VanEssa: the shakedown trip

Well, it’s been great.

We’ve just spent 4 days at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. We took our caravan VanEssa up for her maiden voyage with us, and because Airlie is only 150km/90ish miles away, it was the perfect spot: beautiful, warm, but close enough to home to head back easily in a couple of hours if anything went wrong. But nothing (much) did. With one or two notable exceptions, of course. I mean, it wouldn’t be us if there weren’t at least two issues. Since they relate to the, ahem, sanitary facilities, I’m going to gloss over that bit hastily as no-one wants to hear about things like that. However, on the plus side, VanEssa is amazingly well insulated for both heat and sound, the reverse-cycle aircon is a dream for both heating and cooling, the beds were even comfier than I thought, the fridge/freezer was fantastic, the stovetop worked beautifully, the range hood was efficient. I could go on…

Airlie Beach has always been a bit too close for our holiday trips, and it’s a major tourist centre, but off-season we found it was perfect for the Husband’s 4-day off shift, so we’ll definitely be going back. Because of this, we hadn’t done much exploring in the area, and one of the places I wanted to visit was in Proserpine, about 30km from where we were staying. It’s a small, busy sugar town, not the sort of place you’d expect to find a shop like Colour Me Crazy. From the name and the look of the website, you expect a certain degree of kookiness, but believe me, there’s nothing kooky about this place. It’s crammed floor to ceiling in multiple rooms with utter fabulousness. I can’t describe it, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The Husband and doggo decided that it was not their kind of thing, and sat outside in the sunshine while I drifted about inside, coveting and fingering the merch. It’s not cheap (although worth every penny, I’d say), and I just couldn’t justify spending the sort of money my acquisitive little heart pined to… Gorgeous clothing, jewellery, bags, shoes, homewares, candles, pictures. aaaargh…

So after I tore myself away we went and investigated Prossy Pies, because it was lunchtime, and you know what I’m like about pies. Nice, but not as good as some we’ve had recently (although Doggo did appreciate his share). Not something I can say about Fish D’vine, where the fish and chips were indeed Divine. The coral trout was off the boat that day, the batter was light and crispy, as were the chips, and we got a generous side order of aioli. Worth going back to Airlie just for that, and the place is very dog friendly, having a large outdoor seating area overlooking the sea and out to the reef.

We did other stuff too, including a short visit to the Peter Faust Dam, which is beautiful, has a very nice unpowered camping area, several pristine picnic huts and is extremely peaceful and beautiful, with an open horizon, distant hills and a remarkable volcanic plug visible on the other side of the water. I’ve been unable to find a name for this very distinctive bit of geology.

Panoramic photo, do click for a larger image

I’d have loved to stay longer, but 4 days is all we had. Doggo, however, is delighted to be home and have his own backyard to zoom around and a wide choice of places to snooze. And now that we’re back, it’s time to fix up those issues, give her a clean and get her ready for our next trip to Cairns in August.

Oh, and I have sewing projects calling my name!


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.

More tiny, and a bit of festive fun

First, the tiny.

I have begun a new model. This time, it’s what the maker calls a ‘miniature house’ – in reality, just a room, and not even all 4 walls and a roof, but like a stage set. It’s a sewing room, and it will be a gift for a friend and fellow quiltmaker. We’re meeting early next year, (Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise), and I shall pack it up carefully and carry it the 1400km to our meeting place so we can enjoy it together on our holiday. She’s getting daily progress bulletins, so I thought I’d share with you too!

Here’s the box, showing what they intend it should look like.

There are some lovely details, and some absolutely ferocious bits of construction needing to be done (I’m looking at you, treadle sewing machine), but it’s coming along and I’m making progress. It’s a lot more fiddly than the other one, mostly because of all the furniture and accessories that have to be made. The structure itself doesn’t look too bad… Possibly famous last words, there.

This is where I’ve got to.

From left to right: work table with cutting mat and tool holder (rulers, scissors, spools of cotton); tailor’s dummy with measuring tape, treadle sewing machine, assorted baskets and cushions, fabric dresser with cushions, basket, fat quarters and fabric bundles; coffee grinder on top, chest of drawers with newspaper and hat (made from scratch). That sewing machine was something else. All the ‘ironwork’ underneath had to be glued and assembled, and the crank that holds the treadle to the flywheel is 10mm long…. I had to make the handles on the chest of drawers and the fabric dresser, and wind the cotton on the tiny bobbins.  The coffee grinder is made of 12 different components. Well. You get the idea.

That said, I have every intention of cracking on and getting it done by the end of next week, despite having a number of other things that need to be achieved. It’s difficult, but so very satisfying when you hold up this finished tiny thing, and realise that you did it!

Speaking of other things, now for the festive fun. It’s the Happy Greys Social Club Christmas party on Sunday. We’re having a picnic, people are bringing nice things to eat, greyhounds will get treats, a Secret Santa will be held with dog gifts, and there will probably be varying levels of dressing up, by both doggos and people. I shall content myself with my dangly earrings with reindeer and flashing lights and a red top. Mouse, on the other hand, has a position to maintain. Which is why he’ll be wearing this:

It’s made from two $3 Santa hats and a pack of ‘reindeer bell’ Christmas decorations, plus assorted scraps. Poor old Mouse doesn’t know what he’s in for, and I’m only going to put it on him once we reach the car park of our destination, in case he’s traumatised by the jingling of those bells. Which is why you’re not getting a photo… yet.

I think he’ll look adorable and handsome, but I won’t torture him if he hates it. I might have to wear it myself if that’s the case, hehehe! His girlfriend Lotti will be wearing a tiny Santa hat and a large paper poinsettia in her collar, very chic and girly!

Anyway, update over. Back to making more tiny pretty things until my back gives out.


Send in the clowns

By which I mean our furry guests.

Mouse brings a certain…. gravitas to his position of Supreme Boss of the Household. He does indulge in the odd roach (aka, greyhound sleeping on its back with legs in the air), and does zoom around the backyard in a very uninhibited way when properly encouraged, but he’s not usually plain daft. Our guests, on the other hand….

Sunshine, sleeping

Tiny, sleeping with his eyes open

Well, you can see what I’m talking about. It’s very, very distracting!

They’ve gone home now, as their Staff have returned from a well-earned break on Hamilton Island. We returned them in one piece, fed, watered, dosed and walked, and are told that the favour will be returned if we ever need to travel somewhere without His Lordship for a few days.

I confess, it was worse than herding cats. It was like caring for rambunctious 3-year-old triplets: noses into everything, restless trooping from room to room, bed to bed, stealing toys, cadging treats. Out, please. In, please. Scratches, please. Oh well, it’s over now!

I did manage to get a little sewing done once they’d gone. It has been so long since I managed a Parterre block, I wanted to see if I still could! This is Parterre Block 27. Sorry about the lousy lighting, it’s very gloomy and overcast today.

Parterre Block 27

I have the fabrics picked out for the next one, and it’s on my work table, ready to go.

Hopefully normal service will now be resumed. Hopefully…

Delft #5, and doggos

I’m making progress.

The central section of Delft is assembled, with joining hexies stitched in. It’s slowish work, but I really like the effect. I have 70ish hexies in another fabric which I want to use for the next outward row, and I can revert to the fabric I’ve used in the centre outside that, as I have a lot more of it.Fingers are holding up well, and it’s undemanding work I can do while I listen to YouTube or podcasts. I also have two yards of a lovely stripe fabric for the border on its way, 1cm stripes of white and dark blue. I’ll show it when it arrives.

In other news, I’m taking care of two doggo friends of Mouse’s, Sunshine and Tiny. Their Staff dropped them off this morning on their way to a short break on Hamilton Island, where doggos are not allowed. It’s been an interesting couple of hours as they explored the house, the back yard, Mouse’s beds and toys, etc. They have finally stopped leaping up every time a car passes, they’ve had snacks and are now draped across the floor with maximum inconvenience to foot traffic! Mouse is delighted with the toys they brought with them, especially the squeaky fluffy zebra toy. It may have to be pried from his jaws when they leave on Wednesday afternoon…

The only downside? I now have three pairs of eyes trained on my plate while I eat….

A cushy number

Well, it’s Mouse’s turn.

He’s now also immortalised in a cushion. There was lots of dudgeon and side-eye when I made the Lotti cushion, as he felt that as I was His mum, I should have prioritised Him. So I gave in to the hounding (see what I did there?) and made him his own.

The front isn’t black, it’s a dark charcoal with a black graphic overprint. I need to get a cushion pad the right size, what’s in there is a bit floppy as it’s not quite large enough, but it can wait till the next time I have to go to Spotlight for something else. For the back, I used my remnant of the pretty Jocelyn Proust gold fabric with a pattern of leaves and zebra finches.

I did get a photo of Mouse all stretched out, doing a Lotti, but it was just too long and skinny to make a cushion, wouldn’t you say? Not to mention that his grey blankie isn’t exactly a colourful background for a black dog…

Anyway, his Lordship is now content that he’s been respected satisfactorily!

Creature Of The Night*

Sunday is Halloween.

Purists are inclined to be a bit sniffy about plastic pumpkins and skeletons, and talk loftily about the meaning and origins of the festival. I think they should climb down off those high horses and try a bit of fun for a change.

With that thought in mind, we’ve arranged the next Happy Greys Social Club coffee morning on Halloween itself. For a miracle, the Husband has the day off, and because it’s the weekend, so do lots of other people. So Mouse’s Aunty Lyn and I though a spot of doggy fancy dress would be appropriate. And before you say this info belongs over on Mouse’s own blog, there is of course a reason I’m talking about it here.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of dogs wearing costumes a lot (warm- and waterproof-wear being the exception), it’s bad for their fur and it’s a bit too anthropomorphic for comfort. But occasionally, I’ll make an exception.

You know where this is going, don’t you?  As co-host, Mouse insisted something Special.

What do you mean, they don’t flap?

I had a think about it. I concluded that a sleek, black creature with large ears and pointy fangs was made to wear a pair of bat wings. So I built him some. It’s a double layer of black felt, cut to shape and stitched together, with channels stitched in to form ribs. The leading edge has a stiff wire in it which I shaped to flick up so that they don’t just droop and flap. I was originally planning to wire every rib, but it turned out to be unnecessary. I attached the wings to his old harness with a velcro closure. He didn’t seem too distressed by them, nor too disgusted. They’re light and soft. I won’t make him wear them for hours, and he’ll probably flop down at some point and squish them. That’s OK. Let me know if you want more detail on how I constructed the wings.

Please tell me I’m not going as Elvis…

And then today in the supermarket I saw The Cape. It’s fancy dress for a small child, but fits him nicely. It’s very light and flimsy, but has this brilliant gold stand up collar, as well as gold lamé pumpkins, ghosts, bats, etc, all over the fabric. I knew we had to have it, and at $2.80 it wasn’t breaking the bank. At that point, I hadn’t finished the wings and wasn’t sure they’d be successful, so Hound Dracula was to be his fallback position. He wasn’t sure about it, at first.


As it is, Hound Dracula can wear his cloak and his wings at the same time. He looks… magnificent, although there’s still a strong element of side-eye going on. Sorry about the photos being a bit blurry and crowded, we had to capture him in all his glory before the supply of bribes treats ran out.

I do draw the line at fake blood on his fangs! 🧛‍♂️


*And if you don’t now have an ear-worm from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I haven’t don’t my job properly!


I couldn’t resist, I’m sorry… Not.

Mouse is, obviously, a greyhound, which is a sighthound breed. One of the results of this is that his head is very long and narrow and his neck is wider and muscular. A regular dog collar doesn’t work so well, because he can reverse right out of it and prance off at speed, sneering at us for being so slow. Yes, that’s experience talking… Consequently, he wears a martingale collar. This is a collar with a second loop as part of its circumference, which extends and tightens when it’s pulled, thereby closing the collar up. There is a limit on how tight it can go, you don’t want to garrotte your beloved doggo, but at the same time, you don’t want him getting loose and into danger. Most of the time, it’s comfortably loose, so that you can get at least two or three fingers inside it.

Mouse wears a Greenhound Collar, which in addition to being a martingale collar, indicates that he’s been through some fairly extensive training to be socialised and safe around adults, children, other dogs and other animals. It has a registration number so that he can be identified, and wearing it permits him to be off-leash without a muzzle in designated off-leash dog areas such as dog parks. However, he’s been wearing it more or less non-stop since we got him, and it’s now seriously grubby.

Time for a wash. Also, I wanted to make him some posh party-wear*.

So I did.

I ordered some rather gorgeous woven smooth webbing online, and some titanium-rainbow effect hardware to match. Locally, I bought wide black webbing intended for bag-straps, and a pair of black square ‘rings’. The original hardware set was intended for bag making and did not contain the necessary additional rings, hence the extra purchase.

I measured his adjustable Greenhound Collar. Because this new one’s custom, I didn’t need to make it adjustable, and used the fitted, finished sizes. I subtracted length for the buckle, and added back in the fold-over at each side of the buckle and both sides at the front. I cut both lots of webbing to size and sealed the ends by rapidly passing them through a lighter flame (Be careful not to touch the sealed ends too quickly. Ask me how I know this…).

The assembly order is important. Assemble the bits either side of the buckle first. Then add the square rings at the outer ends. Then feed the two ends of the front loop through the square rings. Stitch the smaller webbing to the wider webbing, and stitch down the fold-overs for the hardware. Close up the loop at the front, ensuring you create a free section in the overlap to contain the D ring at the centre front. Stitch all fold-overs with a square/X seam, and the overlap at the front with close zigzag to seal down the free ends. I used a thread that co-ordinated with and enhanced the colourful  pattern on the narrower webbing.

To match, I made him a lead, also with the ‘titanium’ hardware and using the same colourful webbing. It isn’t quite as sturdy as the the thick woven cotton Greenhound set, but since it’s not designed for daily walkies but for swanking about in, I’m not concerned.

To finish the whole thing off, we’ve got him an engraved tag. The front has his name and my phone number (retouched out for privacy), and his local government registration and Greenhound numbers on the back. Black with silver engraving. Looks good with the rest of it, don’t you think?

He’s currently getting used to it. The Greenhound collar is going to take a while to dry, it’s very thick, and meanwhile, the swanky collar is a bit heavier due to the buckle, and makes a different noise. He’s shown no signs of wanting to get rid of it, which is a start!

I think he looks rather handsome. And yes, of course he’s spoiled rotten. That goes without saying.

But he deserves it.

*Just wait till you see what I have in mind for Halloween….

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.