Melbourne Cup Musings

I’ve always loved Cup Day. My great-grandfather was a farrier, and I’m pretty sure there’s some genetics at play to determine whether you’re a horse person or not. Plus, wearing hats and drinking copious amounts of alcohol are two of my very favourite things, so any chance to combine them is alright by me.

In the last few years though, I’ve started to look at the horse racing industry through different eyes. Through Cai’s eyes. And I haven’t really been all that down with what I’ve been seeing.

It’s a hard thing to explain to kids. We whip these animals so they run really fast and earn (or lose) people heaps of money. Sometimes the horses die. Sometimes the jockeys die. Sometimes people bet their rent or food money on the outcome of these races, and then have nowhere to live or nothing to eat.

I’m not down with the Melbourne Cup anymore. But yesterday, old mate came around with a sweep. “Clare will be in that” said Matt.

I’d decided that I wasn’t taking part this year (I hadn’t last year either) but I felt obliged. So I put my hand in my pocket to the tune of $7 and had a couple of entries in the sweeps.

Yep, peer pressure at 38 years old.

Anyway, race time drew closer and we wandered over to a neighbouring campsite to watch the Cup. That was a bit of an experience in itself, as our fellow traveller had penned a bit of a bush poem that she recited to us all about horse racing. It was about a horse named My Face, and I pretty much could have lived my whole life without hearing her scream “COME ON MY FACE” at the poem’s, well, climax.

There was also the race goer in the hat who, after I complimented her on it, informed me it belonged to her dog.

And the generator dying resulting in the TV losing power less than 30 seconds in was something even Murphy would be shaking his head at.

As it turned out, one of the horses I drew ran third, netting me a big $13. The kids thought that was pretty ace and promptly started hitting me up for new scrapbooks and maybe an iceblock.

Until they heard that one of the horses had collapsed and died shortly after the completion of the race.

And another was undergoing surgery.

Then, my little animal activists had a different view of that $13 altogether.

We’d like to donate that $13 to an animal charity, preferably equine, so if you are one or know one please get in touch.

Our Travel First Aid Kit

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I am slightly over the top when it comes to first aid supplies. A look inside my handbag reveals more than a packet of bandaids and a few tissues. Instead, you’ll find four EpiPens, about 35 thousand Ventolin puffers, a couple of spacers, enough antihistamine to make the authorities look twice, and usually an elastic bandage in case of snake bite. And that’s just to make a trip to the supermarket.

So when it came time to think about our first aid requirements for our trip, Matt knew it was time to intervene. Although I’m known as the “cure everything with breastmilk and/or coconut oil” lady, I also like to have all my bases covered and be prepared for every eventuality. He is the voice of reason that tells me that I probably don’t need to bring along a whole chemist just in case.

However, although we left with what Matt still considered to be way over the top in terms of our first aid supplies, we’ve used just about everything we brought with us in the past four months. We’re at the point now where we will need to restock a few items in the not too distant future. And I have to say, even I’m a little bit surprised by what we’ve used and what we haven’t.

Touch wood, other than Cai, no one has been seriously hurt or injured so far. Cai of course had the infected mozzie bite and MRSA infection, and also sliced his hand open at Wunjunga in the period we refer to fondly as “4 hospital visits in 2 weeks”. Harper had a suspected ear infection and high temps for a couple of days in the early weeks that was we were able to manage just with pain relief. Mackenzie has escaped pretty much unscathed except for a couple of giant stacks, Matt just about knackered himself on the tow ball the other day and my only real injuries have come from wine in a box.

Here’s a few things we couldn’t do without.

EpiPens and EpiPen trainers

Obviously these guys are our first priority. We don’t go anywhere without them. The Authority prescription from our allergist gives us two at PBS prices and we pay full price for two more. Why carry 4? We’ve heard stories about misfires, EpiPens “blowing” due to extreme temperatures and having to use more than one dose while waiting for emergency services. For us, 4 is a good number to carry. We have the trainer pens so we can explain to people who don’t know about life threatening food allergies how an acute episode is treated and how to use an EpiPen.

Antihistamine

Cai takes a daily dose as well as having an emergency dose as the first line of defence in case of an allergic reaction, and we try to carry at least two months worth with us most times.

Ventolin and small volume spacer

We have 5 puffers stashed in different locations – 2 in Cai’s kit, 1 in the car, 1 in the bag and 1 in the box for easy access in an emergency.

Seretide and large volume spacer

Cai’s regular asthma preventer

Cortisone and Bactroban creams

Steroid and Antibiotic creams for use on Cai’s eczema, and we also use this combo on mozzie bites at times to try to calm the itch and prevent infection.

Various waterproof dressings

Gauze, non-adhesive dressings and Micropor

Syringes for administering Cai’s immunotherapy injections if we get somewhere so remote they don’t have the right size!

Silver shock blankets – you can actually use these in your bedding if it gets stupid cold too.

Elastic bandages – For sprains or snake bites

Triangle sling

Betadine

Saline

Paracetamol (and baby version), ibuprofen, aspirin

Sunscreen

Stingoes

Paw Paw Ointment

Hydralyte – which I forgot I had and could have come in handy after the last wine in a box incident.
Safety pins, spare prescriptions, spare spacer and mask.

What’s in your first aid kit? Anything I’ve forgotten?

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You can read this post, and other travel ideas over at the Wanderlust monthly link up!

Wanderlust

Losing My Travel Mojo

I don’t know what happened last week, but the shine fell off a bit. I lost my travel mojo.

I felt like I wasn’t seeing anything except the inside of a supermarket.

I felt like I wasn’t doing anything except waiting around for the boys to come back from fishing.

I felt like none of our systems were working, that nothing had a home.

I didn’t want to go home, and seeing as how we have tenants in I don’t think they’d really dig me turning up on the doorstep either, but I just wasn’t loving it sick anymore.

And feeling like that didn’t really make me a joy to be around.

But I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. It seems to be a bit of a phenomenon that around about the three or four month mark, some of us wanderers get a bit…homesick isn’t the right word but it’s a similar emotion. And I think that slowing down, and not really having a plan for what’s next, and wondering where we are going to spend Christmas, and chomping through our financial buffer zone a bit (hello new windscreen) certainly compounded that feeling.

And it probably sounds ridiculous and spoilt and entitled and a whole lot of other things too, to be living this amazing lifestyle and have even a moment of not enjoying it. But the reality is, we are five people living in very close quarters and we don’t all think the same or want to do the same things all the time, or have all the same interests or priorities. And that can cause a little bit of tension, especially when you’re not right on top of your game anyway. Let’s face it, life’s not all unicorns farting rainbows when you live in a house; it’s a bit ridiculous to think it will be in a tent.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when you’re on the trip of a lifetime, bad days happen. Bad weeks happen. It doesn’t always mean you’re not doing the right thing, or that you should pack it all in and go home. Sometimes it might. But I think for the most part, if you push past it you’ll get your mojo back. A good pack down, a smooth move and a dip in the ocean and I am back. Bring it on.

Cai’s Wild Life

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Yesterday started out with rescuing a lorikeet out of the river and taking it to a vet in Gladstone and ended up with an email from Bindi Irwin.

A few weeks back, Cai decided he wanted to enter a competition being run by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors to find a Visionary Wildlife Warrior ages between 5 and 17. And while he didn’t win, he was one of 8 finalists for 2014. I’m so proud of him for his passion and his commitment to that passion, and I wanted to share his entry with you all. Cai expresses himself much better verbally than in writing (I think I’m the opposite so I don’t know how that happened) so he spoke this to me and I typed it up for him.

My name is Cai and I am 9 years old. I come from Brisbane, but at the moment I am travelling around the country with my family in a camper trailer.

Steve Irwin inspired me to become involved in wildlife conservation. When I was little, I was a pretty sick kid. I spent a lot of time in hospital. One day, my mum and dad got me a Crocodile Hunter DVD to watch while I was on a drip. I loved it so much I watched it over and over. And from then on I was interested in wildlife and wildlife conservation. I used to walk around with a pillowcase full of rubber snakes and do snake shows for my family and friends. Mum says that I would only wear khaki clothes and she used to have to take my Australia Zoo shirt off me when I was asleep so she could wash it. When I got older, mum and dad let me have some snakes of my own – a friend of ours is looking after them for us at the moment – but mum is still saying I can’t have my own freshie. Yet.

I am passionate about saving our saltwater crocodiles and changing people’s ideas about them. Salties are my favourites. When I was in Cape York I saw a big saltie on Jackey Jackey Creek and it was just awesome.

Because we’re living on the road, the whole of Australia is my community. We meet heaps of new people all the time, and I always talk to them about wildlife. I explain to people why they shouldn’t catch and kill sharks when they go fishing, and if dad and I catch a shark we always let him go. I also started a petition at my old school to send to Campbell Newman asking him to stop shooting the crocs in Far North Queensland. I took my whole family to a protest rally to try to stop the shark cull in WA.

I always talk to other kids about why crocs, sharks and snakes are awesome and why we shouldn’t kill any of them, and I’m working with my family on putting together information packs for kids to help them understand why we need these creatures in our environment. I think that most kids really like them as much as I do, but they learn to be scared about them from their parents. I’d like to help kids teach their parents all about wildlife. I’m also working on making some YouTube videos too.

I want to help teach other kids about why our ecosystem needs apex predators like sharks and crocs, and what will happen to the environment if we keep killing them all off.

Steve Irwin taught me to be passionate about our amazing Australian wildlife, and why we shouldn’t muck with it. If you don’t look after nature, the whole ecosystem will collapse. I’ve always wanted to be just like Steve, and one day I will.

I know you will mate.

Old school fun for kids

One of the things I love about living on the road is watching how the kids play now. Because for the most part, there’s only the two of them, if they don’t want to play alone they only really have one other option. That’s not to say they don’t still fight; of course they do but they are playing better together now than they ever have.

It’s also been interesting seeing them come out from behind their screens. Although we had substantially cut back on tv time anyway, they did tend to be pretty attached to their iPads at times. Not having 200GB of data to use up a month put paid to that pretty quickly though, and I think the iPads have only come out for schoolwork, and even then only a few times.

So I guess you could say we’re rocking it old school. And the kids have definitely had some old school fun this week.

We have a big tree right out the front of our camp, which has just been calling out for a rope swing. Matt hooked one up for them with a bit of firewood for a seat and so far no one has kicked anyone else in the face – win.

They’ve also been doing a heap of hand sewing. Mackenzie stacked it in her brand new hippie pants last week, so I had to grab some supplies to sew them back up. I will also have to grab some more should anyone else need repairs done, because they’ve been commandeered by the kids (as have most of my chux cloths, half a packet of nappy wipes and one of my tshirts).

And even though we live in a tent, you can’t go past a tarp cubby. A couple of spare poles and pegs and they had their own hideyhole to play, talk and create right on the beach.

How would your kids cope without their tech? (asks the woman blogging from her phone!)

A Surprising Week

Hurricane Harper

Hurricane Harper

I’m not mad keen on them, but if I had to name the thirteenth week of our adventure, it would be the Week of the Surprise. Some good, some not so good. Some – well, you’ll find out.

Let’s start with the good.

1. Watching the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs win the NRL Grand Final for the first time in my lifetime. That was pretty special, even if we weren’t there but were in a caravan park in Airlie Beach surrounded by backpackers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.

2. How much I really enjoyed Airlie Beach. I thought it was going to be a bit touristy, and it is don’t get me wrong, but the colour of the water well and truly made up for that. We could probably never afford to live there in a million years unless we lived in one of the van parks, but that doesn’t mean I’m crossing it off the list.

And then, the not so good.

1. Opening my cutlery drawer and watching a mouse crawl out of it. It took me a minute to work out what was going on, because mice in the cutlery drawer isn’t something that generally happens, unless you’re Snow White I guess. Anyway, I was less than impressed, and the cutlery all got a big dunk in the bucket of Milton.

2. The squashed spider on the chopping board. I can only assume that Spidey had been attached to the pumpkin I pulled out of the vege box, and then as I rolled the pumpkin to cut it, he met an untimely end. RIP Spidey, and another contender for the Milton bucket.

And finally

Harper is at an age where she’s starting to make a few connections about going to the toilet. We let her have a fair bit of time with no nappy on to encourage her to work it all out. She also likes to jump in and out of the tent when we are setting up or packing down, because it’s not difficult enough to do without having to worry about squashing a toddler.

We packed up and left Airlie Beach, and on arrival at Carmila Beach started to set up the tent. The initial unfold and getting the poles in is a two person job, so I jumped in to help Matt in what’s a pretty familiar routine now.
And then I stepped in something squishy.

Yep, Harps had pooed in the tent 280km earlier at Airlie Beach, and we had unknowingly wrapped ourselves up this little present and brought it with us.

Suffice it to say, no nappy time will be a bit more strictly supervised from now on.

How was your week? Step in anything you shouldn’t have?

Cleanliness is next to….absolutely losing your marbles

If being clean all the time is something that ranks highly on your list of personal attributes, this is probably not the lifestyle for you. It had been sometime since was last had an actual running water shower; we’ve got our solar shower bag and there’s always the good old wash out of a bucket, but actual running water with variable temperature – not so much.

I actually don’t really notice all that much until I have to go somewhere that other people are not covered in a layer of dirt and smelling like fire. Like the supermarket. Or one of our four (so far) hospital runs. We look enough like the Griswalds as it is, so yesterday en route to the supermarket we stopped in at Home Hill Comfort Stop for a wash.

If you’ve never been to Home Hill, it’s a great little stop. The 48 hour free camp itself is just parking bays on the road, so not really a spot for tents or people with a thousand kids. But if it’s just two of you in a van, it’s fine.

Across the road though is the comfort stop with 5 minute hot showers, toilets, BBQs in the camp kitchen and a coin op laundry next door.

Harper had fallen asleep in the car on the way to town, so we agreed the boys would go first while Mackenzie and I stayed with her, and then we’d go when they came back. And what followed was a fantastic example of the difference between having a shower when you’re a dad, and when you’re a mum.

Matt came back from his shower beaming. That shower was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He didn’t know what to do with all the hot water. I was going to love it. He’d never felt so clean.

I was getting pretty excited about the shower at this point.

And then Harper woke up. And suddenly my two person shower with Kenz was a two person plus a toddler shower, which quite frankly is a far less appealing thought.

Have you ever seen a greasy pig chase? That’s a bit what having a shower with a toddler is like. She’d fallen over twice before I even turned the water on. I wouldn’t recommend trying to shave your armpits with a baby on your hip unless you actually are a contortionist. In the end, I gave up and hoped for the best.

I was still a bit dirty, and not particularly relaxed, but I was cleaner. Which at this point is really all I can hope for. Until next time – which will be dad’s turn to take the toddler.

I did however manage to snap before and after photos of my feet.

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Sunday Roast – Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon

It’s been a bit quiet around here this week. I’ve been battling with an unwell baby who seems to be having a reaction to just about everything she eats at the moment with lots of sore tummies and sleepless nights as a result. It’s a road we’re familiar with given Cai’s medical history, but even though we know where to go and what to do this time around, as a parent you can still feel pretty helpless.

So we didn’t do much this week. I did a lot of reading and thinking and planning, but that doesn’t always make for earth shattering reading! I did, however, finally get around to making Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon.

Richard and Bernice have been great friends to us the past couple of weeks. Always good for a fishing tip or a beer around the campfire, they’ve raised and camped with their own kids and understand that sometimes the baby screams or the kids are ratty and there’s nothing you can do about it. Bernice pointed out all the melons growing wild near the campground. One of the other campers had given us a jar of jam made out of these melons last time we were here, and Bernice was experimenting with her own recipes. She was also stewing them, which Cai gave a big thumbs up so I thought I’d give it a go.

I still don’t know what sort of melons they are, but all the locals eat them and no one’s been poisoned yet. I made some tweaks to the recipe Bernice gave me, but seeing as how I don’t know what the melons are called, I’m giving the recipe her name.

And seeing as how you’ll probably struggle to find these nameless melons, swap it out for the stewing fruit of your preference (apples etc)
Also, there’s no really strict measurements as it will depend on how much fruit you’re using and your own tastes re the spices.

You’ll need
Your fruit – skins and seeds removed, cut into small cubes
Sugar – I used rapadura
Whole cloves 6 or 7
Raisins – organic sulphur free – 2 tablespoons
Cinnamon stick
Star anise
Rind and Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange – I only had oranges so used the juice and half the pulp of 1
Fresh ginger finely chopped

Then you
Sprinkle your fruit with sugar, cover and leave overnight. Mrs Tait also soaks her raisins in brandy or port, but I left that bit out and they still softened up beautifully.

The next day, cook the fruit in own juices, adding your lemon and orange rind and juice and your spices.

Cooking method and time
Because we have small and expensive gas bottles for cooking, I try to use as little gas as possible. I did try bringing this to the boil and then finishing it off in the thermal cooker, but it does seem to need the more direct heat. Mrs Tait did one batch in her pressure cooker that came out quite well. In the end, I put my saucepan (no lid) inside the camp oven and hung that from the tripod over our fire which stewed it right down beautifully. It’s not the world’s fastest process, but luckily I don’t have anywhere else to be.

Cai was eating this just straight out of the jar, but you could add to breakfasts, yoghurt, custard, rice pudding etc depending on your diet.

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I didn’t add the final photo – it’s not all that glamorous really, but when it’s all brown and soft it’s all good!

Camp Cooking – More than Beans

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Thinking about food, preparing food and eating food take up a large percentage of my day. I know, life’s tough. But we’re faced with a few more food issues than your average travelling family, so it’s pretty important that we’re prepared like there’s an apocalypse imminent.

Cai has a couple of chronic health issues that necessitate modifications to a “normal” diet. First of all, he has anaphylaxis to cashews and shellfish. In order to best protect him from a serious episode, we also avoid items that “May contain traces of” these foods.

He also has a disease called Eosinophilic Oesophagitis which is almost harder to explain than it is to say. Basically, he has an infiltration of a type of white blood cell, called an eosinophil, in his oesophagus, and they’re not supposed to be there. When he eats (or in the case of eggs, smells) his trigger foods, he suffers from severe reflux and vomits up to 20 times a day, which can be very damaging to his oesophagus. Cai’s EoE is triggered by wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts and soy.

He has also had severe reactions/asthma induced by the sulphite family of preservatives and MSG and other flavour enhancers. We generally avoid all preservatives, flavour enhancers and artificial colours to be on the safe side.

Cliffs Notes Version – that’s no
Nuts
Shellfish
Wheat
Eggs
Dairy products
Soy products
Preservatives
Additives
Flavour Enhancers

And on the whole, we all eat the same way. The girls have a few variations and I’m in the middle of an experiment with food and my own autoimmune issues but for the most part we all eat the same way. We figure our fridge is the only fridge in Australia that he can safely help himself in, and “giving up” whatever foods pales in comparison to having a sick little boy all the time.

The question we get asked most frequently is “well, what DO you eat?” And look, in all honesty we do have a core list of meals that are on pretty high rotation, but I think that was the case before the restrictions anyway, and I think it’s the case for most families. In some of the places we travel to, we can’t find rice pasta, or a wide range of wheat free products. And while I’d love to eat a wholly organic diet, it’s just not affordable or even available in remote parts of Australia.

We don’t have fancy equipment to help with our meal preparation. 2 of my saucepans came out of an $80 box we bought 7.5 years ago when we first moved to Queensland and none of them have handles. I was going to bring a stick blender, but Matt just wanted to bring the blendy bit and attach it to a drill to use it so I decided I’d rather do without. We’re rocking it old school, just with an allergy friendly twist.

As part of our adventure, we’re hoping to raise awareness for kids like Cai who suffer from Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs) and the charity who supports us, ausEE. One of the ways we can do this is by sharing some of our tried and true favourite recipes, which (I hope) will show you that there’s more to allergy friendly eating than pears and rice. And there’s a lot more to camp cooking than baked beans.

If you’d like to know more about EGIDs please visit ausEE Inc

What’s your favourite camping meal? Are you travelling with special needs? Let me know!

Attack of the Karma Chameleon

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I was feeling very Smug Nomad today. A few hours lazing on the deserted beach this morning, bombarding my loved ones with “wish you were here” type photos and generally loving myself sick. Even the fact that the baby had woken me at 5am and proceeded to poop her way through six nappies in under thirty minutes had been relegated to the No Biggie pile.

But when one is travelling with a flock of small children, one must not rest on one’s laurels, lest the Karma Chameleon come and bite you fair on the arse.

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And so, I find myself ever less smugly sitting in Home Hill Hospital, with a small boy who has a knee blown up and bright red courtesy of an infected mosquito bite, waiting to see if he needs antibiotics and if we need to trek to Ayr to the hospital where there’s a doctor.

I’m sorry Karma Chameleon. I won’t be smug again.