About Chris Riley

Eclectic in all things.....

Castle Rock/Castle Bay

Not to be confused with Castle Rock in the Porongurups, there’s also a Castle Rock just north of Dunsborough in the Meelup Regional Park.

Castle Rock framing the bay to the East

With it’s turquoise waters, white sand and several picnic tables and barbecues overlooking the beach, it makes an ideal place to enjoy a bite of lunch.

A lovely spot to sit and eat lunch

The locals stopped by for a chat and to see if we had anything on offer for them

There’s walk tracks near by, including a short 1.2 km track that will take you to one of the most popular beaches in the South West, Meelup Beach. With plenty of photo opportunities on offer as you walk it could take you a while.

An inviting track leading towards Meelup Beach

An interesting rock along the path

If you’re feeling particularly energetic and agile, I believe you can also climb Castle Rock, although I’ve never attempted it myself. One day I might give it a go, I’m sure the views from the top would be amazing.

If the weather’s warm the bay provides a lovely spot for a swim and a cool off, and I’m certain there’d be lots to see if you fancied a bit of snorkelling too. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied for a few hours, so a place worthy of putting on your list should you be visiting the South West of WA. I’m lucky enough to live near by, so this place is somewhere that even the locals like me take the opportunity to visit several times a season.  What a pleasure!


Mr Tilly’s had a hair cut

Oh dearie me! We decided it was time to get Tilly a proper hair-cut instead of the home done, here and there snip . Sure, I’ve been preventing him from getting matted, but there’s no doubt he wouldn’t have been winning any doggie beauty competitions.

My usual little scallywag

He’s a lot cleaner and tidier looking for sure, and has been shaved really close in the appropriate areas for better hygiene (bottom and inside of ears). The hair has been trimmed well between his toes, and his nails have been clipped.

Who’s this little boy

The verdict – He doesn’t look like the ragamuffin, scallywag Rastas I’m used to, and I think I like the old look better. It’s nice to see his eyes, but there was something endearing about seeing him peeping out from behind his mop top fringe. However there’s no doubt there were definitely areas in his grooming that needed improvement,  plus the cost at $120 is more than we want to be spending on an almost monthly basis too.

Me thinks, it’s time to purchase some clippers and get serious about home grooming. I’ll be aiming for a look somewhere between his usual scallywag look and this prim and proper, perfectly coffered dog that looks like he belongs to someone else.


Sugarloaf Rock

Sugarloaf Rock is one of the south west region’s most spectacular coastal land formations. It’s not hard to see why it’s one the hallmark images of renowned Australian Landscape photographer, Christian Fletcher, or why it’s graced the cover of Australian Geographic magazine. If it’s not at the top of the list of any landscape, or would be landscape photographers who visit the area, it should be.

I’m told the sea-sculptured rock is spectacular to see when the weather is stormy with the seas crashing all around. I’m also told that one of the greatest sights is to see the sun sinking over the horizon, changing the colour of the rock continuously as it sets into the Indian Ocean. Or you can see it as we did this week, on a calm, sunny day, surrounded by crystal clear waters. (Reminder to myself – visit again in stormy weather).

Situated within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, the gigantic towering granite rock emerges from the ocean, very close to shore, but completely surrounded by water. The best place to view it is from the purpose built viewing platform. Although it would be easy to wade or swim over to the rock and attempt to clamber onto it – Please don’t. The rock is a haven for nesting sea birds, including the red-tailed tropic bird from September to February.

To get to the Rock by car, leaving from Dunsborough drive along Cape Naturaliste Road for approximately 10km. Then turn left onto Sugarloaf Road. The narrow, winding road ends after three kilometres at the car parking area for the rock.

Or you could walk. Three kilometres to the north is Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse where the 140 kilometre Cape to Cape walk track commences. The first few kilometres of the track offers great views of Sugarloaf Rock, and is wheelchair and pram accessible. There’s  stunning surf and beautiful bays to look down on to one side of you, and native Australian coastal bush full of birds and wildlife on the other. I’m told there’s benches conveniently place along the way to allow walkers to sit for a while to drink in the stunning vista’s or to just listen to the peace  – Only a few more weeks and my ankle should be sufficiently healed to allow me to see for myself……. Still small steps though at the moment, in fact only about twenty of them to take me from the car park to the viewing platform.

What a pleasure it is to be getting out and about again.


Dog friendly Bunker Bay Cafe

The moon boots off, and I’m starting to get out and about again. Still a way from walking marathons, or even kilometres for that matter, but walking from a car park to a cafe is definitely welcome and do-able now.

Last week we packed what we needed for a few hours out and about with Mr Tilly. When heading out with Tills, the days of donning a hat and tucking a credit card in our back pocket are long gone. Now it’s check first if a place is dog friendly. Once that’s sorted, then make sure the dog blanket is secured in the back of the car, fill our pockets with dog treats, top up the doggie water bottle, check we have enough poo bags (sometimes up to three may be needed), and of course, our own hats, and a credit card.

This time we chose Bunker Bay Cafe. The cafe is situated overlooking the stunningly beautiful Bunker Bay, and is in-between several national parks. Dogs aren’t allowed in the neighbouring national parks, most of which are absolutely gorgeous. We’ll save those for days when we leave Tills at home on ‘guard duty’. The Bunker Bay area where dogs are allowed, whilst not of any great distance, is never-the-less a welcome little stretch of beach adjoining the forest. For anyone visiting the area with their four legged friend, this place is definitely worth putting on your list.

The fully licensed cafe is approximately 35 mins from Busselton, 10 minutes from Dunsborough or about 50 minutes from Margaret River.

The dog, off lead exercise area

A shady spot on the deck

Open to the public for breakfast from 8.30am, through lunch until mid afternoon, the cafe has rightfully earned itself a good reputation of serving pretty good food. They also have a good reputation as a function centre in the evenings, and there would be more than one or two couples who have tied the knot overlooking the stunning bay.

We were there on this occasion to enjoy a late morning coffee, and one of their famous muffins. Thursday’s home baked muffins were blueberry and dark chocolate – oh dear, we usually share, but these sounded too good for sharing. We indulged in one each with a cup of flat white coffee (for my overseas readers – a flat white coffee in Australia is a cappuccino without any chocolate or cinnamon sprinkles). The muffins were as good as they sounded, I’m pleased I didn’t have to share. The coffee was perfect too. And that view…….

Calm today, but when the surfs up watching the surfers from the cafe provides great entertainment

I’m still not able to walk on shifting beach sands, but after our coffee Paul and Tills enjoyed their wander along a different beach.

New rocks to clamber over

And new seaweed to eat

Then home again. What a pleasure it is to be getting out and about again.


An almost minimalistic kitchen

I subscribe to several blogs. There’s no common thread running through them. I choose them either because of the content, because I like the way the writer writes, or I like the personality of the writer. Often it’s a combination of all three that keeps me hooked and looking forward to my next good read.

In any one day I can read on subjects from travel, to minimalistic small house living, to recipes, and kitchen gadgets. This post has been inspired by some of the posts I’ve read today.

This morning I read a post by one of my favourite bloggers. Diane has all manner of kitchen gadgets. I’m sure her kitchen must be almost the size of our house so as to store it all. Sometimes I’m envious……

In a past life (the one before the life on the road, which was the one before this current  living phase in a house), we had all manner of things in our kitchen. We sold almost all of it when we hit the road. We now have a small kitchen. It’s soon to be updated, but the update won’t give us more space, and will only slightly improve our storage capacity.

The machine that does it all

We’ve managed for a long time with basics. One of our basics that I wouldn’t like to be without is my Thermomix. This wonderful little machine takes the place of so many other gadgets – food processors, mixers, blenders, steamers, and even a coffee machine. For someone starting out, this one gadget although expensive, makes a lot of sense, especially for space saving. It looks attractive too, so it tends to sit on the bench rather than stuck away in a cupboard. I use mine almost every day, sometimes several times in one day.


Having a house somewhere between a house that qualifies as ‘a tiny house (11 square metres)’, and a normal 3 x 2 house, we have to err on the side of minimalism. Our house is at best only the size of a very moderate apartment. So what gadgets do we have that I wouldn’t like to do without:

Cappuccino made in the thermomix

First and foremost, as already mentioned,  is my Thermomix. In it I can cook and blend soups. I use it to cook a smooth custard or hollandaise sauce. It does all the stirring for me as it cooks to perfection. I can grate cheese and carrots with it, and use it to make a pretty good coleslaw. I can steam fish and veggies, or vietnamese spring rolls. It’s a pretty good rice cooker, it cooks perfect boiled eggs, and it kneads a good loaf of bread in around 2 minutes. I can grind spices, or coffee beans, and I can froth milk for cappuccino. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I could probably live without my Thermomix, but I wouldn’t want to.

Next, I have pyrolytic (self cleaning oven). There’s no way I’m getting on my hands and knees to breath in caustic oven cleaner as I scrub the grease off the walls of the oven after cooking a roast of pork. I’ve done it before, but it’s not for this girl – not anymore.

I use a microwave, that’s mainly for re-heating or defrosting. It’s very useful.

Whilst I can, and have been living without a dishwasher, we’re succumbing to that little luxury when our kitchen gets it’s update. We absolutely don’t mind washing our dishes by hand, and we find the kitchen remains cleaner with hand dishwashing as we always wipe over the stove top and benches, and dry them when finishing up. Sometimes that gets overlooked when stacking a dishwasher. Why are we succumbing to this luxury then? Simply because our track record of staying put in one house for any length of time isn’t great in recent years. If we again decide to move on, the lack of a dishwasher can hamper a sale. Will we use it – absolutely. I don’t want anything in my house that isn’t loved and used, so I’ll use it, and I’ll love doing so for sure.

We have a small deep fryer but to date we haven’t used that very much. The reason for that is we don’t have a great kitchen exhaust system and it makes the house smell greasy. Part of our kitchen update is to have a good exhaust system fitted with an external motor so as the noise doesn’t make it unbearable to use. We still won’t use the small fryer a great deal, but I do like it for safely cooking up things like samosas or fried spring rolls when we have guests. I can cook them in a wok or frypan of course, but a minute or two of distraction can prove dangerous with deep frying at an uncontrolled temperature. So, we have a little deep fryer.

We also have an electric frypan. That’s mainly for our caravan though and barely gets used in the house. In the caravan it allows us to cook barbecue style when in a powered site without using our own gas.

Another luxury I have is my hot food trolley (hostess trolley). This was a very special gift which Paul arranged to have made for me in the UK many years ago. The purchase of it, and it’s transportation to Australia, as well as getting it through customs is a story on it’s own. Alice took care of it when we were travelling. I was pleased to have it returned safe and sound when we returned to WA. I’ll tell you the story behind the acquisition of this little beauty one day.

Squashing my sandwich down in a frypan as it cooks

Apart from that, we try to make do. We don’t have a slow cooker, we manage between a heavy based saucepan and the oven. We don’t have a sandwich toaster, we butter the outside of our bread and cook it in a frypan on the stove top. We do have a toaster though  for ordinary toast.

Perhaps not as good as in a sandwich press, but it does me

We don’t have a coffee machine. We do have a small stove top percolator though (currently in transit on it’s way back from Tassie). And we have the Thermomix if we want our coffee cappuccino style.

I love my old hand whisk (rust and all)

We poach our eggs in a normal saucepan. We either use an old style hand whisk for beating, or if it’s a bigger quantity we’ll use the Thermomix. We do have good, heavy based saucepans and frypans, and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

Gee whiz, – I had thought I had a fairly minimised amount of kitchen gadgets. Now I list it all, perhaps it’s not as minimalistic as I thought!!!  From what I’ve read though minimalism is defined as only having what you love, and what makes you happy. If you don’t love it, and/or use it often, out it should go. I do love the few life style enhancing gadgets I have, and I’ll love the addition of a dishwasher and good exhaust canopy when they’re fitted.

Our china and glassware though – that’s another matter. We’ve been in this house less than 18 months, and we are definitely starting to bulge a bit in those areas. Some of it is definitely not what I want, and not what I love. I can sense a cull coming on……


Where to next….

As everyone who knows us will attest, that title will sound like business as usual. However, surprise, surprise! The answer is we’re staying put in the Summer House, at least during the summers, for a few years to come yet.

We’ve been at sixes and sevens finding it hard to put down roots again. We had been thinking we’d need to rent this little house out at some stage so as we could go over to Tassie and get our house there ready for market. That wouldn’t have been any hardship, as we would have enjoyed spending another year over there. It would have been renting out the Summer House that would have been difficult. We’ve put so much into the garden here.  It would have been hard to trust that to the care of a tenant.

We floated the Tassie house on the market not expecting much to come of it, not with a tenant in place. However, we received three offers in quick succession (one of which was from the tenant) which means we don’t have to go down that road. The sale will settle next week, so Paul is currently over there sorting through our stored goods and selecting what needs to be brought back here. The removalist is meeting him there on Monday, so Paul will be on the plane to come back home early on Tuesday morning.

We’ve found ourselves often saying, “we’ve got that – but it’s in Tassie”, high pressure cleaners, hedge trimmers, crystal glasses, coffee percolator, the good TV, the good DVD player, my jewellery…… that’s coming back now, and with it’s arrival, and the Tassie house gone, we’re hoping we’ll be able to settle to where we are. It’s felt a bit like we’ve had a foot in two different states.

We’re on our way to sorting out the other problem we have with our little house – the sometimes very loud highway noise. There’s a wide verge of peppermint trees between our house and the highway, but it could be denser. I’ve approached the shire, and they’re coming to the party. Several more trees have been ordered and will be added to the verge as soon as the winter rains arrive. We’re adding to that with our own plantings of native shrubs on our side of the fence. However, at times like Christmas and Easter holiday periods, no amount of trees come close to blocking the traffic noise. So, onto plan B……

And what’s plan B you ask? It’s taken a lot of research to come up with. This is it:

White noise machine

We’ve invested in a white noise machine for our bedroom. It puts out a noise like a fan, and we have it on our window sill. It’s brilliant. We can have our window wide open and when the traffic starts up at 5am, we hear it if we try hard, but it now sounds very distant.

Next, we’ve researched water features, which apparently will do a similar job outside of distracting from the highway noise if placed properly in the garden. However, we’d need several in different spots. Instead we’ve purchased a wilderness stream and nature sounds CD. Wherever we’ve placed it so far, it seems to be doing the trick. Next thing is to get speakers strategically placed in the verandah ceiling and get the pleasant nature sounds to all the needed places. Fingers crossed!

Yeh! I love it when solutions to problems are found. It took a while, but I think it’s going to work.

What a pleasure it’s going to be to sit outside listening to the sounds of nature and watching our garden grow. Our plumbago is now in full bloom, and by next summer it should be creating the display it was planted for. The lacy plumbago can look somewhat scraggly on it’s own, but several years ago I saw one growing full and beautiful with a solid border of blue agapanthus. It looked magnificent, and I’ve wanted to duplicate it ever since. It’s well on the way.

Hopefully by next year the plumbago will be dwarfing the agapanthus as planned

Our neighbour’s honeysuckle pokes through our fence. Rather than snip it off we’ve been training it along our side too. It’s starting to cover well now, and smells divine.

Two chairs for Paul and I, and two near by that can be brought close for a visitor or two

Paul’s painted our old chairs and we sourced some new cushions for them. We still have our big patio out the back with a big table and chairs under it, but now we also have a little veranda setting on the quiet side of our house. It’s very peaceful to sit there in the summer with our lunch and a glass of iced water.

I think we’re going to settle into our little Summer House for a few years to come yet. It’ll only be for the summer of course. Our new caravan should arrive at the beginning of winter, and that should see us hitting the road for few months of Gypsy life style, to ensure boredom doesn’t get a chance to take hold –  best of both worlds.

Not the most glamorous of footwear, except when they’re compared to a moon-boot

Oh – and I forgot to mention, my moon-boot came off on Tuesday, so I’m now seeing a physiotherapist. It’ll still be a while before I can wear normal shoes. Currently it’s either back-less shoes that don’t press on the scar (Birkenstocks), or my hiking boots for walking. I’m a way off being able to tackle beach sand in bare feet yet, but hey – compared to a moon-boot, I’m in seventh heaven.

Life’s becoming settled. Life’s good!


My orchid plant 25 years on

In 1993 Alice bought me an orchid plant for mother’s day. The following year we lugged it from Perth to Donnybrook, where it lived for six months under a make shift shelter down near the sheep paddock. We were working 13 hours a day, seven days a week in the cafe, so there wasn’t a lot of time for pampering pot plants. It survived despite the neglect.

We moved back to Perth, and the orchid came too. For a dozen or so more years it lived in relative peace throwing out at least of couple of flower spikes most years. Then we extended our Duncraig home. Whilst the extension was happening all of our pot plants including the orchid were bundled closely together with some shade cloth thrown over the top. We gave them all a hose down through the shade cloth almost daily, but quite honestly, the fact that any of them survived at all was more good luck than good management. But survive they all did, including my orchid.

We moved to Regent Waters the following year. That year we had our best ever show from the orchid plant – 17 flower spikes.

17 flower spikes

Then in 2014 we set off on our travels, donating our pot plants to Alice. I think the first year it shot off one flower spike, but that was it for the duration of our trip. When we returned to house living last year, Alice decided to give the orchid back to me in the hopes I could nurse it back to good health again. It was looking a little sad, but it was a long way from completely turning up it’s toes.

I repotted it last year, but there was no signs of any flower spikes. I again repotted it, and divided it a few months ago. This year the main plant has thrown up one flower spike so far, and the second plant from the division looks to be thriving.

Still flowering after 25 years

So many people think orchids are delicate. They’re definitely not. In fact, I’d say they’re about as hardy as roses. Neglect them, and providing they’re getting a little bit of water, they won’t do well but they’ll survive. Then give then a bit of TLC and they’ll come back rewarding you with up to 17 flower spikes in one year for your effort. Mine did.

So, if you live somewhere warm and you’ve always wanted to grow orchids, but thought they were too delicate, think again. Give them some water, afternoon shade,  morning sun, and repot them every few years in some orchid potting mix. Apart from that you can pretty much ignore them, except of course when they’re in bloom. Then you’ll want to give them pride of place where everyone can admire them and think you’re pretty talented. You won’t  need to let on that they’re weed easy to grow (I’ll keep your secret).  Give them a go. They’re really easy.