Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Enjoying life right now. (Page 1 of 9)

Little Adventures #6- The Frugal Friday way! Sept 2021.

Melbourne’s still in lockdown. Yet September still needs a Little Adventure. Actually, Wednesday’s earthquake might have covered that, except I only jiggled around on my front verandah while the house swayed behind me and the earth was noisy. I didn’t actually go anywhere.

Mum and Dad live a fair way away, but when the travel bubbles were widened last weekend it meant that our bubbles crossed over into one suburb. So we agreed to meet up for a little walk along the beach at Mordy.

Mum suggested we meet at the Yacht Club. I’ve never been.

*gasp!* Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again.

My Little Adventure for September was saved.

After months of lockdown it was so strange to see so many people out and about. When we started to turn off Nepean highway onto Beach rd, Ryan26 gasped, “Look at all the people!” They were everywhere. Most were wearing masks, thankfully, but there’s always a few who think that the laws of basic biology don’t apply to them.

We arrived before Mum and Dad so we went down towards the beach to look for them.

The first thing I noticed was that the sand here is much more golden than on our Backyard Beach.

You also can’t see Melbourne from here. There’s a jutting out bit of land in the way.

After a little while, Ryan26 saw Mum and Dad making their way towards us through the crowd. I’ve never seen so many people having picnics in my life! (For those not in Melbourne, having a picnic is one of the few ways people from different households can see each other at the moment.)

There’s a concrete path by the beach that runs all the way from the city down to Mordialloc (I think.) We didn’t even consider going down on the sand, mainly because Mum, while she’s so much better on her feet than she was a year ago, is still not totally back to normal with her balance. We stuck to level, stable ground.

We were trying to remember when the last time we saw each other in person was, but we couldn’t decide. It’s been months, though.

After a little while, I saw a spare bench and we sat down. Mum was laughing at all of the seagulls congregating around that family. A little while later 3 kids from there started running along the beach, followed by a crowd of gulls. One of the girls was squealing in delighted terror while a boy kept throwing chips behind them to keep the gulls coming.

The foreshore was stacked with tea tree, with bees thrumming everywhere. I really love the flowers and would definitely have a tea tree in my front yard to help bring the bees, but I’m worried it might grow too ugly and scraggly.

Decisions, decisions.

There were also a couple of volleyball courts set up.

Nice.

We turned and started slowly walking back the way we came. The place was full of family groups enjoying the sun, people walking their dogs and friends walking side by side, busily catching up on the goss. It was a real people-watchers’ delight.

Just to demonstrate that bureaucracy is the same the world over, here is a directive painted on the path.

And right beside it…

… is a drinking fountain for humans with a doggy bowl down the bottom. Talk about mixed messaging!

We didn’t bring the Little Woofs with us.

On the way back to our cars, Mum pointed and said, “Ooo! Look at the banksia flower!”

I don’t know if it’s a banksia or not, but it looked spectacular in the bright sunlight against the dark pub.

All up, this month’s Little Adventure cost us a bit of time, a smidge of petrol and that was it. Today’s weather is very grey and moody, with rain expected later on. It’s been nice to write about this day drenched in sunshine and good humour.

Everyone was happy, wherever we looked.

If there’s one thing that living through the world’s longest lockdown has taught people, it’s that there’s beauty in the simple things.

Financial Independence – the road less travelled.

Prediction: There will be a minor baby boom in 9 months ans then one day in 2033, we shall witness the rise of THE QUARANTEENS.

Something happened yesterday that made me smile.

It’s been 9 months almost to the day since I retired. Since then we’ve had 3 (I think) lockdowns and the only times I set foot in a school are the times when I’ve been in the area and I’ve popped into the staffroom to have a chat.

Do I miss work?

Nope. Not at all.

Are there things I miss about being at work?

The banter in the staffroom every day was fun. A group of us from work have just finished watching Australian Survivor and having a group chat about what was going on as we were all watching. That was great – though again I’ve lost a bet as to who would win. I should never bet with Alice – this is the second time she’s chosen the winner. I’ll be trekking into the staffroom at some stage with another bottle of Aldi French champagne under my arm, dammit!

I’ve had 2 ‘work’ dreams that I remember, where I was in a classroom talking away with the kids. I enjoyed those, though I realised one of the reasons that the dream was so good was that there were only about 12 kids in the class, instead of 28!

Yard Duty on sunny days wasn’t bad. You’d get your steps up and have some jokes with the kids. If you were put on ‘North’ duty – the oval – you’d be paired with someone else. Usually, they were people I’d never really come in contact with before, so it was a good chance to meet someone new and get to know them over the space of a term.

But there are three things I don’t miss – The 3 M’s.

Meetings, Moaning and Marking.

Meetings are self-explanatory, I think. No one likes an after-work meeting, especially if it catapults you into evening peak hour which adds 30 minutes to your after-work commute. Our English meetings always had great snacks, which eased the pain slightly, but the best thing about them was that they always finished Right On The Dot after an hour. The drive home was a killer though, especially in winter when it was dark by the time I pulled into the driveway.

Moaning? Ugh. Teachers are pretty optimistic people in general, but OMG there were a few people who were never happy. I got pretty good at avoiding conversations with them most times, but every now and then I’d be trapped, especially if their desk was close by. ARGH!

And marking. My least favourite part of the classroom. Maths teachers have it easy. All ticks or crosses, with an occasional “Please show your workings.” They have heaps of tests to mark but they can finish a whole classes results in less than a period. English teachers have LOTS of marking.

Every speeling nistake needs to be corrected, the quality and order of arguments need to be evaluated and/or challenged and the pile of essays from a single class takes hours to go through thoroughly. Add in the appalling handwriting that most kids have these days and marking is not something that we look forward to.

Though looking on the bright side, there’s no handwriting I can’t decipher! This comes in handy sometimes.

So what made me smile yesterday?

Naplan Writing Test.

There’s a teacher I know from another school who is clearly worried about my decision to retire early. Every now and then he sends me links to work that I might like to do. I don’t know if he’s worried I’ll go broke or worried I might be bored, bless him, but yesterday an email with a link came through.

It had information about how to apply to mark Naplan papers.

Oof. That’s one of the 3M’s right there! But, slightly curious, I clicked on to see what I could find out.

List of requirements to do the job.

So not only does it require Marking; it also requires Meetings.

For 27 days you have to mark a minimum of 4 hours per day, with only 2 days off. Of course, that means that the third of the 3M’s would have to be endured.

Moaning. Otherwise known as whingeing.

From me.

You know, it brought home to me how really enjoyable my life is now, even in lockdown, and how much I treasure my freedom. I’m not opposed to doing a day’s work here and there – hell, I just renewed my VIT membership, (Victorian Institute of Teaching), more as an insurance policy than anything else. I could do exam invigilation or casual teaching if I felt like it.

But putting aside 27 days to do an activity that I don’t actively enjoy? Where’s the fun in that?

I’m so glad that I stumbled across the Financial Independence blogs and books when I did. It was late in the day – I was hurtling towards 50 – but without this goal to aim for I’d still be working. I’d have the goal of retiring when I was 67, because of course, “that’s what everyone does.”

I wouldn’t have the freedom to pick and choose how I spend my days. When the boys were younger, I was so broke that I’d definitely do this marking for Naplan, especially because nowadays you do it from home. I couldn’t have passed up the extra money. I would’ve settled them all to bed, then sat up for hours marking as many papers as I could.

It reminds me of one of my favourite poems in all the world:

The Road Not Taken poem by Robert Frost.

I’ve been reading a few blogs that talk about how dull the middle stage of working towards Financial Independence is. About how once the thrill of changing investments, increasing savings and maximising the lifestyle adjustments wears off, then there are years of the quiet put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other slog until the thrill of seeing the finish line in sight happens.

Some people decide it’s all too hard and decide that FI/RE isn’t for them. Fair enough, I suppose. FI/RE requires a firm grip on delayed gratification, which is something that some people find hard to focus on.

However, as I sit in my yard on a beautiful spring day just before lunchtime, tapping away on my laptop, being able to pick and choose how I spend my time and whether I decide to earn a few extra dollars or not, one thing stands out.

That delayed gratification that some people find so hard? Imagine if I never practised it? The time would still pass. The future always turns into the present and then the past.

That misty future that I was working towards when I was learning about financial independence is THE PRESENT.

It’s worth it to take the road less travelled.

Simple Pleasures.

Life in lockdown #6 is going along very peacefully. Ryan26, the little woofs and I get along beautifully, we have enough of everything we need and a lot of what we want – and spring is here!

A couple of days ago I had a birthday. I have to say – iso birthdays are wonderful! Every single knock on the door was a delivery of a present FOR ME, every wo/man and their dog posted on FB and/or texted or called, while the weather was glorious. After dinner, I had the ‘Australian Survivor’ chat with friends from work, while I was sipping a nice red that Evan24 sent me that day. What was there not to enjoy?

However, I’m aware that not everyone enjoys lockdowns, so for the last few weeks I’ve been posting Dad Jokes on my personal FB page. People started off begging me to stop, but now they’re admitting that they’ve begun to look forward to them. It’s a win/win – I have fun looking for them and my friends either laugh or slap their foreheads when they read them. 🙂

I realised that I forgot to add Dad jokes to the last couple of posts here, so I’ve included them at the end of this post. I apologise for my carelessness and I hope I’ll still be included in the FI community.

There are so many lockdown jokes at the moment.

Over the past week, I’ve been diving down into the quilting rabbit hole, making a quilt that Ryan26 designed himself. It’s amazing how being stuck at home all day has caused people to find other ways to entertain themselves! It’s a quilt for David27, but at the moment I’m making it in baby quilt size to test out the pattern. It’s looking great. I’m going to order the fabric for David27’s queen-sized quilt later this week. He likes ‘manly’ colours.

Quilting is definitely suited to the FI/RE mindset. It’s slow and steady, it definitely doesn’t happen overnight, yet when it’s done and you complete the job, you have something beautiful and practical that makes life better.

(This is one of the best jokes I’ve seen so far.)

I know I said I’d slow down on the reading challenge thing, but I’d reserved a novel on Borrowbox from the library and it came up yesterday. It was SO GOOD. I started it yesterday, woke up at 1 AM and grabbed my iPad and read for 3 hours, then finished it over breakfast today. It’s ‘The Lost Man’ by Jane Harper. If you haven’t read it yet – get onto it. It’s excellent.

She released another novel last year called ‘The Survivors.’ When my iPad gets recharged I’m going to reserve that one too. Fingers crossed the library has it.

Incidentally, how great is it that we can borrow or buy books instantly, download them and start reading? Even when we’re not allowed to go more than 5kms from where we live, we still have the whole world open to us.

The garden is starting to awaken. I bought lots of fruit trees at this time last year and the boys dug all the holes and helped me turn half of our front yard into an orchard. I’m so glad I painted the front fence dark grey – the plum blossoms are beautiful against the dark colour. The contrast in colours between the lemons on my little tree and the fence is spectacular. I’m going to buy some bright yellow paint and paint my side gates this colour. It’ll be a post-lockdown project when I can get to Bunnings.

Always good to have something to look forward to.

Jordan27 had a half wine barrel delivered as part of my birthday present, so I’ll be putting this under the trees and filling it with flowers. I’ll probably buy another couple and then every year I can have bulbs and shrubs in the ground, but change up the colours in the wine barrels. Maybe… it’s a thought.

It’s time to get my seeds out and start getting ready to plant things. I have an order coming from Diggers with little seedlings but I still want to use the seeds I’ve harvested myself from last year. Those Lazy Housewife beans won’t plant themselves!

I still measure my days by when the school bells go. It’s 9:50, which means that period 1 has finished and all of the kids and teachers are in their zoom meetings for period 2. I’ve watered the front yard and written this post and finished that book, so I’ve been pretty productive.

Still, I’d better get out of these pjs and go and enjoy this beautiful spring day. I really like the free mornings that retirement has brought!

DAD joke for today:

Underneath this one are the catch-ups from the last 2 posts…

I’ve been reading a horror novel in Braille.

Something bad is about to happen… I can feel it!  

And here’s the last one:

I have a horse named Mayo. 

Mayo neighs. 

SUCCESS!

Look to the side of this blog.

On the last day of winter, I finished the 6th audiobook in the ‘Woody Creek’ series by Joy Dettman and knew that my challenge was done. I’d read/listened to more than $1,800 worth of books from my local library and (in effect) clawed back the value of my rates from my local council.

Even if your mortgage is fully paid off and you have that ‘Now no one can kick me out’ feeling warming the cockles of your heart, it’s not entirely true. If you don’t pay your rates, the council can take your house off you and sell it to get their money. Admittedly, this can take years to happen, but still. Paying rates is one of those things that can’t be avoided, like death and taxes.

I was nearing the end of my challenge when my rates bill for next year came in. They’ve raised the rates by $300. That’s like 7 audiobooks or 17 older paperbacks. Yikes!!

But Frogdancer Jones is made of sterner stuff than they might think…

Ok, Kingston City Council. Challenge accepted! I’m continuing the challenge into next year!

Just for shits and giggles, I’m also adding the cost of the dog registrations. In for a penny; in for a pound, as they (used to) say. I’ll wring back every dollar from that council!

Though once I finish the last of the ‘Woody Creek’ series, I’ll slow down the challenge for a while. I have a huge pile of books sitting beside my bed that I need to read. Some of them are gifts and some I’ve bought for myself. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them.

Such a lovely, sunny day. Just the sort of day to go out into the garden with an audiobook.

🙂

Frugal Friday – respect the past by not wasting things.

Stalks of rainbow chard in a glass.

Look at this bunch of rainbow chard. Whoever grew these babies knew what she was doing!

We have a saying in this house: If we grows it, we eats it.

The only exception to that rule is kale. Ugh. I grew it one year and it was so horrible I let the cabbage moths swarm all over it. It was a fitting way for it to go. It also meant that it wasn’t wasted. It was a decoy for the moths so that other, more delicious veggies, could grow.

Now that I only have one other person living here, meals tend to go a lot further. Last night we had bolognese with sweet potato gnocchi. I’ve blogged before about the one tomato plant I had that decided it wasn’t going to go down to winter and death without a fight. It kept producing tomatoes until a month ago, when it dropped some seeds and turned up its toes.

I wasn’t going to let those tomatoes go to waste. I threw them into the freezer. There were 200g worth – not enough for a can’s worth but still useable. Last night I grabbed them and threw them into the sauce. I wasn’t going to let that plant’s heroic efforts go to waste!

The extra dollop of tomatoes made the sauce extra large and so there was enough left to make a lasagne for us tonight. My rule is that if we have greens in the garden, a lasagne must have layers of leaves and our pizzas must have lots of greens on them.

I picked enough rainbow chard to make a lasagne and a couple of pizzas for tomorrow night.

Half-assembled lasagne.

This is layered by tomato, pasta, tomato, leaves… then it’ll continue until I run out of sauce. Then I’ll top it with a cheesy bechamel sauce and into the oven it’ll go. I love getting extra greens into my kids. Even when they’re taller than me.

But I don’t like using the stalks in this dish. So what do I do with them?

Chopped up red stalks in front of a grey compost tin.

Sometimes their fate is to end up in the compost tin where, over time, their elements will make more plants in the garden, but not today. I make my own stock pastes. It was the item that pushed me over the edge to buy a thermomix when I went to my first demo. I don’t stick to the exact veggies in the recipe, but use whatever comes to hand. I simply cut these stalks up and popped them in the freezer for when I make my next batch.

It won’t matter if they go a bit freezer-burny. They’re going to be chopped into a mush and cooked when I drag them out, so it’s all good. Just because they’re stalks doesn’t mean that it’s ok to throw them away. They still have fibre and nutrients, whether I use them for humans’ benefits or for the next generation of plants in the garden.

Soap curing.

The soap recipe I usually use has 500g of copha in it. For some reason, I had 125g of it sitting in my fridge. I decided that rather than throw it out, I’d force myself to do some maths (sigh) and make a 1/4 batch.

When making proper soap, you have to stay strictly to the recipe, otherwise it won’t work. For prettiness, I threw some dried calendula and cornflower petals on top. I bought these a while ago and they’ll last me for YEARS. They don’t lose colour when the soap is curing and they add a touch of fanciness. They weren’t exactly cheap, but that doesn’t matter if I actually use them.

Soap cut into bars.

Only 6 bars of soap, but they’ll be ready to use when I finish using up my motel soaps. They’ll tide us over until I can get to Coles and buy some more copha.

And I got to use up the little block. No waste!

They’ll be sitting in the laundry for at least 6 weeks, curing until they’ll be ready to use.

Washcloths piled on a table, with Scout looking on.

My washcloths are finished. I sent one to a teacher friend who I know likes them, but I haven’t heard back from her so I hope I have her address right. Or maybe she just didn’t like this one…

I know there’ll probably be some people who’ll think that doing things like this and being conscious of not wasting things that I make and grow is an ironic waste of my time. I’ve retired early(ish), so why am I mucking around with things like this? For many years when the boys were kids, I HAD to do things like this to make our dollars stretch as far as they possibly could just to survive. But those days are over. So why bother to do them now?

A part of it is looking after the Earth and sustainability – though probably not as big a part as it should be, if I’m honest.

Mostly it’s to do with respecting the time and money I’ve put into things. I feel that buying something isn’t a waste of money if you use it. So that’s why I unpicked the bamboo top and reknitted it into washcloths. There was a lot of money tied up in an item of clothing that was never going to be used. This way – I get to make gifts and people will use them. The money spent on that beautiful bamboo tape won’t be wasted. Plus it kept me entertained for nearly a week as I knitted and listened to audiobooks.

We make sure we use as much as possible of the food that I grow. I’ll never recoup the money that I poured into setting up the food garden in the first place. But growing some of our food was never an economic decision.

The garden offers so many things to my retired life. Obviously, it gives us the freshest organic food that it’s possible to eat. But it also offers the chance to run experiments, to problem solve and to get outside and quietly while away the hours being productive. Poppy loves to steal beans from the vine. As I chop and drop, I kick the ball for Scout and Poppy to chase while Jeffrey snoozes on the couch on the verandah. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or audiobooks as I work, while other times I let the birds and the wind do their thing.

(Incidentally, I’d like to thank Nic for posting a comment this afternoon on my previous post. They mentioned planting potatoes and that reminded me that I had some seed potatoes and some grow bags that were still sitting in the laundry. They’d been there for more weeks than I’d care to own up to. Within 10 minutes the potatoes were planted and I’d used the potatoes and seed bags that I’d spent good money for. Plus I felt good that I’d ticked another job from my list.)

When I was working I used to look at the price of things I wanted to buy and work out how many hours of my life I’d put into teaching to get that much money. It was roughly $50/period. Then I’d think of my absolute worst class. Was this pair of shoes equal to putting up with 8K for 3 periods????

Sometimes it was; sometimes it wasn’t. But it would NEVER be worth it if I bought the shoes and then never wore them. What a waste of my mental anguish putting up with that group of kids for all of those periods!

This is why I try not to waste anything. Time, money and hours of my life have gone into the things I have around me. I respect Past Frogdancer and so I don’t want to ignore what she did to get to where we are.

Does that make sense?

Dad joke of the day:

Joke.

After I posted a couple of days ago, I realised that I forgot to include a Dad joke. Sincere apologies to anyone who felt let down by such unprofessional Personal Finance blogging behaviour.

So here’s an extra one to make up for it:

I saw a magician yesterday that turned audience members into wind turbines.

I immediately became a big fan.   

“Are you missing work yet?”

Poppy and Jeff curled up, asleep.
Poppy and Jeff, just chillin’.

This gem of a question was asked when I visited my old school a couple of weeks ago. Strangely, Mum also asks this on a regular basis. Don’t these people know me at all?

It’s been 8 months since I gave my farewell speech and exited the building. I expected that I’d do some CRT (emergency teaching) work but none has eventuated and, as it turns out, I’m pretty happy about that. I’m loving our leisurely mornings on the couch at The Best House in Melbourne. Often I find myself still in pjs making breakfast when my colleagues will be chirpily saying, “Good morning kids!” to their first Google Meets classes at 8:50 am. I raise a mug to them.

My days are contented, even during lockdowns. This last lockdown is number 6. It came only 9 days after the last one so for the first time, I didn’t get to Bunnings to buy paint, plants, or gardening supplies for a lockdown project. But that’s ok. I have plenty of other things to occupy my time.

Table with free books and jigsaws to get through lockdown6.
Seen at our Backyard Beach.

Having lots of little interests is the secret to succeeding at both lockdowns and retirements, I think.

When I began full-time work again after 10 years of being a stay-at-home Mum to the 4 boys, at first I did the regular teacherly thing of bringing home marking to be done after school and on the weekends. After a while, I noticed a pattern. Those essays and grammar tests would be brought home in a pile, dumped on the dining room table and then the next morning that same pile, untouched by human hands since the dumping, would be taken back to school.

A single parent of 4 small boys, three of them still in primary school, has little quiet, private time to be able to sit and work through marking. It was an optimistic waste of time to be bringing that work home with me. I learned to power through my marking at school by working through lunchtimes, by marking one class’s work while another class was quietly doing a test or writing an essay, or by staying back an hour or two and eating Caramello Koalas while doggedly working my way down to the bottom of the pile.

This meant that when I was at home, I was fully at home. The kids had my attention and I was also free to develop some skills in things that interested me.

Some, of course, were things that I’ve always been drawn to. I’ve been addicted to reading since I was 3. Knitting? My Gran taught me when I was 7. I can close my eyes and still see that bright red wool that she used. My dogs? I bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for 6 or 7 years before I had the boys and, thanks to the breeder who got me started, we always had dogs that she needed to rehouse.

Other interests came along the way.

I started growing our own food when one of the boys went on a downward spiral into depression, with all that comes with it, when he was in his mid-teens. Taking him to his appointments etc wasn’t enough – I needed to do something more concrete. Getting rid of preservatives and eating organic things was too expensive for me to do if I was buying it. But it was far cheaper (and ultimately, more satisfying) if I grew the veggies, fruit and eggs myself. Now, in the new house, I don’t have chooks anymore, but it was lovely when we did.

And for those who were wondering, after a rocky 2 or 3 years, my boy came out the other side and is doing really well. For anyone who may be currently going through this nightmare, there ARE success stories. But this one is not really mine to tell any further. 🙂

Quilt.

Quilting can either be a hellishly expensive hobby, or one that you can do pretty cheaply. Thirteen years ago, a quilting shop opened just around the corner and I borrowed a sewing machine from Blogless Sandy and gave it a crack. Quilting fabric can costs a lot, but if you look at the time spent vs the money spent, the hourly rate for entertainment becomes remarkably small. A few pieces of fabric, some batting, and some thread can keep me occupied for WEEKS!

I remember a conversation I had with Mum, many years ago. She said that HER Mum once said to her that it was important for women to have some form of handicraft that they could do. (Keep in mind that this was back in the days when most women stayed home after they married.) Most of the work that women did was ephemeral. The meals need cooking every day. Houses don’t stay clean. Weeds still grow. But an embroidered tablecloth or a quilt or a knitted tea cosy is permanent. It’s a record that you were here and you produced something that will last.

The quilt pictured above was the first one I ever made. It was for Evan12. A few months ago I went to his place to stay the night and there it was – and Evan 12 is now Evan24. Seeing that quilt on his bed brought a sense of satisfaction that was… well… very satisfying. Not only does that hobby bring endless hours of entertainment to me – but it also brings warmth and comfort to those I care about. I’ve made nearly 40 quilts. I’ve only kept 5.

The same things that apply to ‘women’s work’ that my Gran was referring to is also true of many jobs, particularly office jobs, today. People spend years going to an office and tapping away at a screen, with nothing concrete to hold in their hands at the end of it all. Any sort of craft or skill, be it handicrafts, art, music or sport, is something worth developing.

My hand on Jane Austen's writing table.

Before covid and Australia’s borders slamming shut, I would have counted travel as a huge thing I wanted to do in retirement. Look at this photo. It’s the actual table that Jane Austen wrote her novels on. I’ve actually touched it. Who wouldn’t want to gallivant around a world that has such treasures in it?

But until the borders open up again, all of us have had to find entertainment and pleasure close to home. If lockdowns are dragging, that’s a signal that you need to look around and start exploring the smaller possibilities that are around you.

I was lucky. The boys and I were so broke for so many years that I couldn’t have developed expensive hobbies, like skiing for example, even if I’d wanted to. (I took them up for a day to see snow at Lake Mountain. We took cardboard to toboggan with. It was a fun day and they got to see real snow.) Anything that I wanted to explore had to be close to home, cheap to do, and preferably useful.

Now, these skills are paying dividends. While the real dividends periodically roll into my bank accounts, I’m contentedly filling in my days with a mishmash of all these things and more.

There’s a quiet pleasure in picking a lemon from a tree you planted yourself or making a meal including ingredients from your own garden.

Looking down at the face of the prettiest Cavalier you’ve ever owned and knowing that in her pedigree are dogs that you’ve bred. Finding an author that you really like and working your way through her books. (Though the protagonist in the fifth book in the ‘Woody Creek’ series is the biggest drama queen ninny I’ve ever come across. Hopefully there’s less of her in books 6 and 7.)

Today is another day in lockdown. After I press ‘publish’ on this post, I’ll have a shower, get dressed and start listening to book 6 as I finish knitting the last of the bamboo washcloths. It’s raining at the moment so the little woofs will have to wait for their walk. Later, I’ll steam some sweet potato to make sweet potato gnocchi for dinner and make sure I grab tomatoes and zucchini from the freezer to use in the sauce. It’s a new recipe so that’ll be fun to see if it’s a keeper.

I only watch 2 reality tv shows and for the next couple of weeks they’re both playing on the same nights. Honestly, I didn’t retire so that my life could be this hard! I’m in the Survivor sweep at work and I’m in a Whatsapp chat with people from work (and Tom29) when Survivor is on, so I have to prioritise JLP. When lunchtime rolls around I’ll settle down in front of catch-up tv and watch last night’s episode of The Block. I love me some Block!

In the afternoon I’ll keep listening to my library audiobook as I either pull fabrics from my stash to make a boy baby quilt to test the pattern that Ryan26 has designed as a lockdown boredom buster, or I’ll start quilting a little girl’s baby quilt I made a couple of weeks ago. This audiobook will bring my ‘Earn Back my Rates’ challenge to a successful conclusion. This won’t happen today though. The book has 20 hours of listening time in it, so even listening at 1.5 X speed will still take a while.

In the next few days, I’ll be dragging my little greenhouse out of the back shed and starting some seeds to grow for summer crops. I want to buy some paint to (finally) finish off my ensuite and also paint my garden side gates bright yellow, though this will have to wait until lockdown ends. I’m making plans for pots and flowers for ‘Operation Beautify‘ to make this house pretty before I get real estate agents in to give me a valuation. Just for interest’s sake – I’m not moving anywhere!

There’s always something to do and to think about. Always a little challenge to set for myself or an experiment to do in the garden. No matter how small. When borders open up again I’ll go large, (such as Antarctica 2022), but for the moment, having lots of little interests is definitely the way to go.

Frugal Friday: Repurpose, reuse, recycle!

Scout on the back of the couch looking towards a table with balls of bamboo yarn.
Scout keeping an eye on what’s happening.

In 2010 I fell in love with a knitting pattern and made a top out of hellishly expensive bamboo knitting tape. It had a drape and sheen that was amazing. I’d made a trip to Camberwell to a tiny shop called Sunspun and they had a pink top on display. I loved it. But the pattern book was $40. Yikes!

A blog reader pointed me in the direction of the Rowan website, where I found it on their ‘Free Patterns’ page. I bought the bamboo tape and made the top.

A much younger Frogdancer in a pale blue knitted top.
One of the few times in my life where I’ve had long hair.

There I am in 2010 with the finished product.

Which, after only a couple of wears, languished in a drawer for the next 11 years.

It looked ok on its own … but it looked AWFUL if I wore anything with long sleeves under it and it was too heavy to wear in summer. Turns out, that beautiful top was a total white elephant.

“One day I’ll unpick it and use that bamboo for something else,” I thought. For 11 years.

Turns out that lockdown is a perfect opportunity to Get Things Done.

Close up of the balls of yarn.

The sheen on these balls of bamboo tape is beautiful. Turns out I wasn’t able to salvage all of it – apparently I’m very thorough when it comes to sewing things together and I had to cut some of the seams, resulting in lots of reject bits.

But now I’m happily knitting washcloths to be given with the home-made soap I make for presents. I like having things like this tucked away that I can give when people pop by. The bamboo is beautifully squashy and smoochy so I think people will really like using them.

I’m pleased that I’m not wasting Past Frogdancer’s money by continuing to ignore this top. In 2010 I still had 3 kids at secondary school, I was paying off the mortgage and life was still very pinched when it came to finances. Buying this yarn was an expensive decision. Although I won’t be enjoying it, I know that people dear to me will be using them for years.

And the best thing? Once the washcloths get worn, they’re able to be thrown into people’s worm farms, compost bins or even buried in their gardens. The yarn is organic and the worms will eat them and turn them into fertiliser for the garden.

Though that won’t be for a while. I knitted 5 or 6 cotton washcloths for this place when we moved in 5 years ago. I use them in the kitchen instead of buying sponges. Five years later after continuous use – still going strong. The worms in my worm farms will have to wait a little longer before they get those tasty treats!

Frugal Friday: Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers.

Dorky guy dancing

When we moved here I brought with me a big bureau-type thing that used to live in the lounge room and had the tv on top. It has shelves and also drawers which were perfect for storing DVDs and CDs – remember those things?

Dog on a couch.

You can see how it used to look in this old photo. Look behind Jeff on the couch – the couch which now lives on the backyard verandah – and there it is.

Soon after we moved here I found a dining table and chairs that were on Gumtree. When I went to look at them, the people were also selling the strangest-looking bureau I’ve seen. It was all business on the top but it has the weirdest legs. I wasn’t sure if I liked it but I knew I’d probably regret walking away from it so I bought it.

Cabinet with long spindly legs

It’s in my lounge room with the tv on top of it. I’m still not sure if I like it but I’m used to it and in an odd way I’m fond of my strange-looking cabinet. If it ever came alive like in nightmares, those spider-like legs would be impossible to escape.

So we moved the original bureau to the Man Cave, where it sits covered by family photos and, other than being dusted every now and then, hasn’t been touched by human hands since.

It has the family DVDs, the boys’ old games, computer cables and my CDs. We only have one device capable of playing CDs and I’ve packed it away somewhere. In the last few years, I’ve veered away from listening to music and am more a podcast girl. However, Ryan26 has an excellent Spotify account and he plays music a lot so I still get to hear some groovy tunes. If I want to hear something specific, Youtube is handy.

Boxes and tubs piled on top of each other.

I’m a lazy soul at heart, which is one of the reasons why retiring early appealed to me so much. A couple of months ago I spent a couple of days sorting through tubs of my fabric stash and putting them into colours. I put them, all sorted, into the tubs and piled them into the wardrobe of the guest/sewing room.

There! All together! All sorted! Nothing can stop me now!

Tangle of fabric strings

Except… ugh.

Who wants to go and lift all those tubs out if you want a colour from the bottom of the pile? Or worse – if you want to PUT AWAY a fabric that belongs in the bottom tub? Look at this pile of selvedges and strings. I’d have to lift out at least 3 tubs to put these away.

It’s such a hassle.

I didn’t retire just so my life can become so difficult.

I started looking at chests of drawers on the LKEA website, but we were in lockdown … then I remembered the old bureau. I mentioned to Ryan26 that I was thinking about taking it over for my fabric. He had a look in there and started dragging out all my old CDs.

“How about I make a Spotify list for you?” he asked. This is how ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ was born.

We had the best afternoon! He put all of my CDs on there – except Michelle Shock’s album ‘Short, Sharp Shocked’, which apparently isn’t on Spotify. Pity, because that whole album is a banger.

After a while, he started playing random tracks and I’d try and guess the title and artist before they started singing. It’s amazing how many songs I remember, though Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ had me stumped.

Then he called me in, sat me down and said, “What are the other songs you want to put here?” Now that was a gloriously fun rabbit hole to go down. I think it was 3 hours and over 3,100 songs later that we decided it was time to stop and make dinner.

That was two days ago. One of today’s tasks is to swap over the fabric for the junk in that bureau. I’m happy for never-used boys’stuff to sit in the tubs, but this Frugal Friday win is to utilise the space we have in a far more user-friendly way, without racing out to buy more furniture. I’m far more likely to use the fabric I have if I can access it easily. Lazy at heart, remember?

The monetary loss is, of course, once Ryan26 started playing ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’, I realised that I wanted to be able to hear it whenever I wanted. It’s got some damned fine… well… bangers on it.

So we’ve splitting a Spotify account between us. $7/month each is a small price to pay for hearing songs like this again:

I haven’t heard this song for I don’t know how long. Just imagine how many other excellent songs are lurking on ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ waiting for me to rediscover them?

(But apologies for all of the grammatical errors on this vid. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have retired – the world clearly needs English teachers to help the Youtubers.)

Speaking of English teaching – one of the things I miss about teaching is putting up Dad jokes on the board at the start of each lesson. So guess what? At the bottom of each post from now on, I’ll put a Dad joke.

I know it’s not in the Financial Independence vein, but hey. Don’t you try and repress me! My blog – my rules. Besides, I have a huge list of jokes saved. It isn’t frugal to let them moulder and go to waste.

Today’s Dad joke:

I dig.
You dig.
He digs.
She digs.
We dig.
They dig.

It’s not the most imaginative poem. But it’s quite deep.  

Frugal Friday: Anyone for pizza?

Even without a thermomix, pizza dough is so easy and cheap to make. When the kids were really little, I used to cop out and use wraps as bases, but honestly… that’s a travesty. A good pizza needs a good base, so I love the pizza bases I make. Have a look at the ingredients – could it be cheaper?

2 tsps dry Yeast

220g lukewarm water

30g olive oil

1 tsp sugar (At the moment I’m using the sugar sachets I liberated from the motels I stayed in on my South Australian trip – SO EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!) heh heh…

420g bakers flour. (Though plain will do as well.)

1 tsp salt.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put garlic, chilli and some fresh rosemary in there as well. (I freeze whole peeled garlic cloves and whole chillis and grow rosemary in wicking boxes – SO NO WASTE!!! EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!!!) Ok, I’ll stop now.

How thrifty is this? It costs literally mere cents to make this dough – enough for 4 or 5 pizzas, depending on how large you like them.

I keep the yeast in the freezer in the blue insulated thermos-y thing. It’s the yeast I bought a few days before our very first lockdown back in March 2020. Still going strong.

Oh! Did you notice the olive oil container? I bought that in San Gimignano in Italy on my 2015 trip. Another frugal tip – buy souvenirs that you’ll USE, not ones you merely look at. Nearly every day when I reach for the olive oil, I think of that trip.

Here’s the dough, just before I wrap it up in a silicon mat and put it near a heating vent. (It’s the middle of winter here in Melbourne.)

After an unfortunate incident when Poppy was a puppy, many years ago, we’ve learned that we have to keep dough that we’re proving up high.

There is a very strict rule in this house, brought in when the kids were little, that EVERY pizza must have green on it. No matter what else is happening in the garden, I always have leaves growing and so they must go on.

Edited to add – in the background is a ceramic tea caddy that I bought in Beijing when my friends Helen, Rick and I went to North Korea. Another useful souvenir!

Ryan26 is the pizza maker in this household. The toppings vary, depending on what’s in the fridge and the garden. This was last night’s effort.

Of course, I forgot to take a photo when he pulled them from the oven. I was starving. But we fed 2 adults an incredibly cheap, yet incredibly delicious dinner for 2 or 3 dollars at most.

And here’s the answer to Toni’s question in the last post.

I have a side-by-side fridge and freezer in the kitchen and the lowest basket is devoted to ice-cube sized portions of home-made pesto – which always goes on our pizzas – and balls of frozen pizza dough.

Ryan26 just divides up the dough after it’s risen and put’s individual-sized balls into freezer bags. They’re so handy if someone, such as an adult son who lives away from home, drops in and is starving. He can whip up a meal very quickly.

I also like it when it gets to around 5PM and I’m not in the zone for cooking. I just throw 2 frozen pizza dough balls onto the kitchen counter and by the time Ryan26 is ready to start cooking, the dough is ready to roll.

Some people recommend freezing them in flat discs so they’ll defrost quicker, but I don’t like the sound of that. How many times have you gone to the freezer to get a sheet of puff pastry, only to find that it’s broken? It’s a PIA. I’d rather it take a little more time to defrost and then you can roll it to to the size that you want.

Thanks, Toni, for asking the question. I got to have the night off from cooking last night. Love pizza nights!

Frugality and FI is the gift that keeps on giving.

Pea soup in a bowl.
Not my soup – mine’s still cooking!

There’s a rumour that’s been circulating for a while now that Frogdancer Jones – that’s me – is frugal. Or maybe a tightarse… take your pick. I was told about a conversation that happened in the staff room at work where people were describing a continuum of spending. Apparently, I was on the thriftiest end, while the others spaced themselves along the rest of the line up to the biggest spender.

But hey, I like being frugal. I like the challenges of making material things last longer, enabling my money to go a little further and only shelling out for things I HAVE to have and things I WANT to have. Middle of the road ‘meh’ stuff doesn’t cut it in this household.

Being frugal means that I can cut down unnecessary spending, freeing up my cash for fun things. You know, things we’ve all wanted to buy… a mini dachshund puppy, a trip to North Korea, 6 more apple trees… Things that are by far more important to me than designer handbags and the like.

It’s fun for me to save dried peas from the garden and turn them into soup, using my slow cooker that I’ve had for over 20 years. It makes me smile to look down at my slippered feet and see the ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ patches. My ‘Earn back my council rates’ challenge costs me nothing, but because of it I’ve read 86 books so far this year for free. If you think getting lost in a good book doesn’t add to your quality of life, then I have news for you!

I’m a big fan of finding experiences and activities that entertain and inspire you without having to necessarily cost a whole lot. This automatically leaves money that you can put towards something else.

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you never lash out on expensive items.

Which is why I’m really excited about my latest purchase.

Big box with Poppy ( a cavalier) sniffing it.

This is a gift for David27 and Izzy. It’s an engagement + wedding gift because it’d be an extraordinarily generous engagement gift and I’m not that rich! It was delivered here in the middle of lockdown #5 so it’ll be a while until I can drive over there with it to give it to them.

It’s a product that I hold very dear to my heart. I have 2 of them and I can’t possibly do without them. Just this morning I used one to make bread dough, pizza dough and gratin sauce for cauliflower cheese for lunch. We now have 8 bread rolls and 4 balls of pizza dough in the freezer for literally mere cents. And absolutely no artificial ingredients. Izzy and David27 both have health issues and she’s also lactose intolerant, so this will be perfect for them to eat cleanly and with fresh ingredients, while being able to produce gourmet meals. They’re both foodies.

I’m so excited to be able to provide this for them.

Just to make it fair for the rest of the boys – because 2 have already bought their own thermomixes, while Evan24’s housemate owns one – I’ve decided to give a little less towards the wedding. I’ve always thought that I’d give 5K per boy per FIRST wedding – (any subsequent weddings and they’re on their own!!) – so I’ll give 4K towards this one.

Come to think of it, I also gave them the diamond for Izzy’s engagement ring. There are definite advantages to being the first cab off the rank when weddings come along! This is a product of the practical thinking that frugality brings. I had a very good quality diamond in a ring sitting in the jewellery box, back from when I was in my twenties. I’m never going to wear it again. It makes no sense for it to sit there for decades when Izzy could have it put into a setting she loves and then get to enjoy looking at it every day.

By doing this, I release something that was useless to me and David27 gets to put the money that he would’ve spent on a diamond towards the wedding. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Being frugal and FI is almost like a superpower. When I think back to the days when the boys were small, when I could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads, I feel so very lucky to be able to buy a gift like this now. Back then, I would never have believed it would ever be possible.

All I have to do now is wait for this current lockdown to be over. The box can sit in the hallway, just like the boxes of my customers used to do when I sold thermomixes as a second job. Once we’re free to drive further than 5 km from our homes, I’ll look forward to driving over to Izzy’s parents’ place to deliver it, just as I used to do back in the day for my customers. It’ll be fun.

But if you know them in real life.. sssshhhh!

Don’t spoil the surprise!

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