Sunday, 26 January 2014

Bean Salad

Lots of people have asked what I will be cooking on our trip, oven and practically kitchen gadget-less. Whilst I am in talks with Thermomix to literally road test their machine while we’re away (I joke, unfortunately! Thermomix marketing people- call me!!), I have a few recipes tucked away that are both delicious, long-lasting and camp kitchen friendly.

The first is this Bean Salad, made for us by Fiela’s lovely cousin, Julie, when we had Caesar’s christening in South Africa. It is a great side dish with barbecued lamb, or just on its own for a quick healthy lunch.

Bean Salad

1x can 4 Bean salad
1x can Borlotti beans
1x can Chickpeas
1x can Butter Beans
1 small onion (red or white), finely sliced
½ head of iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of mild peppadews (see note), chopped
Handful of gherkins, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
100 ml +/- olive oil
25ml +/- white wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp each of dried parsley, oregano, mixed herbs, thyme, whatever you have…
Salt and pepper

Drain and rinse the beans well. Place beans in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Place in a container with a lid in the fridge until ready to serve.



  • I often play around with the dressing ingredients, using fresh parsley, rosemary or even sage if I’ve got some in the garden. Adjust the oil and vinegar to your liking
  • Mild peppadews are a small chilli; in Australia you often see them in delis filled with cream cheese or feta. You will probably only get these from a South African shop (unless you’re in the Rainbow Nation itself where they are available everywhere). Substitute 1 small chargrilled capsicum, piqillo or something similar.
  • This makes a LOT of bean salad- about 3 litres. I usually make it for a BBQ dinner or lunch with friends and have the leftovers for days after. Yum!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

"Camping is not a holiday, it's a trip"

These sage words were imparted to me from a woman who should know- Ashleigh Davidson.  I consider her to be something of a travel guru who, amongst many, many other adventures has traipsed around India with her husband and 3 children under the age of ten in tow. She is a fount of wisdom when it comes to travel, like dealing with malaria prone travel and infants and general little tidbits like the quote above. Anyway, the point being that at the time of telling me this, I laughed and replied “Ha ha yes it is, isn’t it? Thank God the kids are tired and go to bed early…” or something equally naïve. With our trip now seriously on count down, and with a few small camping expeditions under our belt, the meaning of this wisdom has become clearer, more prudent and accompanied with big warning bells. How do you make a trip around Australia, with a fishing mad husband, two boisterous children under the age of four, me the control freak and a 6 metre by 3 metre space (at best), a holiday and not work?

We’ve only been on a few little trips in our camper so far, but I’ve learned a lot in the art of ‘holidaying’ as opposed to ‘tripping’ and it can all be summed up from the events of one afternoon of camping…

The kids, loving the camping life.

It’s 4.30pm, the kids must be fed, bathed and put to bed in the next few witching hours. It’s cold so they won’t be able to play outside, meaning that from 5pm they’ll be confined to the camper.

Fiela asks: “Can I go for a fish, now?”
Me: “Ummm, I suppose?”

Fast forward 90 minutes. The door flies open and Fiela bowls into the camper, on top of the world because he’s been for a fish, it’s warm in the camper and his loving little family is there to welcome him home, afterall, he is the triumphant hunter (with 2 little winter whiting) returneth! He is greeted with food splattered over the camper, both kids on the verge of a flu, Caesar in tears having been told for the 15th time not to play with the gas hob, Marguerite is on the naughty couch for various offences, there’s crap everywhere and steam coming out of my exhausted ears. Fiela: “What’s the problem?? We’re on holiday!?”

He was genuinely perplexed.

At the time I blamed Fiela for this soul destroying witching hour and the shit time I was having- it certainly didn’t feel particularly relaxing or rejuvenating. But really it was all of my own making and completely avoidable

Lesson 1: Say no to husband.
Whilst he is the love of my life, he can also be a complete tool and a little selfish. Fishing is now banned between 5-7pm even though “that’s the best time to go.” (insert whingey voice and a zero care factor).

Lesson 2: Don’t be an idiot.
Cooking 3 times (once for Caesar, once for Marguerite and then for Fiela and I) is stupid and ridiculous. Everyone now eats the same thing for dinner, even if it is a squeezy packet of pureed vegetables.

Lesson 3: Kids don’t care if they’re dirty.
Bathing kids in a bucket by yourself in winter is ridiculous. They stay clean until the minute the step out of the bucket, go to the toilet, eat etc. Refer to Lesson 2. They are now bathed on a case by case basis.

There are definitely more lessons to be learnt and by the end of this Big Holiday we should be running like a well oiled machine. In the meantime you can all laugh at our mistakes and say a thankful prayer for your multiple bedroom house and big fridge. I won’t be able to hear over the stink of my dirty kids while I have a simple dinner and discuss with my husband where we’re off to tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

1770 Camping Trip November 2013

A few years, prior to having children, when we were all grey hair and care free, we went camping with like minded friends in the Town of 1770 on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. We set off on a number of misadventures, sorry I mean trips, and they’ve all merged into one funny memory.

There was the time we spent a number of pre-dawn hours beside the road near Gin Gin, having blown a tyre on the boat trailer. There was the time it poured torrentially and we sat huddled underneath the gazebo as a little river of rain ran in between our feet. The time a friend brought his then girlfriend along and we watched the grass grow/ the paint dry every time she spoke. The time the campers 200 metres away had a kid called Courtney. She was in trouble a lot, though we never caught sight of her, just heard her Mum yelling “CAWTNEE!!” (that’s quite possibly how it was spelt) repeatedly over four days. The time the campsite lost our booking and we had to set up and down four times in six days. Aaah, good times. But really, we all have a good laugh now that there are a few years between us and what were mind altering-ly irritating and frustrating circumstances

So November 2013 was supposed to be the one where we broke the 1770 curse. We all expressed positivity that yes, this would be an awesome holiday, filled with relaxation and great times spent together as friends and family. Our friends, Geoff and Peppa, weren't camping with us this time around and were rather staying in an apartment with their 3 year old and 6 month old about 200 metres from our campsite, where we would set up the van on an awesome site looking out over the beach. Perfection, right? Almost.

The Uys Huis in action
Luckily, I had booked well in advanced, and whilst we couldn’t get a beach front plot, we did manage the second row back, directly opposite a beach access point with shower and the best surprise: a permanent table and chairs at the front of the plot. The 1770 Camping Ground is really well run with good facilities. There’s a real mix of people too which is quite nice, from backpackers in their Wicked campers to cashed up miners enjoying  some down time in their brand new vans and of course, the Grey Nomad crew. There’s also a new café in the park, right on the water with cheap (and big!) eats, BYO and very friendly service.

The weather was great over the next 5 days, and the tide was in over the morning and middle of the day (it’s very tidal here, at low tide there really isn’t anywhere for the kids to swim, but high tide is fantastic with about a 1 metre depth and sub-tropical warm water). The kids exhausted themselves swimming in the morning, and we enjoyed a few beers in the shade over lunchtime while they ‘rested’. The afternoon was spent exploring the rocks, feeding pelicans and generally ‘having adventures’ as Marguerite liked to put it. Fiela got out fishing a few times, I got into Agnes Waters for coffee and a magazine but best of all was spending time with our friends. Most notable were the mudcrabs Peppa bought off the professional mudcrab fishing boat (no, not our boat unfortunately) and we had a great evening trying to collectively get gout. All in all it was a great trip, but the curse has definitely not been broken…

Our view - beautiful 1770.
It hit us as we drove out of our driveway, with an ominous ‘click’ as some electrics shorted out in our Prado. The airconditioning (OK I can survive without that) and the indicators (no, can’t really do without them) were gone, so our first stop was the Toyota service centre in Noosaville. They fixed it after about an hour and a half of mucking around, and luckily Fiela had the presence of mind to buy a few extra fuses just in case they blew again (which they did, twice). The 4 hour trip then took around 5 and a half due to roadworks and us going probably the longest way possible. Tired and cranky, having listened to Caesar grizzle, scream and cry for about three hours solid, we pulled into the 1770 Camping Ground as the caretaker was about to close the gates.

The next day, actually every day, the kids woke up at 5am or earlier. Uuurgh horrendous... but that would mean they’ll sleep over the lunchtime rest period, right? No. Not really. Caesar cried for the first 4 days; he was sick, possibly teething and also a bit put out that no, he couldn’t just go wherever he wanted. Marguerite’s behaviour became progressively worse over the time as sleep deprivation and general bloody exhaustion took hold. She was really put out that no, she couldn’t go wherever she wanted by herself because “I’m a big girl”. Other campers started to look sideways at us and actually comment on the volume two tiny kids could emit (always followed up with a “We’ve all been there, love” and a silent ‘but really, shut them up would you?’). Lots of naughty corners, chairs, sand, trees etc were found.
Fun at 5am

There were the usual fights between the wives and husbands about ways to parent and when and how exactly the other person should “fuck off!” (thankfully only a few of these, and as it always goes, one set was fighting while the other looked smugly on and thought ‘wow I’m glad that’s not us’ only to take their turn later on). The kids fought a bit. One child pooed her pants almost every day despite being toilet trained AND being asked repeatedly whether she needed to go.

Probably the worst error in judgement was the decision to put the crab pots out the night before we left and “just quickly” pick them up in the morning on our way home at 10am. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure who to blame so I’m going to take a scatter gun approach, Fiela and Geoff had not properly moored the boat in a place where they COULD “just quickly” go and get the pots. Instead, the light of morning showed that the boat had drifted 100 metres down the beach, and was now high and dry until the tide came in. Probably around 10am. When we were supposed to be leaving. We did eventually leave without any crab to speak of, after 12pm and a bout of gastro had hit one of the kids.

Morning tea and a view for the kids.
So ended the 1770 camping trip of 2013, in a blaze of shit, vomit and a noticeable lack of crabs and fish… The curse lives on, but so do memories of fun times with friends, which will undoubtedly become funnier as the years and further attempts at breaking it pass by. Thank God time heals all wounds or really, who would bother camping or leaving their house ever anyway?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Inanimate Attachment

Our Christmas things have been put away and I’ve realized that my “I’m not thinking about packing up the house until the 1st of January” mandate has officially been adhered to. On time even (something of a rarity in this household as those who know us can irritably attest to)! Not only did I have the usual ‘another year gone’, ‘I wish this ratty bauble would just break!’, ‘can I get poisoning from inhaling tinsel?’ etc etc but also the very real thought our little Christmas tree could finally be put out to pasture and I could splurge on a ‘proper’ (fake- no the irony is not lost on me) one in a few years time when we’re home post-Big Trip. This tree, costing approximately $12 in 2001 from Crazy Clarks, standing 91 cm high, harassed by little people and Christmas decorations  over ten holiday seasons, was finally done. It’s reign (ha ha) was over…. In between thoughts of a two metre plus, spruce green, built in LED light wonder, I also thought about when and where I’d bought that first tree, where we lived, when I first put it up, the changes that had taken place in our family, address and circumstances…

No. This tree could not be put in the Vinnie’s bin.

And so begins what I had secretly feared- an inability to actually get rid of the objects we no longer needed. We haven’t moved for 4 years and I was looking forward to the cleanse of packing up the house and down sizing our mountains of crap. Instead I’m starting to make excuses for all the reasons these things should stay rather than tossing them joyfully into the bin. Of course, I’m also reeling after a pretty big month of Christmas cheer and a fairly epic New Years, so maybe this packers’ remorse is also a tiny bit brewers’ gloom. I need to be focused, ruthless and pragmatic, not sentimental and camembert soft.

Yep. I’ll rethink the Christmas tree thing tomorrow, and of course I still need boxes to pack everything into so that’s at least another week until I really get started. Nothing like a bit of procrastination…

Packing 1

Me 0