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Free opera in the park
Harvest Picnic at Hanging Rock
Community Festivals
Children's stuff
Cheaper petrol
Lebanese food

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Free Opera in the Park

I know the free classical concerts at the music bowl have finished, but don't put away your picnic baskets and champagne yet. The annual free opera in the park at Prahran is upon us. Held in the delightful Victorian Gardens (aptly named - they are very Victorian) in High Street Prahran, the park fills up quickly so get there early. Details at Classical Music in Melbourne.

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Harvest Picnic at Hanging Rock

The annual showcase of Victorian food. You know you're getting close when you hear the panpipes. Information at Macedon Ranges & Spa Country.

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Community Festivals

There are more activities this weekend than you can shake a fairy floss stick at. The biggest is the Moonee Valley Festival which had a great atmosphere last year. In the suburbs there are festivals at Ashburton and Springvale, while in the country there are festivals at Gunbower, Geelong West, Hastings and Craigieburn. You could try the festival at Heywood which spotlights the logical combination of wood chopping, highland dancing and rose competitions. There is also the Holland Festival at Sandown Park which has an admission charge. It says "for all things Dutch", but I'm not sure they will be selling all the things that are readily available in Holland. The pottery expo at Warrandyte is modelled on a French event and sounds essential for all potters.

For music, there is Kate Ceberano at Spray Farm, world music at CERES Park and Fairfield amphitheatre, jazz at Paynesville and rock at the Fitzroy Pool. Melbourne also has a new world champion - Tony Fenelon is the International Theatre Organist of the year - congratulations Tony. You can hear him strut his stuff at the Regent Theatre on Saturday night. The Theatre Organ Society will be there in their matching blazers, and maybe even Federici (our own theatre ghost) will float down from the Princess to hear the familiar sounds of the theatre organ.

Far too many events this weekend to give you all the details here, so go to our "This Weekend in Melbourne" page. Better still, print it out and place it in the car or on the fridge - I know you have a magnet.

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Children's stuff

Lots of children's stuff around, particularly if you can get out of town. Apart from all the festivals listed above, there's fairy fun at Kingston and the Fairies in the Park Festival (no it's not part of the Midsumma Festival) at Moe. For the next two weekends there is the Rye Beach sand sculpting festival. Details at Family activities in Melbourne.

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Cheaper petrol

We are going to try to get this newsletter out on Wednesday afternoons (no promises) so that you have time to plan for the weekend. It can therefore also serve as a useful reminder that, if you are reading this on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, petrol is usually at its cheapest in Melbourne now. More money saving tips.

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Lebanese food

I took 'she who must be obeyed' out for Valentine's Day lunch to Mecca Bah - the Lebanese restaurant at NewQuay. Good food at a moderate price and new views over the water. If you are looking for somewhere different, try the restaurants at NewQuay while they are still new and the view is still a novelty. If you're on a really tight budget, try our favourite fast food - Lebanese pizza from Tabets. While having coffee at the delightful Mediterranean Supermarket in Sydney Road the other Saturday morning we got talking with a Lebanese gentleman. He prefers the A1 Bakery to Tabets, but sneaks down the road for coffee because "the Italians do better coffee". We have tried his recipes for baba ghanoush and kofta and both turned out well - however we'll keep working on it.

However, our favourite Lebanese food has to be from a little restaurant in Sydney. When we were there recently we were without a car, but still made the train journey to Lakemba. (For those who don't know Sydney, that is like taking the train to Thomastown) In the main street there is a cafe called Jasmin that serves wonderfully cheap, wonderfully fresh Lebanese food. Shared plates of salads, dips and meats and pickles, but in a style I have not found elsewhere. For instance, the salad ingredients include a raw onion cut in quarters ready to be combined in your bread with other goodies. Be warned, it will certainly not be to everyone's taste - and Lakemba will be outside many people's comfort zone - but it is a must-visit for us every time we are in Sydney (it's closed during Ramadan). Now, if only they would open up in Melbourne. If you want to try it, their phone number is (02) 9740 3589

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