Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Enjoying life right now. (Page 1 of 12)

Less than a week to go!

This time next week I’ll be in Santiago, Chile, all going well. These last few days before I go, I’m planning on starting to pack and buying the last few things I need to get before I go.

One is a waterproof case for my phone. I’ve decided to buy a waterproof pouch rather than a case, so after doing some research I’ve elected to buy this one. The reviews are good and I think it’ll do the job well. My quilting mat came in handy when I had to measure the phone in inches!

I also bought a sim card for my phone which will work in both Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly, most of the sims I looked at only had one or the other, which was annoying. My travel agent advised me to get one when I was there, but as I’m arriving in Santiago in the middle of the night, I didn’t think there’d be too many phone stores open. Better to be safe than sorry. The sim should be arriving today. I’ll take it with me and swap the sim cards over on the plane. It just occurred to me that I’ll need to learn how to get the sim card out in the first place.

You’ve already seen my pee bottle, which has traumatised people both here and on FB. Steveark’s comment on my previous post made me laugh! I’m hoping to bring back the bottle untouched by human urine, which will mean I’ll have a very useful souvenir to remind me of the trip. It will have been with me on the ice on every excursion. You can bet I’ll be reminded of Antarctica every time I use it.

I’m a big fan of buying useful souvenirs.

This olive oil container is from San Gimignano in Italy. Every single time I pull it out from the pantry I’m reminded of that beautiful village on top of the hill. When my friend Scott and I were going through security at Paris airport, we were looking at my case as it went through the x-ray. “Is that YOURS? What on earth have you bought?” he said as the image of what looked to be a miniature watering can glided by.

I also have a very cheap-looking spatula that I bought in a supermarket in Pyongyang. I was there, mingling with the locals as they were buying their groceries, when I saw it and thought, “I’ve been meaning to get a spatula for ages!” It’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but I know where I bought it and I love using it.

Every Christmas I blog about my Christmas tree which has decorations from all over the world on it. No one has a tree quite like mine!

So having a water bottle that has travelled with me to the end of the world and back seems like a very good fit.

I still need to buy some lip balm. This morning I was looking at the blog 43 Blue Doors. Bonnie and her partner Trin retired in (I think) 2016 and have been slow travelling around the world ever since. It’s a fabulous blog with incredible photography and detailed descriptions of the places they’re travelling.

I posted about ‘My New Goal’ in October 2020, when I had 3 references to Antarctica in the one day. Up until then, I’d never even dreamed about going there. Bonnie wrote a post about her trip, which was the third nudge from the universe I received that day. This morning I looked at the page again and played the video of the chinstrap penguin colony. The sound of the wind made it obvious why lip balm is on the list as a necessity.

I hope Penguindancer! still checks in here and knows that I’m finally going. She was working in Antarctica and used to read my blog. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I’d be going.

Today I’m going to be getting out my itinerary and hopefully booking a couple of day tours for Santiago and the surrounding countryside. I will only see the inside of the airport in Buenos Ares, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Santiago and I think that being ferried around in a group might be the most efficient way to cover as much ground as possible.

Unless I buy a horrifically expensive souvenir, I think that all of the major expenses for my trip have already been paid for. I have tiny slivers of time on either side of the cruise where I probably won’t be spending a lot, especially if I’m on tours, and once I’m on the ship everything except alcohol and souvenirs are taken care of. I’m hoping that my pesos for Chile and Argentina will be enough for taxis and food, while the euros and my debit/credit cards will take care of everything else.

I’m known for being frugal in most areas of my life, but travelling overseas isn’t one of them. Being able to see and do everything I want when I travel is one of the reasons why I’m so frugal in other areas. I like to get bang for my buck! So who knows what I’ll end up spending?

I’m already starting to look at where I’ll travel in 2023…

… I have just one continent to go to complete the set.

Dad joke of the day:

The terrific soap recipe.

As promised, I’m posting the soap recipe that’s my ‘go-to’ when it’s time to make another batch. It was the first soap recipe I tried and I love it. The bars of soap come out consistently firm, not crumbly and last for ages.

The blog post I took it from was from 2010 and I see that I was one of the first people to comment on it. Makes me feel a bit old… That blog has now been taken offline. This made me panic when 3 years ago I went to pull up the blogpost to make my next batch and it was unavailable.

My soap recipe has gone forever! Oh crappity crap! I tried PMing the blog author but she never got back to me. That was a little surprising but hey. What can you do? A few weeks later, I mentioned it on the frogblog as I was posting about making another soap recipe to give as Christmas gifts for work. A brilliant reader called Jamie sent me a link to the wonderful soap recipe post that they’d archived. I was so happy!!!

I’ve noticed that some readers since yesterday have tracked down the soap recipe I posted about in that frogblog post that uses Lux flakes. This is NOT the recipe I love. Don’t get me wrong… it smells like Lux and it’s easy to make, but call me a purist: it didn’t feel like I was making real soap. It was a bit of a cheat. But if you feel like making soap and the thought of using caustic soda turns you off, then by all means use this Easy-Peasy soap recipe.

But if you want the brilliant soap recipe, here’s the archived page that Jamie sent:


(I could’ve just given you the basic recipe, but I like the way Suse’s post gives a lot of information in a readable and informative way. This was my entry into the soap-making world and I like the idea of sharing the original post with you all.)

Suse’s post gives a ton of good hints and tips. I’d add that it’s not a good idea to rush mixing the melted oils and caustic soda mixes together. I’ve found that when I was impatient and mixed them together while they were still quite hot, I’d run the risk of the whole batch curdling, which is disappointing when you unwrap it the next day to find out that it hasn’t worked. Then I’d have to rebatch it by melting it into a slow cooker, which works to make the soap usable, but it’s never quite as pretty. Giving it an extra 10 minutes to enable the oils and caustic soda to cool to a ‘warm’ temperature is time well spent.

If you’re wondering if the soap has started curing properly and whether the caustic soda has saponified properly and lost its bite, the easiest way to test this is to touch the tip of your tongue to the newly unwrapped soap. If you feel a ‘zap’ like a tiny electric shock, then the soap has to be rebatched. This has only happened to me a couple of times. It’s annoying when it happens but it’s not the end of the world. Re-melting it in a slow cooker, then putting it back into a mould and wrapping it up for another 24 hours does the trick.

Another soap recipe that I really like is the one on The Witch’s Kitchen. Her blog and book (I just LOVE this book – such a useful resource, especially the plant index at the end!) are terrific. Anyone interested in food gardening should set aside some time to sit down with a cuppa and rummage through her blog. So much information.

Anyway, in this soap recipe, she mentions using grated lemon zest as a little added extra in the soap. How nice would that be? Also, as with the Terrific Soap Recipe, there’s a lot of useful info in the comments underneath the original post.

If you like the idea of making homemade soap to give away as Christmas gifts, now is the time to get started. The soap recipes that use caustic soda need at least 6 weeks to cure properly, so if you set aside the time to make a batch or two now, you’ve already got yourself organised for Christmas.

Imagine the warm glow you’ll feel from being so efficient!

Frugal Friday: Having fun with frugality.

Can you guess what I made yesterday by looking at these ingredients?

If you guessed soap, you’re bang on the money!

A quick glance back at the frogblog shows that I’ve been making soap for over a decade now. When I first began, I tried just about every recipe that I could lay my hands on. I made green tea soap, coffee soap, olive oil/Castile soap… you name it, I gave it a go.

For a brief time, I even had teachers at school buying it from me.

But now I stick to one very basic but effective recipe that I first saw on a defunct blog many years ago. It rarely fails and even if it does, it’s easy to fix.

But why would I bother to make soap in the first place? After all, basic soap is cheap to buy. I clearly don’t NEED to make soap to save a few pennies – after all, I retired by choice 2 years ago. I’m not short of the pennies required to keep myself clean. So why would I still choose to do it?

One of the main reasons I find myself coming back to doing this whenever my soap stocks start getting low is that homemade soap is very good for the skin. Commercial soap makers take out the glycerin that’s formed when soap is made, because glycerin is lucrative to sell on its own. My soap has its own glycerin within it, so the soap moisturises as well as cleans. I like that.

I also really like to have pretty soap put aside for little gifts. A bar of homemade soap and a hand-knitted washcloth is something that I like to give when I go to a blog meet or when a friend has a birthday. These handmade gifts, wrapped in brown paper and string, look great.

The third reason is that it’s personally very satisfying to produce something useful from nothing but a random bunch of ingredients. The same can be said of knitting and quilting, I guess. Being able to point at something that now exists in the world that wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t here is a nice feeling. (Pointing at the boys just doesn’t have the same effect…!)

Another reason why I like to do it is that I can personalise each batch. This batch of soap smells like eucalyptus. I’ve sprinkled dried cornflower and calendula petals over 3/4 of the top, but I’ve left a strip on the side free of petals because Ryan27 is a hairy guy and he doesn’t like to pick petals from his chest hair after having a shower. Fair enough. Sometimes I add rolled oats or poppy seeds (lovely and scratchy), food colourings, and different scents. Every batch is different.

The last reason is a hangover from the days when the boys and I were very, very broke and I had to stretch every dollar. Anything that I could do to stop a visit to the supermarket was a way to save money. Growing some of my own food and making things like soap is a way to limit setting foot in the supermarket and spending more money. I like the discipline of this, even though I no longer need to do it for financial survival.

It’s funny how the things that I once did to save even a few cents towards big things like the mortgage or the boys’ education are now the things that I choose to do for fun.

Smething that I was really looking forward to when Tom30 left home and Ryan27 was housesitting was how I was going to use up the food I had in the freezer and the zombie apocalypse cupboard during the 9 weeks when I’d be living on my own before I went away to Antarctica. During the lockdowns I’d bumped up the stores a bit and it seemed like now was the perfect opportunity to eat them down a bit.

I decided that I was going to keep supermarket visits to an absolute minimum and I’d spin out the meat I had by making vegetarian meals, using up the piles of lentils and beans I had hanging around. I was going to use up the frozen veggies I had – about 5 packets – and utilise what I had growing in the garden rather than buying fresh greens.

I have lots of longlife milk and milk powder, so that wouldn’t be a problem, though eggs, carrots and potatoes would be on the shopping list. I have heaps of stewed fruit that I’ve frozen as ice cubes. I have enough rice and bakers flour to sink a small ship, so all in all, I was in a great position to live out of my pantry for quite a long time.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. How long could I make everything last? This was going to be interesting! I didn’t set any specific targets… I just wanted to wing it and see how far I got.

Then two days later Ryan27 moved back home.


Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy that he’s happy to share a roof with me, but my frugal experiment went straight out the window. He wants to make a Mongolian sauce for me to try that he discovered when he was away, so I found myself at Aldi yesterday buying some broccoli that he wanted.

THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WAS ON MY OWN!!! I’D DO WITHOUT THE BROCCOLI!!! I know I could have refused to buy it, but I don’t think it’s fair to inflict my own little frugal games on unsuspecting housemates.

Another frugal entertainment is my reading challenge. This is in its third year and I LOVE it! In a nutshell, I have to pay over 2K in local council fees each year. I decided to try and “make’ those rates back by reading over 2K’s worth of library books, which are paid for by my local council.

Since I started it, the only books I’ve bought have been a couple of recipe books. I had no idea that my local library was so very well-stocked. I rarely go into my local branch and browse. Most of the time, I hear about a novel I’d like to read, jump on the library’s website and do a search. It’s a rare day when the library doesn’t have a copy of the book I want.

I’ve read literally thousands of dollars worth of books since I began this challenge. Obviously, I wouldn’t have bought all of those books myself, but I certainly would have bought quite a few. I’m addicted to reading and I always have 2 or 3 books on the go at any one time.

This challenge is fun. I have read so many books that I never would have bought for myself, I have the goal of meeting a dollar amount in a 12 month period so I can’t slacken off, and also have the satisfaction of gradually, book by book, ticking down to meet my goal.

I keep track of it on the side of this blog. It’s practically the only Maths that I enjoy.

Scrap quilts? I can spend hours upon happy hours creating quilts from fabric that’s been hanging around here for ever. Cheap as chips but when the quilts are finished, they look a million dollars. I love entertaining myself so happily and so cheaply.

I guess it’s that, as I get older, I’m getting more and more intolerant of waste. Waste of resources, waste of time, waste of money. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when I can reduce any sort of waste is a precious one.

I don’t see why, just because I’ve reached financial independence, I should deny myself that feeling. Feeling accomplished and satisfied makes me happy. Frugality ticks so many boxes for me and – lets be frank – I didn’t retire just to turn around and give up one of the very things that make me happy.

Twenty-four hours later I unwrapped the soap and cut it into bars. Ryan27’s ‘pure’ unpetaled soap is already on the cake rack. It takes 6 weeks to dry before it’s ready to use, so once it was all cut, I carried it to the laundry where it’s safely tucked away, slowly curing.

I’ll probably have enough soap here for personal use and for gifts to last at least 6 months. It’s a small thing, but it fills my heart.

Dad joke of the day:

I had to read this one twice before I got it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

She found the perfect pair on the bargain table outside.

Kate found a pair of slip-on slippers inside.

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

Then we ducked into The Old Mill.

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

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

Jenna found a most fetching hat to try on.

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

Good on us.

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

The lunch special. Not bad for $15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was so good!

Two girls brought soju.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just ridiculous.

I invited the nieces for a couple of reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

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

A literalist takes things literally.

A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

So how are my challenges going?

People who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I like to keep track of things that I want to achieve. Usually, I draw up a basic chart and colour in the days that I succeed in my goals, though I’ve branched out to use a widget for one of the challenges I’ve set myself.

So how am I going so far this year?

The first challenge is the one I cleverly did to harness an activity I simply can’t live without to a bill that I absolutely hate paying.

If you cast your eyes to the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve been progressing pretty well with my “Earn my rates back by reading” challenge. I set this goal in 2021 when I was outraged at having to pay $1,800 a year to the local council just for being able to live in my own house. Oh sure, the council provides garbage pickups every week and maintenance on public areas, but it still seemed like a lot of money.

BUT things changed when it occurred to my mighty intellect that if I utilise the local library instead of buying books, I can satiate my reading addiction and, in effect, ‘earn’ back my rates by using the books that my rates have helped to buy. It took 8 months to ‘earn’ back that $1,800, so I set my sights higher for 2022.

This time, I’ve included the council fees for the dogs in addition to the rates for my house. In September last year, I began chipping away at the grand total of $2,200 for council fees.

Going back to work as a casual teacher has really impacted the time I have for reading, but I’m pleased to report that I only have $333 to go. That’s roughly 10 more books to go before I reach my goal.

I’m glad I set myself this challenge, not only for the satisfaction I get from succeeding at reaching a goal. It’s also opened me up to reading books I might not have come across, so it’s added to my quality of life to a huge degree. I follow some prominent authors on Twitter and every now and then they’ll either spruik a book that they’re releasing, or they’ll recommend a great book that they’ve just finished reading.

It’s a simple matter to flick across to the library website to see if they have it. In a surprisingly high number of times – they do. And it’s awesome.

Am I really earning back my rates by doing this? Of course not! But it’s a bit of fun. Retirement and reaching financial independence are all about having fun, baby!

My CRT teaching chart is the newest addition. I designed this in my post about deciding to pivot and go back to teaching – not as a ‘real’ job but as a CRT (casual relief teacher.) I knew that if I was dragging myself back to work, getting up before it was daylight, and selling my sweet, sweet freedom that I’ve cherished so much; I needed to chip away at ‘paying for’ things that I’ve bought.

I knew that would keep me motivated.

Every payday since then, I’ve entered the amounts onto the chart and I’ve seen my progress. It’s very satisfying to be able to cross things off the list and move on to the next line.

To be honest, I never expected that I’d have as much work as I’ve been getting. Schools are reeling with the huge numbers of staff getting sick from either covid or the flu. So far this term I’ve had 3 straight weeks of full-time work and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. And I’m only teaching at one school!

The other CRTs tend to work at a few different schools, so it’s been interesting hearing what other schools are like. I think I’m on a pretty sweet deal working here – the kids are beautiful and working here is usually an absolute pleasure.

Even if a kid is naughty, it’s always a silly teenage naughtiness, not a nasty thing. I can certainly live with that.

I’ve decided that unless something really changes, I’ll accept as much work as I can get from the school. They definitely need CRTs, I’m putting the money to good use and after all, the school absolutely saved our financial bacon by giving me a job when the boys were small. The admin was incredible when one of my boys needed a lot of extra support due to depression in his teens. It seems like the right thing to do to help cover the classes while people are sick.

I’m just keeping my mask on during the whole day. I’d prefer not to get the flu or covid if I can help it.

The No-Spend Days chart.

I’ve been keeping this chart for years. It was one of the first things I wrote about when I started this blog. It came about because it dawned on me that no matter how frugal a person wants to be, no one can avoid spending money. Sooner or later food has to be bought, the car needs petrol or your kid needs new shoes.

Trying not to spend money is an exercise that inevitably ends in failure.

But what if I tried to restrict the days in the week that I spend money on?

Instead of letting money dribble from my wallet whenever I felt like spending it – what would happen if I became far more intentional about WHEN I spent money? I’m a naturally frugal person, except when I go on holidays, so restricting the dollar amounts wasn’t a particular issue for me. But when I started bundling up my spending so that I only waved the credit card around 3 days per week or less… a couple of things happened.

I saved some money. Anything that was an impulse buy on a day when I was trying not to spend money got put off. “I’ll buy that tomorrow,” I’d think. Usually, what was an impulse buy on one day was totally forgotten about by the next. A little more money stayed in my bank account.

The simple act of keeping the chart meant that I had to write it down. If it was a silly waste of money like buying a Caramello Koala when I was marking a stack of essays, I sometimes wouldn’t buy it. Every time, I was glad the next day when I woke up. I’d saved a precious square on my chart!

This chart has also come in handy when I wanted to check on when I’d bought something, such as a computer, the little woofs’ vaccinations, or when I’d last had the car serviced. Every now and then I’ve been pleased that I had the chart to refer to.

It’s become part of the lexicon of this house.

“Mum, we’re out of ham. Can you get some more?”

“I’ll do an Aldi shop tomorrow, babe. Today’s a no-spend day.” Everyone knows what I’m talking about, and we’re all good with it.

Keeping track of personal challenges like this definitely works for me. If you’re still reading this, maybe something like this will work for you too. The saying “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed” has a lot of truth to it.

Like I said above, if nothing else, it’s a bit of fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

(Here’s a link to the chicken stock paste recipe that I mentioned yesterday. You make veggie stock paste by simply removing the chicken thigh. )

Dad joke of the day:

Why is it called a “dad-bod” and not a “father figure”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

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

Frugal Friday: a day for me.

Today is the last day of the school term and, as I hoped thought, there was no text asking me to come to work. I’ve worked 10 days in the last 2.5 weeks. I need a break!!! LOL.

Yesterday Tom30 worked from home and posted a photo of the walk he took on the beach before 9 AM. I decided that the little woofs have been so patient, putting up with me being gone, that they deserved the same thing. So after breakfast, I strapped on their leads – such hysterical barking! – and off we set.

It was sparkling. There were a few people and dogs there, but we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. Halfway along, I sat down and took the time to gaze out into the bay. The blues of the sea and sky were stunningly beautiful. Three seagulls were swooping low across the water. The white against the blue was amazing.

I was so happy that I wasn’t in a classroom!

The daily yoga has definitely slipped over the last few weeks, but as I sat there I did some breathing exercises and some neck stretches and we walked in the soft sand at the top of the beach on the way back. That wasn’t my choice, by the way. Scout saw an exuberant Doberman puppy and decided that discretion was the better part of valour.

Here’s the photo of the 5,000+ piece quilt, with a 50c piece on it to give an idea of scale. After I go out and water the gardens, I’ll be chipping away at this. I’ve discovered that it’s not so much the sewing together of all the tiny squares that’s time-consuming, (though it’s slow going), it’s the proper ironing of all the seams that will take up a huge amount of time.

Now I know why in the Quilt-a-long, Kellie has allowed 3 weeks for each row. I thought it was a bit too generous, but after working on this bit of the quilt on Tuesday, I’m seeing the logic.

I took home a little over $1,600 in my first pay packet. I’m happy with that, as I’ve been able to cross quite a few things from my list already. Now I settle into working to pay for my share of David28 and Izzy’s wedding costs. It’s a little disheartening to think that a full day’s work will only pay for around 2 places at the reception, but that’s how these things go. As I left school yesterday, I thought, ‘Well, I guess I’ve just paid for Mum and Dad’s places!”

Right now I’m home alone. Tom30 is at work and Ryan27 has gone out for a walk. The dogs are sleeping beside me and there’s total peace and quiet. All I can hear is birdsong, the occasional car and Jeffrey’s snores.

I’m thinking that doing some days of CRT work, even though there was nothing further from my mind than doing it, will give me a nice balance. When I’m at work it’s go!go!go! with every minute scheduled, while being at home is so unstructured and free.

I’m enjoying the challenge of bringing in money to pay for the things I want, while at the same time there’s no stress when the school doesn’t need me. I’m happy to work and I’m happy to stay home.

It’s a nice spot to be in.

Dad joke of the day:

How do you make holy water?

You boil the hell out of it.

Frugal Friday: Make hay while the sun shines.

So far this fortnight, I’ve worked 7 days. It’s been an incredibly busy time for the school, what with a huge year 7 camp, (taking nearly 500 kids away requires a lot of teachers as well), covid absences and a nasty throat bug doing the rounds.

I’m spending the whole day wearing a mask. In fact, probably the most dangerous part of the day is when I eat my lunch. For the rest of the time I keep my mask firmly attached to my face. With the mask, me being triple vaxxed and the students being double-vaxxed, I figure I’m as safe as I’m likely to be.

I’m booked to work a day next week and after that, who knows? That’s the joy and terror of doing casual work. When I was picking up my chromebook and keys from the Daily Organiser, she said that I’d put up my hand to come back at just the right time, because the last two weeks have been awful for staff absences.

She warned me that things will probably calm down and there won’t be as much work on offer, but I said, “That’s fine. I figure I’ll make hay while the sun shines. I’m using this work to help pay for Jordan’s wedding, so any work you can give me is great.”

Yes! Remember that chart I drew up about things I can ‘pay’ for with my CRT earnings? Going on those VERY loose figures, by the end of today… or maybe by the end of the day’s teaching next week, I’ll have “paid for” the first few items on the list and I’ll be up to the first big amount – the wedding.

This sort of stuff is very motivating, at least for me. I won’t lie – this morning when the alarm went off in the wee hours for the fourth straight day, it wasn’t a joyous moment. A couple of possums had galloped over the tin roof at about 2 AM and Scout vehemently objected. It took us both ages to go back to sleep. Dachshunds grumble a lot when they’re unhappy.

But when I thought about being able to cross off the boring stuff on the list and then be able to get started on the wedding, I had a spring in my step that definitely wasn’t there before.

A thing I’ve noticed that I didn’t expect at all was that in the 7 days I’ve been back at work, I’ve been bored far more than during the whole 15 months I was at home, living the retired life.

I think it’s because when you have total freedom over how you spend your time, the instant you even get a slight inkling that you might be getting bored, you can immediately drop whatever it was you were doing and move onto something else. It happens so quickly that, most of the time, the niggling feeling of boredom never gets a chance to eventuate.

Here? A successful day for a CRT means that there are long tracts of nothing much happening. You’ve brought each class in, settled them, set up the lesson and then let them go on their way. Sometimes you’re actually teaching, but more often than not you’re walking around the room making sure they’re staying on track and not watching the basketball or playing games on their chromebooks.

Given this, there have been long minutes of looking out the windows, watching the clock and generally counting down the minutes before the bell. Once every couple of days or so, I might have a therapeutic bellow at a naughty kid, but honestly, even the naughty kids at this school aren’t awful. They respond really well to discipline given with humour, so there’s rarely a need for a raised voice.

Now, it’s not as if I’m bored all the time. Of course I’m not. (I wouldn’t turn up to do CRT again if I was!) The kids are funny and I’m introducing a variety of different lessons that sometimes makes me quietly do some research into something-or-other that sounds interesting that I’d never think to learn about by myself. I just had a lovely chat with a year 10 Lit class about ‘Pygmalion’ vs ‘My Fair Lady’, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

(Pygmalion is the play that the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie ‘My Fair Lady’ was based on. It’s fabulous – though when I read it, years after having seen the movie, I was shocked by the ending. Now that I’m older, I think that George Bernard Shaw’s original ending to the story is far better.)

Even though I’m having fun in classes like this, the contrast between my work days and my retirement days is pretty noticeable. Usually, at home I’m surprised by how quickly the day has sped by. At work, I know to the instant when that last bell rings at 3:10 and I can walk outside to my car and start living my ‘real’ life.

To be fair, I was talking just a few minutes ago to a friend who’s also come back to do some CRT. She’s the opposite – she was getting bored at home and she loves the CRT life. It’s her new hobby. We had a laugh about how different we are.

So far, I’m really enjoying being back at school and seeing the kids and staff. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks so I’m definitely in the honeymoon phase. I’m still in the stage of kids getting excited when they see me and being pleased when I turn up to teach their class.

Sadly, this will fade. Soon I’ll be just another ‘sub’ who is part of the furniture. Hopefully, I’ll get enough work to take care of the wedding and beyond that, who knows? I wrote a post a few years ago about the importance of protecting your savings, so maybe I’ll continue to do a day or two a week, paying for outgoings as I go and keeping my savings for the Big Fun expenses, like travel.

(Actually, before I posted that link, I re-read the post. It’s got some pretty good points in it, if I do say so myself.)

I’ve always felt very lucky that I fell into a career that I was good at and I genuinely enjoy. It seems that CRT has most of the good stuff and very little of the bad stuff. I’m interested to see how this all pans out.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a pig with laryngitis?


(The students are loving this one today!)

So what’s it like to go back to work?

It’s been 15 months since I hung up the whiteboard markers and walked out the door towards sweet, sweet freedom. I’ve enjoyed every minute.

The absolute and total control over my time has been the best part, closely followed by the lifting of almost all of the time-stress I had in my life. If something doesn’t get done, suddenly it’s no drama. I have all of tomorrow to look after it. Or the next day.

Weekends have turned into just another two days, instead of frenzied errand-running and housework days. I can’t tell you how nice it is.

So how has it been, going back to work for the last couple of days?

Surprisingly good.

Though maybe it’s not so surprising. I really enjoyed lots of things about teaching. The banter with the kids, (most of) the people I worked with, and the liveliness of the place. Working with lots of young people around will definitely have a bright vibe.

It was the other things that drove me out. The increasing micromanagement in the classroom, the increased data collection and marking… not to mention the increasing number of meetings. Not to mention a pandemic with no vaccines.

Interestingly, these hideous things are NOT a part of being a CRT, (Casual/relief teacher for anyone unfamiliar with this acronym.)

On Wednesday I was working at the new campus, which is a place I’d never been to before. Walking in, I was instantly greeted by a woman I’ve known for as long as I’ve been working at the school – she’d been doing CRT work for at least 19 years. She swept me under her wing and showed me the ropes.

For some reason my details weren’t logged onto the system, so I hot-footed it to the techs. One of them turned out to be one of my beautiful Year 12 Theatre Studies students from my last class. He was unsurprised to see that I had tech troubles, even though this time I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I think computers just smell my fear.

This new campus is home to over 900 year 8 and 9 kids. I don’t know any of the year 8s, but a surprising number of the year 9s were racing up to me in the hallways and talking to me. They all look TALL – and their faces are different, getting the angularity of adolescence. It was so heartwarming to see them again.

The best thing, though, was settling into conversations with people that I haven’t seen for ages. Catching up on how our families are going – actually, quite a few people taught my boys when they were at the school – and hearing how people’s lives have been going since I left was really interesting.

One of the reasons that I put my name down for CRT at my old school was that I know the kids are well-behaved. This makes an enormous difference to a “sub”, as the kids call us. What i didn’t realise was that the new freeway extension cuts the commute from 45 – 50 minutes to 30 minutes. Talk about making a difference! That’s a huge amount of time shaved from the commute each way. I was a very happy camper when I realised.

What I found really interesting was that about midway through the afternoon, I was getting a little bored. This was a new experience. When you are a teacher with your own classes for the year, you’re actively involved with how the kids are progressing. CRTs don’t have that level of active engagement with what’s happening with the kids’ lessons.

The kids were doing a science experiment involving batteries, lights and circuits (or something) and they were as happy as clams. As I think I’ve said before, “boring” is actually a good thing for a CRT. It means everything is running smoothly. It’s when you’re a little too interested in what’s going on… that’s usually a problem.

Thursday was a day at the main campus, where I spent all of my 17 years’ teaching at this school.

First of all – What a difference in the space! Remove 900+ kids and around 50 teachers and suddenly the campus is spacious, with no bottlenecks between classes. I could hardly believe the difference it made.

Seeing so many people that I’ve worked with for years was amazing, as the bulk of the teaching staff has remained here. Hugs in the corridors, greetings as we walk past each other in the hallways… like the day before in the new campus, it was lovely.

One thing I really appreciated was knowing where everything was. There was no angst in looking at the schedule for the day, because I could picture where every room was.

The first period I watched the end of a National Theatre performence of ‘Medea’ for year 11 English. It was really good. I googled the lead because she looked familiar and it turns out she’s in ‘Peaky Blinders’, which I’ve just started watching.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of English, Media and Physics (!) classes. Thank goodness all I had to do in the Physics class is hand out a worksheet. If the kids were expecting any hints and tips from me to help them get through the lesson, they would’ve just had me drawing a sign of the cross over them and a “good luck, my child”. Physics is DEFINITELY not in my wheelhouse!

I had a yard duty at lunchtime in the Oasis, so I was glad I’d brought my hat. The year 7s were still running around like little kids, but without the 8’s and 9’s the noise and the sheer number of bodies in the space has dropped by a huge amount. A gentle stroll after eating lunch is a very civilised way to spend some time. It aids the digestion, I’m sure.

You want to know what the best thing was? After school the rest of the staff had to attend a meeting until 4:30 PM. Haha, suckers!!!!!! We CRTs skipped out of there as soon as we handed in our keys and chromebooks.

What were the downsides?

  • Obviously, getting up at 6:30 when it’s just starting to become light. I haven’t had an alarm since I retired. The dogs didn’t know what hit them – they’ve finally adjusted to a later waking time and now I hit them with this!
  • Driving in the morning, when I’d normally be doing yoga or lolling on the couch with the dogs. I was hoping to see some hot air balloons, but maybe they don’t do midweek flights since covid.
  • Having such a big chunk of my day being dictated by someone else. Obviously not a surprise, of course! It’s a subtle difference between idly daydreaming of the things you might be doing while you’re retired, and another thing to KNOW what retired life is like.
  • I didn’t expect the boredom factor. I haven’t been bored snce I retired. On the Wednesday, I found myself looking at the clock, working out how many minutes I had until the final bell. It felt so natural… I realised that doing this was a routine that I’d been doing for years. Talk about wishing your life away!
  • Driving home during peak hour on Wednesday. I had to run some errands for Mum and Dad after school, so I hit that dreaded time of the day on the freeway. Normally, I would’ve made sure I was well and truly done and at home before the roads filled up at the end of the day.

The upsides?

  • I’ve already spoken about a lot of them. The social aspect of seeing familiar friends and students is huge. I don’t care who you are – when you see people’s faces light up when they see you, it definitely adds a spring to your step!
  • It feels good to help kids with something. Just a little nudge in the right direction, even though I’m not a regular teacher but just a “sub”, still lifts the heart.
  • Kids still like the Dad jokes. Some things never change.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing how much my take-home pay is. I know I could work it out, but we all know that’s never going to happen! Besides, with my lack of numeracy skills, I’d probably come up with the wrong answer anyway.
  • Wearing the lovely work clothes that I bought just before the pandemic started and I’ve barely touched since.
  • Already being able to wipe a couple of items from my ‘CRT Earnings’ chart. I knew that it’d keep me motivated! That pizza oven will be paid off in no time… assuming I get more work.
  • It’s still fun to tell off kids but in a humerous way, so that they get back on task but without any unpleasantness. I guess it’s a skill that you just don’t forget.

Lots of people asked me how retirement life was going, and absolutely none of them asked the obvious question after I answered, “It’s fantastic. Happiest year of my life!” Maybe I forestalled them when I told them that with Tom30 listening to wrestling shows when he works from home, school is a lot more peaceful!! (Actually, I’m only half-joking when I say that!)

One of the teachers laughed when I said that and replied, “So you’re doing the adult thing about this problem and running away from home?”

Obviously with only two days under my belt, going back to work as a CRT is still a novelty. However, as it stands at the moment, the upsides are outweighing the downsides, so I’d happily work more days.

I was looking forward to indulging in a HUGE nap later today, though. This whole going to work gig is tiring! However, I was asked at the end of the day if I could work on Friday. You all know how hard it is for me to say no to work…

… the good thing is that the pizza oven will be well and truly paid off by the end of the day!

Dad joke of the day:

Never fight a dinosaur. You’ll get Jurasskicked.

I feel in my waters that it’s time to pivot.

Pulp fiction meme

Whenever anyone talks about the risks/benefits of early retirement, the one thing they bring up, almost without fail, is that if conditions change, you should consider going back to work if you need a few extra dollars. Even in my early(ish) retirement, especially being a teacher, I knew I always had that option tucked away.

September last year the VIT registration fees came up. It was the expensive one because it included the working with children police check thing. I paid it, more as insurance than anything else. I had no intention of going back to work… but you never know. As my friend Blogless Sandy said, “You may as well pay it. You’ll kick yourself if you wanted to work and couldn’t do it.”

Then in 2022, things shifted slightly in the Jones household, as well as in the wider world. Let’s go through them one at a time.

Man on an elliptical.


As you know, around a month ago Tom30 abruptly moved back in. There was a fairly tumultuous week of driving back and forth from Ormond to The Best House in Melbourne, getting all of his belongings out. After 7 years away, that guy had a lot of things, including a huge elliptical machine. There’s no denying that it adds a certain something to the decor in the Man Cave.

Anytime a new person moves in, the household dynamic changes. Tom30 is a communicative person who gets excited about what he’s interested in. As Ryan27 said a couple of days ago, “I kind of admire how Tom30 gets so enthused about things. I wish I could have such a simple life!”

It’s true. I’ve learned so much about the worlds of wrestling and gaming – he plays different games to Ryan27 – and I would have learned a lot about American politics, except I’ve put a ban on discussing this. It’s a good thing I did this – it’s saved a lot of bickering.

Tom30 works from home 2 days a week. He likes to have wrestling vids, sporting shows and angry American men podcasts playing while he works. So there’s a different vibe here 4 days a week.

Ok, so that’s a bit of a whinge. Honestly, I’m happy he’s back because it’s allowed us to reconnect again. There’s no better way to deepen a relationship than to share the same house with someone. It’s coming up to a month and the new Jones household is settling into the new normal.


Having another adult in the house raises the expenses. Now before everyone goes crazy —- YES. I’m charging both boys board. They pay me $50/week each.

My choice is to put that money aside for them and let it build up in a bank account. Tom30 is saving for a house deposit and Ryan27 will no doubt be doing that too one day. I can’t be the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ like so many people can. I can’t merrily hand over thousands of dollars to help get a deposit together for my 4 kids. I figure the least I can do is to feed and house them when they’re under my roof, then hand their board money back when they need it. (Tom30 has no idea that this is going to happen, by the way.)

So that’s all warm and fuzzy and lovely, but when prices suddenly rise, due to Putin, the pandemic and the floods, then that’s something that as a good FIRE person, I have to take note of. I can’t see prices subsiding any time soon.

I could choose to take their board money and use it for bills, or I could choose to pivot. (There’s that word again...)

Some sort of financial chart.


Ever since I learned about Sequence of Returns Risk, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind as something to watch out for in the first 5 years of retirement. I took the above chart from this article, which explains it in a bit more detail, but the chart gives a good TL;DR summary.

At the moment the market is a bit panicky and has slipped a bit. I’m not breaking out the cat food tins for dinner any time soon, but it’s something that I’m keeping an eye on. The share market has been rising steadily for the last 10 years or so. It can’t last forever, so retiring at this stage, I knew I’d need to keep in touch with what was going on.

We can prepare for many things when we retire, but we have absolutely no control over Sequence of Returns Risk. The market is going to do what the market is going to do, regardless of who is retiring when. I’ve set up my finances to mitigate against this by having several layers of investments, so intellectually I know that I’ll be alright.

But Past Frogdancer Jones would like to feel as secure as she can get.

One of the best ways to insulate my investments from being tapped too harshly, too early in a market downturn is to have a bit of extra income sliding in.

Can’t hurt and it might help!

Kath Day-Knght.

For a few weeks now, I’ve had a niggling feeling that it mightn’t be such a bad thing if I earned a little money on the side. Maybe that was why I took so long to make a decision about tutoring because it felt wrong to be knocking back income – but I’ve learned that if I ignore that niggling feeling I do so at my peril.

I definitely didn’t want to do tutoring, as I wrote “When you’re happily retired and you get offered a job”, but CRT (Casual Relief Teaching) is a different kettle of fish. Basically, a CRT supervises classes when the regular teacher is absent. You unlock the door, let them in, mark the roll, direct them to Compass where their work is set, then for the rest of the lesson you keep them quiet and on-task.

Basically, for a CRT, a boring day is a good day. When I first started working again when Evan25 was Evan5 and he’d started primary school, I did CRT work for a year. When you’re VERY VERY INTERESTED in what’s happening in the classroom, it’s either really good or really bad…

Last week I went into my old school and put my name down for CRT work. I could have gone to schools closer to me, but I know my way around the Main campus and I know that the kids are lovely, which makes a huge difference to a CRT’s day. A feral class is absolute misery for 48 minutes. It’ll also be nice to see people on staff and have quick catch-ups.

The catch-ups will have to be quick. Schools get their money’s worth when they hire a CRT – you work all 6 periods and do 2 yard duties. I’d better wear comfy shoes!

The daily pay rate isn’t bad – just over $380 – but as an early(ish) retiree the flexibility is what is really appealing to me. I have the freedom to say ‘No’ if I’ve planned something on a day that work is offered. Tutoring doesn’t offer that luxury.

Yesterday I was offered 2 days’ work – tomorrow and Thursday – so it’s Game ON!

Speaking of games, you know how I like to gamify my spending and paying for my rates. Of course, I’ve drawn up a list of things that the CRT days will ‘pay’ for.


I’ve put asterisks beside the things I’ve already bought. Once I knock them over, then I can start chipping away at the big expenses. Woo babayyyy – I like a list and I like to see progress. If anything will keep me motivated; this is it!

Of course, if I decide that I hate it and it’s sucking the joy out of my retirement life, I can always stop. That’s the good thing about being financially independent.

I’m fully aware that the feeling in my waters about the benefits of having a bit of money coming in is definitely because of the struggle I had when the boys and I were newly single. It took nearly two DECADES for us to recover from the financial aftershocks of the divorce. I love the freedom of being the only captain driving the financial ship, but it comes with the downside of being wholly responsible for navigating it safely through choppy economic waters. I don’t have the luxury of knowing that I’ll be able to nestle into a partner’s super fund in my old age.

So I figure that a few days’ work here and there that will help Past Frogdancer Jones sleep better at night isn’t too high a price to pay. I’m glad I chose to work in a field that can offer such flexible options for people who want to work in a different way than the typical full-time allotment… and who knows?

I might actually like it…

… and if I don’t, I’m not locked in.

Dad joke of the day:

How do you catch a cat?

With a MEOWS trap.

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