Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Wednesday W’s #32.

What’s top of my mind: One of the loveliest things about driving to work.

When I don’t have to be anywhere, my mornings tend to start slowly, with the little woofs and I on the couch all snuggled up, me with my laptop on my lap and a coffee. It’s lovely.

But what’s also lovely is when I’m driving to work along the freeway extension and I see hot air balloons hanging in the air on their way to Moorabbin Airport.

This morning there were only three of them. The clouds were dove-grey, almost blue and the balloons looked as if they were highlighted. It’s a sight I’d never see from my house and I really love it.

Where I’ve been: My parents’ place.

Mum and Dad aren’t having a fun time at the moment. They’re 82 and 84 respectively and they’ve both suffered major health problems recently. Dad has had a hip replacement that isn’t healing well and Mum fell a couple of months ago and fractured her pelvis and also compressed a couple of vertebrae.

Their lives at the moment revolve around going to doctors’ appointments, doing rehab exercises and taking pills. Mum doesn’t drive anymore. My sister Kate drives down from the peninsula every week and takes Mum to the pool for her exercises and then takes her out to lunch and to do some shopping.

Now that I’m down in the area near them every weekday, I’m dropping in a couple of times a week, usually Mondays and Fridays. I figure that it gives a good spread of visitors and we can keep an eye on them.

Where I’m going: Shopping for Antarctica clothes.

Sometime this week I’ll be going to Anaconda to look for waterproof trousers, a waterproof coat, hat and scarf. It’s dawned on my mighty intellect that time is galloping towards my December 1 lift-off date, so I’d better start getting my act together.

I also have to see if I need visas for Argentina and Chile as well.

What I’m watching: Spring coming to my garden.

It’s stressing me out! I’ve been lazy and I haven’t done as much as I should have with regards to getting both my front garden and the veggie garden ready for the warmer weather.

I’m going to have to get my arse into gear this weekend and start throwing fertiliser, autumn leaves and sugarcane mulch around. Before I know where I am, I’ll be wanting to start planting seedlings for our summer crops.

What I’m reading: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

Ugh. I hate ads for books that say “With a SHOCKING TWIST!!!” because more than half the time they’re trying to sell a mediocre book whose ‘twist’ you can see coming a mile off. So if you click on the link, ignore that part, because this book is actually pretty good.

I went in cold, not having seen this ad. I just borrowed it from my library’s eReader app because I needed a book to take with me. I enjoyed it, even with the touch of magic realism that I’m normally not drawn to.

Would recommend.

What I’m listening to: A Family of Strangers – Fiona Lowe.

This is a monster of an audiobook, running at around 16 hours long. It’s good for the commute, though having listened to a lot of Fiona Lowe’s novels this year, I’ve realised that she’s certainly very fond of using a metaphor! Her books are packed with them!

Her books are great for getting involved with a community and delving deep into the characters’ lives.

What I’m eating: Cauliflower Cheese and Macaroni Cheese.

Ryan27 has been living at a friend’s place for the last few weeks and he’s coming home today. Cauliflower Cheese is his favourite meal. He even requests it on his birthdays when he could have any meal he wants!

Tome30 hates cauliflower cheese with a passion, but he’s partial to macaroni cheese… both are exactly the same dish with just the main ingredient substituted. I even bake them in the same dish.

So tonight, I’ll be keeping both guys happy and having a super easy meal prep as well. These childhood dishes are the gift that keeps on giving.

What I’m planning: A hot air balloon ride.

It occurred to me as I was looking for the photo at the top of this post that I should make one of my Little Adventures next year a hot air balloon ride. I won’t do it this year – Antarctica will be my focus – but next year? A different story.

When I took a helicopter ride two years ago when I stayed in Albury, I knew that every time I saw a helicopter in the sky from that time on, I’d think back to that experience.

Might be nice to be able to do that when I see early morning balloons on the drive into work. I think it’d certainly sweeten the morning.

Who needs a good slap: Me, for leaving the hatch open on the car when it rained.

It’s been a week since I discovered that my boot was awash with water. I’m STILL having to leave the hatch open, with the spare tyre taken out and leaning against the back, whenever I’m home and the weather is fine. I thought I was nearly finished until I got home yesterday and checked. The carpet underneath the tyre was still wet.

ARGH.

What has made me smile: the flowers Tom30 bought me.

Five weeks ago Tom30 bought me a bunch of yellow daisies to thank me for the help I gave him when he was buying his unit. FIVE WEEKS later the flowers are still going strong.

I can’t believe it! I’ve trimmed the stalks a couple of times and we change the water in the vase when we think of it, but those daisies are still as cheery as they were when he brought them home.

It’s a miracle.

Dad joke of the day:

Went to a restaurant dressed as a tennis ball.

Got served immediately.

The Sunday blues.

Well, well, well.

Here’s an emotion I never thought I’d feel again.

When I retired in 2020 I put away all thoughts of going back to work as a regular gig. I had it in my head that maybe, if the stock market fell, I might do some casual teaching work, but aside from that, I was done with full-time work and all that goes with it.

Over the last couple of terms, I’ve done a lot of casual teaching days, which I fell into for a variety of good reasons.

Then, as you know, I picked up a 6-week contract to teach a full-time load for a friend who was taking Long Service Leave. That contract turned into 7 weeks.

So I’m now in the third week.

Yesterday after lunch, I started feeling down. I suddenly had no energy and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and read.

I started sighing a lot and feeling vaguely aggrieved with my lot.

I forced myself up off the couch and ironed some work clothes for the week ahead – got to be prepared!! – and made some cheese and ham scrolls for Tom30 and my work lunches.

*sigh*

I took my water bottle from the dishwasher, filled it and put it out in the car. Took a couple of library books out there too, along with a coat. Fewer things to do tomorrow morning when I’m racing around!!

*sigh*

I fixed a problem with my quilt and started making dinner. Bolognese, because with only two of us at home we can have the same thing tomorrow night – to make it easy for me when I come home later than usual after going to see Mum and Dad after work.

*sigh*

It was about 5:50 when I opened the front door to take some recycling out. It had been raining earlier and the sky was a steely grey.

All except for the magnificent rainbow that stretched like a drawing along the length of my street in front of me. It was as if it had been designed to be viewed specifically from my front door.

Instantly, my spirits lifted.

I knew that come Monday morning, I’d enjoy being at school, teaching the kids and seeing some friends. Everyone is cheery, with only the occasional sulky adolescent having a bad day, and the time will slip by very pleasantly. Hell, there’s even a morning tea planned to celebrate the principal of this campus getting the job as principal of the whole school next year, though I’d be having yard duty then. I still might be able to grab a cupcake on the way out.

I knew that it wasn’t the job that’s the problem. It’s the lack of freedom.

Having the whole of 2021 off, even with the huge lockdowns that Melbourne had, was still the happiest year of my life. I had total control over how I spent each minute of every day. My kids are grown and I have no grandchildren, so the only beings that have any real pull on me for day-to-day needs are the little woofs. Obviously, I love them more than my kids- who wouldn’t? – so they’re no hardship to look after.

A whole year of total freedom. Think of that. I was never bored because as soon as I was doing an activity that began to pall, I’d simply stop doing it and move on to something else without giving it much thought. I knew that if the job wasn’t complete, I could always revisit it tomorrow. After all, I have a lifetime of tomorrows stretching in front of me.

Every morning, as my feet hit the floor, I’d decide what I felt like doing that day. Would it be a quilting day? A gardening day? A reading day? A bit of each? Would I take the dogs to the beach or for a walk to the river? Would I visit a friend or stay at home like a happy hermit?

It was lovely. It was also lovely to contemplate that I (touch wood) have DECADES of this freedom ahead of me. I assume that one day I’ll have grandkids that I might want to help look after, but until that happens I’ll still have YEARS of totally selfish freedom to get out of my system.

So it’s been interesting to observe how 35 weekdays blocked out of my calendar affected my Sunday afternoon mood yesterday. Keeping in mind, too, that this is with a job I enjoy and a school with truly well-behaved kids. How would I be feeling if I hated the job I agreed to do? I’m already thinking that Wednesday next week is the halfway mark – coincidentally a payday – and then I’ll be on the downhill slide to the school holidays. Not long to go!

Of course, as soon as the alarm went off this morning I was back in the swing of it. My weekdays are a “same old, same old” routine that leaves no time for morbid self-pity and introspection. It’s up and at ’em time! My morning is like a ticking time bomb until I’m out the door.

And each weekday at work brings its own little gifts. Half an hour ago I noticed that the yard duty I was supposed to have at recess has been given to a CRT, so I can now attend the celebratory morning tea. Yay!

So I guess what I’m saying is that getting the Sunday Blues was like having a nasty backwash from the past wash over me. I’d forgotten about it, but all of a sudden there it was. I’m also very well aware that I could have said no to this contract – this is something that I entered into voluntarily and for very good reasons. I’m not really regretting taking up the offer. It’s just that now I know that there’s a different way to live…

All I can do is press forward, knowing that in the grand scheme of things these next 5 weeks are just a blip and will slip by very quickly. I’ll look back on these weeks and I know without a doubt I’ll be glad I worked. This is the right thing to do right now.

This time constraint is only temporary. But it’ll be interesting to see if this happens every week, or if it was just a one-time thing. Hopefully the latter. I can’t rely on a rainbow to lift my mood every Sunday evening.

That’d be unreasonable.

Dad joke of the day:

Guess who I bumped into on the way to the opticians?

Everyone.

Wednesday W’s #31.

What’s top of my mind: Do I go to Aldi after posting this?

I’ve pulled out some roast pumpkin from the freezer to make a pasta/pumpkin bake for dinner, but I’ve just realised that we don’t have any ham.

*sigh* I don’t feel like making this a ‘spend’ day.

Where I’ve been: Having a nice goss in the staff room.

Today was a particularly nice day for socialising. Had some great convos in both recess and lunch.

There are some things that I’m regretting about choosing to work full-time for 7 weeks, (such as alarms in the early morning and having to mark some projects), but the conversations with other teachers are great.

Where I’m going: to some Sex Ed classes.

Yep. The year 9s are having a day off from regular classes and they’re doing this instead. I’ll be supervising a class on ‘Consent’ and then a class on ‘Porn vs Reality.’ The other class they’re all doing is on contraception, but I was teaching my year 8s then.

Should be fun.

What I’m watching: The Block.

I absolutely love this show. I’m so happy it’s back on. I’m even prepared to sit through the ads on free-to-air television to watch it – THAT’S how much I like it.

What I’m reading: The Things We Keep – Sally Hepworth

I’ve just started this. It’s her second (I think) novel and it’s set in a care home for Alzheimers. I think I’m going to like this one.

What I’m listening to: Aussie Firebug Matt Ridley podcast.

I’m only part-way through this episode but I’m loving it. Matt Ridley is the author of ‘The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves‘, which is a book I’ve never heard of before but it’s one I’ll definitely be buying.

I’ve always said that one of the secrets to happiness is being a student of history. When you know how rough life was back in the ‘good old days’, then how could you NOT be happy to be born in the here and now?

For example: look at me. Where in history could I, a woman, be educated; own my own property; be able to escape an unhappy marriage through a divorce; gain custody of the boys after that divorce; have a career that enabled me to comfortably support us without having to rely upon a man’s wage; to be able to survive a difficult childbirth (Tom30 and I would’ve died in the olden days, without a doubt) and go on to have 3 more healthy children through caesarians; be one of the common folk yet still have traveled to 5 continents of the world (so far) and be able to retire early and look forward to decades of freedom?

Not many women in history were able to do all of this. Probably not many men either, if it comes to that.

Ridley talks about how, over the course of history, human life has been getting better. He’s preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned, obviously, but I’m absolutely enjoying how he speaks and the way he chooses his words. It’s a pleasure to listen to.

I’ll definitely be buying ‘The Rational Optimist‘. It sounds like the sort of book I’ll want to have around.

What I’m eating: Stewed fruit from the freezer.

Remember how in the summer I was stewing lots of fruit and freezing them in ice cubes? I’m reaping the rewards in the depths of winter. Stewed fruit with my oats in the morning… mmm mmm!

What I’m planning: killing rats.

Does anyone know a good way to kill rats without poisoning them? I don’t want to throw rat bait under the house, have a half-dead rat get out into the yard and have the dogs find it.

The last thing I want to do is poison my own dogs!

Tom30 saw a rat go under the house and something is digging up my spuds. I hate Maths, but it doesn’t take much to put two and two together with this one.

I’d appreciate any tips to get rid of the rats without harming the little woofs. 🙂

Who needs a good slap: the rats.

Hate hate hate rats.

What has made me smile: Seeing Evan25’s play on Saturday night.

Both photos on this post are from Evan25’s play ‘The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti’. He played a piano-playing ghost.

Ryan27 and I went to see him. It makes me so happy to see my adult kids performing in the areas that they’re passionate about and are good at.

It makes everything worthwhile.

Dad joke of the day:

Do bad things come in threes?

So as you know, last week I not-so-cleverly put my phone in the washing machine and put it through a full wash cycle. Even though front-load washing machines are said to be gentle on clothes, it turns out that they’re not very gentle on phones.

The next day I went to the Apple store at Southland and replaced it. At first I was shown the brand-new editions, with the fabulous cameras. The woman serving me was very enthusiastic about how great my photos in Antarctica would be. I was very tempted… but just as I opened my mouth to say yes to a $1,300 phone, it occurred to me that if I hadn’t washed my phone, I’d be taking my year-old SE to Antarctica and I’d be perfectly happy with it.

So I walked out with an $800 phone, saving myself $500.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was driving home from work when suddenly a strange woofling noise filled the car.

‘That better not be a flat tyre,’ I thought. But it was.

The RACV came in under 10 minutes, which was a surprise. Quickest response time ever! When he changed my tyre, putting the dinky little spare tyre on in its place, I asked him to have a look at the back left tyre.

“I keep getting notifications on my dashboard that it’s under-inflated, but whenever I pump it up the notification stays.”

He had a look and spotted something metal embedded in the tread.

“You’d better have the tyre place take a look at it,” he said.

I hate driving with a spare tyre on the car, so I drove until I found a tyre place. I ordered two new tyres and was in the waiting room, quietly reading, when the guy came back.

“You’re very lucky,” he said. “That back left tyre had a puncture along the side of it. I don’t know how it hasn’t blown out by now.”

Oof. Maybe the “bad luck” of having a flat tyre was actually good luck in disguise? Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

But still, the question remains. So far 2022 has been a very expensive year, what with appliances dying, children needing huge cash injections to buy houses and me doing silly things like washing phones. So far I’ve spent nearly 28K MORE than I’d usually spend – and that’s not including my trip to Antarctica.

So I’m classing any unexpected expense as bad luck.

We all know bad luck comes in threes. It’s a scientific fact.

So is it: 1 Washed phone 2 A tyre 3 Another tyre?

Or is it: 1 Washed phone 2 Replacing tyres 3 Something yet to be seen????

I’m really hoping it’s the first one. Keep your fingers crossed! (I’m sure that science says that crossing fingers helps bring good luck.)

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a medieval spy?

Sir Veillance.

What my phone has taught me about Financial Independence.

Yesterday I got to work and realised that I left my phone at home.

That wasn’t a big drama – I prefer to surf the internet on a laptop rather than my phone. I only use the phone for calls, texts and photos anyway. So I got on with my day, knowing that I’d pick it up from my bedside table when I got home and catch up on anything I’d missed.

But when I got home it wasn’t there. The bedside table was bare.

I knew it should be there. I’d woken up to the alarm that morning. I started looking through the house.

Nothing.

I went out to the car, thinking maybe it’d fallen out of my bag in the morning.

Nothing.

I messaged Ryan27 on FB, asking him to call my number.

He messaged back, saying that it went straight to voicemail.

Great.

Well, I couldn’t keep on looking for it. I had things to do. I decided to hang out the washing I’d put on before leaving for the day.

My first clue that something was badly awry was when I opened the washing machine door and saw my sodden phone case sitting on top of the washing.

My phone was lying underneath all of the clothes. Screen smashed, totally dead. As a doornail.

I’ve been an Apple person for YEARS. Yes, they’re expensive as all get-out, but I like the way they synch and I’m used to the way they work.

I’m like the people in the meme at the top of the page; when I get a new phone, I keep it for at least 5 years. Hell, one of my Apple laptops is a 2010 Mac that I bought secondhand 6 years ago. She’s still going strong.

So when I bought a brand new phone LAST YEAR for around $800 I was cool with it. By the time I was ready to trade it in I’d have had many years of photos, texts and calls for around $160/year. Still a biggish cost, but not unreasonable.

Except when I have to buy another one a year later. Suddenly that $800 phone has become very expensive.

I won’t deny that I was very sad last night. What with Tom30’s house deposit, the expensive appliances that died, helping out a couple of the other kids and now this – it’s been an expensive year. Around 28K of extra expenses… not counting my Antarctica holiday in December. The last thing I needed was for this to happen!

The worst thing was that I had no one to blame but myself.

I hate that.

When I posted about what I did on FB, I had people message me, offering old phones I could use until I could get myself a new one.

That’s when it struck me.

Being financially independent means that wrecking my phone is an inconvenience, not a financial tragedy. I’ll be without a phone for another 5 hours. By 4 PM I’ll be walking through the Apple shop doors, looking to buy a replacement.

Being financially independent means that I have the money to pay for it.

Will I be happy about having to do it? Hell no! Financial independence doesn’t mean that people suddenly become happy to throw money away.

But will I be glad that I put in the work for all those years to get to a point where I can simply walk into a shop and replace it without having to stress about the money?

Hell yes.

When people think about being financially independent, it’s the big things they visualise. Retirement, overseas trips and a paid-off house. And yes, those things are there for the taking.

But the enduring joy of it is actually the way it smooths the ups and downs of life – especially the downs. It turns out that the old saying, “If money can fix it then it isn’t really a problem” is true… but only if you have the money to fix it.

Becoming financially free is not easy. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Dad joke of the day:

My boyfriend and I are in a serious relationship. We haven’t laughed for 2 years.

Wednesday W’s #30.

What’s top of my mind: how nice some people are.

I’m taking classes for a friend of mine who has gone on Long Service Leave. Yesterday she emailed me: “You may have noticed that there’s a clear pencil case with some items in it. I forgot to tell you that this is for Joe Lunchbucket (not his real name) because he never has any equipment for class. Please give it to him at the start of class and collect it at the end.”

It had a pen, coloured pencils and his Geography workbook.

Obviously this is something that she quietly does for this kid to make sure that he’s able to succeed in her subject. What a lovely thing to do.

Where I’ve been: walking the dogs.

Ryan27 is away from home for a couple of weeks and Tom30 and I are both working, so the poor little woofs have been Home Alone. It’s good for their mental health to have a gallop around the block when I get home.

It probably isn’t too bad for my mental health, either.

Where I’m going: Antarctica.

I know you all know this, but I told a year 8 Geography class that I was going in December and they lost their shit. Seriously.

It was great.

What I’m watching: Hunted.

I NEVER watch things on free-to-air tv – except for Survivor and The Block, obviously. But this show has sucked me in. Thank goodness for catch-up tv though. I’d hate to be stuck watching something on someone else’s schedule.

It seems like a very silly show, but it’s interesting to see how easily the hunters are able to track people down using digital means. CCTV and other digital pinging are everywhere.

I saw that The Block starts again on Sunday night. I’m so happy. I love a good reno filled with drama.

What I’m reading: More Sally Hepworth.

I’ve just started ‘The Mother’s Promise‘ and it’s set in the US.

This took me unawares. I had to change the accents in my head from Aussie (proper speaking) to American (celebrity accents.) I read somewhere that she was always made to set her novels in America until she became successful, then she was able to set them in Melbourne instead.

I guess I’m reading an early novel.

What I’m listening to: the quietest year 8 class I’ve ever seen.

It’s period 6. There’s only 9 minutes to go.

Usually even the best behaved class is getting a little restive. But this group of kids?

Some of them have finished the work and they’re talking. But quietly talking. It’s all whispers and quiet giggles. I tell you, it’s SO worth driving here from The Best House in Melbourne every day, even though there’s a secondary school at the end of my street. These kids are incredible.

What I’m eating: out of the freezer.

I’ve slowly been emptying the meat section of the freezer. I bought a huge heap of chicken drumsticks and parcelled them out into meal-sized lots of 3. Then Tom30 moved back in, which mucked up that little system. Suddenly we’re going through TWO meal’s worth of drummies instead of one.

Annoying.

Tonight is spaghetti bolognese with mince from the freezer. With Ryan27 gone, there’ll be enough for dinner tomorrow night as well, which makes me happy.

Give it another week or two, the freezer will be clear and I can go and buy another big lot of meat. Buying this way means that, over the long run, I save a heap.

What I’m planning: how I’m going to get through 6 weeks of full-time work.

Oof.

I mean, I know I can do it. I did it for nearly two decades, after all.

But my sweet, sweet freedom…

Those penguins, seals, whales and icebergs had better be worth it!

Who needs a good slap: The boys who kept pressing the ‘open door’ button on the lift as I was in it wanting to go up.

Ended up having to take the damn stairs. Two floors aren’t great when you’re wearing a mask and you have to get to class on time.

What has made me smile: three year 9 boys.

I was doing yard duty down the cold, boring side of the new campus. As I rounded a corner, I saw 3 boys acting a little suspiciously. They were obviously leaping around. There was a big brick thingamijig and I thought, ‘If they’re trying to jump over that, I’m going to have to stop them. Accident waiting to happen.’

Then I saw that they were competing in a long jump competition in the woodchips on the garden behind the generator. That’s using great initiative on a campus with hardly any outdoor space. I walked away smiling and left them to it.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #15: Creswick and Ballarat. July 2022.

Finally – the girls’ weekend arrived! Working towards Financial Independence involves a lot more things than money. One of these things is having the means and the freedom to set up experiences for the people we love. The timeshare that I bought many years ago and then barely used is now really coming into its own.

This timeshare runs on points, so I’m not tied to just one place at the same time every year. Since I retired I’ve been on 6 holidays and have used it to give a week away in New Zealand for David28 and Izzy’s honeymoon next year. I’m determined to never waste a point again. Now it was time for the girls’ weekend at the Sebel in Creswick.

I went up to the townhouse in Creswick a couple of days early, as I had to book 4 nights to secure the weekend that we wanted. On Friday, I was sewing on the 5,000+ piece quilt, (hereafter named ‘The Sea Glass quilt’) when I glanced at the tv. A HUGE kangaroo was reflected in it.

Sure enough, on the other side of the driveway was a big old man roo. I didn’t go near him… those guys can tear a hole in your abdomen if you annoy them… but I took some photos.

You know you’re in the country when there’s a roo outside your house!

The girls arrived on Friday evening and we all settled in. Izzy – David28’s fiancee; Jenna – Evan25’s girlfriend; and Ashley and Kate – my nieces. They’re all really great girls, and are all pretty much the same age, ranging from 25 – 22, so they all have lots of things in common.

After a night spent talking and sipping a few bevvies, we awoke the next morning hungry for adventure. Jenna met Evan25 when they were both doing their acting/music theatre degree in Ballarat, so she was our official tour guide.

The first stop was a patch of bush in Blackwood. Apparently it’s Evan25’s favourite place in all the world, which is a bold claim. Then again, he hasn’t seen a whole heap of the world yet, to be fair.

It’s a pine forest with lots of walking tracks/BMX paths through it.

Ash and Jenna decided to race to the top of one of the bike jumps.

We were walking along and someone saw that a cubby house had been built in one of the trees. It had fake grass, a chair and a pole to slide down.

Noice!

I took this photo of Izzy to send to David28, to show him that his beloved was an intrepid woman of adventure.

(In reality, we bonded over how unfit we were. The others were racing around like mountain goats while we were sucking in air and trying not to sound as if we were dying.)

A cave. Jenna warned us that we didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t ask for further information.

The next stop was Ballarat, to a trash and treasure place called ‘The Old Mill’. Next door was an ugg boot shop. Ash mentioned that she was looking for new uggies so we went in.

She found the perfect pair on the bargain table outside.

Kate found a pair of slip-on slippers inside.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone so delighted by a purchase. She was giggling and skipping around like a 3 year old! Definitely an awesome souvenir!

Then we ducked into The Old Mill.

As I was wandering around I saw this massive hexagon quilt. It was double sided, with no filling in between.

And hand-sewn. It must have taken some poor woman YEARS to complete.

Jenna found a most fetching hat to try on.

Everyone but Izzy and I bought something. Izzy has a wedding to pay for and I’ve just given all my money to Tom30, (plus there’s Antarctica coming up!) so we were very restrained.

Good on us.

After all of that, we needed some lunch, so we went to a dumpling bar near where Jenna and Evan25 went to uni.

The lunch special. Not bad for $15.

After that, we went back to the town of Creswick to see what was happening there. It used to be a typical country town, but in the years since I brought the boys here for a getaway it’s become a bit bougie and trendy.

We went to a beautiful clothes shop and what was supposed to be a hardware-type place but had the most bewildering range of utilitarian and gift-shop items that you could imagine. It was obviously trying to please both the locals and the tourists.

The sisters and Jenna bought some beautifully scented bath salts. Did I mention that the apartment we were staying at had a couple of massive baths in each room? So big that you could almost swim laps.

Ashley and Kate decided that they were going to have a bath. This is the shot I sent to my sister.

This weekend was NOTHING like the weekends I’ve spent away with my boys. Conversations about eyebrow threading, hairstyles, fashion, home decor… it was a whole new world.

Ashley decided that part of her contribution to the weekend was to make mulled wine in the thermomix. After dinner on Saturday, as we were settling down to a night of card games, drinking and laughter, she revved up the thermie… I made her use the old ‘antique’ version… and she served us a glass each.

It was so good!

Two girls brought soju.

People who’ve read my account of when I went to North Korea will know that we downed many a bottle of soju while on that tour! I used to say that my lifetime of drinking had prepared me well.

Soju in Australia has many different flavours, which tones the original flavour down. Drinking soju isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s VERY strong. We decided to have a taste test, with Jenna pouring a smidgeon into our glasses and we rated them. Watermelon, pomegranate and peach were the best, though the peach made me think of peach schnapps.

However, I was the only one who could drink the original flavour, which honestly tastes like rocket fuel. The girls couldn’t stand it, but it made me nostalgic. This was the only soju we had back in North Korea. I ended up taking the bottle home with me. No way I was going to let that little taste of the happy times in the DPRK go to waste!

And to finish – here’s one of the games we played. So much laughter and fun!

I decided to try and get the girls together when it dawned on me that despite being part of the family for 4 years, Jenna and Izzy had NEVER had a conversation without some or all of the boys being around.

That’s just ridiculous.

I invited the nieces for a couple of reasons.

First – the apartment sleeps 5, so it made sense. Frogdancer Jones always likes to get more bang for her buck.

Secondly – and most importantly – women are the glue that holds families together. If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you’ll know that I always have a view for the long game. These four young women are going to be moving the family through into the future. It makes sense for them to get to know each other on a deeper level than merely “meeting for Christmas.”

This weekend turned out even better than I hoped. I mean, I knew we’d have a good time. None of the girls are bitches (thank God!) and they already get along.

It was a weekend of conversations, laughter and bonding. We had so much fun. All 5 of us went home knowing everyone so much better, which made me very happy. Jenna and Kate live near each other and they were making plans to meet for dinner with their partners and to see each other’s houses. How lovely is that?

Now they’re all REALLY looking forward to David28 and Izzy’s wedding, because there’s a deeper connection than just being David28’s cousins.

Kate and Ash got to spend ‘sister time’ together, which is really special once long-term partners enter into the picture. My sister was so happy that they got to do this.

We know that Izzy is a smiling assassin in games of strategy and Kate and I are excellent partners in wordplay games.

We know that Jenna is never happier than when she’s got a task to organise and Ash is that rare breed of sports fan who can actually watch a game of footy with the sound turned down. Thank goodness. I hate the sound of sports commentary.

We also know how much they all love their partners. There was no whingeing about them at all, which is a fair feat seeing as they’ve all been with their partners from 2 – 5 years. They seem to have chosen well… even the ones who chose MY sons!

I knew that we’d all get along, but this was next level. I was so happy to spend time with them all and have time without partners and other family members diluting the mix. I think my family is so very lucky to have them all in it.

They were asking if we could do this again next year. I think that an annual girls’ weekend could be a truly excellent tradition to have…

Dad joke of the day:

What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac?

A literalist takes things literally.

A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

Wednesday W’s #29.

What’s top of my mind: Today’s the day!!!!

My car is packed, I have a shopping list of food to buy, and after work today I’ll be pointing the car towards Ballarat. The Girls’ weekend is fast approaching!

I’m heading off a couple of days earlier than the girls, so I’m looking forward to some introvert quiet days before they all start rolling in on Friday night.

Where I’ve been: avoiding Ryan27.

Last Tuesday Ryan27 tested positive in a RAT test. ARGH!!!! Right before this girls’ weekend that I’ve been planning for months. Fortunately, he’s a reasonable man and isolated in his room. No real hardship for a gamer!

I RAT tested every day and picked up all the work I could so I’d be out of the house as much as possible. I was so worried that I’d have to miss out on the trip, but all was well. I mask up all the time when I’m at work so I did the same thing at home.

All’s good. I avoided getting the spicy cough. 🙂

Where I’m going: To Coles.

I’m in the middle of a Flybuys challenge to spend $50 at Coles for 4 straight weeks to get $50 free groceries. I figured I may as well shop at Coles for the dinners and snacks I’m providing. I like killing two birds with one stone.

What I’m watching: a very good year 9 Geography class.

Their teacher has left an incredibly detailed lesson plan for them to follow and they’re quietly working their way through it.

Every conversation is about how to locate things on the maps, or what to put on the keys, etc. Sometimes this place is an absolute dream to teach in!

Since writing this, I have another year 9 class in front of me. This one is a different kettle of fish…

What I’m reading: The Hate You Give.

I’ve been seeing a lot of kids reading this over the last few years – it’s a catchy title! I thought I’d give it a read to see why it’s so popular. I’m only just past the first chapter but I think I’m going to like it.

What I’m listening to: Home Fires by Fiona Lowe.

I’ve got a long drive in front of me today and all of my podcasts have been listened to. This is a good long audiobook so it should keep me entertained during the drive and when I’m sewing on the 5,000+ piece quilt.

I’m working my way through her novels, one audiobook at a time.

What I’m eating: Vegetarian meals on Friday and Saturday.

Jenna, Evan25’s girlfriend, is vego, so the catering is planned with her in mind.

Friday night’s meal will be Mushroom Stroganoff and a hearty Vegetarian Lasagne will follow on Saturday night. Both are Thermobexta recipes, so of course, I’ve packed my two thermomixes to bring with me. The boys left at home have a thermomix each, so they won’t be left hungry.

What I’m planning: nothing… yet!

We’ll see what the weather holds for Saturday. It looks like it won’t be raining, but of course, being Ballarat, it’ll be damned cold!!!

Who needs a good slap: the idiot who nearly T-Boned me yesterday.

I was on my way home from work, turning right at the intersection of Warrigal and Centre Roads. I glanced away from the red light, looking at a garden on the other side of the road. I glanced back and the green turning arrow was on.

Just as I lifted my foot, someone ran the red light directly to the right of me.

If I’d started moving the instant the arrow turned green as I usually do, I’d have had the front wiped off my car for sure. Or worse.

Phew! I love my car… I don’t want her to be all bent out of shape. Especially the day before a road trip.

What has made me smile: Guesstimating how much petrol to buy at Costco.

The fuel gauge was on a little less than half full. The last time I filled up, it was on the way home from Sydney and a full tank cost me $119.

But Costco petrol is quite a bit cheaper…

I punched in $60.

The tank is now exactly full. Nailed it!

Dad joke of the day:

Yesterday I ate a clock. It was very time-consuming, especially when I went back for seconds.

Don’t believe a word of it!

When people whine and say that “kids should be taught personal finance in schools!!! Wahhh wahhh!” you can tell them to pull their heads in.

This was the lesson plan of the first class I taught today. It’s a year 9 class that every kid takes, where they learn about our political system, how to manage money and invest, careers advice, the media and lots of other things.

As you can see by the lesson plan, kids ARE being taught real-life lessons about money and how to handle it.

The hook for the lesson was a 3 minutes news report that I played on the interactive whiteboard. It was about Afterpay and similar companies, and how people are running amock with it in the short-term and then living to regret it in the long term, as the levels of debt they rack up make it impossible to get mortgage loans from banks.

Then they went on to what the lesson plan outlined. Learning about different investments and going on to “Consider the ideas behind investments and practice applying the investments in a reasonable way.

This is all real-life stuff. About money and how to evaluate the best way/s to use it.

Kids ARE being taught about finances. They always were.

The only reason people think that they weren’t taught how to manage money in school is because they weren’t interested in the subject when they were teenagers and so they didn’t retain the knowledge. (A bit like me and mathematics.)

We’re preparing the kids for the future! Anytime someone tries to whip up anger against teachers/schools for not doing this, they’re talking through their… um… hat.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a wolf who has everything all figured out?

Aware wolf.

Wednesday W’s #28.

What’s top of my mind: ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I was so happy this morning, when the news came out that masks are now back in schools. The principal walked around to every class and gave them out to every kid who . As many of you would know, I’ve been wearing a mask at work from the moment I step out of my car to the moment I get back into it at the end of the day, only removing it to eat my lunch.

For the first couple of hours there were masks everywhere. It was lovely.

Then parents apparently started to complain, so an announcement went out at lunchtime that masks weren’t ‘mandatory’, just ‘recommended.’

Now, most of the kids have ditched them and we aren’t allowed to query why they aren’t wearing them. And people wonder why covid is still around.

Where I’ve been: the sewing room.

I had a 3 day weekend, due to the school having Athletics Day on Monday, so I made progress on my 5,000 + piece quilt. As you can see in the photo above, I’m now just over halfway finished.

I’ve been a bit spotty with my work on the quilt, but I’m determined to finish it. This year.

Where I’m going: to work.

Antarctica is proving to be a little expensive, along with wedding and house payments. I’m lucky that a) the work is being offered, b) I like the work and c) the kids are lovely. I’m happy that I don’t have to tap my investments at the moment. I’m happy to wait for the sharemarket to recover.

What I’m watching: Becoming Elizabeth.

I’m a Tudor tragic, which is why I loved my trip to the UK in 2015 so much, especially our day at Hampton Court Palace. The header on this blog is a photo of the sky above the palace’s roof. It still lives in my memory as one of the happiest days of my life.

I’m loving this show.

What I’m reading: Helen Garner’s ‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice.’

This is about her trip to Antarctica, so of course I picked it up. The page I’ve linked to has very positive reviews, but have a look at this one star review!

“Inadvertently thought it was an actual book about Antarctica with some depth then found it merely a chapter of a brief voyage that barely scratched at its border. If I ever get to the Drake passage I will place the sad brief tome in the bottom of a sick-bag where it belongs.”

Hmm… I hope it’s better than this review makes it sound!

What I’m listening to: Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers.

Spotify got me through hours of sewing over the last few days. I have some absolute bangers on that playlist.

What I’m eating: Leftover Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner.

I absolutely love this recipe. It’s like having a party in your mouth.

Having the leftovers the next day is even tastier.

What I’m planning: My girls’ weekend.

I’ve told them that I don’t want this to be a ‘spendy’ weekend, because Izzy has a wedding to pay for, Jenna has a one-woman show to put on and nearly all of them have rent to pay. I, of course, have Antarctica on the horizon.

We’re volunteering catering, alcohol, games, and those who know the area are suggesting activities. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Who needs a good slap: Whoever gave my son the virus.

Seriously, how hard is it to wear a mask? Oof.

It’s so stupid. I’m in front of a class right now. When the word came down that we can’t make the kids wear masks, you should’ve seen how many kids ditched them. I have 17 kids in front of me… only 6 are wearing masks.

So I guess the waves are going to continue. If we’d all co-operated right at the start and worn masks for 6 months, this pandemic would almost certainly be behind us now.

What has made me smile: sitting and having lunch with my work friends.

I’ve known these people for years and it’s a quiet pleasure to sit down and have a chat. This year the school split into 2 campuses and most of my friends elected (or were told) to come to the new campus, which is where I’ve been doing the vast majority of my CRT work.

Much as I love my hermit days at home, it’s so nice to be social as well. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

I don’t let my kids listen to orchestral music. There’s too much sax and violins.

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