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December Making tracks around Oz (#3) - latest tips from the road
December 15, 2016

Welcome to issue 3 of Making Tracks around Oz!

Summer has finally hit us here in Tassie, but there are still some very cool nights. This month’s issue hints at what we’ve been up to:

  • Crafty kids without the kit
  • Building campfires without a kick-start
  • Recipe: Simple sushi
  • Kitchen workhorses to whip up a storm

A very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season to everyone, and I wish you a safe and happy 2017.

As usual, please let me know any comments or ideas you have to help this newsletter be as good as it can be (e.g., after I sent last month’s issue I noticed the images displayed incorrectly on mobile devices, sorry about that).

I look forward to hearing from you...and enjoy.

Crafty kids without the kit

I love craft, but with space as a premium it can be tricky when travelling. On our first trip around Oz, I had grand plans for craft. I packed a craft box(somewhat big) stuffed with items that we would use to build exciting projects on the road.

Needless to say, a big box was a somewhat BIG waste of space.

Then I came across a family with five kids, whose mum took a different approach. I’ve adopted it now as my own. Now I wait until a craft project opportunity presents itself, then (and only then) I go and buy the ‘ingredients’ to bring it to life.

It means less storage and more completed projects.

This worked for us recently when the kids and I lamented on how to organise their advent calendars this year. How to make them? We decided on origami boxes for each day. Because each child needed 24 boxes with lids, this meant making 96 boxes! Quite a crafty feat, but easy to execute.

Origami is not bulky and only needs one ‘ingredient’.

I went out and bought a pack of coloured A4 paper. We folded it in half and trimmed the excess to make two squares of origami paper per sheet. I googled the instructions. Once we did a trial run we were away. We mixed and matched colours for tops and bottoms, and the kids wrote the numbers on top.

Paper can power endless craft creations.

Now all I had to do was fill them! We used the scraps to make paper chains to decorate the camper for Christmas – a bonus craft activity to keep them busy for hours. We also plan on recycling the boxes into more decorative origami shapes to make things festive, or as wrapping paper for gifts.

But first the kids are busy eating the contents!

Building campfires without a kick-start

In a country where we battle endlessly with bushfire threats, it’s surprising the number of campers who use commercial fire starters to get their camp fire burning. At times, I think Kumar must be the last of the great non-fire starters!

Next time you’re caught without a fire-starter, or even for a bit of fun…try these simple tricks to start your next fire from scratch. You will need a small axe. A couple of kids can be a great help too!

  1. Crumple dry paper (preferably newspaper, and nothing glossy) into your fire pit. If you don’t have any, you can use dry leaves.
  2. Collect the thinnest dry twigs you can find. Place them over the top of the paper.
  3. Progressively add thicker twigs or splintered kindling wood over the twigs in a tepee or hash(#) formation.
  4. Continue until you have sticks as thick as your fingers. Make sure your pile has enough ‘breathing room’ between your twigs.
  5. Before adding any proper logs to your fire, get it started.
  6. Using a gas lighter or match, get in underneath the twig pile to light the newspaper. Light the paper in a few places.
  7. Allow the fire to slowly take hold, gently blow on the twig pile if you feel comfortable to do so. This will add more oxygen to flame the fire and get it going.
  8. Monitor the fire as it progresses, and gradually add thicker kindling, then logs, as it grows.

Building a fire from scratch is satisfying and smells better.

Maybe it is a little like cooking. You get to the same end result whether you use a packet mix or a fire-starter…but there is something lovely about creating from scratch. The result, at least with cooking, is often better too. I’m not so sure about fires, but at least it avoids the nasty fire-starter smell!

Recipe: Simple sushi

Surprisingly, it turns out that sushi is the perfect camping food. We took a batch on our hike (above) in Cradle Mountain a couple of weeks ago, and it was compact, easy to carry and filling. Delicious!

If you stick with simple fillings, and eat it within a few hours, it is no trouble to tackle on the road. The kids love to help and you only need a few items and a table work space to make it happen.

Ingredients:

  • Fillings of your choice, we use tinned tuna with mayo mixed through + cucumber and avocado
  • Sushi rice
  • Nori (sushi wrapping)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce, to taste

Tools:

  • Bamboo sushi rolling mat
  • A large flat tray to cool rice on

Steps:

  1. Cook the rice as per the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, prepare / chop your fillings.
  2. Spread the rice in a thin layer on a tray to cool.
  3. Once cool, sprinkle rice vinegar (1-2 tbsp) over the rice and mix gently.
  4. Lay a nori sheet on your sushi mat, bumpy side up.
  5. Spread a thin layer of rice over the sheet, leaving a 2-3 cm gap on the far edge.
  6. Lay your fillings in a line along the near side of the sheet. Don’t be tempted to overfill!
  7. Roll firmly until you reach the gap. Dab the nori edge with water to moisten and create a seal, then finish rolling to seal.
  8. Slice roll into smaller sushi pieces using a wet knife.
  9. Repeat until you run out of rice or filling (or nori!).

Kitchen workhorses to whip up a storm

Everything in your camp kitchen needs to earn its place there, simply because there isn’t enough room to have free-loaders. But some extra-special tools hardly need a place, because they are out and about so often they barely get put away.

These are my workhorses I couldn’t do without.

I’m not talking about the obvious essentials here, like plates and cutlery, pots and pans. Although some of these may seem to be so – I’m talking the unsung heroes of the kitchen that can sometimes be forgotten. They are essential to cooking a wide variety of meals from scratch.

In no particular order:

  • Grater – Other than the obvious cheese, you can also grate vegies, fruit, garlic for quick use in cooking.
  • Big (mixing) bowl with lid – good for mixing food before or after cooking, and for storing food you’ve partially prepared… without flies!
  • Sharp knife – the key word is sharp. Don’t bring the knife you never use at home because it won’t cut a tomato. We love the Wiltshire ones in the sheath so they are safe loose in a drawer with kids around.
  • A decent-sized billy – boil water anywhere anytime, throw in some eggs to boil alongside them or flash boil vegies before you pour washing water into the sink.
  • Wooden spoon – mix, stir, serve. Needs no further explanation.
  • Chinese containers – quick and easy to store and cover leftovers and half used vegies. Plus they stack and you can use them if you stumble on a microwave.
  • A cake or baking tin – good for removing meat from the BBQ, elevating things inside the camp oven, baking the odd cake either on the stove or in the BBQ, heating things from above under a grill.
  • Tongs (preferably long-handled) – useful for grabbing hot things from the fire, turning things on the BBQ, serving salads or vegies.

Even as I write these I think I might have forgotten some especially worthy item. Let me know if I have, otherwise, check these off your list before you drive away from home next time – or even better, have duplicates!

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