Wednesday, August 13, 2014


River turned eight while we were in Hope Vale.

Originally we planned to be in Mareeba, until Aunty Estelle's granddaughter, Hazel, heard River's birthday was coming up and asked, "Are we having the party here?"

And so we did. It made much more sense to celebrate with River's new friends and have lots of kids around rather than spend it just the four of us in a town we didn't know.

I made pizzas and two cakes: one chocolate, one banana.

Aunty Estelle's grand daughter Fenice made a big pot of spaghetti bolognaise. Aunty Estelle set the table with bbq shapes and bowls of jaffas and later served the cake with big scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Plus lemon cordial.

Not usual birthday fare you are used to seeing here but the love behind what our hosts provided was heartfelt and outweighed worrying about any processed food overload.

The kids played in the street while the pizza and pasta were cooking. Once it was ready Aunty Estelle dished out the pasta, some kids coming back for seconds.

No one sat still for very long, quickly gobbling up their food before running back to the street to play.

As the sun went down and the sky grew dark it was time for cake, I was glad I made two so there was enough to go round.

Once the cake was eaten most kids ran out into the night making their way home. Two of Aunty's grandchildren stayed for a sleepover much to River and Sol's delight, the games and laughing continued under the light of the back porch.

So now I have an eight year old. A funny, charismatic, entertaining, fiesty, musical, creative, loving, thoughtful eight year old son who I treasure and find joy in watching him grow and in nurturing him in every sense of the word.

We are back in Hope Vale this week (with no internet access) I will post more next week.

Happy wholefood days to you all.

If you have a children's birthday coming up take a look at this post for some wholefood menu ideas and a carrot cake recipe.

The photos in this post were taken by my husband Peter McConchie.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

stills collection

1. Being in crocodile country has taken some getting used to. It is strange being in a warm climate where there are such beautiful waterways and knowing there is no chance you can swim in them.

2. Sol having fun at sunset.

3. "Please mum can we keep him?" The pressure to get a dog is growing!

4. Home made carrot cake in Hope Vale. Anything to get everyone eating more veggies.

5. Hope Vale streetscape.

6. Aunt Estelle preparing to cook the mudcrabs at a local beach camp.

7. Hot potato, hot potato.

8. Sol and one of his new little buddies, Markeesha. She has won our hearts!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

hope vale: hot chips, fresh fish and healing

Two weeks ago I logged off here and we headed to Hope Vale, a remote Aboriginal community 46kms north-west of Cairns.

The plan was to stay about six days, but as I explain regularly to River and Sol on this trip, plans change. Especially on the road.

Six days in Hope Vale turned into twelve. And in one week we will be going back for more. There was a timelessness as days rolled into nights and we settled into the home of our friends Uncle Des and Aunty Estelle Bowen getting to know their family and community.

The kettle never stopped boiling. I drank more cups of tea in twelve days than I have my 39 years. I loved every cup because with tea comes a yarn, seemingly endless yarns, at the kitchen table or around a campfire. (For readers wondering why you would have yarn with tea, in this instance yarn is another word for story not wool!)

A deep friendship was born between our families or as Aunty Estelle said to my mother-in-law on the phone one morning “they family now”.

Uncle Des and Aunty Estelle are such beautiful people. Their strength, humility, pride and commitment to their family and community inspire me greatly.

It is hard for me to find precisely the right words to paint a picture of life in Hope Vale to you. 
There is so much to say. This post is a beginning.

Adventures to local beaches to catch fish and mudcrabs happened every couple of days. Despite the heat there was no swimming of course because the waterways here are home to crocodiles.

(Aunty Estelle fishing with a handline, her great great grandaughter playing by her side)

While the fresh seafood was wonderful, the dominant diet in the community is white bread, hot chips, ice cream, weet bix, sweet biscuits, soft drink, cordial and convenience food bought from the small supermarket/convenience store.

Kids not eating enough nutritious food is not unique to Hope Vale of course, what is unique is the remoteness which limits access to top quality fresh produce and also that before the introduction of sugar, salt and grain based diet Indigenous people lived with health and strength on a natural diet.

If you are interested in the work my husband Pete is doing with Elders you can read more about it at Culture is Life and Be Part of the Healing.

We are back in Mossman for a week where I have internet access so I will post more soon. 

Thanks for reading! x

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Today we head to Hopevale.

Hopevale is an Aboriginal community about 46 kms north-west of Cooktown.

We are fortunate to be connected to the Bowen family in this community through our late great brother-in-law Peter Malcolm.

Peter Malcolm was one of life's adventurers in every sense of the word, never shying away from challenge whether it was flying a helicopter in Antarctica or finding means to sail Pelican a 63ft catamaran to Hopevale to take the community out on to the sea, Pete worked tirelessly to make it happen.

How the Bowen family and Peter came to be connected, and for Pelican to make the trip is a story of great loss and sadness, but also one of hope and healing. You can read more about that here.

My family and I are traveling to Hopevale so that my husband Pete can continue work with the Elders and community leaders on the project Culture is Life, aimed at ending the alarming incidence of self-harm and youth suicide in Indigenous communities through Elders led healing. You can sign a petition to support Elders led healing at Be Part of the Healing.

I will have no internet access while we are on this part of our journey so I will 'see' you back in here in a week or so with stories from this time that will no doubt be a mix of emotions.

Thanks for reading xx

ps. I had this lovely series of photographs to go with this post but my card reader decided not to work and I couldn't upload them, so I am sorry about that! I will sort it out asap. Ah life on the road!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

stills collection

1. 7am Cooktown. The backdrop for this small town in Far North Queensland where just over 2000 people live is the sea and this stunning mountain range.

2. Main street Cooktown. No swimming in this water, that's reserved for crocodiles! I am completely terrified about the whole croc thing, the one time in my life I feel helicopter parenting is totally justifiable!!

3. Who needs toys when you have a shopping trolley to play with?

4. Buses, caravans, campervans, tents, red dust covered 4 wheel drives, they're all in the camping ground

5. Camp kitchen

6. Sun set over the laundry

7. If you're visiting Cooktown, book a table at The Italian Restaurant (yes that's what it is called). John the owner hails from Lygon Street Melbourne where he was in the restaurant biz for years before setting up shop here in the sun

8. Yes this seafood spaghetti tasted as good as it looks

9. On country learning for River and Sol, looking on as Aunty Estelle Bowen from Hopevale community shows them how to cast a hand line into the Starke River

10. Sol looks tired in this shot but he was so thrilled about being the only one to catch a fish this day. He has decided that fishing with a hand line is better than with a rod :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

thursday recipe: banana cake with chocolate chips

We were staying at our friend Seva's house just south of Cairns and her neighbour had given her a pile of beautiful bananas from their tree, they sat golden and ripening in Seva's fruit bowl.

On her way out the door to work Seva said, "Take as many bananas as you like". Banana bread came to mind, but really banana bread is banana cake isn't it? We've talked about this before.

River, Sol and I tried settling into our morning at Seva's house while Pete took the car in to be serviced before we headed north to Hopevale where Pete would be working with Elders and community leaders on the Culture is Life project.

I say tried to settle in because River was tired and grumpy and of course Sol had picked up on that and they were niggling each other no end.

By 8.30am I was sitting at the table with them and we were writing up a list of rules that included the obvious ones like no hitting and name calling. It was going to be a long day.

They then decided to ask if they could have some of the chocolate in Seva's fridge. That would be a "No". I had already mentioned that we'd bake banana cake later in the day, "Can we put chocolate on top?" Sol asked hopefully.

I reminded them that the chocolate in the fridge wasn't ours but that depending on how their behaviour went for the rest of the morning when we walked to the local shops perhaps we could buy some chocolate for the cake.

No, not a proud moment bribing my children to behave with the lure of chocolate chips but there you have it, I'm being honest!

Once we were out of the house they were different children. Not because of the prospect of chocolate but because they were outside burning off their energy, running along the street, playing at the park, climbing, swinging, more running. Just as it should be. Sigh of relief from me.

And so for afternoon tea, we made this decadent little delight that is decidedly cake not bread.


Banana cake with chocolate chips


1 cup of white spelt flour
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
2 bananas mashed
2 eggs whisked
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia oil
1/2 cup maple syrup

To make

- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a loaf tin with baking paper
- In a large mixing bowl place spelt flour, buckwheat flour and baking powder stir to combine
- Add in all other ingredients and stir until combined
- Pour batter into tin
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and when a skewer is inserted it comes out clean

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

life on the road

We've been away from home for two months now and it is feeling like a feast I can hardly digest there is so much to take in.

The ever changing landscape, (although I must say the sugar cane fields in Queensland are a dominant feature in the foreground), so many new people with stories and delicious meals to share, beaches, campgrounds, rainforests each with their different feeling to adjust to.

River and Sol are travelling exceptionally well. We have clocked up 3000 kms now and it only took pulling over twice to lay the ground rules of being in the car - no fighting in the backseat - for them to settle in to the long days of driving.

Pete and I made the decision to buy them each a portable dvd player for the 400km plus days. This might sound like a given for many but it was kind of a big deal for us!

The only screen time our boys get at home is ABC TV or movies on the weekend. The dvd players have come in handy but for the most part River and Sol have settled into the road trip and don't really bat an eyelid at 4 hours in the car in a day.

I'm surprised at how much I like tent living. It simplifies everything. We have four plates, four bowls, four sets of cutlery, four cups, a box for a pantry, a heavy duty esky is our fridge, we each have an overnight bag of clothes, a few books, a few toys, bedding and well, that's about it!

Having said that, clothes still need to be washed (sometimes even by hand!) and folded, everyone still gets tired and hungry and along with "are we there yet?" comes "what's for dinner?" and "where will sleep tonight?" but before we eat or sleep we actually have to put up our house, the tent.

Just like at home we have our rough days where things don't flow, moods go up and down, patience is lost, and found and we look forward to the sun setting so we can start all over again tomorrow.

To anyone who has ever for a moment dreamt of hitting the road with their family I say do it. In two short months, that sometimes have felt years long, our family has made memories to last our lifetimes and put into practice the art of letting go.

We have let go of the familiar, the known, the school run, routine. There is very little that is routine about being on the road. Plans change from day to day, week to week. Sure I try to keep a rhythm to our days that revolves around meals and teeth being brushed and clothes being changed but that is about as routine as things get.

Having freshly washed and folded clothes is such a pleasure when you are on the road, as is sleeping in a real bed on the occasional nights we stay with friends or pull into a roadside motel when it is too late to put up the tent.

River and I have just in the last week started thinking about home, wondering what it would be like to be back there, wondering what our friends and family are up to.

Having been a keen traveller all my adult life I know that homesickness is part of travel so I just push those thoughts aside, knowing that the weather will still be freezing at home, that our dear friends and family will be there when we get back and that this journey we have undertaken as a family that goes beyond sight seeing is not yet complete.

I suggested to River that we phone his favorite friend from school and he was happy with that idea.

How about you? Do you have the travel bug? What's your remedy for homesickness?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

stills collection


1. So much beautiful wholefood shared with our friend Seva in Gordonvale just south of Cairns.

2. We are sprouting on the road, one jar to take with us, one jar to leave for Seva.

3. FYI there is wifi at Cairns public library but no power points to charge up your computer battery!

4. Sweet Sol in the shade at Cairns lagoon.

5. "16 more days mum til I turn 8" River is counting down.

6.  Cane trains are a common feature in Far North Queensland.

7. Happy NAIDOC week. Shopping at Yum Yum's in Mossman.

8. "Let's do a selfie" said River.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

stills collection

1. Follow the sun we're heading north.

2. Sol's travel essentials.

3. You probably know about the big pineapple and the big banana, but did you know about the big giraffe? Me neither. Look out for this beauty poking it's head out of the trees in Bororen, south of Rockhampton.

4. Standard footwear.

5. It's all handstands...

6. and seashells. Except when its not. I'll be writing a post soon about the realities of life on the road as a family: everyone still gets tired, needs to be fed and dishes and clothes still need to be washed. Not that I'm complaining one bit, but I don't want to give you the wrong impression! (Sol is collecting shells inside a safety net where the tide is out, we are at Seaforth 40km out of Mackay, the net is to protect swimmers from Box Jellyfish).

7. Camp kitchen. Not many food photos on my camera this week. We did eat! More food photos next week.

8. Just another day in paradise. (Seaforth beach)
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