Saturday 30 April 2011

Catch up

It has been a very busy 10 days for us.  Preparing for our garage sale, the two very hectic days of people coming to buy things, a big cleanup afterwards.

I had a trip to Melbourne to talk to someone about work for a day each week and had lunch with the girls from the office.  Another one of the accountants has since resigned so it wasn't only me who found it an unpleasant working environment.

My friend, Tammy, and I spent the better part of a day planning and booking our 3 week trip to the US in October. We'll go and see the original of my hexagon star quilt project at Scotchtown in Virgina.  Click to see my progress.  We're hoping to catch up with my friend, Sheri, in Kentucky and while there we'll go to Paducah (lots of antique and quilt shops).  And, finally, a week in Pennsylvania to see how the Amish live, learn about the history, and..... more quilts.

I've been feeling a bit flat lately without work to focus on so this has given me something to look forward to.  I like to have routine in my life and it has been difficult without it.  With preparing to put our house on the market there is lots to do around the house but it just isn't the same as getting up in the morning and going to a job where they need you.  I guess that's the thing... I don't feel needed.  I'm glad to be dealing with this issue now rather than if we'd finished up with work and headed straight off to England!

The final big event of the week was my mum and her partner buying a new house.  They just sold their Melbourne house and had decided to move to Bendigo.  She's very excited about it and we'll now be only half an hour away instead of more than an hour and a half.  She has just retired so it will be a big change for her too.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Garage sale !

Wow, what a week.  I feel like I've done nothing but prepare for... and live through... this garage sale.  I've well and truly lost count of the number of boxes I've unpacked and sorted.  Finally, it's over.  We had a great weekend of sales and are very happy with the amount of stuff we managed to move.  So now we're down to two large piles - one for a charity shop - and one to offer to an antique dealer for a song.  We'll store a handful of items that are too good to give away but it's been a fantastic result.

Two sets of neighbours have been down here at least 6 times each.  They didn't walk away empty handed once!  They've been such good customers that we've decided we'll give them a few items that they looked at and obviously wanted but having spent too much money already they left them.

We've met neighbours from further up the street that we've never met before and chatted with others that we've only met a couple of times.  Funny when we've had this house more than 11 years and now when we're preparing to sell it we get to know more of the neighbours better!  Still, we know far more of them here than we ever did in all our years of living in Melbourne.  In Melbourne we might have known the names of the people on either side and across the road, and on occasion even another couple in the street.  Here we know the names of most of the people in both streets (we live on a corner), and after this weekend there is barely a house that we don't know the name of the occupant.

We had a nice encounter with a lady who owns a house maybe 2kms past our place, on a dirt road.  It's a lovely historic stone cottage well known to everyone in town.  She mentioned that she's the descendant who owns it now (it's been in the same family since it was built in the 1860's) and Mick rushed off and found a package of paintings and drawings that we've collected over the years to "one day" have framed.  A friend from years ago had a dad who was a very good artist.  We gave him a book that had photos of our town and he chose a couple and made wonderful detailed sketches for us of each.  One of them happened to be a photo of a lady using a spinning wheel in the front garden of this stone cottage.  Mick found the sketch to show the lady and she immediately exclaimed "that's my sister!".  She knew the photo well.  We did the only thing we could - we gave her the sketch to frame and put on the wall in the cottage.  She was thrilled.  We felt good to have made someone so happy.  And, we still have the other sketch.

Friday 22 April 2011

Don't rush

I've mentioned this before but it is a recurring theme for us, and it seems too for our fellow Aussie planners.  Paul and Elaine (one day to be nb The Manly Ferry) have deferred their plans to head off to the UK at the end of September following the sale of their house falling through.  They have now decided to put their house back on the market in the new year and go from there.

When you want to go... you want to go!  We've toyed with various options to get us to the UK quicker - from taking Coco with us, to letting her go and live with someone else.  We just want to go... now... this year.  Me being all but unemployed at the moment has made that feeling even more intense.

But, we've discussed it every which way and although it seems agonizing to have to wait another year or two, or even longer, that's what we're going to do.  We don't want to put pressure on ourselves by rushing.  We'd feel bad if we left Coco and we don't think it would be fair on such an old dog to put her through another huge upheaval.  To go this year we'd have to hurry to get all the necessary preparations done.

Instead we will take our time to do those things and try and enjoy the process and anticipation.  We will be well prepared by the time we finally get there.

Good luck Paul and Elaine!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Pick of the week - Reeves 58ft

This one's listed on Apollo Duck. Click to view 
It's over our notional budget but it's worth a look. (We might win lotto!)
Positives: decorative timberwork, nice cratch cover and seating area, well cared for.
Negatives: don't like suspended basins - no storage!
Price: GBP 69,950   
Builder: Reeves

Model: 58 Semi Trad

Year constructed: 2007

Engine model: Beta 43

Engine power: 50 HP

Engine hours: 1460

Length over all: 58'

Fuel capacity: 240 Litres

Water capacity: 700 Litres

Built and fitted to high standard by Weltonfield Narrowboats in 2004 on a Reeves shell.
Ss a bespoke boat it stayed on dry land as customer withdrew from the sale.Hence First registered and commissioned in 2007.
B.S.S. Cert Nov 2011.
Beta 43 Greenline engine with PRM 150 hydraulic gearbox. 1460 running hours on the clock.
4 x 135Ahr batteries.
Nobel hydraulic bow thruster.
Whispergen sterling computerised encased power unit (generator)and Victron 12/2500 combi unit.
12mm base plate. Blacked October 2010.
Lockgate Diesel Stove with eco fan to distribute heat throughout the boat.
Central heating by radiators run by engine or generator.
Fitted throughout in Maple with solid Maple wood floors and doors.
Large chrome portholes and 3 Houdini hatces in lounge kitchen and bedroom.
Side hatch with choice of perspex or net cover for when doors are open.
4'6' bed with bespoke folding matress and base.
Feature stained glass window, wardrobe and drawer space.
Bathroom with full size shower, Santicompact vacuum toilet with remote tank and glass wash basin and heated towel rail.
Cupboard with washing machine and storage space.
Galley with Smev oven, grill and hob (gas).
Full sized fridge, Microwave and double bowl stainless steel sink.
Dinette that converts to double bed. 2 freestanding chairs to seat 4 at table.
2 leather recliners with footstool in lounge. lots of cupboard space all in solid maple. LED spotlights throughout the boat.
Cratch area with 6'6'' headroom.Wilson 6 zip cratch cover with steel cratch board.
Choice of 3 removable tables (small medium or table from dinette) to seat 4.
High spec boat with many additional features such as intercom system from galley to deck.

Narrowboat related belongings

As I've been packing up our belongings I'm surprised at how many narrowboat or canal related things we have.  There is quite a pile of DVD's, and we're yet to get the Waterways Routes DVD's.  We have an enormous stack of magazines.  We have subscribed to Canal Boat magazine since we got home from our 2007 trip, and this year we also get Waterways World magazine.

When I went to have a farewell lunch with Diane last week she passed on a large box of Canals and Rivers magazines.  Having finished with their narrowboat research, and bought their boat, they had no need of them anymore.

Then there is books.  I'm an avid reader and have quite a few books relating to the canals - some of them are accounts of people's travels or adventures, and some are novels about life on the canals in the old days.  We have books about fitting out a narrowboat and photographic books about Britain's waterways.

I got looking on the internet tonight and ordered a couple of narrowboat teatowels.  I have my eye on a cross stitch too!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Recipe - Pear and feta salad

Here's one for Paul.  A slight adaption of a delicious salad that one of the girls in my sewing group often brings.  We've become hooked on this salad at home and often have it for lunch!  Thanks Jen.

Serves 4.

  • 1 firm pear, cored and sliced
  • 1 piece Danish Feta
  • A good pile of rocket (Jen uses mixed leaves but we grow rocket at home)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • Paul Newman balsamic dressing
  • Heat a non-stick pan and toast the seeds and pine nuts, cool.
  • Combine the rocket and sliced pear in a salad bowl.
  • Crumble the feta over and combine.
  • Sprinkle with the toasted seeds/nuts.
  • Dress with Paul Newman balsamic dressing - really good!

Recipe - Moroccan Savoury Mince

From STGTBT Book 4.

Serves 4.

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic (from jar)
  • 2 tsp Moroccan seasoning
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1/8th tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 415g can chopped tomatoes (no added salt)
  • 2 tsp chicken stock powder (salt reduced)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (no added salt)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon rind grated
  • 400g can chickpeas
  • 1 cup diced apple
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Couscous to serve (or mashed potato)
  • Spray a non-stick pan with oil and saute mince until cooked.
  • Drain liquid from mince (or use a couple of paper towels to absorb it).
  • Add the garlic, Moroccan seasoning and cinnamon and mix well.
  • Add all remaining ingredients, bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Serve on couscous or mashed potato, or even on a slice of toast.

Monday 18 April 2011

Before and after

While rumaging through boxes for our garage sale I found the photo album I started with photos of our house when we first bought it in 1999 and the progress of our renovations.  Wow, I'd forgotten how bad it was!

I can't get to my scanner at the moment to scan these photos so I just took a couple of pretty bad photos through the plastic of the album with my camera.  You can get the general idea though.

Garage sale preparations

We've had a huge weekend preparing for our garage sale next weekend.  We've put advertisements in our local paper and the regional paper.  Hopefully we'll get lots of visitors.

I had no idea we had this many things.  It's ridiculous!  We had dozens of boxes packed away from our Melbourne house that have been stored in the shed for 8 years or more.  There were things I don't even recall owning... well almost.  We are lucky that we've been able to set everything up so far in advance.  We've set it up in Mick's workshop.  We won't have to cover it or pack it away in between.

Mick has made a start on pulling out the old furniture etc from the storage sheds in our yard.  He's collected many old items of furniture over the years from clearing sales.  He's going to keep some to restore in future and sell the rest off.

We have two neighbours who have each had an old house moved onto their blocks of land.  They both like collecting old stuff like we do.  They've been competing with each other over who has been inside our house to have a look (the talk is starting to spread around town that we're going to be selling our house), who got to buy what of the rusty farm equipment in our yard, and what they bought when they each separately come down over the weekend to "preview" our garage sale.

This is the chaos we've created in trying to sort out all the boxes.  Hmmm... I think I might have to stay home this week and try and sort it out.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Recipe - Ginger Chicken

This is a recipe I made up from a few others I'd read while trying to think of a way to use up some chicken mince I had.  We liked it so much that it's become one of our favourites.  It's so quick, easy and tasty.

An alternative to serving this on rice is to leave the vegetables out and make a little "salad" of bean shoots, grated carrot, finely sliced red capsicum and serve the hot chicken on top.

Serves 4.

  • 500g chicken mince
  • Good size piece of ginger (we really like ginger so we use a piece about 5cm square)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large red chillis (use 1 if you don't like heat in your food)
  • 1tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet, thick soy)
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • Juice of a medium lemon
  • Juice of a lime
  • Vegetables : red capsicum, broccoli, beanshoots, peas (any combination)
  • Small handful coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts (we use salted and don't add any more salt to the dish)
  • Basmati rice to serve
  • Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chilli (or whizz them in a little food processor).
  • Heat the sesame oil in a pan and then add the ginger, garlic and chilli.
  • Add the chicken mince and stir until just cooked.
  • Add the vegetables, the sauces, stock powder, lemon juice, and juice of just half a lime.
  • When vegetables are cooked to your liking, add the coriander and cashew nuts. 
  • Stir to combine and wilt the coriander.
  • Serve on basmati rice and sprinkle with a few more coriander leaves and another squeeze of lime juice.

Saturday 16 April 2011


I was just thinking about a friend of Mick's who is on his way back from Antarctica.  While he's been over there (6 months or so) we have periodically looked at a web cam of the station where he was.  We even got to see the ship that he was on come in when it arrived back in October - at the bottom of the page for each station is a time lapse of the preceding 24 hours.  We knew the day the ship arrived because he emailed us as soon as he got there.  It wasn't the best quality image but still.... amazing to see.  If you're interested :

Now this got me thinking.  Maybe there was a web cam of a canal or marina!  I did some browsing and lo and behold, there's several of them.  The quality varies considerably.  The web cams at marinas seem to be the best quality images.

Here are some I've looked at to see the links are working and the picture is clear enough to see something.
Mercia Marina seems to be pretty clear : Click
Here is one at Aqueduct Marina : Click
Great Haywood Marina have two : Click 1  Click 2
Tattenhall Marina have five of them!  : Click 1 Click 2 Click 3 Click 4 Click 5

Or for a list of many of them :

Pick of the week - Tickety Boo

This one is listed with The Used Boat Co.

Positives : Neutral colour scheme, a layout we like with open living area/galley
Negative : Not so keen on the curved galley benchtop

Name: Tickety Boo
Price: 54,950 GBP
Length: 56
Builder: Sandpiper 56
Year: 2007
Stern: Semi-Trad
Engine: Isuzu 35 with PRM gearbox
Construction: Declared specification of 10-6-5-4. Steel side and rear doors with half glazed hardwood front doors. Rear tonneau cover, front cratch and cover.
Interior: Fitted out New and Used boat Co Sandpiper 56 design in an oak finish this boat must be seen to be appreciated.
Bedroom:  under stairs cupboard, wardrobe, dresser and a double bed with drawers below and lockers above.
Bathroom: recently upgraded to include a corner shower stall with sandstone gloss finish shower walls, very attractive mosaic floor tiling, cassette loo and corner vanity.
Galley: classic U shaped with ample wall and floor cupboards topped off with beautiful Minerelle solid srface counter tops, fitted cooker and fridge.
Dinette:  pullman style which converts easily to a second double bed
Saloon:  space for free standing seating, a corner cupboard with bookshelves and a solid fuel stove on a tiled hearth.
Central heating and domestic hot water supplied by the Webasto diesel fired boiler. 
Hot water also via the engine calorifier. 
240v landline connection plus Sterling Pro 2000W inverter, battery charger and twin alternators. 
Three service batteries plus start battery. 
Fitted washing machine.
Offered for sale in excellent condition.

Friday 15 April 2011

Update - pick of the week - Briar Rose

Well, it seems we aren't the only ones really keen on Briar Rose.  She only appeared on ABNB's update box last Thursday and this Thursday someone has already paid a deposit!  I wonder if the new owner will ever read this blog entry.  If so, happy cruising on Briar Rose.  We'd have snapped her up too if we'd been over there!

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Good luck Ray and Diane!

Today I had lunch with Diane for the last time for a while.  On Monday she and Ray are off to the UK to start their trip.  We're so jealous! Hope you have a wonderful time, we'll look forward to reading all about it on your blog.  Good luck!

The loo debate - cassette or pumpout

I can't keep a blog about planning life on a narrowboat without touching on this topic.  There seems to be such strong feeling on the subject!  The pumpout loo camp say that emptying a cassette loo is a horrible task yet those who bat for the cassette loo team say it's no big deal.  I'm sure it's not a pleasant task, but how bad is it really?

One of the brokers we spoke to on our trip last year said that at some stage of life on a narrowboat there will come a time where somebody (that would be Mick) will have to do the unpleasant task of repairing or dismantling or unblocking or cleaning out the loo - whichever type you have.  His attitude was that you might as well get over it and get used to it and get a cassette loo so you don't have to worry so much about being iced in.  Well... that theory made sense but what about the day to day use of a cassette loo?   We looked at a boat for sale last year and when you opened the bathroom door it smelled.  I don't want that to happen!

What type of loo have you got and why is it the right choice?

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Garage sale coming up

We've decided that over Easter we'll have a garage sale.  Our spare room has three piles rapidly growing : one for selling at a garage sale, one for packing away for our narrowboat, and one for putting into storage.

We had planned to sell off some of our excess belongings by having a garage sale since before Christmas.  There have been two good opportunities recently for weekends to have one but we missed them both - first because I was so stressed at work and the second crept up on us after I had resigned and was working hard at the office to get everything finished before I left.  Now with Easter on the horizon we thought we should take the opportunity.  There will be lots of visitors in the area for the Easter celebrations and this will be the last busy weekend in town for a few months.

So advert's in the two local papers, signs up on posts in town, and I'll drop off a flyer to the local antique stores.  We have been avid collectors of "old stuff" for years and it's time to thin down our collections.  If we don't have somewhere to display things, or if they aren't something we can get use from, then they'll be sold.  There's no point holding onto belongings we never see or use!

Monday 11 April 2011

Re-living a visit to Northern Pride & The Hedgerows

A little trip down memory lane today.  We're kind of glad Barry and Sandra of nb Northern Pride fame are 6 months (yes.... 6 months!!!) behind on their blog.  We got to re-live our visit to them last October. 

What a lovely day that was.  We had a nice walk along the towpath from Cowroast until we met up with them heading towards us.  A bit of a cruise... a couple of locks... lunch in a pub... coffee and chat on a narrowboat... lovely!

It's a strange thing to go into what appears from the outside to be a traditional English country pub to find that their menu is Thai food.  Apparently all too common these days.

Sandra has reminded me in her blog entry about what else we did that day.  We went to take a look at a housing development on the outskirts of Buckingham.  We'd driven past a couple of times but at inconvenient times and the office wasn't open so had arranged for a visit that afternoon on our way back from Cowroast.  The development was called The Hedgerows by Bellway Homes.  It was very interesting to see how new houses are built in England and we were impressed how they build them in a style sympathetic to the town housing style.  I don't know if this is the case with every development but we quite liked this one.  They were all a little different to each other - either in design or the colour of the brickwork. We thought they were lovely houses for the price.  One of the smaller ones would be perfect for a place to stay when visiting the UK if we won lotto next week!

Here are a couple of photos from the Bellway Homes website about the development.

Pick of the week - Briar Rose

Now here's one we really like.  Some weeks we just find something that if we were looking we'd be happy with it.  But this one... I want to buy this boat!!  It's a Braidbar boat listed with ABNB : Briar Rose

Positives : ticks every box so very little additional expenditure, lovely timberwork, great flooring, cupboards in bathroom, great little fridge with a freezer, good washing machine, proper tiled shower with glass screen, love the Braidbar kitchen dresser.
Negatives : not much! but... if I have to think of something... the bed would need to be turned to a cross bed or extended sideways, the access through the trad hatch looks a little tight but we'd live with that.

Length: 58ft 8in  
Builder: Tim Tyler  
Fitter-out: Braidbar Boat Services  
Year registered: 2004  
Style: Trad 
Safety Certificate: BSS to May 2015
Engine: Beta B43 diesel  
Plating: 10/6/5/4 
Last blacked: 2010
Fit-out materials: Cabin sides ash t&g, ash deckhead panels; hull sides in oak faced ply; pitch pine floors with caulked joints  
Insulation: Spray foam
Headroom: 6ft 6in  
Berths: 2+2  
Berth sizes: 6ft 3in x 4ft 0in perm double; 6ft 3in x 4ft 0in Pullman dinette
Power: Landline; Victron Multiplus 1600kW inverter/charger; Travelpower 3.5kW 230V alternator generator
Cabin heating: Eberspacher diesel c/heating + s/f stove  
Water Heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion > calorifier  
Water tank: 160galls stainless steel
Cooker: Vanette built-in hob & oven - gas; 900W microwave  
Fridge: 12V 4cu ft - Fridge/freezer (new 2009)  
Washer/dryer: LG full size washer  
WC: Vetus wc to remote tank
Shower: in tiled cubicle with doors
Other: Cratch & cover. Owner is professional boat maintenance engineer.
Price: £60,000