We’re on the road again

Miz Lizzie is packed, our schedule is planned and printed, and we’re off.

We’re heading north once again, into a fortnight of gastronomic indulgence, experimentation, and purchase. We’ll be staying at two caravan parks we haven’t tried before but which come highly recommended.

Part 1 of the trip is from Mackay to just north of Townsville, at Rollingstone, where the van park has absolute beach frontage. We’ll be there a couple of days. Part 2 is Rollingstone to Redlynch in the north of Cairns, right where the rainforest rolls down to touch the edge of the city. It’s not what we’d call a long trip. To put it in some context, it’s like driving from London to Inverness, or from the bottom of Florida to the top. It’s just far enough that we’re really on holiday, the scenery’s different and yet, it’s not an arduous journey when we have to turn for home. (And despite a recent news story from the US that left Australians giggling, yes, all that is definitely just one country, and by the way, only a bit smaller than yours… ūüôā )

I’ll be photographing, blogging, tasting, sampling, buying, eating, stitching, oohing and aahing. You’re welcome along for the ride. As always with our trips, there’ll be pictures and descriptions. We’re looking forward to it a lot as we’re both a bit tired and ready for a break. It’s been a while since we had a decent chunk of time off ‚Äď May last year to be exact, when we went down to Nambucca Heads in northern NSW.

And because each road trip needs a sound track, here’s Miz Lizzie’s theme song:

Dizzy Miz Lizzie

(There’s a version with John Lennon and Eric Clapton performing this too, but I prefer the 1958 original)

Advertisements

Harbour (high)Lights

Well, you can’t go to Sydney and cruise round the harbour without a few pictures, can you…?

Opera House from Circular QuayToday was my niece’s 30th birthday, and to celebrate, we booked ourselves¬†onto a cruise around Sydney Harbour. Not one of the ones where you troop on and off to briefly inspect places that need a lot more time than you have, but one where you stay on the boat, sip a nice glass of something, and simply appreciate the view of one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours and its highlights. My niece, her sister and their friend, the Husband and I established a spot at the front of the top deck, set up camp and hauled out cameras, ready for the Harbour to bring on the photo opportunities. It didn’t disappoint…

The weather was outstanding, so long as you had a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. I also took my UV-block umbrella for a sunshade, as I like my face the way it is and prefer not to have skin cancers dug out of it! The Husband likes my hat, mainly because it means he can spot me from quite a distance (it’s bright pink). I like it because it’s shady¬†and means I don’t have to squint in Australia’s brilliant and searing sunshine. I have been told it makes me look like a bright pink mushroom. So be it. I will always wear hats…

We start for home tomorrow. Back in Coffs Harbour tomorrow evening, a motorbike day on Saturday, joining friends in our bike club for a get-together, a family day with my sister and BIL on Sunday. Monday we’ll drop in to see a friend (hi Nanette!) on the way to¬†our next stop in¬†Brisbane, where we’ll see more motorbike friends, collect some new tyres for the bike, and have dinner with the Husband’s brother. After that, we’ll see how much energy we have left. Do we make the long dash all the way to Rockhampton, or do we break the trip earlier? Either way, it’s another two days on the road. A full program, and we need to pace ourselves a bit. We’ll be home on the 17th.

I’ll leave you with a few¬†photos….

Sydney Harbour Collage

Oh, marvellous…

That is an example of gratuitous sarcasm.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 3.25.44 pmWe have been waiting for good rain for months. Now that we have a road trip planned, a 4,000km round trip….¬†now, we are getting rain. Lots and lots of it. Just what we needed to make things really interesting…

Substantial sections of our route south are already subject to flood warnings. Water storage dams along the way have already had to do controlled releases into the surrounding waterways for fear of damage, leading to further flooding.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.52.43 pm Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.52.26 pmThis is the view from the front and side of the house. That looks like an uneventful trip, doesn’t it? (That was more gratuitous sarcasm, by the way).

Oh, and in case you were thinking it looked a bit chilly and miserable, think again. It’s hot and miserable. 32¬įC/90¬įF, and the humidity is due to reach 88% in the next hour as that wet front crosses the coast. Think hot bathroom filled with steam and you have an inkling of what it feels like to step outside.

We’re not taking any stupid chances. Roads are closed and cars have been swept away already. If it gets too bad, we’ll have defer, even if it means rearranging everything on the trip.¬†Boo. ūüė¶

Welcome to the tropics, baby.

Travel rations

We’re off on our travels again on Saturday.

It’s one of our long trips south to visit friends and family in mid north coast New South Wales, a distance of about 1320kms (820 miles) one way. But this time, we’re doing it on the bike. We’re taking in a bike rally in Toowoomba on the way home; there’ll be hundreds of ST1300 and 1100 owners and their bikes, talking, bragging, riding, eating, drinking and generally catching up over 3 days. It’s going to be a loooooong trip; it’s already a long way, but Toowoomba adds several hundred extra kms. But you know, I’m really looking forward to it! Firstly, because I’m going to be spending time with people I love, secondly because the whole motorbike thing is heaps of fun (think hundreds of middle-aged people reliving their youth), and thirdly because we’re going south, into cooler weather. ¬†We’ve also had the bike seat reupholstered with more padding, so hopefully the numb-bum syndrome we experienced on the last long trip will be kept at bay.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.58.52 am

Packing space for two people for 10 days, plus spares and tools…

Packing is always tricky when you’re away for a while and you’re travelling by bike. There are 4 containers: 2 panniers, a top box and a tank pack, which sits in front of the driver on top of the fuel tank. We’re away for 10 days. We need clothes, washkit, wet weather gear, laptops, camera, toolkit, spares¬†‚Ästand in my case, travel rations.

Most of the time, I can accommodate my gluten (and now lactose) free diet with a little creative thinking, but there are always going to be those remote country pubs or small towns where a request for gluten free food produces the ‘duh?’ response, and I need to be able to carry something for those times. It’s got to be something that doesn’t need to be kept cold, won’t melt, get stale quickly or fall apart if you look at it. It’s got to be small, nutritionally dense, portionable, and last but by no means least, tasty. Quite an ask. Good job I’ve got something that fits the bill.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.36.04 pm

Pepitas, almond meal, coconut, peanut butter, honey, dates, prunes, pecans and flaked almonds… Looks dull, tastes anything but!

You’ve seen this¬†before, only last time it¬†had chocolate on it. That’s a no-no for this purpose (think melted chocolate all over your clean clothes, or worse still, the camera…), but the basic bar is still completely yummy, and I’ve added a few extras to the mix, including prunes, pecans¬†and flaked almonds. Wrapped tightly in foil, the portions will take very little space, last well and fill the gap when there’s nothing else around that I can eat. Which sadly happens with monotonous regularity…

Right, I’m off to work out how few pairs of socks I can get away with and where I can squeeze in my hexie sewing kit…

 

Miss Scarlett Goes for a Ride

Something a bit different from my usual offering of sewing, gardening, cooking and photography. Well, ok, maybe a bit of photography.

Miss Scarlett Thunderbolt is on her shake-down trip.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.02.02 pmIt’s about 800km/500miles from home in Mackay to Cairns. We did that trip on Tuesday. It took 12 hours, a fair bit longer than we expected, but we underestimated how physically demanding such a long trip is, and we needed to take more breaks than we would in a car.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.03.41 pmYesterday, we did about 300km/186miles, part of which was the 19km/11miles of steep uphill climb up the very, very winding Gillies range,¬†containing¬†just over 360 bends. Motorbike heaven… Today, we’re taking the Captain Cook Highway north¬†past¬†Port Douglas, turning west inland and up the range on the Mulligan Highway, back south on¬†the Atherton Tableland to Mareeba and Kuranda, and then back down the winding Kuranda range and into Cairns.

On Friday, we do the return journey to Mackay. This time, we’ll be starting really, really early so that we’re in the home stretch when the temperature is at its hottest in the early afternoon.

We’ve learned a few things along the way about the bike, and doing trips of this sort.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.04.09 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.04.36 pmThe first thing is that Miss Scarlett can handle anything we throw at her. Fast, slow, steep or curly, she’s happy and tells us so, singing a growly song of joy along the highways and back roads. She looks after us very well.

The second thing is that we really shouldn’t be doing trips like this at the hottest time of the year. On the journey up here on Tuesday, the temperature reached 39¬ļC/102¬ļF. We were wearing jeans, boots, gloves, helmets and armoured jackets. Bonkers…

The third thing is that it’s perfectly possible to pack and carry everything we needed for 4 days away in her two panniers and one large top box, with a small shoulder bag each. And that included camera, laptop, phones, chargers, toolkit and spares, compressor and tyre repair kit.

Finally, although we have comfortable seats with¬†air cushions on top, we need to get off and walk around every couple of hours just to let the blood return to our numb bums! It’s not backs or legs or hips that get sore, just our bottom bones…

We’re planning a longer and further trip in March, when we’re attending the national rally of the Australian ST Owner’s Club in Toowoomba. That’s about 1200km/750miles, plus¬†we’ll be going down to visit my sister and friends in NSW first, so it’ll be even further!

Who knew it was all going to be so much fun…?

Go away for a few days….

… and the garden goes a tiny bit bonkers. ¬†Well, this IS the tropics.

The frangipani, coleus, dietes, agapanthus and hippeastrums, all bushy and delighted with themselves

The frangipani, coleus, dietes, agapanthus and hippeastrums, all bushy and delighted with themselves

The star jasmine has gone from weeny and a bit sad to throwing out lots of new shoots

The star jasmine has gone from weeny and a bit sad to throwing out lots of new shoots

The flame tree has got yet another bunch of new leaves at the top and is a good 30cm taller than when I bought it.

The flame tree has got yet another bunch of new leaves at the top and is a good 30cm taller than when I bought it.

Just LOOK at the lychee!  All those new bright green leaves.  2 months ago I thought it was going toes up...

Just LOOK at the lychee! All those new bright green leaves. 2 months ago I thought it was going toes up…

The avocado's not being very exciting... A little taller, a couple of new leaves...

The avocado’s not being very exciting… A little taller, a couple of new leaves…

The mango, too, is much taller than it was, and getting wider too.  It's grown at least 20cm in height.

The mango, too, is much taller than it was, and getting wider too. It’s grown at least 20cm in height.

Things have simply bushed out, grown up, thrown out a whole handful of leaves, or just one enormous perfect one, come into flower, become a tiny bit scary, or simply thrived. ¬†I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. ¬†We’ve had some ¬†nice thunderstorms here while I was away, and the garden’s had a good solid drink. ¬†No flooding, either, so I’m congratulating myself on the soil improvement. ¬†Not too soon, I hope. ¬†The Wet proper hasn’t started, and won’t until January/February. At that point, I fully expect to see a few things floating away on the tide, so I’m encourage that everything seems to be putting down solid roots and making the most of the weather. ¬†I’m happy to see plants/trees I was worried about turning the corner and flourishing a whole branch of new leaves, or becoming the correct shade of green, or actually putting out some flowers.

Wow. Just LOOK at the red of the flowers on these bronze leaf cannas...

Wow. Just LOOK at the red of the flowers on these bronze leaf cannas…

A whole bunch of wrinkly new leaves on the Brunfelsia

A whole bunch of wrinkly new leaves on the Brunfelsia

That's the purslane I posted about before.  It's getting a bit enormous and slightly scary.  Maybe it's time for purslane salad...

That’s the purslane I posted about before. It’s getting a bit enormous and slightly scary. Maybe it’s time for purslane salad…

Lots of new leaves on the gardenia. Pity it's a bit late in the season for it to flower.

Lots of new leaves on the gardenia. Pity it’s a bit late in the season for it to flower.

The red Portulaca is taking over a bit.  Time to chop it back so the other plants can breathe.

The red Portulaca is taking over a bit. Time to chop it back so the other plants can breathe.

The Monstera deliciosa has produced an enormous glossy green leaf in the few days we were away

The Monstera deliciosa has produced an enormous glossy green leaf in the few days we were away

Look!  Two flower buds!

Look! Two flower buds!

The lime tree has loads of new leaves

The lime tree has loads of new leaves

The Bugle (ajuga reptans) is sending out some new shoots.  Ground cover is something it does very well.

The Bugle (ajuga reptans) is sending out some new shoots. Ground cover is something it does very well.

My lemons are growing!  I'll be able to pick them by Christmas, I think.

My lemons are growing! I’ll be able to pick them by Christmas, I think.

Oh, those coleus!  How gorgeously velvety and richly red. They don't look quite real..

Oh, those coleus! How gorgeously velvety and richly red. They don’t look quite real..

Banana and Strelitzia Nicolai both doing well

Banana and Strelitzia Nicolai both doing well

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Such delicate, tiny flowers on such long, slender stalks. What ecological niche are these beauties designed for, I wonder.

A single flower on the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  The leaves are telling me it needs a supplement...

A single flower on the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. The leaves are telling me it needs a supplement…

Flowers on the sempervivum, very pretty

Flowers on the sempervivum, very pretty

The downside, of course, of all this mad growth is that the weeds are similarly encouraged. ¬†I’ve spent a good 20 minutes pulling up palm seedlings in my desert garden, and foresee that continuing for months yet. ¬†There’s sorrel, purslane, grass, acacia seedlings, Farmer’s Friend, chickweed, and numerous other irritating gatecrashers. ¬†There’s nasty stuff attempting a break-in over the neighbour’s fence. ¬†The other neighbour’s palm trees continue to drop fronds and fruit onto our side of the fence (which get promptly tossed back over, but sometimes damage a plant).

On the other upside, lots of scented things are now in flower, and the warm, humid evenings are lush with the aroma of frangipani, murraya, jasmine, brunfelsia, and angel trumpets.

Our trip south was long, useful, tiring, entertaining and now, thank God, over. The concert in Brisbane was wonderful; beautiful music, beautifully played, and heaps of fun at the end, waving flags, throwing tickertape, stamping, clapping and singing along.  The Husband enjoyed himself greatly and we will definitely be making a date of it next year too.

Christmas is not too far off, and I have volunteered to entertain the Chiconi tribe here in Chiconia, since I’m the only one with a table long enough to seat 14 comfortably. ¬†Said table, however, needs to be sanded and dressed with a couple of coats of oil so that it’s looking its best and will be waterproof for the event. ¬†Wonder what I’ll be doing on my next available day off, then… ¬†The menu is still in development, but as it’s for a late lunch and will be the hottest time of year, turkey and all the trimmings will not be featuring. ¬†More on that another day.

Till next time.

The Wild Beast of Chiconia, and other tales

The poor Husband is going to come back to a nasty surprise today…

His normally sunny-tempered consort is grim-faced, bloody-fingered (from the pins) and her hair is standing on end. ¬†The overall effect is rather like an irritated bear. It’s not a good look.¬†And the reason for all this joy? The ongoing battle with The Quilt that Fought Back.

Some of the quilting completed in the bottom half of the quilt.

Some of the quilting completed in the
bottom half of the quilt.

Having said that, I’m making reasonable progress. The bottom half of the centre section is done. Perspective lines are in, the little cakes and mugs are outlined. You will definitely not be seeing any close-up brag shots of my immaculate stitches. Because they’re not. Immaculate, that is. ¬†But the overall effect is pretty OK. The chief irritation relates to my new sewing table extension, a clear perspex platform on legs, which slides onto the sewing surface of the sewing machine, in order to give you a larger flat area to work with. This is a marvellous idea in theory, but unfortunately, the manufacturer has slightly changed the shape of the machines since I bought mine, with the result that the table doesn’t quite fit. It’s loose and there’s a gap. And every time I turn or adjust the quilt under the needle, the edges or pins or loose threads catch the edge of the extension and shift it. Again and again and again. I’m delicately refraining from sharing my true thoughts, and I’m pretty sure the language would get this post taken down right smart (considering it’s supposed to be family-friendly). Anyway, I have constructed an elaborate network of sticky tape which is holding it still for now. But I am very definitely in Wild Beast Growly mode for the moment.

In other news (I feel it’s time to move on…), the baby lime tree seems to be recovering from the trauma of the move into larger quarters. The two citrus trees were given a dose of Epsom salts and a large drink of diluted worm tea at the beginning of the week, and it seems to be paying off. The lime, particularly, had clear evidence in the leaves of magnesium deficiency, hence the Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) treatment. It has new flowers, and none of the baby fruit has dropped off.

New flowers and baby fruit

New flowers and baby fruit

I’ll have to thin those out shortly as there are far too many for the tree to sustain, but citrus trees always produce too many and the majority fall off. I’m also watching a couple of the branches, where leaves have fallen off wholesale at some point, but which appear to have some tiny buds on them. If I can avoid pruning them off, it would be good.

Leaves on the dead stick!

Leaves on the dead stick!

The frangipani (dead stick) is in leaf. It has taken a while and I was wondering if it truly was a dead stick, but the tiny little dark red points continued to sprout out of the branch ends, and are now opening into beautiful pointed oval leaves. The parent tree has gorgeous flowers: pink, with a golden heart. I think it’ll be a while before this one flowers, but I know what to look forward to.

My hippeastrums have also flowered profusely; the earliest is now dead or dying, but there are some beautiful flowers still. My difficulty is getting a good shot without a tripod, and even if I had one, getting it to stand still on the uneven bark chip surface. Anyway, look at this gorgeous girl:

Aten't I gorgeous?

Aten’t I gorgeous?

That’s the news from Chiconia. The Beast is soothed by a little light gardening, laundry and photography. The quilt is progressing, the Husband is on his way home, and things are definitely improving in my world. Bloody hot outside, though.

We’re off on a road trip tomorrow. Mackay to Childers, Childers to Coffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour to Dorrigo, and home again after a couple of days. We’re visiting friends, window shopping for a house as an investment property, and on the way home, going to the Craft & Quilt Fair in Brisbane. For those of you feeling sorry for the Husband, you should know that we have a reciprocal arrangement. We go to events he wants to attend, we go to events I want to attend. So far this year we’ve gone to a big truck show in Brisbane, and the World Rally Championship in NSW. Now it’s my turn, with the Quilt Show, and in November we’re going to a classical music concert in Brisbane (Last Night of the Proms – I used to love the Promenade Concerts in London, miss that here…). The lappie is coming along, so I’ll still be posting and checking, but I don’t think that quilting or the garden will feature much over the next week or so. ¬†More soon…