Worshipping the Samovar

Travelling Samovar Tea House
412 Rathdowne Street Carlton North

I had no idea where Hubbie was taking me for the final part of our birthday experience. We had already had a very forgettable lunch at the Farm Café, followed by a quick tour through the Collingwood Children’s Farm… he had hinted at some ‘drinks’ that we might have, and all I could think of was boutique coffees and elaborate cocktails.

But no. He had taken me to my very first love.

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Tea. At The Travelling Samovar Tea House in Carlton North.

I was amazed when first entering the small store. The front room was highly decorated with beautiful ornaments, tea accessories, and of course teas that you could take home with you, alongside tables that you could sit and discover the many varieties of their tea.

The room we sat at was the second one in, and again, was just so full of character and interesting finds that it was hard to rest my eyes on any one piece.

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From intricate tapestries and pieces of art draped on walls and set up against cupboards and dressers that you would find in an eclectic shop at a getaway retreat, as well as cute little bowls and candles, vases and decorative pieces, alongside a warm fireplace and stunning chandelier, there was so much to see and yet it all had a purpose, there was a reason for its being.

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After going through the huge menu of tea selections, browsing through teas from pretty much every part of the world, from black teas to herbals, oolongs to greens, and so many more, I decided on an Indian chai, because I’d recently gotten right into the spicy earthy flavours of the drink, while Hubbie went basic and got a chamomile.

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Baby girl even got involved and we got her a tea from the children’s menu, which was a Turkish Apple tea.

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I loved the presentation. We had entered some kind of portal into this magical mysterious tea universe where the ‘real stuff’ was on offer, and now even the act of observing, and preparing, and drinking the tea was an adventure in itself.

With my chai I had the option of adding more sugar if required, however it had almost the perfect amount of sweetness as it was, and was so deliciously spicy and comforting. I loved it.

We both also loved the little hourglasses that came with Hubbie’s chamomile. Mine had been prepared already, but his chamomile needed steeping, so it was great to have such control over it and decide for ourselves how strong it was to be! It was perhaps a bit on the gimmicky side, but still, I loved it.

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Baby girl still hasn’t gotten into the tea thing yet. But she tried a bit of her Turkish Apple nonetheless. And instead, devoured some of the biscuits we had gotten on the side, as well as nibbling into our cake.

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We felt a bit bad that she got to taste it. How could we deny her when she was pointing and grunting for us to give her some? It was a white chocolate, walnut and vodka cake, and yes, you could still kind of taste the vodka. Whoops. But having said that, it was baked, and so most of the alcohol would have cooked itself out. Anyway she had mostly the crust, the heavily baked part. It was deliciously warm, sweet and very comforting alongside the tea.

The service was welcoming and genuine, especially for us Samovar newbies, and was especially gracious when Hubbie told the woman (who we assumed was the boss/owner) after we paid that he had been recommended the Tea House by a work colleague.

There is space in the first two rooms to sit as well as an outdoor area which I didn’t see but was told that it was an especially special and serene place to sip at your tea, especially on a sunny day.

It’s the kind of place you can easily miss while walking by, and it has the real sense of a special find or a hidden secret, although it shouldn’t be. Everyone should be privy to this secret world of proper tea, something that is definitely missing in our generation.

Yes, it’s all about the coffee movement at the moment. Even I’ve been swept up in the force of coffee for the past 3 years or so, and I don’t think I’ll allow it to unclench its grip on me anytime soon.

The ‘Samovar’ is traditionally a kind of tea urn which would be used for boiling water, which in Russian culture became a symbol of coming together in the home. And that’s just what we need. This city, this world needs a good injection of good old-fashioned, properly prepared tea in a comforting experience, where you can share your happiness, your woes, your hopes, your fears, and most importantly, your dreams.

As I always say “I love coffee… but tea is the only one that can soothe my soul.”

That first hot sip, when you’re in dire need first thing in the morning… ahhh. Nothing satisfies as much as that.

I will be going back.

Travelling Samovar Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Farm in the City

Hectares of park land in city surrounds, where animals are chilled out in their farm life yet the folk visiting come from all high and low ends of the city, is what the Collingwood Children’s Farm is all about. I came to discover this as we ventured out there for the day to celebrate both mine and baby girl’s birthdays.

Firstly, getting there. If you’re walking over (fortunate local) or public transporting it down, well you’re doing it the easiest. If you are driving down on a weekend or a sunny day, BE WARNED. Trying to park at the St. Helier Street car park is probably best done when it’s cold, early in the day or a weekday.

Since we headed over at lunchtime on one of the first sunny Sunday’s in August, we were met with a formidable line leading up to the car park closest to the farm, with the sign up the front of the car park ‘Full’ not seeming to deter many drivers.

If you do happen to find a spot in there, note that the first half hour is free, with fees increasing as the hours tick on. However, this is not relevant on a weekend, which let’s face it is when you’ll most likely go, am I right? Fees all around then. (If it makes you feel better, proceeds go towards the Children’s Farm and the Abbotsford Convent also located there).

After circling around blocks for a while, we parked where many others were, on Johnston St/Studley Park Road, but we made sure to park AFTER a certain section (I think it was over the Yarra River bridge heading towards the Studley Park Road part of the street, past a street sign symbol) because a fellow driver was kind enough to point out to us when we parked in the earlier section of road of the many parking fines on all the cars currently parked there. How the others didn’t see it was beyond me. Park desperation = herd mentality.

This was a 5-10 minute walk to the farm, made slower by the fact that baby girl was set on walking slowly through the gravel car park we cut through.

Entry was $18 for a family. For us this was cheaper than the normal $9 an adult and $5 per child. If you have a concession, it’s even cheaper.

Because we wanted to lunch at Farm Café first, we received a stamp so that we could return to the farm grounds later without having to pay again. After our lunch (read the ‘interesting’ account here) we headed around the corner to the farm.

We saw chooks, birds, roosters, a peacock, cows, goats, ducks and pigs.

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Everything seemed to be within close walking distance, which was great, but I’ll be honest I’m not sure we got to see everything, leaving soon after because baby girl was
a) Getting tired, and
b) Was much too interested in messing about the gravel dirt underneath her feet (with her hands of course) than the animals before her.

It was her birthday, so ultimately she could do what she wanted.

Age wise I think it’s a great place for kids a bit older, say 3-4 onwards, as they would probably appreciate the animals more and not be so distracted by random elements (!) while those a bit older, say 6 up, would appreciate the educational elements: if you’re there at the right time you can even experience the milking of a cow!

We would probably go back to the farm, but to be fair to all of us, in a couple of
years time.

All in all, a lovely day out in the country/city 🙂

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Collingwood Children’s Farm can be visited at 18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford.

(Part 3 of our birthday outing can be read here).

Piggyback Cafe

Farm Café
18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford

This seemed like the perfect place for both adults and children. Which is what I was after (and really every other family out there too) but more so, because we were heading out to celebrate baby girl’s and my birthday. There were meant to be farm animals for the kids at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, and the Farm Café and luscious green surrounds were there for the big kids. I mean really, how could it go wrong?

The weather started off right. It was a sunny Sunday in August, the first weekend that we got a real taste of the impending Spring/Summer. I was excited. I’m constantly telling people how by the time my birthday pops around, the winter cold is diminishing and bursts of warmer weather are starting to infiltrate the cold. Maybe because I’m clutching at (Spring) straws; maybe because I’m defending my birthday month; maybe because I’m right. This day had me smiling in pleased confirmation again.

It’s hard to believe that there is 7 hectares of land nestled along the Yarra River, of which the Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Café lies. I realise that city parks are not a rare thing, but to be so close to the city (5 kms) amidst those busy inner-city suburb buildings and surroundings, it just felt odd. Like how could this happen? Until we got there it was like ‘is this for real?’ It sure was. Driving around for a good 20-25 minutes made us realise that it was definitely real. Almost everyone was trying for a park in St. Heliers Street, and the long wait made us do a U-turn and try our luck elsewhere. The sign up ahead in the cark park had read ‘Full.’

With much focused staring and stalking, we finally found a park along Johnston St/Studley Park Road, and proceeded to walk on over about 5-10 minutes to the farm. (Click here for more info on parking there).

We chose the family pass of $18 to get into the farm, and received a stamp allowing us to first go into the café, before exploring the farm grounds. You can solely attend the Farm Café without payment, because the café is positioned and set in such a way that you can’t eat and then sneak through into the grounds without the entry fee. You can look from there, but you can’t touch.

So, payment = café and grounds entry (with stamp)
No payment = café only entry

We went straight to the café knowing that there might be a wait post 1pm, and sure enough there was. We received a buzzer that would inform us when it was our turn to be seated, and while we waited I took the opportunity to explore with baby girl and take photos of the surrounds.

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It didn’t end up being the half hour wait as told, perhaps a bit less. We sat down in an open area that was still covered, amidst tables tightly crammed next to one another, with views looking out to the farm beside/below us, of chickens roaming about, and a peacock doing a casual little walk.

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There was an outdoorsy feel. It was a farm after all.

We had to quickly order, as we were now very hungry and I didn’t want our little birthday girl getting cranky on her special day.

I got the Mushroom Pie – Mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and white wine served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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Hubbie got the Organic Beef Sausage Roll – House-made served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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While Baby girl had the Kids Egg & Bacon – Poached Fried egg on toast with bacon with a side of cheese

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I was a tad disappointed that I couldn’t get the kids lunchbox (cheese sandwich, a house-baked treat and a piece of fruit) for baby girl, but they had run out. Instead I swapped the poached egg for fried, removed bacon and added a slice of cheese, which they quite simply placed on the side of her dish. It was fairly uncreative, really. They could have at least put the cheese, on top of the bread, under the egg, so it melted slightly.

Mine and Hubbie’s meals looked ok, but in the end they were nothing special. To be honest, they were below average and fairly bland. My mushroom pie had no other discerning or interesting taste to it, all I could taste was mushrooms as I bit in. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms. I just expected the sauce or gravy of the pie to have some hint of salt or flavour in it, to further complement the earthy mushrooms. None.

The accompanying potato salad was rather standard, again nothing special. Hubbie felt the same about his meal, and the only reason that we ate it without much antagonism was because we were spending a lovely day out for our birthdays, we were in such a good mood, and we were hungry. That was it. Baby girl’s meal was very standard, and I concur that most children’s meals out there tend to the ‘plain’ side, but this, with the cheese placed on the side as if it was just tossed there, took the meaning to a whole new level. She also like us was hungry, and ate most of it.

Following that meal, we were almost uninspired, tending to just head out and not worry about a drink. However Hubbie had some kind of surprise location planned next, (link) and kind of hinted that we may have some kind of drink there, but didn’t say what kind. I assumed it was coffee, so suggested we get hot chocolates at the Farm Cafe instead (again, the weather and the day and our birthdays was saving the Farm Café’s arse).

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We each got a hot chocolate in a mug, and baby girl got her necessary babycino. The hot chocolates were huge! They were served in mugs, tasting mild and softly sweet, which I didn’t mind, but I think Hubbie would have loved a more sugary, sickly-sweet hit. Baby girl happily drank all of hers, leaving chocolate stained marks on her face. But alas, it was a rather plain babycino, mostly milk and little froth, making the fact that I don’t believe they charged us for it (there is no babycino on the menu) more than adequate.

We then headed out on our way to peruse the farm, happily leaving all memories of the Farm Café behind (read my review of the Collingwood Children’s Farm here.)

Food: 4/10. Below average. Nothing made me want to try anything else, and I just felt the lack of food quality and presentation let down the beautiful location and serene atmosphere of the adjoining farm.

Coffee: N/A, and I’m not overly bothered I missed out either.

Ambience: As mentioned above, it has a very relaxed vibe. The surroundings were calm and placid, best enjoyed on a sunny day, which is fortunately what we had.

People: There were generally those with kids there, but I also saw duos of friends, younger couples, and older couples. I think the location brings a variety of people there, but most prominent are the families.

Staff: They were ok. Again, nothing above average, they weren’t rude or anything, but they didn’t really give us any smiles or necessary attention. They were busy though, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Price: It was about $50ish, and I say ‘ish’ because the lady up at the counter kept our receipt so I have to go off the prices listed on their website. The hot chocolates were the only half-enjoyable items. The rest made the total bill not worth it. Had the food been up to scratch, it would have been.

Advice: If you are going to the Collingwood Children’s Farm, save yourself the hassle and eat elsewhere. You probably won’t have to waste time waiting for food that is below par. If you are seriously not fussed with food, well then you probably won’t mind the quality of it. Perhaps the breakfast options are better.

In a nutshell: The Farm Café should consider itself very lucky. I said to Hubbie very early on into our lunch that day that the only way it was surviving was due to its location and proximity to the Children’s Farm. It was not surviving based only on the food, because if so then on that day we wouldn’t have found the café there at all, just remnants of what used to be one. Which is a shame, when I think of people I know who have put much effort and money into their own little works of art café creations, and poured so much research, energy and time into an amazing menu and superb coffee, only to have to close due to the people in the area NOT WANTING TO SPEND THE MONEY ON QUALITY. It’s sad, yet true. And here is a very average café with such a high turnover that their kids meals run out, who are able to ‘produce’ the kind of food that we got that day, and they still keep on going on, solely due to the high paying folk of the area and their fortune in being alongside an animal farm. I am really surprised. I hold no malice, yet based on our first and only experience there, Hubbie and I will most definitely not be going back to the Farm Café.

The Farm Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

(I am a glass half-full gal though, and the experience did not ruin my day, not in the slightest. Read on to find out how our day ended fantastically, here :))

Twisted Lyrics! Backstory and #1

So, so many years ago now, I came across a hilarious site. I have no idea the name of it, or even where I could find it now, but it was devoted to the hilarious mis-hearing of song lyrics. I fell in love with the concept, when I read one user mention their version of George Michael’s Careless Whisper – sing with me now:

(following “I’m never gonna dance again”)

“I must admit I have no rhythm!”

LOL ’til the cows come home. The real lyric is:

“Guilty feet have got no rhythm.”

(tee hee hee)

This is the inspiration behind a new series I wanna begin called

Twisted Lyrics!

Of course I’ll start. And of course it’ll be a kiddie-themed song that has been doing my head in for weeks now.

Any Aussies will know of a little intsy-bintsy-teeny-tiny group called The Wiggles? Maybe some international readers will have heard of this Yellow/Blue/Purple/Red coloured group as well?!

They have a TV show. Called Ready Steady Wiggles. And in the theme song (which only plays in our household about 28 times per day) I thought they sang

“Ready, Steady, Wiggles! With Emma on the side and Anthony too.”

Now, there is an Emma Wiggle. Yellow uniform she wears. So that makes sense. There is also an Anthony Wiggle, who dons blue chaps. The rest of the song mentions that you can jump like a kangaroo, and the names of their friends “Dorothy, Wags and Henry too” (dinosaur, dog and octopus) “and Captain Feathersword woo hoo!”

So where were the mentions of the other Wiggles – purple Lachy and Red Simon? Why weren’t they in the song?

I have seriously been scratching my head for weeks. I was certain that no where else in the song, they were mentioned. And sure enough, I heard it again and again

“With Emma on the side and Anthony too.”

The visual even showed Emma pop up, followed by Lachy, Simon and then Anthony on the other end of the screen. It didn’t make sense. Why would they omit the PURPLE and RED Wiggle, why damn it? (Mother’s woes).

And then I heard it. I somehow heard it differently just the other day. Were they singing acapella? Did I just hear it without making the words up in my head. I heard:

“Ready Steady Wiggle! With Emma Lachy Simon, and Anthony too.”

I had mistaken ‘Lachy Simon and’ for ‘on the side and.’

Face palm. Seriously?

So I thank The Wiggles for the inspiration to begin this series. There are so many more misheard song lyrics, I promise. Hopefully normal songs that normal folk will recognise too.

Interview-Emma-Watkins-Wiggles

(I totally did not take the above photo, baby girl wishes I had those contacts – so no, it’s not mine)