Sunday, 31 July 2011

Recipe - Chicken Pie filling

With not much left in the fridge tonight (2 leftover bbq chicken drumsticks, a handful of mushrooms, 3 leftover baby leeks and a single rasher of bacon), we used what we had and discovered a delicious pie filling.... well, that's what we'll do with it next time!  Tonight we had this on toast.

This is what we did :

Remove the meat from drumsticks, chop the leeks, bacon and mushrooms and then cook them all and remove from pan.  I actually cooked the leeks and mushrooms together, then the bacon and chicken.  I was making it up as I went along and only decided to add the bacon while the vegies were cooking!  Melt a good tablespoon of butter in the same pan and then stir in 2 tablespoons of flour.  Stir to cook the flour a little.  Add about a cup and half of liquid.  I used half white wine and half milk.  Stir until thickened, add back the other ingredients and a good grind of pepper and salt.  If you use wine, cook it all for a while to cook off the alcohol.  You can taste the difference - the strong winey taste will be gone.

It sure beat the alternative - fish and chips!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

House inspections

The sale of our house is going slow.  We had two weeks with no inspections but today and last Saturday we've had people looking.

Last Saturday was actually a bit of a muddle and I wasn't impressed.  I've got work to do at home now and had planned on doing that Saturday while Mick was up the road working on the other house.  Friday the agent rang and said there were people wanting to inspect 10am Saturday.  We got up bright and early to do housework and tidy everything up.  We like to have the house spotless when people are coming to look - a bit of a rod for our own backs.  We spend two hours making sure nothing is out of place before every inspection.

Just 25 minutes before they were due to come, the agent rang to say the people had called saying they hadn't even left Melbourne yet!  I thought that was a bit selfish.  It's at the very least 1 1/2hrs away so they'd known for more than an hour that they weren't going to be able to get here for 10am.  So now they'd come at 11.30.  I'd packed away all traces of my work - paperwork, printer, laptop.  It wasn't worth getting it all out for an hours work to then have to pack it all away again.  I wasn't impressed. 

At 11am I took Coco and we went up the street to scrape wallpaper at the other house and have coffee with Mick.  He needed something from the shops so I drove down just before 12 and there was the agent still waiting outside the house.  It was after 1pm before he called to say they'd finished their inspection.  A good half day gone over one house inspection and as it turned out they weren't even serious buyers.

Two weeks before we had another couple make an appointment and after waiting half an hour for them the agent had to leave.  I headed home to see them wandering around our yard!

Today we did it all again, the big housework thing.  The people turned up on time but weren't here for very long.  A bit of a disappointment - the serious ones have been here for an hour or more.  We're thinking today's visit wasn't a serious buyer either, or they just didn't like the place.

Eventually we'll get the right buyer.  We just have to be patient.  At this stage we're not overly worried about selling just now.  There's so much to be done up the road so if it takes another month we'll be happy with that. 

Our house appeals to Melbourne buyers but we need someone ready to retire and move up here.  So far they've all been people wanting a weekend place.  It's an awful lot of garden and maintenance for just weekending..... we know because we've done it!

Car hire for narrowboaters

For a lot of people who choose to live on a narrowboat, they make the choice to not have a car.  For those of us who don't live in the UK and wish to spend time living on a narrowboat, it's highly likely we won't have access to a car.  A lot of the time this wouldn't be a problem. Mooring up in a town that has a train station or at least a bus service will give us access to wherever we want to go.  It involve some walking and it might make a long trip of a short distance but let's face it... we won't exactly be in a hurry to go anywhere.

Despite best intentions and planning I'm sure there will be occasions that we simply have to have a car.  Perhaps to attend a medical appointment, to pick up heavy or bulky purchases, to visit someone a fair distance away, or maybe collect a visitor from home.  I've now heard mention several time of a car hire company called Enterprise.  Their rates sound to be very reasonable and best of all, they'll collect you from your boat to go to their office to complete the paperwork and when you return the car and hand back the keys they'll drive you back to your boat.  You can't ask for better service than that!

How's this for an offer! Three day car hire over a weekend for £35.97!  At today's rates that is something like $55 AU.  A great deal.  Thanks Diane for reminding me about Enterprise.

Friday, 29 July 2011

A feel good story

There has been a bit of a negative feel about narrowboat blogs lately.  The woes of nb Waiouru have been a bit of a reality check.  Sometimes it can go wrong.

So, to be a bit more cheerful I thought I'd tell you about an article we read last weekend in the UK Country Living magazine.  We regularly buy this or Period Living to drool over the gorgeous stone houses and the lush countryside of England.  This week came with an added bonus - an article titled The Floating Farmhouse about a couple living on a narrowboat!  The couple have a 32 acre small holding on the Oxford Canal and live on their moored boat.  It sounds a rather idyllic life with growing a vegetable garden and fruit trees, breeding chickens, and having the best of both worlds by being able to cruise in their floating home.  I want that life!!

They are along the Oxford Way walking path and over the years have begun serving tea and cakes/cones to passing walkers.  Now on a sunny Sunday they have up to 100 people stop at their little "alfresco vintage tearoom".  A Rayburn stove, floral vintage china, an extremely pretty location beside the canal... lovely.

I did a Google search and see Andrew Denny visited back in 2006 and called it a floating farm shop.  Perhaps things have changed a little since then.

And Andrew provided a link to a map showing where it is.,219545&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf

And again in early 2010 he mentions Jane Fanner winning Smallholder of the year.

The article about Jane's entry to Smallholder of the year.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Big changes

Our life over the last few years had settled into a comfortable routine.  We went to work, saved for holidays, enjoyed growing our own vegies, browsing antique shops... life was relaxed and predictable.  Then we came up with the idea of buying a narrowboat and cruising the canals of England.  To eventually achieve this we had to make some changes in our lives.

The last year has been huge for us!  First we bought a half share in an enormous shed.  We had in mind that this would be the place for us to store our household while we're away.  Another mortgage.  Then we had a trip to England so we could look at boats and confirm in our minds that this was what we wanted to do.  Getting to meet Ray on nb Gypsy Rover and Barry and Sandra on nb Northern Pride showed us we really could do it.

Then before Christmas we discovered a house up the road from us was going to be sold.  As we like our little corner of the world and we thought the price might be in a range that would enable us to achieve our dream, we made an offer on New Years Eve and it was accepted.

Not part of the narrowboat plan (not yet anyway!) was me leaving my job but that's what happened in April.  This was a huge change!  It was a change to our financial situation as well as our lifestyle.

Then we were packing and selling off our belongings.  The house started to look a bit different to how it had been the last 8 or so years.  We packed and cleaned and dealt with maintenance and before we knew it we had the agent taking photos and putting the house on the internet for sale.  Wow.... we thought we'd be living here into our old age. 

I agreed in June to do some work from home for one of the partners at the job I'd left.  This would get our finances back in order.  My work life is so different now to what it was a few months ago.  More variety. At the end of June we took possession of the house up the road. Now there was more work to do and yet another mortgage!

So it's been huge, this last year, and all because of a narrowboat dream.

Today Diane (nb Gypsy Rover AU) drove up for the day from Melbourne.  Mick came home for lunch and enjoyed looking at Diane's photos of their time so far on their narrowboat.  When he sat down with me this evening he said "I went back to work after looking at Diane's photos and something occurred to me.  We really are going to do this!"  Well.... yes.... I'm kind of thinking we are too.  I certainly hope so after having turned our lives upside down!!

Here we are.. Diane and I

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Same dream - extra challenges

Having been awake in the night thinking about the plight of Tom, Jan and nb Waiouru it has reminded me of how much more challenging planning to cruise the UK canals is when you're starting out from the other side of the world.  We don't know many people in the UK... we aren't very familiar with the towns, roads, canals... we won't know which shops are better for buying things, and we've never heard of a lot of the stores...  buying groceries will take longer with so many different brands we've never heard of... we aren't used to the UK weather.... there'll be a bit of "culture shock"... we won't be able to access our stored belongings once we fly off into the sunset... we'll be leaving behind our family and friends... but biggest of all is the process of acquiring a boat to begin the dream.

If you're buying a second hand boat like we will you can't go out on weekends and browse what's available.  How much easier it would be if that were the case.  We'd have a much better idea of the market in a much shorter time if we could look at boats for sale on a sunny Sunday.  Instead we can only look at photos and descriptions provided by brokers and they aren't always a realistic representation of the boat. 

We've had two visits to the UK that we've looked at boats for sale.  The first time in 2007 was more a pipe dream but last year it was with the plan firmly in mind.  There were certainly brokers with every boat just as we expected it would be from what we'd seen on the internet.  But there were also many that the photos appeared to be a bit of trickery.  Of course when you're selling something, whether it be a house, a car or a boat, you want to show it at it's best.  There were a couple of boats that were a sad disappointment!  One had exterior paintwork in terrible condition.  The photos on the advertisement were at an angle that you couldn't see this.  Another one had extremely shabby timberwork inside but with all the interior photos of that boat being at a distance you just couldn't see it.  And another... well it just stunk!  You can't smell a photo!!

Having a new boat built?  Well... if the thought made me nervous before, it is now something we wouldn't even consider unless we could be in the UK during the process.  We did consider the option - I have a blog post about narrowboat sponsorship.  I even went to visit a boat builder in 2008 that built boats for sponsorship to discuss it and it was a tempting option.  We just couldn't see how we could have a boat built for us if we couldn't go visit it and see the progress.  We would want to be regular visitors, not just once or twice.

I wonder if any boat surveyors offer a service of "build progress inspections".  They could inspect and photograph the progress to date before the next instalment was paid.  Paying for this type of service would be money well spent!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

How can they live with themselves!

We want to offer our support and encouragement to Tom and Jan from Adelaide.  We've been keenly reading their blog of building their narrowboat Waiouru and waiting for them to start cruising and living the dream.

I felt sick to the stomach to see today what's been happening with the building of their boat.  Ben Harp Narrowboats should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is the boat as it was collected from the builder following a lengthy dispute.  nb Waiouru blog

Our thoughts are with you Tom and Jan....

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Pick of the week - Friendship

This boat is for sale with Whilton Marina.  nb Friendship  Price: £54,950
Positives : the built in shelving in the saloon is great, there's lots of cupboards, we like the blue paintwork, the layout is how we'd prefer
Negatives : there's money to be spent on a cratch and cover, it's a bit dark as there is only one set of windows - the rest are portholes, the red tiles in the bathroom make that room dark too, that toilet lid has to go!
Boat Type
Traditional Style Narrowboat
When Manufactured
Hull Manufacturer
Jonathon Wilson
Plating Specification
Flat, V-Hull or Keeled
Fitted out by
JR Joinery
Cabin Height
6' 2"
Number Of Berths
Fixed Berths
Fixed Double
Additional Berths
Double Dinette
Engine Make
Beta 38
No. Of Cylinders
Keel, Water or Air Cooled
Keel Cooled
Gearbox Make
PRM 120
Diesel Tank Capacity
40 Gallons (approximately)
Source of Hot Water
Calorifier via Central Heating & Engine
Central Heating
Mikuni Diesel
Solid Fuel Stove
Water Tank Capacity
120 Gallons (approximately)
Material used
Stainless Steel
12 Volt Lighting
240 Volt Landline
Sterling 1800 watt
3 Domestic & 1 Starter
Type Of Toilet
Bath Fitted
Separate Shower Fitted
Vanity Basin Fitted
Make & Model Of Cooker
Vanette GG2200
Separate Hob
Vanette 4000/2
Microwave Fitted
Make & Model Of Fridge
Gas, 12 volt or 240 volt
12 Volt
Insulation Used
Spray Foam
Types Of Wood Used
Window Types
Materials Used
Gold Anodised
Bulls Eye, Pigeon Box or Houdini Hatch
Exterior Doors
Steel Front & Rear

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lunch with a boaty friend

I've been a bit lazy with blogging lately - work and renovating!  I haven't had much narrowboat stuff to blog about either with being sidetracked from my research.  I'm finally getting into a routine with my new work arrangements so plan to get back on track.

Last week I had lunch with Diane, from Gypsy Rover AU.  She's back in Australia for a few weeks.  It was lovely to see her again and especially nice to talk to someone who is living our dream.  I drooled over her photos from the last 3 or so months.  I want to go!!!!!!!!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Recipe - Greek nutty biscuits

Mick isn't a sweet tooth and I don't need sweets so I don't have a lot of sweet recipes!  But, occasionally I stumble across something that I think he'll like.  A friend gave me a plate with a few nutty biscuits she'd made and they were really good.  Mick liked them but he said he'd prefer to not have them dipped in icing sugar. I asked her for the recipe and now have it jotted down on a piece of paper with very abbreviated instructions.  I've made them twice now and they've worked out well.

Now I have no idea what these are called but I think they are a variation of Greek biscuits shaped as crescents.

Makes lots.

  • 200g butter (chopped)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind (I use double that amount)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour ***
  • 2 cups crushed nuts (a mixture works best - almonds, cashews, macadamias, walnuts... any!)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Extra icing sugar to dust them
*** I've made these again since posting this recipe and this time I used what I'd typed here.  I think I made a typo on the flour quantity!  This time the dough was much moister and the biscuits turned out much flatter and a little more crumbly.  They taste just as good.  I think it should have been 2 1/2 cups of SR flour.  Sorry!!
    • Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
    • Cream the butter, orange rind and icing sugar.
    • Mix in the egg and the egg yolk.
    • Combine the rest of the ingredients (except the extra icing sugar) and add to the wet mixture.
    • Mix it well and form it into a dough.
    • Press the dough out flat (I make it between half to one centimetre - my instructions don't say).
    • Use a glass to cut out "bites" from the dough. Put aside the first piece you cut out because that won't be a crescent but then keep taking cuts that should then be a crescent shape.  When you complete a row start again.  Put scraps together and press flat to make a few more.
    • Line a tray with baking paper and lay crescents on tray with a small space between for spreading.  It make 2 trays.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes or just colouring.  
    • While warm, roll them in icing sugar on a plate.  (We don't do this - we cool them and then just dip the top in icing sugar and brush off excess so they aren't so sweet.)

    Tuesday, 5 July 2011

    Work, work, work

    I've had a fairly relaxed 3 months since I finished up at my very long term job in Melbourne.  With between 6-10 hours per week doing a couple of little jobs we've kept afloat but we're not saving anything.  It's been a busy time anyway with getting the house ready to sell and packing up but I wasn't quite sure where I'd go from here.

    I had coffee with "the nice boss" a few weeks ago.   He's been under a bit of pressure of late with two more accountants resigning since I left.  He asked if I'd consider coming back to just do his work.   Noooooooo!!!!!  Actually I said I'd think about it and I would possibly consider doing his work if I could do so from home.  There is no way I want to work in the office again.  Too stressful.

    Mick and I talked about it at length.  I've been happy and definitely relaxed in recent weeks.  Would it be possible to go back to doing that work without getting stressed?   And more importantly, would it be possible to avoid getting dragged back into doing work for the stressful boss.  We've tried this before and it didn't work.  He just seems to know which buttons to press... a bit of emotional blackmail.  I've just worked for them for too long.  Eventually we came to the decision that I should give it a try.  If I lay down the terms and stick to them rigidly, maybe we can make it work.

    I discussed it all with Mr Nice Boss and we came to an agreement.  I'll go to the office on Mondays to collect work and return and review completed work.  No stress.  I went in last week to meet the IT guy at the office and he set up my remote access on my laptop.  I'm all ready to go.

    Now wouldn't it be nice if this arrangement worked out well and I could continue doing this work on our narrowboat!!

    Update 5/7/01 Cruising miles

    A couple of additions to the cruising mile averages. Do correct me if my assumption of the beginning months are incorrect!
    nb Lazy Days 2773 miles since end June 2008 - 77 miles per month
    nb Jandai 1298 miles since Mar 2010 - 86 per month

    nb Northern Pride (2009) - 180 miles per month
    nb Gypsy Rover AU - 120 miles per month
    nb Gypsy Rover NZ - 100 miles per month
    nb Jandai - 86 miles per month
    nb Epiphany - 80 miles per month
    nb Lazy Days - 77 miles per month
    nb No Problem - 67 miles per month
    nb Rock'n'Roll - 55 miles per month

    Sunday, 3 July 2011

    Up the road

    We settled on the purchase of the house we bought up the street on Thursday.  A bit of a non-event when you aren't actually moving immediately.  Plus, we already had the house keys so nothing much seemed to happen except the solicitor rang and said all had gone through, and we now have a new loan.

    Mick has finally relented to taking Fridays off again.  He did this for several years while we renovated but had slowly slipped back into working the whole week.  Now with a new project he's decided to work a four day week again.  Friday morning saw him up bright and early, rushing through breakfast and off up the street.  I rushed to get dressed so I could take a few photos before he started destroying the place.  Every time I intend to take photos of the houses we've bought before he starts but when he's on a mission there is no stopping him.  Luckily this time he had to pull down a section of the tumble down front fence to allow for a large rubbish skip to be delivered.  It gave me a chance to take a few photos.

    By lunchtime one of the chimneys was down, the old slow combustion stove was out and the living room and kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off.  I went back and forth between home and the new house while running errands, ordering things, making phone calls.  Saturday was another busy day - the carpet has all been removed and the wall between living room and kitchen is almost gone.  We had an inspection by prospective buyers at our place so I rushed around tidying and cleaning and took the dogs (we're dog sitting for my brother and his girlfriend) up to the new place.  There was a fair stream of curious neighbours and other town locals wanting to see what we'd bought and what we planned to do with it. 

    This list of what is to be done at the house has grown a little.  Mick has decided he wants to fit out the walk in pantry now rather than when we return from England.  We're going to have it like a little butler's pantry with a window, a sink and benchtop with cupboards under.  It will be great to have somewhere to keep electrical kitchen appliances for easy use without them being in view.  We're also going to buy a new hot water service now as the old one is the sort that's in the ceiling and the water pressure is terrible. 

    As if he hasn't enough to think about right now, Mick came home late yesterday afternoon saying he's worked out where we can have our walled garden when we come back from England!  Goodness, that's a way off!  We haven't even left yet!!

    1. Kitchen and dining with loungeroom to the right.
    2. The kitchen.
    3. Loungeroom.
    4. Pantry.


    Saturday, 2 July 2011

    The good, the bad, and the ugly

    I had a comment on a recent blog entry about looking through rose coloured glasses.  That isn't how the author put it but it is what the comment has reminded of.  On holiday you do tend to see just the pleasant aspects of a place and when you get home you remember the nice things and gloss over the negatives.

    Although we all tend to rave about how friendly the canal world is I'm sure everyone would have a story of an unpleasant experience.  And... boaters do tend to need to leave their canal haven and venture out into the real world to buy groceries and other necessities.  Every country has its own "good, bad and ugly" and it's true that we need to be realistic about what to expect when we get over there and buy our narrowboat.

    I recall reading a story of a woman who moved to the UK.  They settled into their new house and the next week she saw the lady from the house next door as she was walking out to her car.  She went and introduced herself and asked if the couple next door would come for dinner the following week.  The response was "No thank you!".  Wow, that would take the wind out of your sails!  Now, I'm not saying that everyone must be on "invite to dinner" terms with their neighbours, and I'm sure there's many a time you'd rather just say no and that's it.  But surely a polite excuse?  Maybe another time?  We're really busy at the moment?  I'll let you know when we're free?

    The blog comment has also reminded me of what we thought was a rather funny thing on my visit to Finland for a family reunion in 2008.  It was a clear reminder of how different cultures and your upbringing can shape the way you see things. The Finns take life seriously.  Now, don't get me wrong, they do have a sense of humour, and they are friendly and happy with their lives but they smile when something makes them genuinely happy.  Smiling as a greeting or acknowledgement is something they see as being a bit artificial.  Hearing "have a good day" from a shopkeeper would seem to a Finn to be fake friendliness.  You might say that to your friend but not a complete stranger.

    One of my uncles (my mum is one of ten children) also came from Australia to the reunion with his wife, and I don't get to see them all that often.  He is nearly always smiling, laughing, teasing.  It was lovely for us to spend some time together and he enjoyed teasing me about old childhood happenings.  He was just a teenager when I was born and as my mum was the eldest of the 10 children and I the first grandchild, I spent the first 5 years of my life with 9 doting aunts and uncles.  So there was quite a bit of laughing and smiling from the Aussie contingent over the reunion weekend.  He was had a smile on his face the whole weekend!

    After we got home, one of my aunts spoke to one of her cousins in Finland and asked what everyone had thought of my uncle.  The response was "No comment!"  They thought he was altogether way too happy, smiling and jolly.

    I told this story to a young Finnish second cousin of mine who is currently spending time in Australia.  She nodded knowingly... yes, they would definitely think that smiling and laughing like that is over the top.  She said she's really enjoying the friendly, laid back Aussie attitude.  "Everyone seems so happy!" she said.

    So we smile at the person next to us in a queue as we stand there waiting, our shopkeepers and checkout operators might say "have a good day" or "enjoy the sunshine" when you're leaving, we might even laugh out loud with a total stranger if we've both seen something funny and catch each others eye, and here in our small country town we wave at any neighbour that drives by when we're out in the garden - even those we don't even know the name of.  Strange?  Artificial?  Over the top?  Gee, we only get one shot at life.  Why take it so seriously?  That person you smile at, wave at, laugh with, might be having a terrible day and you might just cheer them up!

    Pick of the week - Helmsman

    It's been a while since we've put up a pick of the week.  Life's been busy!  So here is one from ABNB (they really do seem to have great quality boats for sale).  nb Helmsman  This one looks like a lovely boat.

    Positives : great timberwork, radiator covers, really like the cratch with glass front and clear plastic "windows", neutral colour scheme
    Negatives : no dinette

    Price: £56,000
    Length: 57ft 1in  
    Builder: G&J Reeves  
    Fitter-out: David Golding  
    Year registered: 2006  
    Style: Trad  
    Safety Certificate: BSS 2014, RCD issued 2006
    Engine: Beta 38 diesel  
    Plating: 10/6/4 
    Last blacked: Dec 2010
    Fit-out materials: Headlining, cabin & hull sides lined in oak-faced ply with hardwood frames. Floors carpeted except oak laminate to galley & bathroom. 
    Insulation: Spray foam
    Headroom: 6ft 2in  
    Berths: 2 : 6ft 7in x 4ft 0in perm double, extends to 4ft 7i
    Mains Power: Landline, Sterling 3000W pure sine wave inverter
    Cabin heating: Eberspacher diesel c/heating > 4 rads, s/f stove  
    Water Heating: C/heating + engine > calorifier  
    Water tank: 200gall (approx) stainless steel
    Cooker: Spinflo hob 7 Vanette oven/grill - gas, Belling 700W microwave  
    Fridge: LEC 4cu ft 12V  
    Washer/dryer: Candy Aquamatic washing machine  
    WC: Vacuflush electric flush wc to remote cassette  
    Shower: in tiled cubicle with doors
    Other: Sky digibox & 19in flat screen TV