Bringing the colt back to the stables…

My husband Gary has been working on a little project with fellow volunteers, led by local artist, Gavin Roberts. Gavin discovered that the local counsel had flagged a historical building for destruction as it was seen to be derelict. Dating back to the 1870’s, the building in question was once the local police stables and cells.

Gavin had in mind to resurrect the decaying building and turn it into a working space for local artists, so with the support of the local Shakespeare Committee, Gavin sought and received funding to begin the work.

And so the work began… With a lot of hard work, the team of volunteers had the building standing upright (rather than on an undesirable angle), new floors in place, walls lined, new window frames and windows, frames by Gary with the glass etched by local artist Peter Cummings. A mezzanine level was constructed providing space for research and meetings, and it is up there that you will find a wonderful stained glass window created by another of the volunteers and artists, Bill Payne. Of course there are also bathroom facilities, with a touch of quirkiness in the design added by Gavin. Finally with a gallery space set up to display finished works for sale, it was time for Opening Night!

We had asked our son, Christopher, his partner, Olivia and the two little boys to join us at the opening, and were so excited that they had decided to come. I spent some time in the afternoon preparing our dinner, I wanted it to be a relaxed evening, and given the opening was at 5pm, needed to have as much prepared as I could.

We all met up at the old stables, where we wandered through the crowd to view the opening exhibition

Something About Fish

The boys, Samuel, aged 6 and Cooper, aged 4, took a little time to look around with their parents, and Olivia told me that there was one piece of work that sparked a beautiful conversation between herself and Samuel with regard to plastics in the ocean – he had recently had an incursion at school on just that topic. The conversation piece rAs we stood around chatting, Samuel approached Olivia, and said, “Mum, can you come and explain this to me”, he had found something else outside that intrigued him.

Eventually it was time for the boys to run around and have fun, hey, they had been stuck in a car for two and a half hours and this was the perfect space with trees to climb and lots of room for running.  While we had time with Christopher and Olivia and proudly introduced them to our friends and acquaintances.

Finally, Gavin got the show on the road, and with thank you’s and acknowledgements made, an explanation as to what the current exhibit was about,

The Art colt copy

The Art Colt

was officially opened!

This is not a fancy, flashy gallery, not by any stretch of the imagination. This is a quirky workable art space with loads of history, and has been brought back to life by the bloody-minded determination, tenacity and hard work of a group of around 20 volunteers, and now stands as a workable creative space for local artists to work and teach others their skills. I must add, that without the leadership of Gavin, and the collective creative minds of his fellow volunteers, this building would probably no longer be standing today.

The cold night air closed in, so we soon decided to head home for dinner and family time. With a little more work, and help from Olivia, dinner was ready. On the menu was my mum’s chop suey and fried rice (Mum always served these two dishes together in our younger years, generally it was served on a cold winters’ night to warm us up after we’d been out in the cold all day.), I also made caramelized chicken drumettes (always a winner in our house),

and for something sweet, hot chocolate fudge sauce with ice cream, strawberries and meringues for dipping.

Family meals are always such a special treat.

Warm Chocolate Fudge Sauce

I found this recipe on the website, Smitten Kitchen, and have found it to be an absolute favourite with any chocoholic! I have adjusted it slightly, but not too much.

Quantity: 500 ml
Author: sbaskitchen
  • 40 g unsalted butter
  • 160 ml pure cream
  • 175 g golden syrup
  • 50 g brown sugar
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 170 g Plaistowe 70% Cocoa Chocolate choppped
  1. Combine all ingredients, EXCEPT the Plaistowe chocolate, in a small pan, and over medium heat, bring to a simmer.
  2. Simmer on low, stirring, for 3 to 5 more minutes until everything has melted
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth rich chocolate sauce.
  4. Serve over ice cream, or as a dipping sauce or for fondue.

The sauce will thicken as it begins to cool, so might want to wait for 15 to 20 minutes off the heat before serving.

Any leftovers can be poured into a jar and stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  Then when you need a quick chocolate fix, simply scoop out a little (or a lot) and reheat in the microwave.

Adapted from the recipe at

You will find The Art Colt

at 20 Dixon Street, Stratford, in Victoria, Australia. and on

Until next time…

Make sure you tell your family you love then, and bon appétit!

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Friends, flowers and figs

How wonderful are friends and how lucky am I!

Every week I spend time volunteering at a local community house called Segue, in Stratford, and it is here that I have made some wonderful friends. We love to share our experiences, plants and produce from each other’s gardens and stories and the occasional cuppa.

One friend, Shirley, often brings a bunch of beautiful flowers from her garden, and these flowers have convinced us we need to plant a protea or two in our garden.    She also has access to a neighbours’ fruit trees, and has kept me well supplied with figs. In return I give her fig vinegar, along with various jams, chutnies or relish that I may be making at the time. I also make sure that there are preserves set aside for our little produce stall at Segue where we raise money for our “Garden for the Community”.

I have written about making and using fig vinegar in earlier posts and recipes, but there was an issue that I had with it. After making the vinegar, the solids were thrown into the compost! This tormented me, it seemed such a waste! To me, figs are such a precious commodity – so what to do? It took me a while, but then I thought… well, really, the figs have just been steeping in blend of balsamic and cider vinegar, and relish has vinegar in it. Figs go beautifully with purple onion, and with the addition of few other ingredients, I soon had a use for the bi-product of my fig vinegar – Fig & Purple Onion Relish. Continue reading

My Morning Commute…

I love my morning commute – I cannot believe how lucky that I am to be driving the country roads, as I head out early in the morning to collect the produce required for our weekly cook.  The only problem is that nature often stops me in my tracks, quite literally!  I tend to drive the back roads, and have now taken to carrying my camera with me to try and capture natures beauty.

The morning light, the morning fog, the morning frost, the morning rainbow…  My Morning Commute #12

Today I almost stopped to take a photo of a puddle, but decided to keep going.  Wish I had stopped to take a photo of the puddle.

I often find myself smiling as I drive, thinking of the lifestyle change we have made.  Who would have thought that this ex-(city) secretary, is now cooking food for a local cafe, providing catering for meetings and even supplying a local farm gate with product.

This is where I live, and this is my morning commute, no traffic lights, almost no traffic, though occasionally stopping to allow the cows to cross the road, and of course, often stopping to take in nature’s beauty..

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Until next time…


Gifts from a Neglected Garden

The last twelve months have been nothing short of chaotic, resulting in so many things being neglected, one of which is our garden. The vegie patch was overrun with weeds and I felt that I wasn’t getting the produce that I should from it, given that I didn’t have time to care for the soil, plant out all the seeds and seedlings that I had planned to, etc.

I had planted some sweet potato slips in late spring/early summer and they took over, neglecting to climb the wire that I had set up in preference to rambling all over the footpaths and garden beds. I eventually got so frustrated with the mess that, about a month ago, I decided it was time to pull them out, telling myself that I would never to grow them again. I had planted one little row, about one meter, or a tad over 3 feet long. What a surprise when I started digging down. My neglected garden had provided us with a lovely basket full (almost 4 kilograms / 8 lbs) of beautiful tubers destined for our kitchen.

The tomatoes did not do as well as they should, but it appears that it was not the season for tomatoes for most that I spoke to (it was a very harsh summer), however we had enough for everyday use and for making the annual batch of tomato sauce, a much sought after family favourite. The pumpkin vines that I had growing up archways provided a few fruit and the beans were plentiful resulting in a well stocked freezer.

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Persimmons from the Blue Mountains

A recent trip to visit family and friends provided us with the opportunity for a brief stay in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. This was my first visit, and nothing could have prepared me for the majestic beauty that Mother Nature had created. As we walked to the viewing area from our car, I was in awe of what was before me – the size, the beauty, the colours… I had heard of the “Three Sisters” and now here they were before me in all their glorious, natural splendor.

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