Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Wednesday W’s #88.

What’s top of my mind: Credit card fraud.

I’m so angry. Remember how I had the voucher from the kids to use, and I had to pay the company $1 to get every last cent from the voucher?

I’ve just got off the phone with the bank to dispute not one, but FOUR transactions from this company totalling just over 1K. I’ve had to cancel my card and now I’ll have to change all of my direct debits when I get the new card in a week.

Talk about greedy! Surely anyone would notice an extra thousand dollars coming out of their account?

Where I’m going: Specsavers.

Izzy works for them and I’ve decided that I need new lenses for my reading glasses. I’m coming down to the end of my Goodreads Challenge, (I’ve read 105/110 books so far this year), so I’ve been having a few massive reading days. Getting 11 books that I put on hold at the library all at once hasn’t helped!

I’m getting headaches at the end of the day. I think my 3-year-old lenses might need replacing. Plus I get a family discount!

Where I’ve been: Taking Scout for walks in her new pram.

I know, I know. I’ve turned into one of THOSE dog parents.

But as she’s getting older, Scout is becoming more anxious about walking around when there are lots of people/dogs. She’s so tiny, so I can see how it would be intimidating. She just puts the brakes on and refuses to move, which means I have to drag her along, looking like an absolute monster, or i pick her up. She’s only 6.5kgs, but that gets really heavy over time.

(I’m a delicate flower…)

So I bought her a pram. At first she screamed the street down, but after Ryan28 kept giving her treats and she realised that she was up high and not missing out on anything, she decided that she loves it.

I’m not intending to use it for every walk. Just those places where I now she’ll be scared.

What I’m reading: I’m up to 105/110 on my Goodreads Challenge!

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman is the fourth in the Thursday Murder Club series. I absolutely LOVE these books.

Sweet Jimmy by Bryan Brown. Yes, THAT Bryan Brown… the actor. He’s released a novel that I’m in the queue for at the library, but I thought I’d have a look at this collection of short stories. I really enjoyed them. Gritty stuff.

Treasure and Dirt by Chris Hammer. I’ve read all the Chris Hammer books now and I’ve enjoyed the ride. He’s an excellent writer and his stories are engrossing.

What I’m watching: The Walking Dead spinoffs on Stan.

Oh, how I’ve missed the distinctive sound of the zombies!

What I’m listening to: RATS.

Yes, the rats are back and we think they’re even worse than before I had the house treated. I had to wait 48 days from when we had the house done to ring the pest control company to get them to come out and do a (free) second treatment.

It’s annoying. We’re doing all the right things, but our next-door neighbours are not. They don’t seem to mind too much if they see a rat or two in their yard…

Ryan28 is going to attach some sturdy steel mesh to the fences around our boundary, starting with the fence between the druggies’ house and ours.

What I’m eating: Salad from the garden.

I was late getting things in the ground this year as I was off on my trip, but the plants in the veggie garden have clearly decided that now is the time to go nuts and grow.

I’m using a new fertiliser called Troforte that another Aussie blogger raved about, and honestly, things almost seem to be leaping out of the ground, begging me to cut them loose!

I have other fertilisers I’ve bought that are sitting here, but I don’t know if I want to use them any more…

What I’m planning: Christmas Day.

It’s at my place this year – just how I like it.

Who needs a thumbs-up: Ryan28.

Being a mature-age student suits them. You’ve never seen anyone work so hard to get excellent grades.

What has made me smile: Scout.

In the ‘Little House on the Prarie’ books, Ma Ingalls always used to say in times of misfortune, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

Basically what it means is that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, so you can look for the advantage, however small, in what’s befallen you. (One example of this was when their entire corn crop was eaten by blackbirds. The corn was supposed to set them up financially, so now they were absolutely broke. However, they started baking the blackbirds in pies and eating them, so at least they had free protein for the family.)

The rats are bad news for the humans, but Scout has discovered her life’s calling.

Dachshunds were originally bred to be ratters. She hasn’t been in contact with any, but she can hear them skittering around under the house. She’s been on guard for two days, barking and grumbling. She’s on high alert – no rats will make it inside as long as she’s on patrol!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #87.

What’s top of my mind: The Zombie Apocalypse cupboard is full.

I did a big Aldi shop yesterday to stock up on the essentials that we use. I don’t know why, but my spidey-senses are tingling again, so we now have plenty of wine, coffee, pasta, rolled oats, tinned stuff, cheese, non-perishables and everything else.

The freezer is full of meat, both for humans and the little woofs, as well as veggies. When I went to Costco a little while ago I bought lots of dry food for the dogs as well as a slab of toilet paper. Naturally.

If nothing else, it’ll mean that I won’t have to brave the shops very much at Christmas. I just felt that now was the time to ensure that the cupboard was stocked.

Where I’m going: The Ghost Walk.

Yes, the voucher excursions finish on Friday! I think I’ve made pretty good use of that $136. Not a penny was wasted.

Where I’ve been: A Christmas Carol.

Jenna had some free tickets to see this show at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. I took my girl to see it. It was a fun show, with Owen Teale from Game of Thrones as Scrooge. We had a lovely night, meeting under the clocks at Flinders st and walking to the theatre, grabbing some sushi along the way.

What I’m reading: Lots!

I have a few of the 11 library books I brought home with me still sitting beside my bed, and I’ve had notice that the 4th Thursday Murder Club book is waiting for me, so I’m reading these other ones as fast as I can. Below are the two that I really enjoyed.

Holly by Stephen King. I enjoyed this one because I love Holly Gibney’s character. But even I – a MASSIVE mask-wearer until I got home from the UK – found the constant covid references annoying. But the bad characters? LOVED this idea.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn. OMG – What an amazing novel. I absolutely loved it. It’s beautifully written, breathtakingly sad and realistically gritty, especially when the protagonists are in the trenches of WWI. I HIGHLY recommend this one.

Children and Wives by Tony Birch. This is a short read, but my god it packs a punch! It deals with really important issues such as domestic violence, education in the Catholic system, women’s rights etc. It’s simply told. The relationship between the protagonist and his grandfather is beautiful.

I read another chapter of ‘Shakespeare’s Wife’ by Germaine Greer. Perfect insomnia reading. I’ll finish it eventually, but ugh. Dreadfully dull.

What I’m Watching: ‘Bodies’ on Netflix.

I finished this on Monday. It’s an 8 part series that starts off with 4 timelines, but by the end, they’re all tied up together. I enjoyed this one.

What I’m listening to: Traffic outside as people go off to work.

Yeah, I’m not missing that commute at all.

What I’m eating: it was almost takeaway…

Have you ever invited people over for dinner and a few hours before they arrive, the power goes out? David30 and Izzy arrived and just as we were about to jump into the car and look for a takeaway shop with the power on, the lights came back.

Thank goodness for a Skinnymixers quick chicken curry that only takes 20 minutes to cook. We were hungry!

What I’m planning: Christmas Lunch. Or dinner. But it’s at lunchtime.

Every time I go to the supermarket I’m trying to get something for the Big Day. Yesterday I bought a fine triple-smoked ham.

Who needs a thumbs-up: Izzy and Dvid30.

I asked Izzy how married life was going after 7 months. She said, “It’s just the same as it was before we got married. We still like each other, so I guess that’s good.”

What has made me smile: Lazy Housewife beans.

I thought I had heaps of Lazy Housewife beans to plant this year. Turns out I only had 8 saved from two years ago. So I planted them and crossed my fingers that they’d all come up.

Turns out 6 of them have. I’ll be planting more bush beans, but 6 Lazy Housewife plants will give two people more than enough beans to eat over summer.

And you can bet that I’ll be saving more beans to plant! I alternate each year between planting Purple King and Lazy Housewife beans.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #18: June 2023 – Royal Botanical Gardens.

The next excursion on my “use up the voucher I got for Christmas 3 years ago” was a half-hour drive around the Botanical Gardens. Now obviously I wasn’t expecting this to be the most wildly exciting 30 minutes of my life, but it was actually a nice way to spend a beautiful sunny day in the city.

If you squint, you might be able to make out “Merry Christmas” on the walking bridge.

Festive bollards.

Living so close to the station as I do, it’s so easy for me to get to the city. Jump on the train and glide right in. Take a book from my bag, get immersed in it – this time it was Stephen King’s ‘Holly’ – and before I know it, we’re coming into Flinders St station.

I decided I’d walk to where the tour begins. The Tourist Centre for the Gardens is tucked around behind the Shrine, right next to the Observatory, so it’s not a long walk. I set off, deciding that I was going to treat Melbourne like a tourist.

But a few metres down the road, something didn’t feel right. I had my big leather handbag with me, so I could fit my book, my lunch and all the other things that we carry with us, which is the very same bag I travelled with on my last trip for 5 weeks.

I was walking with it slung over my right shoulder. Casually, with no regard for pick-pockets and thieves. That’s not how a tourist wears their bag!!!! At the next traffic light, I slung my shoulder strap across my body, making sure the bag opening was against my hip. I fished out my phone, holding it so that if a photo op presented itself, I’d be ready. My Antarctica Pee Bottle was dangling from my other hand, filled with peppermint water to minimise my cough.

Ahhh. NOW I felt like a tourist! I set off with renewed vigour. Let’s see the sights!

As I walked past the Arts Centre and along St Kilda Road, I was reminded of the morning that I walked along the streets of Santiago in Chile, looking for the Sculpture Park. As I got to the Victorian College of the Arts, I stopped at a bench outside and ate lunch, reading a little more from my book as I did. Then I kept walking.

Looking at the open expanse of green and huge trees on the other side of the road, I thought, ‘If I was a tourist here, I’d think this city was beautiful.’

Trams rattled past and when I saw the Shrine, I crossed the road and walked up the steps to see it.

I remember Mum bringing us kids here. I’ve been back to the Gardens since then, of course, but never back here. I didn’t have time to go in and explore, but I walked around the outside. I still remember seeing the Tomn]b of the Unknown Soldier, but he’ll have to wait for another time for another visit.

Here is the Eternal Flame. The idea behind it is eternal life: if the flame never dies, then so will the memory of those who have fallen.

This statue has two parts. There’s another WWI soldier on the other side.

He’s staring resolutely ahead, standing on a German helmet. He means business.

This is representing the people left behind when a soldier is killed.

This was my favourite one. I remember learning about Simpson and his donkey when I was in primary school. Here’s his story from Wikipedia:

Simpson landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 with the 3rd Field Ambulance as part of the 1st Australian Division. In the early hours of the following day, as he was bearing a wounded comrade on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey and quickly began making use of it to carry his fellow soldiers. Simpson would sing and whistle, seeming to ignore the bullets flying through the air, while he tended to his comrades.

He used at least five different donkeys, known as “Duffy No. 1”, “Duffy No. 2”, “Murphy”, “Queen Elizabeth” and “Abdul” at Gallipoli; some of the donkeys were killed and/or wounded in action. He and the donkeys soon became a familiar sight to the Anzacs, many of whom knew Simpson by nicknames such as “Scotty” (in reference to his ancestry) and “Simmy”. Simpson himself was also sometimes referred to as “Murphy”. Other Anzac stretcher bearers began to emulate Simpson’s use of the donkeys.

Colonel (later General) John Monash wrote: “Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

Other contemporary accounts of Simpson at Gallipoli speak of his bravery and invaluable service in bringing wounded down from the heights above Anzac Cove through Shrapnel and Monash gullies. However, his donkey service spared him the even more dangerous and arduous work of hauling seriously wounded men back from the front lines on a stretcher.

On 19 May 1915, during the Third attack on Anzac Cove, Simpson was killed by machine gun fire.

Private Victor Laidlaw, with the 2nd Field Ambulance, wrote in his diary of Simpson’s death:

Another fatality I found out today – was a private in the 1st Field Ambulance, he had been working between the base and the firing line bringing down wounded on a donkey, he had done invaluable service to our cause. One day he was bringing down a man from the trenches and coming down an incline he was shot right through the heart, it is regretted on all sides as this chap was noticed by all, and everybody got to know him, one couldn’t miss him as he used to always work with his donkey, cheerful and willing, this man goes to his death as a soldier.[18][19]

After I crossed the road to the Botanical Gardens and found the minibus, we all tootled around the gardens for half an hour. I had a fat German tourist sitting next to me on the left, which turned out to be the side with all the best photo ops… just for anyone who might do the same tour one day, so here are some shots that I was able to snap.

This is in the Oak Grove. A massive tree fell, so they left the stump and put lengths of the rest of the tree around as a gathering place.

FINALLY! Something on my side of the bus. I liked the texture of this one.

Part of the Fern Gully. I remember when Scott came out to Australia in 2019??? we walked here, then sat in a gazebo overlooking the gully and had a fine old natter.

Another nice tree trunk.

This arid garden is called ‘The Volcano.’ Can’t say I really see it, myself.


Look at that tree!

First view of the lake. The driver said that it used to be part of the Yarra, but 100 years ago it was separated.

And then back into the hustle and bustle. I thought I’d post of shot of one of Melbourne’s iconic trams.

I jumped on one and was back to Flinders st in a trice. Had a dream run… only had to wait 5 minutes for a train and was back home by 4:30.

All in all, this was a nice little afternoon, making memories. I have a much clearer idea of where things are in the Gardens now, which I’ll be taking advantage of in the future.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #17: Werribee Open Range Zoo – and a surprise.

(When I retired at the end of 2020, I decided that each month I’d go and do something or see something that I never had before, just to keep life fun. And so the “Little Adventures” were born.)

Three Christmases ago, David30, Izzy and Evan27 gave me a voucher for $136 to take a walking tour for myself and a friend. It had a loooong expiry date, so I naturally put it in a safe place and pretty much forgot about it. Every now and then I’d pick it up, look at the expiry date, nod and think, ‘I really should do something about this…’

A couple of weeks ago I found it and saw that the fatal date was DEC 23, 2023.

Ok. The time to procrastinate was done. So I sat down on Saturday, pulled up the website and had a good look. I booked a ghost walking tour for my sister-in-law Eliza and myself in December.

But I still had money left on the voucher.

I saw a trip to Werribee Open Range Zoo. Funny. I’ve been to Africa and done three safari days, but I’ve never been to Werribee Zoo. So I booked a ticket.

I still had $14 left over, so in the interests of ‘waste not, want not’ I found another activity in the city that was $15. I think that 3 activities for $1 is pretty damned frugal!

I arrived at the zoo just after 10 AM and was surprised to see that it was right beside Werribee Mansion. I remember going there YEARS ago… I was still married so that means that it was in the last century! As I walked into the zoo, I saw a tourist info office and thought I’d pop into this on the way out. Maybe the mansion is a National Trust place and I could get in for free. (I still have to make back my money on my membership. England helped a bit, but I’m not there yet.)

As soon as I entered the zoo grounds, a helpful lady escorted me to where the zoo safari tours leave from. They’re free, included with the price of admission. I joined the 10:30 one, which in hindsight was a mistake. There weren’t all that many people at the zoo on a Monday, but the people that were there were mainly mothers with toddlers.

The bus was full of them. Loud toddlers. So loud that I couldn’t hear most of the commentary that the bus driver was saying. When we pulled back to the loading area after an hour spent driving around, the next bus-load had far fewer toddlers on it.

Just an observation that may help someone else in future. Go after the mums have taken their kids before nap time.

So we spent just under an hour driving around massive paddocks, looking at African animals. Of course it was interesting. Who doesn’t love a giraffe or a hippo? But having been on three African safari days in South Africa, this just wasn’t in the ballpark. It was ok, but…

When I saw the ostriches, I had a flashback from South Africa of turning a curve in the road when we were driving in a minibus and seeing an ostrich loping majestically along the side of the road, just going about its business. It was amazing. Say what you will, it’s a little less magical when the animals are penned up in an enclosure, no matter how big that enclosure is.

Plus the kids screaming in my ear didn’t help, either.

The giraffes were good, though. You can see that there are smaller ones in a cage in the background. All of the giraffes here are male and they just had some adolescent males brought down from Dubbo zoo. The three giraffes who live here were incredibly interested in the new arrivals, who will be in the separate enclosure while they all get more familiar with each other.

The zoo is divided into three main parts: the Australian trail, the African trail and the safari tour. Once I got back, I headed off along the African trail. I wanted to see where the gorillas were because there was a keeper’s talk at 1:45 so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss it by getting lost.

After that, I ducked back to the café area for an early lunch. I thought I’d get in and out before the toddlers descended on it.

There’s an extraordinary number of birds who hang around this place, but I’ve never in my life seen so many Blue Wrens. They were everywhere. Tiny little chonks with such vivid colouring.

There were 3 encounters with animals that were fantastic. The first was the lions.

I rounded the corner on my way around the African trail and there they were. The whole family was up near the glass.

There was Mum, Dad and 3 cubs. So close!

We all got excited when one of the cubs sat up, but then it thought better of the whole idea and lay down again.

I mean, look at this.

It’s like he’s posing.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the range of colours in this guy’s coat and mane. Just beautiful.

I walked further along. The place is very kid-friendly, with cutesy little signs like this all around.

The sign didn’t lie. Three of them, having a nap after breakfast.

Fair enough. I like a good nap, too.

In the wild, hippos prefer to eat at night, but obviously this doesn’t happen here. The keepers feed them just before they leave for the day and then again at 7 AM when their shifts start.

I managed to hear this information on the bus before the kids started yelling.

The ‘giant’ tortoises are in the indoor play area. They’re funny creatures who were surprisingly lively.

I had 45 minutes to kill before the gorilla talk, so I ducked into the Australia trail exhibits.

These are Tamar wallabies. They were listed as extinct in the 1920’s, but then a small population of them that people had taken over to an island in New Zealand were found and brought back to Australia. This zoo is part of the breeding program to bring their numbers back.

I liked how the mob of kangaroos was casually hanging out with the emus, while the cassowaries were close by on the other side of the fence.

Just chillin’.

And then I had close encounter #2.

I accidentally walked a little off the beaten track and noticed a few emus at the back of a fence. I quietly walked over, not wanting to spook them, and one came right up to stand beside me.

Checking me out.

My phone just couldn’t properly capture the iridescence of his face and neck and the texture of his feathers.

I don’t mind admitting that I was glad the fence was there. He was HUGE. That beak could do some damage if he wanted. No wonder they won the Emu War.

However, it was something special to be standing so close to this bird, able to look into its eyes and really observe him. He was standing there of his own free will for several minutes before I slowly started to move away.

I had gorillas to go and hear about!

I got to the gorilla enclosure just in time to see them barrelling out of their house and across the ground to get to the food the keepers had put there. For an hour beforehand, the keepers had been inside with them, doing enrichment activities and health checks.

There are 3 gorillas here – a father and his two sons. One of the sons is now the dominant one, and this is the one who came and sat right before the window, claiming all of the goodies.

Close encounter #3.

For a while, he turned his back on us as the keeper spoke.

The thing I found most interesting is that the gorillas communicate not only by vocalising and body language, but by smell. She said that it smells like fried onions, so a Bunnings sausage sizzle is like having a group of gorillas walk through a patch of rainforest.

Having these 3 close encounters made this whole trip worthwhile. The beauty of these animals is incredible.

As I was leaving, I remembered the Tourist Information Office.

I went in and the guy was very helpful. I got the impression that he’d had a slow day. I asked about Werribee Mansion, (NOT a National Trust property, to my chagrin) and then he mentioned that the State Rose Garden was right beside it.

I didn’t even know we had one! I said this and the guy said, “So many people who live here don’t even know it. It makes me angry, because I’m the president. It’s at its absolute best right now. You really should go and see it.”

When he went on to say that it was free – my favourite price – and was only 500 metres up the road, I told him that I was sold. So off I went.

It was stunning.

I thought I’d only be there for 5 or 10 minutes, but I was there for ages, just wandering around and looking at the blooms.

And blooms there were.

I wandered around the outside of the garden, then entered through this arch.


I loved the look of this – like a bridal veil on the ground.

My Gran loved red roses. Every time I see one, I think of her.

I was thinking about her a lot in this place!

The garden beds are laid out in a Tudor-style formal garden, with heritage roses in a border around the perimeter and a section that David Austin himself came out from England to install.

It was mid-afternoon on a cloudy day, as you can see. There were a few family groups finishing off picnics, and a few other people like me, wandering around and just soaking in the atmosphere.

Speaking of the atmosphere, the air was perfumed. It was almost intoxicating.

As I walked around, I came across the David Austin section.

This bee was really enjoying herself here. She was embedding herself within the billowy petals.

Most of the roses in this part of the garden were named.

The guy in the Tourist Information shop said that a year after David Austin came and planted all of the roses, he had to come back and revise the whole garden plan because they didn’t realise how well roses grow here in Australia.

They had to rip around a third of the plants out.

I really liked this one, even though it doesn’t look like a rose. Though I suppose the leaves give it away.

Here’s a similar one in pink.

The pavilion sits in the middle of the garden, with four paths leading straight to it.

This was a totally unexpected thing to see but I’m glad I did it. Anyone in Melbourne who has a few hours to spare should hop on over and take a picnic. What a lovely place to take someone to sit under a tree, drink some wine and just enjoy.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #86: Life is good.

What’s top of my mind: Getting back into the groove of retirement.

2021 was the year that I didn’t work a single day. I loved it. Then, as you know, I was drawn back into the teaching world, where the concerns of the school and the students are paramount and you spend lots of energy each day.

I quit work and then immediately went on a very busy 5-week holiday. Since I’ve been back, I’ve found that I need to take naps nearly every day, just as I did in 2021 when I first retired.

Now I know that the naps will decrease as my body learns to relax properly again. I’m re-learning how to take it easy and to realise that I don’t have to fit all my tasks into the one day.

I have TIME. It’s pretty cool.

Where I’m going: The Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Tomorrow I head off on a minibus tour of the gardens. I’ve lived in Melbourne all my life and I’ve barely set foot in them. Time to see where things are!

This is the third excursion from the voucher I was given 3 Christmases ago. I probably shouldn’t take a nap during this one.

Where I’ve been: My Latest Little Adventure.

I’ve scheduled the blog post for Friday.

What I’m reading: The Tilt by Chris Hammer.

Last week I said that I was reading the Scrublands trilogy by Chris Hammer, and yes. Loved them.

The Tilt is even better. It’s the second book featuring two detectives but I only found that out after I finished this one, so it’s definitely a good stand-alone read. It’s set in a small country town surrounded by forest – which has beautiful descriptions, by the way – and the novel is split into three timelines. Hammer handles this deftly, with the clues and connections all falling into place as the novel progresses.

I was intending to have a very productive day yesterday, but I couldn’t put this book down. If you’re looking for a good book to give as a gift this Christmas, I highly recommend this one.

And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin. This was one of the smaller novels I borrowed to get up to speed again with my Goodreads Challenge. I found it interesting – it’s like a zombie tale but it explores differing views of reality. I found myself thinking of the Cookers and Trumpers…

This is also Australian. 🙂

What I’m watching: The Crown.

Love this show.

What I’m listening to: Trevor Noah.

This is a bit of a cheat because I haven’t listened to any episodes yet, but this morning I found out that Trevor Noah has started a podcast on Spotify, where he interviews interesting people from all walks of life, with differing views.

It sounds like he’s trying to stop the situation that ‘And Then I Woke Up‘ is exploring.

Anyway, it’s called ‘What Now?’ I’ll bet it’ll be interesting.

What I’m eating: nothing special.

Just the usual, though I did lash out and buy a roast pumpkin and falafel wrap for lunch on my Little Adventure.

I don’t mind a falafel.

What I’m planning: a birthday present for my girl.

I have a great idea for them, but it’ll work even better if people club in with me. I’ll be putting a message out for the boys to contact me. Hopefully they haven’t already bought their present. The birthday is 4 days after Christmas.

I love this time of year, with people plotting and planning for gifts to give.

Who needs a thumbs-up: the Little Woofs.

Just so constant and… well… just there. I’m never alone and I love it. They’re my constant companions. I took this shot on a late afternoon as I was on the couch on the front verandah, reading a book with a glass of wine.

What has made me smile: my parsley seedlings.

We use a lot of parsley in summer. The plants we grow here are from seeds that I was given on a community garden walk years ago, when I still lived at the old house. Her grandmother had brought the seeds from Italy in the 1930’s and the family had been sowing the seeds from the seedlings ever since.

I love the continuity of this. I collect seed from these plants every year to keep the tradition going.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #85. Oops, I did it again.

First up, apologies for being a day late again. I just wasn’t in the zone for writing a blog post yesterday. I was too busy buying Christmas presents and booking another holiday…

What’s top of my mind: How nice it is not to have to go to work.

I don’t know about other jobs, but in teaching, every day is divided up into 48-minute chunks. So I can look at the clock on any given workday and see that it’s 10:27 (5 minutes to wrap up the lesson before recess) or 11:30 (ugh. Still 28 minutes to go before period 3 ends…) or, like now – It’s 11:59. (It’s in the early minutes of period 4. W while to go before the lunch bell.)

Instead, I’m at home. I’ve just paused in reading a book to finish off this post and then throw some food in the slow cooker for dinner tonight, to make the most of the solar power. Might even make some bread rolls.

Then I’ll finish my book, start another one, then plant some seedlings and ,maybe squeeze in a nap. It’s all pretty sweet.

Where I’m going: Kangaroo Island.

Many years ago I bought into a time-share, thinking that it would force me to take holidays with the boys. It did for a while, but then as they grew older and I grew busier, I wasted a lot of money by letting my points lapse most years. Now that I have more time to spare, I’m determined not ue the Club to its capacity.

The timeshare I’m with is Accor Vacation Club, where they use a points system instead of the usual “lock into the same week at the same property” model, so it has much more flexibility.

Earlier this year David20 and his brand-new bride spent a week in New Zealand at one of the properties, and I spent a happy weekend away with all of the girls in the family in Ballarat at another place. When I bought the timeshare, I had the 4 small boys to consider so my points bought a week in a 2BR apartment. Now, of course, I get more holidays for my points, as now I only need a 1BR or studio apartment.

Happy days.

The club now has access to a room on Kangaroo Island. I’ve booked 4 nights there in late January. A couple of years ago I stayed on the peninsula nearest to KI and even looked out across the water, watching the ferry go across. In two months time I’ll be going across and seeing it all for myself.

Kangaroo Island is famous for its wildlife and its cheeses, honey and other gourmet titbits. I’ll be taking my car with me so I’ll tootle around and have a look at all the things. Before that, I’ll be staying with Jenna’s parents in Adelaide for a couple of days. It’ll be a lovely way to bring in the new year.

(And it uses up most of the points that are expiring on June 30.)

Where I’ve been: my sister’s place.

Kate and Francis have bought a new puppy. He’s a groodle (Golden Retriever X Standard Poodle) which means he’s going to be a big boy. He’s the size of a large Cavalier at the moment and he’s only 12 weeks old.

Kate is already besotted.

This is young Huxley.

What I’m reading:

Argh! Spending 5 weeks not reading much while travelling and writing lengthy blog posts in the UK and Ireland has put my Goodreads challenge for 2023 in jeopardy. I wanted to read 110 books this year and I’m currently on 90.

Goodreads sent me an email with a list of short books so that I could catch up, so I selected some that I thought sounded interesting and now all 11 of them are waiting at the library for me to pick up.

Yes. Eleven.

Trouble is, I’m reading a set of 3 books that are quite long, but gee I’m enjoying them. I figure that the books on hold will have to wait till Saturday. So what are these books?

The first is called Scrublands, by Chris Hammer. If you liked ‘The Dry’, you’ll like this one. The interesting thing for me is that Chris Hammer was originally an investigative journalist, and so is the protagonist in this series. He knows what he’s writing about, in other words.

I’m halfway through the next one and I have the third one on the nightstand, ready to go. The next couple of weeks are clearly going to be Reading Weeks. I haven’t failed a Goodreads Challenge yet. And I don’t intend to start now.

I’m also reading ‘Shakespeare’s Wife’ by Germaine Greer. I downloaded it as a free pdf years ago on my old laptop and I started reading it in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It’s an excellent book for this purpose… I start to surface at around 3 or 4 o’clock, realise that if I grab my computer I have to read that book and it’s boring. So I roll over and go back to sleep again.

‘The Children’s Bach’ by Helen Garner. I know that Helen Garner is a national treasure. So is Time Winton and I can’t stand his writing either. I’ve tried and tried to enjoy Garner’s work, but I’m officially giving up. I dislike the people she writes about and life’s too short.

So there!

What I’m watching: Sex Education season 3.

I’m still catching up on the tv I’ve missed. I’m really enjoying this show. I’ve got 2 episodes to go.

What I’m listening to: Spotify on my NEW TV!!!!!

My new soundbar comes with a subwoofer. omg.

Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers has never sounded better.

What I’m eating: Rye bread.

My sister Kate and I went to Costco on Monday to look at dog food for Hux. While we were there she went mad. I’ve never been to Costco with a shopper before. I’m a “hunt it, bag it, bring it home” kind of shopper. She’s a “let’s look at every aisle” one.

Our bill was over a thousand dollars. My share was $387, which is normal when I buy the big bags of grain-free dry dog food. I also bought a loaf of rye bread, which I haven’t had for AGES. She bought a couple of packets of raw meat patties for the puppy. The rest was other stuff.

Costco doesn’t have those enormous trollies for nothing!

What I’m planning: how I can be productive and still read twenty books in 6 weeks.

Those shorter novels may be the saving of me. They’re about the length of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm‘, just to give you an idea.

I’ve already bought nearly all my Christmas presents… just have to decide what to get David30! They’ll all be wrapped by the end of today. I love wrapping Christmas presents. I’ll finish ‘Silver’ and start the third book today.

I won’t let this challenge beat me!

Who needs a thumbs-up: my sister.

Turns out I haven’t had 4 sons… I’ve had 3 sons and a daughter. My sister was fantastic when she was told, especially when she saw them and congratulated them on the news.

She’s a good egg.

What has made me smile: the way my lounge room looks now.

What with the rug, the new tv and soundbar… it’s all coming together. We have an old footstool that used to belong to my grandfather that Scout now uses to get up onto the couch. It’s red, so soon I’ll be taking it to the upholsterer to be transformed into an appropriate colour.

It’s nice when a plan comes together.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #84.

What’s top of my mind: My lounge room.

Today I picked up the carpet offcut/rug that I ordered a couple of weeks ago. (This section is a copy-and-paste from the frogblog, so if you’ve already read it, jump to the next answer.)

My sister Kate suggested this, as it’s much cheaper than buying a huge rug to cover the space.

Funny story: I measured the space that I wanted the rug to define (my lounge room) and it came to 3m X 3m. I saw a suitable piece and ordered that size. For some reason, the next morning I decided to measure it again and I realised that it was too small. ARGH! I needed a piece of 3m X 3.2m.

I rang the carpet place in a mad panic. Nope, they’d already cut it. Oh well. It meant that instead of the 3 seater couch having all its legs on the rug, only the front two would.

I went to bed and had a nap. Twenty minutes in, I sat bolt upright. Why don’t I get another piece sewn back on the end? Most of the seam is going to be under the couch anyway!

I rang the carpet place. Yes it could be done. And you honestly wouldn’t notice it’s even there if I didn’t hunt for it and show you.

And the price? Just over $500. A ‘proper’ rug of comparable size is at least 3 times that.

So I’m happy.

Where I’m going: Noble Park

See below…

Where I’ve been: JB Hi Fi

You might have noticed that the couches are facing a bare wall. This is because I’m going to have a 65″ new TV mounted there, with a sound bar mounted underneath. David30 and Ryan28 are going to do the work, which will save me $300 or more.

The room is going to look amazing, especially when I add a bigger coffee table and a lamp or two. (I heard what Neale Whitaker said on The Block – “every living area needs lamps!!!”)

What I’m reading: Everyone on the train is a suspect – Benjamin Stephenson.

This is a cracker! It’s written by the guy who wrote “Everyone in my family has killed someone” that I read last year sometime. I just love how this author writes. There are some literal Laugh Out Loud lines and the way the narrator tells the tale is utterly different to any crime narrator I’ve ever read. Definitely a big THUMBS UP from me.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories – Honestly, don’t bother. This s a collection of stories he complied as being the best of the best. All I can say is – they must’ve scared a lot easier back in his time than we do now.

So Late in the Day – Clare Keegan

This has been released as a novella and it’s beautiful. I read it in one sitting and days later, I’m still thinking about what went on.

What I’m watching: Outlander season 7.

I’ll be finishing this tonight – I have 3 episodes to go. How I love these novels and the tv show!

They have stayed really true to what happens in the novels, which pleases me greatly.

What I’m listening to: a fly’s buzzing.

I have no idea how it got in, but now it’s trying to find a way out. It’s driving me crazy…

What I’m eating: boiled eggs and an avo.

Can’t wait until my avocado trees start producing fruit.

What I’m planning: a drive to Noble Park tonight.

I want to get Ryan28 some jewellery for their birthday, and I think I’ve seen something they’ll like on Marketplace.

Reminds me that I actually went onto Marketplace to put my crazy-legged bureau and little coffee table up for sale. I got distracted.

Anyway, I’m hoping to be home before they are. Shhhh!

Who needs a thumbs up: whoever sewed the extra bit on my carpet.

Whoever they were, they’ve done a sensational job. I’m impressed.

What has made me smile: the way my house is suddenly coming together.

The impetus for all the work being done was the big party last week, but the momentum is still going.

As I get each new thing completed, it makes me so happy that I’ll be spending my retirement days at home in a place that I know is really pleasant to be. So even though I’m spending a lot of money right now, I think that it’ll pay emotional dividends in years to come, as I can relax and enjoy my beautiful surroundings.

Which reminds me… as soon as I press publish, I’d better go and water all of those veggie seedlings.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #83.

What’s top of my mind: Feeling glad I threw the party.

On Sunday we had a belated party for 4 birthdays, which all happened when I was away on my England and Ireland trip. We had 19 adults and 4 kids, spanning 4 generations. The place was jumping, baby!

Ryan28 and I worked like navvies to get this place ready. You’ve already seen how he and David30 worked to get the Man Cave ready – we were also scrubbing the outdoor area, manoeuvring huge terracotta pots into place to make it look inviting and filling them with massive plants. We had a hard rubbish collection to get rid of a couple of outdoor couches that had seen better days, while then filling the spaces left on the front and back verandahs with plants, plants and more plants.

The morning before the party, a couple of extra people suddenly said they were coming, so Ryan28 and I went to Bunnings and bought another trestle table and 6 more chairs. Safe to say that we are now party-ready at the drop of a hat.

It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. Everyone sat out the back and simply enjoyed each other’s company. The dogs, initially a little frightened of the little children, soon discovered that having little people holding food at their eye level was GREAT. Jeff enjoyed it so much that we had to put him away for a while so little Austen could actually finish a sandwich.

I’m hosting Christmas this year so I feel that we’ve broken the back of the work we’ll need to do to prepare. And now we have enough seating to prepare for anyone who wishes to come.

Where I’m going: Alaska and Canada.

I was scarcely back from the last trip when I was booking the next one. Megs, a friend from work, is taking Long Service Leave next year and she asked if I wanted to travel somewhere with her. Seeing as I wanted to knock over my seventh continent sooner rather than later, I suggested Alaska and Canada.

We’re all set to go for 4 weeks in May/June next year. We’re taking a 2-week land trip around Vancouver, seeing Lake Louise, Banff etc, then we’re jumping on a plane and flying to Anchorage to take an expedition ship, similar in size to the one I went to Antarctica on, down the coast and back to Vancouver.

It should be good fun.

Where I’ve been: taking it easy.

Yes, the last two days after the party have been full of reading, binge-watching tv shows and having little naps.

It’s convenient when you don’t have a job to go to.

What I’m reading: The Trauma Cleaner – Krasnostein

I know I’m late to the party with this one, but it came up on my library’s Borrowbox for reading and I remembered years ago that my sister said she really enjoyed it.

I started reading it when I was waiting at the hairdressers yesterday. It’s a little confronting when reading about the abuse that poor little boy suffered, but I can’t deny that it keeps you flicking to the next page!

What I’m watching: American Survivor.

The 45th season. I binge-watched 5 episodes yesterday.

Hey – I was still tired after the party, ok? Don’t judge me…

What I’m listening to: Shandee’s Legacy.

I’m catching up on podcasts and this is one that I’m a couple of weeks behind in. But WOW.

‘Shandee’s Story’ was a podcast that looked at a cold case murder back in 2013, which inadvertently uncovered a huge scandal at the DNA lab in Queensland, where for well over a decade they had been covering up a shockingly badly run laboratory that was missing DNA in thousands of samples.

This meant that since 2008 or so, serious criminal cases in Queensland, such as murders, rapes, sexual assaults and the like, have been going unsolved because the DNA lab had been missing DNA that would have been crucial to identifying the perpetrators.

The people running the lab KNEW THIS. But they thought it was more important to get results out quickly, rather than taking a bit more time and getting ACCURATE results to the police and courts. It beggars belief.

There’s been an enquiry and the lab is now working on a backlog of at least 30,000 samples that have to be re-tested, which will take years.

But it seems that there was still more corruption going on there. It’s uncomfortable listening. It’s awful to think that there are people who would put anything before the proper running of a DNA lab that is meant to find violent criminals and protect the community from them.

What I’m eating: Leftovers.

God I love a leftover! It’s the best thing about entertaining at home. There’s nothing better than sashaying up to the fridge for lunch and dinner and having gourmet food there, already prepared… for free.

What I’m planning: When to do my sky-dive.

I asked the kids for a sky-dive for my birthday and they didn’t disappoint.

Who needs a thumbs-up? ME.

Yesterday I received a job offer from the school for a 4-day-a-week teaching job for term 1 next year.

I turned it down without a moment’s hesitation.

I’m proud of myself. I drew a line in the sand last term before I left for my trip and I’m sticking to it.

What has made me smile: The cake.

I decided to make life easy on myself for this party, given all the renovation and garden work we were doing beforehand, so I went to Costco and bought a cake with our real-life names on it.

When everyone went home, there was still a huge amount of cake left, so I called out to the kids next door and asked if they wanted it. Ryan28 dropped it off (I was already in my pjs by then) and then 10 minutes later, as I was clearing away a few things from outside, little Delila climbed up on the fence and handed me this:

I laughed and laughed!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #82: BUSY.

What’s top of my mind: I’m throwing a party!

While I was away, I had a birthday, David 29 has turned into David30, Evan26 is now Evan27 and Mum had her 83rd. So, because I’m an idiot, I invited around 30 people over to mine to celebrate.

This of course means that the house and garden are in for some serious work.

I’ve had it painted and the shutters have been installed. The back verandah area looked AWFUL. So Ryan28 and I have been sweeping, cleaning, power-washing, and calling in a hard rubbish collection to get rid of things that we don’t need anymore.

I’ve spent a LOT of money on pots and plants to soften up the area and make it inviting. I’ve done the big things for this party – I’ll add some flowers with Christmassy colours for Christmas Day – plus the rest o the shutters will be installed by then.

David30 has come around for 3 nights after work to help Ryan28 finish off the big wall unit for the Man Cave. He also hung many pictures that have waited years for a home. Remember the propaganda posters I bought from North Korea? I went there in April 2018. Yes, 5 years ago. They now have a place on my wall.

Busy, busy, busy. Spendy, spendy, spendy too. But I figure that what I’m doing now will pay dividends for years to come. I want to be proud of the house I live in – especially as now I’m retired, I’ll be looking at it all day.

Where I’m going: probably back to Bunnings.

The photo was taken yesterday, when I was driving home from Daicos Nursery and hoping I wouldn’t have to reverse anywhere, because I couldn’t see out of my back mirror.

I have a carful of pots and potting mix at the moment that I bought at Bunnings today, but I’m sure to need something else before Sunday.

Where I’ve been: to see the kids’ shows at the Melbourrne Fringe Festival.

Evan27 got a Judge’s Pick award, which was a really nice thing to happen.

I’m so proud of these two. It’s been three years since their uni degrees – Evan27 in Acting and Jenna in Musical Theatre – and they’re still writing, creating and performing their work.

We saw both shows on the same night. Evan27’s show finished 30 minutes before Jenna’s started. It was a mad rush to get from one venue to the next. An ex-Theatre Studies student grabbed me in the bar after Evan27’s show ended and I would have LOVED to catch up, but I hugged him, said, “I’ve got to get to Jenna’s show!” and left. Yikes.

What I’m reading: Nothing… yet.

But I saw a lot of books in Ireland and in Target today that I want to read, so I’ve photographed them and have put them on hold at the library.

Won’t be long now!

What I’m watching: Still catching up on tv shows.

It’s going to take me weeks to get back on track. I enjoyed the first 3 episodes of Frasier, though.

What I’m listening to: Evan27’s podcast.

I’ve been driving a lot to nurseries and carpet places and Bunnings, so I’m finally up to this week’s episode. I’ve caught up on this and on The Block. I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

What I’m eating: Tuna Mornay.

An oldie but a goodie. David30 is coming over after work tonight to hopefully finish off the wall unit, so I thought I’d make him a comfort food that is PACKED with lactose. Izzy can’t eat anything like this, so he can sneak a meal in.

What I’m planning: the party and beyond.

I’ve ordered a carpet to be made into a rug for my lounge room. Kate was right – it’s SO much cheaper than buying a rug, plus I wanted a 3m X 3m rug which I was never going to find.

Unfortunately, it’ll be ready next week, which is after the party. It’s ok though – the Christmas day people will see it in all its glory.

(I just hope the dogs don’t throw up on it or something…)

I’ve been looking for ideas for my house and front verandah. This place is going to be amazing to live in. I can feel it in my waters.

Who needs a thumbs-up: The middle boys.

David30 and Ryan28 have worked their behinds off to help me this week. As I type this, Ryan28 is out power-washing the bricks in the backyard, while David30 is coming over for the third night in a row after work to get the Man Cave finished.

They’re good people. I’m glad I made them.

What has made me smile: seeing plans come to fruition.

See those propaganda posters? I knew they’d look good together.

Once all the tools have gone, you’ll see Molly Malone from Ireland with her bright red coat standing there on the shelf. As of yesterday there’s a plant by the door. It all looks fantastic.

This room will one day be full of art from my travels.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s – on a Thursday.

What’s top of my mind: SO MUCH!

I can’t believe I forgot about Wednesday W’s yesterday. I’ve suddenly become really busy with a lot of projects on my hands, so I suppose it’s not surprising. I really want to share with you what I’ve been doing and planning.

Have a look at this photo. I was devastated when ‘Death of a Salesman’ with Anthony LaPaglia was coming to Melbourne, because I was going to be away on my trip the whole time. If there was one actor who was born to play this role, it’s him.

I was at the theatre on Friday night with my friend Megs and she happened to mention that it was still playing, with only a couple of nights to go. Before the show started, I was sitting there on my phone, buying a ticket for the matinee the next day.

IT WAS FANTASTIC. I think Anthony LaPaglia is a terrific actor. (His brother Jonathon is the Australian host for ‘Survivor’ and is even better than Jeff Probst.) The ticket definitely wasn’t cheap but I’ll remember this show for years to come.

Funny story – my sister hasn’t read the play and thought it might have been a good, motivating show to take her sales team to!!!! When she told me I yelled out, “NO!”

Where I’ve been: The Teacher’s Pet – an interview with Hedley Thomas.

When I was in England at the beginning of the trip, Megs messaged me, said she was going to this and had an extra ticket. I messaged back, “I’m in!”

I’ve mentioned this podcast on the blog before, probably a year or two ago. Basically, a woman disappeared from her house on Sydney’s Northern beaches in the early 1980’s – her husband said she just walked out, leaving behind her two young daughters and every stitch of clothing she owned, including contact lenses and glasses. The police barely looked for her and her daughters grew up believing she’d deserted them. If not for this podcast her husband would have gotten away with murder.

He’s released a book, including things that weren’t in the podcast. Of course, you all know that I’ve requested it from my library! I’m 4th in line. It was interesting to hear what he had to say. Some audience members asked some excellent questions, too.

Where I’m going: Back to Flight Centre.

No sooner am I home from the last trip that I’m booking the next one. Megs has long service leave next year and we’re booking a 3-week trip to Canada and Alaska. This will tick off my last continent, which will be a fun thing to do, and we’re sure to see some spectacular scenery.

It seems that I’m booking expensive places to explore… maybe next year I’ll stay closer to home…

I’m also seeing Evan27’s Fringe Festival show and Jenna’s one. They’re on the same night but hers starts 30 minutes after his ends. We’ll be sprinting to get from one to the others!

What I’m reading: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

I just finished this novel and I really enjoyed it. I’ve loved her work in the past – she’s the one who wrote Life After Life, which I’ve never forgotten – and now I’m going to track down the rest of her novels.

What I’m watching: Everything that has banked up while I’ve been away.

My sister-in-law and I text each other while watching The Block, so top priority was to get up to date with this. It helped that there’s a couple on here who are just AWFUL. I can’t imagine what their families must be feeling as they watch this show. But it’s excellent viewing!

I only watch TV in the evenings, so it’s going to take me ages to get up to date with everything.

What I’m listening to: Podcasts and Spotify.

The same banking-up effect has happened with my podcasts. I’m currently listening to my son’s podcast episodes as I drive around, but there are lots of others as well.

I’ve added some of the Irish tunes that the coach driver played for us to Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers on Spotify.

What I’m eating: Nothing special.

I’m hosting a big family get-together next weekend to celebrate 4 birthdays – 2 ending in zeros – so I’m starting to think about what to do for this one.

What I’m planning: LOTS!

  1. Three days after I got back I had my plantation shutters installed. They looked so good that before the guy had left, I was on the phone booking an appointment for the company to come back and measure up the rest of the house. I didn’t know that you could get them for sliding doors.

So the whole house should be shuttered before Christmas. I’m hosting Christmas this year so I’m happy about that.

2. I’ve popped my artwork from the trip off to get framed and when they come back I’ll be hanging everything – including my North Korea propaganda posters that never had a permanent home. The Man Cave is taking shape and hopefully will be looking good before the party. If not – definitely before Christmas.

3. I’m giving my living area a major overhaul. Kate, my sister, suggested going to a carpet place and getting two large rugs made from carpet, one for the Man Cave and one for the lounge. With the shutters going in, although they look lovely, it does mean that the spaces need a bit of softening.

I’ll be getting rid of my current TV cabinet, moving my TV to the Man Cave and getting another TV mounted on the wall at eye level, with a couple of lamps for nicer lighting at night.

4. New handles on the cupboards in the kitchen… it’s all happening!

Who needs a thumbs-up: The nice man from Dawsons and Ryan28.

When I got home, Ryan28 greeted me with the delightful news that we had a rat problem. UGH!!!!!!!

They were eating the bark from my lime trees, they were digging holes under all the fences and had gotten in under the house. I was appalled.

Two days later the house was treated. Turns out they hadn’t made it to the roof, which was great. I also had two outdoor traps installed.

Ryan28 is even more grossed out than me. He actually SAW one in the backyard one day. He’s been doing a massive clear-out of the backyard, ripping out foliage that could offer them any shelter. He’s also lining the back fences with wire fencing to stop them coming in. Added bonus, it’ll stop the dogs from ever trying to dig their way out, not that that’s an issue.

The worst thing? I let all our neighbours know. The next morning I received this text from the woman next door with the loud dogs, hoarder’s house, overgrown garden and lots of little kids:

“Dave told me about the ????
We hadn’t seen any inside until today when I saw one come in through our front door! ????”

She said that she couldn’t believe how confident it looked. (I’m thinking that we may have just located where they’re coming from…)

What has made me smile: The dogs.

They were so happy to see me. And I was missing them too.

This is an old photo. Ryan28 clipped the cavaliers while I was gone and they’re not looking their best at the moment.

Dad joke of the day:

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