Monday, 20 August 2012

Roadside cheffing

We left the Zoo at around 4pm and stopped a little way out of Dubbo at a truck rest area.  We had picked up a few grocery items in Coonabarabran and I used them with some of our existing supplies to put together a red lentil and chorizo soup/stew for the thermal cooker.

Although we made several stops on the way, we didn't eat the soupy stew till around 11pm when we  finally were home again.  It was very much appreciated with several pieces of flat bread (also purchased at Coonabarabran)!

Zoo-ming around!

We arrived at Western Plains Zoo a little after 1pm.  There was a large parking area to leave the trailer and we started the one-way circuit soon after.  Vaughan was keen to run beside Elmer most of the way, which was a good opportunity for him to burn off some excess energy!

It hadn't been that long since our last visit but the benefit of our annual ZooFriends passes is that we can enter either Taronga or Western Plains as often as we like during the year - and there is always something different happening, regardless of how many times we go.

Gander at Gilgandra!

I'm sorry I didn't take any photos of the Gilgandra Visitor Information Centre (aka Coo-ee Heritage Centre).  We stopped in briefly en route to Dubbo.  There was an extensive permanent display in the attached gallery - and a temporary exhibition of work by metal artist David Sherlock, who created the bird sculptures at Dunedoo.  As we enjoyed his works, realisation dawned - he was the creator of our brilliant fire poker, purchased as a souvenir of our first Ironfest visit!

It's not over!

Vaughan's first packing job was interlocking the strips from the camping mats.  As the morning got warmer, he was happy to help with other missions, further away from the fire!

After breakfast, Nick and I worked steadily.  We had started packing the night before but even so there was quite a lot to do.  At least the cold prompted constant movement!  As a result of our consistent efforts, we were fully packed and ready for departure at around 10am.  As much as we had enjoyed our Warrumbungle wanders, a decision had been made earlier in the week to detour via Dubbo Zoo on the return journey, so we still felt there was more holiday to come!

-4 degrees!

When zoomed it reads -6.5 degrees!
When Nick first got up (around 5:30am) the temperature was -4 degrees!  Vaughan and I looked at each other and repeated -4 degrees loudly, a number of times - then snuggled further under the blankets!

Nick stayed up to light the fire and when he came back inside the tent, he brought the camera to verify that the temperature had dropped still further.  I didn't think my eyes were working properly so cleaned my glasses and looked again.  The thermometer read -6 degrees!!

As much as I wanted to stay in bed, I needed to get up so put on my snow jacket atop my other layers.  We huddled around the fire for breakfast and then continued with the packing afterward. 

That is, Nick and I continued with the packing and Vaughan stayed by the fire - assisting with missions that didn't require moving from the warmth!

Our shorts-wearing neighbour had headed home a few days prior but I wondered whether he would have still worn shorts that morning!

Swan song!

Wheely good lunch!
I had insisted on lugging our picnic trolley all the way from home to the Warrumbungle National Park, with visions of having "a little something" atop the Whitegum Lookout.

As that plan had fallen by the wayside, I chose a picnic spot a little way from one of the zoo carparks - to justify using the trolley!  We enjoyed lunch near the Siamang Ape island, which is one of our favourite exhibits.  The small family were snuggling together and it was interesting to see how much the baby had grown since our last visit.

Vaughan often befriends black swans
As soon as we arrived at the picnic area, this swan made his way out of the water and over to us.

There was huge amusement as h/she deliberately pecked fingers before taking any offered tidbits! While Nick and I were looking at the Apes, Vaughan and the swan shared most of a packet of (cheap!) wafer biscuits.  When we turned round, Vaughan was offering up my shortbread also but I decided he and the swan had eaten more than enough of our "sometimes food"!  (The swan was not at all pleased by my decision and hissed loudly when shooed away)!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pizza Pizzaz!

Last Christams Santa delivered a pizza stone and rather neat smiley face cutting wheel.

We had already been making our own pizza dough for about 12 months prior to that delivery - and consider our efforts far superior to those of the local chain operators. The dough recipe I use is actually from one of my camp cooking books, Australian Bush Cooking - and we thought we should finally attempt to make pizza in the camp oven.  We hadn't been camping for a while and a few improvisations were necessary.  I had neglected to bring a mixing bowl, so mixed the dough on a plastic bag atop the table.  As you can see, the olive oil spray can made a fine rolling pin - and one of our enamel plates was put into service as a "pizza pan"!

It was a very successful experiment - Vaughan declared the end result even better than those we make at home, which is high praise indeed! (The added benefit of camp oven pizza is that we don't set off the smoke alarm)!

Shower Power

I showered while Nick tackled most of the dishes
I am not one for faffing about with hair-dryers and the like, so when I originally spotted a power point in the shower block I didn't think it was all that useful.

As the shower cubicles were somewhat open to the elements, we generally used them in the late afternoon before the temperature cooled too much.  We were fairly busy on our last day though, so took our shower gear over to the amenities block at the same time as taking the tub of dishes.  It had occurred to me during the day that we could take our fan heaters too!  Given the openess of the cubicle (and shower block generally), my small heater had little impact overall but it did help my toes thaw out after their contact with the stainless steel floor - and there was some psychological benefit, I'm sure!

You might note the instructions for showering in the pic above.  It did feel a bit space-age to turn the water on by sensor, which caused a fair amount of amusement!  Being blasted with cold water (when the previous occupant had NOT turned off the taps at the end of their shower) was far less amusing!

Camp Comforts

Dishwashing duty - team one!
We don't generally stay in organised camping grounds but one feature they have in common is a "camp kitchen".  The comfort level varies but even at their most basic, these communal kitchens have a sink.

It is much easier to wash dishes at a sink with running water - so at these campgrounds we tend to use our white wash-up tub to collect all our dirty plates etc.  When the tub is full we cart it off to the camp kitchen, rather than attempt to do the dishes at our campsite.  As it was cold and dark by the time we wanted to wash up on our last evening, we drove over to the amenities block  - and took our heaters!

Try, try again ...

Look!  Our 50c hotplates in operation!
Given the success of my overnight camp oven creamed rice cooking experiment at home, I tried a variation on the method in our larger camp oven.

I halved my usual recipe and put the mixture into a pudding bowl with lid - and then into our larger camp oven.  It barely fit into the provided fireplace though and we weren't able to completely cover it with coals - that fact combined with the very cold overnight temperatures meant the rice was still uncooked in the morning.  I was somewhat disappointed but decided to make another attempt, using the thermal cooker.

As the rice was already in the pudding bowl, I tried the method of thermal-cooking puddings.  There didn't seem much action by lunchtime, though I may have been too impatient.  In any case, I consulted my selection of printed thermal-cooker recipes and used the recommended method of cooking the creamed rice in the top pot.  It worked brilliantly, so Nick and I enjoyed it for dessert with tinned peaches, after our excellent camp oven pizzas!  (Definitely a case of third time lucky)!

Slippery thieves?!

When we returned to camp from our hillside walk, I spotted the olive oil spread container down by the firewood, quite a way from the table where it was (unintentionally) left.

I asked Vaughan what he had been doing with it and he claimed innocence, which was soon verified by the many peck-marks at the bottom on the container! I'm sorry I missed seeing the bird(s) that carried it off!  Our money is on the White-winged Choughs, related to the Apostle Birds but definitely the boss-gang of all our bird visitors.

We were visited by various birds during our stay.  As well as the spread, they raided our bread - and anything left unattended!  The usual "suspects" were Apostle Birds, Currawongs and the White-winged Choughs but Kookaburras kept an eye on us too, though preferred their bread and spread together - preferably with cold meat in between!

High on the hill ...

The black dot is me - our camp is on the far edge
There were several fire trails leading from the campsite in different directions.  During the week we had often looked across to a hill and occasionally saw other campers making their way upward. 

We decided to do the same after lunch on our last day.  I am not wonderful with heights, so elected to stop about half-way up.  I made a pillow of my jumper and dozed pleasantly in the sunshine while Nick and Vaughan climbed almost to the top.  My dozing was interrupted by their victory calls on the walk back down!

Whitegum Lookout

It was a beautiful walk ...
When I read the blurb about Whitegum Lookout I was taken with the idea of sitting overlooking the Warrumbungles, sipping my tea and nibbling a biscuit.

So strong was my desire to enjoy "a little something" from atop the lookout that I insisted we pack (ie. cart from home to the Warrumbungles) our trusty trolley for transporting thermos and morning/afternoon tea provisions from the carpark to the lookout!  Sadly my beautiful plan didn't pan out the way I wanted.  Our trolley stayed at camp, along with our beverage case and thermos.  It was probably for the best.  As soon as we arrived at the top, Vaughan wanted to return to the bottom - but that's life and the view was gorgeous regardless!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Duty Calls ...

Nick and I were siting out by the fire star-gazing and heard the more-poke/boo-book call of the Southern Boobook Owl.  (The link has a sound file).  As we listened it became clear that there were two owls calling.  At first they sounded close to each other and then one flew closer to us while the other still called. Our one echoed back with less and less enthusiasm till it sounded very much like a disgruntled beard-mumbling duty response - too funny!

Pilliga Pottery

We picnicked but there is a cafe on-site
Pilliga Pottery had also been recommended to us, so we visited after exploring the Sandstone Caves.

We were a bit dubious, in spite of the rave review but spent several happy hours at this huge place out in the sticks!  Once inside, we sat chatting to Julie as she worked at the wheel, creating a custom set of coffee mugs.  Vaughan's attention was held for quite some time - to the extent that he grinned and complimented "you are a very good maker of pots"!  He wandered off to play with a pair of lambs, later saying fond farewells to them when it was time to head back to camp.

Definitely visit if you get the chance - and go to the bathroom, too (even if you don't need to"go")!

Yaama! Sandstone Caves

The Sandstone Caves had been recommended to us by the National Parks ranger at the Warrumbungle Visitor Centre, the day after our arrival - and we were very glad that we listened to her advice. 

The scope of the caves was far greater than I had imagined.  A 1.7km track circled the large sandstone hilltop and there were caves all around, of varying sizes - smaller caves at the start of the walk and then much larger on the side.

Two caves had been caged off to prevent further damage to the rock art and grinding grooves within - and we assumed the lack of facilities was to discourage similar vandalism.

There were many small birds in the area, so we stood to listen to their calls and observe their activity.  As we watched, some of them darted into small holes in the sandstone, confirming our theory that something lived in there! 

Coonabarabran Visitor Centre

In my research of the Warrumbungles and  surrounding area, I learned that the Coonabarabran Visitor Centre had a free diprotodon exhibition. 

We had recently seen a diprotodon model at the Australian Museum, so were keen to see a real skeleton!  
I was surprised by the quality and size of the Visitor Centre's exhibit. It surpassed any of my vague expectations!

Although the diprotodon skeleton and static displays were the main focus, there were other smaller exhibits - including a massive petrified wood log!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Yuluwirri Rainbow Story

Hopefully you can read the story here
The sculptures were installed at different points on the ridgeway of Dandry Gorge. 

We followed a bushwalk to see them, and then descended into the gorge and along a creek-bed to loop back to the starting point (near the picnic area).

The differences in country along the way were very interesting - and we enjoyed reading various interpretative signs also.  One of our favourites told the story of Yuluwirri - how the brown tree creeper wooed the willy wagtail by creating a beautiful rainbow.

We finished the full walk just as very dark clouds rolled in and it rained on the way back to Coonabarabran, so we spotted a yuluwirri of our own!

Sculptures in the Scrub

I forget where I first saw the Sculptures in the Scrub documentary - but I do remember I definitely wanted to go and see them!  It took a "while" but I am so very, very glad we went! 

My favourite installation from the documentary was this pair of axes and it was my favourite in real-life too - closely followed by the starry sandstone piece.

The original four sculptures were installed in October 2010.  A fifth sculpture was installed earlier this year, on Mother's Day. The National Parks ranger at Baradine was the project manager for the latest mosaic pieces. Seemingly interpretative signage is to come as the various emblems are linked to some of the traditional local stories.

Pilliga Picnic ...

There is a camping ground adjacent the picnic area
Given our original itinerary was somewhat ambitious, we took the advice of the National Parks ranger and scaled back the day's outing.

We picked up some picnic provisions from the Baradine IGA and then headed out of town to the Sculptures in the Scrub.

Upon arrival, the picnic area was lovely - like new - and Nick set up our fuel stove to boil the billy while I used the free BBQ to sizzle our sausages.  Although sunny and clear the wind was very strong, so we chased after our plastic plates and other items a few times! 

We had bought stamps at Baradine Post Office and chatted to the postal worker for a little while.  She had recommended the Coonabarabran bread sold at the IGA (the Baradine Bakery had closed down about 10 years prior to our visit!) - and she was right.  Of course, the last of my roasted tomato/capsicum chilli relish also added greatly to our sausage sangas!

Nick had boiled extra water to clean the BBQ plate but as we were eating, two National Parks rangers pulled up (from Narrabri - 100km away) to clean the BBQs and check on the loo etc. 

Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre

The Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre is located in the main street of Baradine - and was hard to miss!  It was a lovely building with two recycled metal emu sculptures near the entrance.  Inside were many interactive displays and we browsed for a while before chatting with the National Parks ranger on duty, to check our planned itinerary.

There is a National Parks office across the highway from home.  It is a new building with various metal structures along the pathway leading to the front door.  I watched it being built and kept meaning to visit, thinking for sure that all the effort would have resulted in a visitor centre with informative displays etc.  I was quite disappointed when I finally called in.  The front door leads into a small foyer/reception area with a glass window, through which you can speak with the staff.  There are a couple of brochures and not much else!


The lamb baa-ed back, cos we sounded so sheepish!
After breakfast we thawed out a bit more and then took a tub of washing up over to the camp kitchen.  Vaughan rode his bike over and was happily engaged stalking emus and a feral cat, while Nick and I dealt with the dishes.

Once a few more of the mundane tasks were done, we headed out the Baradine side of the Warrumbungles -  where Nick and Vaughan had been the previous afternoon on their search for fire-wood.  The difference in countryside was marked.  It was a beautiful drive along a dirt road and I was too busy enjoying the scenery to take photos!

Vaughan asked questions about the stock grids, so we stopped at one to show him what they looked like, up close.  We could hear a lamb and it responded when we called.  Before long, we spotted it - seemingly alone by the fence with no mother in sight.  We weren't sure if this was normal behaviour for sheep, so visited the nearest farm house to alert them to the lone lamb.  No-one was home though, so we pressed on to Baradine and hoped that all was under control.

C - O - L - D ! ! !

Our camping neighbour still wore shorts and t-shirt!
Vaughan's latest expression was used a lot while away (and with feeling).  O-d-d is a wonderful response for a whole range of situations!

The world was a bit o-d-d when we surfaced on our second morning - and definitely c-o-l-d!!  There was ice on the ground, the trailer, our bike seats, Vaughan's bike helmet - just everywhere.  We were highly amused by our dragon breath and chortled at all the icy evidence we found.  The metal bottle had been left out overnight with several centimetres of milk remaining, which had frozen solid during the night!  Even funnier was my teapot half-full of leftover tea slushie!!

At that stage we hadn't located our thermometer but later learned the temperature had been -3 degrees!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fun at the Sun!

The Solar System Drive "Sun" is located at Siding Spring Observatory.  As we arrived later in the afternoon, we visited the telescope first (because the doors are locked at 4:00pm sharp).

Vaughan was super-impressed by the "massive telescope" and has mentioned it a number of times since returning home.
Given the faded signage at the entrance to the visitor centre and Explanatory, I wasn't sure what to expect but paid the family price of $13.50 and we ventured into the astronomy exhibit area.

We were pleasantly surprised by the high calibre of the activities and the three of us had lots of fun! 

Spaced Out!

"Strap on your seatbelts and launch into Coonabarabran, The Astronomy Capital of Australia. Experience a scaled model of our Solar System that's 38 million times smaller than outer space!"

We went for a drive after lunch - through the solar system!

Read here for details.

On our various trips along the Golden Highway, we have often admired Pluto (at Merriwa) and had stopped at some of the other planets on our way out to the Warrumbungles.  There were four planets located only a short drive from our campsite, so we set off in search of Earth (!), Venus, Mercury - and called in on Mars later in the afternoon, after spending some time at the Sun!

School's in - but out!

There was lots to look at in the Visitor Centre!
Vaughan and I have been "doing school" at home since mid-February.  This arrangement was formalised in May, so our lessons are now overseen by Sydney Distance Education Primary School.

We met Vaughan's teacher in July, who OK-ed us for camping and other adventures when Nick's work allows. Our Warrumbungle National Park trip was the first time we had tested the endorsement though and I wasn't entirely sure how everything should work.  Vaughan and I did our usual school activities the first morning (sitting by the fire with kangaroos grazing nearby and various birds flitting past or scavenging near us).

We packed up at recess and then we all spent quite an extended period exploring the many static displays at the Warrumbungle Visitor Centre.

Cold Comfort!

Although our bed was wonderfully warm overnight, comfort levels were at an all-time low (hah!) due to our air mattress deflating - several times!

It is worth noting that Vaughan's bed was fine as he hadn't stood on it, only ours!

We knew it had been cold outside - Nick had turned on one of our fan heaters during the night - but even so, we certainly didn't expect to see a thin layer of ice on Elmer and the gazebo!  Lighting the fire was our first mission of the day (while marveling at one of our neighbours clad only in shorts and a t-shirt) - and then we read the nearby signage for Camp Blackman, to get our bearings.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Layer upon layer!

I was determined not to be cold!
Once I had the floor done, Nick brought in our beds so that I could make them also.

You might be able to see in the pic below that Vaughan's bed has a (green) fleece cover over the air mattress, which then slides into the cover that joins it to bed legs.

The fleece cover works well to cut some of the cold from the plastic mattress but I still haven't made one for our larger bed - so improvise a little differently.  I took a piece of fleece and lay that over the bed, followed by a mattress protector, woolen blanket and wool underblanket.  (Yes, it's very much like the Princess and the Pea fairytale)! 

We expected cold nights!
The silver layer you can see in the smaller pic above was marketed as a non-powered alternative to an electric blanket.

It is the same material as an emergency blanket, with a thin foam backing.  I am not convinced it entirely lives up to it's spiel but included it just in case!

Our bed's final layers were good-quality flannelette sheets and two king-sized woolen doonas. Vaughan's bed had the inner mattress cover, a quilted fabric layer, mattress protector and length of rubber-backed curtain material under his bottom sheet.  He had two wool blankets, a doubled polar fleece blanket and sleeping bag on top - and his usual stuffed toy collection for added warmth!

Another first was hot water bottles, specially purchased for the trip.  I re-used their water each night and was super-impressed with how cosy our beds were!


Our last camping trip was to Lightning Ridge
Our departure from home had been far more leisurely than our usual set-off times - but given we had been so daunted by the packing, we were pleased to be on the road at all, regardless of the later start!

It had been a lovely day for traveling and we took time to enjoy seeing some different countryside before finally arriving at our campground in the early evening.  Vaughan was given the important task of fire lighting, while Nick and I worked to set up camp.  I had vague thoughts of cooking as well but soon gave up on that idea and we snacked on leftover BirthdayBelle cheese instead!

This was the first time we thought to put mats inside!
We have camped previously in winter, so had a few plans to make our Warrumbungle experience more comfortable.  While Nick worked outside, setting up our beds, I laid foam camping mats in our sleeping area - and put a layer of industrial felt over the top.

Although we are used to camping in the forest without power, we choose a powered site for convenience this trip - but heaters alone don't have a lot of impact against the cold in a mesh-top tent, hence the need for insulation (and lots of it)!

Would wood?!

As usual, we had researched our destination in the lead-up to departure. 

There were fireplaces at the campground but no wood collection within the National Park.  Nick had packed the chainsaw, so when we spotted this deadfall beside the road, we stopped to take advantage of free firewood!

Some reshuffling was needed to make space for our collection but the effort was worth at least $20-30 (many farmers along the road into the Warrumbungles sold bags of firewood for $10-15 each).  Nick had cut the logs fairly long with thoughts of cutting again once at camp.  However there was a notice stating that use of chainsaws within the park would incur a (hefty) fine, so we used the wood as it was!

We spoke to the ranger the day after arrival and seemingly collection of roadside wood within the Warrumbungle Shire was also forbidden, so Nick and Vaughan went out on another occasion to see what they could find in the nearby Gilgandra council area (saving another $30-40).  It was an interesting learning experience.  We often camp in the Watagans where firewood is easily collected and plentiful as our preferred camping area is within the State Forestry boundaries.

Beyond the Black Stump!

The first part of our journey to Warrumbungle National Park seemed quite familiar as we were again traveling along the Golden Highway. 

We turned right a bit past Cassilis though and headed North(ish) "beyond the Black Stump" - literally!

As rest areas go, the one at the Black Stump was a bit flash. 

There were two separated undercover picnic table areas (each with a "private" BBQ), the usual toilets - and a large Mother's Room!

We had already lunched at Merriwa but have noted the Black Stump facilities for a longer stop on another occasion.

"Are we there yet?!"

It is 444km from home to the Warrumbungle National Park.  What a neat number, eh?!

444 was easily divided into halves and quarters - when we reached those distances in real-life, Vaughan moved "Elmer" along the corresponding string markers.

The original idea was here where there are some free printable cars to colour and print.  I thought it made more sense to have our car though, so printed a photo of Elmer and cut that out.  I did like the idea using a fully loaded Elmer with attached trailer but decided that would take up too much space on the string!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

I spy - treasure bottles!

Vaughan and I made these "treasure bottles" in 2008.  It was cheap entertainment - recycled bottles filled with all kinds of oddments that we found around the house. 

I can remember finding leftover earrings/beads for weeks afterward, caught in the folds of our camping chairs!

I photographed the contents and made up a double-sided card for each bottle, which I then laminated for durability.  They are still going strong! 

The bottles are quite well-traveled as they have come away with us on a number of long trips.  (One of Vaughan's lizard bags is just the right size to hold both bottles and cards - with room in the pocket for a couple of whiteboard markers, to tick off found items).

Road Reading Write-up!

No, it didn't bore him to sleep!
I can remember staying up far, far too late the night before our Lightning Ridge departure last year - scouring the net for non-electronic travel games and entertainment.

I found some great (free!) resources and wrote a short post here.

We are planning another adventure and as much as I should be packing I am feeling somewhat daunted by all that needs to be done, hence I am again surfing the net for a few more good ideas to keep our Young Master entertained during the 444km trip!

This neat freebie is something I have printed off and will keep in my trusty display book (which generally holds the current camping menu plan, my address list and an abbreviated budget print-off - among other things).

In the pic above you can see Vaughan's travel display book, which held some printed games, word searches and so on.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Parked in Paradise!

Vaughan enjoyed climbing some of the rocks
It's not everyone who can say they went to Paradise for their birthday - and who would have thought you would get there via Murrurundi?!

The "Eye of the Needle" bushwalk starts not far from where Elmer was parked.  The sign stated that a reasonable level of fitness and agility was needed but didn't give distances, only an estimated 1.5 hour duration.  As it was late in the day, we didn't attempt to verify the sign's accuracy!  I have done a little research though and think it would be a pleasant diversion on another occasion, praps as a breakfast/rest stop enroute to another adventure.

Burning Mountain Birthday Bliss!

200km from home but well worth the drive ...
We had intended to visit Burning Mountain en route to Lightning Ridge last year.  From memory we had tagged it for a breakfast stop but somehow missed the turn-off, so carried on to Blandford instead.

In any case, a visit has been on our to-do list ever since and I deemed it a splendid birthday outing - which it was!  Although the day started out quite overcast with a few spits of rain during our picnic, the sky cleared spectacularly after my birthday song!  The views were stunning as we walked up the mountain and it really was a special excursion, one that will be long-remembered.

There is some detailed information about Burning Mountain and the local area, here.


You can really "milk" the cow!
My past several birthdays have been spent at various lookouts within the Watagan Forest.  There are a couple still to visit but this year I decided on a birthday picnic destination quite a bit further from home.

We made a brief comfort stop at Muswellbrook and were barely on the road again when we spotted a sign for Hunter Belle Cheese.  Nick wasn't keen to stop but Erin and I called for an expedition detour - and Vaughan was loud in his support when he realised fudge tastings were on offer also!

It was a very pleasant diversion on my birthday excursion.  We picked up some picnic supplies - namely Goldenbelle, Bluebelle and Blue Moon as well as a tasting pack of six different fudge flavours.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Air we go again!

Our tent needed airing (and some minor repairs)
Although Nick works long shifts in a job that can be quite demanding, every so often his roster yields a break of five or six consecutive days.

We are not always best-placed to take advantage of these potential holidays but sometimes we decide to go anyway - as we will in a couple of weeks time.  August is not necessarily great camping weather due to the cold temperatures but on the bright side the campground shouldn't be over-run with campers!  Well, that's our logic!

Our last camping adventure was to Lightning Ridge last September (on another of these roster breaks) and our tent has been packed since.  We put it up over the weekend, to air out.  Nick spotted a couple of things that needed minor repair - a broken clip on the tent fly and a broken cord inside one of the tent poles - so attended to those before packing everything away again.  (At this stage, Erin is still not sure whether she is coming with us so we haven't yet checked her tent).

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Definitely a lemon!

Looked a mess - tasted fine!
I have made bread, scones, cakes and puddings successfully in our thermal cooker.

However, on each occasion the experiment has been conducted under stationary conditions, so last week I decided to try to cook a cake/pudding while in transit.  Lemon Drizzle Cake was chosen as the recipe.  There is slideshow on the link, demonstrating the method.  I didn't watch that prior to making the cake but have had a quick look now.

There are a couple of points I should make.  Our thermal cooker is an Aldi version.  At the time of purchase it was around a third the cost of a named brand.  It seemed identical in features and represented very good value.  We've had a lot of good use from it and when stationary there are no issues at all with it's performance.

When in transit, it doesn't work quite as well - mainly because the water is able to slosh between the two pots (if both are being used) and some is lost between the inner and outer pot.  I allow for these short-comings when cooking savoury dishes by adding a larger volume of dried ingredients to counter the expected water increase while traveling.  Of course, that solution is not an option for the cake/pudding cooking method.

I will also mention that we traveled down to Sydney in our small car, rather than using Elmer.  The red car is experiencing a few technical difficulties at the moment, so the ride was bumpier than it should have been and more water was lost as a result.  You can see in the bottom left pic how the cake looked upon opening the thermal cooker when we arrived.  Everything was still hot (five hours or so after leaving home) but the cake hadn't risen evenly and some water had obviously made its way into the pudding bowl.

The cake probably still could have been salvageable if I hadn't had a brain snap and inverted it onto a wire cake cooler, rather than a plate!  I was in hysterics as I watched my creation slowly sink into the cooler, which cut through rather like one of those wire gadgets used to slice eggs or avocado!  Further mess was created when I belatedly tipped the cake (and cake cooler) onto first one plate and then another, to recover the trivet (which had lodged about a third of the way into the cake)!

Given a traditional cake presentation was no longer an option, I artfully mounded the cake and decorated with a few strips of lemon peel.  The lemon syrup was poured over, so the end result was something akin to a lemon island amid a lemon sea - with icing sugar snow on top!  In spite of it's obvious aesthetic shortcoming, the "Lemon Mess" tasted quite good and I expect will feature in the future (when it can be cooked in a stationary thermal cooker)!

(You will note my trivet improvisation of a plastic dinosaur sandwich cutter was another brain snap moment)!