4 years in the making

Our Meyer lemon tree finally yields.
Oh the joy to be on toast. Big on lemon marmalade in this house…

Donald Gets Stuffed This Christmas

Another bloody Christmas.
This year we thought stuff it — our lamb that is. This recipe is a treat — try it at least once in your life.
Or twice if you’re trying to take some good snaps for a blog. (they’re coming soon).

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Handcrafted Kitchenware

For a long time now we’ve wanted to create our very own brand, to literally practice what we preach.
Finally, it’s here — Chops For Tea Kitchenware — is open for business.
Here’s the story behind our brand.

read more is our attempt at filling a gap in the market. We knew there was a lack of stylish, design-led, high quality paper souvenirs for this area. We created stylised line drawings of rooftops of Castlemaine, Maldon, Daylesford and The Goldfields and made separate cards for each. They are printed with gold ink and we have blind embossed each one with the alchemist’s symbol for gold. As they are blank in the middle they can be used for any reason.

At the moment they are in stock at the Castlemaine Visitors’ Centre, Stonemans Bookroom, Falkner Gallery (all in Castlemaine) and Cascade Print Room in Maldon.


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Cockaleekie and the Antarctic Vortex


How to think like a warm person.

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Fancy Bowls?

Fancy Bowls is coming to Castlemaine and it’s going to be a hoot!
A joint fundraiser for Main FM & Castlemaine Bowling Club — Sunday 26th April 2015
Tickets $10, kids free. See poster for more details.


Creative Recharge — QAGOMA Brisbane

Every once in a while you experience something that inspires, invigorates and stirs the creative juices within. A recent trip to Brisbane and in particular the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) surpassed expectations despite the threat of a cyclone to ruin the fun.


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Fig & Almond Cake

On an impulse I bought some figs…

They just looked too good, sitting there, dumpy and just ripe.
And then I found a perfect sweet treat* to bake.
And it’s easy, texturally impressive and full of figgy goodness.

*fair play, technically this isn’t tea but it goes perfectly with a cuppa.

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The Lemons Are Coming


It’s taken 3 years but by golly we’ll have our very own lemon jelly marmalade this year!
OK I may be a little premature but I feel our little Myer Lemon needs all the encouragement it can get.


Donald with Goats’ Cheese, Mint & A Zesty Tooth Thucking Vinaigrette (aka A Merry Thucking Christmas)

It’s that time of the year. If you’re lucky enough you may already have received the new 2014 Chops For Tea t-towel — or it’s perhaps on its way to you. If you’ve not got one of our beautifully hand screen printed unautomated dish drying devices then here’s the go for a delicious festive feast.

2014 ttowel

For Donald (that’s Lamb to you)
2.7kg lamb leg – boned & butterflied
Salt & pepper – freshly ground
Olive oil – for drizzling
Fresh mint – a shearing shed load
Firm goats’ cheese – a half frozen handful (grated ideally)
6 garlic cloves – grated
Rosemary – more than enough
Kitchen string – but how long?

For the vinaigrette (the full on thucking part)
6 tbsp olive oil
More mint – finely chopped
1 lemon –  zested and juiced
Salt & pepper


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Children and the tidying of their room

Is there a difference between tidying and cleaning? I think there is. Gav would argue there isn’t. Now I’m the first to admit that Gavin is very good at doing little bits each day. Though he is a ‘piler-upperer’. Not a real word but a very real trait for scooping everything up in a pile and leaving it there. And not till he gets around to sorting through it and putting it where it belongs; the pile will stay there. Forever.

And me? Well I’m worth waiting for. I’d say that though wouldn’t I. When I get around to domesticity (full disclosure: it may be a long wait) not only do I tidy, I clean and I FILE. And there-in lies the rub. I’m one of those list makers who has a little black book (Moleskine preferably and yes I have tried other brands; an orange Rhodia cut it for a year with it’s cute little inverse rounded perforated corners you could tear off). (Actually I’m currently trialling a tricolour Delfonics.) I love crossing off the little tasks I’ve done — though let’s be fair sometimes they are enormous tasks like answering the accountant’s queries about our spurious (alleged) expenses. And filing; I should have worked in some government ministry during the war where everything was on paper, in triplicate, in rooms full of filing cabinets. I say I’m a little bit anally retentive, but ask Gav and he’d say I’m ineffective and nothing ever gets done I’d argue when I do do it, it gets done properly. A couple of years ago I made nice little labels for all our spice containers. A love of typography and order and container labels like this make me happy in life. I know I’m not alone in this. Anyway so Gav laughs at my labels. The irony is I didn’t actually need the labels as I know all my spices by sight and smell. It’s Gav who needs to know what’s in the containers. As some of the labels have come off over time (questionable adhesive) I can be in here at my desk and hear Gav shout at me from the kitchen “What’s in here?”. That’s right dear reader, I don’t even bother to sigh anymore.

Gav piles the dishes on the sink. When I come away from cleaning the kitchen, it’s spotless. So too is the sideboard AND the living room. But is this all encompassing tidy / clean / order worth waiting for? I think it depends on your own approach. Gav’s desk os a tip, mine is more often than not tidy as. Which brings us to those who learn by seeing then doing — our children. #1 is eight and #2 is four. Gav cannot understand why they cannot keep their own room spotless. I think it’s a nonsense question and can’t be bother formulating a response other than “they’re children”. But Gavin really does believe they should clean their own room. There’s also the added complication of when siblings of their friends come over and set off a bomb in the dress up box. Having two girls results in lots of pink, sparkles and fairy paraphanalia so at least it’s a pretty bomb site. I can totally understand why #1 would have no interest in cleaning up after the siblings of her guests.

It’s self interest why I like to clean their room — I know where everything is then. Everything has it’s own place. Gavin decided to help once … you know the rest. Sigh.


An idea is only as good as the people who make it happen.
Luckily, Castlemaine is full of good people.
When locals collaborate good things happen, locally.

This film shows the people and processes involved in making a butterfly chair entirely in Castlemaine.

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Zlutch, Zlaggard, Zander — Anyone got a collective noun for zucchini?

“Sir, when a man is tired of zucchini, he is tired of life; for there is in zucchini all that life can afford.”
It’s not widely known that Samuel Johnson, writer, poet, and lover of London Town was also a champion of the humble courgette (as it’s known in the UK). It’s July and we’re still looking to reinvent and redefine the humble zucchini — nay even celebrate its modest yet versatile charms — I want to express my thoughts and love for this most abundant of garden growths.

Harvesting zucchini this year was great and nothing beats fresh from the garden, sliced and pan fried with a little olive oil, black paper and generous squeeze of lemon. Dependable, lovable and surely one of the most satisfyingly easy fruits we grow in our backyard. The zucchini seems to get a raw deal when it comes to describing its general plentiful supply. Per plant (depending on variety and conditions) you can expect to yield between 12 and 30 fruit. Multiply this by three or four plants and I now understand why people in the past have laughed at me when I’ve told them that I’ve had five or six plants on the go.

Imagine my dismay then to find that no definitive collective noun exists for zucchini. How can this be? Openly we talk about bushels of apples and bunches of coconuts, even hills of beans. But nowhere can I find a definitive reference for zucchini. Whilst I have seen ‘glut’ used on occasion it just seems a little too generic and in no way respectful. So it’s with great excitement that I decided to create a collective noun for zucchini that will give a murder of crows a run for their money.

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Yellow Pears

Sweetest tasting tomatoes ever.


A second

It’s a Rock Melon party down the patch.
Small (but perfectly formed) of course. Average cost — $32.00

A first

Finally, after 4 months of patient watering has we have our very first water melon.
It’s small but perfectly formed and it’s probably worth in the region of $40 based on water taken to grow the bugger. Not sure about this sustainable living malarchy… that said #1 was extremely excited, so guess it’s all worth while. Lets see if it grows. Current size 5cm.

National Arboretum — Canberra

What first strikes you about the National Arboretum is its distinct lack of trees. But don’t let that fool you. The National Arboretum is a most wonderful place to be and for Australian’s to be proud of. 

Sitting a top of a prominent naked hill, sits “wide brown land”. On one level a truly impressive piece of typography — spelling out the description of Australia by Dorothea McKellar in her poem My Country — but on another level it beautifully captures the essence of Australia in a strikingly original way.

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Zucchini 2014

The first zucchini of the season, sweet and tasty.


Donald’s missing leg

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Well someone needed to say something

Dear AmEx,

Without the instantaneousnessness of Twitter how else would have our 140 character verbal stoush been over and done with so quickly. Just as well I say, so we can all go back to our day jobs: you a multinational financial services firm worth US$14.97 billion headquarted in NYC with 63,000 employees worldwide; and me, well I dilly, and I dally, and I potter about in the goldfields of Victoria. I also spot MASSIVE HOLES IN YOUR MARKETING TACTICS, AND PULL YOU UP ABOUT IT, BUT YOU REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING. But I’m not worried, business owners will see your con and realise you’re only PRETENDING to care about local businesses just so you get some PR.

Indignant of Castlemaine

What’s that all about?

See a screengrab below of my twitter-sticks-and-stones with the 22nd most valuable brand in the world.

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Horsing Around — Ampersand Christmas Party

Our lovely client Ampersand invited Liz and I to their team Christmas jolly at Albert Park —
Paspaley Polo in the City.
What a splendid day with splendid company. Oh and the Poh-Loh was an eye opener too.

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Leek & Bacon Pie

What to do with your freshly harvested leeks?
This is a Tana Ramsay recipe  — yes she who is Gordon’s wife and must be a saint. Her ‘Family Kitchen’ cookbook gets a good workout in our the CFT_Kitchen.

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Cold (Frame) Comfort

Winter passed. Spring began and this time I was ready for those little frosts that we still get in Castlamaine even in November… The Latest from the CFT_Vegie Patch.

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Sing-a-ling-a-ling | A most pleasant afternoon in Maldon

Our mate, local troubadour and man about town, Pete Bodin, recently played at the Maldon Folk Festival — competing in the highly regarded Roddy Read Memorial Song Writing Award. What a treat. Aside from Pete’s clear talents there were 12 other performers. Game on… so how did Pete go?

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Identity Matters

It’s been five years in the making but I can now call myself an Aussie. It was always going to happen but I didn’t fully understand the impact this milestone would have on me, my family & friends.

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Poetic cat

Pikelet and his idol, Les Murray.

Walking the Goldfields Track

A 21km walk from Vaughan Springs to Castlemaine was sheer delight.
Dappled late afternoon light bounced and flickered as we climbed “the Monk” with expansive views to Mt. Alexander, Mt. Tarrangower and Castlemaine, which glinted like a jewel in the valley below, I considered the notion that I had chosen to make this place my home.

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Sandra Bowkett vessel

Crosshatched: beakers, bowls and other small vessels by Sandra Bowkett

“This range of vessels has grown out of my Asialink residency in Banay Singh’s village in India. I was there to learn the rapid throwing technique of the kulhaar potters*. In my studio near Tallarook (Central Victoria) Banay Singh made these vessels on a traditional Rajashtani pottery wheel. I finished them on a kick wheel, glazed them and then high fired them in a wood firing kiln with locally collected fallen timber. All in all a sustainable way to make a durable vessel. These vessels embody the generational knowledge of Banay Singh and the more recent western clay, glaze, and firing crafts that I contribute. Enjoy their use.”

*These traditional potters make the millions of small vessels that have met the needs of ‘use and throw’. As plastic increasingly takes the place of these simple low fired vessels the work for kulhaar potters is diminishing. ——— Sandra Bowkett

Sandra’s Asialink Residency was funded by the Australia-India Council and Arts Victoria. She was hosted in India by the South Asia Foundation.

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The Castlemaine Quirk #14

Q: Look familiar? If you live in Castlemaine you will have seen this before. Everyone’s been up here — not least when showing visitors interesting parts of the town.

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The Castlemaine Quirk #13

Q: What and where is this?

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Beef with asparagus and oyster sauce.

Nothing better than fresh asparagus straight from the vegie patch. This is one of our all time favourite Thai dishes that we share with you here.

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Asparagus Rising

Spring is here, almost. We’ve certainly had some sun and we certainly have lift off. Our wonderful asparagus is making a welcome return. And it’s oh so the perfect vegetable that goes into one of our favourite Thai dishes which you can check out here

Weeding Hell 2

No stopping ’em now… buggers.

Weeding Hell

We’ve had some rain – Yippeee, but with rain comes weeds ;(
Parsley under attack.

Pikelet in the dishwasher

Recently we went up to Griffith to my mum’s. When we go we take Pikelet; he is the 3rd child after all. This photo shows Pikey in mum’s dishwasher. He was rather content in there and quite disinterested in our attempts to coax him out. Look how lovely and shiny my little boy’s coat is — and this was before he went through a full cycle!


Quercus turns 150


The oldest planting in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens recently turned 150. It was planted on the 26th of May 1863 to celebrate the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Mount Alexander Shire put on a party to celebrate. Good on em! This is a MAGNIFICENT tree. Despite it being an exotic it is within the confines of a botanical garden and therefore ‘of scientific interest’. The power it emanates when standing beneath it is something to marvel at. Trees eh. Gotta love em.

PS There were more people than visible in the above photograph. Everyone seemed to respectfully stand at the edge of the canopy reach rather than underneath. Councillor Jess Howard is on the mike with three of her five children at her feet. Someone from Mount Alexander Shire council is in purple — sartorially complementary with the autumnal display and to the right is Albie Norman, completely agog at her every word.

Serif vs sans serif

Twas Marx that had a bit to say about the ownership of the means of production. Now to stretch that link a bit that’s the reason why we have a wordpress site. We wanted to have control over our content, and immediately. WordPress is just a boon for that. We got someone to set the site up for us and then we took over — and we haven’t broken it yet! Thing is once you get under the bonnet of WordPress it’s not all that simple, despite all their marketing promises. Now I’ve got the slightest of ideas about what to do in a Cascading Style Sheet. I was unhappy with the serif face we initially chose (Merriweather) for the site so I delved through the CSS and changed it to Arial. Good ol Arial. Or rather you poor bastard child Arial, spat from the loins of Microsoft who were too cheap to pay the owners of Helvetica a licence fee.

Cue: Gavin spitting the dummy and demanding I change Arial back to Merriweather.

Well I didn’t. And he asked again. And I didn’t. I never said I would. The great thing is that even though Gav can drive the basics of WordPress he certainly doesn’t know how to amend the CSS!

Anyway, as a compromise I’ve settled on Georgia. I’m about to investigate the Google font Bitter. So if the site looks like it’s got typographic schizophrenia that’ll be why.


Actually Liz, we settled (unsatisfactorily) for a font called Roboto Slab. More soon – we’ll be arguing over this for weeks.

Trouble at mill

Yeah so there has been a spanner in the works with this blog category. We argue about what can go up and what can’t. I forget what the last argument was about. Probably something about xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, { C E N S O R E D } wooooops, there I go. Better stop now …

The fruits of my labour

I’m chuffed to bits with what’s been happening in our back yard this summer. As the season changes it’s time to reflect on what was, what could have been and what will be, maybe.

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The patch of glory

January 2013

It’s boom time down in the patch. When we came back from Tasmania pretty much everything had gone gangbusters, though the green peppers came under heavy attack from our resident possums. A big thanks to our housesitter Melissa who looked after the garden, and Pikelet, very well.

The patch development – Spring 2012

September & October last year saw much activity in the patch. We chopped down a gum tree (with Ed the aborist’s blessing), purchased some large apple crates from Harcourt Coolstores, raised numerous seedlings and spread lots of horse poo. Hey, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

Here I am, back in the bad hair day, chopping up the last of the tree with the aid of a mates’ chain saw.

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Castlemaine State Festival 2013

The Castlemaine State Festival started in the 1970s and is a biannual event.
Since our arrival in Australia we’d yet to experience its wonders though we certainly made up for it this year.
Here’s a taste of what we saw and what we loved. Comments are by Liz and Gav.

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#chilli carrot ———— And so it begins

Follow the chilli. Follow the carrot. More is revealed.

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A little bit of Tessa Kiros

Tonight it’s going to be Chicken sautéed with cheese and milk from Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook by Tessa Kiros

I want to be one of her kids.

Petal & Pet and some summer degrees

Courtyard of the Theatre Royal Castlemaine with Petal & Pet on the mikes. Smashing late summer’s eve.

Friday 22nd February 2013

The Castlemaine Quirk #12


Q: Where is this bubbler?

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Hello zucchini

The heat has very much been on since my last post and the veggie patch has undergone some major developments. And the Results are coming – my first zucchini crop – and there’s nothing more rewarding.

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Chops for tea

Found this image (actually a page  from an old book being sold as a single page) in a local Castlemaine shop. Lady wanted $50 for it. Too steep for me so I took a photograph of it instead. Was that wrong? The original copyright must have expired. Does she own the copyright because she is selling it? Answers on a postcard please.

Rabbit for Tea

I’m not a big rabbit fan. Well that’s not true, I love Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit and when I was growing up in London we had 19 very cute rabbits at one stage. And who doesn’t adore Welsh Rabbit? { That’s Welsh Rarebit Gavin! ~ Lizzie }  But when it comes to eating rabbit I often shy away, until now…

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Nerada tea: Australian grown and pesticide free

I’m just puttin’ it out there; or rather, drinking it.

Ah, so where’s the argument? Is it  more important that it’s grown in Australia or that it’s pesticide free?  Mmmmm, food security vs not dying of a cocktail of diseases when I’m 55? What I will say is that the flavour is not as good as some other tea. Then again, I just need to get used to its particular flavour. Bit like beer — who loved that when they first tasted it? Anyway I buy it mostly because it’s grown here.