Mountains, Rainforests and the Ocean

With the epic lack of sleep and the big time difference, it took a couple of days to get our body clocks kicked into gear. Much fighting to stay awake, very early nights and unnatural waking hours were contended with. However Tuesday I think we finally got on top of it. Now to sort out the messed up appetite…

Turns out Sydney was having a heat wave when we arrived so we headed for the Blue Mountains on Monday where it was about 10C cooler (still 36C though!). But not before being lucky enough to see wild roos munching grass in a field at the side of the road on Sunday!

The views were breathtaking. We had a picnic in a quiet local park before heading into the tourist attraction to ride the steep railway, skyway and cable car, as well as take a stroll around boardwalked sections of the rainforest below.

Pretty amazing stuff, all from a disused coal mine that was transformed into the tourist attraction that’s there today.

Tuesday was supposed to be hot again, so we headed to the coast to find cooler air. The boys both went in the sea, I did not. Unfortunately we ended up leaving a hot sunny area for an area that was overcast and incredibly breezy. It barely managed 22C, despite being over 30C back ‘home’. Oh well, my uncle has a pool so the boys jumped in there for the afternoon 😉

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Journey to the Other Side

So, three or so years ago I made the decision to emigrate with the children. I started saving up money and secured a job. Then, two years ago, just as I was going through the Visa process, and transferring my Midwifery registration over, there was a query about a hereditary health issue. The issue meant I would not get the permanent residence family visa that we needed, not with my existing health history as well. So, I had to turn down the job I had been offered.

Now I had around £8,000 in the bank which I’d saved to go towards funding the big move. It seemed only right to use the money for a once in a lifetime experience that included the country we had been planning to relocate to. Sixteen months ago I booked a cruise to do just that. The cruise sets sail in four days.

Where were we going to move to? New Zealand!

Now, I have family in Sydney, Australia, which is where the cruise happens to sail from, so we decided to arrive a week early and stay with them. I also tagged a week in Auckland, New Zealand onto the end of the cruise before we make the epic journey home. And epic it certainly was to get here:

To get to Sydney we began our journey from Cornwall, England, at 5am on Thursday 26th January (Sydney are 11 hours ahead, so that makes it 4pm down under). We boarded a coach that then took over six hours to get to Heathrow Airport. At Heathrow we had a nine hour wait for our first (!) flight departure. I had already prebooked a lounge for comfortable seating, electricity and food and drink.

Our first flight left Heathrow at 8.30pm that same day (7.30am on 27th January is Oz), arriving in Singapore nearly 13 hours later (9.20am GMT, 5.20pm local time, 8.20pm in Oz). Then followed an almost six hour wait for the 2nd flight. We were able to obtain transit vouchers which we exchanged for the transit lounge, which again had power, comfortable seats, food and drink and SHOWERS! We also explored a butterfly garden (although being the vening all the butterflies were fast asleep!), a Koi pond and the Pikachu Skytrain (monorail).

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The second flight was ‘just’ 8 hours long, landing in Sydney at 10.30am on Saturday 28th January, local time (11.30pm on 27th January back home). There we were met by my uncle and taken to our accommodation (their house 😉 ).

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It was a very long and very tiring journey. Not much sleep was had by any of us; aeroplane seats are incredibly uncomfortable. Also there were moments when I dreaded the neighbouring passengers. Flight one: just before we prepared for landing (descent had not yet begun) a small child in front of us started vomiting, clearly he was unwell – I am dreading that one of us may have caught his bug during the long flight. Flight two: stranger sat next to me spent the whole flight sniffing, coughing and wiping his nose on his sleeve – again I dread catching his cold. Thankfully we’re all still well – phew!

Magic Milestones!

My son was the one that had the special privilege of spending the night at the home of his very good friend. And a great time he had too!

Ordinary Hopes

We all worry about our children.

We worry that they will be unhappy or might not make friends or might struggle with all manner of things. Will they read at the “expected time” and to the “expected level”? Will they be able to “keep up” with the other children? Will they be “good enough” at school?

We all worry.

But when your beautiful child has a complex range of disabilities those worries really are in a whole new league.

One of my greatest wishes for my son is that he will have true friends.

It is a simple wish really but it has been a huge worry.

Because, whilst his wheelchair is obvious, what you don’t see from photos is his learning disabilities or social difficulties. Yet those differences can make a child stand out as being “different” just as much as the wheelchair does.

And sometimes those difficulties can…

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Are we OK, you and I, after you voted to destroy my dreams?

Andrew Reid Wildman, artist, photographer, writer, teacher

I feel like someone has taken something dear to me, my identity, my connection to my continent, and they have killed it. If you voted Leave, I hope you are prepared to take responsibility for what you have done, and that you do not regret it. It is over to you now, to sort out. Some friends view my reaction as an affront. That I am ‘dissing” them. It is not. It is just that you have killed something that was precious to me. You have created a country around me that I do not recognise, which feels broken and insular. That was your right to do that, you voted the way you thought was best. And you won and I lost. But in so doing you destroyed something. Many of you are now regretting your vote. Save your tears, I do not want to hear them lest I scream…

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Dry Run With Friends

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A weekend of dry weather and friends wanting to wild camp in their converted camper locally meant we jumped in, with our nowhere near ready set up, for a single night test run.

It differed from the planned adventure in July in several ways:

  • Our car is far from ready
  • We are far from having everything we need
  • We have a foster dog at the moment, as well as our dog
  • The weather is nowhere near as warm as we hope it will be
  • It was only one night, and was very local
  • So we had a lot less gubbins than we will have – but that’s fine because the storage isn’t quite sorted yet

Despite these differences there was much value in doing it. It helped to spot things that were or were not needed as well as any pitfalls from what we already had – for example the carabiners for the bags were not big enough to go on the handles above the doors as planned.

The dogs loved the space, the training leads were ideal for hooking them up to the load D rings in the car (neither has great recall at the moment!). We took the foster dog (Gilda) in the car overnight, and our friends took our dog (Indy) in their van. Gilda slept fine in the bed on the front passenger seat, and Indy slept fine in the bed in the living area of the van.

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The beds fit in beautifully, and both of us found them comfortable and spacious.

There is lots of space under my bed for storage, and I have ordered a couple of Really Useful Boxes to slide underneath. One for kitchen bits and food, and one for dog bits and food.

There should also be enough space on top the the boxes to slide our camping chairs and the ‘bog in a bag’.

 

 

There is a fair bit of space in all the footwells, apart from the driver’s seat, and I have also ordered Really Useful Boxes for each of them – one each for mine and my son’s clothes and the third for ‘bits and pieces’ such as wipes, towels, bog refills etc. There will be space on top of these for other things too.

The cubby holes along the roof will be used for underwear, toothbrushes, toiletries and tablets etc. The door pockets will hold the curtains, sunshades and anything else not already housed.

All in all it was a resounding success, and very reassuring in terms of feasibility. We really had loads of storage space. We’re hoping the weather will be kind, and allow us another test run before our friends set off on the road early next month.

 

Non Diet, Food Replacement?

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A cousin of mine shared something on social media last week. It was an article looking at a meal replacement drink. She, and her friends, were adamant that the author had merely failed to read the instructions properly, or not tried the right flavour. In any case, I had never heard of such a thing before.

I’ve seen, and tried, diet meal replacement shakes (for the flavour, not the dieting qualities I might add), and they’ve always been quite yummy. I sometimes find I don’t have time to eat properly at lunchtime as I’m so busy herding the children in my house (not all mine, I’m earning a living as a childminder presently), preparing their nutritious meals, refereeing disagreements, and ensuring the food is actually eaten. I thought I might try the product in question.

I went to their website and ordered a trial sachet of the flavour recommended by my cousin and her friends, after almost passing out at the prices. It came, and I vowed to wait until I had the time to prepare it carefully and properly, to give it the best chance on the trial run – did I mention the price?!

So, taking heed of the article and comments on my cousin’s post, I started to prepare my drink. Cold water, powder and then blend for 20 seconds. I have a Nutri Ninja IQ, so just used that to blend the mixture, then stuck a straw in it.

First impressions? Not disgusting, but not particularly nice either.

I pressed on, determined to give it a chance. It had a bit of a powdery texture to it, and a really strange taste.

Still I continued. By now I was getting a really horrible aftertaste in my mouth, tasting a bit like sweetener.

I gave up at this point. I couldn’t finish the drink. The aftertaste lingered, and I had to find some chocolate to try and mask it. Some two hours on, and I’m still tasting it. All in all I managed about 200ml.

The sample cost me £4.99, larger packs are, obviously, much more expensive. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be parting with anymore money on this one!

Prehistoric Bread

So far we’ve baked flat breads using the Neolithic (late stone age) and Iron Age heritage flours. The Bronze Age wheat had a failed harvest last year, so that flour won’t be available until the Autumn – we’ll revisit the prehistoric bread then.

To accompany the baking we had a Neolithic to Iron Age workshop at the local museum, and a Hunter Gatherer style foraging walk which included building a fire on the beach and cooking some flat breads on hot stones, together with the foraged plants, seaweed and molluscs.

We’ve certainly covered a lot of extended history around both eras, finding an in depth series of videos on YouTube that covered Neolithic to Iron Age origins from the fertile crescent across to Europe.

The baking surprised us all. There was so much flavour in the breads that were made with nothing more than flour and water. The heritage flours were also much thirstier than their modern counterpart, needing quite a bit more water to form a dough.

For the Neolithic bread, the thinner the better it seems. The thicker patties remained doughy inside, and not as tasty.

 

Slightly thicker breads were best with the Iron Age bread. Just thick enough to rise up a little when cooking, forming a pitta like pocket. Thinner ones were too crispy, and lacked the extra flavour, too thick was still doughy in the middle.

Both prehistoric breads were delicious dipped in houmous, which we realise is not authentic to the period 😛

The ‘recipe’ was just flour and enough water to make a dough.
Leave to stand for twenty minutes before kneading.
Divide into flat patties.
Leave to stand again.
Heat a heavy based frying pan, dry, with no oil or butter.
Cook the patties on each side until done.

For May we will look at Romans, we have our Romans workshop at the museum next week.

Proving in Progress

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The first flours have been ordered, a baking stone has been bought; the first workshop booked at the museum, and Neolithic baking day arranged.

We are jiggling the historical order around, due to a failed crop last year which means some flours will not be available until later in the year.

The first workshop looks at Stone Age to Iron Age, which covers three of the eras we will bake for.

So far, the Neolithic, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon flours are here, and the Roman flour is on order. The Bronze Age is one of the flours out of stock.

The first baking day is at the end of the month and I have been unable to find an actual recipe for the Neolithic bread, so before baking day I will be experimenting with flour:water ratios and baking methods/temperatures… I’m sure success will be very mixed!

En Route to…

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This summer, I am ‘planning’ a road trip in France with youngest boy (biggest boy has asked to be excused, and will instead spend the time with his Grandad). I use the term ‘planning’ loosely, as, for the first time, this trip will not be minutely ordered with check points or an itinery. We know we will cross Plymouth to Roscoff, and we know we will spend just a couple of nights in each location, beyond that we will go where the wind, beauty and urge take us.

We are taking our family car, a Ford Galaxy, and a tent. The tent won’t be used for single night stops, we will just sleep in the car. The car has a glass roof (to see the stars) so there will be no roofbox, and also no trailer. We will have to pack light… Very light! We might also take the family dog, if she can get over her travel sickness before June!

I have pre ordered a new Outwell Polycotton Air Tent (for cool in the hot (!) sun, and ease of erecting/striking over and over on my own), and today we spent much time outside two camping shops trying out combinations of camp beds and Self Inflating Mats (SIMs) to see what the best configuration was that would fit in the car.  We eventually went for a Outwell Posidas single camp bed, with lots of space underneath for storing essential gubbins, and a double layer of 3cm Outwell SIMs for littlest boy.

It’s starting to become a little scary when I think about how little space we will have for gubbins. We have large door pockets, cubby holes all over the place, and a central bank of boxes in the roof of the car (with glass windows either side). There will also be the footwells, and under the Posidas. That is it. Everything we take will need to fit in that. EVERYTHING.

There’s a dog crate, if the dog comes, which will go on the front passenger seat when we’re sleeping in the car. The tent, which will have to go in a footwell, under the bed, or on the driver’s seat. Clothes/towels etc. Toiletries (I predict these will end up in the boxes in the roof). Road maps and campsite directories. Cooking stuff, including the Cobb BBQ which I will make space for, somewhere – I expect we’ll take a Really Useful Box, at least one, to store cooking equipment and food in, this can be left outside if needs be.

Once the tent arrives in mid March, I can have a go at cramming everything in, with the beds in situ. I don’t do packing light. Fitting everything in is going to be the biggest challenge for this trip!

A Slice of History Project

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Having our interest sparked by the recent BBC series Victorian Bakers, we decided to look into sourcing some historical Victorian flour, with the view to trying our own Victorian bread and comparing to modern loaves. The series explains that flour back then was more nutritious and flavoursome, and behaved in a slightly different way to modern flours. This was probably just as well since bread made up most of the diet of the working classes.

On hunting for Victorian flours, I stumbled across an amazing website that sells flours from all sorts of periods in history, going way back to Neolithic times. There was born our new Home Education project!

We have made a list of eras which we have found historical flours for, ordered some historical baking/dining books and signed up for a introductory course in Artisan bread baking (I am no bread baker, I have a bread maker, which is used from time to time, but for this activity hands, and some basic knowledge, will be required!).

The plan is to work our way through the eras, month by month, making a loaf as traditionally as we can in a modern kitchen. Exploring what factors influenced the flour, bread and diet of the time, and comparing to modern breads and other periods.

We have ten time periods, including modern, some of which have different varieties of flour, for instance a peasant and standard. I hazard it will take us about a year to get through it all.

There are lots of local Home Ed families that are keen to get involved too, so a monthly baking session at our house is on the cards. I have also contacted our local museum to see if they can run a monthly workshop for us, covering that month’s era before baking day.

Rest assured, each experiment in bread making will be blogged!

Much thanks to Annie Gray, co-presenter of the series, for her tips, pointers and suggestions of suitable books!

Neolithic bread making, coming to a blog near you soon 😉

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