Budgeting for Ireland – food and travel

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Cliffs of Moher

Our 3 1/2 weeks in Irelands are coming to an end as we fly out to Munich tomorrow.  I don’t think that there has been a day that we haven’t loved.  This country and its people have blown our minds.  From its incredible beauty and history that is everywhere to the kindness that has been shown to us from every person that we have come into contact with.  In our 23 days here, travelling 3000 km, we don’t feel like we even touched sides with what there is to see but here are some of our tips and suggestions to travelling as a family on a very tight budget in Ireland and things we found were unexpected costs.

Car Hire

Get a bigger car than you think you will need

As a family, it is preferable to have your own transport to get around especially if you want to be outside of the main cities.  We underestimated our luggage to boot (trunk) space.  I had booked a petrol polo and we had to upgrade to a Golf 1.6.  Being 4 in the family and travelling for 4 months, we have packed extremely lightly.  We have 3 medium suitcases for all 4 of us and each of us have a day backpack.  In these bags are 1 terms worth of school work as well as 3 sleeping bags and then our clothes….I think that is pretty darn impressive!  We only JUST fitted our bags in and when we did the food shop it was extremely tight.  Make sure to use the wheel well as there is an amazing amount of space there.  We stored most of our groceries in that area.

Go for Diesel

I had booked a petrol car and when we upgraded the agent suggested we change to diesel.  Diesel is cheaper in Ireland and you also get more kilometres to your tank.  We managed to get just under 1000ks per 50 liter tank.  We used 3 tanks for our entire trip so our fuel cost was around 195 Euros for 3 weeks.

Travel time and Distances

We had grossly underestimated the time it takes to travel anywhere compared to the distances you are travelling.  Everything takes MUCH longer than you would expect.  We weren’t on the highways much as we were doing as much of the coastal and village areas as we could.  This means that you are on tiny lanes a lot of the time and they take a lot longer.  Therefore a general rule of thumb is that it will take an hour to do roughly 50km.  Also, there is so much to see wherever you go and being on holiday, you will stop to take a pic and appreciate, which adds even more time to the above.  So we spent a lot more time getting places than we expected and were really grateful for having over 3 weeks here.

So if you have less time, rather stick to a smaller area as it is really stressful suddenly trying to cover ground in order to tic off the big attractions.

Money spent on transport

R2,750 = 175 Euro – 3 tanks and we covered nearly 3,000kms

R6,150 = 390 Euro – 3 weeks car hire through dollar

Car insurance is an extra cost.  You will have to choose what is best.  We went for full comprehensive which added a whack on over and above our rental, but the lanes are very small and we had quite a few close calls.  It was a once off charge when we fetched the vehicle.  The other option is that they hold 1,800Euro deposit on your credit card that you get refunded but if you have an accident, scratch or dent you don’t get that back….which freaked us out.  So insurance is really your own personal call.

Food Budgeting

Money Spent on Food in 23 days

R6,400.00 = 405 Euro – Groceries bought over 22 days at supermarkets for a family of 4.

R1,660.00 = 105 Euro – Eating out twice for lunch, 1 breakfast, 1 afternoon tea and cake

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The pretty town of Kinsale

Eating out is expensive.  Due to travelling on the South African Rand, our exchange rate is terrible(Rand16 to Euro1), and also because we are travelling for so long we really have to be careful and watch our budget.  We had booked self-catering places through AirBnB, so we rather cooked at home in the evenings.  Yes, I would have loved to not have to cook, but when you are looking at a minimum of 10Euro per person for the cheapest meal option, eating out it is not viable as a family of 4 for this length of time.  So we shopped and cooked and this kept the cost down hugely!  And we ate well too and had treats etc.  Groceries and especially meat are cheaper than back home in South Africa.

So when we picked up our car we went to the supermarket on our way out of Dublin, we bought all the basics (and put them in the wheel well ;).  Also, due to not being very hot, when we moved from place to place food didn’t ever spoil and we didn’t have a cooler bag for our milk, yogurt and cheese etc.

Supermarkets for the win

img_7643We found the larger supermarkets were really great, especially Lidl and Supervalu.  If we had a choice, we would go to a Lidl as the prices were better and they had amazing specials.  Also, if you drink wine, it is very expensive in Ireland as they have a very high alcohol tax.  Lidl had the best prices for wine by far!!!!  It was nearly half the price of anywhere else.  We found that supermarkets were very accessible and we could pop past one at least somewhere along our daily route.  Thank goodness for google maps ūüôā

Picnic lunches

Out of our 23 days on the road we have picnicked for for roughly 20 of them.  Simon and I were just discussing that doing this took us to some amazing places.  Being out and about, instead of staying in the town to eat, we would drive to the local park, find a stunning forest or go to a pretty beach or eat at the walls of a ruin.  This made us see things that we probably would have missed staying to eat in town.

Every day we would just grab our picnic bag (a cheap shopping bag) and pop in our cheese, salami, mayo, tomatoes and then go past a supermarket or petrol station (a lot of them have good bakeries) and buy yummy baguettes.  This also meant that whenever the kids suddenly lost the will to live due to hunger we could literally eat before we got hangry.

If you are going to picnic, a few things we bought which makes it easier

Utensils – we went to the cheap Dollarz store and bought a set of plastic Knives and Forks set and a little sharp Knife

  • Pencil case – we used this to keep all the utensils in and the kids got them on Emirates
  • Tupperware – bought a cheap Tupperware to put boiled eggs in or cheese etc
  • Kikoi/lightweight towel – made it easier to setup/sit on and we kept one in our backpack

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I will post a few more of our experiences in Ireland.  We are in the middle of our 4 month trip around Europe, so writing is secondary to doing school with Jesse and Livi, keeping in touch with our business at home and being present in the day.

Lots of love

#familyonamissiontoseeireland

Off to Europe – Italy

Helping with Camps in Italy

For the last 5 weeks, our little South African family of 4 have been in Italy at my aunts farm just outside of Rome helping her with her summer camps.  For the last 19 years my aunt Sara has run camps for kids between 8-11 years old, giving them 6 days of amazing farm fun.  They camp in tents, walk rivers, ride tractors, learn to ride horses, spend a night at an Etruscan Antiquities Center, and in general have good clean outdoors fun.  She has 16 kids at a time and do 3 camps in a row between the months of June and July

The grounds that the camps are held on are amazing.  The castello has been in my uncles family for over 200 years and if I remember correctly was built between the 11th-15th century and is situated just 60km from Rome.  On their amazing property Etruscan tombs have been found which date back over 2500 years along with an old Roman road.  I spent a wonderful summer there when I was 11 and have been back many times over the years and it never fails to amaze and is the most magical place, especially as a child.

How does this tie in with us?

15 years ago Simon and I came and ¬†helped with the camps, and this year my aunt didn’t have anyone to assist her. ¬†So we got chatting and decided to take the opportunity to come over and help her and give our kids a different experience and a chance to learn and immerse themselves in a different culture and interact with kids from another country. ¬†We have then further taken the opportunity to stay longer and travel Europe and Ireland for the next three months. ¬†So we have traded in our 4×4 and overland trailer for aeroplanes and suitcases and some new and amazing family adventures. ¬†We have rented out our house for 6 months to help fund this amazing trip, friends have kindly taken our beloved animals (thanks Elaine and Winks) and Simons fabulous cousin is helping to look after our business back home (thanks Bev).

The last 5 weeks in Italy

I think we are still recovering! We arrived early June and had 10 days to see family, go into Rome for a few days and play tourist, and then setup the camp and get ready for the kids.

Looking after 16 kids plus your own 2 is hard work. ¬†Throw in the fact that Italian kids go to bed late……very late, and you have exceptionally long days!!! ¬†We would start getting the kids into their tents around 10pm (which they thought was way too early), and they then woke up just after 7am. ¬†I don’t know how they function! ¬†It must be years of training.

The language barrier is also quite difficult and exhausting. ¬†Our Italian is pretty broken and majority of their English isn’t great, but there was always one little translator who was an angel. ¬†So you have hard work and looooong days and it is exceptionally hot too. ¬†All that aside, the experience was great though but I think I will be happy not to be sleeping in a tent for the next while.

We had nightly joys of the most ginormous toads waking kids, a cat that would come into camp around 2am and then ‘hunt’ our tent straps, the rooster that thought 3am was a good time to crow, Antsy the donkey hee-hawed at around 5am, kids that had sweets in their tents (when they weren’t allowed) and then climbing into bed and finding ants had invaded, the nightly hunting sessions for grasshoppers, caterpillars an any other insect that freaked them out due to the fact that they hadn’t zipped their tents shut, even though we had told them a million times and the list goes on and on…..but hey, it makes for great memories.

How did the kids handle?

Jesse and Olivia participated in the first camp completely as part of the group of kids as we only had 12 the first week. ¬†The second two weeks they assisted us as well as participated where possible as there were 16 kids each week, so the camp was full. ¬† It wasn’t always easy for them and nor for us, as they got the dregs of our patience and our time due to the fact that we were working and looking after the other kids was our priority. ¬†But they were troopers and learnt to be a bit more self sufficient.

¬† And now…

Our family journey begins in earnest! ¬†We packed up a few days ago and caught our first flight en route to Dublin. ¬†We will be spending the next 3 1/2 weeks exploring the green isle. ¬†We have rented a car, booked airbnb’s and have no plans further than that. ¬†We will also have to start our term of homeschooling this week, which will be something new. ¬†The kids school has been incredibly supportive. ¬†We are missing the whole of the 3rd term, but will do our best to keep up with Maths and English, after that this journey is the most incredible education they can receive.

After Ireland, we are heading to Germany to cycle the Rheine and then renting a camper van where our no plans journey continues.  We will be heading back to South Africa at the end of September.

So come along for our journey.  I will endeavour to post whenever possible, but follow Instagram an our Facebook as that is more of the day to day

lots of love

the van Nierop family – Simon, Tammy, Jesse and Olivia

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Breakfast in the Bush – yummy eggs

Bullets and Beans

Last month at the amazing Desert Knights Mountain Bike adventure I got to meet the wonderful Marion Sieberts. IMG_0755

If you have done the Mapangubwe Wildrun (now that is one for the bucket list) or many other amazing wild sporting adventures, then you would have eaten her delicious food.

Anyway, on the morning at the Orange River, she opens up the Pooitjie pot on the fire and this aroma comes out that has us all salivating.

It didn’t look like much but oh my word it was so yummy.¬† After getting this simple but delicious recipe that she dubbed Bullets and Beans, I had to try it out the next week when we were camping in the Tankwa Karoo National Park.

I had a very hard to please crowd, my kids and their friends.¬† The joy of dealing with kids is that they are ruthless with their critique and opinion and are very bad at faking it if they don’t like the taste of something.¬† So to say I presented a breakfast with baked beans and boiled eggs in it with slight fear and trembling would be putting it mildly.¬† My mum is from the UK, so I grew up with baked beans on toast as a staple Sunday night dinner but my kids are not such huge fans.

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Our beautiful bush camp in the Tankwa Karoo National Park

Anyway, as we were in the middle of the Karoo bushcamping in this exquisite valley and it was Simon’s birthday, I got up early and quickly put Bullets and Beans together.¬† It had to be quick and easy as the temperature was about to rise over 40degrees celsius and we still had to pack up camp.

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I had boiled the eggs the night before, so that made the process quicker and easier.  At Desert Knights, Marion had served boiled eggs for breakfast the day before and then used the leftover eggs for the Bullets and Beans the following morning.  So when camping remotely or moving camp daily, its little things like these that makes your life easier.

If you have a bit more time, making fresh Irish soda bread in the pan would be an absolutely delicious accompaniment (recipe here).  Otherwise, wraps would also work well as they travel brilliantly for those really remote trips. (overland shopping list guide).

We just did it with normal toast as I didn’t have a lot of time.¬† Well, the kids absolutely loved it!¬† The leftovers were even eaten for lunch the next day!¬† So Bullets and Beans will be added to my quick yummy breakfast camping list along with flapjacks, vanilla oats and the usual bacon and eggs.

So here is the recipe for a really easy yummy breakfast!

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Marion’s Bullets and Beans

Ingredients

1 onion

celery (I forgot mine and still was delicious)

1 tin tomatoes

1 tin bakes beans

eggs (depends how many you want)

Onion flakes (I used from Woolies)

Method

Chop up onion into small pieces and fry until lightly golden and translucent and add your celery¬† (you can add garlic too, but I forgot…yes this as well)

Add tin of tomatoes and let simmer while you peel the eggs, giving the occasional stir.

Once peeled add baked beans and eggs to the tomato mixture.  As needed to taste, add salt and pepper and some fresh herbs if you have and like.  I had some leftover bacon bits, so we added this to the mixture which was delicious.  You can pretty much do anything!

Serve on toast and adding the crispy onion once dished is the not to be missed final ingredient.

I doubled the above quantity for 7 and we had some leftovers which the kids gobbled for lunch the next day.

So, it doesn’t look or sound like much but it is yummy, wholesome and easy.¬† Give it a try next time you are camping and want something a little different.

Happy travels!

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Shopping for an offroad trip

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Packing our trailer is like a tetris game sometimes.  Writing lists of what is in each box and sticking it on the top of the ammo box lid really helps

So I was chatting to friends of mine who are heading off to Namibia for their first time doing something slightly wild and untamed. ¬†Going to these wild and rural places is amazing but so often when we don’t know where to start or what to bring it can turn into an overwhelming experience. ¬†So here are some of the things that I would recommend especially when travelling with kids.

You need to have a rough idea of distances and times to be covered each day. ¬†The one thing which has made a HUGE difference is that on the days that you are having to cover quite a large distance is to have a meal already made. ¬†This worked so well for us because as we arrived at camp my husband would setup and I would prep supper for the kids and it would be ready within 10-15 mins. ¬†You then weren’t having to set up camp and then start to prep meals on fires etc and have children who were moaning and unhappy. ¬†We took along a bolognese so only had to cook the pasta, a chicken curry so just cooked rice and just froze them before hand. ¬†Always have a few backup ‘easy meals’. ¬†I take a few pesto’s that can be put on pasta or soups that only need to be opened and heated. ¬†Again, problems can arise like wheel issues or engine problems so that you can be delayed getting to your destination. ¬†In places like Namibia and Botswana there aren’t exactly restaurants you can just pull up to en route.

It’s also good to be prepared to make some bread. ¬†If you don’t have time to knead and leave then try my¬†Beer Bread on the Fire¬†as it is quick and easy to make. ¬†Irish Soda bread in a pan¬†is also a winner. ¬†This can be used for lunches and breakfasts and doesn’t need a lot of prep time.

Don’t forget to zip loc or wrap anything in paper bags or cardboard. ¬†We opened our trailer once to find flour everywhere when the bag exploded due to driving on rough roads. ¬†An oil lid also popped off once and a Jimmy’s Braai sauce also exploded….cleaning those was no funding the residue and smell lingered for ages! ¬†We also bought milk in cardboard cartons and they started to leak due to rubbing along the bottom of the crates. ¬†The next time we put a layer of bubble wrap and paper and it was much better. Also labeling your crates with a basic list of what is inside can be a huge timesaver.

When kids have to be in the car for lengths of time they seem to snack ¬†incessantly. ¬†I would make a ‘lunch box’ each morning before setting off. ¬†Bars, biltong, a sandwich and fruit. ¬†You can’t always stop when they expect lunch so this holds them off for a while but takes a bit of planning as you have to make sure you have enough for the whole trip.

So below are some essentials I take along. ¬†It is a pretty basic list but its a good start to then build from. ¬†Let me know if there is anything you would think is an ‘essential’ that I should add as well ūüôā

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Before we modified our trailer all the food had to go into crates.  It was a permanent game of shuffle

BASIC SHOPPING LIST

Condiments: salt, pepper, olive oil, cooking oil, fresh garlic, liquid stock sachets, dried rosemary, basil and thyme, mayo, tomato sauce and butter if possible, jam, peanut butter, nutella (can be used for smores), bovril/marmite, honey, mustard, pesto.  We forgot all spices our first trip and food was pretty bland! Nothing like a pooitjie with no spices. I like to take along some smoked paprika, chilli, curry powders so that we have the option of a curry or a tagine on the fire.

Lunch aids¬†(when you can’t get bread): pre-packed wraps – we use the Woolworths ones as they last long, they can also be used for bacon and egg breakfast mornings when bread may be finished. ¬†Dry biscuits like provitas and rice cakes are good backups and snack fillers if necessary.

General Food Goods: Rice, flour (either decant into a tupperware or double wrap), couscous (can be used for salads or supper base), baking powder, baking soda, oats, marshmallows, teas & coffee, sugar, bottled beetroot, olives, sundried tomatoes, vinaigrette, tuna, tinned tomatoes, baked beans, corn, tomato paste, longlife cream, longlife milk, coconut milk, custard, marshmallows, marie biscuits (for smores), tinned apples (Desserts in the Desert), jelly (a winner with the kids but have a tupperware with an airtight lid)

General Items:¬†Rubber gloves, leather gloves (for collecting wood), dishwashing liquid, handy andy, hand washing powder, dish sponges, wire pot scrubber, kitchen cloth, dish towel (they get so dirty so pack a few extra) double thick black bags (often you have to take your rubbish along and you don’t need them breaking), smaller bags for rubbish, extra thick tinfoil, plastic wrap, kitchen towel/serviettes, wet wipes, zip loc bags various sizes (great for leftovers as they then fit in spaces in the fridge as containers can be restricting), a few tupperwares

I am a firm believer in not skimping on the good things because when you have those added ‘luxuries’ a hard day just becomes that much more palatable and good food should never be compromised on!

Shop, be adventurous and enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Carpe Diem Dammit – why the hell not?!

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Last Thursday evening after the most amazing rain snow had fallen all along the Hex River Mountains. ¬†Yes, for you wintery Northern Continental and Hemisphere people this is a common occurrence but for us Capetonians the white cold powdery stuff is a bit of a myth. ¬†We do get some snow in South Africa, regions like the Drakensberg and Lesotho but Cape Town…not so much. ¬†The Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve, just after Ceres, is the most accessible spot for us to go for a day to experience this phenomenon but windows are short. ¬†Once the sun comes out it starts to get drippy very fast. ¬†We have been up there twice in the past nine years. ¬†The first time Jesse was 10 days old and he was definitely the warmest of us all. ¬†We just went to Klondyk Cherry Farm before Matroosberg. ¬†The second time Olivia was 3 and Jesse 5 and we went into Matroosberg. ¬†We thought we would do the 4×4 route but it was pretty hairy and ended up just going along the 2×4 track and it was more than enough for us. ¬†Olivia lasted all of 10 minutes and then sat in the car and cried about sore fingers and toes. ¬†We had come woefully under prepared!

Jesse at 10 days old on the fields by Klondyk Cherry

Olivia (3) and Jesse (5) in their first snow on Matroosberg

For the last few years since then we have been promising the kids we would take them, but after each first snow fall we would put it off saying there would be better to come. ¬†We would wait and watch and invariably there was no better snowfall and we had missed our chance! ¬†Then we would have to say to them, “Next year.” ¬†So this year we changed our tune. ¬†At the first sign of snow up in Ceres, after the first wintery storm came through, we gapped it. ¬†For the day we put work on hold, took the kids out of school and went to play in the snow. ¬†We took a moment and built a great memory. ¬†For what they missed they gained 100 fold in quality family time, rich laughter and life experience!

Okay yes, there are extenuating circumstances which enables us to take these opportunities. ¬†We work for ourselves and our kids aren’t old enough to be writing exams but so often we let things go past us for fear of stepping out of our comfort zones. ¬†Simon and I are guilty of that so often but every so often you get it right and our family snow day was one of these.

So if you get lucky and take the gap to go up to the snow, here are a few tips to prevent miserable kids:

Tammy’s top Tips for a Fun day at Matroosberg

  • Leave really early. ¬†We left at 6:30 am and were there by 9am. ¬†We then had a few hours before the sun came over the mountain. ¬†The snow started to melt around mid day.
  • The day permit for Matroosberg is reasonable. ¬†We didn’t do the 4×4 route but just went slightly higher than the first car park and went along the 2×4 route a bit and walked. ¬†Lots of snow and not too many people. ¬†Cost for the whole family was R170 (R50p/adult and R35p/child).
  • Take loads of shopping packets! ¬†If your kids are wearing gumboots (lace up boots are preferable), put their feet in a shopping packet first and then tuck it into their socks. ¬†Snow goes straight down the top of the boots and within a few minutes their toes are icy and wet = miserable child.
  • Take extra socks, shoes, and clothes. ¬†Jesse had soaking wet trousers within 20minutes from doing snow angels
  • Must have water proof gloves!!!!
  • Sunglasses and hat that covers ¬†your ears
  • Take food along. ¬†You are on top of a mountain on a farm!
  • Have fun with your kids!

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Beer Bread on the Fire

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My friend, Elaine, gave me the yummiest beer bread recipe ever!  There is never any left and generally it gets eaten as soon as its sliced as it is completely irresistible.

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar (this just makes it delicious)

1 beer – preferably one of the stronger ones like Black Label

Method

Throw dry ingredients together and add the beer – not complicated at all!

Oil the bread pot well or spray and cook it

Add the mixture

To Cook

Do not put the pot right on the coals in the fire, it will burn! ¬†We did that the first few times and it is not easy cleaning a burnt pot while bushcamping with limited water. ¬†You will need far less coals than you expect as those cast iron bread pots get extremely hot. ¬†Rather start with too few and add. ¬†We¬†put a few off to the side of the fire but close enought to still feel warmth. ¬†Put coals underneath and a few on top. ¬†These will need to be rotated a few times for fresh ones. ¬†A pot hook is quite useful for taking the lid off to check how it is cooking but brush the coals off first. ¬†I have tried a few times to think I could just lift it up and then put it back on and invariable the ash falls onto the bread! ¬†Don’t forget to rotate the beer bread around as well so the sides get even warmth from the fire. ¬†It takes roughly 45mins-1hr to cook.

Enjoy!

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Unexpected surprises while Bush Camping

 

In 2013 we did our first trip with Jesse (5) and Olivia (3) taking them up to the Kgalagadi.  Our campsite on the Khiding pan was beautiful with not another person in sight.  We had put very strict rules in place for how far they could move from camp drawing a line in the sand as their boundary.   They also had to be in view of an adult at all times, so no going behind cars.  So Jess gets his spade and starts digging around a tree right next to the braai area.  He played for hours there with Livi and our friends son Sven, with their dinky cars and dinosaurs.  We thought it was great, being under a tree and in the shade but little did we know.

Later that night my husband took a pee against said tree and not five minutes later THE biggest, laziest and fattest puffadder you could imagine came out of the hole where the kids had being playing!!!!!   I still shiver at the thought.  Now the rules include no holes at the base of anything!

So here are a few things we now do with the kids camping in the bush:

  • Take tape or rope to cordon off the boundary area for them. ¬†This is not to keep animals out but to give the kids an end point to the camp area. ¬†We just took that plastic traffic tape and would tie it from the car to a tree and back to the car. ¬†If no tree we stuck a stick in the ground. ¬†When their heads are down and they are involved in play it is amazing how quickly with distraction they can move and unintentionally too. ¬†If you don’t have rope or tape then draw a line where they can’t go beyond.
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    The Matopi Camp on the way to Nossob from Khiding. ¬†The grass was very high around us so we ‘fenced’ off the area for the kids, putting all vehicles in a half circle

     

     

  • Check where the kids are playing and digging. ¬†In the story above we didn’t realize Jesse had started digging where there was already a hole.
  • If you are bush camping with high grass, put all the vehicles in as much of a half circle and then the chairs on the other half of the circle and then the kids to play inside of this space.
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Jesse, Olivia and Sven playing at Matopi.  You had to worry about spraining your ankle with all the holes and trenches they dug