Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Frugal Friday: Devise your own healthcare tests at home.

Ryan27 gave me these tea tins for Christmas but I needed new labels for my label maker.
A trip to Officeworks today— all they had was clear labels so without a thought I grabbed them.
Um… clear labels with black writing on black tins are going to be a FANTASTIC eyesight test for us all going forward…

Dad joke of the day:

Why don’t dolphins make mistakes?

Because they do things on porpoise.

Wednesday W’s.

What’s top of my mind: The disappearance of this blog.

I’ve had the most stressful day since my retirement. A few weeks ago I migrated this blog across to what I was told was a far cheaper hosting company than the one I’ve been using. All well and good, though no one mentioned shifting the domain name as well. This morning I opened the laptop to write this post and my blog was gone. Vanished.

omg

There was an email from my old hosting company (Siteground) saying I had a week to pay them or the blog would be permanently deleted.

Lots of you are bloggers. Can you imagine the trauma? I’ve been blogging at the Frogblog since 2007, so even though this blog is only a baby by comparison, to think of all of this work vanishing in the aether was horrifying.

Fortunately, the good folk at Panthur were able to show me how to retrieve something called an EPP and I was able to transfer the domain name across to them. In the process, I saved myself $330 A YEAR.

omg

I’ll send a huge Thank You to Captain FI, Michelle and Sarah and Laura who told me about Panthur when we had a blog meet in Adelaide last year.

Where I’ve been: At the sewing machine.

I’m making a quilt for my cousin. She lost her Mum a while ago and I had the perfect idea for a quilt to celebrate my aunt, who was an artist, a keen golfer and she loved colour. Unfortunately, I had all of those Christmas present quilts I was making, so I had to put it on the back burner. I’ll blog about it soon, though. It’s a fantastic frugal project and I’m loving it.

Where I’m going: To get a wine.

Honestly, today with the blog disappearing was incredibly stressful. I think I need a cheeky shiraz to show myself that all’s right with the world.

What I’m watching: My lilies explode.

Just before Christmas Ryan27 and I drove over to his friend’s house and we dug up some calla lilies. You know, the ones you see at funerals all the time. I chopped off all of the leaves and planted the bulbs in the ground in the lower part of the backyard, under the roof. I think the outdoor room will look lovely with lilies running along the side.

Well, they seem to like it here! I’m not kidding when I say that every morning they’ve grown at least 2 cms. You can almost SEE them getting bigger.

Ryan27 told his friend and she laughed and said, “Welcome to the weeds!”

What I’m reading: Murderous Robots and ex-husbands.

Helen from the comments a couple of weeks ago mentioned the Murderbot series, so I grabbed the first one from the library. It’s called ‘All Systems Red‘ and it’s a rollicking good sci-fi read. It’s a novella, so it was a quick read as well. I have the next 3 to get through – just waiting on someone to finish reading #2 before I get to #3 and #4.

In contrast, I also finished ‘Oh William!” by Elizabeth Strout. She’s such a beautiful writer – she’s the woman who wrote ‘Olive Kitteridge’. Her novels never disappoint.

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

There’s a podcaster I really enjoy. His name is James Boulton and he specialises in history podcasts about women. His first series was The Queens of England, which I absolutely ADORED. He started from before the Norman invasion n 1066 and then kept going. Then, once he ran out of queens, he began a podcast called “The Other Half.’

“Women make up half of the world’s population, and yet history books often consign them to the sidelines. They are dismissed as merely the wives of powerful men; babymakers and nothing more. Yet women have been the driving force behind history for millennia, from female Pharoahs, warrior princesses and pirates, to the revolutionaries who sought to topple the male-dominated political systems of their day. From the host of the popular ‘Queens of England Podcast’, The Other Half tells the forgotten and ignored stories of the most powerful and influential women in history.”

It’s fabulous. And he’s just lovely. If you’re interested in history, then I highly recommend.

What I’m eating: Homemade pizza.

I told Ryan27 that he’s cooking tonight, so we’re having homemade pizza. It’s his go-to when he’s told to put the chef’s hat on. We have a rule in this house that you always have to have green leaves from the garden on our pizzas, as well as the pesto that I made last year and froze in icecube trays. Soon, with a bit of luck, there’ll be homegrown capsicums as well.

And yes, sometimes we put pineapple on it. Who wouldn’t?

Who needs a good slap: Novak Djokavic.

What an absolute tool. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

What I’m planning: When I can get everyone together for when Tom29 turns into Tom 30.

Tomorrow is the day when I become the mother of a 30-year-old. Yikes! (I must have been a mere child when I had him… I’m too youthful and dewy to have a child that old, surely???)

We were going to have the family over on Sunday for lunch, but covid is really ripping through Victoria at the moment. When the state’s hospitals get put into a ‘Code Brown’, it’s clear that now is not the time to be gathering people together. Hopefully, in a couple of months things will settle down a bit and we can celebrate then.

David27 and Izzy have their engagement party planned for next month. Who knows if it’ll go ahead? (The party, I mean, not the engagement!)

What has made me smile: Evan25 when he realised he ghosted me for days.

Last week he was earning himself a slap – this week it’s a smile. It took him 5 days to get back to me last week. I decided I was going to wait the full week and then call Jenna to complain, but he beat me to it – thank goodness. It seems like he’s learned his lesson – I just got a text that says: ‘Can calllll tonight.’

He and Jenna have been looking for a place to rent on their own. Fingers crossed they’ve found something.

Dad joke of the day:

When I found my toaster wasn’t waterproof, I was shocked.

Great success is always the sum of many small decisions.

The quilt I made for my parents for Christmas is the perfect metaphor for the journey to financial independence. Quilting, like becoming financially free, has basic, simple steps but it certainly isn’t easy.

It’s not quick, either. But each seemingly insignificant decision that we make along the way contributes to the whole, beautiful product at the end.

The broad brush strokes of this quilt are the same as every other quilt in the world – it has a top of smaller pieces of fabric sewed together; a middle piece of warm batting and a backing fabric, sewing through all 3 layers to hold it all together and with a binding fabric sewn around the edges to stop it from fraying and falling apart. All quilts are the same basic construction.

Financial Independence s the same. The basic construction is that a financially independent person has gathered together the resources, usually over a time-period of decades, to support themselves financially without having to turn up to a job or business for money. Every financially independent person falls into this broad brush stroke category.

But as with the quilt, once you zoom in, the details can vary tremendously.

Take another look at this quilt.

This is a quilt made from scraps. There is no other quilt the same as this in the whole world. When I decided to make it, the broad brush stroke decisions were already decided. I knew how this quilt would be put together. But then some further decisions had to be made.

  • Each square would be made from scraps of one colour.
  • I would not buy any more fabric – I would make this quilt from what I already had. (It was in the middle of lockdowns, after all!)
  • Each square would measure 12.5″ square.
  • Most squares would be rainbow hues, but a couple would be brown, black-and-white and pink, just to tone it down a bit.
  • The quilt would be double-bed sized, as that’s the size bed my parents have.

Very similar to how we start along the path to financial independence. When I found out about FI/RE and decided to see if I could swing it, there were a few decisions to be made as to how I was going to go about it.

  • I had already paid off my house, so I decided I’d concentrate on putting together a share portfolio. House prices, even back then, were prohibitive for a sole parent on one teaching wage. Buying rentals was out of the question.
  • I decided to drop back a day a week at work and become a Thermomix Group Leader, running a team of consultants in my area. In other words, I chose to augment my wage by running a side hustle.
  • I was still supporting my four teenage boys. Reducing my expenses by installing solar panels, creating a food forest with fruit trees, veggie gardens and chooks, and cooking from scratch would cost more in the short-term, but over the long haul would make my journey towards financial independence much easier.

So far so good. But just deciding these things will not produce either a finished quilt or a financially secure retirement. You have to go smaller. Which specific actions are you going to take to get these things done?

Zoom in on the quilt. Every single piece of fabric here is the result of a deliberate decision and a deliberate action. See the black and white square? If you zoom in on that, you’ll see pieces of fabric that are less than a quarter of an inch wide. (Yes, I’m crazy.)

Some of the pieces in these squares are much larger and therefore contribute more towards the overall finished quilt. But the quilt would not be finished without every single one of these pieces, no matter how small. Every single decision and action in putting these fabrics together has mattered.

You could make the argument that the smallest pieces of fabric in the quilt almost matter the most, as they show that the commitment was there to finish the overall quilt top, by using every single piece of fabric at my disposal – no matter how small. I knew that even though a 1/4″ stripe of colour wouldn’t contribute a huge amount; IT STILL HELPED. After all, all I needed was enough pieces of coloured fabric to cover the top of a double bed. Keep at it long enough, keep putting fabric pieces together no matter how small and I knew I’d eventually get there.

It’s the same with financial independence.

All you need to do is cover 25X your annual expenses and you’re golden. The broadest brush stroke of all, I know! But how we all choose to get there is incredibly varied. Each one of us has a FI/RE journey that is exactly like this quilt – – a one of a kind. I can’t speak for anyone else, but like the strips and squares of colour in the quilt top, here are some of the things I chose to do each day to push myself along the path to FI/RE:

The most day-to-day decisions were all about frugality. I upped my income through the Thermomix side-hustle but I also deliberately chose to make the pool of money I had last a long time. I stretched my dollars any way I could. Some, like the quarter-inch strips, barely moved the needle. Others, like the big red and white polka-dot squares, covered much more ground. But they all contributed to the mindset of paying attention to the dollars:

  • When Tom13 started secondary school, he had to choose between learning French and German. The other boys didn’t have a choice. They all used the same textbooks – each book was used four times. Bargain!
  • Same with school uniforms. Everything was handed down from boy to boy and, wherever possible, bought at the school’s second-hand uniform shop. Boys are tough on their clothes, so why pay full price?
  • I bought grocery specials in bulk. If we ate it and it was on special, I bought up big. The aim was to eat as much as we could at half-price. Over time, that makes a difference.
  • If a cut of meat cost over $10/KG, I didn’t buy it. Even now, with only 2 of us in the house, I still look at the unit cost of everything.
  • The boys were all given swimming lessons. That’s a non-negotiable for Australian kids. But after that, each boy was only allowed to take ONE extra-curricular activity at a time. None of this running each kid around to forty-seven different gym classes, dance classes and sport clinics every week! At first they tried sport, but then over time, they all gravitated to music lessons. Instead of being ‘Jacks of all trades, masters of none’, they’re all very proficient in their instruments of choice. David27 has made a career out of it!
  • Once I found out about FI/RE, I read everything I could lay my hands on about investing. The share market was a big mystery to me and, being deathly afraid of numerals and maths, I had a lot of mental blocks to slowly overcome. It was hard, I won’t lie, but I knew that if I kept at it, blog post by blog post, book by book, things would slowly become clearer.
  • I kept food costs low by growing as much of our food as we could. I kept chooks, not just for the eggs but also for the free fertiliser they provided. If I grew it – we ate it.
  • I also grew the food that I needed to take to Thermomix demos as much as possible. After all, I was there to MAKE money; not spend it! My customers all had the herb and garlic dip instead of the hommus, (I grew the garlic, parsley and spring onions) , and they always had the rissotto (I grew the spinach.)
  • We were given free bread from a bakery every Tuesday night. We picked up everything they hadn’t sold that day for YEARS – all of their breads, pies, cakes and doughnuts. I stuffed my boys full of that free food – and I gave it away to friends and took the excess cakes and pastries into work every Wednesday. the chooks would also have a day of leftover bakery food each week. I made that free food COUNT!
  • I prioritised my goals. My first, most immediate goal was security for myself and the boys. Leaving a marriage with only $60 cash and 4 boys under 5 will do that to you! My over-arching goal was financial freedom, but I also had a life-long dream of going to England and Europe. In the end, I slotted that trip in between paying off the house and retirement. It cost around 30K and I thought it’d significantly delay my retirement… but I have never regretted going on that trip. It was truly a dream come true. And I never dropped my gaze from the FI/RE goal.
  • I took advantage when opportunity knocked. Obvously, making the decision to geoarbitrage and sell my original house was a HUGE clincher for my early(ish) retirement, but I also did smaller things, such as forming a close friendship with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder who bred my first bitch. For two decades, we had dogs from her kennels living with us. They were either older dogs who were past their breeding and showing days, or they were bitches I got for free on breeding terms. Poppy is the last of the line for this- I got her for free on condition Jenny could breed from her. (She ended up having only one litter. ) It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to pay for Scout!!

Every day there were tiny little decisions that on the face of it meant absolutely nothing and were noticed by no-one but me, yet collectively those tiny decisions swept me along the path to being financially free.

Many of you are in the boring middle part of the FI/RE journey. You’ve made all of the big and middle-tier decisions and put them into gear. It’s easy to lose heart and think that it’s all just too slow. But remember, just like piecing together a quilt, all of the little decisions and actions continuously help move the needle – and I’m here to say that a life without having to turn up to a job every weekday is a mighty fine life indeed.

Keep your eyes on what YOUR finished product will look like! Decide what YOUR little decisions and actions will be and then keep on doing them. Future You will thank you.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Off to the fruit shop!

Last week on the Frogblog I talked about stewing and freezing blocks of plums to use in my breakfast for the rest of the year. It makes sense to buy up big while the fruit is in season and preserve it to last through the rest of the year. Today – it’s apricot time!

As soon as I press ‘publish’, I’ll be jumping in the car and hunting down a box of apricots.

I already grow my own rhubarb – a $7 baby plant for Aldi 2 years ago has been an excellent investment! – so in a little while I’ll be buying a box of apples to make cubes of apple and rhubarb. My breakfasts will be healthy, full of variety and wonderfully easy. Oats, water, 3 cubes of fruit and into the microwave for 2.5 minutes. Couldn’t be simpler!

A couple of days ago I went to Costco while Ryan27 was at a job interview. (Spoiler: he got the job as a myotherapist.) While I was there I saw bags of garlic, so I grabbed a couple. Probably tomorrow, I’ll pop a podcast on the iPad and spend a tedious couple of hours peeling each clove. Then, I’ll freeze them.

I saw a friend of mine pull out ready-to-use cloves of garlic from her freezer and it Changed. My. Life. Sometimes the most obvious hacks are the most brilliant. I love to use fresh garlic but it’s a pain when it starts to sprout. This way – there’s no waste and I always have it on hand.

Along with fresh ginger. I just buy a pack from Costco every 6 months or so, slice it into coins and freeze. Works brilliantly.

Preparing the garlic this way is a perfect representation of delayed gratification and long-term thinking over short-term. Peeling the garlic is a nasty job. It’s boring and smelly and I’d rather be doing almost anything else. But the short-term pain is by FAR outweighed by the long-term pleasure of always having such a staple ingredient on hand whenever I want it. No rushed trips to the supermarket to get some more garlic for this little black duck!

Summer is the time when crops ripen and cooks all over the world start to frantically preserve the abundance for the leaner times. Usually by this time, I’m being overrun by tomatoes, but for the second year in a row, it looks like tomatoes are going to be a failure. Damn this El Ninâ weather pattern!

So, if I can’t save money on growing my own tomatoes, I’ll make use of whatever I can to fill the space in the freezers. It’s really a no-brainer. I save money, I save time and it gives me peace of mind. Why wouldn’t I do it?

Dad joke of the day:

Welcome to the plastic surgery addiction group. I see a lot of new faces here.

Wednesday W’s.

I’m stealing this ‘Wednesday W’s” idea from a very dear blog-friend of mine. Spo lives in Phoenix and we’ve been reading each other’s blogs for over a decade. Over this last year of retirement and joyful, happy days, my blog posts have become a bit sporadic, so this may help to get me back into the groove.

What’s top of my mind: When will my accountant get around to doing my tax return?

Arghhhh. I know it’s not a biggie, but for the whole of my working life, whenever I’ve given an accountant my facts and figures, my tax return has been done lickety-split. For the last few years I’ve been using the same accountant as the Barefoot Investor and it’s been great. We live near each other, so we’d meet in a café for coffee and I’d pass over any bits of paper he needed and it was all good.

Now, he’s passed that part of the business onto another guy and I’ve been waiting for just under 2 months for this new guy to get his shit act together. I sent a gentle nudge of an email a month ago, yet here we are: still waiting.

I know that legally it’s not an issue, but I’m really curious to see what will happen with my taxes seeing I only worked half the financial year. Will I get a healthy refund?? Who knows – certainly not me at the moment…

Where I’ve been: on my yoga mat.

I knew that when I retired I should take up doing yoga. I’m not terribly bendy and if I want to climb in and out of the inflatable boats at Antarctica I really have to get fitter. Plus health, yadda yadda.

Two years ago I bought a yoga mat at Aldi and last week I unwrapped it. Someone on Twitter posted a link to a free month of introductory yoga lessons from Yoga With Adrienne so I thought that this was the perfect chance to get started.

I’m running a few days behind, but that’s ok. So far (Day 6) I haven’t missed a day and I’m finding that I can do more than I thought. Though I wish someone had warned me not to do yoga just after eating breakfast – the downward facing dog made me a bit queasy that first day!!

I’m doing each practice first thing in the morning, after I’ve had a coffee and fed the dogs. They’re learning that they have to stay up on my bed while I’m on the yoga mat – Poppy still optimistically jumps down and walks over for a pat, but she’ll get the hang of it.

It’s good to start the day being productive!

Where I’m going: out to the veggie garden.

This is the time of the year when things are starting to ripen. This year I planted an over-abundance of green beans. They’re called ‘Lazy Housewife’, which for some reason calls to me…

I’m picking the big ones, chopping them into tiny bite-sized chunks and freezing, to use in soups and stews over winter. If you’ve never grown beans, you have no idea how quickly they grow. If I don’t pick beans every day, they’ll grow huge and inedible. The plants then stop producing beans because they think they’ve produced the seeds for next year.

Not on my watch, baby! Fortunately, Ryan27 and I love beans, so we’re eating them nearly every day. Between the fresh beans and the frozen, we’ll be set for the year. I’m also growing a garden bed full of Berlotti beans, to dry. Come what may, Ryan27 and I will get our protein!

What I’m watching: Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Money Heist.

Evan25 put me onto Drag Race and I love it. I don’t usually have the tv on during the day – too many other things to pass the time with – but if I’m in the mood for froth and bubble, then Drag Race it is. I’ve seen all of the All Stars, so now I’m working my way through all of the seasons. I’m up to season 9… and I’ve just seen that they’re bringing out a brand-new season in a few days. Oh, the dilemma! Do I stay the course or do I jump forward to keep hip, happening, and up-to-date?

When I want something that needs more concentration, I flick over to Netflix and watch Money Heist. When I started it, it said it had 5 parts. I call shenanigans on that! It has 5 parts… divided up into about 10 episodes each!!! By the time I realised, I was too deep in.

It’s a Spanish show, but I have it on the dubbed-into-English version. I just have to avoid looking at their mouths when they talk.

What I’m Reading: The Colour of Money by Walter Tevis.

I discovered Walter Tevis’ writing when Tom29 gave me ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ for Christmas last year. SUCH a beautiful writer! Since then I’ve been tracking down his novels. This one, the sequel to ‘The Hustler’ was his last one.

It took a while for it to grab me. But about 1/3 of the way in, I was hooked.

What I’m listening to: Welcome To Nightvale.

The aforementioned Spo put me onto Nightvale about 5 years ago. This podcast has been running for YEARS and it’s truly wonderful. It’s the community radio station of a strange little town out in the desert, where things aren’t quite the same as in the rest of the world. I’ve deliberately fallen a bit behind, because I like to binge-listen. I’ve just heard about Khoshekh in the bathroom. OH MY GOD!

What I’m eating: fresh green beans.

See above.

Who needs a good slap: Evan25.

I’m running an experiment at the moment to see how long it’ll take before Evan25 picks up his phone and calls me. I know that he’s a very busy and important man, but hey. I gave him life.

So far, it’s been 4 days since I sent a text asking if he was free to chat, and he replied with “I’ll call you after work.”

Last night I sent a text with ” …? “

So far, still nothing. Curious to see how long it’ll take before he realises that he’s ghosted his own mother!

(On a scale from 1 – 5… he gets a gentle wrist slap. Can’t hurt the baby, after all.)

What I’m planning: January’s “Little Adventure.”

Hmmmm… where should I go when I don’t want to be around covid-riddled people? They’re everywhere at the moment.

What has made me smile: Scout dobbing Poppy in.

I was out of the house and Ryan27 left the pantry door open. He was back in his room when Scout came in and started grumbling and moaning, as she does when she wants to tell us that something isn’t right.

“What’s the matter, little one?” said Ryan27, as Scout ran to the door.

He followed her down to the pantry, where Poppy was jumping up, trying to get the dog biscuits.

How amazing is that? (Though a friend of mine said, Scout’s a dachshund – a Garman breed. She’s a rule-follower!)

Dad joke of the day:

I used to have a fear of hurdles… but I got over it.

I read 128 books last year. Want some good ones?

Ahhh, reading. What a mighty fine way to spend time. Even people who say they “don’t like reading” can whip through a book lickety-split if it grabs them.

Up until now, school holidays have really been the only times I was able to read new books. Once a storyline grabs me, I’m a 200-page-a-day girl, which means that during term time, I’d usually re-read books, so that I could actually get things done like raising my kids and marking essays.

But now???? Oooo, babybaby.

I’ve had a wonderful first year of retirement, being able to gallop wild and free through any book that took my fancy. I’ve read some crackers – as well as some dogs.

Here are some of the cracking good reads, in no particular order.

  1. The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman.

This was one of the best books of 2021 for me. It’s so deliciously funny, with that gentle humour the British do so well, and the premise of the plot is wonderfully original. I really don’t want to go into the plot too much. It was given to me by Tom29 as a Christmas present and I went in cold – and within 4 pages knew that this was going to be a good read. I don’t want to be a dirty rotten spoiler for anyone else! When the follow-up to this one came out towards the end of the year, I was so happy to pick up The Man Who Died Twice and join my old friends in their little corner of the world again.

2. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng.

I’ve only read one of Ng’s books before, so in my tired, “it’s the summer holidays and I’m napping all the time” state of mind, I saw her name and thought I might enjoy this. Right from the start, as a house burns and a teenager watches, it grabbed me. The characters are fully fleshed out, the situations were engrossing and it wasn’t predictable at all. Beautifully written.

3. The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis.

I’d heard about the series on Netflix, but before I started watching it Christmas rolled around and Tom29 gave me a copy of the novel. Reading this novel has started me on a Walter Tevis love affair – it’s so wonderfully written. This is the sort of book that I found myself putting down after each chapter and walking away, just wanting the beauty of the language to sit with me for a while.

I know how to play a basic game of chess – my grandfather taught me when I was a child – but my limited understanding of the game didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel. After I finished reading, then I watched the series and was pleased to see that they did a good job. All too often that’s not the case!

4. Wife After Wife – Olivia Hayfield.

Now, this one was a novel I was VERY excited to read. I’m a huge Tudor England person, as my friend Scott found when he took me to Hampton Court Palace. In fact, the photo at the top of this blog is of the roofline, taken as we arrived there. Still a pinnacle day of my life.

The premise of this novel is that the story of Henry VIII and his 6 unfortunate wives is now set in the present day. Instead of being a monarch, Henry is now a media mogul, as they are the people with all of the power nowadays. So of course, some things are different, while some things stay the same. The wife I was most curious about being brought into the present-day was Anne of Cleves.

How can two people get married in this day and age on the basis of an all-too-flattering painting, then get divorced because he couldn’t stand the sight of her when he finally clapped eyes on her in real life? Technology/photography has moved on just a tad, after all. The solution Hayfield came up with was really clever, as was the whole novel. I loved seeing how she explored how these people and their marriages would play out in today’s world.

Divorced, beheaded, she died; divorced, beheaded, survived…

Also, yes. The beheadings. It’s not the typical way to rid yourself of a wife in the modern age. How would it be resolved???

She has written a sequel based on Mary I and Elizabeth I, as they fight to take control, not of the throne of England, but of their father’s media empire. Sister to Sister is equally good. I especially loved the Christopher Marlowe character.

5. Find You First – Linwood Barclay.

Stephen King mentioned on Twitter that this book was excellent, so I grabbed it from the library.
Started it at 9 AM and was done by dinner.
Couldn’t put it down! Lots of twists along the way.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens.

I’d heard the title of this book for ages, but knew absolutely nothing about it. Silly me thought that crawdads must be birds, right? Anyway, you know a book is good when you’re heading back to the library to return it, book in hand, little woofs walking with you, and a total stranger accosts you on the street to say, “Excuse me, I just finished that book. Isn’t it incredible????”

“YES!!!!!!” I replied.

We had a lovely chat, dissecting it all, and then we went our separate ways. Even in the midst of a pandemic, reading brings people together. This is set in a part of the world that is very unfamiliar to me, but the writing brings it all alive.

7. Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell.

My Goodreads note on this novel is “Made me cry at the end” and even though I don’t remember doing that, I have no difficulty believing it because the ending has certainly stayed with me.

The official blurb is:

“Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley Street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.”

Oh, how I enjoyed reading this book! So much has been written about Shakespeare, yet his private life, particularly the story of his marriage, is shrouded in mystery. It was lovely to read a book where he was only on the edges and the focus was firmly on other people, particularly his wife. In this novel she’s called Agnes instead of Anne, as apparently, her father called her Agnes in his will.

When I was in the UK in 2015, Scott and I did the whole Shakespeare Stratford-on-Avon tourist spin in an afternoon. This was the trip where we were walking by the river and I intelligently asked, “What’s this river called?”

Not my best moment.

Going to Anne Hathaway’s house was an absolute treat. It was absolutely fascinating and the garden was amazing. When the novel is set in the Shakespeare family home in the middle of town … I’ VE BEEN THERE!!! I could picture it all.

Another thing that has stayed with me is Agnes’ description of why she married young Will Shakespeare. It’s haunting. (In a wonderful way.)

Well, I’ve been here for an hour and the little woofs are getting hungry, so I’ll sign off for now. I’ll continue with this list another day, but I hope I’ve given people some Thumping Good Reads to track down. I’ve given the links to Amazon Australia, which has both paperback and Kindle options.

I have the free Kindle app on my iPad and it downloads books in a couple of seconds. Love it.

Dad joke of the day:

Have you seen the clown that hides from ugly people?

Frugal Friday: Prepare to celebrate!

Helloooo!

I’ve had a blog-break while I was waiting for my blog to migrate to another host. Back in April when I had a blog meet-up in Adelaide, I asked who people were getting to host their blogs, because Siteground was costing me a FORTUNE. The consensus was that Panthur, an Australian company, was great and far cheaper.

I’ve switched and it’s costing me a third of the price I was paying before.

omg. bargain.

Now I have more money to spend on things that I value – like champagne. (More on that later.) Like travel. Like Operation Beautify.

Last year on my Goodreads page I decided to try and read 70 books. I may have overshot slightly… I ended up reading 128 books instead. Oops.

I read some terrific books this year. I have a couple of friends on Facebook who used to be bloggers, back in the Golden Age of craft blogs, and they’re avid readers. I’ve been following their recommendations. I’m also following a few authors on Twitter. They get advance copies of people’s books, so when they tweet about something that sounds interesting, I’ve tracked it down.

Would you be interested in a post giving a recap of the best books? It’s be a shame if I didn’t use the Power of Time to Read for goodness, instead of evil. (That’s a ‘Get Smart’ quote, just slightly changed.)

Anyway, shoot me a comment and let me know. 🙂

But why the meme at the top of this post?

To kick the new year off, I’m sharing one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.

Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You never know when something will happen that you’ll want to celebrate.

It’s a tiny piece of joy, just waiting to happen. I always have a bottla bubbly ready and waiting. Sometimes it sits there for months, but that’s ok. As long as it’s unopened, it’s not going to go off.

But when someone arrives with good news or success to share, that bubbly GOES OFF!!!!

Then, in the next day or so, I quietly go to replenish the supply. It’s weirdly satisfying to be prepared to be spontaneous.

But who doesn’t want to be ready to be joyful?

Dad joke of the day:

What do Italian children like to play at parties?

Pasta parcel.

One year of early(ish) retirement.

As of midday today, I’ve been retired for fully twelve months.

I thought I might write about what it’s been like so far.

Hmmm… where to start?

It’s safe to say that the thing I was most worried about going into retirement hasn’t come to pass. At work, especially in classes, I was extroverted and cracked jokes and generally soaked up all of the human interaction. At home? I’m an antisocial hermit. I was concerned that I’d start to miss expressing my extroverted self after a while and that maybe I’d begin to get bored with my own company. I didn’t THINK I would, but that’s why they call things in life ‘surprises’.

In fact, the opposite has happened. I haven’t missed work at all. Which in itself was a bit of a surprise, because I loved being in the classroom, but it is what it is.

Every morning I’m glad that I don’t wake to an alarm clock. Jeffrey licking himself is almost as bad, but he tends to wait for a more civilised hour to start. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy a slow pace to the start of each morning. Get up, brew a coffee in the Aeropress, let the dogs out, then we all end up on the couch. I sip my coffee with the laptop on my lap, the dogs go back to sleep and it’s calm and peaceful. After a while we all have breakfast, (wild excitement from Poppy), and then the day will start to take shape.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is the different way my days are organised now. Instead of having structure thrust upon me by the demands of the school’s timetable and the bells, I now have total control over how my hours are spent. I’m in a wonderful space in my life where my kids are grown and I don’t have grandchildren yet, so there is no time needed to set aside to run around after miniature people. That’s hugely freeing. I can do whatever I want.

I plan to enjoy this ‘selfish’ stage while it lasts. Many people retire when grandchildren are on their way so they can help with childcare, but my boys are very ugly so there are no children on the horizon as yet.

This is the time for me! Not many people get a chance to live for themselves, so I’m not going to waste it.

Reading meme

The days tend to be dominated by one activity. If I’m making a quilt, then that’s it for the whole afternoon. If I start a book; then I READ THE BOOK. I’m on my 126th book for 2021 and I’ve discovered some cracking reads. If I’m gardening, then I spent HOURS in the garden. It’s a good thing because I can spread myself around different activities and I don’t get bored.

Doesn’t really matter what it is I’m doing, I’m as happy as a clam because I’m undertaking what I’m in the zone for that day. This is why hosting Christmas this year is slightly annoying. I have a quilt for David28 that I want to get finished, but there’s cleaning and organising to do. So far, I haven’t really been in the zone for any of that, but this week that’ll have to change. My life is so hard…

The real luxury is when I strike a day that I don’t really feel like doing much of anything at all. My early retirement was full of these days. After a couple of months I texted a friend who’d retired a year before me and asked, “When does the need for having a nap every day stop???”

She replied, “Why does it have to?”

Yes, the first few months of retirement coincided with summer, so it was easy to just relax and let my body dictate what it needed. What it needed was lots of reading and lots of sleeeep. One good thing about this was that it really turno-charged my Earn Back My Rates By Reading challenge! You can check how I’m going by looking at the sidebar. By August I’d reached the target for 2021, so, not wanting to let the grass grow under my feet, I started on 2022. I made it harder by adding in the dog rates as well.

After a while the need to be almost constantly horizontal receded and I started doing more things. I whisked myself away on a trip along the Great Ocean Road over to Adelaide in between lockdowns, where I met up with Jenna’s family, an old school friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years and a blogreader in Warrnambool. Hi Loretta!!

If covid hadn’t lingered I’d be in Antarctica right now dancing with penguins, but I was lucky enough to be able to get it postponed to December next year (at this year’s prices, baby!) I’m planning to see Easter Island on the same trip, seeing as I’ll be in the neighborhood. Until then, I’ll be staying close to home, with only a couple of short trips – I was about to say “planned” but I haven’t planned a thing. But I’m sure something’ll pop up.

I bought quite a few permanent plants and fixtures for the garden, seeing as I was stuck at home during lockdowns, so I’m hoping that costs here will start to go down now that most spots are filled. Columnar apples don’t come cheap! I spent a fortune at Spotlight on expensive things like quilt batting at 40% off ( I bought in bulk) so I should be able to entertain myself nicely next year pretty cheaply. I want to put most of my money into my trip. If apple trees are expensive – penguins are worse!

Though having said that, I’ve put in an enquiry for an artist to paint a mural on the back of the house. He does incredible work and it would look AMAZING. Anyway, we’ll see what happens with that. It’s only money, right?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I used to be in a constant state of awareness that things Had To Get Done whenever I had a spare minute. Sometimes I’d ignore it, but in general, I had a list in my head and I was always conscious that time shouldn’t be wasted.

Now? The list is still there, but my version of a productive day has loosened. It used to be that when I crossed multiples off my list – I felt productive. Now it’s enough when only one or two get done. The amount of extra time you have at your disposal when work isn’t sucking up most of the week is incredible. So it’s no longer a logistical nightmare if I don’t tick 47 items from my list in a weekend. If I don’t get to a few tasks; there’s always tomorrow.

Something inside me that I didn’t realise was tightly wound has eased up.

At the moment I still have one adult son living with me, though I fully expect this to change over the next year or so. Then, for the first time n my life, I’ll be living alone. (Unless you count the Little Woofs, that is.) Ryan26 and I give each other our space, both being introverts. I’ve discovered that, for the moment at least, I have enough social contact by having a phone conversation every day with someone, as well as interacting with people online. Usually, at around 5 PM, I’ll finish off whatever I’m doing and then I’ll pour a drink and pick up the phone.

Maybe when Ryan26 moves out I’ll find that this isn’t enough, but for the moment I’m happy. It’ll be easy enough to look around and find places where I can meet like-minded people.

Managing my money without the constant top-up of a wage coming in has been an adjustment. It hasn’t been a year of ‘normal’ spending, as I used my long service leave to renovate my ensuite and the other bathroom at the beginning of the year. The share market has been kind this year, so a mixture of harvesting dividends and using a touch of savings has been the way I decided to go. Every 6 months I plan to balance up everything and pull out what I’ll need for the following 6 months, with a view to harvesting divvies if the market is going well, or using savings if it’s dropped like a stone. I have 2 years before I can access superannuation without paying tax, so I’m happy to let that burble away in the background.

Now to address the question that gets asked most often when I go and visit my friends at work – Do I get bored?

Are you kidding me? Why would I get bored when I can do whatever I want and have my time totally free to indulge myself? There was a time a few weeks ago when I put my back out REALLY badly – Jeff was limping so I was getting him out of the car at the vet’s when I twisted something. Even with having a remedial masseuse on the premises, it took over a week for it to heal. I NEARLY got bored one day… but then I realised I could walk around and read a book standing up, so all was fine. Phew!

My days have a basic rhythm to them. Mornings are chill until around 9 or 10 AM. I read, write or just scroll through social media. Then I get on with the day. I do whatever I’m in the zone that ay to do. I never have the tv on during the day… but most nights I’m bingeing a series on Netflix, Stan or AppleTV. Most days the little woofs have a walk; I’ll chat with people on the phone before dinner and really, that’s it.

It may sound dull when I write it like that, but when every day is spent doing something that I’ve CHOSEN to do for that day, then it’s the opposite of boring. Now that we’re out of lockdowns and life is getting back to normal, I’ll be out and about more. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to the theatre 5 times, so that’s not a bad start.

The foundations that I laid over the last few years are starting to bear fruit. Literally, if you count planting all those fruit trees! My veggie garden is doing really well, while the front yard is looking far prettier with the flowers and hanging baskets I’ve planted. The major renovations that I wanted to do to the house have all been done (touch wood), while now there’s pretty much only painting to be done. I still haven’t painted my ensuite – I know that once I do I’ll have to go through the whole house room by room to paint and I’m not ready to do that yet!

My trip to Antarctica is the next international holiday I have planned. My overall plan was to have one major overseas trip each year. I’m thinking 2023 will more than likely be the UK again, but who knows? I wasn’t planning on visiting North Korea, but when the opportunity arises who in their right mind would say no? So I’ll be keeping my options open.

The biggest surprise of this whole year was just how little I missed work. I really thought I’d have pangs of missing it, but not a jot. I’ve been lucky to have seen the school musical and I was able to use up a spare ticket on a Drama excursion to see ‘Come From Away’, and once a term or so I’d pop into the staffroom at lunchtime to catch up. It’s been lovely to see the kids and my friends, but do I wish myself back?

Not on your life!!

Scout.

Little Adventures #9: The most hilarious Little Adventure of them all! December 2021.

The last Little Adventure for the year was a very special one. My son Evan25 and his friend have written and performed in a show. Long term readers of this blog might remember when he went off to study an acting degree in Ballarat, when I wrote a post about what my second-generation FIRE kid has learned about money.

Long term readers of the Frogblog would know that Evan25 was that really interested 11-year-old bobbing around reading over my shoulder as I typed the very first post back in September 2007.

Now, 14 years later, I was travelling into the Melbourne CBD to see his first show. I snuck into the Tuesday night show on my own (and had a lovely long debrief with Evan25 the next morning) and I’d also got together around 15 people, family and friends, to see their closing night.

There’s a special kind of joy that comes from seeing your adult child doing the work that they love. Especially if that child is actually good at what they’re doing. Thankfully, their show was excellent. So very, very funny.

His girlfriend Jenna’s parents flew over from Adelaide on the weekend just to see the show. Both of my boys who are partnered up have been fully embraced into their girlfriends’ families, which is a beautiful thing to see. Jenna’s Dad said to me after the show, “At one point I was laughing so hard I got dizzy!”

The following photo gives the synopsis of the show:

As Evan25 said to us on the day we were all finally able to get together after the lockdowns, “It’s just two silly boys on stage. It’s not going to change anyone’s life.”

I said, “That sounds exactly what we all need right now!”

There was one act where there was a jaded female butcher running through her wares, making lots of food jokes. This was Evan25 in an apron, with a shower cap on his head, miming sucking a ciggie. Then, in the middle of it, I hear, “$18.45 a kilo??? Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

The first thing I asked him the next day was, “Did I hear an Edgar Allen Poe joke in there???”

He laughed. He said, “When we were writing it Will didn’t want to keep that joke – he said it wasn’t funny and he didn’t get it. I said, ‘Trust me – my Mum’s going to LOVE it!’ I kept that joke just for you.”

He also had the $18.45 price there because ‘The Raven’ was published in 1845. “It’s just a little joke in there for me – no one will ever notice it but I know it’s there.”

He also played a character called Tim, who is a battered-around-the-edges sweet transvestite. Turns out that my boy can really rock a pair of 5″ heels and has a tuck to die for. He has long legs and they look surprisingly good in fishnet stockings. The audience laughed so hard each night when he emerged from behind the curtain in that outfit – I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud. 🙂

Usually, I bang on about being frugal, but this Little Adventure was the priciest one yet. Performers don’t make a lot of money from ticket sales – the venue takes the lion’s share. Where the people who actually produce the show make their money is from the merch. So, of course, I bought one of everything.

But that’s why frugality is so terrific. I save money on things I don’t care about so that I can spend on the things that are important to me, such as supporting my son and his friend.

The very best thing about seeing the show again on Saturday night was watching my family and best friend really see what Evan25 can do. They know him as the funny guy at family gatherings, cracking wordplay puns and one-liners, but they got to see him in all his glory. It was very special as a Mum to bask in their amazed joy at just how funny he is.

Dad joke of the day:

Did I tell you about the time I fell in love during a backflip? I was heels over head. 

Little Adventures #8: Enough is Enough. November 2021 catch-up.

Hooray! Live theatre is back in Melbourne! Next month my son will be performing in a play that he and his mare wrote together, which I already know will be hilarious, and his girlfriend will also be performing in a musical the following week. So I’ll be Kulture Vultured by Christmas, which is just the way I like it.

As a warm-up, on Sunday I popped along to see this play, Enough is Enough. It was sponsored by my local council and the price was definitely right. (The ticket was free.) It was held in a new-to-me venue a couple of suburbs over, which definitely makes it eligible for the catch-up Little Adventure I needed. (I missed October, due to lockdowns and putting my back out.)

Let’s hope we are never again in a spot where my Little Adventure for that month was taking a walk on the other side of the bridge. Oof. I’m all for living a quiet life but that was ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the play. The blurb said that it was about gambling and was written by an award-winning local playwright called Kieran Carroll, with Tim Costello talking afterwards. Sounds like a worthy way to spend a Sunday afternoon, doesn’t it?

Interestingly, it was worth it, but not because the play itself was fantastic. It was ok, but what really stood out was the talk that Tim Costello gave at the end of it.

One of the things he said was, “We all know how the rest of the world feels about America and its gun culture. We all think they’re crazy. But what we don’t realise in Australia is that the rest of the world regards our gambling culture in exactly the same way… they think we’re crazy.”

Apparently Australia has around 75% of the world’s pokies, and they’re all in local pubs and clubs on every street corner, except for Perth. In WA, all the pokies are at the casino, which is how the rest of the world does it. I’d never thought about it before, because I’m definitely not a gambler, but having the pokies all through the suburbs makes it very easy for a gambling habit to creep up on people. The accessibility is too easy.

Anyway, he spoke for about 10 minutes or so and it was very interesting. Afterwards, I jumped back on the train and took a look at the new stations and was home in time for dinner.

Home-made pizza… mmm mmmm!

Dad joke of the day:

I used to work in a shoe recycling shop. It was sole destroying. 

« Older posts