Bags..check. Kids..check. Hubby..check. Freshly baked roadies (chia and nut bars, 2 avocados, wholefood crackers, fruit) Art desk set up in Kia Carnival....Check and check!By 6am Saturday morning we were packed and on the road. Thanks to daylight savings not yet being upon us we had the fortune of a beautiful sunrise to accompany us on our journey out of Sydney. With the fantastically early departure we beat all vacation traffic and before we knew it we were having breakfast with my mum at her house in Minmi, a 120 year old post office conveniently located enroute north. After some muesli, tea, toast and a catch up we made tracks. Our first stop off was a random remote beach in Crowdy Bay National Park 30km south of Port Macquarie. Although it was a good half an hour on dirt off the main road, the picturesque shores and sparkling water easily made it worth the extra travel time. After a quick dip & late picnic snack we continued heading north, our next port of call being Nambucca Heads for a fix of fish and chips and some beautiful afternoon sunshine. Trooping on, we made the mandatory visit to the Big Banana (which was an unsurprisingly mediocre experience except for the water slide & toboggan for the little ones!) and stayed overnight in Coff’s Harbour in a cabin on a palm acreage. We headed off next day making it to Byron for a late lunch in that fabulous cafe on the beach. We would have stayed a little longer however the wind was blowing gale force down on the beach! Realising that sand in the eyes and a most definite loss of hats and towels was not an ideal way to spend the afternoon we decided it was time for us to head inland. Late that evening we finally made it to our final destination, my sister-in-law Susie’s home at a property in the bushy surrounds of Mount Warning. A small cottage on a couple of hundred acres, this huge expanse of land is filled with a beautiful array of native plants and trees, her own waterfalls and swimmable creek complete with platypus and turtles and nine boisterous but very friendly dogs - all rescued from the pound. ...oh and at my last count 45 dog beds! Amidst such stunning surrounds, it was assuring to know that Susie has had a special covenant placed on the property so the area can never be sold for property development therefore preserving this picturesque countryside and abundant wildlife for future generations. What a woman! x Susie’s gorgeously quaint cottage is charmingly rustic and nestled perfectly in the surrounding rural environment - to one side is Mt Warning to the other the dramatic cliffs of the Boarder National Ranges Park. Her little house is complete with wooden veranda, mint green painted windows and door, a long chimney, self composting toilet and the glint of black solar panels that have powered this house for over twenty years. The inside is just as aged, with old books and colourfully labelled boxes cosily cluttering the timber shelves and floors. The living room is packed full of Australiana and the kitchen small with original 1950's oven but with only herself and the dogs there isn’t need for much inside space, especially when you literally have the great outdoors on your doorstep! We stayed in the †˜shabby chic shack’; an even more charismatic and rustic space that would be our home for the next week. The antiqued interior seemed reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie and was complete with wrought iron beds, patchwork quilts, charming cane furniture, an old gas burner (for making that morning cuppa as we lay in bed reading books and listening to birds) and, to the horror of my darling Ciara, a hole-in-the-ground with Aussie dunny out the back......no walls, just a 360C view! It didn’t take long to settle into our humble abode and start the much needed and well-earned relaxation that we had been waiting for. It was built at the top of the hill to provide a roof to capture water to fill the tanks and provide sufficient pressure to run the main cottage without the need for a (noisy, power hungry) pump. Our time over the next seven days was spent very leisurely and always pleasurably! The property provided plenty of variety to offer us something different to do each day for the entire week. As a family we took walks around the spread of forest, finding beauty in ancient trees and waterfalls and the varied wildlife that called these places home. The creek played host to a great amount of hot weather activities including swimming, stick (boat) races and kayaking - a first for the kids. And the garden was fantastic for a bit of relaxing in the sun with a glass of wine while the kids painted or read a book. Also, I spent time in the cosy kitchen with Susie making vegan food (oh no, no eggs, butter, cheese or meat!) - the kids quickly got use to tofu and nut everything. My favourite meals were the vegetable fritter (no egg to hold them together), mulberry muffins - after collecting berries down by the creek and an amazing black bean, sesame coffee with dates to sweeten and cashews for creaminess! The highlight was collecting wild raspberries one morning and making buckwheat & banana (subs egg) oat milk pancakes with CO YO coconut yoghurt (go the 25% fat). Tony was lucky enough to have his birthday while we were there and we celebrated with a beautiful raw vegan cake made by local raw food queen which we ate sitting on a gorgeous vintage set of wrought iron table and chairs hidden amongst the overgrown trees and grass. It could almost have been the setting for the Mad Hatter’s tea party! Because we love adventures we headed back home a different way....inland via Armidale, exploring quaint towns - Walcha in particular with it's charismatic Royal cafe, national parks and more more dirt roads. Early in the trip we stopped for tea at my beloved hairdresser's of 15 years Torquil Murray who left his Surry Hills salon for his stunning home in the hinterlands up north. Two hours out of Sydney we dropped off the kids at my mums for a few nights....complete with bags of filthy washing! Live the life you love ...it was!
No cheese on this cheese platter! Sun dried tomato & raw macadamia and caraway & dill & raw cashew vegan 'cheeses'. So yummy!