Friday, 22 June 2012

Exploring cafes in Newport

I have previously complained about how dismal it is working in Brooklyn as a locale, but there is at least one benefit that I can name -- and that is the proximity to a plethora of wonderful little cafes in suburbs such as Yarraville, Seddon, Newport and Williamstown.

It started as a Friday thing. Two of us (mostly it's just two of us) would escape the sterile office for a slightly longer than normal lunch in a location with character. Over time, however, the lure of the cafes has become a bit like the song of the siren... and we seem to have slotted in Wednesday cafe lunches too. This means we try to squeeze the whole expedition into an hour if possible, but it's still marvellous to get away.

So, rather than keeping them all to myself, I thought I would share my thoughts on some of these cafes. Today, I am going to start with those in Newport, which are our most recent discovery. A colleague emailed me a list of Newport cafes to try -- and try them we have!

First was Leroy's on Mason Street. This is quite a large cafe with Campos coffee (tick), a tempting cake window, and a menu with plenty of options. On visit number #1, I ate a very nice pumpkin soup and on visit #2 (which was today) I had a baked omelet with corn and pesto. This too was delicious, although when I asked how many eggs were in it and they said 5 or 6 I nearly fainted. Needless to say, I will avoid that in future. They had four soups on the menu today, so they will likely be a good option in the future. I haven't really paid much attention to the rest of their menu, although I have been keeping an eye on their twice-baked french toast with fruit compote special. The service staff there are friendly and obliging -- although no doubt think I'm a bit of a freak after my 'OMG was that really 5 eggs?" reaction today! I rate it a good place for a quick lunch: the coffee is good, there's plenty of space (not too busy), and the menu has healthy options (if you order more wisely than I did today!).

Second was The Pint of Milk on North Road. A renovated corner milk bar, this stylish little cafe has a Mediterranean influence. I've only been there once to-date, but we loved it and I think it's probably my favourite of the Newport cafes so far. I had a simple but delicious meal of poached eggs with spinach and mushrooms -- they sauteed the two vegetables together and my only mild complaint was the excessive oil drizzled over them. (This is my standard 'low cal' breakfast, so oil and butter = bad.) But this was only a slight blemish -- and it tasted fabulous (which is far more important really). The ambiance and decor are lovely with a milk bottle theme, and the coffee (Gridlock) was also fantastic. For a cafe in the middle of nowhere it was humming -- and the parking was easy. Sweet! Will definitely be back there in the very near future.

Third was Nosh (24 Hall Street), which is another funky cafe, fairly casual with another impressive cake window and apparently -- although I haven't tried them yet -- awesome roti wraps on the lunch menu. I (as is my wont) chose from the breakfast menu... in this case the big vegetarian breakfast, which was far too big! I'm ashamed to say I can't remember the coffee, but this must mean it was good! Nosh didn't engage me quite as much as The Pint of Milk did, but it is nonetheless a fine place to dash for lunch, and I foresee many future visits. (Variety is after all essential!)

Finally, I also visited the Odd Spot Cafe (1/302 Melbourne Road, Newport) for a breakfast meeting. This is a cosy cafe and I enjoyed it, but owing to the earliness of the hour, my memory is a bit hazy as to the specifics. Will have to go back and check that one out again!

That concludes for the present my round-up of Newport cafes. It's not very scientific, being purely anecdotal and based on limited visits, but in summary I've found Newport cafes to be something of a revelation! I look forward to continued exploration and sampling.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vale Jeddah

It's now almost three months since Jeddah, my mother's miniature schnauzer, passed away from a suspected brain tumour. He would have been eleven this coming July -- not so old, really -- but, as tends to happen with pets, it seemed as though he'd been part of the family for ever.

He was mum's dog, but we were all part of his pack. Over the years, he stayed several times with me or one of my sisters' families, while our parents travelled. Despite Chenna's misgivings, I enjoyed him coming to stay with me, not least because he would make me go out walking, sometimes twice a day (see this post). (I'm very soft when it comes to animals.) Last year, when I wasn't working, he stayed with me for several weeks, settling into a nice routine with Chenna and I (see this post).

I used to take him for walks down at Phillip Island too. He loved the beach, where we'd let him off the lead even when we weren't supposed to, and he'd trot happily up and down, sniffing at the seaweed and the sand. Sometimes he'd splash through the incoming water, fooled into thinking he'd get a drink out of it. If the town was our destination, he'd behave very well while we indulged in a spot of breakfast. If we headed the other way, towards red rock beach, he'd remain off leash all the way back along the fire track, which offered even more interesting smells and places to explore.

When visitors arrived he would bark. And bark. And bark. This could get annoying and a little embarrassing, it must be said. He barked when we arrived around at mum and dad's too. A good little watch dog alerting everyone. His other mildly embarrassing habit, especially when younger, was to pull on his lead which made him sound like he was choking. Very disconcerting! In later years, he seemed to not pull so much and thus this habit went away.

He was very good with the children, and more than one of my nieces and nephews said some version of 'Jeddah' as their first word. No matter how inappropriately close they would approach, always wanting to pat him in the face for some reason, he would bear with them, backing and twisting away, never once getting aggressive. An ideal family dog.

Jeddah started out being an 'outside dog', complete with a very smart kennel built just for him. All year around he would sleep out on the back deck, coming inside from time to time during the day, but spending most of his time outside. Then, my mother started going soft. First she was letting him sleep inside in his day bed on the coldest nights, or perhaps leaving him inside if it was a miserable day and they were only going out for a few hours. Later, they abandoned the pretence that he slept outside, and he snuggled down in the family room every night. In the end, he was sleeping in a special 'night' bed located under my mum and dad's, and was rarely left outside all day. So much for being an outside dog! He did like to be around people.

The next part is a bit distressing, but I need to record what happened.

In the last 12 months, Jeddah started to get seemingly 'old'. His movement seemed hampered, and presumed to be arthritis...  But then in March he had a couple of seizures. Mum took him straight to the vet of course, but without a scan there was no way to tell what caused them. They apparently ceased, but then a week or so later came back.

They started again on a Saturday, while my sister's family was minding him, and the vet gave him some more medication... but by afternoon the seizures were more and more frequent and we took him back down to the vet. It was the most horrific thing to watch the poor little dog crumple to the floor and thrash about, mouth frothing, then emerge disoriented and shaky, crashing into things, standing with his head in the corner (and I only witnessed a couple).

On Saturday afternoon, the vet wasn't too concerned, but said he would medicate Jeddah via a drip and take him home with him for monitoring.We said farewell to our little man, who was already out of it and comfortable on doggy-Valium, and left him in the vet's care. By Sunday afternoon, when Jeddah hadn't responded to any treatment, the vet was concerned.

By this stage, my parents were cutting their trip short and driving home from Newcastle. They arrived home on Sunday evening and on Monday morning (19 March), mum went down to the vet to see him. In her words, there was no decision. Jeddah was effectively comatose. Mum stroked his little grey back, said goodbye, and they put him to sleep for eternity. We suspect an aggressive brain tumour.

It's amazing how one can still feel so much grief for a dog three months later. I'm sorry if I've made anyone cry -- as I have myself.

But Jeddah had a good life. He was much loved by my entire family, and even survived a severe bout of rat poisoning. I will treasure his unconditional love and affection and cuddles always. I will remember the cheeky way he always wanted to come up onto the sofa. The way he liked to patrol the gardens of his various establishments and bury his bones. His manic excitement the moment he suspected he was getting a walk.

I still feel the inclination to grab doggy poop bags when I see them in the park, even when I no longer need them.

We buried Jeddah in the back yard with a family ceremony. A week or so later, I wrote the following for a mini writing competition:
The sheet looked like one of my mother’s, pale with a flower pattern, wrapped round and round with neatly folded edges and strips of blue fabric securing the bundle. Too small; too impossibly small for such a vibrant spirit. A few toys, no-longer needed, formed splashes of colour against the dirt raining down and down, until only three hastily picked geraniums marked the place where our little friend was now fuel for an organic reaction.
Farewell my little friend.