Tuesday 31 July 2012

A magpie lullaby

Last night when I went out of the shed to head to the caravan to bed there was a magpie singing it's little heart out - at 11pm!  I got into bed and the song went on.  Mick had woken when I came into the van and we fell asleep to the sound of the magpie lullaby.

Today we've ticked another item of our list.  We've both been to the dentist!  Mick goes regularly but I don't.  To be honest I have had a bit of a phobia since childhood about the dentist.  I've worked hard at it since turning 40 to try and get over it.  Although I haven't been to the dentist for about 2 1/2 years now I was so pleased to get through it without stress.

And... if you're still reading.... we have something exciting cooking!

Sunday 29 July 2012

Quilt show in Melbourne

I had a lovely day out on Saturday with my friend Tammy.  We went to the quilt show in Melbourne.  We made an early start for the 1 1/2 hour drive and had out tickets in hand before the doors opened.  While we stood in the line of women waiting to get in they had a new feature.  A group of people working for the quilt show in one capacity or another came out and stood along the line doing the Macarena!  A bit of entertainment while we waited.

I always like getting to events like this early because as it nears lunchtime it gets so busy that you can't get near enough to a stall to properly look at anything!  Since living out of the city I've become less and less tolerant of crowded places.  Don't like it at all.

I was thrilled to see my sewing buddy, Alison, got first prize for her miniature version of our "10 year" quit project.  These hexagons are half the size of the already ridiculously small ones we're using for our quilts.  Not a very good photo taken on my phone without a flash but you get the idea.  Well done Alison!

Saturday 28 July 2012

Recipe - Chicken Laksa

I am trying to use up things we have in our pantry before we go.  I only need to get chicken and bean shoots for this one from Symply Too Good to be True, Book 3.

I often adapt recipes to suit us - I don't fuss too much about the exact quantity of meat and just use whatever comes in the pre-packed packages from the supermarket.

Skinless chicken breast fillet, diced
½ tsp crushed garlic in jar
1 tsp crushed ginger in jar
½ cup carrot, strips
½ cup capsicum, strips
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup shallots, sliced
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp lemongrass in jar
3 tsp massaman curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp chicken stock powder
250ml liquid chicken stock
1 cup water
1 tsp coconut essence
1 ½ cups Singapore noodles
375ml can evaporated milk

In a large frying pan or wok, coated with cooking spray, sauté chicken, garlic and ginger for 4 mins.
Toss in carrots and capsicum and cook another 2 mins.
Add all other ingredients except milk and cornflour into pan and mix well.
Combine cornflour and evaporated milk and add to pan.
Simmer 5 minutes, then serve.

Friday 27 July 2012

What is the protocol if there's an accident?

I've been wondering about this for a while.  I was reminded of it reading someone's blog a few weeks ago where they had a boat crash into them.  Was it nb No Problem where I read it?

Anyway, we'd be interested to know what the protocol is.  If someone crashes into your boat and causes damage, what do you do?  What do you need for insurance purposes?

Wednesday 25 July 2012

A catch up with old workmates

We are now under the 8 week mark.  My, how time flies! We have been thinking lately about trying to catch up with people that we want to see before we go.

Last night I had dinner with some old workmates.  One I hadn't seen for 3 years so it was lovely to see her again.  She has a baby on the way too.  Another one came to dinner fresh out of a job interview and had a call offering her the job before we reached the restaurant.  How exciting for her (she rang me tonight to say she'd taken the job).  There was some not so happy news that our old boss, who had moved on to a new job, hadn't settled in well there and has resigned from that position.  I'm sorry to hear it.  But... overall it was a lovely evening.

There is so much on the agenda in the coming weeks.... dentist appointments.... the quilt and craft show in Melbourne.... a last visit to the Talbot market (my favourite) with Tracey who bought our house.... a get together with my stepmum who is currently overseas.... helping my mum and her partner with their tax returns as well as doing our own.... our visit to NZ to see Mick's mum... finishing the set up for doing my work in the UK... several more catch ups with friends... a visit to the optometrist... sorting out and handing over keys for so many things and so many people.  We'll get there.

Monday 23 July 2012

Recipe - Eggplant Parmigiana

My mum lent me a book to read called "The Italian Wedding".  I had only read the first few pages the other night but it started with a recipe for eggplant with Parmesan.  The recipe only had a few ingredients but it sounded good so we gave it a try on Saturday night.

The cooking facilities in the caravan are very basic and we're tight with space.  I sliced the eggplant, salted it, and left it on the rack that we use for cooling bread (the colander appears to be packed away).

I had the tomato bubbling away on the stove in the caravan and a plastic container with the washed and dried eggplant stacked neatly inside sitting on the table.  The next step was to dip the eggplant in flour and then egg.  I don't know what happened but I had my back turned and there was the sound of something falling onto the floor followed by some swearing.  Mick, and this is nothing out of the ordinary in our house, had knocked the container of eggplant and it was now all over the floor.  It was back to the drawing board with washing the eggplant - I wasn't going to waste it!

Mick "helped" by grating (and eating) the Parmesan while I dipped the eggplant and put in a frying pan.  The extractor fan above the stove is all but useless and before we knew it we had the caravan full of cooking fumes and smoke with the smoke detector screaming.  Despite the cool evening we flung open doors and windows.

Eventually we got the dish in the oven and it was worth the effort.  We both thought it was one we'll make again.  I'm also thinking I want a side hatch beside the cooker on our narrowboat!!

So here it is (from the top of my head as I don't have the book with me in Melbourne) :
2 large eggplant, sliced into 1cm rounds
Bottle of Passata
1 onion, diced
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup plain flour
Grated Parmesan, lots
Grated Mozzarella, to sprinkle on top
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt on both sides and leave in colander or on a rack for an hour. 
Meanwhile, dice onion and cook in olive oil. 
When soft, add the bottle of passata and stir occasionally until it thickens and reduces - about 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the salt off the eggplant and pat it dry on paper towel.
Dip the slices first in flour, then in egg.
Cook eggplant, in batches, in a large frypan with olive oil until browned. 
Layer a lasagne dish with eggplant, then cooked tomato sauce, then Parmesan - about 3 or 4 layers.
Sprinkle Mozzarella on the top and bake in 160 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Sunday 22 July 2012

10 boxes

We've had lovely weather this weekend.  I've churned out loads of washing and it's actually dried.  It's all neatly packed away (except for the sheet that a bird pooped on!).

Saturday was the perfect Winter's day.  A chill in the air when we got up in the morning but gloriously sunny during the day.  I visited my mum, went shopping and then came home to spend the afternoon in the "lock up" packing the last of the boxes for the UK.  Mick came in and packed up his box of tools.

Today my brother and his wife came up to see our "home".  We put the Weber on and cooked a delicious roast lamb with vegetables.  Anthony, bless him, spent the better part of the afternoon trying to get our Tivo hooked up to work either through my phone or my laptop.  We'd been without program guides since moving here.  We are now back in action with a cord to plug into my laptop for updating the program guide on the Tivo.

Leanne helped me tape up and label our boxes and then stack them into the back of their Mitsubishi Triton.  Tomorrow I'll go down to Melbourne and Leanne and I will deliver our boxes to the depot to be shipped off the week after.

Another thing ticked off our list.

Saturday 21 July 2012

National Trust and English Heritage

We've been National Trust members for most of our married life and enjoyed visiting National Trust properties both here in Australia and on our visits to England.

We've also had a couple of lovely visits to privately owned properties belonging to local National Trust members.  Our local branch often arrange an afternoon tea at the property of a member and it's a special opportunity to see a place you wouldn't normally get to see.

We think it's fantastic that our National Trust have reciprocal visiting arrangements with other countries.  We'll have to make sure we get the UK National Trust guide when we arrive.


There is also "English Heritage" with dozens more historic properties.  I'm thinking perhaps we'll become members as it will offer us more places to visit as we travel along.  Entry fees can be expensive and visiting just four or five of them in a year would cover the membership fee.


Friday 20 July 2012

Recipe - Salmon Rissoles

I'm going through my cookbooks and typing up our most used recipes into blog entries so we have them while we're away.  I'm certainly not packing cookbooks!  I realized I better get a move on with this project as the time is ticking quickly.  We have only 8 1/2 weeks to go. 

This one for Salmon Rissoles is from Symply Too Good to be True - Book 3.

500g peeled potatoes, diced
1 ½ cups carrots, sliced
415g can pink salmon, drained and mashed
2 tsp lemon juice
½ cup shallots, sliced
1 egg white
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chicken stock powder

Microwave potato and carrots in a little water until soft.  Drain and mash.
Add salmon, lemon juice, shallots, egg white, parsley, stock powder and a little pepper to taste.
Combine well.
Refrigerate a few hours so mixture will be firmer for cooking.
Shape into 12 rissoles.
Coat a non-stick frypan with cooking spray and cook patties 5 minutes each side.

Thursday 19 July 2012

To do list - revisit

I haven't updated my "to do list" for a long time.   With less than 9 weeks to go I thought it was time.
It has grown a bit, as I expected it would, but we've made excellent progress.
Buy a cheaper house - done
Sorting and packing up belongings for garage sale - done
Apply for Elly's Finnish passport- done
Sell our house - done
Arrange insurance for stored belongings - done
Open a UK bank account - done
Send remaining chickens to their new home- done
Suspend private health insurance - to be done the last couple of weeks
Arrange for our mail to be dealt with at home - done (thanks to J&J)
Arrange for mail in the UK -
Book airfares - done
Ship belongings to UK - almost done - they are going on Monday
Rent out our house - done
Arrange for someone to have the pot plants- done
Pack up our belongings and store- done
Sell Elly’s car (Mick's truck to be left at workshop) - done (my mum is buying it)
Book accomodation in UK - done
Book hire car in UK
Transfer money to UK account - done
Work out what to do with our mobile phone numbers - done (they are going onto prepaid)
Buy a caravan for temporary home - done
Set up bathroom for temporary home - done
Correspondence to arrive by email rather than post where possible - done
Return all borrowed items to their rightful owners - in progress
Type up list of stored belongings by box number
Cancel Mick's GST registration
Do our 2012 tax returns
Set up my laptop with software to work from UK - in progress
Partition off area in shed to be rented out for storage
Find tenant for shed storage area 
Make sure all our favourite recipes are on my blog - in progress
Catch up with friends and family before we go - in progress
Go to New Zealand to see Mick's mum before we go - booked
Pack away the last of the belongings we're still using
Make a list of what we need to buy on arrival in UK - in progress
Pack our suitcases!

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Back to back houses

I had grand intentions of making a blog entry every time I hear of somewhere we should remember to visit near the canals.  Lois mentioned this one, near Gas St basin in Birmingham, to us last night and I thought it was somewhere we wouldn't want to miss.... so here it is.

This is a national trust property - back to back houses. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birmingham-back-to-backs/ Visits are by guided tour only and tours must be pre-booked.  I think we'll enjoy a visit to see these historic houses.

Wiki had great photos of the houses.  It's also worth a read - an excellent summary of the history of them.  The "back" houses faced into a courtyard which you can see in the second photo below.  Access to the internal courtyard appears to be in the first photo below - possibly the arched doorway.  The bay windows on those houses were to let more light in.

I have visited a similar property at "The Rocks" in Sydney called Susannah Place.  http://www.hht.net.au/museums/susannah_place_museum  Well worth a visit!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

A UK visitor

We've spent a pleasant couple of days with a visitor from the UK - Lois, the lady we exchanged houses with in 2007.  She was in Melbourne to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren and bravely came up to stay with us at the shed.  What a trooper she's been with our rather primitive living arrangements.

It won't be so long until we see her again - about 9 weeks to be precise!  We'll visit her when we first arrive in the UK as she's moved house since our exchange and we've arranged to dog sit for her in our 3rd week in England.  We're looking forward to seeing her new home and to meet her adopted doggie.  Depending on how we go with our boat hunting in the first 2 weeks, Benji may have to come with us on our boat hunting. 

We can't wait!

Monday 16 July 2012

A loo question

Ok, now don't laugh.  This might sound a really silly question to all you boaters!

This is another photo of nb Ashdown, our pick this week.  The boat has this little "ensuite" loo as well as the pump out toilet in the bathroom.  I've been studying this photo because we had a grand plan for this space - a place to put the washing machine, and a desk area above the machine.   (Yes, I know, we spend our days dreaming about what we'd do if we could buy our pick of the week)

It got me thinking about that little cupboard door under the hand basin.  We've looked at boats with cassette loos but we've never actually opened the cupboard door to look inside. I have noticed that bathrooms with cassette loos often have a hatch door in the walkway outside which I assumed was to remove the cassette.

Does this loo have a cassette under the loo itself?  Would the cupboard hold the spare cassette or the one being used???

Sunday 15 July 2012


Yesterday a couple of our old neighbours came over to check out our new living arrangements.  It was cold and windy so after roping the guys into helping Mick move one of his rusty old farming implements, we huddled around the gas heater inside the shed.

We're moving up in the world... our own water supply (the new tanks are full), functioning laundry facilities, and everything tidied up.  Mick even has his signs on the doors.

1. Neighbours get together
2. Laundry on the left (dryer outside for ventilation)
3. Bathroom
4. Laundry
5. Water!

Saturday 14 July 2012

Pick of the week - Ashdown

Another from ABNB.  They send an email each week with any new additions so even if we don't have time to browse all the brokers, we often find a good one on ABNB's email.  This week it's nb Ashdown.

Lovely paintwork on this boat.  I'd be very happy with this colour scheme.  We like the interior too.  It ticks most of the boxes - good size water tank, cross double, decent size inverter, decent size engine, solid fuel stove and central heating, and a name we don't mind.

On the minus side, there isn't a washing machine and that's something we must have.  Maybe one could be fitted in the bottom of the wardrobe, or sacrifice the second toilet to install one in there.  The boat also has an L shaped dinette which we aren't keen on.  Also, the dinette is at floor level which makes it not so easy seeing out the window while seated.  We'd make enquiries about the cost of having a raised pulman installed instead.

But, overall, we really like this one.

Price: £56,000
Length: 59ft 0in
Builder: Stenson Boat Builders
Fitter-out: Midland Canal Centre
Style: Semi-trad
Year registered: 2005
Certification: BSS 2015

Engine: Barras Shire 45 diesel
Bow thruster: None
Plating: 10/6/4
Last out of water: Mar 2012
Water tank: 150gall (approx) built in tank

Headroom: 6ft 4in
Fit-out materials: Ash panels with ash framing. Floors in solid oak boarding

Insulation: Spray foam
Berth sizes: 6ft 0in x 4ft 6in cross double, 6ft 3in x 3ft 11in on L-shape dinette
Fridge: LEC 4cu ft 12V
Washer/dryer: None
WC: Tecma electric flush macerator wc to remote tank
Shower: in laminated cubicle with doors
Cooker: Spinflo Caprice drop-in gas cooker

Water heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion heater > calorifier
Cabin heating: Mikuni diesel c/heating > 5 rads, s/f stove
Mains 230V: Landline, Victron 2500W inverter/charger

Other: Houdini hatch to galley. Separate ensuite toilet & basin to bedroom

Thursday 12 July 2012

Happy little Vegemites

We are both blissfully happy tonight, and so easily pleased we are.  We have a living room!  We can sit on a sofa tonight.  I have a desk!  Somewhere to put my sewing.  I can do my sewing!

It is quite a rustic living environment but here it is :

1. Left blue door is the little kitchen and the right blue door is our living room
2. Our kitchen (otherwise known as the boys' lunchroom
3. Living room/office

Wednesday 11 July 2012

The packing station

We worked out today that we are one third of the way through our time living in the caravan.  By the time we get everything sorted to our satisfaction it will be time to go!

In our "lockup" we've set up a little packing station - somewhere to lay out the stuff that has to go into boxes and suitcases.  It has actually turned out to be a good place to work as it is extremely well insulated.  The room was originally an apple store.  The temperature has been pretty much constant despite the extremes in temperature we've had lately.  It's also nice and quiet even when the rain is pelting on the shed roof.

Here are our 8 boxes all packed, just to be taped up, and ready to go.  Suitcases now on the packing station!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Practice for muddy towpaths

It's raining... it's been raining since yesterday!  I think we're in training for dealing with muddy towpaths and English weather.  For the first time since we moved here, the rain has been blowing in from the East today which is a real nuisance.  It means we're walking in the wet to go into the shed to use the bathroom/laundry etc.

It's rained so much that one of our new water tanks (only hooked up to the downpipes a few days ago) is almost full!  Once Mick has put a tap on it I won't have to fill our camping water container at work any more.  Tomorrow he'll divert the downpipes to the second new tank.

The water is pooling outside on the concrete and creeping closer to the van.  Hope we get a break soon or we'll be putting the poles in so we don't float away.  Although, it's nice to hear rain on a tin roof - very soothing.

I spent the afternoon finishing my packing.  We now have a neat row of boxes almost ready to be collected next week, just a few more bits and pieces to add. 

Monday 9 July 2012

10 weeks to go....

Doesn't time just fly by.  In our case, maybe a little skip forward too!  Last week we were thinking we had 12 weeks left til we go.  According to our calendar anyway.  When we booked our tickets I marked each week back from the date we leave "1 week to go", "2 weeks to go" etc.  In my haste and enthusiasm it seems I wrote on the same date twice.  Our calendar is one of those with a month on each page and each day in a box.  When I got to the top of the page I'd written a count down on the greyed out box that filled in the week - the grey ones were the end of the month before.  I also wrote on that same date when I turned the page.  The other day I saw it and realised we actually had 11 weeks to go, not 12.  Isn't it lucky I worked it out now and not in the final couple of weeks!  I wonder how long it would have taken for it to dawn on us if I hadn't seen my error the other day.

So now there's only 10 weeks left and an awful lot to do in that time.  I've been packing boxes... yes, again.... ready for the shipping company to come and take them away to England.  We've scaled down a bit to save on shipping and only packed things we have duplicates of, plus clothing and some sewing projects.

Sunday 8 July 2012

He who has the biggest shed wins

Mick is as happy as a pig in mud living out here at the shed.  He has his mini renovation in progress converting one of the offices into a living room, there is the entire woodworking workshop at his disposal, there is heaps of space, and it's a lovely rural environment.  He has gone out after dinner to survey his kingdom and his handiwork.

Buying a half share of this place has turned out to be an excellent decision.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Frozen water pipes!

No.... not on a narrowboat.... at our shed!

I crept out early this morning in the dark to use the bathroom.  Oh, my goodness, it was cold.  We each have a pair of "crocs" that we have always used for the garden and walking around the chicken shed.  They are now on our little platform outside the caravan door.  So far I've managed fine wearing them with bare feet to hurry across to the bathroom.  This morning was so cold I could hardly stand it with bare feet in those things! 

When I turned on the tap in the bathroom to wash my hands no water came out of the tap.  I thought we'd used all the water in the water tank. I came back complaining to Mick about the lack of water and eventually we came to the conclusion that the water pipes must be frozen.

When we got up an hour later, it felt even colder.  It was -4 degrees.  Outside it looked like a Winter wonderland.  Everything was covered in frost and ice.  The property is surrounded by an industrial chain wire fence and the entire thing was white frosted.  Mick's bucket of water holding his paintbrush had a layer of ice on top.  Even my car, under the carport roof, had icicles on the roof.

The sun came out and began to melt the ice on the roof of the shed and the condensation on the steel beams inside rained down all over the place.  This time when I went outside I put my feet (with socks - I wasn't making the same mistake) in the crocs which were full of water.  It was so cold!!  I got dressed and retreated to my Mum's in Bendigo for a shower to warm up.  It took until I got there for my feet to defrost, despite having the heater blowing on them all the way.

I don't know what will happen if the pipes freeze on a work morning.  I think I'll have to take more notice of the weather forecast - and if it's likely to be that cold I'll get up earlier to allow time for a trip to Mum's for a shower.

I went to the Rivers factory outlet and bought two pairs of short "ugg boot" type things.  Tonight we've got warm feet at least and we've put the crocs away.  Now we'll walk from the caravan to the bathroom without cold feet.

I guess it's all good practice for Winter on a narrowboat.

Friday 6 July 2012

The temporary home

For those who have asked to see where we're living - here are some outside photos.  Once our little living room is complete I'll take a few indoor ones.

1. Taken from the back corner of the property
2. From the driveway (shed on the left)
3. From the shed door
4. Frost and sunrise
5. The valley
6. Lovely outlook

Thursday 5 July 2012

Lockgate vs. solid fuel stove

We are interested to hear opinions about lockgate stoves on narrowboats.  We often see boats for sale having one and had thought that we should replace it with a small solid fuel stove.    I like to be able to put a kettle or a pot of soup on a wood burning stove. 

What sort of heat do the Lockgates give off? 
Is it a dry heat like a wood fire? 
Is there any diesel smell?
Is a Lockgate stove a good supplement to a central heating system?
We definitely don't want the central heating to run off a Lockgate heater.  We want to have 2 sources of heating in case of a problem with one.  But, with a Lockgate stove it's likely to be both soures reliant on diesel.  What if you're iced in and not able to fill your diesel tank?  Would it not be easier to collect a bag of coal for a solid fuel stove?
Opinions greatly appreciated.

Wednesday 4 July 2012


I had a lovely day yesterday - taking my niece to see Annie at the theatre.  Being school holidays the theatre was packed with little girls.  The performance was great and Min really enjoyed her day.

Monday 2 July 2012

Starting to feel like home

I never thought I'd say it but that little caravan is starting to feel like home.  We're getting used to where our clothes are stored, we have a method for the washing, we have a system for alternating power plugs for the kettle, toaster, microwave etc.  With the shed far more tidy now, it doesn't seem so bad having to walk through it to go to the bathroom.  I'm even used to saying "good morning" to the neighbour's cows when I step out of the caravan each morning.  I got the fright of my life the first morning I was by myself when one let out a loud "mooooooo" just as I came out the door.  It was right up against the fence and was quite close.  I rather like having them there now.

When we finally get our narrowboat it will feel enormous compared to the caravan and the cooking facilities will seem luxurious!  Being able to go to the bathroom without going outside will be fantastic.

I'm at my brothers tonight in Melbourne and his wife mentioned their plans for Christmas. It's strange to think they're planning what to do for Christmas and we won't be here.  Twelve weeks from tomorrow we'll be on a plane.  I know how fast 12 weeks goes when I have a holiday booked..... and that's a bit of a scary thing. 

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  I'm taking my niece to see "Annie" at the theatre in Melbourne.  It was the first thing I ever saw at the theatre as a little girl and it will be Min's first time at the theatre too.  A very exciting day.