misbehaving children who have had far too much nasty food colouring and additives?

Well, Let's Party Additive Free by Melanie Avery gives you the chance to do so, hassle free!

You might recall just before Christmas, I reviewed and gave away Melanie's other book, Let's Celebrate Christmas Additive Free and that was a hit. I whipped up some honey and mustard prawns from her book and they were so delicious!

Now, you might be surprised to find things like moist chocolate cake, biscuits, icy poles and all those things do-able, but they really are. And Melanie thinks of everything by including the best brands for additive free ingredients and a shopping list at the back of the book with all items being easy to find at any Australian supermarket.

I made some of these yummy icy poles from the book as I figured with all the hot weather we are having, they won't go to waste! And they certainly haven't. They are filled with delicious fruit juice - watermelon, strawberries, mangoes and oranges. It's so nice to feel like I'm giving my little guy a big treat (with no horrible side effects!)

You can see Melanie's complete range of books at her website as well as lots of handy tips and resources!

GIVEAWAY: If you'd like to win a copy of Melanie's book, Let's Party Additive Free, it couldn't be easier. Just fill in the form below and bingo! It could be all yours :-)

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Never too young. Wordless Wednesday

I was busting to get my little man an easel. I finally found one at Kmart for $29.99. I know he can't create majestic works of art right now and I know for him tearing up the paper and sticking his fingers in the paint is the most he is going to get out of it.

That's the best part.




I don't do this often enough. Linking up to Wordless Wednesday with My Little Drummer Boys.