Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Frugal Friday: The no-spend week.

screenshot of a chart.

After my mammoth 61 week streak on the No Spend Days chart which ended when Jeffrey had to go to the vet on a Friday, I had a 14-week stint before I had to keep going to the hardware to buy things that David28 needed when he was building frames over the wicking beds. Now I’ve started again…

If you look at the chart, I’ve technically already performed a 7-day in-a-row streak of not spending any money, but I’m holding off so that there’s a full line of colour on the chart. It looks far more like a full week when it’s all in the one line.

These are the stupid ways that make this chart work so well for me. By far the best idea was making each week that I spend money on 3 days or less a ‘silver’ week. Once you start to get a continuous streak going it’s hard to break the chain.

This all serves to make my spending intentional. I still spend money – but I now do it in blocks, rather than just let dollars dribble from my wallet without realising.

meme

Another bonus to having this chart is that it makes it very easy to track spending in various categories. This came in very handy when a friend at work and then a neighbour told me about a very good – and far cheaper – vet in the next suburb over. Of course, I had to check him out.

The vet that the Little Woofs have been going to since we moved here is literally around the corner. Over the 5 years we’ve been living here I’ve spent thousands there, what with Scout swallowing a pip and getting an intestinal blockage; Poppy and Jeff having teeth extractions left, right and centre, as well as the usual injections and stuff.

When Jeff put his back out a few weeks ago I was able to easily compare prices by quickly scanning last year’s chart. Again, this isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s nice to have an easily-accessible way to look things up.

And yes; this vet is cheaper and I got a good vibe from him. We’ve swapped over.

Poppy the cavalier.

It helps that this week has been a quiet one, where I pretty much stayed home and puddled around. This is where I’m really reaping the benefits of preparing The Best House in Melbourne for retirement, while I was still working. There have been a couple of days in the garden, a few more reading and sewing days, while at night I have Netflix, Stan or Apple+.

I had a few self-sown silverbeet plants that after a year or so were going to seed themselves, so I chopped off all of the good leaves, added some water and ground them down to a paste in the thermomix. I’ve frozen them in ice cubes and I’ll add them to soups, stews and bologneses in the winter. Just like a green vitamin pill!

I’m a ‘chop and drop’ gardener, so the rest of the stalks and leaves were chopped into small pieces and left to lie on the wicking beds as a mulch. This adds so much goodness to the soil – for free! It takes a lot more time to do this, rather than just ripping them out and throwing them in the green bin, but the improvement in the soil over time is absolutely worth it. Plus – I’m retired! I have the time.

I don’t switch the tv on during the day, unless it’s 45C outside and all anyone wants to do is sit under the air-con and zone out, so my days are spent doing whatever I feel like doing, while at night I chip away at whatever series I’m watching at the time.

Today, in order to make sure that I don’t accidentally rush out in a frenzy and spend money, I’ve taken the dogs out to post a letter to Vanguard – (how ANYONE can fill in that stupid US taxation form is beyond me… this is my second go at it) – and then we took a detour home and went for a walk beside the river.

On the way home I went and had a look at a house that was sold recently for what seemed like a LOT of money for what looked like a bit of a dogbox. It was even worse than it looked online. Oof.

Then I wrote this post. After this, will I go and have a nap? Or will I keep working on David28’s quilt? Or will I go out and do some more ‘chopping and dropping’ in the veggie garden? Or maybe I should go out to the front garden and tidy up the weeds in the garden bed near the apple trees? Hmmm, there’s that book Tom29 bought me for my birthday that I haven’t yet picked up. The Colour of Money – maybe I should crack that open and dive in? I loved the writing in The Queen’s Gambit, so this one should be good too.

So many options. All able to be done here, without having to race off elsewhere.

I’m really enjoying this new phase in my life, eleven months in. I have yet to be bored, which I think is pretty special.

Dad joke of the day:

Did you hear about the maths teacher that was afraid of negative numbers?

He would stop at nothing to avoid them.

Frugal Friday: When life gives you lemons…

Lemons in a bowl.

Ryan26 has had a friend, Marcus, ever since they met in Prep at primary school. Every now and then a group of ‘The Boys’ meets up for a night of gaming and other frivolity and they catch up on what’s been going on in their lives.

A week or so ago Ryan26 stayed over at Marcus’ parents’ house and he came back with 2 massive bags full of lemons. These lemons were as big as my head.

Well, almost.

Emily, who like me has raised a houseful of boys, is so generous when it comes to sharing the produce from her garden. I still have HEAPS of chillies in the freezer that we’re slowly making our way through. Like me, she hates to see things go to waste.

So how did I deal with the lemons?

Lemon juice cubes in a bag. Very exciting.

Simple!

I put on “Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers” on Spotify and went to work juicing them up. I poured the juice into icecube trays and then, a day later, popped them out and into a bag.

That’s the lemon sorted for my summer gin and tonics!

Dachshund on couch.

Scout approves.

Dad joke of the day:

 I thought about going on an all-almond diet. But that’s just nuts. 

It’s the little things.

Bedding.

This morning was another cold and rainy one in Melbourne’s bout of wintery weather. It’s a Tuesday morning during term 4 of school. It was probably around 7 AM. I stirred, then heard heavy rain start to fall on the tin roof outside.

“Hmmm, guess I’ll roll over and go back to sleep. Don’t want to take the dogs out in that,” I thought.

We ended up with feet hitting the floor at 7:50 AM… exactly the time that in years gone by I’d be racing out the door, thinking, “Oh shit, I’m late!!”

I like retirement. The mornings are so peaceful, warm and snuggly.

Sewing.

I’m making a quilt for my son David28. It was designed by his younger brother, Ryan26, and it’s HUGE!. It’s queen-sized and will measure 99″ X 99″ (251cm X 251cm). ****

I was happily sewing away yesterday when I made a mistake which needed what seemed like 1400 hours with the Quickunpick. I was ripping seams and trying to get corners right and it was quite the exercise in concentration.

I want to have this quilt finished by Christmas.

In days gone by, the only times I had available to quilt was weekends and school holidays, where I had to fit it around everything else that also needed doing. Fixing a mistake like this used to have an extra layer of angst because “I don’t have TIME for this!!!!”

How often have I said that sentence over the years?

Yesterday, as I sat doggedly ripping and stitching away, I knew it’d take some time but I’d work it out. If necessary, I could take all afternoon to get it right and it wouldn’t matter at all. Instead of only having 5 weekends before Christmas to finish this absolute monster-sized quilt, I have 5 whole weeks.

It was such a novelty to feel so calm when I was working on a mistake.

I like retirement. It’s so soothing.

Twitter.

On Twitter, I saw a post by Gwen. She was asking about how many alarms people have on their phones. People were sending in videos of them scrolling down, showing 10, 20 , 30+ alarms. Others were replying, saying they had 50+ alarms, ranging from wake-ups to 5 minute warnings before meetings.

I like retirement. No more startling noises in the early mornings.

Goodreads challenge.

I’ve always loved reading. I could read before I went to school and it has always been a beautiful refuge for me. I’ve been tracking my reading each year on the Frog Blog since 2007 and this is definitely the year that I’ve read the most.

My ‘Earn My Rates Back’ challenge has definitely helped, but suddenly having 10 extra hours each weekday – and that’s only if there wasn’t an hour-long meeting tacked on at the end of the school day; then it’s be closer to 12 hours because of peak hour traffic – means that if I choose to spend an afternoon engrossed in a storyline, then I can.

When I read a new-to-me book, I find that I have to gulp it down in huge chunks. No spreading it out over 4 weeks reading a page or so a day for me! No – I have to find out what happens as soon as possible, so when I pick up a new book it’s lots of consecutive hours spent with that book and nothing else.

Because of that, most of my reading during term times was RE-reading books. I already knew what was going to happen, so I could pick them up and put them down far more easily. It’s like visiting an old friend. And really, who has the time to fully immerse yourself in a world during term times?

So my new books were almost always read during holidays.

Now? Every day’s a holiday. I’ve read more new-to-me books than I ever have before. And I’m loving it.

I like retirement. I’ve been able to live so many more lives than I ever have before.

And now, before I zip off into the sewing room to chip away at David28’s quilt, here’s why I used inches instead of the by FAR more sensible centimetres when I was talking about it before:

**** Some of you who aren’t quilters might wonder why I’ve measured the monster-sized quilts in inches. Despite being one of only 3 countries IN THE WHOLE WORLD to use imperial measurements, the majority of quilters are in the US, so inches are used.

Ugh. Even the people who invented imperial measurements have moved to metric!

Dad joke for today:

The rotation of Earth really makes my day.  

Little Adventures #7: The Archibald Prize. Nov 2021.

One thing the Little Adventures thing has taught me – don’t leave it too late in the month to go off and do/see something new. We were coming out of lockdown in late October, so I bided my time, thinking I’d sneak October’s Little Adventure in just as things were opening up again. But then Jeffrey put his back out. As I was getting out of the car at the vet’s, I turned to speak to him and I put MY back out. We both hobbled in together and I had to ask a vet nurse to lift him back into the car when it was time to go home. Thank goodness Ryan26 is a remedial masseuse! It took a week for my back to get better and by then November had well and truly rolled around.

Monday morning was a good one. I was sitting on the couch with a coffee, little woofs asleep beside me, when 2 ads came up on Facebook. I know, normally it’s just annoying when that happens, but one ad was for a play the local council was supporting… (ticket price was free – my favourite price, so I snapped one up) … and the other one was for a gallery in Sale, which was showing the Archibald Prize paintings.

The Archibald Prize is a portrait competition that has been going for 100 years. The subjects are preferred to be notable Australians in some way and have had to have had at least one in-person sitting with the artist. It’s WAY famous.

Sale is MILES away. It’s buried deep in the Gippsland countryside and it’d take 2.5 hours to drive there. I know because I googled it. But… what if I went to see the exhibition on a weekday, just because I can? Also, the tickets are $17, so that’s definitely affordable.

Because of covid, they’re limiting the number of people who can go into the gallery at any one time, so I had to scroll through a few days to find a time that would work. So Thursday morning at 11:45 it was.

I left with plenty of time to get there, which was just as well. If I ever see another sign saying “Road Works – detour” I won’t be responsible for the consequences. Got there with seconds to spare!

The following photos are the portraits that I particularly liked. Some have the info card in the same frame, others don’t. There’s interesting stuff on those cards – well worth zooming in to see what they say. 🙂

The first thing I saw when I walked into the entrance foyer was a school group. How many times have I followed a school group around the National Gallery in St Kilda Road? But one thing I know from having done this for so long… if you discreetly attach yourself to the group, the guides tell you a lot more about the paintings than you’d otherwise know.

I loved the shirt on this guy and I liked the story behind the painting, too.

This was the first painting I saw and I loved it. The man gently protecting and nurturing his inner creative person is so great.

It’s not just the fact that we have the same hairdo! I like that this is a reflection from her window – see the bottom left corner?

This is the card that goes with the painting at the top of this post. It was the winner of the whole competition. Honestly… not one I would’ve picked, but I guess the symbolism of it being of a 100-year-old man and the competition was also in its 100th year was hard to beat.

This portrait of Kate Ceberano was right next to the winner. This painting won the Packing Room Prize. This is when the people who unpack all of the paintings as they arrive vote as to which one they like the best. It seems like a bit of a poisoned chalice – to date, no one who has won the Packing Room prize has gone on to win the Archibald.

I think it’s stunning.

This portrait of Rachel Griffiths is the size of an iPad. It was painted using a brush with only one bristle. I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken to finish this painting with so much detail in it.

I liked this one because her face is so interesting. I could easily imagine her wearing a medieval bonnet or something. There’s something timeless about her face.

I absolutely loved this one. The sea was incredible, as was the story behind it. Over the past year, who hasn’t had moments when they’ve wanted to wrap themselves up in their favourite blanket – or quilt – and take a break? I also like how, if you look past the tumultuous water to the right, you can see that things will eventually become calm again.

How could I not like this one, considering I’m reading my 115th book of the year?

Such a brave young woman.

The play of light from the fire was extraordinary. The more I looked at this, the more was revealed.

This was the portrait I chose as my “people’s choice” award… though, thinking back… if I had my time over I might’ve gone with the sea one. But even so, it’s a wonderful painting. The light! It almost glows.

How cleverly is this done? So muted, yet so perfect?

And finally, this one made me laugh.

Then in the gallery just outside where the Archibald exhibition was, I saw this one. Oh My God! I LOVE it. In real life, it’s much darker than this. You could look at it all day and see new things emerging. I’ve put this here so I don’t forget.

After I’d finished, I bought some lunch from the adjoining café and took it outside to eat by the river. There were too many people without masks inside as they were eating and drinking. It might be ok for the Gippslanders, but it was a little bit much for this Melbournian to see without feeling weird.

Then, on the way home I went to a nursery and bought a couple of plants and a terracotta pot for the front yard, then popped into a quilting shop at Rosedale and bought a couple of things. We’ve been asked to spend our money in the regional areas so I did my bit. Then home I went!

Ryan26 had a couple of friends around so he cooked dinner and made strawberry daiquiris – all in all, not a bad day!

Who knows? Maybe because I missed October I should go on another Little Adventure this month, just to even things up? We’ll see…

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller. 

“I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”

Pantry door with Poppy.

I have a friend who I’ve known for more years than I care to think about. She doesn’t live near me, so when we were in the midst of all the lockdowns we didn’t see each other for months. So once lockdowns were over I was excited to finally clap eyes on her in person.

She and her husband came over for a coffee. She walked into the house, dropped her bag on the table and went over to my pantry door, throwing it open and standing there gazing inside.

I looked at Ryan26 and he raised an eyebrow.

She stood there.

I knew she was probably waiting for attention, but I asked the question anyway.

“Beks, are you looking for anything?”

She turned to face me, saying, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”

Oof.

A bit of background…

Well-trdered shelf in pantry.

I’ve always bought our groceries in bulk. Back when the boys were little and we were living hand-to-mouth, it was a survival tool. In the years before Aldi came to Australia, I used to shop the specials at the supermarkets and buy 5 or 10 tins/packets/jars of our staple foods when they were cheaper.

This meant that, over time, we were eating a lot of our food at a discounted price. When you’re a struggling single mum with 4 hungry mouths to feed, not counting your own, every single dollar saved is worthwhile. Sure, it costs a little more up-front, but over time the groceries actually work out cheaper.

Having bought that food, it was imperative to keep track of it. No point buying bulk food to save money if you end up having to throw it out because you forgot about it! So my pantry was and is always well-organised. Everything stacked neatly, tins etc rotated with the newer ones going to the back so nothing goes out of date and labels to the front so you can see at a glance what and how many you have of everything.

I remember seeing an Oprah show back when the kids were small where she had a kitchen organiser go through people’s fridges and pantries. I remember him stuffing shopping bags full of one woman’s rotting produce from her crisper and saying, “If you don’t eat the food you bring home, you may as well take $50 notes and throw them straight into the garbage. It’d be quicker and it’d have the same result.”

I never forgot that.

Shelf in pantry.

I twigged pretty early on that the longer you stay out of the supermarket, the more money you save. It’s amazing how little treats get popped into the trolley whenever you go shopping. So if I make sure that my house is well-stocked with all of the things we use, then instead of going to the supermarket for inspiration each night for dinner, I can cook meals from what we already have.

Particularly now that there’s only 2 of us living here, I rarely go to Aldi more than once a week – and now that the garden is starting to ramp up, it’ll probably drift out to nearly once a fortnight. After all, if I don’t see those little treats, I can’t buy them! Money saved.

So my pantry has always been well-stocked. During lockdowns, this became a godsend. In between lockdowns, I’d drive to far-away shops like Costco and stock up on the essentials, which for this house is the Little Woofs’ dry and raw dog food, with coffee grounds and dried blueberries for the humans.

Lots of tinned sardines.
Sardines for the Little Woofs.

When I see tinned sardines in oil at Aldi, for example, I grab a heap because usually, only the sardines in tomato sauce tins are on the shelf. I feed the Little Woofs sardines every week… I’d hate for them to miss out because I didn’t think ahead. Tomato sauce with their sardines isn’t really their thing. (Is it anybody’s?)

What began as a survival strategy when the kids were small has morphed into a convenience thing now that I shop primarily at Aldi. There are no specials anymore, but the money and the time I save by not popping into the supermarket every day or so is worth the cupboard space I have for my zombie apocalypse stores.

Beks, however, is of a different mindset to me.

She and her husband are empty-nesters, so like my household, they’re also feeding just 2 people. The way we handle that job starts off the same, but then quickly veers apart.

We start off thinking about what we’d like to eat that night. Neither of us menu plans for the week or the month like some ultra-organised people do. We ask our husband/son their opinion (sometimes) and we make a decision.

Mine is usually based on what we have a lot of and what needs using up. At the moment, for example, we have a lot of diced chicken that I’ve put into 500g bags in the freezer. At least twice a week, I’ll be pulling out one of those bags to use.

Beks, on the other hand, decides what they’ll eat that night regardless of what’s in the house. She goes food shopping almost daily.

They also refuse to eat the same thing two nights running. Ryan26 and I have fallen into the habit of cooking one night, then eating the same meal again the next night, or freezing the leftovers if we need to. Beks just cooks half-portions of what she used to cook when the kids were home, so they don’t have m/any leftovers.

There’s no right or wrong to this. It’s just two different ways of tackling the “what will we have for dinner?” question that we all have to answer every day.

Shelf in pantry.

Beks turned away from my pantry and said, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”

I knew that there was no point in getting all riled up or defensive. She does her thing and I do mine. It’s all good. But I wasn’t going to let her get away with making a dig at me for no reason. A girl has to stand her ground in her own kitchen, after all.

I cocked my head to one side and said, “Comes in bloody handy during a pandemic, though. While everyone was dodging covid doing their shopping, I was here all safe and sound.”

BIG tub of Vegemite. Yum.
The offending tub of Vegemite. She’s right – it IS big.

She looked back into the pantry and said, “It’s funny, the way you have a bucket of Vegemite here.”

I chuckled. “Won’t have to even think about buying more for years!”

Coffee grounds etc in a thermomix jug.
Coffee grounds etc in the thermomix jug, ready to be blitzed for the worms.

She shrugged and I moved past her to put the kettle on. She saw the bowl of used coffee grounds and eggshells that we have beside the kettle. When the bowl is full I blitz the contents and dig them into the veggie gardens to feed the worms. In turn, they feed my veggies, which in turn, feed us.

Circle of life. Hakuna Matata.

“You DO know that it’s not normal to have coffee grounds just sitting there?” she said.

“Of course it is, Beks… when you’re a permaculture household,” I said. I don’t know if she’s up to speed on what permaculture is, but as her husband came in from outside the conversation moved on.

As I made the coffees, Ryan26 and I exchanged a simple shake of the head and a smile. Ahhh Beks. Every now and then she has to try and take a dig…

We know why we run the house the way we do, and we know that the things we do work well for us. For me, the comfort of having a well-stocked pantry and zombie apocalypse cupboard gives me a sense of security that is a beautiful thing to live with.

It’s simply another tool for designing my life so that my retirement is stress-free and comfortable. And yes; 11 months in, retirement is still bloody wonderful!

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller.

Do I have a BARGAIN for you????

Cover of Boy Swallows Universe.

Do I have an absolute BARGAIN for you??? I should have waited until tomorrow for a Frugal Friday post, but instead, I’ll call this a ‘Thrifty Thursday’ post.

A couple of months ago I read one of the best books I’ve read in a month of Sundays. Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton. He’s a journo and this is his first novel.

I loved it. The way Dalton uses language is lyrical, unlike anyone I’ve read before. The sort of writing where, after you read a particular sentence, you stop, close your eyes and savour it. Just beautiful writing.

I’m a couple of chapters into his next one, All Our Shimmering Skies and I’ve just finished his non-fiction book about the sailing and landing of the First Fleet. By Sea and Stars is a short but entertaining read, based on the diaries and letters of the people on those ships, as well as the indigenous people of the land. It had a fair bit about Arthur Phillip, the leader of the expedition and our first Governor, which I found really interesting. When I was in Bath in 2015 there were many Arthur Phillip memorials, and our walking tour guide pointed out the balcony that he supposedly jumped from – was it murder or suicide???

Anyway, the point of all this is that I’ve stumbled across an hour-long talk by Trent Dalton that Readings bookshops are sponsoring. FOR ONLY $5!!!

omg.

It’s a zoom event, so it’s open to everyone.

It’s on next Monday at 6:30 PM AEST, which is the perfect time to enjoy a literary chat over dinner, or, if you’re on the other side of the world, to get up early and enjoy a literary chat before breakfast.

He’s going to be talking about his book Love Stories, which is another on my list of Books To Read. After this, I’ll be all set!

For those who are interested, here’s the link to the tickets. I think $5 for an hour’s entertainment is, as I said at the start, an absolute BARGAIN!!

I hope that some of you can join me. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

5/4 of people admit that they’re bad with fractions.

Frugal Friday: Entertain yourself with what you have at home.

Let’s be honest. I’ll bet we all have things tucked away in cupboards or on shelves that we bought, intending to use, but have somehow never seen the light of day again. Some would be practical, some for hobbies or for trips we’ve planned but never taken, but the end result is the same. We’ve spent money on things that are simply taking up space, both physically and in our heads.

The thing is – it’s not wasted money if you actually USE the thing you bought.

Me? I’m a quilter. I don’t know how to sew, even though I use a sewing machine. Quilting is the only thing I do. And yeah, over the years I’ve amassed quite the stash of fabric. Even when I took a 5-year break from the hobby because I was spending every spare second selling thermomixes, I kept the bins and boxes full of colours. I had an inkling that one day I’d come back to it.

Mix the “not wasted money if you use it” and the “I’ll come back to this hobby” ideas and for the last 18 months I’ve been making a concerted effort to use what’s actually in the house, rather than racing off to buy shiny and new items.

During Melbourne’s world-breaking lockdown, online shopping has been a godsend for most things, but honestly… some things you have to actually see for yourself in person. For me, fabric is one of these. So I decided to entertain myself in lockdown by restricting myself to only using the fabric that I have right here. Some I’ve had for over a decade!

Time to use it.

Some of these are gifts, some are for around the house and others are baby quilts, like the one pictured here, that I’ve put aside for the boys and myself to give as gifts when people we know and love start reproducing.

The boys are in their mid to late twenties so this time is definitely coming.

In fact, this baby quilt was made for a friend of Tom29’s. A little girl named Ava uses this quilt every single day. I was stoked when Tom29’s friend told him this. We quilters don’t make these things to be put away in a cupboard. We want them to be used and loved and wrapped around the people we care for.

These blocks were actually all sewn up and all they needed was to be assembled and sewn together. They were sitting in a box for 11 years, all because I was too scared I’d make a mistake and ruin them. I’m sitting on it right now – I decided to sew them together as a couch quilt. The Little Woofs love to sleep on the couch next to their Mum.

All from the stash. I’m running low on purple – you’ll notice there are 2 triangles with purple flowers. But I still managed to get the quilt top done without online shopping. Winning!

This one is a queen-sized monster. Yellows and greys.

Another gift for a friend. I’ve known her for over 40 years – thought it was time I made her a quilt… She has a cat, so I made sure there was cat fabric on it. I saw this pattern on a Youtube clip, so I gave it a whirl.

So many patterns, so little time.

Here’s another little baby quilt. The pattern was designed by Ryan26 for his older brother. David28 wants a queen-sized quilt so we tested out the pattern first. The queen-sized quilt will NOT be part of the stash challenge. He wants only solids for it and I don’t have the correct colours, so I’ve ordered them online. Eclectic Mumma has the best range of Moda solids I’ve found.

And I’m working on a huge quilt using crumbs and strings, some only 1/2 inch wide, for my parents. It’s a combined Christmas and birthday gift, which is fair enough, as it’ll take me way more than 40 hours to put this all together. I’m definitely using up lots of little scraps here, but after an afternoon of high concentration, I totter out feeling a bit discombobulated. When it’s finished I’ll share it on a future ‘Frugal Friday’ post.

I’m using up what’s here in the house and being vastly entertained at the same time. My brain’s hard at work designing and making hundreds of decisions with colour placement, I’m grooving to Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers on Spotify and my afternoons slip by with much fun, no money spent and a feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.

Why not do as I did and drag those unused items from your cupboards and start using them? After all, you bought them for a reason. If they genuinely don’t interest you anymore, flog them off on Marketplace or give them away, but if you see them and smile, then get your money’s worth from them!

After making all of these quilts from fabric that I already had at home, I still have bucketloads of fabric here. So many hours of entertainment! I feel very lucky.

As I said above, it’s only a waste of money if you don’t USE what you have.

So use it.

Dad jokes of the day:

What did the grape do when he got stepped on? He let out a little wine. 

I wouldn’t buy anything with velcro. It’s a total rip-off.

A challenge or three adds spice to retirement!

Cover of novel.

Retirement certainly has its perks! I spent most of yesterday devouring this book. Last year my oldest son gave me Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club for Christmas and I absolutely loved it. It’s so warm and funny and the writing is absolutely wonderful. That wry British humour with such wonderfully fresh and quirky characters. It’s truly one of those books that you read and never forget.

So when the sequel was released I was onto it! As part of my ‘earn my rates back by reading’ challenge, (more on this later), I put a hold on it at my local library. I was number 15 in the queue. I resigned myself to waiting until the new year to get my hands on it, but to my surprise, it was suddenly my turn. I’m not sure if it was because Melbourne was still in lockdown so people had more time on their hands to read, or if it was so good that people were galloping through it.

Anyway, now I’m sure it was the second one. I read it all in a day. Once I started, I didn’t want to leave this world that Richard Osman created. These two books have the same heart-warming feeling that the tv show Ted Lasso has, only with more corpses scattered around. Both The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice. are Thumping Good Reads – it’s not often I find myself Laughing Out Loud when reading, but this one got me waking up the little woofs a few times. 🙂

Actually, this reading challenge I’ve set up for myself has opened up a lot of really good books that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled across before. The local council has access to a lot more library books than the secondary school library that I was using before, with many more librarians who are happy to recommend things. According to my Goodreads page, I’ve just finished my 111th book for the year, and I have 2 more on the go.

If you glance across at the ‘Retirement Reading Quest’ on the right-hand side of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve reached roughly the same target that I had at the beginning of the 2021 challenge this year.

Basically, my council rates for 2021 were $1,800. I decided to ‘earn’ back that money by borrowing books from my local library and keeping a tally of how much money these books were worth. It helps that I’m a fast reader who likes a challenge and, now that I’ve retired, have the time to indulge myself in this. By August I’d reached the target. That’s when my rates bill for 2022 came in…

Of course, the bill was higher. $2,100, plus a little over $100 for dog registrations. I decided to keep the challenge rolling on, plus kick in the dog rego as well – why not? A stretch target is a good target – within reason.

So 2 months on, I’ve already knocked over the extra $300, so I’m on track to successfully knock over 2022’s rates challenge. I’ve slowed down with the library borrowing though. I have a teetering pile of books beside my bed that I absolutely have to tackle – there are books in there that I’ve wanted to read all year but haven’t, due to the challenge.

Tomorrow at 6PM retail shops open up again in Melbourne. The longest lockdown in the world is finally coming to a close. I want to go to Bunnings and get some terracotta pots and some flowers for the front verandah for my other challenge – Operation Beautify, which I wrote about a couple of posts ago. I also have to quickly decide where I’m going to go for October’s Little Adventure – I’m definitely running out of month for this one!

I’m really enjoying chipping away at these self-set challenges. In retirement, especially if you couple it with being in lockdown, it’s all too easy for the days to slip steadily past without you really noticing. Having these defined targets in a few different areas means that I can still get that feeling of achievement when completing a task that I used to get from finishing things a work. For example, I used to feel a huge sense of achievement (and relief) when I finished marking a pile of essays or grammar tests. It was DONE!!! Now, I get the same feeling when I come back from a Little Adventure, or I finish another book and change my figures on the table on this blog.

And honestly, the quality of my life is so much better. Marking grammar tests (ugh) and essays (yuck) compared to exploring new places, making my home even prettier or reading a fabulous novel?

There’s no comparison, yet I still get the lovely feeling of being productive that I enjoy so much.

Dad Jokes of the day:

An opinion without 3.14 is an onion.
You'll understand.
Visual joke. Sorry.

A recommended financial reading list.

I’ve always felt that a financial reading list was a necessary thing that this blog lacked. As an educator, this was something I had to fix. What’s the purpose of finding out about things if you can’t share the love with other people?

I thought I’d get onto it straight away. But damn… Retirement’s just so good! The last 10 months have drifted by so quickly, even in lockdowns. It was always on my mind in that annoying, ever-present ‘To Do’ list that I carry around in my brain.

It’s easy to ignore your own list. But then last week I had two readers contact me and ask if I could put them onto some books to buy for their kids to get them off to a good start. What better way to answer than to share the books that I’ve given to my own family?

If you look up at the header, you’ll see I’ve added a new page. This page is a little different to the ones on other blogs because the first list of books are the ones that I’ve been buying for my 4 sons and 2 nieces each Christmas. These are the books that I wanted to have on the kids’ shelves so that when they were ready for the information, they’d have everything they need right at their fingertips.

Some of the books are designed for young people starting off. Others are the books that helped me on my learning curve of getting my head around Financial Independence and investing, back when I was a single mother desperate to claw my way out of the hole I found myself in. Of course, I want the kids to have the information NOW, not to wait until their 40’s and 50’s like I did.

These books are the bare necessities of a great framework for understanding how the financial world works, along with understanding debt, investing, and how to efficiently organise your financial life. Anyone who has them on a shelf within easy reach has a fantastic grounding in how to make money work for them, instead of the other way around.

The second list has the books that I’ve enjoyed but were not bought for the kids. At the moment they’re all about different aspects of retirement, but over time this list will be much broader. So much to learn!

Please jump over and have a look at the lists. Let me know what you think. Do you have any recommendations for books that I can tackle for myself, as well as books I can consider for next Christmas?

I’m open to suggestions.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho Cheese.

Operation Beautify continues.

The last few weeks have gone by in a hurry. Time is odd, isn’t it? The individual days slip past in no particular rush, but then you look up and it’s the middle of October. How did that happen? Even in the middle of the longest lockdown in the whole world, time still flies. Meanwhile, Operation Beautify is continuing along.

A while ago, before I retired last year, I thought that it might be fun to call in some real estate agents to value The Best House in Melbourne. I paid 750K at the end of 2015 for this place, with an extra 68K (or so) for bridging finance payments.

Self!‘ I thought to myself. ‘Why don’t I give myself a year to smarten the place up, then call in people to see how much this place is worth? It might be fun.

Since moving here 5 years ago, I’ve done a lot to the property, particularly in the gardens. I have no intention of selling. For the first time in my life I have total freedom over how I want my house and garden to look and I have the time to spend on making it all happen. This is the place where I’m happy to spend a lot of time in retirement.

My idea for this place is to make it practical and capable of supporting my interests. It needs to be a warm and nurturing place for my children, family and friends. I want the decorations and little touches around the place to be built around memories, so that more and more over time my house will be a reflection of who I am and where I’ve been.

Still, having said all that, I’m curious to see how much it’s worth now. I’m only human.

I gutted the entire backyard and built a wicking bed vegetable garden and mini orchard on the top level, with a huge verandah and entertainment area against the house. The entire backyard is paved with bricks, so Future Frogdancer doesn’t have to drag a lawnmower around up here. David28 just finished putting up these wooden frames on the top of the beds. Much neater and I can either throw netting over them or grow plants over them instead.

This is a photo taken at the beginning of spring. Give it a month or so and the wicking beds will be brimming over with veggies and flowers. I’ve left some lettuce and rainbow chard to go to seed – gotta love free food! – but the rest of the beds will be a mass of green and spots of orange, yellow and white from the flowers I’ve planted among the veggies. They’ll look pretty and bring the pollinators.

Now that there’s only two of us living here, not counting the little woofs, I can leave some space in this food growing space for prettiness.

The side yards are also paved with bricks, with hanging baskets along the more public pathway. These were put up last week and I’m hoping that the masses of petunias I’ve planted in them will billow out over the edges of the baskets and look lush and wonderful.

All of the fences have been replaced, with the front fence being totally changed by replacing a rusting metal picket fence with a tall paling fence and electric gate. All of the front yard fences are painted, but I’ve left the back yard fences to age naturally.

I transformed half of the front yard into a mini orchard and last week I underplanted the trees with masses of petunias and daisies. Again, there should be a mass of colour in a few weeks.

I’ve slowly been working on the front of the house too. I had a chippie come around and replace some rotting rails on the verandah. While he was there, he asked if I wanted to lower the height of the rails. I didn’t realise, but they were way higher than they needed to be. When he lowered them, it opened up the whole space.

They were white, but I painted them to match the fences and installed new guttering in the same colour. (It’s ‘Monument’, for those interested. I think there’s an unwritten law that every house in Melbourne has to use this colour somewhere.)

I’ve planted a maple on either side of the entrance, underplanted with white flowery groundcovers. One maple is always red, the other is green with pinkish new growth, so it’s the same look but not being absolutely ‘matchy-matchy.

Two more hanging baskets will hopefully fill the space with a huge pop of colour. Because of lockdowns I couldn’t go and select the plants in the hanging baskets in person. I had to select from the colours and plants that a local nursery had left in their online shop. This year the plants are petunias and the colours are red, purple and white. I figure every year I can have a different colour scheme. It’ll be fun.

The bay tree in the terracotta pot on the left of the steps is a plant I bought in K-Mart about 20 years ago when the boys were little. It cost me $6 – I still remember because I was horrified at the price they were asking for a mere twig – and I brought it home and planted it in the biggest pot I had. There it is, still there. I haven’t ever had to buy bay leaves again.

Frugality and forward-thinking for the win!

I have 2 couches on the front verandah. The green one on the right is Jeffrey’s favourite, while I prefer the old white one on the left. I’ve created a little conversation nook here. The pink painted pot plant was a gift from a friend years ago, while the succulent in it is a cutting I took from the backyard last week. The sunburnt palm is part of an indoor palm that I divided and got 4 new plants from and will be repotted into a terracotta pot when lockdown ends and I can go and see what’s available.

The front verandah will have mainly terracotta pots. I like the look of orange against the grey, with some being planted with permanent plants while the rest will be flowers and colour.

I also want to have a little bit of whimsy in the garden. I like the idea of the eye finding something beautiful or quirky in odd little spots. On the back steps leading up to the wicking beds, I have a combi van planter I found for $17 in Mitre 10 and I filled it with more free succulent cuttings from a plant in a pot on the other side of the steps.

I also have the sculpture of the dinosaur that I brought back from my last holiday in South Australia, up the top of the steps near the kaffir lime tree in a pot. It’s not the right place for him, but I’ll find it. I have nothing but time…

I found this little guy in the ‘marked down’ section of a garden supplies shop. He was part of a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” set, but I didn’t like the other two so only he came home. He’s under the apricot tree among some bluebells I saved when we were digging up the side pathways for the paving.

This is right at the side entrance to the verandah at the back. My rusty bird in a cage. I bought the bird when I went for a little mini break to Bowral a couple of years ago, then months later I saw this birdcage at Gardenworld. The daisy draws the eye, then you see my sweet, sad little rusty bird. My son David28 walked by this the last time he was here and said, “You know, I really like that bird.” Made me smile.

How great is this guy? My brother-in-law gave this to me as part of our family’s Kris Kringle thing two years ago. My sister said that they were at a local market, took one look at this guy and said, “Frogdancer would LOVE this!” He’s secured to the stump of the old grevilia that used to be here and he watches over the entertaining area. Who doesn’t want Grievous coming to Christmas dinner?

Before I call the real estate agents in to have a look, I still need to paint the ensuite, buy terracotta pots for both the front and back verandahs, fill them with flowers, and do a few other little bits and pieces.

If I’d placed a tighter time frame upon myself this all would’ve been done much more quickly, but tight time frames are what I retired to escape from. So far in the 10 months of retirement, I’ve read 110 books, made 6 quilts (with 2 more on the go), had many nanna naps and transformed my guest bedroom into a sewing room/office. (More on that in a later post.)

The thing I like about Operation Beautify is that most of the expensive projects like the landscaping and the huge verandah roof were done while I was still at work. My ensuite and the half-reno of the boys’ bathroom was paid for by my Long Service Leave payout, so basically this year I’ve been able to puddle along spending smaller wads of cash on plants, potting mix and mulch, but nothing like the amounts of money I spent on the big things. The landscaping of the back and side yards alone was over 50K. Oof…

By putting these jobs at the front of the queue, I was essentially able to cash flow a lot of it while I still had a wage. Next year, now that I have all of the trees and other plants in, should be even cheaper.

Just as well. I have Antarctica 2022 to pay for, after all.

🙂

This was the view I woke up to from my nanna nap yesterday.

Just to show that it isn’t all ‘Instagram perfect’ around here!

Dad jokes for today:

And one for the Maths people:

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