Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Less than a week to go!

This time next week I’ll be in Santiago, Chile, all going well. These last few days before I go, I’m planning on starting to pack and buying the last few things I need to get before I go.

One is a waterproof case for my phone. I’ve decided to buy a waterproof pouch rather than a case, so after doing some research I’ve elected to buy this one. The reviews are good and I think it’ll do the job well. My quilting mat came in handy when I had to measure the phone in inches!

I also bought a sim card for my phone which will work in both Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly, most of the sims I looked at only had one or the other, which was annoying. My travel agent advised me to get one when I was there, but as I’m arriving in Santiago in the middle of the night, I didn’t think there’d be too many phone stores open. Better to be safe than sorry. The sim should be arriving today. I’ll take it with me and swap the sim cards over on the plane. It just occurred to me that I’ll need to learn how to get the sim card out in the first place.

You’ve already seen my pee bottle, which has traumatised people both here and on FB. Steveark’s comment on my previous post made me laugh! I’m hoping to bring back the bottle untouched by human urine, which will mean I’ll have a very useful souvenir to remind me of the trip. It will have been with me on the ice on every excursion. You can bet I’ll be reminded of Antarctica every time I use it.

I’m a big fan of buying useful souvenirs.

This olive oil container is from San Gimignano in Italy. Every single time I pull it out from the pantry I’m reminded of that beautiful village on top of the hill. When my friend Scott and I were going through security at Paris airport, we were looking at my case as it went through the x-ray. “Is that YOURS? What on earth have you bought?” he said as the image of what looked to be a miniature watering can glided by.

I also have a very cheap-looking spatula that I bought in a supermarket in Pyongyang. I was there, mingling with the locals as they were buying their groceries, when I saw it and thought, “I’ve been meaning to get a spatula for ages!” It’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but I know where I bought it and I love using it.

Every Christmas I blog about my Christmas tree which has decorations from all over the world on it. No one has a tree quite like mine!

So having a water bottle that has travelled with me to the end of the world and back seems like a very good fit.

I still need to buy some lip balm. This morning I was looking at the blog 43 Blue Doors. Bonnie and her partner Trin retired in (I think) 2016 and have been slow travelling around the world ever since. It’s a fabulous blog with incredible photography and detailed descriptions of the places they’re travelling.

I posted about ‘My New Goal’ in October 2020, when I had 3 references to Antarctica in the one day. Up until then, I’d never even dreamed about going there. Bonnie wrote a post about her trip, which was the third nudge from the universe I received that day. This morning I looked at the page again and played the video of the chinstrap penguin colony. The sound of the wind made it obvious why lip balm is on the list as a necessity.

I hope Penguindancer! still checks in here and knows that I’m finally going. She was working in Antarctica and used to read my blog. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I’d be going.

Today I’m going to be getting out my itinerary and hopefully booking a couple of day tours for Santiago and the surrounding countryside. I will only see the inside of the airport in Buenos Ares, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Santiago and I think that being ferried around in a group might be the most efficient way to cover as much ground as possible.

Unless I buy a horrifically expensive souvenir, I think that all of the major expenses for my trip have already been paid for. I have tiny slivers of time on either side of the cruise where I probably won’t be spending a lot, especially if I’m on tours, and once I’m on the ship everything except alcohol and souvenirs are taken care of. I’m hoping that my pesos for Chile and Argentina will be enough for taxis and food, while the euros and my debit/credit cards will take care of everything else.

I’m known for being frugal in most areas of my life, but travelling overseas isn’t one of them. Being able to see and do everything I want when I travel is one of the reasons why I’m so frugal in other areas. I like to get bang for my buck! So who knows what I’ll end up spending?

I’m already starting to look at where I’ll travel in 2023…

… I have just one continent to go to complete the set.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #46.

What’s top of my mind: I’m actually going to Antarctica!

You know it’s all becoming real when your pee bottle arrives in the post!

I posted this photo on FB and a friend was a little disturbed, saying she had a purple one of these “but I didn’t know it was a pee bottle!” It’s not, of course, it’s just a wide-mouthed water bottle, but when we’re on the ice we can’t leave a trace of ourselves there when we leave. That means no food, no litter and no… um… wastes. If you know what I mean.

My visa arrived yesterday, thank god. My travel agent rang on Friday and chirpily said, “So do you have your visa?” When I said, no, her voice changed dramatically. I asked her to try calling the Chilean embassy since no one was picking up the phone whenever I tried.

Of course, on the first attempt, she got through, and talked to a lovely woman who said that she couldn’t put it through on Friday because she was working on visas that people needed for the coming weekend. (Can you imagine the STRESS those people would be under???) She promised to look at it on Monday.

However, in the afternoon I came back from collecting my currency and there it was… the instructions for the extra info I needed to provide. Basically, I had to show that I could support myself for the 3 days I’ll be in Chile, so I won’t be a burden on their community.

A screenshot of a bank account, a payment for the visa and the next day my visa was in my inbox. This alone has made going through a travel agent worthwhile. I’m sure I was pushed up the queue – someone on Twitter said that he’s been waiting since the beginning of September for his Chilean visa.

Where I’ve been: to the Money Exchange.

Here I am, hunkering down at home trying to avoid crowds, deciding to pick up my currency in Mornington rather than Southland. I get a text that my money is ready, so I grab my mask, jump in the car and drive to get it. When I walk in, the girl behind the counter says, “Oh sorry. We don’t have your Chilean pesos yet. I shouldn’t have texted you…”

What can I say? I wasn’t impressed but there’s no point in complaining – she can’t magically produce them out of thin air. So 2 days later I made the trip back. Fortunately, I have good podcasts to listen to as I drive!

In the end, I decided to get some Chilean pesos, but I know I can use my debit/credit cards here as well. Even though the exchange rate is much better to get Argentinian pesos when you’re actually in the country, I decided to get some here – I’m arriving in Ushuaia at 10 PM and I have a feeling I’ll just want to pay cash straight up for a taxi to my hotel. I embark on the cruise the next day so I won’t need that much money.

The ship uses Euros so I plumped for them rather than USD. If I have any cash left over (which I NEVER do when I travel) I’m far more likely to be going back to Europe rather than the States,

Though having said that, I DO have to tick off my last continent, so who knows where I’ll visit next year?

Where I’m going: To Mt Martha.

See below.

What I’m reading: some cracking good reads.

The Herd – by Emily Edwards.

“Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites, but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They’re the best of friends and godmothers to each other’s daughters – because they trust that the safety of their children is their top priority.

But what if their choice could harm your own child?

Widowland – by C,J Carey.

This is a reimagined history, set in London after Germany won WWII. The author has done a really good job of weaving the details of the people and events of that time into an alternate reality, where in 1953 there is a coronation planned – but for King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis – not Elizabeth II.

It’s very 1984-ish.

I’ve just started Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid – all about an aging tennis star who comes out of retirement to try and defeat the new up-and-coming star on the tennis scene, and I’ve picked up The Murder of Mr Wickham by Claudia Grey.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.  “

As an Austen lover, I thought this might be an enjoyable romp as I’m counting down the days before my trip. Here is the post I wrote after visiting Jane Austen’s house in 2015 in Chawton, Hampshire.

One of the highlights of my life.

What I’m watching: A zombie-fest!

It turns out that I wasn’t trailing behind the rest of ‘The Walking Dead’ fans. The very last episode dropped on Monday, so on Sunday I settled in on the couch and watched 7 episodes to get up to date.

It was emotional to see the last episode. I’ve been watching this show for 12 years. However, there are a few spinoffs planned, so I just might buckle myself in for those.

What I’m listening to: A very emotional and heart-wrenching speech.

Chanelle Dawson is the oldest daughter of Chris and Lynette Dawson. Chris murdered Lynette over 40 years ago and has only now been convicted of his crime. The podcast ‘The Teacher’s Pet’ investigated the crime, while ‘The Teacher’s Trial’ documented the murder case. In this last episode, Chanelle is giving her victim impact statement. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

What I’m eating: Vegemite.

I know I’m going to miss having the opportunity to eat Vegemite with breakfast. So even though I don’t often eat it, lately I’ve been going nuts with it.

What I’m planning: to get the cavaliers shaved today.

Wow. I wrote about this nearly four years ago. Where does the time go?

Yesterday my sister Kate came around, all masked up, to clipper my dogs. Halfway through Poppy’s coat, the clippers died. She’s left with one short ear, one skinny leg, a short back and long hair everywhere else.

Fortunately, we discovered a clipper shop just 10 minutes away. She left to go and see our parents and I went to get the blades sharpened. I’m going to her place later today to finish the job. All masked up, of course. I seriously am taking no chances so close to the trip.

Who needs a good slap: No one.

Well, maybe Trump. But that’s pretty much a perennial thing.

What has made me smile: The realisation that next week I’ll be off on an adventure.

I’ve been putting my head in the sand, pretty much ignoring that Antarctica is really going to happen. Last year Latestarter Fire and I were so disappointed to have to postpone our trip – she had to actually cancel it – so I guess I didn’t want to get disappointed again.

This time tomorrow I’ll be halfway to New Zealand on the first leg of the trip…

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #45

What’s top of my mind: how quickly covid can fuck things up.

No, no no, I don’t have it!

But remember how I was only going to leave two weeks to hunker down away from crowds before I left on my trip? Then bethh left a comment, suggesting that I give myself an extra week, just in case.

“You might want to take 3 weeks off ahead of your trip – IF you were exposed on your last day of work, it could take 7+ days to show up and 10 days to clear. I almost messed up a trip in July/August by getting Covid closer to the departure date than I planned! I only tested negative the morning of my flight. It probably partly depends on the rules for your trip – in my case it was a very light case, my housemate didn’t even catch it, and I felt fine by the time my trip arrived. Thank goodness for vaccines & boosters!”

Today was going to be my last day of working and tonight was going to be my last outing… David29 and Izzy have a tasting evening at their wedding reception to choose the menu items for their wedding.

Last night at 11 PM he called me and said that Izzy’s mum has just tested positive to covid. Even though they live with her, the happy couple, Izzy’s Dad and sister are all allowed to still attend. Imagine if I was still going and she’d found out a day or two later?

David29 said that there’s around 16,000 active cases in Victoria at the moment.

Where I’ve been: at the doctor’s. The hairdressers. The chemist.

Yesterday I received my 5th dose of the vax. It takes 2 weeks to be at its most effective, so hopefully, that’ll help keep me safe on the planes. I also had a haircut – holding my mask on my face at all times.

Today I took a nice stroll to the other side of the highway to pick up some anti-seasick tablets that Blogless Sandy recommended.

Where I’m going: to get some money.

I’ve ordered some currency – Chilean pesos, Argentinian pesos and Euros – and I’m waiting for the currency place in Mornington to let me know when they have it all assembled for me. I thought that it was probably safer to go to Mornington than Southland at this stage.

What I’m reading: The Long Game by Simon Rowell.

I just put this down an hour ago. I enjoyed it very much. It’s set in and around Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula and it was so nice to actually know the places where the action was happening.

Plus Harry the dog was amazing – I love a Golden!

What I’m watching: The last season of ‘The Walking Dead’… at last.

I decided that if my ship goes down in Drake’s Passage and I’m bobbing around, waiting to be rescued, I didn’t want to have unanswered questions about what ends up happening in The Walking Dead. So I’ve launched into it.

What I’m listening to: the sounds of the neighbourhood.

I’m sitting here on the couch, the dogs asleep beside me. Jeff’s snoring.

I can hear the kids next door playing in their yard, with birds chirping and cars driving by every now and then. It’s a sunny afternoon after a morning of rain.

What I’m eating: sneaky fish and chips for lunch.

When I was walking back from the chemists, I saw that the fish and chip shop was open, so I decided to grab a minimum chips, potato cake and a fried dimmie. It was ok, I guess, though for some reason the chips were bright yellow.

Put me off a bit.

What I’m planning: my Little Adventure for November.

It has to be somewhere away from lots of people. And definitely NOT a school excursion. Blogless Helen told me off about that one!! LOL.

Who needs a good slap: The Chilean Embassy.

I submitted my visa application on October 4. It’s now 6 weeks later. I still haven’t got it. I sent them an email today, but I’m getting nervous.

What has made me smile: my freedom.

On Monday I drove over to Tom30’s place, let myself in, made a cuppa and turned on a Netflix movie. He was getting a washing machine delivered and would otherwise have had to take a day off work.

It’s lovely to have the time available to do little things like this for my kids.

He also suggestively left the ironing board and iron out, but I pretended I didn’t see them.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #44.

What’s top of my mind: This is my last day of teaching for the year!

Due to a comment last week, I’ve decided to allow 3 weeks of avoiding crowded places before I jump on the plane for Antarctica. Right at this moment, I’m sitting in front of a year 8 class, deflating little boys who think they’re able to do whatever they want.

Fools.

Where I’ve been: In my sewing room.

When I decided to increase my crowd-free weeks before my trip, I decreased the time I had available to make baby quilts for people at work. I spent the last few days frantically sewing and quilting and finished them yesterday, only to learn that one of the recipients doesn’t work on Wednesdays.

D’Oh! I’m going to have to sneak into both campuses tomorrow morning to deliver them.

Where I’m going: to the Apple store at Southland.

Blogless Sandy lent me a carry-on bag for my trip. One look at it convinced me that I won’t be able to escape bringing checked luggage – packing for both -5C and summer temperatures on the one trip means that I’ll need more space than a carry-on bag will give me. So I’m going to buy an iTag for my suitcase.

It’s one of those purchases where it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

What I’m reading: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes.

I like to have an eBook on my iPad, as well as my kindle books and my podcasts. Every now and then, when I’m searching on Borrowbox, I’ll come across books that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Stone Blind is the story of Medusa. I’m only a couple of chapters in but I think I’ll enjoy it.

What I’m watching: nothing. And everything.

The Block has finished, not with a bang but with a whimper. I’m finishing off ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ on SBS, American ‘Survivor’ on Go!, The Serpent Queen’, ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK’ and ‘The Circus’ on Stan and my queue on ‘Netflix is lengthy. Add on my new ‘Binge’ subscription (I still haven’t watched the last season of ‘The Walking Dead’) and I’m really spoiled for choice.

What I’m listening to: The Other Half podcast.

I just love this podcast! I first stumbled across ‘The Queens of England’ podcast a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Once he finished this, he began successive series of podcasts looking at women in history. If you’re a history buff, I’d HIGHLY recommend his work. I’ve learned so much and each episode is interesting – quite an amazing feat considering how many there are!

He’s just on the last story of the ‘women and the papacy’ series, ending with a nun in 1930’s Italy who sounds like an absolute powerhouse.

Looking forward to hearing what the next series will be about.

What I’m eating: salads from Thermobexta’s new book.

I’m still working my way through this book. I’ve decided that now there’s only two of us in the house, I’d like to have a salad or two in the fridge and pick away at them for meals.

Last night I made the sweet potato salad and the sesame coleslaw and paired them with some roasted drumsticks. We’ll probably have the same tonight.

What I’m planning: My trip.

Up until now, this holiday has had all the feeling of being a dream. After I had to cancel it last year due to lockdowns, it’s always been “in the future.” Now that my last day of teaching has come, along with the delivery of Blogless Sandy’s suitcase, it’s starting to seem real.

I need to get some cash. I found out yesterday that UBank doesn’t charge international fees on their Visa debit cards, so I’ll have to activate the one I’ve had with them for years. I think I’ll use that to pay for my bill on the ship.

I need to work out how to use Google Translate (I’ve never used it) and I should probably learn a few Spanish phrases. Seems polite.

Still need to get some seasickness medication. The Drake passage is apparently not to be sneezed at. I have no idea if I’m a good sailor or not, but I think I’m about to find out.

I’ve just had a chat with a beautiful student in year 9 who I used to teach in year 7. She’s from Santiago, so I’ve picked her brain about good places to go. She’s so excited that I’m seeing her city.

Who needs a good slap: The Drake Passage.

What has made me smile: it’s MY LAST DAY!!!!!

On balance, I’ve enjoyed coming back here to work – and I’ve really enjoyed the money – but I’m so looking forward to 3 cruisy weeks at home before I set off.

I’ve shamefully neglected my veggie garden, so I want to have it up and running before I go. If all Ryan27 has to do is water it every couple of days or so, it should be looking good by the time I get back.

Dad Joke of the Day:

I used this as the Dad Joke for a French class last week. It cracked them up.

The challenge I set myself that I didn’t tell you about.

A wire-haired dachshund looking like an angel.

It’s coming up to the end of the year and I’m feeling confident that I’m going to finish a challenge that I didn’t tell you about.

Part of my financial strategy within retirement is to have a pool/bucket of money, around 3 years of expenses, that I’ve put in a term deposit to ride out a stock market crash. I rolled over that money at the end of December last year, just before – you guessed it – there was a downturn in the stock market.

I wasn’t concerned. With the piddling interest being paid on the term deposit, it didn’t worry me that I’d have to break into it to pull out some living expenses.

But then I had 3 people separately contact me towards the end of term 1, asking if I’d consider helping the school out with some CRT work because covid was making it extremely difficult to cover classes.

I owed the school big time. Securing an ongoing teaching job nearly 20 years ago absolutely saved our financial bacon. The school has been fantastic to my boys and me; I’d had 3 vaccinations by then; I could teach in a mask; and …

… maybe I could stretch the time before I had to tap into that term deposit???? WHAT a challenge!

I totally didn’t expect that I’d be working as many days as I have. So far, as of this week’s pay, I’ve brought home just over 25K in income from this CRT gig. What with dividends, my CRT wages and my tax return, I’ve more than covered this year’s expenses.

So, in effect, I’ve succeeded in stretching that term deposit into being able to last me 4 years instead of 3. I’m pretty happy with that.

When I come back from Antarctica, it’ll be time to think about how hard I want to tap that term deposit. I’m definitely not working as many days as I have this year – by the end of term 3, I was very unhappy. I was pining for my lost freedom.

However, I’m thinking that working a day a week next year might be ok. That’s around $300 take-home that I could put toward a holiday or another son’s wedding or something. It’s also true that once Ryan27 moves out, I’ll be living on my own. Working a day a week, where I’m forced to interact with people, might stop me from becoming weird.

Or at least, stop me from becoming weirder than I already am.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in front of a deathly quiet Maths class. After lunch, I’ll be walking a group of year 8s to the local lawn bowls club for their sport double. It’s not a hard way to earn some money. The kids here are lovely and it’s nice to catch up with my work friends.

I’ve decided that I’ll pull the pin on work this year when I have 2 weeks to go before I go to Tullamarine and try to remember how to get on a flight. I definitely don’t want to catch covid and have to postpone this holiday again!

So, being flexible and taking on some casual teaching has worked pretty well for me, all things considered. The challenge of being able to stave off tapping the term deposit for a whole year was a stretch goal for me, but I DO like to win at a challenge!

But the emotional drain of seeing my glorious freedom ebbing away is something that I don’t want to repeat again next year. I feel that I’ve helped the school out in its hour of need, and having the freedom to heavily pick and choose how many days I work is something that I’ll be exploring next year.

I have to train myself to say ‘no’ if the chance to earn money is offered. Those many years of poverty are hard to break away from.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #43

What’s top of my mind: The year 8’s are STILL studying ‘Bend it Like Beckham.’

Over my time at this school, I would have seen this film about 50 times. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an entertaining movie with really good themes, but I would’ve thought that there’d be something more modern by now for the kids to look at.

But hey. At least I get to look at Jonathan Rhys Meyers for a couple of periods today!

Where I’ve been: The couch on the front verandah.

I’ve read a ton of books over the last couple of weeks. It’s nice to take a cuppa out and sit in the sunshine.

Where I’m going: The Apple store (maybe).

I might need an airTag.

See below.

What I’m reading: ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell.

Just about every English class I’ve ever taught has had a look at my favourite poem. ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning. The masterly reveal of the psychopathic Duke is so beautifully done.

The real-life inspiration for this poem is widely believed to be Lucretia de Medici. She is also the protagonist of this novel. Imagine. Married at 15, dead a year later. Her husband ended up having 3 wives – no children. Not even illegitimate ones. But of course, it’s the women’s fault…

What I’m watching: Bend it Like Beckham.

The soundtrack is in my ears. I’ve seen it so many times that I don’t have to look at the screen to know exactly what’s happening.

What I’m listening to: The Bend it Like Beckham soundtrack.

See above.

I’m also listening to ‘Shandee’s Legacy’ – the podcast about the public inquiry into the appalling behaviour and dereliction of duty that the Queensland DNA lab has been doing over the last 10 years. This was uncovered during the podcast called ‘Shandee’s story’ which looked at the ‘unsolved’ murder of Shandee Blackburn in 2012.

(I put ‘unsolved’ in inverted commas because even though her ex-boyfriend was acquitted in a trial, TWO coronial inquests have named him as the probable murderer. He got off mainly due to the lack of DNA evidence.)

The court revelations are incredible. It’s week 5 and the last two eps, in particular, are explosive. It’s mind-blowing that hundreds, probably thousands, of crimes in Queensland have gone unsolved because the DNA lab was either lazy or incompetent.

The craziest thing about it is that it’d still be going on if the original podcast of ‘Shandee’s Story’ hadn’t asked a DNA scientist to explain some of the findings and she got very worried about what she was seeing.

What I’m eating: Salads.

David29 has put his back out and is coming over tonight to get a myo treatment from Ryan27. He’s staying for dinner, so I’ll be making a roast chook and a couple of different salads. Yum!

What I’m planning: My trip.

The tour company sent lots of forms etc on the weekend, along with a brochure of info from the actual ship. I’ve been jolted into reality – it’s only about 4 weeks until I go to the airport.

I was going to buy a carry-on suitcase, but luckily Blogless Sandy has Just The Thing, so a trip to the peninsula is on the cards so I can pick it up. Then I have to make the decision – can I manage with just carry-on, or will I have to take some checked baggage with me as well? I have FOUR flights each way, so I’m worried about my suitcase going astray.

Who needs a good slap: Baggage handlers.

I’ve never had to worry about this before, but it seems like every time I hop on Twitter there’s another tale of woe about baggage going missing.

What has made me smile: Putting the Christmas List together.

It’s not long now!

I just love Christmas.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #42.

Robin Williams from Jumanji.
He has luscious hair and a luxuriant beard.

What’s top of my mind: I’m over halfway there!

Have a look at this year’s Retirement Reading Challenge, over on the side of the blog. This year is the highest target yet, with the inclusion of my dog registration fees as well as my property rates added to the total.

I’ve been reading some fantastic titles from the library. Whoever buys books for the Kingston library is doing a cracking job. I’ve read 3 books in the last 5 days which were all excellent. Never has a personal challenge been more enjoyable!

Where I’ve been: Lawn Bowling with the year 7s.

I really didn’t want to take this day’s work when the Daily Org mentioned that I’d be taking sport in the afternoon. However, she was kind to me. 17 kids are bussed to and from the bowling Club in the next suburb, and they have instructors once they get there.

My friend Helen, who I went to North Korea with, is also doing a day of CRT. She’s going POWER WALKING with the year 7s. Honestly, your days can get pretty varied when you’re a CRT.

Where I’m going: Nowhere much.

Now that November is rapidly approaching, this means that Antarctica is also getting close. I’ve avoided covid for the last couple of years so I’d hate to get it now. I’m thinking of hunkering down and just pottering around the house until my flight out of here.

What I’m reading: Here are the 3 books I mentioned above…

  1. The Ink Black Heart – Robert Galbraith

One of the perks of freedom is that if you feel like binge reading, you can finish a 1,000 page book in 2 days. I really like this series and, once I got my head around how to tackle the internet chat sections, I galloped through it, thoroughly enjoying the ride.

2. The Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley Heller

I liked this one, particularly the way it was all put together.

3. Lucy By the Sea- Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is an extraordinary writer. This is the 4th in the Lucy Barton series, set during the first year of the pandemic. It’s a beautiful book, so simple yet so profound.

I have another novel by my bed, waiting for my next day of freedom.

What I’m watching: Kids pretending to work.

The year 8 camps are on this week – we have so many kids at this school that the year level camps are always split in two – and I’m supervising a Science class that is 3 classes smooshed into one. Their classmates are all away at camp and so I have 15 kids sitting in front of me.

Obviously, the teachers aren’t going to leave major assignments for only a few kids to do while the majority of the classes are away, so the kids are (with permission) wearing headphones and are “listening to music” while they “do their work.”

In reality, whatever work was left for them has been finished long ago and they’re playing games. Hey, as long as they’re quiet, I don’t mind.

What I’m listening to: Podcasts.

I seem to alternate between listening to an audiobook and letting my poddies build up, then once the book is finished, burning through the podcasts until there’s nothing left, then borrowing another audiobook.

There’s no way I can go for a drive without having my stories with me!

What I’m eating: Lentil and Halloumi salad.

Thermobexta has released another cookbook. This time it’s another salad book. We’ve tried a couple of recipes, but I have to say that the lentil and halloumi salad is worth the price of the book alone. Even Ryan27, who’s not a fan of salad dressing in general, really enjoyed this for dinner last night.

I have all but one of her books and they’re the only things that enabled me to keep my cool when Evan26 became a vegetarian a few years ago. Her recipes are excellent.

What I’m planning: The next salad I’ll make from this book.

The pumpkin, feta and black rice one sounds nice.

Who needs a good slap: Me.

I’ve been doing so much reading, I’ve let a lot of other things slide. I have 2 baby quilts I want to make before I go away and I’m going to run out of time if I don’t watch out. But once a story grabs me I just HAVE to find out what happens…

What has made me smile: My tax return.

For the first time ever, my accountant son Tom30 is doing my tax. I knew it’d be a great return, seeing as I didn’t work for 8 months out of the financial year.

Tom30 rang me yesterday to let me know how much I’d be getting back. I’m pretty happy with it! I’d have to work nearly 14 days to get the same amount of money in my take-home wage. 🙂

Sandra from Simple Savings told me that I’d get a nice little bonus for my Antarctica trip when I did my taxes. She wasn’t wrong.

Dad joke of the day:

I accidentally swallowed my cat’s medicine.

Don’t ask meow.

Little Adventures #18. Geography Excursion to the city. October 2022.

I didn’t do a Little Adventure last month – I was too tired and all I wanted to do was rediscover the glories of being at home. But I’ve got back on the horse that threw me and I’m on the quest to go somewhere each month to a place or experience I’ve never had before.

This month started with a text on Monday evening.

“Hi Frogdancer! Would you be available to go on an excursion to the city with the year 8s tomorrow? “

As it happened, I’d arranged to take Scout to the vet on Tuesday for her annual grease and oil change, but just as I was about to hit ‘send’ on the first refusal of an offer of work I’d ever have done… I paused. This was a very late text. They normally don’t hire CRTs for excursions. Someone has clearly had to bail at the last minute and they were desperate.

Dammit.

I sent ‘ok’ and turned up to the main campus bright and early the next morning, ready to go into the city with 2 year 8 classes and 4 other teachers. We were going to learn about how Melbourne’s land use has changed over the years since settlement.

The kids were enthralled to learn that one of the names originally slated for our city was “Batmania.”

We rode in on the train and started off at Federation Square. The kids were all sitting down, listening to their teachers as they were filling in answers in their booklets, when one of the kids noticed an old man taking photos of them.

“Is he allowed to do that, Miss?” she asked.

Turns out he was a retired teacher from Holland, here to visit his sister. He complimented us on how well-behaved our children were, saying that in Holland the kids are feral. “They don’t have very good parenting!”

Fed Square always seems like a wasted opportunity to me. It’s always empty and it looks really uninviting. How hard can it be to have a space that people actually want to be in?

The photos on this post are taken from the internet. I left my phone at home.

The next step on our journey was Birrarung Mar.

It’s been ages since I’ve walked on this side of the Yarra. I had it in my head that Birrarung Mar was closer to Docklands, but there it was, tucked away behind Fed Square.

We were here for quite a while. The kids were sketching what they could see on the banks of the Yarra and answering questions in their booklet about how land usage had changed over the last couple of hundred years (and further, of course.)

After we’d eaten morning tea, we moved on down the Yarra to a bridge I’d never noticed before. Here’s where it got interesting.

Sandridge bridge is way down the Yarra. One thing you know when you go on a Geography excursion, there’s going to be a lot of walking! The sculptures on this bridge are ok, but it was the perspex plates stretching all the way across the bridge that were really interesting.

Each rectangle documented the stats of the immigrants from a country – how many were in Australia as a whole, how many were in Victoria, how their professions have changed since 1820 onwards, and the languages that they brought here.

As soon as the kids hit the bridge, they all raced off to look at the countries that were in their backgrounds. Nothing could have illustrated how much of an immigrant nation we are as they all scattered! I walked along, looking at England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. There’s not a huge amount of diversity in my family tree!

Just around the corner from the bridge was Banana Alley. I’d heard about this place but I’d never been here before. It was good to put a face to the name. 🙂

We walked back across the bride and went to lunch at a food court in Southbank.

The plan was to go to the Arts precinct after lunch, but when we got there the lawn was packed with people attending a Welcome to Country ceremony. We decided tto go across the road so the kids could answer their questions from there.

It was nice. Every now and then we’d hear the click of the rhythm sticks and we could smell a waft of smoke, mingled with the ‘ding’ of the trams going by. The real teachers were talking about the things the kids needed to write down, as the rest of Melbourne hurried by.

The last stop before we jumped on the train to go home was the Alexandra Gardens.

Then it was all over, red rover as we walked the kids back to school. I was knackered! As I said at the start, there’s always a lot of walking on a Geography excursion.

I wouldn’t say that it was the most rivetting Little Adventure ever, but I got to see a few new places in my home town and it’s definitely the first Little Adventure that I got paid for!

Dad joke of the day:

How does a mathematician plough fields? 

With a pro-tractor.

Wednesday W’s #41.

What’s top of my mind: My veggie garden.

I’ve planted some seedlings – because of working so much last term I neglected starting any of my precious harvested seeds from scratch over winter – and now I’m in a battle with the local blackbirds and pigeons.

They want to scratch up the mulch to eat the worms I’ve so carefully nurtured. While they’re doing this, they sometimes scratch up the seedlings, or at the very least cover them with mulch. Every few hours, I’m going out there to chase them away and repair any damage.

Where I’ve been: On October’s Little Adventure.

I’ll be blogging about this next.

Where I’m going: To the in-laws for a birthday party.

On Sunday I’m going to Izzy’s parents’ place for her little sister’s 21st birthday party – the family edition. It’s nice that they’ve thought to invite me.

What I’m reading: 5 thumping good reads.

Well, I’ve actually READ all of these. I was so tired by the time the holidays came that all I wanted to do was nap and read. I’ve been on a lucky streak of picking some absolutely wonderful books.

  1. The Mother by Jane Caro.

I read this in less than a day. Loved it. It made me question what I would do if one of my boys was in a similar pickle. I haven’t reached any conclusions…

2. Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson.

The same author who wrote the wonderful Life After Life that, although I read it in 2014, I’ve never forgotten. I see there are a lot more novels that I need to catch up on, which makes me happy. This one is set in 1020’s London and the construction of the storyline is beautifully done. Another one I gulped down.

3. Fairy Tale by Stephen King.

4. Two Nights in Lisbon – Chris Pavone

This was excellent. A fast-paced thriller that I found hard to put down.

5. Coronado – Dennis Lehane

Freddy Smidlap, a blogger from the US, recommended this to me in the comments a while ago. I’m so glad he did, otherwise I’d probably never have run into it. A collection of short stories.

What I’m watching: House of the Dragon.

Now that I’ve got a Binge subscription, Ryan27 and I are watching this as our mother/son bonding show. I’ve only seen 1 episode so far, but I like what I’m seeing.

What I’m listening to: next door’s dogs.

Thank Christ I’m not listening to them now, but yesterday they started barking and asking to be let in at 5:30 AM. Seriously? If I can hear them, then their owners could definitely hear them. I wasn’t happy.

What I’m eating: Flybuys fish fillets.

A few weeks ago I had to buy $50 worth of groceries at Coles for 4 weeks to get a free $50 voucher. (I used it on meat.) It was hard some weeks to get to the $50, so one purchase I made was the Coles brand of frozen crumbed fish fillets, thinking they’d be on a par with Aldi’s ones.

They’re horrible – tasteless and with a gummy texture to the crumb layer that’s really off-putting. In true Frogdancer Jones fashion, I’ll use them up, but I definitely won’t be buying them again.

What I’m planning: Nothing; though I should be.

It’s not long before I leave for my trip to Antarctica. In my head though, it still feels like it’s MONTHS away. I’ve been planning to go for so long that it seems like it’ll always be in the future.

Who needs a good slap: Inanimate objects.

They’re annoying me at the moment. Aways getting caught on stuff, tipping over or being mislaid. Very irritating and not at all my fault.

What has made me smile:

A kid just asked which “Orthodentist” another kid was going to.

When you think about it, it’s probably what they should be called.

Dad joke of the day:

Don’t throw sodium chloride at people.

It’s a salt.

The terrific soap recipe.

As promised, I’m posting the soap recipe that’s my ‘go-to’ when it’s time to make another batch. It was the first soap recipe I tried and I love it. The bars of soap come out consistently firm, not crumbly and last for ages.

The blog post I took it from was from 2010 and I see that I was one of the first people to comment on it. Makes me feel a bit old… That blog has now been taken offline. This made me panic when 3 years ago I went to pull up the blogpost to make my next batch and it was unavailable.

My soap recipe has gone forever! Oh crappity crap! I tried PMing the blog author but she never got back to me. That was a little surprising but hey. What can you do? A few weeks later, I mentioned it on the frogblog as I was posting about making another soap recipe to give as Christmas gifts for work. A brilliant reader called Jamie sent me a link to the wonderful soap recipe post that they’d archived. I was so happy!!!

I’ve noticed that some readers since yesterday have tracked down the soap recipe I posted about in that frogblog post that uses Lux flakes. This is NOT the recipe I love. Don’t get me wrong… it smells like Lux and it’s easy to make, but call me a purist: it didn’t feel like I was making real soap. It was a bit of a cheat. But if you feel like making soap and the thought of using caustic soda turns you off, then by all means use this Easy-Peasy soap recipe.

But if you want the brilliant soap recipe, here’s the archived page that Jamie sent:

THE TERRIFIC SOAP RECIPE.

(I could’ve just given you the basic recipe, but I like the way Suse’s post gives a lot of information in a readable and informative way. This was my entry into the soap-making world and I like the idea of sharing the original post with you all.)

Suse’s post gives a ton of good hints and tips. I’d add that it’s not a good idea to rush mixing the melted oils and caustic soda mixes together. I’ve found that when I was impatient and mixed them together while they were still quite hot, I’d run the risk of the whole batch curdling, which is disappointing when you unwrap it the next day to find out that it hasn’t worked. Then I’d have to rebatch it by melting it into a slow cooker, which works to make the soap usable, but it’s never quite as pretty. Giving it an extra 10 minutes to enable the oils and caustic soda to cool to a ‘warm’ temperature is time well spent.

If you’re wondering if the soap has started curing properly and whether the caustic soda has saponified properly and lost its bite, the easiest way to test this is to touch the tip of your tongue to the newly unwrapped soap. If you feel a ‘zap’ like a tiny electric shock, then the soap has to be rebatched. This has only happened to me a couple of times. It’s annoying when it happens but it’s not the end of the world. Re-melting it in a slow cooker, then putting it back into a mould and wrapping it up for another 24 hours does the trick.

Another soap recipe that I really like is the one on The Witch’s Kitchen. Her blog and book (I just LOVE this book – such a useful resource, especially the plant index at the end!) are terrific. Anyone interested in food gardening should set aside some time to sit down with a cuppa and rummage through her blog. So much information.

Anyway, in this soap recipe, she mentions using grated lemon zest as a little added extra in the soap. How nice would that be? Also, as with the Terrific Soap Recipe, there’s a lot of useful info in the comments underneath the original post.

If you like the idea of making homemade soap to give away as Christmas gifts, now is the time to get started. The soap recipes that use caustic soda need at least 6 weeks to cure properly, so if you set aside the time to make a batch or two now, you’ve already got yourself organised for Christmas.

Imagine the warm glow you’ll feel from being so efficient!

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