Strawberry Fields For-never (or not getting jobs as strawberry pickers)

Have you ever wondered why voting booths give you PENCILS instead of pens? Billy’s mum alerted us to this a little while ago, and when casting my early vote this morning, I couldn’t help but notice that I was given a pen to fill out the envelope I had to write on for the interstate form, but when I got to the booth – only pencils! Conspiracy?!?

Luckily for me, I had a pen on hand and the voting volunteer said it was fine that I used it but assured me that there was no chance that anybody was going to be messing with the votes. Not now that mine’s in pen, that’s for sure!

Anyway, I digress from what I came here to post.

Queensland is home to many strawberry farms, particularly along around the Sunshine Coast region. We tried our hardest to get some picking work on one of them on the way up but the place was swarming with backpackers, also desperately seeking some employment.

In many ways, it’s a good thing we didn’t get any as it opened up other opportunities to us – Billy getting to work at the Gympie Muster (and getting paid an hourly wage rather than oh…about $4/tray of strawberries) as well as the work I am doing this week the jewellery stall. But it was still kind of demoralising ringing farm after farm, doing drive arounds and stopping at every strawberry farm in sight and just getting rejection after rejection. Nothing personal, but still.

Nevertheless, just because we didn’t pick the strawberries, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of what sunny Queensland has to offer us in the form of these little red gems.

Melt a little chocolate and some coconut oil, grab some strawberries and voila! Heavenly choc berries!

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Ode to a Baby Avocado

Hellooo everyone!

I have just finished an eleven hour work day with virtually no breaks (aside from two toilet pit stops) so I am royally pooped. I am so looking forward to finishing up so that I have more a chance to explore more of what is going on in MoFo land. After Saturday, I’m all aboard! How is everyone enjoying MoFo so far?

In saying how glad I will be when it’s over, it’s obviously awesome to have a week of cash work, and when it finishes we will be heading north up the coast, on the way to the Great Barrier Reef. Exciting!! I’m definitely on the mend in terms of health as well which is a relief.

Today I’m just going to leave you with a couple of happy snaps – I enjoyed a salad comprising of local ingredients from a few different locations, if that makes sense. Let me explain: I still have a bunch of avocados from the Eumundi markets on the weekend, but now that we are in Bundaberg I have picked up some Bundy cherry tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber from the fruit market.

I wanted to share this snap of my lunch just because my little baby avocado was just so damn cute. I should have put a knife next to it for scale, but if you compare it to the size of the almonds you can get some idea of the size. Eeeeeep!

 

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Baby avocado was certainly doing a lot better than this poor little dude, who came to some sort of accident while rolling around in the back of the van (note: I think I may have stepped on him in the dark…oops). Don’t worry, he didn’t go to waste.

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And finally, here is a terrible photo of tonight’s dinner, brought to you courtesy of boyfriend bear (the dinner, not the photo – that was my doing. Sorry, bad light). Bear cooked a delicious feast of garlic carrot and brussel sprouts (Australian organic garlic – somewhat hard to find, Bundaberg brussel sprouts), mediterranean lentils (this was a packet job we got on clearance from the supermarket), garlic bread and salad. Yay, I love feast plates with different components.
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Backloggin’: Zucchini Fritters

I can foresee the next couple of days being much like today. As long as I am sick, and I am working all day (while snotting and sweating), I am too tired to come up with the spectacular posts that I obviously would have if I had not been stricken down (lets just go with that…)

So today I’m bringing you more backlogs, this time in the form of a yummy recipe that I got from a lovely blog called Lucy’s Friendly Food.

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Last week my haul of local foods from Gympie included some zucchinis and a bunch of parsley. With no plans as to what I was going to use them for, Lucy’s recipe for zucchini fritters came at the perfect time. This was a really easy dish to make, and ready in minutes. Served with a side salad it makes a really nice meal for a warm night when you don’t want to spend too much time cooking.

Hop over to Lucy’s blog and check out the recipe for these delicious fritters here. I am no food photographer, so her pictures definitely tell a better tale than mine.

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veganmofo

Sickness and Watermelon juice

I have managed to contract a sickness from the boyfriend, which he got from a guy he was working with, who got it from his kid. Sharing is caring huh…

So I’m super scratchy throated and runny and sore nosed and TIRED and the last thing I could think of today was an amazing food post for you all, so I’m going to draw on the little backlog of posts that I have from the last two weeks or so that I haven’t yet had a chance to put up (yes, I came with backup).

Back to Gympie for a moment – while we were there I got a few bunches of mint from the area. One day we had some watermelon that needed to go (seriously, it took up about half of our tiny fridge) so I made this yummy juice to enjoy in the sun. I wish I could teleport to this picture, where I was healthy and had a juice in my hand. Ohh those were the days…

The juice barely warrants a recipe with a mere three ingredients, but hey, I’m gonna give ya one anyway.

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Watermelon and Mint juice
(makes about 3 cups)

4 cups chopped watermelon
1/2 cup (packed) mint
Juice of one lime

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend. Add some ice if you want it a bit on the chilled side. ENJOY!

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veganmofo

Lemony Almond Kale Pesto

I’m back for round two!

I’ve had a long day on my feet working for a jewellery stall in a shopping centre here in Bundaberg, so I’m going to make this a quick post.

In Gympie, I picked up some kale from a fruit and veg market that was according to the dude, grown “literally just down the road” – you can’t get much more local than that without growing it in your own yard (or van? Van garden? Hmm…)

It’s no secret that I love pesto…and garlic, and kale and lemon and almonds and so on. Anyway, I decided to whip up this pesto to stir through some pasta as a quick and easy meal, and we used the leftovers to spread in sandwiches (kale pesto, baby spinach, marinated red capsicum and sundried tomatoes). Yum.

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*note: I made this with raw kale as I enjoy the taste, but if you don’t like the bitterness, it’s a good idea to blanch it first (by dropping it in boiling water until the leaves turn bright green, then transferring to a bowl of ice water). However, if you are going to heat it up (on pasta for example), you will end up losing a lot of the bitterness anyway.

Lemony Almond Kale Pesto
(makes about 2 cups)

1 bunch kale, washed and stems removed (*see note above)
150g raw almonds

2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp water (plus more if needed)
Salt
Pepper

Add almonds and garlic to a food processor and pulse a few times until roughly chopped.

Roughly chop the kale and add it to the processor along with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until well combined.

Add nutritional yeast and water and process to combine. If necessary, add water 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Use as a dip, spread, sauce, or pretty much whatever you can think of. Sometimes I like to just eat it on my finger.

 

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Raw Choc-Mint Mousse

Happy Vegan MoFo everybody! Wahoo!

This is my first time participating, which is a bit exciting for me. I was umming and ahhing over whether or not I was going to do a theme as I thought posting every day as I travel around might already be quite a challenge, but hey, I love a good challenge – so I’m hitting the ground running and doing a theme.

I’m opting for what I am hoping will be quite a simple one, which is ‘locally sourced’. This means that I will be aiming to use at least one locally sourced (from wherever I am local to at the time) ingredient every day, which as well as a fun theme is a great way to support local farmers and industry. As we are in quite a big veggie growing region at the moment, it shouldn’t be too difficult. And it’s an excuse to visit more farmer’s markets too! I know, tough gig right?

So we’ve moved on from Gympie – we left today and are currently in Bundaberg, as I have picked up a week of work selling jewellery at a stall starting tomorrow. Billy finished up his labour gig yesterday, so it was perfect timing.

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Before we left though, I had a chance to go on a little trip of my own to Eumundi to visit the infamous markets there. Eumundi is about half an hour south of Gympie, and a little closer towards the coast. It’s a really cute, funky little town and it is buzzing on market day.

The markets were awesome – a diverse range of arts, crafts, food, clothing, jewellery, instrument, handmade toys and so on. I had just eaten brekkie before arriving, which was a bit of a bummer as there were a few different vegan options on offer including momos, smoothies, raw sweets and a Hare Krishna café. I just couldn’t justify buying food for my already full tummy.

I did grab some organic veggies though – some local garlic, salad mix and a big bag of avocados. How I love cheap avocados!

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Afterwards, I decided to travel a little further to the coast as it had been a while since I’d seen the ocean. I drove through Noosaville to Sunshine Beach, where I was able to enjoy the last day of winter under the sun (not that Queensland could call this ‘winter’….29 degrees! That’s summer in Tassie!)

Anyway, enough talk, more food!

Last week I made this deliciously creamy mousse with some avocados that I got in Nanango….being well stocked in the avo department I thought it would be a great start to MoFo to share this simple and sweet recipe.

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Raw Choc-Mint Mousse
(serves 2)

2 avocados
3 Tbsp cacao powder
1-1.5 Tbsp stevia or other sweetener (depending on taste)
1/4 cup fresh mint
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp virgin coconut oil

Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Chill in the fridge before serving, and garnish with extra mint leaves.

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That’s it. It is sooo easy and I just can’t get over the creaminess..it’s amazing. It’s also super versatile, as you can easily alter the flavours – I’m thinking Mocha, Raspberry and Jaffa next. Mmm…

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A weekend of country at the Gympie Music Muster

Yeehah! We are back from the Gympie Music Muster, and what a weekend!

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The Muster is a country music festival held in the Amamoor State Forest, which provides a really beautiful setting. We stayed on site from Wednesday, with the festival officially running from Thursday to Sunday. Apparently there had been people camping, drinking and having a good old time there for at least a week already though.

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The site had been completely transformed from the first day I dropped Billy off to work – there were marquees, lights, flags, food stalls, bars, and camps galore. There were some pretty impressive camp sites, I rode my bike around for a squiz and saw big wooden house structures, and many people opting to build their own bar at camp, just for those times when you need a break but can’t bear to leave the bar.

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The actual festival was really fun. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would make of it all (not being the hugest country music fan), but I had a great time. There was certainly some music that was not really to my taste (teen girl country pop), but with about seven different stages there was always something you could find to enjoy. And no shortage of cowboy hats or boots either.

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My personal favourite was the Blues and Roots stage, with heaps of funky stuff happening there. One guy in particular who played three or four of the days was amazing – Juzzy Smith. Not only did he have a lovely manner and an infectious smile, he was an incredible talent – playing his ‘one man band’ of guitar (of which he had multiple – lap steel, cigar box, etc), harmonica (of which he had a utility belt of about ten), stomp box and juggling maraca balls. The coordination was outrageous! He even played a harmonica through his nose at the same time as he played one with his mouth.

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We worked the bar every evening, which was pretty fun. I got hit on by countless cowboys, young and old which was kind of funny. The majority were harmless and even quite charming, the odd few pushed it a bit too far (into sleazeville).

I had a few great lines, like “you broke me darlin’, I shoulda married you so I’d have an excuse”, and “there’s a Bob Dylan song called ‘what’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?’, just thought it was relevant to the situation”. Actually the song is called ‘sweetheart like you’, but I’ll forgive you cowboy because it was a pretty good one. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been called sweetheart and darlin’ as many times in my whole life as I did this weekend.

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The bar we worked at was the Muster Club, which was pretty neat. Quite a few of the bands that I wanted to see played there while I was working, so it worked out well. The layout and setup of the festival and each area was really cool – it was well thought out and you could tell a bit of effort had been put in.

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I forgot to take a picture of the actual bar, I guess I was always on the wrong side. But there were some great decorations, and we had an awesome path to walk from our camp to the festival, which was lit from above and wound through the forest and over little footbridges.

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A few disappointing factors included the lack of recycling bins (even behind the bar, where 99% of our waste was recyclable), portaloos instead of composting toilets, the price of drinks ($6 beer, $9 spirits, $10 Jack Daniels) which remained the same after 12am when we were no longer allowed to sell full strength drinks (so people were expected to pay $10 for a mid-strength Jack Daniels), which was just ludicrous…and made us very popular.  Also there was no free water available, and a bottle cost $4, which is kind of poor responsible service of alcohol, as there should always be water available for punters. But anyway, I won’t let that overshadow the good stuff.

There was a pretty big variety of food stalls – the first few days we cooked our own, but once our fridge ran out of juice we bought a few meals. Billy fell in love with these Hungarian breads called Langos, which were these puffy deep fried breads, coated in garlic oil, a tomato red onion and basil mix, sour cream, cheese and sauce. I will have to try and recreate a vegan version…for days ‘Langos!’ was the last thing he said before falling asleep and the first thing he said when he woke.

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There was a neat mexican place too that had some vegan options – I got some soft tacos with beans, coriander, hot sauce, guacamole and lime juice.

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We had them twice, but only took a picture the second time at the end of the festival, when they obviously didn’t put quite as much effort in – the first lot looked beautiful! They were still good though – fresh compared to a lot of the other fried food available.

I guess that’s about it for my weekend roundup, I’ll finish with my musical highlights: Juzzy Smith, The Perch Street Family Jug Band, The Round Mountain Girls, the songwriters session we saw at the Blues & Roots tent (not sure the names of the three on stage but they were awesome), The Bushwhackers, hearing Darryl Braithwaite sing ‘Horses’ while I was in the middle of a queue at the toilets….and this lovely lady, Tami Neilson, and her band.

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Now I can proudly say that I am no longer a Muster virgin, a title I will gladly shake. Billy is back at work, packing down the festival so we will be in Gympie for at least another week, with plans to head north after this.

Peace Pies

After leaving Caboolture, we headed a short distance towards the coast, through Deception Bay to Redcliffe, where we set up a sneaky camp beside a football oval for the night.

In the morning we were having more van troubles, d’oh… 

This time the gears were jamming, so we called the mechanics back and they asked us to bring it back in around lunch time. Looking for things to do to kill time, we discovered a vegan pie shop in the area. As we are always on a quest for the ultimate pie, it was obvious what we had to do.

We postponed brekky and killed some time at the skate park until the pie shop opened. We arrived at Peace Pies at about 10.30, ready for a pie brunch.

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There are about four pies on the menu – a classic hearty gravy, cauliflower cheez, mushroom mornay and italian style. You can have a pie on it’s own for around the $6 mark, or with salad and curly fries for about $14, and there are optional additions like homemade tomato sauce or mushy peas.

Pies aren’t the only thing on the menu either – there are a number of dishes, including lasagne, lentil rolls, and an interesting sounding hamburger parcel – a hamburger and cheese cooked in puff pastry. We so wanted to try this too, but we were there for pies and we had to stay focused on the mission! Peace Pies also have a variety of desserts, milkshakes, tea, coffee, etc available, and have a small grocery section with a range of items from TVP to falafel chips, hemp seeds, cheezly, vegusto products and more.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had curly fries, so that was a definite – and we both went with the pie/fries/salad option. I couldn’t decide between the original and cauliflower, but Billy was sold straight away on the mushroom mornay with mushy peas, and convinced me to go with the hearty gravy. I wasn’t disappointed. The filling was a chewy TVP mix, strongly resembling a meat pie, and it was infused with rosemary which gave it a really nice flavour. The pastry was flaky, just like pie pastry should be. The curly fries tasted like wedges, and the fresh salad and coleslaw balanced the meal out nicely.

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Billy and I both preferred mine over his – the mushroom was nice enough, but lacking a little. It is advertised as an onion and garlic free option, and perhaps needed a bit more flavour to compensate.

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My only recommendation would be that perhaps the pies could have been a bit hotter. They were warm enough to eat, but not steaming hot, which is how I like my pies.

We also got an ice coffee to share, because I can never resist an ice coffee when I find one. YUM. It was made with real coffee (not syrup, thankfully!) had a nice big scoop of ice cream and was topped with a coconut based whipped cream. Delicious.

Not quite as good as the ones you can get in Katoomba at True to the Bean (seriously…best. vegan. ice. coffee. ever) but definitely up there.

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And with all that in our bellies, we were good to go! We got the car checked again, and then had a call from a place Billy had applied to for some labour work. He got the job, and it was starting the following day. We had to get our butt’s to Gympie, stat!

And that kinda brings me up to the present – I’m writing from Gympie, where Billy has been setting up for a country music festival all week. It’s on all weekend and we are both doing some work at one of the bars there during the actual festival, and then he has more labour work packing it down, so we’ll be sticking around here for at least another week.

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Peace Pies
140 Sutton St, Redcliffe QLD
Mon & Tues – Closed
Wed – Thurs – 10am-5pm
Friday – 10am-8pm
Saturday – 9am-5pm
Sunday – 9am-4pm

Raw Pad Thai

So I’m thinking about doing Vegan MoFo…is anyone else here signing up?

I’ve been following it for years, but now I’ve got my own blog I think it’s time to  participate. I don’t know how well I’ll do at posting every day, especially once we’re on the move again, but hey – could be fun trying! I’m excited for the interweb being alive with vegan blogging!

Yep, I’m in.

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Now, I just wanted to interrupt my backlog to share this beautiful meal I ate the other night, courtesy of the lovely Sophia at Silk and Spice. Raw Pad Thai had been at the back of my mind for a while, and once I saw the colourful recipe she’d put forth, I knew I had to try it. I managed to snap a picture of it just before sun down (we get terrible light in the van), so it doesn’t quite do the dish as much justice as it deserves, but you can hop over and check out the recipe in all its glory here.

I used coriander instead of chives as I had them on hand, and we squeezed a bit of lime juice on top too, and let me tell you – it was deliciously fresh, crunchy and filling. A winner! Thanks Sophia!

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Tara to Toowoomba + Wray Organic Cafe

After Tara, we spent days looking up and calling farms, trying to find some fruit or veggie picking work. It was kind of demoralising.

We just missed the vine pruning season for grapes, we were a month too early for all the veggies around the Lockyer Valley region, they all told us to try back later. Strawberries were booming on the Sunshine Coast, but so were the swarms of backpackers, waiting to pounce on anything available.

We finally thought we had it in the bag when a lady who had a strawberry farm told us she needed five more workers the following week. Yes, we said! We’ll do it, we said! All was going well until she found out we were Australian, at which point we were told that they only hire backpackers for picking jobs, because they will work hard for poor pay.

Uh lady…obviously you haven’t heard about our apple picking experience!

We honestly called at least 200 farms, and couldn’t scrounge a measly day’s work. So we decided to head towards the coast anyway and start getting in peoples faces where they would be unable to resist our charm and wit and would immediately offer us employment.

We headed to Dalby, ran some errands and then camped out at Oakey Creek Reserve, which was a lovely little spot a few kilometres off the highway. We have Camps 5 (I think they are up to 7 or something now) which lists lots of rest stops and free or cheap camp sites. It has sure saved our butts a few time, but sometimes it is so off the mark. We first went looking for the rest stop before that one, which was marked with a tick – meaning it’s supposed to be pretty damn good. What we found was a semi circle of gravel with a rubbish bin at the centre, right on the highway. Toilets way up the road. Thankfully we kept going, because Oakey Creek was lovely (and popular too – with about 10 other groups there), with stacks of space and nice grass to camp on.

Next day, we drove on to Toowoomba. I can’t remember why we decided to do that, because we wanted to go through Kingaroy to the Sunshine Coast and as such the quickest route would have been to go north from Dalby. Anyway, we headed east and got to Toowoomba. I guess we just wanted to be moving after being quite still for some time.

We marveled at what it was like to be in the ‘big city’, ate some gelato and ran some errands. We camped about 10km out of Toowoomba at a noisy rest stop off the side of the highway. You kind of get used to the constant sound of trucks on a highway after a while. In the morning, we headed back into Toowoomba, where Billy got a few hours in at one of the skate parks there, and then set off north for Kingaroy.

On the way out of town, we stopped for a quick bite to eat at a place called Wray Organic, which I had spotted on the way in. Wray Organic consists of a cafe, as well as a market to buy grocery items, and I think it’s part of a chain of stores. The cafe had very few options for vegans – I think there was a choice between a roast vegetable sandwich, or a roast vegetable salad. Everything was pre-made, so there wasn’t much flexibility with the menu. Most of the vegetarian dishes had either egg or cheese, and though there were several gluten-free options, the majority contained meat. I went with the salad.

The lady pointed at two containers and asked if I wanted small or large. I asked for small. After saying that we wanted to eat in, she informed me that the small when eating in was smaller than the takeaway small and was really only a side. I thought that that was kind of weird, but I wasn’t super hungry and wanted to get a smoothie as well anyway.

The salad was okay, but lacking flavour in a simple oil dressing, and I ended up adding a good dose of the pink himalayan salt that was on the table. I did like the fact that they used silverbeet as a base, and the additions of crunchy buckwheat and pumpkin seeds were welcome. It just wasn’t outstanding.

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I also got a blackberry smoothie, which was good. It was made up of banana, blackberry, almond milk and rainbow blend, and was topped with shredded coconut, which was very cute. Billy ordered a custom juice and drank it before I could get a picture.

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Wray Organic offered a decent selection of grocery items, however I wasn’t overly impressed with their cafe menu. Perhaps it was my own expectations and assumptions that got in the way, as in my experience organic cafes have tended to offer a wider range of vegan options. It wasn’t helped by the strange exchange that took place with the lady there, who didn’t say ‘hello’ or smile once in our dealings, giving the impression that she had better things to do than to take our order.

It wasn’t a terrible experience – the salad could have been great with a bit more flavor and the smoothie was definitely on the mark. It was just nothing to write home about (even though I just did…)

Wray Organic
Corner of Russell & Mylne Sts, Toowoomba
Monday to Friday – 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday – 9am – 4pm
Sunday – 9am – 3pm