Archive for August 2007


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Another Cool Thing About Camping

31 August 2007

Echidna spikes

There were so many wonderful and unplanned moments during our holiday – stuff that really made the holiday all seem worth it.

Callum posing with Mr EchidnaWe stumbled across various wild Australian animals – kangaroos, emus, lizards, sea eagles, and an echidna! A huge one! In the wild! They’re a weird version of a porcupine, and cousin to the platypus, the only kind of egg-laying mammals. The kids were completely amazed.

We spent a significant portion of the trip telling our kids everything we knew about everything in the world – why kangaroos have pouches. Where sea eagles build nests. Why some lizards run on four feet and some on two. Which sea creatures are poisonous and why. Why shallow water is warmer than deep. Stuff that made us feel like really cool parents.

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The Beach With No Name

30 August 2007

Shell Arrangement

One morning, while camping, we met some scruffy surfers on the beach. They were crusted with salt and seasoned by the sun, and they were doinkg tai chi on the rocks overlooking the bay.

We stopped to chat and gained some local knowledge about a super secret beach nearby. The directions were obscure and a little dubious, but we set off anyway.

It was pretty hard to find. And I was pretty stressed about the car unfriendly roads. In fact, the track was so messed up that we had to stop the car and walk the last bit.

The Perfect Tourism PhotoAfter what felt like an eternity, we found it! An exquisite bay, a crystal clear lagoon, a deserted beach, and coral reef rock pools teaming with shells, clams, starfish, crabs, fish, slugs. Every crevice was exploding with colour and movement. The beach was littered with amazing aquatic treasures – broken corals, cute pebbles, sparkling shells and whale bones?

It was unmistakable that not many people had ever walked on this beach.

My 4 year old snorkelled with my husband, while I danced through the rock pools with my 2 year old.

We spent a glorious afternoon there. We made a pile of treasure on the beach. We took photos. We explained to the kids why we couldn’t take things away from places like these. Then we left.

A part of me felt heavy. To think that perhaps in 10 years time, there might be a 5 star resort, a multitude of visitors, a barren tourist beach, speed boats and all this could be gone. A mind boggling thought. And because I want this beach to remain just as it is………it shall remain nameless on my site. Sorry!

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The Exquisite Agony of Being Sean

29 August 2007


While we were on holiday, Sean battled with a spectacular display of sickness – fever, diarrhoea, headaches and grumpiness, which then flared up eczema and hives all over his body. He ended up sleeping a whole lot – which was what the doctor ordered anyway.

It wasn’t going to deter the rest of us from enjoying our holiday. And so, the dazzling beauty of Turquoise Bay, over looking the Ningaloo Reef, was lost on him.

Adding to his discomfort, we lost his sunglasses and bought the LAST and ONLY pair of kid’s sunglasses available outside the metropolitan area – and unfortunately its funky holiday design didn’t quite compliment his mood.

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The Best Thing About Camping

28 August 2007

Milky Way

Every night, whilst in the Australian bush, we braved the cool night air to show the kids the blazing Milky Way. The sky glowed gloriously high above our heads. It glowed!

The distant clouds of stars illuminated the darkness between each sparkling star, twinkling with blues, purples, pinks and green. We saw shooting stars, satellites and various planets. It was simply breathtaking and one of the reasons I love camping.

Image from NSF.

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Red Bluff

27 August 2007

View from the tent

We arrived safely at Red Bluff and it was all worth it! It was stunning! We had an incredible time! Extraordinary, in fact! All due to the fact it was isolated, unspoiled and – really – not for a faint hearted driver, like myself. Only about 20 other camp sites were dotted along the hilly coast. We found a bit of dirt, behind a shrub, right next to the beach, and called it home.

There were a few things to get used to. No fresh water (really – you have to bring your own). No showers. No electricity. No shop. No petrol station. No ranger. The toilet was a pile of worms that you poop on top of, and then cover with a handful of sawdust.

There was something deliciously wild and pure about being so far from the rest of the world. It was a strange sense of freedom, power and abandonment. The significance of the environment and what we chose to do with it, was suddenly magnified in our everyday activities. Keeping track of the high and low tides. The direction of the wind affected where to pitch the tent, where to cook, where to stand. The sun was our only clock.

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This is a Road?

26 August 2007

The road (or should I say, TRACK) into Red Bluff was like the SURFACE OF THE MOON. Craters and rocks. Pot holes and dips. There were suspicious, shifty sand banks and thick oozy mud puddles, all with disturbingly questionable depths. Bits of broken cars lay by the side of the track.

Road into Red Bluff

For one hour, our teeth rattled, everything in the car clattered and clinked, we bounced and bumped, we gripped the seats until our knuckles turned white, and prayed that the car wouldn’t break, or bog.

Bogged! Goodness. The thought of it terrified me. The nearest human inhabitant was something like 6 hours walk away! We’d be stranded in the middle of no where! In the dark! Eeep!

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Call me shallow, but…

25 August 2007

StromatolitesOur first camp for the night was at Hamelin Pool.

There’s not much to the place – a caravan park, an old telegraph station and a beach.

However, Hamelin Pool exists on the map because, just off the beach, grows the oldest living organisms known on earth – stromatolites – giving us a glimpse of what the earth looked like 3.5 billion years ago.

So. Despite all the tourism hoopla. Despite the cute information boards. Despite the fact that both David Attenborough (filming Life on Earth Documentary Series) and Bill Bryson (Down Under) visited this place…

Kids and MaterThe stromatolites just looked like wet, black rocks.


And the kids?

They were much more impressed with a very old truck in the caravan park… because it looked like the character “Mater” from the movie Cars.

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Our Very First Camp Night

24 August 2007

Callum and Tent

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The Long, Long, Long Road

23 August 2007

Long Road

Welcome to the big Australian country roads. Long and straight, they are.

Home of the endless red dust, the flat dry land, the stray cattle of “station country”, and of course, the sun-baked kangaroo road pizza.

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A Holiday To Remember

22 August 2007

Karen at Coarl BayHi everyone! I’m back from my 2 week holiday! With 8 days of camping!

It’s so so sooooo good to be home!!!!

I stepped into my bathroom and crumbled with utter joy. I kissed my microwave. I tenderly stroked my television. And you don’t want to KNOW what I did with my washing machine! Ha!

In a nutshell, the trip was 30% gorgeously and amazingly incredible and 70% really hard work.

I’ve got so many cool and amusing stories and photos to share!

I’ll be posting them up real soon – after I’ve done 5 loads of washing, cleaned the sand from the car and gawked at my inbox.

This is me on the famous and stunning beach of Coral Bay.

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Snow Pea Harvest

17 August 2007

Snowpea HarvestBack in April, the kids and I planted a handful of snow pea plants in our little organic garden.

It was a fantastic gardening activity for the kids. We made several climbing frames out of bamboo (collected from a neighbour) and natural twine – which looked like cute tepees.

We made labels for the seedlings. I also drew them a little plant growth chart. Explained how plants grow, why they need water and sunshine, how the flowers turn into snow peas.

Now, 3 months later, our snow pea plants are as tall as I am! Plus there are tonnes of snow peas!

Every couple of days, we’ll sit in the garden and harvest 4-5 of our juicy, organic snow peas. The kids munch on them raw and savour them like delicious chocolates.

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How To Start Oil Painting : The Studio

15 August 2007

The Studio

Launching into the world of oil painting is rather tricky to begin with.

We don’t have room in our house for a dedicated “art studio”. So we doubled up the office as the computer room and painting room.

1. An “art studio” needs to be WELL VENTILATED.
Working with oil paints, turpentine, oil mixes, artists mediums, means that there is a lot of toxic fumes in the air. So we leave the windows open all day and all night. Which is tragic, because I’m sitting here typing this, dressed like an eskimo, and I’m freezing!

2. You need a TABLE to lay out all the painting stuff you use.
And there’s a lot of it! I’ve got stuff EVERYWHERE – on the table, under the table, stuff on shelves, on chairs, up against the wall. I probably will need a shelf to store everything.

3. You need to cover everything up!
(That’s if you’re like me and work in a dual purpose room.) You need tablecloth for the table. Old rug for the floor. Newspaper for chairs. Plastic bags as bins. Containers for dirty brushes. And the most important thing – gloves for your hands!

4. Set up a place to clean your brushes!
The first day of painting, I foolishly went ahead and painted, without anticipating the clean up at the end (and without gloves!). As I fumbled through the house with dirty fingers, I left finger prints on light switches, door handles, soap dispensers, the sliding door, the kitchen bench, the newspaper rack, the laundry tub, my face, my shoes – yeesh, it was everywhere! The oil paint stayed on my hands for 4 days! (I refused to use turps on my hands).

5. Storage. You need some place to store your paintings as they dry. Preferably somewhere with some kind of rack, somewhere dry, not dusty or humid. Plus you might need some place to store your clean canvases, boards and clean paper.

6. Good lighting.

7. An easel. A chair.

8. An inspiration section.
Some place to pin up your sketches, photos and visual inspiration. And a place to play music!

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The Bring Out Your Dead Festival

13 August 2007

Twice a year, our neighbourhood has a service called Bulk Rubbish Collection. On a certain weekend, you can put almost ANYTHING on the side of the road outside your house, and a truck will come and take it away for FREE.

The result is a kind of suburban awakening, an odd neighbourhood festival everyone calls “Bring Out Your Dead”.

People rip out 20 year old carpet. They knock down old kitchens. People toss out old refrigerators, barbecues, computers. And sometimes perfectly good televisions, bikes, furniture, toys. Out with the old. In with the new. It’s infectious and addictive.

I’ve managed to score lots of free outdoor toys and furniture for the kid’s play area. My husband scouts for pieces of timber, with which he turns into wonderful things.

One evening, we took our usual walk around the neighbourhood. To our amusement, we discovered that someone had dragged some couches into the park and arranged them like you would in a lounge room.

It looked like a beautiful, surreal artwork. Some evocative and bizarre statement about domestic life, consumer waste, and living in the presence of nature. From afar, it was a very striking image. Remarkable in its spontaneity. Astonishing in its disruption to the park. It was glowing like a beacon of suburbia. And we were immediately drawn to it.

I’m not sure what we expected to find. But as we walked closer, we saw four teenagers, sprawled lazily, yet talking excitedly about something. There was definitely a glimmer in their eyes and a buzz in the air. Maybe they too were struck by this peculiar, yet profound, arrangement.

But no. In amongst the teenaged random stammer, we worked out that their excitement was solely centred around an ipod and $2.40 they found behind the couch seat cushions. Indeed, this was what living in the suburbs was all about.

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Shaun the Sheep

12 August 2007

Shaun The Sheep

Lately I’ve been watching Shaun The Sheep with the kids. A super cute claymation (clay animation) by Aardman Animation – the same guys who do Wallace and Gromit.

My goodness. It is SO funny, charming and delightful. At the end of each episode, I’m giggling like a little girl, and in awe of its brilliance. I’m TOTALLY in love with the little guy!

I just love animations with no speech – where the story, the humour, the multiple character quirks, the everything, is communicated with action, expression, music and sound effects. It’s just brilliant!

Plus it has an awesome website, where you can download screenshots, make and do stuff, activities packs etc. I haven’t worked out whether they do plush toys though.

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Maya Indian Restaurant

9 August 2007

MirrorLast week, we joined some friends for dinner at an Indian restaurant in Fremantle.

We braved the rain and cold, but it was so worth it. My mouth was watering as I looked through the menu. I couldn’t decide. I was so hungry. Give me anything! Now!

My review of the Maya Indian Restaurant : The interior was really arty and stylish.

It was warm, modern, sophisticated. Plus, dotted around the restaurant were displays showing off fashion garments, fabrics and jewellery for sale. It was quite cool.

Maya Indian Restaurant

The food arrived quickly. It was DELICIOUS, fresh and tasty. Prices were reasonable. The wait staff were excellent and helpful. Nothing to complain about! Highly recommended!

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Life is never dull with pets and children

7 August 2007

When we bought our hermit crabs, my 4 year old learnt several things from the pet shop lady.

One. If a hermit crab loses its leg, it can grow back again. Thus Anthony and Billy have now been elevated to Superhero Status in our house – never mind that it might take something like TWENTY YEARS to grow back. These dudes are magic!

Two. If you blow warm, moist air on the curled-up crab, it might peek out of it’s shell.

Now this has resulted in an irritating habit, quite difficult to correct. Callum will blow and blow on his crab with much frustration. Many times, he’ll hold the hermit crab right up to his mouth – to which we snap, DO NOT PUT THE CRAB INTO YOUR MOUTH!!!

Now one particular evening. I’m sure many of you can see where this is going. Callum was rather defiant. He was trying to do a trick with his crab, and he wasn’t handling it with care. DO NOT PUT THE CRAB INTO YOUR MOUTH!! I scolded him. I nagged him. I gave warnings. I finally took his hermit crab away and proceeded to launch into a lecture about The Importance of Caring For Creatures.

All the while, no one was watching Sean.

That is. Until we heard the sickening sound of a shell being rolled in a mouth, clacking against teeth. And Sean going, “AAUUURRGGGG!”

I freaked out. Oh. My. God! My 2 year old is CHOKING! ON A CRAB! HE SWALLOWED A LIVE CRAB!

I shrieked “SPIT IT OUT! SPIT IT OUT!”

I quickly realised that he wasn’t choking, and that the crab had in fact nipped the tip of his tongue. It was like a cartoon. My son, curled up on the floor, his tongue sticking right out, with a little crazy crab dangling Spiderman style to his tongue, holding on for its dear life, dripping with saliva.

Sean screamed and cried and clawed at his face. I grabbed hold of the crab and yanked. I wouldn’t come off. It had a firm grip. Crap, this is going to be bad. Sean squealed and flapped his hands. What was I going to do?

I finally gave it one last yank. And thankfully it came off.

I dunked the crab in some water. And placed it back in its tank.

I assessed the damage on Sean’s tongue : A teeny tiny, shallow spot of blood on the tip of his tongue.


Surprisingly, both boys have not been affected by this incident. Myself on the other hand…

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Sean makes his bed.

5 August 2007

My 28 month old kid is such a chatterbox.

“Mum! Mum! Come here! Guess what? Look I have something to show you! It’s a really good idea. It’s really cool. This blanket. Goes here. Like this. People. They go here. Then get all covered up. See this big pillow? It goes here. But this small pillow. It goes here. Like this. Bear goes here. Bunny goes there. And ahhhhh, Seany goes snuggly wuggly right here!”

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Gone Camping : Karen Does Survival

3 August 2007

Our foodToday, our family is off on a camping trip up north. It will be two weeks of camping in a tent, driving to really isolated places, walks along the beach, snorkeling off coral reefs, bush walking, toasting marshmallows, telling camp fire stories and star gazing.

We’re driving to Ningaloo, Exmouth – which is a 12 hour drive from Perth. It sounds a bit crazy, but we’ll be making lots of camping stops!

We’re not planning to camp in luxury. There will be no grand outdoor kitchen, portable hot shower, or toilet, inflatable air mattresses, refrigerators, generators, or any of those things.

We’ll be roughing it out : Cooking simple camp meals (see above) on a small gas burner, sleeping on mats, boiling water over a fire, washing ourselves in the ocean, going to sleep when the sun goes down, waking up when the birds call at dawn, and wearing the same clothes for 5 days straight. We’re going feral and it’ll be great! Haha. Ok not really.

Our only item of luxury is a borrowed dual-screen car DVD player for our little backseat passengers. We used to be quite opposed to the idea, believing that children should be able to create their own entertainment during a road trip – singing, talking, puzzles, drawing, stickers, word games, books.

But after several DISASTROUS holiday attempts, we decided that perhaps we were kidding ourselves – after all, 12 hours is a really long time for a kid to be strapped to a seat.

As for my website, I’ve got quite a few pre-written posts that will appear magically as the week unfolds. So do pop by! Check out my favourite posts if you like!

However, be aware I might not be able to check my email very often!

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Organic Watercress

1 August 2007

Organic Watercress

At church on the weekend, I was intercepted by two squabbling aunties.

Aunty 1 walks up to me and says, “Hey Karen! You want some organic watercress?”

Aunty 2 scoffs, “What organic? Mrs Lee’s neighbour collects it from the local swamp in Gosnells!”

At first I baulked at the thought of eating “freshly collected” watercress grabbed from some council parkland in a light industrial wasteland. But it turns out that Mrs Lee’s neighbour has an organic vegetable farm out there.

I recently read somewhere that watercress was the newly discovered “superfood” – with lots of health benefits, concentrated antioxidants and amazing cancer fighting properties (it contains a certain compund that prevents damage to the DNA in white blood cells).

My mother used to make watercress soup all the time. I used to LOVE eating the stuff! in salads, in chicken soups, in noodles. Yum.