All posts by Leigh-Anne Wrighter

The Messy Playgroup

Time to have some fun with some messy play!


I think most parents would agree that the words ‘kids’ and ‘messy’  go hand in hand.

As a child there is nothing better than free range play, exploring and getting your hands dirty with no such thing as time frames and procedure.

The Messy Playgroup in Thirroul provides this environment in a super kid friendly facility twice a week. Combine that with several craft activities based on a different theme each week and you have a winner!

On our first visit to The Messy Playgroup the theme was the much loved children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. It was a magical combination of wonder and delight created with great thought and care.

We were warmly greeted by owner Nancy, who much to my delight immediately engaged my two daughters in conversation, showing them what was on offer and making them feel right at home.

This was a relief for a mother of two girls who can sometimes take a while to warm up to a new environment. They were immediately comfortable with Nancy as they followed her to the craft table to make their very own baubles to hang on the Christmas tree.  All this without hanging off my leg as if they were safety poles.

Filling the baubles with glitter and paint and then shake shake shake…the girls were completely mesmerised.  It all seemed too easy and something I made a note of to do at home. I mean why didn’t I think of this earlier?

From bauble making to ‘green, green, grass‘ (in adult terms this means green spaghetti!), the girls gleefully ran their fingers up and down through the grass, pulling long pieces out. We discussed how funny it would be if our grass was like this and asked ‘how would daddy mow the lawn’?

The sensory rich play experience continued with some mud (i.e. jelly) and snow (i.e. shaving foam) where we could dig our fingers in deep to find if anything was hiding beneath. I mean really, it wouldn’t be a decent bear hunt without mud and snow!

We finished our bear hunt off with some torch play in the soft play area where we continued our search for that naughty bear. We didn’t find him!  They have a pretty amazing set up at Messy Play Thirroul, including a ball pit, soft play area, giant chalk board and even a toy kitchen for imaginative play.

Best of all the play is all ‘free style’.  There is no ‘you have five minutes here, five minutes there’ It is absolutely whatever interests your little one in that very moment.  Oh to live in the moment – what a wonderful feeling.

The kids are relaxed and therefore the parents are relaxed.  I took home two very happy children together with our new handmade baubles and hung them with pride on our Christmas tree for all to see.

The baubles have since been carefully put away for many Christmases to come.

Owner Nancy mentioned to me that The Messy Playgroup was her “labor of love” and this definitely resonates with the preparation, care and dedication she gives to making sure both the children and parents thoroughly enjoy their time at The Messy Playgroup.

Oh and did I mention the best part…you don’t have to clean up and the kids come home clean thanks to the art smocks provided.

The Messy Playgroup is a weekly parent participation class, providing sensory and creative art sessions for children 5 and under, with the objective of developing children’s social, cognitive and fine motor skills.

Children are encouraged to explore and get creative with a variety of messy materials during a 45 minute class.

Classes run on Monday and Thursday mornings from Thirroul or Monday and Friday mornings at Forestville. Each creative session includes an exciting new theme around which the messy play activities are based.

The Messy Playgroup
Phone: 0428 267 198

Follow Messy Playgroup on Facebook


The Hungry Wolf – Crown Street, Wollongong

When you walk into the Hungry Wolf, little brother to Wollongong’s whiskey bar Howlin Wolf, you feel like you’ve discovered the ultimate gem. It is where you would want to go to spend time with good friends.

Maybe it’s the ultra cool and friendly bar staff who ooze knowledge on all things liquid or it’s the chilled out atmosphere that invites good vibe conversation but the one thing that pulls it all together is the food! It will keep you coming back again and again. I mean if I ever go missing – this is where i’ll be.

Serving up a mix of American-style eats and Asian fare, once I set eyes on the the beef brisket and Korean fried chicken, the Howlin Wolf had won me over. Let’s just say my taste buds were having a party and they didn’t want to leave.

I had the chance to ask Chefs Johnny and Angus a couple of questions about themselves and the style of food they bring to the Hungry Wolf.


Tell us a bit about yourself, where you have come from, where you have worked previously, how you come to be at Hungry Wolf.

Johnny: My name is Johnny, I moved to Sydney to do my apprenticeship and when I got qualified I felt like moving back to Wollongong and applying what I learned at places like Fratelli’s Fresh and White Horse in Surrey Hills. I helped to start up a venue in town called The Three Chimneys and recently moved to a bar called Pepe’s at North Beach. That brings me to where I am now.

Angus: I’ve been cooking for a few years now, anyone that knows me can attest to my love for food. I was lucky enough to have a great head chef and role model in Joshua Marks for the duration of my apprenticeship at La Cucina. I learned a lot of my good habits in the kitchen from the time I spent there. I also worked at the Chifley Hotel and The Three Chimneys, which is where I met Johnny.

What was the inspiration behind the Hungry Wolf menu?

Angus: The menu that we’ve written is all about bold flavours that come from Texas style BBQ mixed up with flavour combinations, ingredients and techniques that have come from our combined experiences as chefs and our own food passions.

Johnny: Fast, with a focus on quality and freshness.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Johnny: Versatile, I’ve worked in a variety of venues which had different demands on me as a chef, which has given me a broad range of experience.

Angus: I like to emphasize the flavours of the ingredients that I’m working with. I have quite a heavy Italian and French influence in my cooking.

Do you have a signature dish?

Angus: For me the ramen is something that I love. It’s hearty and comforting and is perfect for lunch or dinner during winter. I remember during the time I spent in South Korea my host mother would cook us ramen with an egg poached in the broth.

Johnny: Fried Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella (An American play on a caprese salad).

What is your favourite ingredient?

Johnny: Mushrooms

Angus: I have to agree with Johnny here, mushrooms are fantastic, they are so versatile and full of flavor. On top of their versatility they also have such a wide range of flavours and varieties. You can just do so much with them.

What ingredient can you not live without in the Hungry Wolf kitchen?

Johnny: Vinegars, from mayos and dressings to pickling.

Angus: Herbs. We use a variety of herbs in every dish that we cook. They provide so much flavour and help to emphasize the natural flavours of other ingredients.

What would be your last request dish?

Angus: It’s funny, this question seems like it’d be an obvious or easy choice but for me, but having to choose one meal out of so many possibilities is not easy. I don’t even want to face the prospect of having to choose a last meal. To be honest at the moment I’d probably choose a traditional shoyu ramen with hand made noodles but if you ask me in a few months I will have changed my mind, and I’ll be passionate about something else.

Johnny: Beef Stroganoff

What do you love about the bar/café scene in Wollongong?

Johnny: Watching it grow over the last couple of years and the sense of community between the venues.

Angus: I think that the Café/Bar scene in Wollongong has so much potential and since I started working here I have found that the scene has consistently grown and flourished.

What is your idea of happiness?

Johnny: Sunday arvos, Beers, Mates and occasional Waves.

Angus: Spending time with my friends, my girlfriend and my family. Preferably while having a good meal.

How do your meals compliment what’s on offer from Hungry Wolf’s big brother Howlin’ Wolf?

Johnny: The American style food we do complements the aesthetic and the back shelf of the bar.

Angus: The general theme of the food that we do, especially at dinner complements the bars fantastic selection of whiskeys.

The Hungry Wolf

53-61 Crown Street

Wollongong NSW 2500

Telephone: 0417 265 272

Open for lunch 11am-3pm Monday to Saturday, dinner from 5pm-9pm Wednesday to Sunday.

Visit Hungry Wolf on Facebook.