Monday, 16 July 2012

Starry soup!

Insulated mugs are on the list for our soup picnics!
Before checking out from the Dubbo cabin, Nick had filled our two Stanley food thermoses with home-made soup.

It had been pleasantly warm sitting in the sun for our picnic lunch at the zoo, so we elected to save the soup for later.  We reached the Singleton East Rest Area around 6:30am that evening.  Although it was quite early the sky was already dark and it felt much later.  We weren't hugely hungry but were definitely in need of a break from the driving, so deemed it time for soup under the stars!   There were picnic tables available but we elected to park Elmer beneath one of the light-poles, so we could actually see our soup.

Not surprisingly Vaughan considered it too cold to stand outside, so he stayed in his seat instead.  The rest of us admired the clear night, very glad of our thermal underwear!

Swanning around town?!

Dunedoo has several parks.  We usually stop at a fenced one, where there are picnic tables and a children's playground (with public toilets close by) - which means we hadn't ever had a close look at these neat bird sculptures.

The artist was David Sherlock.  He lives nearby and exhibited at Ironfest several times!

Vaughan was initially miffed at missing some time in the playground but he cheered up and was happy to pose with some of the sculptures for me.

I particularly wanted to photograph the barn owl because we had watched "Legend of the Guardians:  the Owls of Ga'hoole" repeatedly while at Dubbo!

The name Dunedoo is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning swan - which would explain the various swan motifs/references around town!

All good things ...

Our original plan was to depart the Zoo directly after our giraffe feeding but Erin decided against attending her Monday night TAFE class, which meant we all enjoyed a few bonus hours.  It was very pleasant sitting in the sun eating our picnic lunch.  No-one was keen to leave - even though we'd already stayed longer than expected!
It was around 3:00pm when we started along the Golden Highway and all was very pretty in the golden afternoon light!

We stopped not far out of town, so Nick could top-up some of Elmer's fluids - and then we were on the road again.

Dunedoo (approx 90km east of Dubbo) was our next stop.

Carrot Value!

We highly recommend feeding the giraffes!
Our first two days at the zoo corresponded with the last weekend of the NSW school holidays, which meant there were many visitors - and the line-up for the giraffe feeding was huge.

We therefore decided to feed the giraffes on our last morning, as our zoo finale.  The cost is a mere $5.00 per person, which makes it the cheapest animal encounter on offer.  We know from experience that it is hugely entertaining, so Vaughan was keen to be the absolute first person in line - hence we lined up about 30 minutes before anyone else. Our boy was first out onto the feeding area though and that made him very, very happy!

Pot Luck Dinner! (13-16 July)

Stir-fry Chicken with Cashews
I always check the cooking facilities of our accommodation, so that I can menu plan accordingly.  I knew our Dubbo cabin would have a microwave and hotplates - and I presumed some basic cooking equipment, which was true.

The cabin was rated for a maximum occupancy of four.  It seemed from the available saucepans that the four were expected to have small appetites - or survive on takeaway, perhaps?!  I had planned a stirfry but neither the frypan nor the two saucepans were large enough to hold all our ingredients, so I cooked in two parts - then combined both with hokkien noodles in a large plastic container we had brought with us.  It wasn't elegant but all were quite appreciative of our pot luck dinner - even Vaughan!

Trolley tray-ed off (13-16 July)!

Erin enjoying hot chocolate in the sunshine ...
Taronga Western Plains Zoo (at Dubbo) is "... an open-range zoo, where animals are located across wide open spaces." 

Visitors can walk, bike, cart or drive around a 6km one-way circuit, stopping along the way to look at exhibits.  The electric carts looked fun but we elected to save the hire fee and drive around in Elmer Fudd (putting the heater on when necessary)!  There are several picnic/BBQ areas throughout the grounds.  Even so,  on the first day we elected to use Elmer's back tray for our food prep area - because he was parked in the sun, and the picnic tables weren't!

What was on the menu?  We enjoyed a choice of corned beef or meatloaf sandwiches with either roasted vegetable chutney or onion confit (as mentioned here).  Our standard beverages (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) were available, as were some home-baked choc-chip or wholemeal date muffins.  Fruit and cold water are standard options.  Obviously, there is never any danger of starving!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dubbo Dallying

We checked in around 7:30pm on Friday night
Given Nick had worked most of the July school holidays, we decided to take advantage of his few days off just before the start of term.  Time was tight as Nick had to work on Friday morning - and was due back for another shift on Tuesday.

Due to those time constraints, we decided against camping and instead booked a studio cabin at Dubbo City Caravan Park (via a discount accommodation site).  The cabin was a bit bigger than our tent - and had air conditioning, which was very much appreciated when the temperature dropped considerably overnight! 

As usual, it was a budget trip.  I had done much food preparation before departure and we traveled with one of our Engels running as a freezer, full of our weekend provisions.  Before checking in we made a brief supermarket stop to purchase ice-cream.  It was just as well we had the Engel, the freezer compartment of the small cabin fridge was almost completely iced over!

It had been three years since our last Dubbo experience and we were all looking forward to spending several days at the Zoo (again, courtesy of our annual ZooFriends passes).  Prior to collecting Nick, we had visited one of our local libraries - viewing a school holiday science show and borrowing some books and DVDs to bring away with us.  Erin and Vaughan were in charge of DVD selection and choose two of the Lion King movies, in keeping with our zoo theme!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Trolley Tucker

Trolley and turkey (in the garden)!
I thought I would share our picnic trolley with you.  Obviously, it's no glamour - but it's been well-used over the past 12 years or so since I inherited it.

When Nick and I first met, in 2003, he installed some "4WD wheels" for me.  Once the higher wheels were in place (great for rougher terrain) the stands then needed extending, so some dowel covered in garden hose was used.  Quite recently, the handle has been covered with foam plumbing insulation, which is far more comfortable (and less sticky) than the many layers of sticky tape previously used to pad the thin metal!

Sadly, the foam has split a little so I am pondering ways of prettying it up.  In truth, the whole trolley could use a serious makeover - though I guess that is true of the trolley-toter also!  However, as the saying goes, true beauty lies within ...

Usually the bottom half of the trolley is taken up with a soft-side esky/cooler bag that fits snugly.  I made a carrry-bag that sits on top of the cooler bag.  It holds cups, plates, a matching cutlery roll and various other bits.  There are handles so the bag can be lifted easily to get to the cold items underneath.

Well, that is how we usually roll (!) but given it is winter, there was less need for cool drinks etc so I varied the format for our most recent excursion.  (During the July school holidays, we enjoyed a day at Taronga Zoo, courtesy of our annual ZooFriends passes). 

As an experiment, I found that our beverage suitcase, a smaller (wine) cooler bag and large thermos fit in the bottom half of the trolley.  The carry-bag sat on top with all the usual paraphernalia - and a food thermos filled with very tasty home-made pumpkin soup, which was heartily enjoyed when lunchtime wheeled (hah!) around.

There were a few overflow items - home-made cheese and bacon scrolls as well as morning tea muffins.  Nick carried these in his backpack but only till lunchtime! We shared this picnic table with another family group.  They were quite envious of our tea/coffee/hot chocolate options after lunch!

I make an instant hot chocolate mix and pack it, pre-measured, in small, ziplock bags.  The bag is emptied into one of our insulated cups and hot water added, as well as a splash of milk - often two marshmallows are floated on top!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Slice and ice ...

Sadly all the shots with the food handle are blurry!
One of the reasons I particularly wanted to cook corned beef last night was because we bought an Aldi food slicer yesterday!

We are very happy with our other Aldi products and expect this purchase will be just as good.

I was a little hesitant to turn it on but Nick took over that part of the operation and had very soon sliced the whole piece of corned beef.  (I had put it in the thermal cooker at 10pm last night and it was still quite hot when I pulled it out at 9am this morning). 

5mm uniform slices, thanks to our new gadget!
There are now two plastic containers of corned beef in the freezer. The small amount leftover has been sampled and pronounced "good"!

Today's mission is well underway - onion confit and a roasted tomato, capsicum/chilli relish.

It is fair to say Vaughan is skeptical of my condiment production- wandering about, holding his nose and complaining of the smell - but he has very little appreciation of true deliciousness!

Corned Beef (Thermal Cooked)

Corned beef sandwiches are on the menu plan!
We are planning a few days away (staying in a budget cabin) and I am busy preparing various items to take with us. 

As a child, my favourite cold meat was corned beef - thinly sliced from a shop!  I wasn't a big fan of the home-cooked variety, though over the years my taste has changed.

I always made corned beef in my slow cooker - until I bought a thermal cooker.  The preparation is similar but I much prefer the end result.  Even when left overnight in the thermal cooker, the meat is perfectly cooked but still intact the next morning (as opposed to disintegrating when done in the slow cooker). 

Roothy demonstrates the thermal cooking method in this YouTube clip.  My additions are similar to his - about 12 peppercorns and 8 whole cloves but I included powdered ginger (a generous heaped teaspoon), 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  For the first time ever, I also used a small amount (a scant half teaspoon) of allspice.  Hopefully it will be a good thing!

Although I meant to chop an onion, I was side-tracked by other missions so threw about a teaspoon of dried onion in at the last minute.  (I have tried garlic a few times but wasn't all that keen).

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

When the price is right!

Restoration in progress!
As bargains go, they don't get much better than this!  I am grinning hugely, definitely a happy camper tonight!

I won an eBay auction for these plug-in hotplates, purchased new but never used.  They had been (poorly) stored in someone's garage.  When we collected them the cardboard protection was still on the temperature knobs - as was the plastic tri-pin cover on the electric plug.

As you can see, there is some surface rust.  Nick spent a few minutes lightly scrubbing with steel wool though and most of the rust lifted easily.  Both plates have now been done and he will finish off with some specific hotplate cleaner/blacking agent.

How much did I pay?  One dollar!  I said they were a bargain!  The seller was happy to leave them by his letterbox for me to collect - and just asked that I deposit payment "in the mail"!

We were very impressed with similar hotplates at our Lithgow cabin and had talked of buying some for those camping trips when we stay at powered sites.  They weren't a high priority on the budget though and I wasn't actually looking when I spotted these on eBay - but am very glad to have saved at least $50!