Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Little Adventures #14. Mt Buller etc. May 2022.

Many many years ago I bought into a time-share. I used to call it my second-biggest mistake, but now I’m not so sure that it was. (A mistake, I mean.)

I was attracted to this timeshare because of its relative flexibility. It uses points and has about 20 or so properties across Australia, New Zealand and Bali. You can use your points to reserve holidays across any of the properties – as long as they have the vacancies for when you want them, of course.

Mum and Dad have a couple of timeshares in Bali, but these are the old-style ones where you are only able to go to the same property at the same week/s each year. That doesn’t suit me. I want to be free to see new things.

I bought into it back in 2006, just after I took the boys to Bali. I wanted to take them on more trips away and I thought it would force me to do that. I also had the VERY long-term thought that one day… having the points and properties available would allow me to give the boys accommodation for honeymoons to help save them money.

I’ve now found an unexpected benefit. When I bought into the timeshare, I bought into a level that allowed me to use a 3BR apartment for a week each year. I needed the space with the 4 boys. Now that I’m travelling on my own, those 5,000 points a year can be broken up into many more trips. If I feel like being luxurious, a 1BR space is more than ample. A studio apartment is perfectly fine if I want to squeeze more value from the points.

Last week I was THRILLED to be able to book David27 and Izzy’s honeymoon accommodation in New Zealand. I play the long game in a lot of things and so it was incredibly satisfying to have a plan come together.

But when I was on the site, I saw that I had just under 5,000 points that needed using up before June 30 this year.

Yikes! With all of the lockdowns last year, it completely slipped my mind that this could happen. I grabbed a calculator and a calendar, logged onto the website and started reviewing my options.

So far I’ve booked a week in Manly Beach in Sydney at the end of June. Then I thought, ‘What am I doing this coming weekend?’ Nothing on the calendar… so I looked at what was available within driving distance. The Sebel Pinnacle Valley resort at the foot of Mt Buller had a 1 bedder free.

So off I went.

I arrived after dark on the first night, as I picked up a CRT day at school. I brought food (of course – the restaurant on-site is expensive), so I had a relaxed night in front of the tv and rolled into a bed I didn’t have to share with Poppy and Jeff.

The next morning I was woken by kookaburras. I was enchanted. I know I’m in the country when I hear this!

After a leisurely breakfast, I decided to go for a walk around the lake. The air, being up so high in the mountains, was cold and crisp, but it’s not snow season yet so it was pleasant. (Snow. Ugh. So uncivilised!)

As I was walking I heard the kookaburras again, along with lots of magpie song. We have maggies at home, but their song is beautiful. Here’s a clip for overseas people who might not have heard it:

I’m a bit cross with this photo because the kangaroos were far closer than it appears. Anyway, here are some kangaroos!

I finished the lake circuit and headed back, where I saw this:

Remember last year when I collected 9 garbage bags full of leaves for the veggie garden? I had a few garbage bags in the car so I helpfully unblocked the drain.

A short time later I was in the car and driving down the driveway. I decided I’d turn right once I hit the main road. I had a vague idea I’d explore a little country town or something.

I had no idea that the next stop was Mt Buller.

The road is pretty much a one-lane-each-way all the way up the mountain for about 20 kms. I imagine that it’d be pretty frustrating during snow season, but I was literally the only car on the road. I zipped up there, really enjoying the drive with no slow coach in front of me spoiling it.

Same on the way back.

Along the way there were some pretty spots:

When I reached the Mt Buller resort, I decided that I’d park the car somewhere and walk to the summit, then come back and grab some lunch. The place was pretty much a ghost town. There were a few people around, but mostly, I had the place to myself.

I found a track to the top and set off.

It was a cold morning and rain clouds were gathering. I didn’t bring a coat but I figured that I’d be fine with just a jumper. The track was clearly marked, but steep. At first I was walking fast but then it occurred to my mighty mind that I wasn’t racing anyone, so I took my time.

I don’t know if anyone else read the Silver Brumby books when they were a kid? I loved them. As I was walking, I was wondering if maybe there were brumbies hanging around on the mountains.

The chairlifts looked almost sculptural, hanging motionless.

I kept walking. This mountain track kept going up. And up. And up.

At one stage I was thinking about turning back. The clouds were coming closer and I was getting out of breath. But then I saw these signs… taunting me…

I knew I had to keep going. No building was going to taunt me and get away with it!

But as I kept walking higher, the clouds descended. I was so very close to the top, but when I looked around all I could see was this:

And this:

However, soon I had to call it a day. The clouds descended and I couldn’t see more than a few metres in any direction. I was so close to the summit, but I wouldn’t see anything if I got there.

I decided that close enough was good enough – no point busting a gut if I couldn’t see anything when I got there – and walked back down, starting to think about lunch.

To my chagrin, as I was walking down I was passed by a car.

You mean I could’ve driven all the way up??!?

Anyway, I made it back to the car and drove around, looking for a cafe.

My plan seemed like it was about to come undone. NOTHING seemed to be open! The one time I decided to treat myself to a meal and this happens!

Fortunately, I asked a workman and he pointed to two places. One was nearby, the other was up quite a steep hill.

LOL. As if I’d be walking up another steep hill anytime soon!

Imagine this place in a couple of weeks time in the snow season, once the snow has started to fall. A Saturday lunchtime. I’m sure the place would be full.

I ordered my meal and settled down with my book.

I really liked this quote. Just thought I’d share.

The pear and rocket salad was delicious!

After I had lunch, I wandered around the place on the way back to my car.

There was absolutely no one around.

There didn’t seem to be anything left to see here, so I jumped back in the car and headed down the mountain again.

My original plan was to see what was around in Merrijig, the closest little town to my resort, but there’s no actual town, just a couple of pubs. I kept going and hit the next town, Mansfield.

As I was driving through, I saw this cute little cellar door for Ros Ritchie wines. I’ve never heard of them, but the thought of a little wine tasting on a nippy autumn afternoon sounded Just The Thing, so I went in. Sip some wines, buy a bottle to be polite, read my book while I’m doing it.

The joint was jumping. They had a bus tour out the back, with 50 people tasting the wines. There were 2 parties going on and some couples enjoying wine and cheese platters.

The young guy running the tastings sat me by the fire and then gave me a menu.

“All the tastings are free,” he said, which surprised me a bit. Last year when I went to the wineries in South Australia with Jenna’s parents, there was a charge per head to do wine tasting. He asked if I wanted to start with a sparkling wine, but when I said that i still have 8 bottles left over from David28 and Izzy’s engagement party, we started with a white.

This guy was so good at his job. He was racing around looking after everyone inside, but whenever he came back with the next wine for me to try, he’s stay and have a chat about the flavours and aromas. I didn’t feel neglected at all. In fact, it was entertaining watching him keep all those plates spinning! When I got home I sent an email to the winery, commending his work.

I walked out with 5 bottles. It was very nice wine.

It was getting close to 5 PM, so I headed back to the resort. I had a voucher for a free drink at the restaurant, so I settled in beside the open fire with a cheeky shiraz and my book. The autumn colours were able to be seen from every window and it was too early for the dinner rush. I enjoyed the vibe until my iPad ran out of batter and my book died. Home to my room and a ‘Big Bang Theory’ marathon.

I had a plan for the next day to drop in at the Healesville Sanctuary on the way home, but I think I’m the sort of traveller that once the car is pointed towards home, I just want to get there. Is anyone else like that? I saw the turn-off to Healesville but took the turning for Melbourne.

This was a very peaceful, relaxing break. As much as I love my house, it was lovely to get out and see mountains, trees, cows and kangaroos instead of suburbia.

Plus there’s not too many driveways that look like this where I live – ESPECIALLY with the best footie team!

I’ve popped the wine I bought at the winery away. Later in the year, I think it’ll be cool to open a bottle and remember my little getaway.

Dad joke of the day:

To the person who stole my place in the queue – I’m after you now.

Those who don’t read, live only one life…

… But those who DO read, live thousands.

This thought occurred to me when I was sitting in a year 8 classroom earlier today, watching as they were silently reading at the beginning of the class. Normally, I’d be reading right alongside them, but I’d intelligently left my book in the car and so I was waiting for the 10 minutes to be over.

As I drew my gaze back from the window with the beautiful sunny day outside, I saw that a couple of kids were looking at the same view. Two boys were yawning, so clearly they’d picked dud books and were bored. But the rest of the class were buried deep in their books.

As I looked at the bent heads, I started to wonder where they all were.

Some of them were reading from the class novel, ‘The Outsiders‘ by S E Hinton, preparing for the work that they were going to have to do in the rest of the class. I knew they were in 1960’s Chicago. But looking around at the others, they could have been anywhere.

Far into the future, perhaps? Way back in the past? Maybe they were experiencing life from the point of view of a different gender or nationality. All of us were physically together, but within their minds they were anywhere but here.

Once their 10 minutes of wide reading time was finished, I wrote the saying I began this post with up on the board and we had a quick chat about it.

The thing is – this saying doesn’t just relate to novels. It also relates to any kind of reading, but of course, seeing as this is a FI/RE blog, I was thinking about financial independence blogs and books.

I think it’s a real shame that the Australian government has chosen to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it came to the new rules they’ve put in place about fin-fluencers. Strong Money Australia and Late Starter Fire are two bloggers who have written about this, and they’ve both done a good job. I don’t need to repeat what they say.

It saddens me, though, that these new ‘guidelines’ about what we can and cannot say are going to take valuable stories about life experiences away from those people who can learn from them. When most people realise they need to get their sh*t together when it comes to money, they are scared and worried.

I know for sure that I was.

I think, like most people in this space, I started to learn about investing, the stock market, financial independence etc from American bloggers and Australian books. American content is all very well for gaining an understanding of the basics, but when it comes to knowledge that’s applicable to Australia, there’s no substitute for Australians sharing their knowledge and experience.

When I first started blogging on my personal blog back in 2008, I was part of the crafting/gardening niche and it was wonderful. So many people sharing their knowledge and inspiration online, helping each other and creating a really supportive community. It was wonderful – and still is.

I was so happy to find a similar space for the people interested in gaining financial independence. Clearly, our life stories are all very different, but that didn’t stop me gleaning what I could use in my own situation, while enjoying watching people’s stories unfold.

Over the years I, a single mother of 4 boys on the shady side of 50, have learned so much from the blogs of Australians who lead lives vastly different to mine. Let’s face it – not many people have travelled the same pathway to financial independence than I have! If I was holding out for information from someone who began their journey with 4 boys under 5, $60 cash, and was driving an ancient Tarago whose sunroof leaked when it rained, I’d still be sitting around, 8 years later, terrified about how I was going to prepare for the future.

Instead, I’ve learned from single people in their 20’s and 30’s, coupled up people without kids, and coupled up people WITH young kids/teenagers/grown families. Some of these couples are married, some are not. Some are straight, some gay and some don’t disclose. A few are older than I am, and I learned a lot about what retirement life is like and what to prepare myself for.

Some write under a nom de plume, others (like me – obviously) write under their own names. Some have degrees, while others have barely finished secondary school. Most seem to live in cities on the east coast, but there are also people living in regional towns or in the bush.

We’re all very different but we all have one thing in common – we want to learn about how to handle our finances responsibly and we want to help others by sharing what we’ve learned.

The huge variety is a strength. We all come to this problem of how to gain financial independence with different ways of thinking, because we’ve all led very different lives. This means that someone who has come at this whole “FI/RE” thing from a totally different angle to you can offer valuable insights into angles that may never have occurred to you.

Sure, it may be a little confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to sort the wheat from the chaff. I know that the more I read – and listened – the more familiar the concepts became and I was gradually able to move forward with a growing confidence that i wasn’t going to muck things up.

One of the most interesting things about hanging around in the space over a few years is to read when people have decided to pivot in their financial independence strategies and they give their reasoning. One of the most fundamental tenets of the FI/RE movement is the importance of flexibility and being able to change what you’re doing if the situation demands it – or if you discover better information.

My fear is that now that the rules have changed, people will be too scared to share valuable insights and information that could add value to the whole space. People coming up, like my sons, won’t have the same freedom to information willingly and freely shared, that I was lucky enough to benefit from.

I’m not sure where we go from here. Some people are massively editing their blogs and removing specific bits and pieces that are suddenly forbidden for public consumption. Podcasts are suddenly in hiatus (or stopped altogether) while the podcasters work out where they now stand.

Fortunately, due to me being scared of numbers and also – as a single woman – being very conscious that there are a lot of crazies out there, I was never granular about the topics I talked about, so I think this tiny blog should be ok.

I’d like to thank all of those creators who enabled me to live many lives as I was navigating my way around this financial independence thing. Your work has been so very huge in enabling me to gain my freedom and to provide a secure base for my sons.

Thank you.

Dad joke of the day:

To whoever stole my dictionary –

I’m at a loss for words.

Wednesday W’s #18.

What’s top of my mind: Work.

I’ve picked up a full week of work. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I’ve worked out that every FULL day of work pays for TWO places at the wedding reception next year.

I know; on one level it’s a bit depressing. That’s a lot of hours to pay for a couple of meals and some drinks. But on another level, I get up and say, “Today I’m working for my brother and sister-in-law!” Or whoever.

People at work find that funny. “Who are you working for today?” they ask as I come through the door.

So far I haven’t said no to a single day of work. Let’s see how long that continues. This week will be a real test. I keep looking ahead to October, though. Traditionally, as soon as the year 12 exams start, then all CRT work stops. I know I’ll have a nice long break over late spring and summer.

Where I’ve Been: ‘Kill Climate Deniers.’

Sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, that’s appropriate, seeing as it was a play. One of my ex-students from my 2019 Theatre Studies class messaged me and asked if I’d like to come and see her play.

Of course! When I saw that another of my students was doing the multi media, I was rapt. Two birds – one stone, baby!

I was so proud of the work they did. It was lovely to catch up with Helena after the show. Can’t believe they’re now 21…!

Where I’m going: nowhere.

A full week of work. There’s not much room for anything else. I like being here with the kids and my friends, but yet… I miss my untrammelled days of freedom.

Though I am taking Poppy to the vet next Monday for her anti-arthritis shot. At least I have that to look forward to…

What I’m watching: Better Call Saul.

A year ago, Ryan27 finally convinced me to watch ‘Breaking Bad.’ We watched all 5 seasons together as a mother/son thing, even though he’d already seen it before.

I think the same thing might happen with Saul.

What I’ve been reading: The new Dervla McTiernan book.

I forgot to bring my book to work yesterday and I was so cross with myself! I had 4 periods of English, all with 10 minutes of silent reading, so imagine how much I would’ve been able t get through?

I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far, but it seems promising. The Murder Rule is a stand-alone story, which is fine, I guess… I really want to find out what happens next in the life of Cormac Reilly, her protagonist in the series that starts with The Ruin. I’ve got my sister reading this one at the moment. 🙂

What I’m listening to: Podcasts.

I tend to listen to poddies in the car and music when I’m quilting, so this week has been a Casefile, Dan Smow’s History Hit and Welcome to Nightvale time.

My son, Evan25, is starting a comedy podcast next week with his friend. I’ll post a link when it’s live.

What I’m eating: Home-made bread rolls for lunches.

I’m working to earn money, not to spend it at the school canteen! (Though having said that, the school canteen has really lifted its game – the food is fantastic… though not cheap.)

My go-to for lunch when I’m working is a home-made bread roll with home-grown lettuce and some cheese. This week it’s Red Leicester. Yesterday I tried putting some nasturtium leaves in as well, thinking they’d give a peppery flavour, but I couldn’t tell the difference.

It’s quick to make, fills me up and is quick to eat. That last point is handy when you usually have a yard duty for half of lunch.

Who needs a good slap: Me.

Normally when I work, I set the alarm for 6:30.

I gently awoke this morning, then lazily reached out and grabbed my laptop. It was 7:20. I didn’t set the alarm.

I didn’t know I could start running first thing in the morning. I got here on time, but oof!

Note to self: when you know you’re working, set the alarm immediately! Don’t wait until the night before.

What I’m planning: a ‘girls weekend’ away.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to swing it, but I’m thinking a couple of nights away with Jenna, Izzy and my two nieces might be fun. It’ll give them all a chance to connect – I like the idea of the young women of my family all being friends.

What has made me smile: The little woofs.

Apparently they wait for me ALL DAY. This is a photo of Poppy and Jeff asleep on Ryan27’s Oodie.

We really don’t deserve dogs.

Dad joke of the day:

My boss asked me why I was only sick on work days.

I said, “It must be my weekend immune system.”

Frugal Friday: Perennial plants – the gifts that keep on giving.

On Christmas Eve last year, Ryan27 and I drove over to Mt Eliza to his friend’s place. She had some lilies and elephant garlic that she was happy to give away.

I stood and watched while Ryan27 dug them up and we brought them home.

The elephant garlic was planted last week in one of the wicking vegetable beds. The lilies were planted as soon as we got home in the backyard, right near the pizza oven.

The main entertainment up till now has been watching how quickly these plants have been leaping up from the ground.

But two days ago I went out to get some green leaves for dinner and there it was – the first flower.

There are two more flowers quietly growing that will soon be out.

Over time, I’m looking forward to being able to have these as cut flowers in the house. I’ve always loved their shape – so simple and elegant.

Why am I writing about this on Frugal Friday? Because I’ll be enjoying these flowers for (possibly) the rest of my life… and they were free.

Not to mention the elephant garlic – a lifetime’s supply of garlic for free as well.

If you have the space, setting aside spots for perennial flowers and vegetables is a great investment, both financially and for personal satisfaction.

My $7 rhubarb plant I bought from Aldi 3 years ago has provided huge amounts of rhubarb stalks each year – enough to supply our household, my parents and my sister. I think it paid for itself in the first 3 months of being planted. Imagine how much free food it’ll give when I dig it up and divide it into more plants?

I have a lime verbena, 3 lemon verbenas and a lemon myrtle, as well as many different types of peppermint. Free herbal tea, anyone? They’re great either fresh or dried and make great little gifts.

I haven’t bought bean seeds for years – I just let some dry on the vine and then plant the dried beans in the following Spring. Free beans are my favourite type.

I’m not even going to try listing my fruit trees. Once they become well-established I’ll be one happy little gardener.

One piece of advice – only plant what you’ll want to eat!

Do you have any perennial plants that have been absolutely worth it?

Dad joke of the day:

If Satan ever lost his hair, there’d be hell toupee.

Wednesday W’s #17.

What’s top of my mind: The importance of timing.

We went for a beach walk this morning. The radar said that my suburb wasn’t going to get rain but when we were out there I saw rain falling over Frankston and decided to turn back.

Five minutes after we got home, the rain arrived. Fortunte Frogdancer strikes again! I’ll include shots from today’s walk in this post.

Where I’ve been: May’s Little Adventure.

Post to come.

Where I’m going: Aldi to get bocconcini.

The boys are all coming over for a pizza lunch on Mothers Day and David28 asked for bocconcini on his pizza. On the next ‘spend day’, which will probably be tomorrow, I’ll hunt down those cheese balls.

Nothing but the best for my boys!

What I’m watching: How very beautiful Poppy is.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a very pretty breed to begin with, (unless their owners stuff them so full of treats that they waddle when they walk.) I’ve owned this breed since I was 20 and I’ve had many Cavaliers, particularly when I was breeding and showing them before I started breeding humans.

But hand on my heart, I’d have to say that Poppy is the best example of the breed I’ve ever owned. She’s utterly beautiful and moves like a dream. She’s my shadow… unless someone else walks into the kitchen.

It’s a pity that she doesn’t have a sense of humour. Life’s a serious business for Poppy.

What I’ve been reading: Men Cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies.

I first saw this on a Twitter thread ages ago, but with the news coming out of America that their Supreme Court is likely to be overturning Roe Vs Wade, this article is incredibly timely.

I’ve never been more glad to be a woman living in Australia. I don’t know what the hell is happening in the US, but between their healthcare system, the guns and now this – I’m VERY glad that my ancestors got onto the boats headed for here instead of there.

Sorry if this upsets any US readers, but this is how it looks from over here. There are many wonderful things about the US and her people, but things seem to be slipping in a nasty direction.

What I’m listening to: A Wrinkle in Time.

I’ve never read this book and apparently it’s a classic. So I downloaded it from the library, thinking that it was an eBook. But no… it’s an audiobook. So I guess I’ll put ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ on Spotify to the side for a while and catch up on my reading while I’m quilting.

What I’m eating: Home-made hommus.

I brought back an uneaten Turkish bread from my last Little Adventure, so Ryan27 and I used it up with some hommus that I whipped up. There was some hommus left over, so yesterday I spread it on a freshly-baked bread roll and polished it off for lunch.

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make all the difference.

No, it’s not the same photo!

Who needs a good slap: Ummm

This is always the hardest one to fill in. My life is pretty chill. Total freedom – aka retirement – suits me well.

What I’m planning: A little nap after lunch.

The Spanish were certainly onto something when they invented the siesta. I love a good nanna nap!

What has made me smile: Finding out how to delete shows from my “Currently watching” list on Netflix.

You know how sometimes a show sounds as if it’ll be good, then you start watching and realise that it’s AWFUL? And then it stays on your ‘watching’ list forever, unless you get sick of it and whizz through every episode on fast forward just to get rid of it?

Turns out that if you log into Netflix on your computer, there’s an option to ‘clean’ lists. I knew that there must be an easier way! I’m so happy I found it.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #13: Cranbourne Botanical Park. April 2022.

Remember last year, when people from our pasts reconnected on Facebook because we were all in lockdown and had lots of time on our hands? After things eased up, I went on quite a few reunion lunches and coffees.

On one of these, I heard how a school friend’s husband was working at the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens. I’d vaguely heard about this place before, but when Blogless Sandy mentioned that her walking group had been there and really enjoyed it, I decided to use it for my latest Little Adventure.

(Basically, when I retired I decided to take a Little Adventure once a month. I’ll go somewhere/do something that I never have before. What’s the point of freedom if you don’t explore a little?)

When I got there I made straight for the lookout, which was perched on the highest part of the whole area. Here I found a map of the place. I decided to save the top part for a further Little Adventure sometime in the future and to hang a right just after the Perched Swamp and walk along the bottom part of the property.

That’ll be enough for one morning!

So I set off. The track was on a gentle incline. One thing I really didn’t like about this place is that they didn’t allow dogs, so the little woofs had to stay at home. But further up the trail I spotted two labradors. Turns out they were Assistance dogs being trained.

I didn’t want to muck up their training so I held back while they went up the lookout tower first. While they were there I saw this sign underneath:

Phew! Thank goodness there wasn’t a cloud in the sky!

I climbed the steps to the top of the lookout and surveyed my surroundings. The assistance dogs were disappearing down the hill.

I don’t know what’s causing the sparkle on the horizon, but it looked pretty.

It was a bit of a shock to read that on a clear day I could see both Port Philip and Westernport bays from here. Despite having lived here for 6 years, I haven’t yet made the adjustment to realising that I’m far nearer the Peninsula than the city.

Anyway, after a long look around, I set off down the track.

Isn’t this lovely? It’s a little door under the fence so that echidnas can move through.

To be honest, most of the walk wasn’t that exciting, view-wise. This was the usual ‘vista’… fairly boring scrub. But the air was fresh and pure and all I could hear was birdsong and my feet crunching on the gravel.

That wasn’t so hard to take.

Then I got to the turnoff to the Perched Swamp and went down the path. I found this bit really interesting.

If you read the sign, it turns out that this patch of land is like a teacup suspended between the dunes. Water seeps in and it turns into a swamp. Hence the name – the swamp is perched, suspended (in a way) between the dunes.

This hasn’t been filled since 2001, which goes to show how dry this area is. The photo on the sign shows a vastly different view than the one I was seeing.

Two wallabies were having a snack to the right.

If the sign wasn’t there, you’d never dream that you were looking at swampland.

That’s the edge of the ‘teacup.’

A little further along the main track, I saw the sign that told me to diverge and take the road less travelled* to the wetlands.

*Just a little nod to the literature buffs.

Looks inviting, doesn’t it?

All this time I was walking along, totally alone (as I thought), just enjoying the day. I was walking in a shady part of the track, totally alone (as I thought) when I saw a tree with bright green moss on it.

Still walking, I suddenly stopped dead and lifted my phone to take the shot when something moved. For a split second I froze. A woman walking alone NEVER likes unexpected movements near her.

Then I saw…

And something else moved…

They were so close to me! I was so rapt. What an absolute gift.

If I hadn’t have stopped unexpectedly to take that photo and scared the living daylights out of them for a split second, I never would have known they were there.

Here’s the tree with the moss, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

Considerably buoyed by my wallaby encounter, I set off again. The track turned sandy and then I found the lake.

I walked off the track to get closer, trying to avoid stepping on the wallaby poo that seemed to be everywhere.

Then I saw a duck!

It was even better when she turned out to have ducklings. I stayed there for a while, just enjoying the vibe, then I set off again. My next goal was to get back to the car park.

That quilt isn’t going to make itself.

This part of the walk seemed to go on FOREVER. I was glad I brought my hat as it got quite sunny. I saw a couple of Mums with prams in this section, and I caught a glimpse of the assistance dogs a long way behind me.

Look! Some more duck-like things!

They were a brilliant shade of blue, though it’s only on the left-hand one in this photo that you can get an idea.

I kept walking.

I had no choice…

It was a long track with not much to look at. Fortunately, I had my thoughts to keep me company. I find myself very interesting.

Before you label me as egotistical – just imagine if I didn’t find my thoughts interesting. How awful would that be? You can never escape yourself. You’re always with you, so you may as well enjoy it.

This was quite interesting. When I was walking up towards it I couldn’t make out what these strange little boxes were. Nesting boxes for endangered birds?? Turns out it was far more scientific.

Started wondering if dinosaurs lived in the bush as well as wallabies.

The track had curved and we were back in the trees again. Surely I was getting closer?

I’m a busy woman. I have things to do at home.

Plus, look at how close those trees grew together. Crazy.

There’s no real reason for this shot. I just liked the colours.

Success!!!!

This was a long walk for me because I’m very unfit, but it was easy. The paths are well maintained and there’s no way you could stray off them and get lost.

When I was talking to Blogless Sandy about it, she mentioned that I’d apparently chosen the most untouched part of the garden to explore. This means that when I next choose to go back, I’ll be wandering around a more planned part, which showcases Australian plants.

Should be good.

All in all, I enjoyed this Little Adventure. It’s nice to think that in these modern times there’s some land so close to the city where for a split second wallabies and humans can scare the living daylights out of each other.

Good times.

Having an Emergency Fund is a waste of money – until it isn’t.

I first learned the value of having what I then called a ‘Buffer Zone’ back in the days when I was newly separated, with 4 small boys under 6. When we split, we had a mortgage, 2 old cars and $120 in the bank. I withdrew the money and gave him half, so we each had $60. I took the people mover and he took the van he needed for work. We agreed that the boys and I would live in the house and in lieu of child support, he’d pay the mortgage.

(Anyone who’s ever been in this situation, or knows people who have, knows what’s coming next. It’s the classic move of the non-custodial who wants to punish their ex.)

Establishing a new life with $60 and 4 kids isn’t as much fun as you might think. We were able to get the Sole Parent’s Pension, as it was called then, so basic bills were covered. But I had a huge urge to get some security for us and so I decided to scrape together one thousand dollars as a ‘Buffer Zone’ for us.

It took 4 or 5 months but I did it. I scrimped and scraped, I barely ate any meat during this period – though I remember cutting off the end of a sausage that the boys were having as part of their spaghetti and ‘meatballs’ meal and devouring it. Any way that I could save money, or at the very least wring every cent’s worth of value from each dollar, I did.

And yes – one day I checked the bank account and there was $1,000 sitting there.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We had our Buffer Zone. Job done!

But something was niggling me. A few days later, I decided to call the bank and check on the balance of our mortgage.

I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. The person on the other end of the line told me that the mortgage hadn’t been paid for a couple of months and that the account was $963 in arrears.

“After another month, we would’ve called to discuss it.” But of course, I wouldn’t have been the one they would’ve called. This was 25 years ago – the male name on the mortgage would’ve received the call. I was lucky that I decided to check.

But of course, I didn’t feel lucky at the time. As I threw the younger kids into the massive double stroller I had and began to walk up the street towards the bank with the older two boys skipping along beside me, I was furious. Actually, I felt incandescent with rage.

But I also felt thankful that I had the money behind me to fix it. A simple transfer from my Buffer Zone account to the mortgage and the situation was safe.

And that’s what a Buffer Zone/Emergency Account is for.

To save your bacon in the event of an unexpected expense.

Cute as a button dachshund pup.
Scout’s a big fam of the Emergency Fund – with good reason.

Naturally, I immediately began work on building that Buffer Zone back up. It was even harder this time because I was now paying the mortgage on top of everything else. But like everything else on this FI/RE trip, if you keep at it step by step, you eventually get there.

Would I ever be without an Emergency Fund again? Hell, no! That thing not only kept a roof over our heads when we were at our most vulnerable, but every now and then over the years it’s smoothed the ride when surprising things happened.

What about the day I loaded the boys into the Tarago and swung the roller door closed, only to have it keep on going and the bottom half swung off the car? Ok, I admit that it was stressful trying to secure the door well enough so we could drive home safely, but the next day, thanks to the emergency fund, I was able to get it fixed.

(When it happened, the boys stared at me in shock as the door was swinging wildly from one hinge. I remember thinking, “I can either laugh or cry.” With those little boys looking at me, all I could do was start laughing. The situation was so awful as to be hilarious. )

The time that Scout swallowed a seed pod and almost died was another one. Her surgery cost $3,200. I was telling that to a friend at work and she gasped and said, “I’d never be able to afford that. The vet and I would have been having a very different discussion.” Fortunately, I have a separate emergency fund for the dogs, so money wasn’t an issue. Three years later, we still have our little girl who makes us laugh every single day.

A couple of years ago I leapt blithely into my morning shower – only to leap straight back out, screaming. The hot water system had died. Three days later we had a continuous gas hot water system installed – luxury! I tell you – I loved my emergency fund when I took my first hot shower.

These are just a smattering of the times that problems that can be fixed with money were taken care of with minimal stress and no debt.

New fridge.

Over time, as I became more financially secure and started work again, the size of my emergency fund grew. It started out at $1,000, then grew to $5,000 and then up to $15,000, before settling down at my current level of $10,000.

My gauge of how much cash for an emergency I need to have behind me is pretty much the ‘can I sleep at night?’ test. With 10K, I feel that it pretty much covers most things that could go wrong with my house and car. As I mentioned before, I have a separate account for the dogs that I set up when I got Scout and then found out about the 25% risk dachshunds have of getting IVDD. I’m devoutly hoping I never have to touch that money but it’s there if she needs it.

The Emergency Fund is a funny beast. In my experience, I can go for YEARS without tapping into it, to the point where it almost feels like a waste having all that money just sitting there earning next to no interest.

Then WHAM! Something happens. Or two things happen. They seem to come in waves.

Consider the last 2 weeks. My fridge dies. After weighing the options, I decide to buy a new one. $1,900 later, the shiny new fridge is installed in my kitchen. No credit card debt, no drama. Excellent!

A week later we experience the first cold snap of the year, so we try to switch on our gas ducted heating. Nothing. Turns out that it was a 20-year-old model that has valiantly served its time but was now up for renewal. No problem. $3,000 later, a new model was installed on the same day.

Annoying? Yes. But stressful? No.

In the space of 2 weeks, I had 5K of unexpected expenses. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a little more than simple walking around money. Over the next little while, I’ll steadily pump money back into the emergency fund until it’s at the ‘can I sleep at night?’ level again – ready for next time.

Because we know that there’ll always be a next time.

The brilliant thing is that there are no set rules.

YOU decide how much money you want to have in there – the ‘can I sleep at night?’ rule is totally individual. Some people, particularly those with insecure or erratic jobs, like to keep 3 – 6 months of expenses in there. Some like to have a year. Personally, because the job I had was incredibly secure, I was happy with the 10K – 15K level.

YOU decide where to leave it – my personal choice is to put it in an online bank account away from my everyday bank, so it’s not always in my face. The Emergency Fund is intended to lurk in the background like a benevolent stalker until it’s needed, not to be a constant temptation to spend the money on fun stuff.

The only requirement is self-discipline. First to build up the thing in the first place; then to not tap into it unless it’s a genuine surprise expense that’s popped up. But as we all know, fiscal discipline and delayed gratification make you stronger.

The Emergency Fund is like having a friend who is always ready to have your back. And who doesn’t like that feeling?

Wednesday W’s #16.

What’s top of my mind: Getting another row finished on my quilt.

The photo is of two rows of blocks. It’s exciting because I can already see the pattern emerging.

But boy! This quilt takes constant mindfulness. There are a lot of corners that have to be edged up exactly right. After an afternoon’s sewing on this beast my eyes feel like they’re going around like Catherine wheels.

Where I’ve been: on April’s Little Adventure.

Post to come.

Where I’m going: To the High Country.

I suddenly realized that I have a lot of points in my Vacation Club to use up before June 30. Being constantly in lockdowns last year meant that I didn’t get the chance to go anywhere. So the chase is on! I decided to nip away this coming weekend to see the autumn colours up in the high country.

What I’m watching: My garden slipping into ‘winter’ mode.

I’ve already put a few beds to sleep for the winter, spreading fertiliser, chopping spent plants as mulch etc. Give it another month and most of the beds will be waiting for spring.

Though having seen the prices for cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower at Aldi yesterday, I might grow a few winter veggies. Yikes!

What I’ve been reading: French Braid by Anne Tyler.

I’ve read a few books by Anne Tyler and there hasn’t been a dud amongst them. With French Braid, Tyler has created another winner.

It’s not a long novel, but it covers decades in the lives of a family. I particularly liked the character of the mother. Some reviewers find her very selfish, but I identified with how she chose to live her life on HER terms. I seem to have done the same, though I’ve made different choices than she did.

Anne Tyler has written a long list of nvels. Now I want to track them down and read them all.

What I’m listening to: Nothing.

Argh! I’ve misplaced my iPad! It has all of my podcasts in it. I really need to track it down before Friday. I’d hate to be driving for hours and not have poddies to listen to.

What I’m eating: Red capsicums from the garden.

This year may have been a shocking one for tomatoes, but I’ve grown the best capsicums ever. Ryan27 loves green capsicums, but even he got sick of them and so I now have a few caps that were left long enough for them to turn red.

Tonight we’ll be having chicken tikka masala so I can use one. So happy. 🙂

Who needs a good slap: No one.

It’s all chill here.

What I’m planning: A trip to Manly Beach in Sydney.

Again, using up points from the holiday club. I’ve never been to Manly, and the last time I was in Sydney was 12 years ago with the boys. We climbed the bridge and went to Taronga zoo and the aquarium and had a great time.

I’ve locked it in for June. Something to look forward to!

What has made me smile: Talking to the boys on the phone.

It’s such a simple thing, but I love it when I chat to them. Two still live with me, so that’s pretty easy, but when the others call – or I call them and they pick up the phone straight away – it makes my day.

It’s surprising how fond you can get of the people you make.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #15

What’s top of my mind: Payday again today!

Now that the state government has relaxed the rules for close contacts, I’m wondering how much work I’ll be picking up now that parents of young kids don’t have to isolate with them anymore.

Where I’ve been: Hanging around waiting for my heater to be replaced.

Yes, what with the fridge last week and then my gas ducted heater needing to be replaced today, it’s been an expensive school holidays.

Where I’m going: Nowhere.

I’m intending on having a lovely week just chilling here.

What I’m watching: Peaky Blinders.

I’ve had this show in my Netflix queue for ages, but it was the news that a kid from Jack30’s year level has secured a role in the 6th and final season that finally prompted me to start it. I have until June to get up to speed on the first 5 seasons. (Luckily they only have 6 episodes per season!)

What I’ve been reading: ‘Immune: A Journey into the mysterious system that keeps you alive.’

Ryan27 read this book to deepen his understanding of the immune system while doing his myotherapy course. Ever since then, he’s been badgering me to read it. Of course, I avoided it because it sounds boring. But I ran out of books to read over Easter so I picked it up.

It’s fascinating! The guy who wrote it has a youtube channel that explains all sorts of things in an entertaining way and he’s kept the same thing up here. I had absolutely no idea how incredible and – frankly – impossible our immune system really is. I’m only a third of the way into it and I’m loving it. It’s a non-fiction book that reads… well, if not like a fiction book, then at least an easy-to-digest non-fiction book.

What I’m listening to:

The last Fire and Chill podcast.

I think it’s a terrible shame that the new ASIC guidelines for discussions around personal finance n Australia have been so heavy-handed that people like Dave and Pat have decided that it’s not worth the risk to keep offering the information that they do. I know that when I was just starting out on my FIRE journey after paying off my house, their blogs were invaluable to me to glean information. It’s going to be a huge loss to people coming after us, such as my sons, who’ll be starved for specifically Australian content.

What I’m eating: African Peanut Stew.

I bought a vegetarian cookbook from Thermobexta 2 years ago and it had this recipe in it. I always wanted to try it but never got around to it. Last night was the night! It was delicious! Ryan27 had 2 friends around and they agreed. Everyone polished their plates.

Vego food is so cheap. I fed 5 adults for around $6.

I have all but one of her cookbooks. They saved me when Evan25 decided he was vegetarian a few years ago.

Who needs a good slap: Me.

I just realised that I forgot to eat lunch. No wonder I’m so hungry right now!

What I’m planning: Nothing.

It’s so relaxing.

What has made me smile: The podcast review of Evan25’s show.

Evan25 sent me the link to a review that a couple of guys did for their show. It’s a lovely thing to hear that your son is “a very charismatic guy”; has “a beautiful singing voice” and is “someone I could watch all day.”

Of course I agree with all of these comments. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #14.

Little white dog disappearing into a fluffy rug.
He looks miserable.

What’s top of my mind: The death of my fridge.

On Sunday night, as I pulled out some chicken schnitzels from the freezer for a quick fakeaway dinner, they felt a little soft.

“Has someone opened the freezer?” I asked. Both boys shook their heads, so I thought that maybe I was the doofus who’d left the door ajar. In the middle of the night I woke with the question, “What if the fridge has died?” running through my head. Sure enough, the next morning brought a silent fridge and soggy packages in the freezer.

It’s never a convenient moment to lose your fridge.

Where I’ve been: scurrying from the kitchen to the laundry.

Fortunately I have the full-sized freezer from the old house in the laundry. It’s pretty full, but there were enough nooks and crannies left to be able to fill them with lots of things from the kitchen freezer.

Anything else, I put in an esky or in the freezer drawers with a bag of ice.

Where I’m going: to Evan25’s show at the Comedy Festival.

Yay! The boys are doing ‘Chumsville’ gain, so on Saturday night I’m bringing a couple of friends to see them do what they do best. Make people laugh, that is. 🙂

What I’m watching: The front window.

The new fridge is due to arrive in 20 minutes!!!!

What I’ve been reading: Inside the Bitcoin bust that took down the Web’s biggest child abuse site.

“They thought their payments were untraceable. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The untold story of the case that shredded the myth of Bitcoin’s anonymity.”

This is a long article but it’s well worth the read. I really enjoyed it.

What I’m listening to: Dan Snow’s History Hit.

This is a new-to-me podcast, where each episode is a look at an interesting thing that has happened in the past. They’re not tied to any particular portion of history, so the episodes leap around time all over the place. The episodes are also in 30 minute (or so) lengths, so they’re great for a commute.

What I’m eating: Things that we salvaged from the fridge and freezer.

Last night’s dinner was mushroom risotto. Instead of parmesan, I used a piece of tasty cheese. I kept the parmesan cheese in the esky in the ice. There was a punnet of mushrooms that wouldn’t be great after another night without cooling, so I was pleased to use them up.

I was also glad I used up the tasty cheese, but going forward? Parmesan is definitely better.

Ryan27 cooked up a heap of dim sims for lunch. They were basically still frozen when I transferred them to the back freezer, but to be on the safe side, I told him that they needed using up. He was happy to oblige. I had the last frozen pie.

Who needs a good slap: The fridge repair company.

I can’t prove that they were planning to rip me off, but their quote certainly seemed suss. It turned out to be more viable to just get a new fridge.

What I’m planning: to make bagels.

Tom30 loves bagels. I’ve only ever made them once, YEARS ago. I used a thermomix recipe and they were delicious. I might give them another go. He’ll be delighted.

What has made me smile: Having my untrammelled days back.

Even though I’m enjoying the challenge of paying for David28’s wedding – and now the new fridge, I guess – by working, there’s a special beauty in the days where no one dictates how I spend my time but I.

I’m enjoying these school holidays.

Dad joke of the day:

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