Tag Archives: Micro Adventures

Summer Camper Trip – The White Cliffs of Dover, France.

The home run!

We left the potato farm we camped on last night to begin the last drive home through Belgium. On the way out we were excited to be able to see The White Cliffs of Dover. I realise I haven’t described these towns and the people that live in them in these blog posts but I’ve been profoundly shifted by them – it’s been a reflective writing period. Typical of a long holiday in that it started full of excitement, then weaved it’s way into the deeper life stuff and towards the end into the promise and resolution towards life at home beyond the experience. Travel drives, shapes and guides me. It always has – blame the novaturient in my DNA. But I’m also a nester and this 15 kgs of potatoes we just picked up (out of a vending machine, not kidding) will be potato rosti, roast potatoes, potato soup, mash for days! And the feels of France will live on.

Here are some snaps from the passenger seat this morning. I hope my photos along this journey have given you what my words haven’t – how absolutely beautiful the life, cultures, traditions, languages and landscapes along these French and Spanish coastlines are. The first shot is England from France and those white cliffs.

Along the way we also stopped for an overnight at Lac Marin which become two nights because let’s face it – why not! Campering in a motor home park at €10 pn and 100m from the lake. See Louie with the SUP on his back (packs down small eh) … it’s a family affair this sipping business.

I got chatting to a Spanish family at the Lac and what started as a brief chat turned into a long one. They even gave us the address of where they were staying in case we needed anything. It reminded me of a favourite passage from driving over lemons where the author talked about changing it up in your midlife – moving, learning a language, learning a new skill, trying something new … whatever! Just living you know, being interested and interesting not existing. No matter how hard this year has been (the re-settling) one thing I feel is alive in my life – not bored.

I’m not a shopper (hate it) and the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings and a necklace Greg bought me when I was pregnant with Lucas with three rings … when we though three was it ;). Where would we be without Jimmy – no, four was definitely our number (and I love babies, naturally, I’m midwife). Anyways back to my splurging (on myself) some delicate hand made bracelets a style I’ve been loving for a long, long time and some red symbolic beads. Remember that thought I had back at the Picos. The one about being busy with our hands? That’s what the beads are for. To remind me. Our hands are the key … want to write a book, write. Want to give up wine or coffee, don’t hold a glass, cup. Want to read, hold a book, want to run do your laces up, want to paint push a brush in your hand, want less of the marketing … press unfollow, unsubscribe, worried about your health pick up the phone make the appointment …. yes what we do with our hands matters. There will always be another excuse about ‘why not now’ another tired day, another party, someone, something to blame, another story we tell ourselves about why not, but really there only is right now.

So as the little and big Vegemite’s unplugged the power for the last time this trip I bid you farewell from the Summer Camper Trip. I hope if you’ve followed along you’ve perhaps found something of value in my musings. I sure have in writing them. And in the spirit of sharing one more book and a story about putting stuff vulnerably out there and the answer finding you here’s one.

The Barefoot Investor

It’s Aussie centric but wow did it answer some questions for me. I come from a frugal background and obviously we’ve had to save and plan for this sabbatical (living in a 2br with all kids in one bedroom, selling stuff, adjusting wants etc). We bought ourselves some time out by forgoing other things. Recently the reality of getting older and the question of ‘is our super ok’ hit me. When I wrote about that after the camino I felt nervous sharing it, was it to personal? But it put the question firmly on my radar. And, my super is ok … I found the answers and the guide I needed in this book. Well not mine we’ve only had one real long term income so ours. I know it breaks all the rules and I am that women who without a career and by chosing home as hers and has ended up relatively ‘superless’, but I trust my marriage. And it’s not to late to start adding some and forward planning. I read this book in full yesterday that came recommended to me after wondering about super. It’s not about spreadsheeting – man I can’t live like that but it’s a practical plan and a way to think about your finances. We’ve been harvesting for a while but now it’s time to get back to the growing … Scott has really made it simple to understand. So if you’re like me overwhelmed with the information out there but committed to living within your means and wanting financial security with the good life life along side that, this book is awesome. Wise and wild right.

Buen Camino dear hearts! The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the camino (next week, next month) indulging my wayfarer soul. Maybe?! I haven’t decided if I’ll blog it yet. But can I share that as we drove through Calais this morning where for many years refugees have lived in camps it hit me how important my One Girl volunteer work is. The educations we provide these girls gives them the chance of creating a life for themselves and their families where they are and it gives them dignity and hope. Life giving stuff.

Fran xxx

Camper tips:

Total accommodation spend: €403 – 38 nights (€185 was the four nts in a caravan park I wouldn’t do that again). We don’t own a car (we use bikes and train and a green car on the odd occasion we need it) so we consider the cost of hiring the van covered by what we save in petrol, registration and insurance.

If you want to do it! Do it! If you can’t yet – plan. Practice – go camping. Get outside as often as you can, walk amongst trees, along the sand and in the mountains. Connect with yourself, your life, your family and nature – and watch the magic unfold.

Oh and an egg in bread is an excellent 11pm dinner when you’ve driven into the night.

If you have any camper questions please ask in comments.

Summer Camper Trip – Cabo Ortegal, Spain.

One holiday. So much variation.

What would a wild adventure be without feeling exposed and humbled? When you travel in what is effectively a tin shed, you can be sure you’re going to feel the extremes. And naturally a dip in the extremes suits me – given that I like to feel my way through things. Except the heat. I struggle in extreme heat and I especially struggle in heat, in a tin shed. Hence the Nth Coast of Spain, far better climate that the Sth for summer.

I knew we were going to be in for a treat along this coastline. It’s not remote but it is the path less travelled. It’s certainly not luxury and the beauty of that means it’s often ours alone … even during the European summer. The deeper we travel into Galicia the wilder it becomes.

The Cabo (point) Ortegal took me back to the time we parked in the camper on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Back then I remember wondering if the camper would blow over on account of the wind and was I being irresponsible as a parent. I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep that night in Ireland. How times have changed! Obviously I wouldn’t Camper in a storm or wind warning but to feel the ferocity of wind is to know you’re alive! Especially when you can cosy up with a hot chocolate afterwards.

The wind holds a lot of spiritual meaning to me. It scares me less to stand in the wind and be exposed than to slowly wither under the pretext of safety. This camper stop was a rugged one – a stopover in turbulence. A time to feel humbled by just how big the world is. And to harness a little of that wind spirit into my bones. I’ll need it for my re-entry back into life off the road to help with the culture shock!

A midnight walk to the light house with my oldest was spooky … seriously spooky. I haven’t felt spooked in years. This rugged coast where ships have been wrecked must surely have its stories. Add the howling wind with absolute pitch black darkness and sure I’m imagining ghosts (I don’t actually believe in ghosts)!!

It was a stop where we taught the kids how to play charades. A game that lasted into the early hours of the morning and will go down in my memory bank as one of the best nights of the trip. Dinner was a frittata. The classic use what’s left over in the fridge dish. Abuela’s flowers are still traveling with us, love on the table. And not only was I graced by my friend the wind … but I woke to mountain goats outside my window.

My friend Paula sent me this:

I FOUND THIS – mountain goat symbolism is letting you know that this is a time to begin new climbs and new endeavors. You must also plan your course and take your time. In other words, look closely at what is ahead so that you can be surefooted along your course. Similar to the rat Mountain Goat meaning is also be letting you know that it is time to stretch yourself. Therefore, reach for new, and higher goals.’

Thanks Paula – I loved it! I love for this kind of kind, meaningful stuff. Yes this is the stuff I want to collect. xx

Actually did I tell you the story about Sydney … the first day I moved there and we moved into a house that had a rat? A massive rat. I didn’t feel the same way about that rat as these goats, I actually never went downstairs at night – truly! But … I did begin the journey there that brought us here. Perhaps the rat was there as a catalyst. I am a hippie at heart.

So onward after a night of turbulent winds … towards something calmer. Where, logistically? We’re not sure so we’ll simply start the drive. Where, personally? Out of the wind for a while … to secure my footing, but I am looking closely and getting ready. Just as if I were to climb a rock face behind the scenes I’m securing the anchor points to steady the climb.

Onward. Upward. Forward.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Enjoy the beauty of simplicity … using a wine bottle as a vase. A corner that makes you smile because it’s homey! Reminding your oldest son to give you a kiss on the cheek without being shy! And getting the littlest to remind him to put some effort into it. The extra ‘I love you’s’ that are met with ‘I love you too’s’ because as the trip goes on you will have more and more of these moments as you become tighter. And as the trip goes on you get closer to going home so sink in as deep as you possibly can. You will be changed and connected by this trip.

Summer Camper Trip – Foz, Spain.

What is it they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Foz was beautiful. Not classically. Not in an eye popping with wonder every where you look type way. In a presence kind of way. Galicia was my favorite region walking the camino. It can be wild, rugged, overgrown and rundown but baby it’s ALIVE. It’s a region of growers and makers with green pastures and buildings of past eras. It’s not for everyone I’m sure. But I love these ancient Celtic lands with her wind spirit that mesmerizes and opens me in the way Ireland also did.

Towards the end of the school year I became friendly with one of the mums at school who is Spanish. She mentioned to me they were going to be in Foz and encouraged me to stop by if we were passing. The timing worked in more ways than simply hitting this part of Spain at the same time. The joy of synchronicity was ever present in this stop.

We planned to stay in an Aire (a motor home park) for the first two nights. A €13 (with power) and washing machines kind of place. It wasn’t particularly inspiring but we could see the beach, the kids could run and I would cry as my back became unbearable. I knew it was muscular but obviously when something gets worse in a foreign country it starts to gets a bit unnerving. I messaged my friend who replied straight away saying her sister was a Dr and they’d pop over. Can you believe it? A Sunday night house call – in a motorhome park ;). I had since put a disposable hot pack (excellent first aid kit staple) on it and was already feeling a tad better. Turns out it was muscular and I was prescribed some strong ibuprofens which in Spain are easily obtained over the counter. Of course! This is camino country where 600mg of ibuprofen is standard.

The medication worked a treat and the next day I was able to walk into town with Greg and the kids for an unplanned explore. I had envisaged a long lunch – a Galician food feast. I was quite taken with this town. Again not because of its beauty but it’s soul. It’s pride in who it was. A fisherman’s village with a strong, proud community. It’s permanent photo exhibition – ‘the photo albums of our grandparents’. And, when gardens are growing food not manicured lawns – I’m quite sure the world is in a good place!

Did we have a Galician feast? Yes friends we surely did! The kids were super obliging and tried everything … although they did order burgers. It was such a delicious afternoon. I’d rather camp for free and every now and then, indulgently, eat out. I did do something I don’t normally do … I looked at restaurant reviews when it was time for lunch. My sister was adamant about this on the camino and we ate pretty well! In tourist towns it can be easy to get a shit meal. When your traveling with four kids and don’t often eat like this – good food matters (to me anyhow).

My back survived a day of walking and we moved ourselves over to a beach car park – for nada, of course! It was cruisy and relaxed. If you want to beat the Euro crowds in summer … you won’t find them here. Only Spaniards holiday here. In fact we’ve only come a cross a handful of other nationalities. The local baker even drives through with fresh bread at the respectable time of 10am! Just as we’re beginning to rise. We are completely on Spanish time now ;). Living the dream you say … but wait – there’s more!

So you know I’m reading a truckload. Well I just finished Sheila O’Flanagan’s ‘The Hideaway’ set in the province of Alicante in Valencia, Spain. Today I lived my favourite and most heartwarming scenes from the book. My Spanish friend invited us over for a drink at her family’s summer finca (farm). More than sipping local wine it was also a taste of Spanish life. Tortilla de Patatas (gooey and creamy, the BEST ever) & Pimientos de Padrón cooked by abuela herself … all bucketed down from the kitchen. I practiced my Spanish which is basically still single words but I loved the feeling of being embraced by the inherent warmth of a big Spanish familia. I left with two beautiful Hydrangea flowers – gifts from abuela. My favourite flowers.

Yes, a PINCH myself, this JUST happened kind of day and stay in Foz! Perhaps Australia or Ireland won’t be where we find that place to see our our retirement years, the cottage with abundant gardens and horizons for days … perhaps the warmth of Spain is starting to seep into my pores. But … it doesn’t have to happen straight away – the dream can be a dream (in the dream pool with all the others). Life can reflect the values I love about that style of living (even in the city). Omg I’ve changed! I didn’t even look up real estate :) The dream pool is amazing but living in today is amazing’er. It’s a slow built this dream of mine, the one where a book like The Hideaway could be set! And, of course you’d all be welcome the dinner table will always be ready and gardens overflowing.

Buen Camino friends … towards the dramatic coastline with a heart full and a back that is feeling loads better.

Fran xxx

Camper tips!

Make sure you have insulation for the front windows. We didn’t last time. This time, yes! The entire camper is dark until we wake – BONUS helps with Spanish time. And it’s neither freezing nor boiling first thing. A huge difference.

It’a all in how you move.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 14/28

Today’s recipe: Passeggiata/Shinrin-yoku.

One of my favourite Italian words is passeggiata. It’s the traditional evening stroll taken in the central plaza by a town’s residents generally for the purpose of socializing. And one of my favourite therapeutic ideas is the Japanese Shinrin-yoku. It means to bathe in the forest atmosphere, to take in the forest to through your senses. (More on that here.) Inviting these two traditions together is to invite joy for joy’s sake into our day.

At the midpoint of this 28 day project I’m convinced that the notion of movement with purpose is the holy grail. It made so much sense to me after walking the camino, to simply move each day in a forward direction. By taking each step, decision, thought, conversation and action as though they are part of a bigger plan. Our very own plan of who we want to be and where we want to go to.

The more we practice moving along our path, the one that has the signs and way markers that feel right, where we practice what we say ‘yes’ and what we say ‘no’ to … the easier it is to recognise when we are veering off. If we’re heading down the wrong path it’s because we practice that it becomes easier to straighten ourselves back up to find our way back. Back to where the rewards wait – hugs, giggles, deep conversation, clarity, peace, confidence, quiet, kindness, pride, fulfillment …. the place we are most ourselves.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran xx

Some days it’s all about the bike.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 11/28

Today’s recipe: Every day seasonal fruit muffins.

After a perfect morning in Amsterdam with my ‘dutchified’ Aussie friend I returned to the ‘bike’ car park at the station and I couldn’t spot my bike! Eeek. It’s your worst Dutch life nightmare … almost as bad as the frite van running out of fritsauce (egg mayo). No it’s worse. Definitely worse. Dutch life revolves around a bike!

As you see bikes are parked in all sorts of multi level ways. It’s Chadstone shopping centre without level and parking spot numbers! Even with my big green flower basket it took me an extra minute to spot it. So my sinking stomach turned into a big long satisfying breath. Oh how I need my bike for this bike life that I love so much! I’m quite attached to it ;)

Summer has definitely arrived in The Netherlands and it’s the happiest country in the world in the summer. The Dutch love the sun! The outdoor cafes are full, the kids are running around on the streets playing hide and seek until 8pm, there’s even more singing on bikes than usual and the day is light until 11pm. It’s nearly holiday season here which feels strange … summer, end of school year and yet it’s not Christmas or the New Year. There’s no feeling of rush in the lead up to this ending just joy because the summer season is beginning.

We’re cruising towards the end of the school year. Aside from the indoor art gallery the backyard has turned into a slime factory … every.single.night! I used to cringe at slime (no for months), aaah the mess. But you know if you’ve got a kid who needs to make things and feel textures within their fingers you have to choose. Allow creativity to flow in your house or don’t. She now has a slime shelf in the garden shed. What’s the alternative? Encourage passive activities? I’ve watched this Ken Robinson TED talk a few times, maybe the first time when this kid was toddling. I feel on the cusp of a sliding doors moment right now. In giving in here I chose to value creativity over control. That, combined with a few other decisions to ensure that protecting ‘childhood’ comes first. Gosh parenting can be challenging. Just as some ‘no’s’ are some ‘yes’s’ are worth so much …. actual pivotal moments. (We are going to start playing with making natural colours perhaps beetroot to start?! One step at a time, nothing starts perfect.)

Today I felt a bit low on the bike adventure part of this 28 day challenge on account of the lurking head cold. And then on my 15th km of bike travel today I remembered my daily life is the adventure and I just needed to let the day play out. It helps that my husband is away – there’s no one else to do the school or tennis runs on the bike.

I’m still on the ‘what’s in the fridge’ Buddha bowl (just add chili oil ;)) gosh I love the bowl full of different tales and tastes. I truly get better at making these each day … and how good are kraut and pesto as dressings. It was an in and out on the bike kind of evening so dinner needed to be simple. Gnocchi (not home made) with pesto. Pesto (basil, parmasen, pine nuts and olive oil). Actually the child who doesn’t love bread asked if they could have this meal cold for school lunch tomorrow … such a shame it’s all finished (and it’s a half school day – Wednesday)! I do want to make my own gnocchi one of these days. Perhaps a project for next week when my sister is here … hmm universe I need an Italian friend.

The easy gnocchi dinner (less than 10 minutes prep) was also a bonus because at the same time I could get the school morning tea (play lunch) in the oven. I make muffins every 2-3 days. I have it down to a 10 minute prep time. Recently one of my junior chefs has learnt to bake these muffins. She’s made them twice in the last week. The kids never complain and every day the empty paper comes home in the lunch box! Perhaps because the flavor changes, in the winter apples, dried fruits, last week bananas, blueberries and today raspberries.

Fruit flavoured muffins!

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (the recipe is 1/2 but 1/4 and the kids don’t notice it)
  • 1 whisked egg
  • 1 cap of vanilla essence (optional)
  • 1.5 cups of S.R.Flour
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • Desired fruit flavour

How I do it:

Beat the butter, sugar and essence. Add the whisked egg (if using banana add here).

Sift in the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon start stirring in the flour and slowly add the milk.

Once mixed add the fruit (play with amounts – no rules) and stir.

Bake in a moderate 170 degree oven for 15-20 mins depending on your oven. I need 4 a day and this mix makes 12! You can even freeze them. In the past I’ve made batches and taken 4 out the night before but in Holland freezers are sooooo tiny, like hotel fridge size. Enough space for frozen peas edible and a bag for falls (4 kids), de-caf coffee (for when my mums here) and ice cream (husband).

My summer cold is finally beginning to loosen its grip and the sun’s rays are promising sandy feet, ocean air and salty beeezes. But first tomorrow, as you may recall it’s market day on Wednesday. A new Spanish friend is joining Lexie and I on our coffee and market adventure tomorrow … hmm I wonder what will be in season?