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, north to the sun #2

Hello, readers, Mouse here again.

Well, yesterday was a bit dull from my point of view. After an initial bustle about, the Staff pulled out of the drive yesterday at about 9.45, a very late start compared with the usual 8am, but we weren’t in a hurry. I settled down to snooze in the back, my usual occupation on long trips. By lunchtime, we’d reached Bowen. Mum says it’s where they shot the movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. From our point of view, it’s where Jochheim’s Bakery is, source of (so far), the best meat pies in Queensland and northern New South Wales. And meat pie there was. And a sausage roll. Even I got a bit and I’m normally not allowed pie because of what pastry does to my insides, but we’re on holiday.

We had lunch sitting at the beachfront, overlooking the harbour. Nice memories for me, because it’s where Mum and Dad stopped when they’d just adopted me in Townsville, to let me stretch my legs and, ahem, see to other needs.

We got to Townsville mid-afternoon and got set up. Dad likes the caravan park here, the showers in the en-suite sites are good and hot and strong, and there is plenty of room to walk me without needing to leave the park.

They have set up my private enclosure so I can move around outside the caravan without needing to be tied up (a barbarous requirement as far as I’m concerned, but there are some very noisy, yappy, grumpy small dogs here, so I suppose it makes sense).

Today, we are going to go and find a fenced dog park or two where I can stretch my legs. After a day in the car and no long (ie, over 2km) walks with Mum, I’m feeling the need to do some zooming! After lunch, we’ll visit Miss Nikki, and perhaps a motorbike friend of Mum and Dad if he’s free.

It was cold last night, and was a bit fresh this morning when Mum took me for my constitutional at 7am, but it has warmed up considerably now. The sun is warm, the sky is clear and blue, and it’s going to be a good day.

More tomorrow. Mouse

Mouse’s Holiday, part 1: 1400km on the road

Hello!  Still here, still reading your blogs, just busy travelling…

This is the first big trip we’ve taken with Mouse. The first one was a shake-down, and highlighted some of the issues, but a longer trip is a whole other story. Not quite like having a toddler along, but there are similarities. Regular meals and bathroom breaks, can’t be left alone, especially in cars on hot days…. But it’s a joy watching his incredulous delight at the dog beach, with all those other doggos playing, swimming, fetching and sniffing. And even more delight at the 3 acre fenced off-leash dog park, where he was allowed off the lead and to do zoomies, which he’s missed. He hasn’t quite got the idea of coming when called yet, but I can now see I have to give some serious priority to it when we get home; 3 acres is a large area to have to pursue him in should he decide to play Catch Me.

So, the trip. It didn’t start well; our car is nearly as old as the caravan, and it chose packing day to give up on the air conditioning, without which one doesn’t undertake a journey of any distance in Queensland. Net result was the Husband spending 6 hours in town getting it sorted, while I tried to pack as much as I could. Normally, I make a list, we split the task and the job is done smoothly and efficiently. This time, we forgot a few things…. Like the cordless drill which winds down the caravan stabiliser legs much faster than the old hand crank. And my camera. And a second pair of pyjamas. And the guy ropes for the awning. Never mind, we have work-rounds for everything, and it’s good to test our ingenuity! Miz Lizzie has had her undercarriage and suspension rebuilt since you last saw a photo of her, and now rides a good deal higher on larger wheels, which makes her stronger, stops things bouncing around inside and saves wear and tear on her frame.

Mouse was a model passenger. The back seat is wide enough that he could stretch out full length, and he took full advantage. We stopped every couple of hours to let everyone walk about a bit and get the blood circulating again, which meant the journeys took a little longer than usual, but we arrived in better shape as a result.

First stop was Tannum Sands, a pretty beachside suburb just south of Gladstone. The caravan park is just lovely: spacious, in beautiful surroundings directly opposite the beach, well landscaped and cared for. Just one tiny downside: the bitey insect life at night. Mosquitos and sandflies. During the day, not so much, but venture outside at night and the little devils are feasting on you in short order. We’ll be staying there on our return journey as well, so I have dug the tropical strength insect repellent out of the first aid kit to make walking Mouse less of a blood-letting exercise. He loved it there; foxes in the woods behind and possums up the trees made for excellent smellyvision for him.

The second night was at Landsborough Pines, a caravan park 3km from Australia Zoo of Steve Irwin (“Crikey, crocodiles!”) fame. It’s small, and really lovely. Many of the cabins are permanent residences, a few are holiday accommodation, and there’s a separate section for caravans and tents. Between the two is a really gorgeous duck pond/mini lake, complete with ducks, geese, wildfowl, turtles and fish. The water is aerated daily with large jets which make a lovely sound and look spectacular. The amenities were rather up-market for a caravan park, there was a very posh barbecue pavilion overlooking the duck pond, and the only downsides were that one tree housed a colony of rather smelly and noise fruit bats, and we were situated under a gum tree that dropped gum nuts on the roof all night. Once we’d worked out what the noise was, it stopped waking us up!

Day 3 was the longest leg of the trip. We also crossed south into New South Wales, which meant a change of time zone, an hour ahead. It made for a long and tiring day, but our destination was worth it. The White Albatross holiday park at Nambucca Heads is arranged in a crescent around a sea-fed lagoon behind a rock wall breakwater. On the other side is the ocean, and at night you can hear the surf, but you are protected from bad weather. Once again, there’s a mix of permanent and holiday accommodation and sites for tents and caravans. The place is immaculate, beautifully landscaped, well managed and incredibly clean and tidy. The sites are all flat, making set-up easy, and we have an en suite bathroom block for our exclusive use with brand new fixtures and fittings. Mouse is delighted with our stay here, as just around the headland is the dog beach, filled with new furry friends and their parents. If we weren’t fairly sure he’d disappear into the dim blue distance in short order, we’d let him off the lead, but we have at least switched to the 8 metre lead for walks here. The sand is pale vanilla-coloured and very high in silica, so it squeaks underfoot with every step. There’s surf here, as it’s not protected by a reef, which is a novel experience for Mouse, and there are quite a few dogs who have learned to coast in to shore on a wave.

We’re staying here for a week, heading north again on 26th. Tomorrow I’ll tell about the things we’ve done over the past couple of days

Travel trinkets

We’re off on our travels again soon.

This trip has been planned and anticipated for months and months, and we’ve come to realise that in the future, we’ll want to do a lot more trips with Miz Lizzie the caravan. We needed to reconsider our towing vehicle. We have a very nice modern car we love, with lots of useful features, excellent fuel economy and a very enjoyable driving experience. But it’s not really up to the job of pulling the caravan very long distances. It gets the job done, but long term it will suffer excessive wear and tear. We’re sad to see it go, but we’re selling it. Instead of doing what most people in our position do, replacing it with a new and enormous ‘tank’ with a vast and thirsty engine and multiple gizmos, we have bought a 12 year old workhorse.

I like the idea of recycling a perfectly good older vehicle, which has several benefits: there are scratches, dings and fading paintwork, so I’ll never worry again about putting a scratch on its gleaming surface; it comes already fitted with a number of things we’d have wanted anyway; it’s affordable (and so are parts!), despite being a much more powerful and roomy vehicle than we’re used to, and finally, it feels cosy and safe despite its size, unlike many new cars which are sleek, complex and intimidating. It has been looked after, and we will continue to look after it, so I hope to enjoy driving it for many years. Oh, and I love being higher up, with greatly improved visibility and larger windows.

Meet Bill. He’s a Hyundai Terracan, a 2.9L CRDi, with 7 seats and already set up for caravan towing. He’s capable of hauling 2 tonnes. We’ll be taking out the rear 2 seats to give ourselves an enormous cargo space. He’s tall, with excellent visibility, proper 4WD and chunky tyres. But there are three important things he doesn’t have. The first is satnav, a very, very useful thing in this enormous country of vast distances and poor signage. The second is a reversing camera. The car is nearly 5 metres long, and the driving seat is a very long way from the towbar… And the third thing is Bluetooth hands-free for our phones.

Hence the trinkets. We’ve bought a Garmin satnav after days and days of research, and it seems pleasantly easy to use and intuitive, plus it has Bluetooth built-in so it enables us to use our mobile phones hands free, safely and legally. The other trinket is a replacement rear-view mirror with a built-in display for a reversing camera and a forward-facing dashcam on its back. We can reverse safely, and also record our front and back views in case of accident.  The mirror is enormous, about 25cm (10 inches), so we get an excellent view too.

Naturally, I’ve made a little pouch for the Garmin. Well, you didn’t really think I could resist, did you? The Garmin’s not built in so it’ll need to be removed from the car when we leave it.

I’ve put a sheet of tough vinyl between the layers on the front of the pouch to protect the screen from damage by sharp poky objects, and the whole pouch is padded and quilted to give it a better chance of survival when I inevitably drop it.

Because there may be times when we need to get at it with one hand, I’ve made a button and elastic loop closure; no fiddling with a zip or buttonholes. Don’t you love the way the button matches the fabric? And that ribbon is just perfect; I got it from the lovely Annett in Germany as part of a package of goodies – this is absolutely the right place to use it.

And the car’s name? The Husband is responsible for that. Terracan -> Billycan* -> Bill. It’s a very good name for the car, who’s definitely a bloke 🙂

*For non-Aussies, a billycan is an essential feature of Australian outback camping, used for making tea and cooking over a fire of gum leaves and wood. Perfect for our Bill and the life he’s going to lead.