The end of an era

We resisted for years, but the time has come.

Miz Lizzie

We are retiring our beloved Miz Lizzie. She’s going to our friend Mitch at Yard 5 Caravan Repairs. He’s going to lovingly do her up and let her as a holiday rental.

She’s going to be very, very well cared for. It’s sad, as she was our first and looked after us very well. We’ve had some epic adventures in her, but it’s time to move on.

Let me introduce VanEssa. She’s a 2014 Legend Wild Native 19ft/5.8m single axle caravan. And she has a bathroom. Let me be clear. If Miz Lizzie had had one of those, she’d be going nowhere. But as we get older, we’re increasingly unwilling to duck out in the middle of the night to, er, commune with nature, whether it’s in an ensuite close by or amenities at a distance. The bathroom is microscopic, but it’s there. Other advantages? She’s a full-height caravan, not a pop-top. Also the fridge/freezer is much bigger (and newer), the air conditioning is in the roof instead of at ankle level, and there are reclining chairs (straight off the Husband’s wishlist). There’s a considerable list of advantages, but I won’t bore you.

The Boss is as yet unaware of the impending change. He will be resentful of the lack of individual dog bunk, but will definitely appreciate all the extra floor space, the fact that the dog fence will now encompass a much larger area, and the larger awning will give him more shade. Also, because VanEssa is lower, it won’t be such a leap up the steps for him (he tends to attempt it in one bound in Miz Lizzie, not always successfully).

The new caravan isn’t yet ours. We do a final inspection at the end of the month, hand over our deposit, do our final trip in Miz Lizzie down to Nambucca Heads, and on our return, the new one will be delivered to us and paid for. And yes, of course I’m already planning on how to furnish and redecorate her. Do you like the name, by the way?

The interior is predictably bland, like all comparatively modern caravans, heavy on the black & white colour scheme and plastic surfaces.

That will change. She’s clean and tidy and in good shape, but she needs personality, warmth and comfort. She will be our last caravan, so I’m going to personalise her properly inside.

The storage is, predictably, laid out differently, and I haven’t had a chance to poke into every cupboard (I think the current owners might have something to say about that, as they’re still using her!). But I can see that certain things I’m used to are not present. Like drawers.

So I did a bit of very premature sewing. Storage baskets for the Husband and I to put stuff in. And yes, of course they’re scrappy. That’s a pair of worn out work pants and some colourful bits from my scrap baskets you’re looking at. I think it would be fair to say I’m champing at the bit to get in there with a tape measure and a notebook… Things are going to be colourful!

I must be patient. VanEssa is waiting for us.

Juggling

Another word for busy with no tangible outcome!

I have lots of things on the go, I’m actually quite busy, but nothing really post-worthy on its own, which is why the photo is pretty random – we took doggo and a picnic to the newly-developed Riverside leisure area in Mackay for a bit of a change. Beautifully done: loungers, tables and chairs and benches under cover, very nice amenities, ample rubbish bins, and best of all, a couple of free filtered-water dispensers for people and doggos. We’ll be going back again soon.

The entire central panel of the Delft quilt is now entirely stitched together, a mammoth undertaking. I’m currently cutting borders/ working out what I want the corners to look like, preparatory to taking the project away with us when we go travelling at the end of January, as handwork. Stitching the hexie edges onto the straight border should be challenging, as well as tedious time-consuming. It’s easy for things to get puckered and bubbly if your stitch tension is too tight.

I’m making a skirt out of a thrifted pair of pants. It’s a work in progress… If it works, I’ll show it.

I made a work apron out of a pair of the Husband’s old work pants. More on that for ScrapHappy Day on the 15th.

I made a waterproof iPhone hiking pouch for a friend. Fold-over press-stud top for waterproofing, and zippered bottom for quick access.

I made a set of 3 ‘feminine hygiene’ kits for a young lady of my acquaintance who is going to need them soon. Ecologically friendly, washable, comfortable, colourful, practical, discreet, and nothing to landfill or the sewage system.

The red kurta is still on Rosita, my dress form. I have opened out the side seams and basted in muslin panels to act as patterns for the eventual final inserts. And there it has stopped. For now…

I have a green silk thrifted top that is waiting to be altered with a patterned silk insert. It’s a gorgeous colour, but as an occasional-wear item it’s not high on the To Do list.

I just finished making a set of napkins from some beautiful French red and white striped linen. I wanted super-large ones (nearly tea towel-sized), and you just can’t buy them that size.

I carved, vacuum-packed and froze the rest of our Christmas ham. I made pea and ham soup from the bone and smallest scraps. The shells from 2kg (4 pounds) of prawns are still sitting in a bag in the freezer waiting for me to make a stock from them for a bisque. The soup I made from the two chicken carcasses is almost history already. And that’s the end of the Christmas leftovers.

I am 3½ pages into the instruction book for my latest miniature kit. The booklet is 24 pages long… The kit is a surprise gift for someone, so I’m not going to be showing any pictures, but it’s one of the most content-intensive ones I’ve seen, so there are literally dozens of pieces to make for it. And I’m on a deadline. Why do I do these things to myself? Oh yes, because it’s heaps of fun!

And finally, we gave Miz Lizzie the caravan (travel trailer) a major bath and beauty treatment. After years of restrictions, we are finally getting ready for an out-of-state 1400km/870 mile trip down south to Nambucca Heads in northern NSW, where the Husband and I will both celebrate birthdays with friends and family. Miz Lizzie is looking very clean, shiny and spiffy. She will shortly be off to visit the caravan repair yard, to have two more inline bilge fans fitted to her new air conditioning system to help the cold air shoot out faster. The new system couldn’t be fitted in the old location due to size, and the new ducting is much longer, so the built-in fan loses efficiency and the cooling is reduced. We fitted one in-line fan at home to test whether it helps. It does, so she’s off this coming week to get the rest of the work done before we go away. I hope it gets done fairly quickly, as we had to strip the interior to get at the relevant ducting, and it all has to go back in again before I can clean and start packing!

So, as you can see, my comparative radio-silence has not been evidence of idleness, but rather of too many irons in the fire and not enough completion.

So clearly, my word for 2023 will continue to be FINISH.

Domestic, er, bliss….

I have almost reached the bottom of the pile.

We got home late on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday I unpacked, put away, cleaned, and did 4 or 5 loads of laundry. Mouse spent the entire first evening walking around the house and lying down on empty patches of floor, our bed, the sofa and his three beds, to re-establish his own personal ‘flavour’. He managed to be under foot the maximum amount of time, but the delight on his furry face at being back was so touching I hadn’t the heart to ask him to go and lie down.

Now that we’re back and I’m fully in the swing of domesticity again, I’m looking back fondly on some of the meals I didn’t have to make myself.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, in that order.

How easy it was to keep the caravan tidy, the beds made and the dishes done. And how very good it is to have a bit more space again, despite the domestic requirements!

(A point of information: we don’t have a hot water system in the caravan. Until recently, I had to boil the kettle several times to get enough hot water to wash up. And then I had a brainwave! A hot water urn. It holds 8 litres (nearly 2 gallons) of water (enough for two loads of washing up) and can hold it at the boil if necessary, but also keeps it at perfect washing up temperature all day. It’s plastic, lightweight and can be stowed away for travel.

It’s good to be home, but I do still have my fingers crossed that the trip down to NSW we have booked in October will go ahead. It will give me a chance to catch up with friends and family, as well as satisfying my slight homesickness for the region we’re going to.

Just at the moment, it’s not looking great; the number of cases in Sydney is climbing exponentially as cases come into the country with returning travellers, and then run amok in the local population, some of whom are not especially compliant…  By the time we’re supposed to leave, we’ll both be fully vaccinated. Wouldn’t it be nice if that allowed us to cross the border freely…?

Once I’ve finished all the domestic stuff, I can finally turn my attention back to the sewing room and my newly-serviced sewing machine. Oh, and my plans to completely rearrange the whole sewing room. Eeek!

Looking forward to it 🙂

Evidence of (not much) industry

I brought handwork on holiday with me.

Of course.

About 75 hexies. I have all blue & white and some pale pink scraps with me.

But it’s only enough to keep my hands busy while my ears listen to a talking book or two. Trouble is, I’m now so fast at making hexies that I have a rather large pile made for the few hours I’ve worked on it. I have no idea what these hexies and the other scraps I brought with me will evolve into. Time will tell.

We’re having a wonderfully lazy time. In earlier times, I used to pack activities into our trips to Cairns, mainly revolving around food: the tracking down, smelling, sampling, tasting, enjoying and taking home of. These days, I’m someone limited in how much luscious cheese, hand-made chocolate, artisan coffee blends and succulent tropical fruit I can actually safely consume. I choose my meals…. sensibly although not boringly (see below!). It’s not quite as much fun, and importantly, the absence of gastro-touring leaves us free to do, well, nothing very much, and do it lavishly!

‘Fishy benny’: eggs benedict with smoked salmon and sautéd mushrooms on rocket and rye, topped with a lemony hollandaise

Before lunch today, we indulged today in a spot of bogus caravan-shopping. There’s one big caravan yard in Cairns and about half a million RV, camper van and camper-trailer yards, but none of the latter are of interest to us. We took Mouse and toured the caravan yard, went into every caravan (not Mouse, he inspected the outsides) and assessed it. All very slick and shiny, but just not, well, comfortable. The kitchens had large shiny appliances and sleek surfaces, but almost nowhere to do any work. Perhaps they don’t expect people to actually prepare meals, just heat up ready meals or reheat a pizza. They certainly don’t expect people to have books, or sewing machines, or sports equipment or a large collection of spices, or even, heaven forbid, a dog. There are buttons and switches and fold out this and drop down that, but the furnishings are nasty, there’s nowhere to hang a large fluffy towel or two, and heaven forbid you should have a coffee machine. So until we win the lottery and can have our ideal caravan built to our specification, we’ll stick to Miz Lizzie, who can comfortably and neatly accommodate everything we want to bring and use.

Mouse has written about his expedition out to dinner with us last night. I have discovered that if I reblog his posts here and then want to update the original, the updates don’t carry over. If anyone can point out how to do that, I’d be grateful. In the meantime, you’ll find it here if you’re interested.

‘Raunchy huevos’: omelette with chilli,spicy beans, avocado, roasted chorizo, roasted tomato and sour cream, with tortilla chips on the side.

And now I feel a large snooze coming on. Lunch was pretty delicious, and I shall join the Husband and the dog in our small but comfy and air-conditioned home away from home.

Tomorrow we have a small road trip planned. I’ll tell you all about it then.

The Travels of Mouse: homeward bound

Hello peeps, Mouse here again.

Just a quick one this morning, as Mum says she hasn’t got much time for dictation.

Lovely day yesterday. We went and fetched coffees and pastries for the humans, and met Mum’s blogging friend Aunty Kate in the Sanctum dog park, which is close to her home (Hi Aunty Kate, nose boop!). The sun shone, I ran and sniffed, the humans talked and drank coffee and in Dad’s case, sneaked me a bit of sausage roll. Then a couple of very bad mannered dogs turned up with their human which caused a bit of an interruption, but they moved into another part of the dog park so it was OK after that. Mum says you might like to know that the pastries came from Cédric Corre Patisserie in Hermitage Park, in case you’re ever passing through and in urgent need of a delicious tarte au citron or galette aux pommes – or indeed, some very respectable sausage rolls.

After that we did a bit more exploring, down to Bushland Beach, which is lovely and empty, with a very shallow sloping beach so no surprise drop-offs for unsuspecting doggos. The Bushland Beach Tavern has a motel attached and is right at the beach, and the outdoor eating area overlooking a lagoon looked pretty good too, so we’ve marked that down for next time. Mum spotted some really big old fig trees which Dad says would make very good sustainable, self-renewing fences!

Last stop was a drive up to Cape Pallarenda in the north of the city. We didn’t stop and get out; it was very hot, the trails are long and doggos are not permitted as it is National Parkland, but we could see the start of it. If you love walking trails, natural beauty, bird watching and amazing views, it would be worth a visit. The view across to Magnetic Island is startlingly close, and back towards the city lets you see just how tall Castle Hill is in the background.

Right, got to go. Mum has to get moving, she says.

The Travels of Mouse: an unexpected bath, and other adventures

Well, it was a full day yesterday, and no mistake.

We waved goodbye to Uncle Johnny in the morning, he’s heading south again. And then it was time for the day’s adventures. Mum said she thought it would be a good idea to investigate all the other Townsville off-leash dog parks, because although Sanctum is really, really nice, it’s the other side of the city. So we set off with Google and the SatNav to investigate some of them. First on the list was Murray Paw Dog Park in Annandale. It’s nice, not really big and not much shade, but there’s dog agility stuff if that’s your thing. Second was Riverside Dog Park in Cranbrook, which is lovely! Lots of trees and shade, and the river runs beside it to a weir. There are birds, and it’s very quiet and scenic. And here I had my unexpected bath.The ground slopes down to the water. I trotted down to sniff. Mum and Dad said “no, Mouse”. I waded forward a little and they shouted. I leaped out into the water and Mum screamed: I had submerged because there was no bottom, as I’d expected! My legs are a bit slender and I was having to paddle quite hard to stay afloat, but my hero Dad came and grabbed my collar and hauled me forward and then helped me back up onto the bank. It was a relief to be back on dry land. Mum made a big fuss of me! I was nice and cool, if a bit drippy, because it was already a very hot day. So I generously shared by having a good shake of water all over both of them. I was slightly surprised this was not better received, but there you go… After that, we looked at a couple of other places, but I’d sort of lost my enthusiasm for the project and preferred to stay in the air conditioning of the car back seat.

Wet, but nice and cool

So the Staff decided it’d be fun to pay a visit to Mount Stuart, which is not only completely dry, but has some spectacular views over the whole of Townsville. It’s 584m high, or 1,916ft, and you can see a huge distance from the top. From one side, there are 180° views over Townsville from the Rotary Lookout up there, and you can look across the bay to Magnetic Island.

From the other side, you can see the Ross River Dam, which supplies water to the city. It’s looking a bit low, Dad says… Unlike last year, when the city was badly flooded due to the Dam reaching 200+% capacity and the floodgates had to be opened to release water or it would have given way and the city would have drowned completely.

There are some really good views to be had all around Townsville, and if you want an idea of what’s there, Mum says you should click on this link for a idea of what you can see and do.

We were all a bit zorsted in the afternoon. The Staff had stayed up late for Uncle Johnny’s visit, and I’d had a rather too ’citing adventure, so we all had a nice afternoon snooze and a quiet evening.

Today, Wednesday, we’re catching up with another friend, but more on that tomorrow.

The Travels of Mouse: just a quick one

Yesterday was very, very long.

Not the travelling part, I might add, that was just the usual 370km. No, it was the early start and late finish and the disruption to My Routine.

Packing up was nice and quick; the Staff really do have that down pat now, and I watched Mum stow all the stuff inside the caravan with an expression of alarm (which I always assume at times like these in case of a treat opportunity), while Dad did all the outside stuff like rolling up hoses and power cords and winding up the legs. Once the power was off, the air conditioning stops working, so Dad turns on the car, Mum makes up my bed in the back seat and I transfer myself into my Backseat Driver Position. We hook up the car, hand in the key and away we go. This morning was extra good because there was a Breakfast Opportunity for me too, and I got bits of bacon and sausage!

We stopped for an early lunch at Cardwell. Yes, you guessed it. There was a crab sandwich! Mum said the crab was an inch deep, but it lacked something; the wedge of lemon and large amounts of black pepper were apparently not enough. Finally, after much discussion the Staff agreed that tartare sauce, or at least mayonnaise and some chopped dill pickle would have achieved perfection. I hope Mum remembers pickles for the next trip… I got to sample some crab. It’s OK, I suppose, but give me chunks of Dad’s meat pie any day. All the food was enjoyed in a shady park beside the beach, and I had a nice sniff around and left some messages for later doggo visitors.

On the leg between Cardwell and Townsville, Mum got a message on her phone to say that Johnny, a friend from the Staff’s  OzSTOC motorbike club, was going to be passing through. He arranged to stay the night at the same caravan park as we’re staying at, as he’s travelling with an RV instead of his motorbike and trailer. Dad bought beer, Mum made Mee Goreng with chicken, we all sat around in the dusk and then the dark, and talked. It turned into a very late night, for me at any rate, and Mum and Dad were yawning hard by the time the party broke up.

He came for coffee again in the early morning before he left. Luckily he had to leave at 10am, because I have plans for the Staff to take me round all the Townsville fenced dog parks to investigate how suitable they are for a good run. I’ve been cooped up in the car and then the caravan for 48 hours now, not counting short walkies, and I need to run! I expect the Staff will report on the parks as usual, for the benefit of anyone else who might chance to pass through with a doggo.

It’s going to be a hot few days. The sun is bitey, the wind is scorching. Thank goodness for my comfy bed in the air conditioning…

The Travels of Mouse: so long – for now

It’s time to say goodbye to Far North Queensland again.

“Farewell to the wide, empty beaches, the rainforest sweeping down to the sea, with its tightly knotted dark green foliage fringed by palms and pale sand.

Farewell to the Coral Sea and her endless variations on blue, aqua, turquoise and indigo, the sudden colour changes as the clouds fly over, the white lace edging where the waves break on the reef.

Farewell to the joyful tropical vegetation, the stately trees with their exuberant foliage and flowers, their fringes of fern, the sword blades of the palms and strelitzias, the paddle blades of bananas and taro and the outrageous colour of cordyline and croton, frangipani and hibisicus.

It’s back to the dry tropics, also beautiful, but maybe a little less lavish, lush and luxuriant!”

Mum does that descriptive stuff well, doesn’t she? I could talk about the smells and tastes, but imagery’s not my bowl of kibble. You can’t ask too much of a dog; after all, we see blue and yellow but not red and green. Keep it simple, I say. Mum says it’s called Dichroic Vision… It has been a nice restful sort of a day, except for socialising with some doggos in Henley Dog Park this afternoon (there was one there who was a cross between a dachshund and a pit bull, a quite strornery combination!), and and then a short drive out on the Captain Cook Highway heading north  towards Port Douglas, just so Mum could get her ‘sea-dose’, without which it seems no holiday is complete.

They’ve started packing stuff up, which I hate, because it means Disruption and Change. To be fair, the Staff do try and keep my disturbance to a minimum, and any overt show of distress quickly generates treats. Oh well, I suppose I wouldn’t be a Well-Travelled Dog without it, so I’d better learn to live with it.

We’re heading south again tomorrow, turning our faces for home, but not in any great rush. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Townsville, and then home to my own bed on Thursday. Or should I say, Mum and Dad’s bed, which is considerably larger and can I just say, softer…

I suspect there will be reporting on crab sandwiches tomorrow. Watch this space.

The Travels of Mouse: quiet pleasures

Hello people, Mouse here again.

I think I’d find mad excitement every day of this holiday a bit too fatiguing. I am, after all, a greyhound. Almost by definition, I need to snooze at least 80% of my day. Whether this happens in the back of the car or in my bunk doesn’t really matter. But I do like days when we don’t have activities actually planned. Yesterday was one of those. Mum hijacked the blog back to write about bits of fabric, so I wasn’t required to dictate an entertaining account of what we’d been up to, either. But there were two highlights.

First, doga.

No one can do a downward dog like a greyhound. No one. I was demonstrating to Mum what a proper back stretch looks like. She spends several minutes each morning wriggling about trying to relieve her back after lying immobile all night. Apparently something has to go clunk before she’s out of pain and it can take a while. I thought I’d show her how I deal with back stretching. It does of course take up quite a bit of space… the humans are required to wait and watch since there’s no room for anything else to occur at that end of the caravan…

And secondly, dessert.

I think it speaks for itself, and the fact that I don’t actually like strawberry tarts doesn’t negate the fact that Mum didn’t buy anything for me. OK, I might be fibbing slightly there. I know for certain there’s suddenly half a kilo of chicken necks in the freezer, and they are definitely not for the humans. Mum says they last me longer and are more chewy when they’re frozen… They’re not nearly as photogenic as the tarts, though.

It’s raining today. Or, as Mum would say, it’s fabric shop weather!

 

The Travels of Mouse: a grey day…

This is not a post about weather, humans.

Although while we’re on the subject, it did start gloomy and wet, clearing up later. No, this post is about doggos, and specifically, the greycious hound. Mum and Dad said it was going to be a lazy day, but frankly, it was mostly like any other day for me. Breakfast, then a snooze, then a little sniff about, then demand a tummy tickle, then lie in the sun a bit, then a little walkie, then beg for a snack… well, you get the idea. I did get a quick trot about off-leash in Touch Park after Mum had done the grocery shopping. But the most exciting part of the day came just before dinner.

I demanded to go outside. Mum just wasn’t getting the message. So what if I’d been out only 17 minutes earlier? Anyway, I stood there staring at the door till she gave in. And so we were walking down one of the paths in the caravan park when a lady came out of her RV and asked to pet me. Turns out, she and her husband are retired greyhound trainers, and they travel with 3 doggos, a lab and two greys! Out came the greys to say hello.

The black going grey is Crazy and the fawn is Rex. They’re both retired racers, very fast and twice my age. I was very polite and respectful. Mum told me later I had nothing to feel awkward about, I’m a healthier weight, I’m much shinier, my teeth are amazing compared with theirs, I’m not all scarred and my ears are in much better condition. So I felt better after that. It’s like meeting your sporting idols, only to find out they have broken noses and arthritis and dodgy backs and need to wear glasses.

Their Mum and Dad live in their RV and are travelling around Australia, only their home base is in Victoria, so they’re staying in Queensland for the time being to keep away from the Covid-19-thingy. I wondered, and it seems Mum did too, where two people and three large dogs put themselves inside a not very big (7.5m/25ft) RV all year round. Must get rather cosy in there…. And the humans have been here for a month but have never taken their doggos to any of the three perfectly good fenced dog parks, didn’t even know where they were.

So Mum and Dad and I are going to show them tomorrow. I hope Crazy and Rex will enjoy many nice zoomies in the future, after being shut up in that RV for so long except for short walks. Mr Lab is old and has bad hips, and so doesn’t miss the running.

That’s my good deed for the grey…. (Sorry, I couldn’t stop him. He’s picked up the pun bug from me – Mum)