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Making tracks around Oz (#7) - belated Happy Easter!
April 20, 2017

Welcome to issue 7 (April 2017)!

Happy Easter! Sorry I am running a few days late with this issue, with the long weekend it got bumped into this week. This month, we've got:

  • Double duty dishes
  • Coach screws to the rescue
  • Get a jump on journal writing
  • Recipe: James' yummy porridge

As always, please let me know any feedback you have. I look forward to hearing from you...

Take care, Jill

Double duty dishes

Recently, I was chatting to a friend who just returned from nine months around Australia. We were talking about the things we no longer take for granted now that we are home and back to ordinary life. I said, the washing machine – ahh the accessibility of clean clothes anytime anywhere!

My friend missed the dishwasher the most.

This led me to comment on our frequency of washing the dishes when we camp. Most days, we washed up only once – after dinner. Travel days we would also wash up before we left camp just so it wasn't waiting for us at the next spot.

They washed up after every meal. Argh, three times a day!

How awful, I thought. Why? I asked. When we got to the bottom of it, the reason was simply because they ran out of plates, bowls or cutlery. As a family of three, they had a set of four of everything. Which I can understand seems like enough. It's not as though you are entertaining guests when you are camping long-term.

We had double the dishes, and a third of the washing up.

We had eight plates, eight bowls and eight sets of cutlery for our family of four. This was partly because we had just chucked them all in a long time as extras to keep on hand. I left them in there because they always came in handy, and they take up hardly any extra space.

Because we often used bowls at breakfast, we still had enough plates for lunch and dinner. When we had toast or something dry and 'crumby' at breakfast or lunch, we would dust off the plates and re-use them for the next meal. It's the least of your hygiene worries when you live in the dirt!

The bonus is a big drop in your water use.

By washing up less, you don't just save time on extra chores. Washing up uses a lot of water. So saving it for once a day makes good sense. And it's easily done by stocking up on an extra set of basic cutlery and crockery.

Unfortunately, I still don't have a perfect on-the-road solution to a full-sized washing machine though – hand washing will never be my forte!

Coach screws to the rescue

I think it was on day one of our recent trip when my dad pulled out the coach screws and drill. Now, while Kumar always travels with his drill, I was wondering what the coach screws were for.

Turns out they make the perfect substitute tent peg.

But still, why use them when tent pegs are perfectly fine at tying down your annex or awning? Apparently because they are far easier to secure into and remove from the ground, especially when the ground is hard…so Dad clearly told me!

You can drill them in and out in seconds.

No brute force required. Watching Dad in action was quite incredible, he had his massive annex walls tightly secure into the ground in seconds. Then, when packing up it was just as simple. One important thing to note: you need pretty big coach screws with a decent length and thickness – about the length of a large tent peg.

Kumar didn’t quite run down to the hardware store, but I could tell he wished he'd packed a handful from home! Not something we would ever have thought to come in handy, which is a nice reminder that there's always more to learn.

Grey nomads have still got a trick or two up their sleeves.

Keep your eyes and mind open to other tips and tricks when observing the multitudes of grey nomads out there in our country. I know first hand that sometimes they have a different perspective on camping and the outback, but they also have a rich wealth of knowledge based on years of experience, and a need to keep things less strenuous.

I'm sure there's a thing or two we can all still learn from each other!

Get a jump on journal writing

For anyone out there home-schooling while on the road, or even just taking a term out, you'll likely know the pain of getting your kids to write journals. Looking back, they are a great memento of any trip away, but at the time it can hardly seem worth it.

We have one child who is over-enthusiastic about journal writing, and one who generally hates it.

Either way, making it a quick and easy task can be tricky.

Beyond recording wonderful memories, journals help improve your child's writing skills, sentence composition and grammar, handwriting, and imagination. There are lots of excellent reasons to persevere. But when it drags on, or you've had day after busy day, or your kids are just worn out – suddenly you can be a week behind and all the grand plans go out the window.

Thankfully, we've discovered some rules and rewards to help keep things relatively positive.

Rule #1 (the most important rule everyone needs to keep): do it daily.

If it's simply not possible on a particular day, do it first thing the next morning. If you let this slip, everything becomes much more challenging.

Rule #2: don't be too elaborate at the expense of writing.

Stick in pictures, postcards, ticket stubs or other bits and pieces, but only if you've got them handy and they don't hold up the actual writing. Draw pictures and decorate only after the writing is done. The writing is the bit that counts and can drag on, so get it done first. It's easy to get side tracked, then before you know it you've consumed a lot of time and have little to show for it.

Rule #3: set and agree reasonable expectations.

This will depend on your child, their interest and age. For example, we agreed a certain number of sentences, and required some descriptions and adjectives as well as some emotional comment. It couldn't be simply "We did this, we drove XX km".

We actually set a maximum limit too, because we found sometimes the kids found it overwhelming if they had done a lot that day, to face writing it all down. You might also set a labelled picture as part of the journal, with just one descriptive sentence, depending on your child's ability and age.

Reward #1: good old fashioned stickers.

You know your kids. Stickers might not work for them. But I have found them still to be a really great way to encourage good work. We had different levels of stickers, with the large glittery ones saved for only the most special and very best work.

Reward #2: Electronic device time.

Our kids are getting older and they took iPad minis on this last trip. They were used for school based apps, library book borrowing, and the occasional game. We agreed to 'pay' the kids for their journal writing in iPad mini minutes. This meant they earned time on their devices based on the number of sentences or lines they wrote, or how many adjectives they used.

Reward #3: Cold hard cash.

We used this in conjunction with the electronic device time. The kids earned points based on number of lines/sentences, and bonus points for adjectives or other particularly excellent work (e.g. correct capitalisation or spelling of a tricky word). They could convert these points to iPad mini minutes, or to money they could spend however they liked.

From memory, we worked on 1 point per line or bonus, which converted to either 1 minute or 10 cents. We tallied points up weekly.

Journal writing will never be completely smooth sailing for our kids all the time, but these rules and rewards have really helped us get it done, with relative ease and speed!

Recipe: James' yummy porridge

Now the weather is starting to cool down, chilly mornings can make you crave something to warm you inside out. Since our nine-year old James (pictured above on a chilly Tassie morning) is up first, and always hungry – he has quickly mastered the art of porridge making. It’s quick to cook, warms up inside our camper, and is deliciously healthy when you add our unique additions to the mix.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1/3 cup rolled or quick oats
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cashews, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sultanas
  1. Put oats, cinnamon and water in a saucepan on the stove, over medium heat.
  2. Stir occasionally until boiling then turn down and simmer for about 2 mins until thick.
  3. While porridge is simmering, chop cashews and measure out your topping ingredients.
  4. Remove porridge from heat and place in bowl.
  5. Work quickly to sprinkle butter, brown sugar, sultanas and cashews on top of your porridge.
  6. Serve immediately.

Note: You can add any toppings you like, for example grated apple, sliced banana, other nuts or seeds. I also like to add a pinch of salt during the cooking process, but James tells me that is unnecessary!

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