The Novel Novocastrian... December by Kian West


The Novel Novocastrian

The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident

By Tara Brady


Hand to Hand Crafts – the best way to get your knit on!

If you wander west down Hunter Street past The Lock Up and Curve Galleries, Studio Melt and Bagga’s Pharmacy, you will eventually come to Wolfe St; and if you turn right you’ll find a rather extraordinary craft and wool shop called Hand to Hand Crafts. The first time I came across Hand to Hand Crafts I had left it rather late in the day and the shop was closed, but peering through the window I spied a treasure trove of multi-coloured embroidery threads, vivid wools and a wall of buttons…and thus started a whole new creative drive: it was time to get crafty.2014-11-17 13.03.53

I decided to start with knitting – it was something I vaguely remembered being taught as a twelve year old, but I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I wandered back to Hand to Hand and explained my situation to Katrina who within 10 minutes had me sorted with some basic wool and knitting needles and was even teaching me how to cast on. It was clear to me at this point that this was no ordinary craft shop, and that Carmel and Katrina (the lovely ladies who run the place) were not your usual retailers. However, it wasn’t until my second visit that I realised just how extraordinary Hand to Hand Crafts is, because on my second visit I got to meet Henry, Bryce and Lauren. Henry has a flair for the dramatic and was kind enough to write me a birthday message on my till receipt when he discovered not only was it my birthday but we share the same birthday month and are therefore very cool people. Bryce has helped me sort through a basket of bias tape looking for just the right shade of blue-grey to match some dress material, and his choice was spot on. Lauren, who shares a similar dread of flying as my mum (they agreed it was fine once you got on the plane, but the moment just before is awful) has patiently scoured pattern books with me, looking for a simple pattern for a tea cosy and eventually finding one. All three are assistants in the shop, but all three are also clients.2014-11-17 13.06.42

Hand to Hand Crafts is a shop with a difference. Along with Char’s Café and the school canteen at The Junction Public School, it is run in partnership with Response which, through funding from the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NIDS) supports adults with disabilities through workshops, active learning enterprises and transition to work schemes. Carmel and Katrina are support workers who help train people to work in a retail setting gaining skills such as interacting with customers, operating the till and organising the displays. They are also very knowledgeable about knitting, embroidery, sewing, paper crafts…the list goes on. There is something about walking into the shop, which is always a hive of activity, and being greeted with a friendly smile and an offer of assistance that instantly makes me feel at home. And some of the craftwork on sale that has been made in the regularly held workshops is just exquisite. I have it on good authority that Mandy is one of the people behind the perfect Christmas bunting and gift tags, and Mitch designs the wonderful paper-bags you get to cart your goodies home in (my favourite has a sheep on it, although a recent Santa Claus one is pretty spectacular!) So if you’re looking for a gift for the craft enthusiast in your life, then look no further than Hand to Hand Crafts…but take your time when you’re there and relish the friendly, helpful atmosphere, feast your eyes on the baskets of pinwheels, felted balls and beaded necklaces. There really is no other place like it.

The Novel Novocastrian... November by Kian West


The Novel Novocastrian

The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident

By Tara Brady

2014-10-20 13.41.25

Lazy Sundays on the Foreshore with an occasional foray into Honeysuckle


I’ve recently become obsessed with the “browse” option on my Spotify app (please note I am not trying to push Spotify in any way shape or form, it just happens to be my go to music app…) I think this is down to the fact that the “browse” option is laziness in one of its better incarnations; I simply look through moods/genres and suddenly there are loads of ready-made playlists like “your morning coffee”, “songs to sing in the shower” and the ever fabulous “walking like a badass”. They pretty much have a playlist to soundtrack any activity, and the last couple of weekends the playlist I find myself drawn to the most is “lazy ass, honey-dipped soul”. Why this playlist you ask? Simple: the past few Sundays that Newcastle has offered up have been gloriously sunny and hot. Not so hot as to be stifling, but just hot enough to encourage a slower pace of life. A kind of languid ambling has replaced my purposeful stride and the tag of “lazy ass, honey-dipped soul” seems to go hand in hand with the clink of ice in my gin and tonic!2014-10-20 13.08.48

This is when barbecue culture comes into its own and it is great. There is something about congregating around a barbecue that always reminds me of good times. Maybe it’s because they usually take place when the weather is warmer, or because they always seem to bring groups of people together, or just that food cooked on a barbecue tastes like childhood summers, whatever it is, it is very difficult to be grumpy at a barbecue, and Newcastle has some great barbecue spots. Indeed, the husband and I have been amazed by the fact that there are so many areas in the local parks with well maintained, electric barbeques. This is not something you find readily in Europe so we were very excited to be meeting up with a group of friends last Sunday for our first, proper Aussie barbecue! We happen to live near the Foreshore so we rather selfishly suggested we head to the Carriage Shed area in the Foreshore Park. It was perfect! We found a table outside that had enough trees around to offer shaded areas and some grass to spread blankets on for lounging. There were loads of other people out as well but it never felt too crowded and everybody took their turns using and then cleaning the electric grills, and generally observing impeccable barbecue etiquette.2014-10-20 13.31.18

However, if barbecue is not your thing, then there are plenty of other ways to spend a lazy Sunday in Newcastle. One of my favourites is to stroll from Nobbys Beach along the promenade parallel to Wharf Road all the way to Honeysuckle where we invariably realise that we’re hungry and so stop off to eat lunch at one of the many restaurants facing the harbour. The only issue is choosing where to eat because all tastes are catered for from sushi at Nagisa to modern Australian cuisine at Silo or even cocktails at Money Penny’s. Then the only effort is to slowly roll home with a full belly telling yourself that the walk is helping you to work off those beer battered chips!


The Novel Novocastrian - October by Kian West


The Novel Novocastrian

The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident

By Tara Brady


A list of things to do if you’re visiting Newcastle (in honour of my Ma’s impending visit and all of the fun things we will be getting up to!)


Next week my mum (who will be referred to as Ma from here on out) arrives from the UK! I am soooo excited! This is because, not only do I love my Ma in the way that you kind of have to love family members, I actually LIKE her. I like spending time with her, she’s an incredibly interesting and funny person and we share the same kind of crazy so it’s all good. Better yet, Ma and the husband get along really well, and I realise how lucky I am that this is the case (even if it means they occasionally join forces against me…I mean…how unfair is that?) Anyway, since I’ve known she was coming to visit, I have been compiling an ever growing list of things to do here in Newcastle that may, or may not, be useful for others with guests from out of town, or indeed if you yourself are from out of town.

  1. Christ Church Cathedral via Good Brother Coffee: Even if you’re not a particularly religious person and churches and temples aren’t really your thing, Christ Church Cathedral is worth visiting simply because of the history it contains, particularly in relation to the First World War. To me the most incredible and moving aspect in the cathedral is the Gallipoli Flag which is simply framed so that it speaks for itself. If you need refreshment afterwards then pop down King St to Good Brother Coffee where you can indulge in cardamom cake and excellent coffee.
  2. Newcastle Beach/Ocean Baths/Estabar: Now its warming up again it is of course time once more to hit the beach and the ocean baths. And as I’ve mentioned before: Estabar = blood orange frappe. That is all.
  3. Hunter Street Shopping: I love strolling along the Hunter St shopping precinct. There are so many different shops to poke around in! And many, many cafés in which to chill out. My two faves are The Ground Floor and One Penny Black.
  4. Nobbys Beach and Lighthouse: This is particularly nice to walk along in the evenings when it’s a bit cooler and you can catch some incredible sunsets. The lighthouse is open on Sundays and has a little coffee kiosk to reward you for making the climb! Also make sure to look at the rocks lining the walkway – some have carvings in them including a surfer and other sea creatures. And if you’re a bit peckish after all that windblown walking, why not head to Scottie’s on Scott St for dinner or take away.
  5. Galleries to sooth the eyes and the soul: Newcastle has an incredible number of artists so it only makes sense that there would be numerous galleries to visit. has a great list of galleries with opening times. A few to check out are the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery on Laman St and The Lock Up and Curve Galleries on Hunter St. And if you want to take home some stunning images of Newcastle as a keepsake then check out Shannon Hartigan Images on Hunter St.
  6. Here for a few weeks? Why not learn something while you’re at it: Studio Melt on Hunter St offers various workshops through CleverLab where you can learn silver-smithing, precious metal clay jewellery making and book illustration over a couple of weekends or evenings. Suzy who runs most of the workshops is great fun, in fact she suggested this next activity.
  7. Hire electric bikes and “cycle” the Fernleigh Track or Honeysuckle /Foreshore: located on Parry St (opposite The Edwards if you need a brunch spot) will let you hire a bike + helmet + lock for only 2 hours up to 5 days at a very reasonable price. A great way to explore with pedalling as an option.
  8. Rainy day? How about coffee, a trip to the spa and then the cinema? I have actually done this in this precise order and my goodness what a wonderful way to spend a rainy day. Start at Saluna on King St where you can read copies of Newcastle Mirage while you tuck into your coffee, then proceed to Endota Spa which is just a couple of shops down for some phenomenal pampering, then catch up with the latest flicks at Event (Tower) Cinema which is still on King St (you don’t even need to cross the road!)
  9. Finally, especially if you have visitors from overseas or children or both, it is worth checking out the small but lovely Hunter Valley Zoo which is only 5 mins from Cessnock. You can feed the animals, have a meerkat encounter and tickle some kangaroos…just beware the Emus…greedy buggers!2014-03-25-18.39

The Novel Novocastrian Pt.3 by Kian West


The Novel Novocastrian

The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident

By Tara Brady


How “Where do you want to go for dinner?” has become a whole new experience since we’ve moved to Newcastle.


By the end of September, the husband and I will have been married for four years (hooray!) One of the patterns we fell into fairly early on in our relationship was to succumb to a regular attack of the “midweek lazies”. You all know what I’m talking about: you come home and, despite a fully stocked fridge providing a myriad fine dining possibilities (like stir fry or spaggy bol), neither of you seems capable of even coming up with an idea for dinner, let alone the energy to cook it, so you decide to go out instead. Back in the UK there is a lane around the corner that has a particularly fine Turkish BBQ, so when the “midweek lazies” are upon us, we inevitably find ourselves there, and the question of “Where do you want to go for dinner?” is essentially redundant. Well, here in Newcastle it has become infinitely more complicated.

The first task is agreeing on what type of cuisine we’re after: pub grub? Fine French dining? fried chicken and beer? Spanish tapas? seafood with a sea view? The possibilities seem endless. So you’d think the restaurateurs of Newcastle would do us a favour by having one or two obvious frontrunners conveniently located within a ten minute walk and in a price range that’s just right…but no, instead there are more than half a dozen I can think of just off the top of my head and that’s only the ones in the East End…I haven’t even gotten to Darby Street.Novel-Novocastrian-web

So here, in no particular order, are my top 5 on the East Side

  1. Cafe Zeytoon (43 Bolton St): for when you’re craving middle-eastern food but want something a bit more refined than a kebab. The atmosphere in this cafe at night is great with dark tablecloths embroidered with gold, reflecting the candles and lanterns. I can personally recommend any of the lamb dishes; the meat is so tender it falls right off the bone!
  2. Bocados Spanish Kitchen (27 King St): this place serves excellent tapas at a reasonable price and with a great wine menu too. We regularly wind up here without having planned ahead and so wind up in the smaller bar area which is actually quite cozy.
  3. The Grain Store (64 – 66 Scott St): if you’re looking for pub food done to a high standard as well as an impressive list of beers to wash it all down with, then look no further than The Grain Store. The fact that you can play old-school board games while you wait for your food to arrive is an added bonus.
  4. Bistro Sandbar (1 Moroney Ave): this little bistro is a great spot for a romantic dinner for two overlooking the beach. The seafood here is fabulous!
  5. Casa de Loco (10 Pacific St): any restaurant/bar that advertises itself with the words: we love to eat/we love to drink has got to be worth a visit and this tequila bar/Mexican restaurant most definitely is. The food is much closer to authentic Mexican than the usual Tex-Mex stuff you find and the ambience here is always upbeat with really friendly bartenders and waiting staff. I’ve recently become obsessed with their Taco Tuesdays: each Tuesday has a different theme with a special taco on offer and accompanying music from their extensive vinyl collection. Make sure you save room for their Tres Leche Cake which is just amazing.

Happy eating Newcastle!