Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yoga, scrappy meals and the Ori Cafe

We've spent our weekend at an Iyengar yoga intensive. Its the last one to be held by our teacher as he is moving on to another state. I shall really miss him, he is a skilled and caring teacher, who teaches from his heart. He shall be missed by his students and now we all have to get used to a new teacher, and she to us. Interesting times.

With most of the weekend taken up with yoga there's not been much time for anything except scrap meals of hot cross buns from Bakehouse on Wentworth (the Springwood shop), toast and sandwiches as we dashed in and out from yoga.

We've also eaten out at the Ori Cafe in Springwood, dinner last night and breakfast today, feel a bit guilty about purchasing food in our 'not buying it' mode, but we never took restaurants or cafes off our list. The nice thing about the Ori is that the restaurant is separated out from the main drinking bar with its pokies and there is a lovely outside courtyard for summer and in winter, with its open fire, it can be charming and atmospheric.

The Ori's dinner menu has a large range of good quality pub food such as steaks, pasta, fish, and a decent choice of vegetarian options, plus they have a Specials board which changes frequently. We shared our dinner at the Ori with J1 and J2, it wasn't a late night as we had a pre-dawn start this morning, but our meals were good and the company better. We shared some brusectta and garlic bread, the bread was rather dull but the toppings were tasty. For mains, I had a flavorsome but a too large serving of gnocchi with roast tomatoes, baked ricotta and mixed veggies. The others chose from the Specials board, a pork chop with mash and veg and the fish of the day. Once again, delicious but rather large servings. Dinner prices range between $12 to $29 ish, pretty standard for pub food these days. Deserts are the standard cafe cakes and tarts that you'd expect. I had a scoop of ice cream, pretty dull with its swirl of bottled chocolate topping, my companions had the sticky date pud and a citron tart which they enjoyed- but once again the serves were too large I felt.

The Ori does good coffee, a very hard commodity to find in the lower Blue Mountains as well as a decent breakfast fry-up. For our breakfast this morning we both had the vegetarian poached eggs, on a corn pancake and field mushroom stack, very delicious, though the presentation was a tad 'try-hard' what with the stacking and swizzles of some sort of vinaigrette dressing to make a pattern on the large white plate.

The Ori is a great local place, its wait staff are pleasant and professional, meals arrive quickly and the food is what you'd expect, good quality pub food at pub prices. Its also very popular with locals so you'll need to book.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour - think global act local

Its Earth Hour today and we will all (hopefully) be turning off our lights for one hour from 8.30 p.m. to show our concern for the earth's global warming crisis. So its an ideal opportunity to chat about the sustainability measures we've implemented in our community over the last couple of years.

It all started with Get Up's Climate Action Now initiative in 2007 to get online activists to meet in their local area. A group of us took up this challenge, met in a strangers home, got to know each other, formed a local action group and chose our target; we would sign the Kyoto Protocol declaration because the then Howard government wouldn't.

Our aim was to follow the protocol and reduce our carbon emissions by 30% over twelve months and to advertise what we were doing as much as possible within the community. We promoted our efforts in the Blue Mountains Gazette and through hosting community events such as a 'bring your own plate' supper where the Blue Mountains chapter of Ecopella sang to entertain all the brave souls who came to meet like minded strangers in their neighborhood. We found out about the Council's Sustainability Street initiatives and met the local's involved. We ran a couple of stalls to hand out tips and tricks on reducing your carbon footprint at our local shopping centre. We investigated setting up a lower mountains food cooperative, but didn't get it off the ground. All very local and low key, using the Think Globally, Act Locally principle.

What were our personal initiatives? Well we started big with the installation of water tanks to get us off the water grid as much as possible and we replaced our electric hot water system with a solar one, the picture shows the tanks and hotwater set-up and our proud green plumber. Nic changed from a non-sustainable plumbing business to a sustainable one and we were one of his first clients in his new incarnation.

We also implemented less expensive things such as riding our bikes as much as possible and combining the bikes with public transport for longer jaunts, putting water saving devices on all our taps, not using the house's air conditioning or the clothes dryer, shopping locally, buying local produce, consuming less, ensuring the things we bought were Fair trade and noting the 'travel miles'.

Our Climate Action Group has fizzled out sadly, busy people, busy lives, and we never got to evaluate whether any of us reached the 30% goal of reduced carbon emission, but we did raise the profile of sustainability issues within our community, met strangers who became friends and implemented green initiatives in our home, this year we've installed a one kilowatt photovoltaic electricity system and are making our own electricity to contribute to the grid, so a good outcome all round.

I would encourage you to think about how you can think globally but act locally in your own neighborhood to reduce your carbon footprint and make the world a more sustainable place.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wonderful semolina

Our 'not buying it' philosophy is still tracking well, and when we ran out of pasta last week, I reached for the semolina to make gnocchi alla romana to go with the tomato sauce from the freezer rather than fetch more from the shop. I seldom make this dish, but when I do there's always the, 'yes, this is so good, why don't we make it more often?' feeling. Its not hard to do, but its a tad time consuming on a 'school night'.

I used the simple and easy recipe from my trusty Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook

3 cups milk
2/3 cup fine semolina (the better the semolina, the better the gnocchi, I use organic from the Co-Op)
11/2 teaspoons salt
pinch nutmeg
1 egg (organic and free range is best)
125 g parmeesan cheese (once again, it is the parmesan that gives this dish the flavour, so use a good one)
60 g butter (organic)

Step 1
In a large, heavy based saucepan, bring the milk, salt and nutmeg to boil, reduce heat. Add semolina gradually (if you don't do this you'll have to beat like hell to get out the lumps), stir constantly with a wooden spoon (why? I have no idea, but who am I too quibble with the Women's Weekly)

Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of your saucepan, 10 to 15 minutes, until the spoon can stand unsupported in the semolina mine usually takes way less, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 2
Combine the lightly beaten egg and one cup of the grated parmesan, add to semolina mixture. Stir well till everything is combined. Spread mixture into a well-oiled oven tray, smooth with wet spatula until about 5 mm thick. Refrigerate one hour or until semolina is firm.

Step 3
Cut semolina into circles, using 4cm pastry cutter (as if, I use a glass!). Arrange in overlapping circles in your baking dish, pour over melted butter and sprinkle remining grted parmesan. Bake in a moderate oven 15 to 20 minutespr until crisp and golden.

Serves 4 to 6.

Here's the final result... doesn't look that appetising, but it is really quite scrumptious

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ukulele lady

I went to a Beginners Ukulele workshop on Sunday and I am in love with my new found ukulele skills, it is such an easy instrument to learn. I had a ball at the course, my musical background is vocal (choral and folk) rather than instrumental and I was very pleased to be able to pick up the uke and play songs almost immediately, in fact, the one day workshop with the ukulele had me far more proficent than a whole year of adult piano lessons, almost instant gratification, can't ask better than that.

I know many people think its a toy instrument, but that's just musical snobbery I think and perhaps, given its history less than PC? Hmmm, something to think about and of course Tiny Tim didn't do it any favours and the desire of the post war baby boomers to chuck away all that was old for the bright and shiny new things didn't help its popularity. However, the uke is having a revivial again and I have joined the band wagon.

The ukulele is used in the Canadian education system to teach music and its very successful, far more than the dismal recorder that we have in Australia, as its easier to learn than guitar, flute, lute or piano, an excellent beginners instrument and great to get across musical therory and harmony et al.

Ah well, back to my strumming practice.......

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A curate's egg

Had friends over for dinner last night, which was delightful, but I was less than pleased with my cooking outcomes for the evening, in fact the whole thing was a bit of a curate's egg meal, only good in parts.

The nibble starters went over well, a good double brie from Tasmania, pistachios, vegie chips and Peacamole , a delicious pea mole, adapted by Chocolate & Zucchini from ELLE à table, I found the recipe through a link on The Canberra Cook . Peacamole is what I call a 'cupboard recipe' because I usually have all the ingredients in the fridge or pantry and its quickly whizzed together. I adapted the recipe a bit by adding a squeeze of lemon juice, some lemon zest and used an organic mixed nut butter rather than an almond one.

The main meal was an organic pork roast with baked veggies, but I misread the clock, started roasting an hour earlier than I should have and didn't realise it until half way through. So everything was ready way too early and had to sit and wait, by the time it was all served up, everything had a bain marie taste and feel, like it had been sitting in the pub waiting for the lunch time crowd. I also burnt the gravy, one disaster follows another I find when the cooking starts to fall over, but thankfully the apple sauce was delicious, the recipe came from Gastronomy Domine's blog, and while the pork was almost cold, it was lovely meat. Our valiant guests ploughed through this disaster and were kind enough to make pleasant noises, but still and all, not my best meal ever.

I was hoping the desert would rescue the meal, wishful thinking sadly. I made a new dish, a black sticky rice pudding , it all seemed easy enough, time consuming because you have to soak the black sticky rice overnight, cook it for two or more hours until soft and then bake it like a normal English rice pudding. The result for all this effort was sadly very bland and pretty tasteless. I had tweaked it slightly, I used palm sugar instead of the brown specified, but I should have also included some spices to add zest and next time I will, cardomon, allspice, ginger, star anise and perhaps some lime peel to spice it up.

After this disaster of a meal, we settled down to a few games of 500 and nibbled organic fruitcake from Hominy Bakery in Katoomba with our tea, which was, as always, very good indeed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Take your heart's candle and re-light it

Have spent the weekend at the Blue Mountains Folk Music Festival in Katoomba and am recovering today at home. After a weekend spent with people creating music, I am aching to create in another way my self, so will spend part of it in the studio working on my current project.

The festival was fabulous, its great to have such talent arrive in your home town and to share it with so many of your friends as well.

My festival music highlights, there was much, much more, but these are the ones that are still singing in my head:
  • Nano Stern - Chilean acoustic guitar, young, passionate, political and extremely musical - played many different South American styles and his heart was truly immersed in his playing. If he comes your way, make the effort to see him.

  • April Verch Band - Canadian fiddle player, various styles from many transplanted celtic traditions from across north america and she step dances and fiddles at the same time, sounds gimmicy I know, but if you are familiar with the French Canadian band Genticorum, you'll understand how the step dance works like percussion rhythm and is integral to the music. Also their bodhran player was amazing, never seen it played quite this way before, plus he also played a variety of spoons. Also a 'make the effort to see them if they come your way'.

  • Old Man Luedecke - also Canadian, west coast, banjo plucking of excellent calibre and lyrics that are original and heart touching. The title of this blog comes from his song I quit my job, I'm free today, you know how something just grabs you and stays in your head, well this is the one that did it for me this festival, perhaps because I want to and can't - well I don't want to but life at work is not happy and so this song had huge resonance for me.

  • Scorba - Local Blue Mountains band, maltese/greek/north african mix, most of it composed by the band members using traditional instruments. The presentation was a tad weird as they had a slide show of Malta happening as they played, I found it fascinating but distracting as it took my focus away from the excellent vocals and instrument playing.

My festival food highlights were:

  • Katoomba Primary School food stalls - they sold a variety of fresh and tasty food, soups, sandwiches, fresh sliced watermelon, home made hamburgers (I always have one of these every year and they never disappoint). Run by the P&C and all volunteers who are always happy and helpful.

  • Rotary Bacon and Egg sandwich stall - the perfect breakfast food, crispy bacon, slightly gooey egg on a fresh bun with all proceeds going to the Katoomba Primary School, so good food for a good cause, plus the blokes had excellent banter.

  • Govinda's Hari Krishna Pure Vegetarian - my favorite festival food, its cheap, well prepared, tasty and comes with the love of Krishna, so its real soul food and I love their soy chai, it is soo hot with ginger and pepper.

  • Budda Soul Food - local Tibetan buddhist fund raising group, so eating there contributed funds to the Free Tibet cause, the steamed momo dumplings were excellent, as was the fragrant vegetarian curry and rice and the soy and cow chai were good but a tad sweet for me. The volunteers were always happy and pleasant, even at the busiest of times and in torrential rain.

  • Mexican stall - no idea who they are or whether thay are local but their bean nachos and burritos were fresh, home made and delicious.

Was disappointed that the Aunt Trudy's old fashioned spicy organic ginger syrup stall wasn't there providing hot and cold toddys of this delicious cordial, its a festival favorite of ours and we were also unable to replenish, and as our bottle is almost finished, will have to wait for Winter Magic or order online.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An omelet and a glass of wine....

Elizabeth David is a hero of mine, and of many others I know, I first found her Omelet and a glass of wine in a second hand book shop many moons ago and fell totally in love with her writing style, I was swept away to the Mediterranean, to delicious food that was a world away from my mother's grilled chops and three veg. Sadly that first edition copy has long since left my life - *sigh* - I have a newer edition now. Still and all, from Elizabeth David, I learnt that with a few good ingredients a good meal can be yours.

Wednesday night my beloved goes to her yoga class, I go on Tuesday's as I am a tad more advanced in the practice than she, so this means I have a night to myself and tonight I made an omelet because the pantry and fridge are still pretty empty. I had eggs, sadly not eggs from the Lawson chook lady, but still free range, organic and vegan, some aging tasty cheese, the fruit bowl supplied a tomato and I picked up some fresh mushrooms on the way home to supplement the filling. I love fried mushies in an omelet.

Omelets are considered technically difficult to make, but I've never found them so. If you have all your ingredients ready and a hot pan, you'll be eating a filling and scrumptious meal in a very short space of time.

So, here's what I did to make tonight's omelet. I popped three eggs in a small bowl and beat them till they were nice and yellow, I added some fresh ground salt and pepper, then grated my hard heel of cheese, sliced my tomato and mushrooms. Ingredients done.

Next I heated a heavy based fry pan (I used non stick tonight as I wanted as little fat as possible) and melted a knob of good organic butter (be careful not to burn your butter) under a medium flame and cooked the mushrooms until they were nice and brown. I set these aside in a bowl.

Onto making the omelet. I added another knob of butter, heated the pan on a high flame, poured in my eggs, moved the mixture around to ensure that the base didn't firm too quickly, then when its still unset on top, like so:

I added the mushrooms, tomato and cheese on one half of the omelet

and then flipped the other half of the omelet over the topping

and slide it onto my dinner plate.

It was delicious, the inside was soft and still a bit gooey (which is how I like it to be, I like scrambled eggs like that as well) and the fresh tomato is a good foil for the lightly melted cheese (the heat of the omelet does this) and the cooked mushies.

Oh, and yes, the glass of wine, I had a bottle already opened in the fridge, a Braided River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, went perfectly with my omelet.

Monday, March 09, 2009

International Women's Day

My place of work organised a presentation and morning tea to celebrate IWD once again this year. Our speaker was Dr. Rae Cooper from Sydney University and her topic was Women, education and economic independence.

Its not a pleasant picture and we still haven't achieved our 'room of one's own and 500 pounds a year' as described by Virginia Woolf in her series of lectures given at Newnham and Girton Colleges at Cambridge University in 1928.

Here's my dot points from Dr. Coopers talk and when I get a link to the presentation I'll post it.

  • Girls are more more likely to go to Y12 than boys and while there is a lot of noise about boys underachieving, boys still do better once they get onto workforce - Rae displayed this rather salient cartoon 'ok guys we fall behind now but get to run the whole world later'

  • Girls who leave before completing their HSC are less likely to get work than boys, and if they do get work, it will be for less pay

  • Higher eduction participation is very gendered and young women choose teaching , social work, nursing, social studies, all the lower paid professions. 

  • Once in their fields of work, men still hold the jobs of power, e.g. more men are principals and head teachers, even though they are far less men represented in either primary (34%) or secondary (43%) teaching.

  • Universities also mirror this gender inequality, more men are ASPROs or Professors than women

  • Women's research topics are less well funded than men's

  • 45% of the Australian employed population are women, yet the gender pay gap has not changed since 1992, that's 25 years of no change

  • More women are found in the lowest payed, least secure jobs and they have poorer job prospects in these areas

  • Family responsibilities mean more women work part time and in casual jobs and are therefore less secure and have less chance of advancement as part-time and casual work is usually fairly low down in the work hierarchy scale. Also these jobs tend to have bad working conditions, ill-treatment and are often un-unionised

  • Work and family market - Harvester 'in frugal comfort' is failing as both partners must work to survive but this isn't acknowledge by the law makers

  • Many women are the working poor

  • Gender entitlements gap - gap between men's wages is better

  • Women in governance and management - is actually going backwards and last year Australia fell backwards behind the first world

  • Where women are given high profile jobs they are more often than not 'Behind the glass cliff', i.e. women get given jobs that have a high level of risk attached to them and have high failure rates

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The cupboard is mostly bare

We have been very busy lately and haven't done a good Co-Op shop for over a month and the pantry cupboard is pretty bare, so when trying to decide what to cook today there was pretty limited choice. Some jasmin rice, lentils (chana and red), self-raising flour, potatoes from Kathleen's garden, two onions, a tin of tomatoes and of course we always have spices available. The fridge wasn't much better, manky dead veggies only good for the compost bin, so nothing of any use there. What to make, the dal and potatoes had possibilities and Indian was an obvious choice and I pulled out my favorite indian cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey's 'An invitation to indian cooking', the 1976 edition.

I learnt to cook seriously good indian food from this unexciting looking book when I was a student in Canberra and its never left my side all my peripatetic life. It hasn't a single colour photo, only some black and white line sketches at the beginning of each section and the writing is small and dense, but the recipes are pure gold. In here I found Hot Chana Dal with Potatoes (p.273) which was perfect for the ingredients I had available. Madhur gives two recipes, one for cold and one for hot chana dal with potatoes and I used the hot version, here's the recipe.

3 oz chana dal, cleaned and washed
1 tsp salt
4 tbs vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
10 fenugreek seeds
2 fresh green chillies ( I used one and you can use an 1/8 - 1/4 cayenne pepper)
1 medium size onion, peeled and chopped
a piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated ( we had none so I used ginger powder)
4 new potaotoes, boiled (I steamed mine) and diced into cubes
1/8 freshly ground pepper
2 tbs lemon juice, or 3 tbs tamarind paste (I used lemon)

Put the dal to boil with 1 1/4 pints of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

In a 10" fry pan (I used a wok), heat the oil over a medium high flame. When hot, put in the mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds. In a few seconds , as soon as the cumin and fenugreek seeds darken and the mustard seeds pop, add the green chillies. Turn them over once, only takes a second, then put in the chopped onion and grated ginger. Stir and fry onions until soft. Now put in the remaining ingredients, i.e. the boiled dal and diced potatoes. !/2 tsp salt, the pepper, cayenne and lemon juice or tamarind paste. Mix well and cook over a medium flame for 5 minutes, stirring frequently but gently.

Madhur suggests serving this with chapatis, bhaturas or parathas and a yogurt relish. We had it with her Rice with Whole Spices (p.240)

While I was doing this, 'the wife' was whipping up a batch of scones for her work breakfasts next week. She used her usual basic scone recipe taken from her 'The Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery', 1970's edition, an Australian classic and excellent for all the basics, we much prefer it to the 'Common Sense Cookery Book'. She added maple syrup and figs as she likes a sweet scone as a breakfast meal, me, my scones need to be plain and then I can lather them in good jam and cream.

These turned out to be seriously good, but very sweet, I reckon she should have left out one of the sweet things, but I don't have a big sweet tooth. They also turned out more like an American 'biscuit' scone, with a hard outer crust, but the insides are soft and scone like, perhaps the extra sugar did this? Not sure how many will last for her to take to work tomorrow though as she's munching through them at a rate of knots. Here's her recipe:

Heat oven to 225oC
I cup self-raising flour
2 tlbs butter
1 tlb raw caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tlbs maple syrup
2 dried figs, finely chopped
1/2 cup combined milk and soda water

Rub butter through the flour, mix in sugar and salt and chopped figs, add a little of soda water and milk to get the dough going, then add the maple syrup, mix in thoroughly, then add small amounts of milk and soda water mix till dough is firm but not sticky or dry. If it does get too sticky, just add a bit more flour. Cut into scone shapes, place onto a greased tray and glaze the tops with milk if desired and then bake in the hot oven for about 10 minutes or until risen and golden.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Out and proud - my 'lapstone hill' rant

I was shocked by a friend today, someone who I thought respected me for what, and who, I am. It was all sparked by a discussion about facebook and privacy and my keenness to post photos on the web. My friend doesn't use facebook or post photos to the web, as who knows who sees your information, and that's a very valid point, but the example given hit me for six.

If she is seen in a photo with a lesbian, people may think she is one also and this has ramifications that she can't control and may cause problems in her life. But why does an intelligent woman who believes in justice, equality, anti-discrimination, la. la. la, fear being labeled a lesbian and why is it a problem to be thought a lesbian in 2009, in the first world? Who cares, people often think I'm straight but that doesn't bother me.

I was (and still am, hence this rant) extremely upset and of course I cried and there were heartfelt apologies and expressions of love and care, but how can this be true when my very presence in a photo could be an issue?

Where does this leave me, it leaves me realising yet again that who I am, my essential lesbian me, is still really too different for most people, the bit that non-lesbians would prefer I hide or try to forget and that I am a liability in some cases. I can be accepted as long as I conform or be a tame 'gay lady', but there is really limited acceptance for what I am, except in my queer ghetto.

I am a dyke, not a 'gay lady' mind, but a dyke, and once, admitting that would have meant my death or being locked in a mental institution to be re-educated or forced into a loveless marriage and, in many parts of our world, these things still happen and, even as I type this, right here in Australia, men and women are being convinced that being queer is against their 'invisible friend's' laws and they could become normal if they just tried hard and prayed still harder.

I may have red hair, amusing conversation and a clever brain but that's just my surface, I am a dyke.

I'm out and proud and I'm not going back into my closet for anyone, that way lies pink triangles and death in a concentration camp.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Luscious rhubarb

Its rhubarb season and I am enjoying making stewed rhubarb with apple, or pears, to have with my home made muesli for breakfast or as a desert with homemade yogurt, in a rhubarb and apple pie or a crumble. I feel that its lovely rich ruby colour makes such a festive dish to serve to friends. Its so autumnal to me even though its not an autumn fruit.

Rhubarb originally came from Asia and its a vegetable, not a fruit and its been a medicine for over 5000 years and a very tart and astringent one when unsweetened, so it wasn't always a lovely desert dish. Rhubarb only became popular as food with the introduction of sugar to Europe in the 17th century. Some clever woman pottering in her kitchen or still room probably decided to sweeten a child's rhubarb medicine posset with sugar and produced a marriage made in heaven.

Stewed rhubarb is such a beautiful colour, a pink ruby colour, beautiful and shiny and so delicious to eat. Nigella nearly swoons over it in her How to Cook and she has a great recipe for slow baked rhubarb.

Home stewed fruit is so simple to prepare, my work colleagues are amazed that I make my own for my work breakfast, they think its easier to buy those little plastic pots of fruit and its one of the reasons that I get labeled as 'healthy' - but if I make it myself I have control over the ingredients, bought stewed fruit is always too sweet for my taste and I'm saving resources and money.

In fact I have some rhubarb and apples bubbling on the stove as I write and it prompted this post. It took me all of 10 minutes to get it there. I peeled, cored and cut up three granny smith apples, chopped a bunch of rhubarb into small pieces, grated about an inch of fresh ginger, put all of this into a pot and then grated in some nutmeg, added a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and three cardomon pods and half a cup of water. I then let it come to a gentle simmer and forget about it for about 15 minutes or until the fruit is soft. I will let it cool a bit and then add a couple of large tablespoons of honey, you could use sugar, I once used palm sugar as that's all there was in the pantry and it worked really well, gave a distinctly Asian flavour to such an English dish and sometimes I add raisins to bring their sweetness into the mix. I will cool it well, pack it up into portions and take some to work and pop the rest in the freezer for 'ron.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tons of tomatoes and lashings of ginger beer

We haven't been camping for ages, our lives have been too busy with other things and so we thought we'd grab an opportunity to go for an overnight camp in our local area which just happens to be the world heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park . We were inspired by friends Sarah and Dean who take themselves and their kids to a local spot close to home, enjoy an overnight camp and then return to their super busy lives.

We planned the escape with Kathleen and Susan. Just like the famous five we made sure we had tons of tomatoes, lashings of ginger beer and Cook's best fruit cake, I think we could have fed the entire camp ground with the provisions we took for just one night!

We went to Murphys Glen just up the hill from where we live, about a 30 minute drive. It felt a bit like having a sleep over in a friends back yard but way more beautiful of course as we are surrounded by some of the most lovely bush in NSW (Australia even). We anticipated a fairly quite camp site, probably no one there except us and the wild life, that was not to be.

Unfortunately for us, and a scout troupe from Leichhardt, who were excellent neighbours, there was a large group of the 'huntin', shootin' and fishin' campers well established by the time we arrived who had trail bikes and chain saws and used them all bloody afternoon and early evening, so the blissful peace in the bush we were anticipating was not experienced until night fall sadly - very, very annoying. They broke all the rules, had a huge fire in a total fire ban, used chain saws to cut their wood and got totally pissed in the evening. We felt a tad intimidated by them I must admit so were cowardly and stayed out of their ambit. All in all there must have been around 50 or more people in the camp ground, goodness knows what its like in the school holidays! People were still arriving after night fall, we supposed it was people heading off on longer trips and this was their first bush camp after escaping from Sydney.

Our short camping trip was really pleasurable though despite the yobs, Susan and Kathleen cooked a superb dinner and then we sat around the trangia in lieu of a fire while Kathleen strummed her uke and we sang along as the star strewn sky wheeled above us between the tree canopy. I succumbed to tiredness but these three hardy ones managed a few hands of euchre before calling it a night. Noisy and bolshy cockatoos woke us in the morning, rather than chain saws or trail bikes thankfully, we think our noisy lot were too hung over to do much more than pack up and leave as we did after a stroll along Bedford Creek.