Sunday, 29 March 2015

Picnic pride!

Nick and I went out to our favourite tip shop today, just to poke around. While we were there I spotted this 12-volt warmer/cooler.

We didn't care if it worked. We weren't going to use it for it's original purpose but rather convert it into a (well insulated) thermos carrier.

There were tall thermoses in a box at the tip shop and we tried one of them in the cooler. It fit, so we paid $5.00 and brought our bounty home!

It soon became clear that our 1.9-litre Stanley thermoses are taller than the few for sale at the tip shop.  Drat! 

Some modifications were obviously necessary.  On inspection, the best option was to remove a piece of bottom lining - and cut recesses into the insulating foam.  I thought the lining was plastic but it was actually rather thick aluminium and removing it was a bit more involved than first anticipated.  Nick persevered though and the thermoses now fit easily (with or without lids).

As we weren't going to use the unit as a heater/cooler, Nick took out many of the unnecessary parts.  He also cut a piece of board to fit the bottom of the case.  It will cover the bare insulation and rough aluminium edges.  We might add some extra foam pieces (mounted to the longer sides) for additional insulation - and to ensure both thermoses are well protected.

I bought my Stanley thermoses during a BigW sale about 10 years ago.  They were at least half price, so I bought two of the Classic 1.9 litre style (which keep drinks hot 24 hours or cold 32 hours).  I was so chuffed with the massive discount that I went back a few days later to buy two of the smaller food flasks.  

When Nick first suggested an insulated cover for one of the taller thermoses, I was doubtful.  However it quite markedly further increased the heat retention properties of the thermos - and we used the same blue cover till quite recently.  Since it's demise, I've looked for something that might house both thermoses.  They do sit in a larger wine cooler bag but if we only take one thermos, the bag often topples over in transit.   (The smaller food flasks sit in a soft-sided cooler bag that has recently been revamped)!

I bought a tall esky the other day (on sale at the Reject Shop for $7.00) but it wasn't tall enough - and in any case only one thermos would fit, so I returned the unit the same afternoon. 

Against that background, we are very chuffed with our $5.00 tip shop find!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Steppin' up!

We were out and about this week, investigating a new tip shop and doing other missions. 

We've passed A & R Secondhand Dealers at different times since moving to Victoria. Although it looked interesting, we'd never called in. 

We made our first-ever visit on Wednesday.  Wow!  There was so much stuff!  I'm looking at the website now and have realised we didn't even look inside the shed - probably because we were distracted by the beautiful stained glass windows.  It's OK.  I'm sure we'll go back for another look. 

Of course, we don't really need stained glass windows but we are super chuffed with our $10.00 caravan steps!  They're definitely a step up (hah!) from the milk crate(s) that we'd been using!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

On-target Organisation!

We're having a bit of a clean-up at home. Nick was going to throw out a bunch of broken arrows but I salvaged them to use in the garden.

As it happens, they have other uses as well.  This is my new (caravan) bedside pocket, supported by two small ring hooks - and an arrow! 

How's that for organisation?!  The glitzy fabric was an op-shop find and I used a scrap of it to decorate a matching pouch for my glasses. (The pouch is fashioned from other small leftover pieces, including it's purple polar fleece lining).

Aside from my glasses, the hanging pocket will hold my phone and maybe a small packet of tissues.  I don't need it to store a huge amount of stuff, just a few things that I want easy access to. 

Up till now, I've put my phone and glasses on either the small bench or tucked in a corner of the door-less hanging area.  Once I'm in bed they are definitely out of reach unless I scramble over Nick to get to them!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Beef and Vegetable Curry (in the thermal cooker)

I developed a lurgi over the weekend and am not yet recovered (though Erin's high-octane vitamin tablets are having some positive benefit). I tend to feel healthier in the morning, so set about cheffing some curry in the thermal cooker for dinner.

This recipe was a guide but you'll see that I added (and subtracted) as I went along! 

I didn't have onions, so omitted them.  I included vegetables in the meal, rather than having to cook them separately later tonight. 

There wasn't any rice in the pantry, otherwise I would have cooked that in the top pot - and left out the potatoes!  Yep, there was a fair bit of improvisation but this is pretty much the ingredients used (or I'd  usually include if available)!

1kg of beef, cubed
1-2 chopped onions (if you have them)!
2 teaspoons garlic
1 tin drained lentils
1 tin diced tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup of curry powder
1 cup of chopped sweet potato (approx.)
3-4 small potatoes diced/chopped
2 cups of cut beans (approx.)
2 tablespoons jam
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon stock powder

Brown the meat in a little oil.  Add the garlic.  (Usually I'd brown the onions and garlic first).  Tip in the drained lentils and diced tomatoes. 

There is no liquid loss in thermal cooking, so I generally add lentils to thicken the gravy.  I am mindful of how much liquid I use overall.  Today, I only added a small amount of water when rising the tomato tin.  Often I also include dried lentils or vegetables to reduce the liquid content while cooking. 

I added the curry powder and then the chopped potatoes (sweet and standard).  There was probably about two cups of frozen beans.  I also added some of my homemade plum jam, a small amount of tomato paste and a little stock powder.  The main ingredients were simmering as I added the extras. 

The larger pot was around two-thirds full, which left enough room for the top pot of boiling water to sit inside.  I tucked both pots into the outer insulated pot at around 1:30pm - and will be pleased not to have to do much else tonight!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Chocolate coated?!

I had a long nap yesterday. While I was dozing, Nick worked on the caravan roof.

By the time I woke up he had taped guidelines onto the roof and was ready to start applying the Liquid Rubber.

It looked like melted chocolate in the tub! 

The colour was far more brown than black but darkened as it dried. Very interesting!

Nick applied the first coat with a paintbrush, then pressed the length of bandage along the roof before painting on another coat.

It was his first experience of using the Liquid Rubber paint and the result isn't quite as perfect as he planned. 

We're hoping the aesthetic flaws don't affect performance. 

Nick cleaned the roof so well that  the masking tape clung tightly and wouldn't peel off easily - so lifted bits of rubber with it.  Drat!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Makin' Make-do Minestrone-ish

Aldi had a sale of camping equipment today, including their wonderful thermal cookers. 

Seeing the catalogue prompted me to use one of my two (!) thermal pots this morning. (I was multi tasking while cooking breakfast).

My "recipe" for Minestrone-ish is more of a loose guideline as it varies depending on ingredients on hand.  There were various omissions and substitutions this morning. 

I was going to use frozen peas, corn and carrot mix in lieu of fresh carrots but I'd already used the last of the mixed vegetable packet. 

There was only about half a zucchini due to using the other half for breakfast.  Similarly, I raided bacon and chorizo from the breakfast portions.  (Other times I've used left-over cooked sausage).  I'm not entirely sure I put the garlic in.  Anyway, it'll still work out - trust me! 

The usual inclusions are:-

1 onion (chopped)
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 rashers of bacon (chopped)
2 medium carrots (chopped)
1-2 zucchini (chopped)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
1 tin kidney beans (drained)
1 tin cannellini beans (drained)
Green beans (fresh, frozen or dried)
A few handfuls of dried pasta (or broken spaghetti, whatever is available)!
Salt, pepper, oregano
Tomato paste
Stock powder

The method is simple.  I use the large inner pot of the thermal cooker.  Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in a little olive oil.  Add the carrot and zucchini and let them cook for a few minutes before tipping in the tinned tomatoes, baked beans and other (drained) beans.  I rinse the tomato and baked bean tins to make sure I get all the contents.  I probably put 4-6 tins of water into the pot. 

My water content is guided by the fact that I sit the smaller top pot into the larger one.  The small pot is filled with boiling water, to create the maximum heat bank inside the thermal cooker.  A full thermal cooker retains heat for much longer.

Add salt and pepper to taste, a generous amount of dried oregano and stock powder to match your water content.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes before putting into the insulated outer pot.  I then place the smaller pot of boiling water into the top, put the inner lid on and close down the outer pot.  Done!

Well, almost done.  About half an hour before serving I tip a couple of handfuls of dried pasta into the soup and give it a stir - then close everything down again until we are ready to eat.  Easy!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The (wire) brush-off!

Nick and I collected our tub of Liquid Rubber on Tuesday.  As you can see, we took Bandit (our Site Supervisor) with us!

I'd emailed Alison over the weekend and she provided some advice on Monday, then more in person when we visited her office. 

Nick and I had been concerned that we may have needed to keep the rubber dry while it cured but seemingly that isn't an issue - great news as we don't have a covered area to work under!

As with all painting projects, preparation is necessary for a successful result. 

"The Liquid Rubber membrane has excellent adhesion to almost all surfaces and substrates if applied correctly ..."

Nick was home today and the day was fine, so he worked on one side of the caravan roof.

Lots of old filler was removed, the metal roof edge-strip was screwed down more firmly (with longer screws) and the area was thoroughly cleaned using a wire brush attachment on a cordless drill. Nick intends to clean a similar area along the top edge of the caravan side. He plans to mask guidelines on the roof and side of the van and apply the product as neatly as possible.

We were discussing the waterproofing project today.  Nick will do both long roof edges first, including the joining seams above the door.  The seams along the width of the roof will be trickier and we'll probably need to purchase painters' planks and another ladder for that work.  Waterproofing around the hatch will need to be done also.  Once all those areas are completed, the entire roof can be given a further two coats of Liquid Rubber - and then a top-coat of the companion product, white thermal paint. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Hatching plans ...

We visited our terrific tip shop on Saturday, just to see what treasures we could find. As it happened Nick and I both spotted this $20.00 door and decided the window might provide air-flow for Vaughan's bunk in the caravan. 

We purchased two preloved inner-spring mattresses for improved bunk comfort. However, Vaughan prefers to use his upper berth with 4WD mat only to maximise head room.  Nick hasn't been able to relocate the top bunk, so we are trying to fit a small window to service that space.

As you can see the door doesn't really have a window, it's more of a hatch - and now that Nick's taken it out of the door for a closer look, our plan may not be feasible. 

We haven't entirely given up hope, so fingers crossed Nick can rig a solution.

Even if the hatch isn't used, Nick found the door frame is made of square metal tubing.  He is thinking of recycling it to form a frame for a caravan step-box, which would replace the milk-crates currently in use.  That'll be a bit flash! 

Of course, if all else fails we'll eBay the hatch. We've had a bit of an eBay sell-off lately.  Some of the funds are being used for our latest project - waterproofing the Millard's roof! All going well, my plastic bedcover may be rendered obsolete!

Nick checked over the roof today.  The annexe strip on the door-side of the van was removed and the residual fixing agent wire-brushed off.  There is about a metre-long section of joining edge lifting above the door.  Further investigation revealed that longer screws will secure it properly, which is a mission for tomorrow.

Tomorrow's other plan is to collect our four-litre bucket of liquid rubber (and bonus geotextile bandage), thus saving freight costs!  The very helpful representative suggested we seal the seams first, as a cost-saving measure - and she also advised us of the current Easter special, which includes bandage and rubber gloves.  Plan A should only cost $120.00.

There are other waterproofing methods.  I received a call-back this afternoon from one of those suppliers.  Their top-of-the range product would cost around $1350.00 (plus freight)!  Given our limited budget I was also offered their cheaper product, which would set us back approximately $900.00 (plus freight). 

Understandably I'm hopeful that our $120.00 option will work wonderfully.  Once we are sure the leaks have been fixed, we can worry about aesthetics (as the rubber membrane is black) - ie whether to purchase an additional white top coat product that provides thermal protection.

Monday, 9 March 2015

3000 leaves ...

We visited the Lost Trades Fair on Saturday. It was a brilliant event and one that we highly recommend.

While we were there Vaughan, Erin and I spent quite some time watching one blacksmith at work.  Vaughan asked what was being made and the man responded "gum leaves"!

In between shaping the metal, he found a website on his mobile phone - to show us a photo of "the Blacksmiths' tree".  We were amazed and even more so when I did further research once home again.

Vaughan was keen to acquire a leaf for us, so we brought one home.  I'm not sure where we'll display it but it was well worth $10.00!

We decided to see the tree today and stayed for an hour or so, walking around the Strathewen Bushfire Memorial

It's a well-planned remembrance area and we chose a lovely day to visit. 

I happened to have our leaf with us, so was able to photograph at the base of the tree - which is made from 3000 leaves, crafted by hundreds of blacksmiths around the world.  You can view galleries of the leaves, including the many sponsored leaves.  (I've just found photos of the tree being built and erected, here).

Strathewen is only about 50km from home and we were pleased to have travelled there today.  We drove past apple and pear orchards, saw one echidna at the memorial park and another one crossing the road when we headed home! 

There were beautiful mosaic letterboxes in the area, which were part of the community's rebuilding after the devastating fires.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Bakin' bacon (and bananas)!

We opted for another campfire and caravan sleep-out tonight.  Nick is working on a project that requires the fire - and it seemed a shame to waste it!

The menu included bacon-wrapped sausages in our small camp oven, potatoes in foil cooked in the coals and fool-wrapped corn on the cob.  Oh, and there was some crunchy salad, too.

I prefer sausages cooked on the hotplate but didn't have any toothpicks to hold the bacon in place, hence I opted to use the small camp oven.

Based on the success of the previous night's apple and cinnamon foil parcels, I baked bananas following the same principle.  Each parcel had:  one banana halved, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a dob of butter.  Nick and I had a sprinkling of butterscotch schnapps on ours. (I calculated the bottle has been in the cupboard since 2002 or thereabouts and at this rate should be good for at least another 13 years)!

During the day Vaughan and I had made two-ingredient ice-cream (though we added a generous dose of vanilla to ours).  Although it was supposed to set overnight, we were still keen to try it.  The edges were of soft-serve consistency - lovely over the baked bananas!

Foil-ed the crowds?!

It's a long weekend in Victoria.  We opted to stay at home, thinking many places would be busy - plus we wanted to supervise our eBay auctions and be available for winners to claim their goods. 

We've had a bit of a clean-out and sold off some of our excess "famous" camping gear.

I wrote the listings with an intro paragraph like this:- 

Famous?!  Yep, this is your chance to own a piece of blogging history!  That's right - our tent has featured in many adventures documented on the Happy Hamby Campers blog!  ;)

OK, "famous" is definitely an exaggeration but we did get a huge number of people look at our listings - and some extra blog traffic, too!

Our original tents, beds on legs, short self-inflating sleeping mat, camp washing machine and clothesline are all sold. We also found new homes for the caravan fridge and the cover I bought at the dump shop (which sold at a profit)! Hah - gotta be happy with that!

We cranked up my fire pit last night and dined under the stars.  There were was an unplanned foil-cooking theme.  Potatoes, pumpkin and carrot - as well as steak and onion - were all cooked in foil parcels.  (The rabbit was a campsite visitor and didn't feature on the menu)!

Vaughan had picked some home-grown apples during the afternoon.  They were too small to core and stuff, so I chopped them up and mounded about a cup onto foil, with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon, plus some dobs of butter.  Once cooked we ate the contents with a drizzle of cream.  Mmm!

At the end of the night Nick, Vaughan, Bandit and I retired to the caravan for another camp-out.  (Erin opted to sleep in her usual caravan)!