Grouse Mountain, Vancouver, Canada

High above Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a ski resort during the winter and also home to a living display of Canadian history. A short 15 minute ride from Vancouver, the attraction is accessed via a skyride. In summer enjoy the resident grizzly bears, a live lumberjack show and wild birds in motion. Plus, shopping, a mountain zipline, fine dining as well as casual cafe dining. In winter enjoy skiing and snowboarding, skateing pond and snowshoeing. We spent a full day on the mountain watching the birds display and enthralled by the size of the grizzly bears and enjoying the history of Canada.

Green Bean Salad

This tasty salad was introduced into our family by my sister Jen. It is a most unusual treatment of green beans. We are used to them being cooked and served hot. This salad, with a taste of Mediterranean flavours will be welcomed by your family and guests. It is fantastic to travel with and have with a cold chicken salad or make a meal on its own with crusty warm bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g fresh green beans, blanched
  • 100g mushrooms finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 tabs toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tabs grated parmesan cheese

DRESSING

  • 2 tabs olive oil
  • 2 tabs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teas sugar
  • salt and pepper

METHOD

Place salad vegetables in a bowl. Place dressing ingredients into a glass jar and place the lid on. Shake dressing in jar vigorously and pour over salad vegetables in bowl. Add pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Serve and Enjoy.

Whitton Malt House

With only a short history, the popularity of Whitton Malthouse, among locals and travellers is amazing.

Together with a group of friends we travelled for two hours to spend a very relaxing afternoon, having lunch, enjoying the country hospitality.

Our lunch was served on the open deck, overlooking the lush green lawns, Landscaped rockery gardens, featuring ponds and relaxing fountains. With a varied lunch menu, we choose, mushroom arancini balls, Aquna cod, chicken salad, a variety of burgers, nachos, battered whiting and a massive steak sandwich.

A short walk over a suspended bridge, we found water golf, where if your golf skills were on par, and if your ball landed into one of the big discs and dropped into the hole in the middle, you won a prize. Now that is a big load of IF’S.

The boys decided to try fishing. They hired a rod and reel and wandered over to the fishing lake. They spent quite some time dropping their lines, the only thing they hooked was some weed.

Lunch at Whitton Malthouse
Whiskey tasting bar
Beautiful lounge area with a warm toasty fire for a cold winters day

Lunch with a beautiful group of friends. Mushroom arancini and Aquana cod with salad and chips. The malt house is also open for dinner.

Welcome

  1. The outlook from the deck where we had lunch. 2. The water golf pond and fountain. 3. The garden in front of the cafe, with the malt distillery in construction behind. 4. The cascading water fall with accommodation behind. 5 The swinging bridge

The boys trying their hand at fishing. The fish were either lucky or extremely clever, nothing was caught.

The cascading waterfall from underneath, with little ones fascinated by this wonder. Self contained accommodation lines the lake.

Fun on the rocks around the water fall and the boys discussing how to catch the elusive fish. Garden art in the form of a rhino. Very cleverly done

The playgound, with croquet, coyts and chidrens playground

The future looks promising for the Whitton Malt House. While on our way to the gift shop we stopped and spoke to a waitress who told us of the plans for a wetland, a 350 seat reception room, a caravan park and the malting equipment is being built behind the current building. We will have to come back and visit in maybe a year to experience the whiskey being distilled.

Warrego Riverside Holiday Park, Cunnamulla

With the Warrego River bank behind us we spent a relaxing time watching the bird life and locals fishing

The Warrego Riverside Holiday Park was full with revellers returning from Music in the Mulga, a music festival held at Wandilla Station at Eulo, and we chose an unpowered spot on the river, away from the hustle and bustle and it was really peaceful and quiet. Next to us were Horry and Brenda, who were great company, bird watchers and a bit more of naturalists than us, they were from Crows Nest near Toowoomba.

At happy hour we wandered to the camp fire on the river, enjoyed the company and conversation and had to leave early because our evening meal in the camp kitchen was ready.

Our dinner companions had spent a week at Music in the Mulga and we enjoyed their stories and company. We have put the festival on our must do list for the future.

The amenities block was relatively new, clean and fitted out in timber and corrugated iron in keeping with the country vibe.

There were beautiful gardens surrounding the amenities block and reception areas, as well as the powered sites. Making this lovely park, inviting and homely, and obviously well – loved.

Roast Tomato Risotto

This roast tomato risotto is a great way to use up excess tomatoes during the summer growing season and makes a lovely starter, a mains, or a lunch meal. With lots of garlic and herbs in the sauce, it has plenty of flavour. Instead of Tuscan herbs, substitute thyme and marjoram. I love the chewy, stringy mozzarella cheese that sticks to your fork. It is one of my favourites. To make this risotto in the van, I make a couple of batches of tomato sauce at home and either freeze them, or preserve them in a vacuum bag, ready for use.

INGREDIENTS

Tomato Sauce

  • 500g Tomatoes
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tab dried Tuscan herbs
  • 2 tabs olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Risotto

  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • A large knob of butter
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 250g arborio, risotto rice
  • 100-125g mozarella cheese
  • Ground Sea Salt and black pepper

METHOD Tomato Sauce

Cut tomatoes in half and lay cut side up on a baking tray. Make a paste with the oil, garlic and herbs. Mix well and spoon about 1/2 teas onto each tomato and spread over the tomato. Grind salt and pepper over tomatoes. Bake in mod heat for 1 hour.

Allow to cool slightly. I put the tomatoes through the food processor, to save time, however, if you want, you can sieve out the skin and seeds for a smoother sauce.

METHOD Risotto

Bring stock to a low simmer in a small sauce pan. Keep warm

Heat butter in a large, lidded saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and sweat 8-10 minutes, until soft. Add the rice and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.

Start adding the hot stock, about a quarter at a time. Allow the risotto to cook, stirring often, adding more hot stock as it is absorbed. The rice should be cooked after 20-25 minutes, with just a hint of chalkiness in the middle and all the stock should have been used up.

Add the tomato sauce and cook for another couple of minutes, with the lid on, until piping hot. Stir in salt and pepper and add the mozzarella. Leave until the mozzarella melts and stir through, leaving lumpy bits of cheese, so you get those lovely stretchy, melty bits as you eat.

Serve topped with a generous trickle of olive oil, and a tangle of rocket on the side.

The Little Rustic Pantry, Coolamon

The Rustic Pantry in Coolamon, is situated Loughnan Street, in an old storage shed at the back of The Up-to-Date building in Cowabbie Street. The building was originally a retail store, built in 1909 and is now heritage listed. This quaint little cafe, is known for its tasty lunch and breakfast menu, with daily specials. Ranging from specialty salads, wraps and quiche in the summer to hearty soups, gourmet pies in the winter. Complemented by to die for home made cakes and delicious coffee.

The decor is rustic and full of country charm. The building still bears the memories of days gone by and the interior has displays of relishes, chocolates, interior decor items, goodies for the pantry at home and historic memorabilia.

Not to be forgotten, the friendly helpful staff were happy for a quick chat, there is an outdoor balcony to enjoy the sunshine and for those who are a little bit disadvantaged in movement there is a ramp that leads from the carpark at the rear.

TASTY, FRESH, HEALTHY CHICKEN SALAD

Treat yourself to breakfast, lunch or cake and coffee, it is worth the trip and stop on the Canola Way, NSW

TURKEY, CRANBERRY AND CHEESE FOCACIA

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Easy to prepare, a one pot wash up and really delicious, this chicken and chorizo paella will be a favourite on your van travels. Tastes even better when re-heated for left-overs. The flavours have intensified.

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 chorizos
  • 3 chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 teas paprika
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 300g crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups arborio or short grained rice
  • 1-2 cups frozen mixed vegetables – eg. peas, corn
  • 1 cube of chicken stock
  • 1 lemon
  • 750ml boiling water
  • Salt and Pepper

METHOD

  1. Peel and slice garlic. Deseed and chop capsicum and mushrooms
  2. Peel and chop onion, carrot, chorizo and chicken thighs.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large, deep frying pan with lid on medium heat.
  4. Add garlic, onion, carrot, chorizo, chicken and paprika and fry until the chicken is brown. Stirring regularly. Add capsicum and mushrooms and fry further 5 mins
  5. Stir through crushed tomatoes and crumbled stock cube.
  6. Add rice and stir for 2 mins to absorb all the flavours.
  7. Pour in boiling water and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  8. Put the lid on and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 mins. (Whilst the dish is simmering you do not need to stir it constantly as traditionally you want a thin crust of crispy rice to form on the bottom of the pan)
  9. Stir in the frozen vegetable, replace the lid, cook further 5 mins

Serving Suggestion

Sprinkle fresh parsley leaves over the Paella and serve with lemon wedges.

Outback Emus

The landscape is flat, the dry grass is sparse and the drought is evident in this harsh land, baked by the summer sun. We are on the way home somewhere , between Charleville and Cunnamulla, (hey, it is a big country) we found emus along the side of the road, they were grazing the dry grass and generally just hanging around. There was a mother with three teenage chicks, a couple of lonely bachelors and a pair. They watched us, ignored us and then started racing us. We stopped to just watch them with the droopy feathers hanging down their torso and back, their strong black beaks and long neck with little short stubby feathers, almost down like. Then when they had had enough, simply turned, showed us their behind and walked away, sometimes with a quick glance to see if we were following, but generally just ambled away into the bush beyond the fence.

World Championship Gumi Race, Murrumbidgee River, Wagga Wagga

Searching the internet for the meaning of the word Gumi, I was greeted with a district in West Nepal, mobile games for tablets and phones or a shrub from Eastern Asia, however, the meaning of Gumi as taken up by the World Championship Gumi Race, held on the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, Australia, is Pidgin English word for (rubber) inner tube. The ingenuity of the teams in creating their craft using inner tubes from tractor and truck tyres for floatation is amazing. The simplicity of a number of inflated tyres tied together and jumping on top with a couple of friends and paddling down the river, makes for a relaxing, fun day on the river.

However, the event for 2021 has been cancelled due to the Covid Pandemic. So join me down memory lane from 2017 as I revisit the World Championship Gumi race on the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga

The normally quiet, peaceful, although fast flowing Murrumbidgee River, flanked by tall river red gum trees is taken over on a bright sunny Sunday by crafts of all shapes, sizes and made of whatever materials are at hand and when families and mates get together and depending on the objective, paddle as hard and as fast as they can, or simply left the craft float downstream, simply guiding its direction.

The World Championship Gumi Race is a community get together and fun day on the River, it is held in February and the craft, must be home made and manually propelled by paddles or oars. That leaves a lot of leeway to the very creative, with quite a few entrants crafting their vessel from upside down trampolines with truck inner tubes tied underneath for flotation. Craft are highly decorated, or as simple as possible. A couple of vessels with bicycles attached to paddles and the entrants sitting on the seats peddling their way down river for the 7 kilometre length of the race. A team of young, service men and women had a blowup jet as their craft. There was also a wide mouthed shark for the unwary, while others just sat on the inner tube, getting very wet, and quietly paddled their way down river.

All vantage points are taken up, from the overhead rail bridge, to the best spots along the route, and the final landing is at the Wagga Beach, a lovely sandy spot for a summer swim and most of the spectators are sitting on the lawns and having a picnic lunch waiting for their connection to appear around the bend and win, lose or draw, the spectactor’s applaud loudly.

The World Championship Gumi Race is a great way to spend a few hours at the Murrumbidgee River in Wagga Wagga, either as a spectator or contestant. Let’s hope it won’t be cancelled next year

Australian Workers Heritage Centre, Barcaldine QLD

We were thinking we would fill in a couple of hours, but the Queensland Workers Heritage Centre, deserved much more. We could have spent more than four hours wandering through this comprehensive coverage of Australian workers through their unions and organisations from the late 1880’s to the turn of the twentieth century. Starting with the beginning of the trade union movement with the shearers  strike. With representations from the railway, police, postal, teachers, stockmen, main roads and many more.

Barcaldine has examples of the type of traditional home called the “Queenslander”. The home was usually double storey,  built out of timber with wide verandahs, lots of windows and usually not lined to allow the tropical breezes to cool the interior of the home.

Centenary of Labour Movement, 1891 – 1991, Bicentennial Celebration Theatre

replica police station
INSIDE BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION THEATRE