Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: The ‘why’ of FI. (Page 2 of 14)

It’s the little things.

Bedding.

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

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

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

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

Sewing.

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

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

I want to have this quilt finished by Christmas.

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

How often have I said that sentence over the years?

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

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

I like retirement. It’s so soothing.

Twitter.

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

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

Goodreads challenge.

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

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

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

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

So my new books were almost always read during holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke for today:

The rotation of Earth really makes my day.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it’s stunning.

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

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

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

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

Such a brave young woman.

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

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

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

And finally, this one made me laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to use it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many patterns, so little time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So use it.

Dad jokes of the day:

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

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

A challenge or three adds spice to retirement!

Cover of novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad Jokes of the day:

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

A recommended financial reading list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m open to suggestions.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho Cheese.

Operation Beautify continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frugality and forward-thinking for the win!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

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

Dad jokes for today:

And one for the Maths people:

It only took 9 months.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written here that after I retired last December, from then on I’ve been measuring my days by when the school bell would go. I’d wander into the kitchen for a cuppa and see the clock on the oven.

“Nine fifty. Period 2. Better go and get dressed and start the day.”

Or

“Two thirteen. Period 5. All I’ve done today is read a book. Better go and be productive!”

It’s not surprising, seeing as I worked at the school for 17 years and every single day was dictated by the timetable.

But this morning I had a conversation.

I was sitting on the couch in my pjs and dressing gown, the dogs snoring beside me. I’d just made breakfast and was idly thinking about what I was going to do that day. My phone rang. It was Megan, a friend from work.

She was calling to update me on what was happening with one of her cats. He’s been in the animal hospital for a couple of nights with a similar sort of blockage that Scout had a couple of years ago. Scout was very lucky to have survived that.

We were chatting away and then Megan said, “I’ve decided to leave him at the emergency vet to have the operation. I rang around to see if I could get him in somewhere else but it was all too much. I didn’t want to be driving him around, worried that I wouldn’t be able to get back in time to start my classes.”

My jaw dropped.

OH YEAH!” I said.

I’d completely forgotten that term 4 started today.

It only took 9 months.

Dad joke for the day:

What do you call an elephant that doesn’t matter?

An irrelephant.

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.

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!

Little Adventures #3 – Endeavour Fern Gully, July 2021.

Track leading into the bush.

I was looking at the news, seeing New South Wales’ covid figures soaring to over 100 cases from their bungled “lockdown” and then news came of 3 covid cases in Victoria due to removalists breaking the rules. That decided it! July’s Little Adventure had to happen quickly just in case we all go into lockdown again.

For any new readers; my Little Adventures are day trips. Once a month I take the freedom I have now that I’ve retired and I explore a place close to home. A place I’ve wanted to see but never really had the time for when I was working.

I looked at the weather forecast. Tuesday was cold but fine. Wednesday would be rainy. Decision made!

Tuesday would be “Little Adventure and Planting Asparagus Crowns” day.

Wednesday would be “Shopping at Costco For Dog Food In Case We Go Into Lockdown Again” day. We can go without many things in this house if we have to, but dog food is definitely not one of them.

Big gum tree.

Ryan26 is on his L plates and was at home, so he leapt behind the wheel for the 44km drive to the Endeavour Fern Gully. This is a property in Red Hill owned by the National Trust. The Mornington Peninsula was once a temperate rainforest and they’ve preserved a little patch of it with a walking track through it. Blogless Sandy discovered this place when she was with her walking group and told me about it.

I was interested to see that it’s a National Trust property. My plan is to buy a membership, once covid lockdowns settle down. They have a few old buildings that I haven’t seen since primary school and they’d be perfect for Little Adventures. The fern gully is free, so my membership plans can wait.

Big tree fern.

Ryan26 and I were the only ones there. There are definite advantages to being retired.

Tree trunk covered with moss.

All we could hear was the sound of birds, the gurgle of water as we walked near tiny creeks and the sound of a farmer a couple of paddocks over as he was riding his tractor. Fortunately, he was quite a way away so it wasn’t too intrusive, more like a low burring noise underneath everything else.

Another gum tree.

It was crazy to think that the Peninsula was once covered with dense vegetation and ferns like this. At one point the walking track skirted the side boundary of the property. On my right side was a paddock of green grass – nothing else. On my left side was a wall of tree ferns way taller than me, blocking out the sky.Really demonstrated how settlers have changed the landscape.

I unintelligently left my phone at home so Ryan26 took these photos for me.

Lots of gum trees.

The walking track is around 2kms or so and it winds its way through banks of tree ferns gathered around creeks, as well as stands of trees. Don’t you love the sound of running water?

Every now and then we’d hear a bellbird, or a galah would fly screeching overhead. Ryan26 is a quiet soul, so we didn’t chat much. We just walked in silence, first him and then me, quietly taking it all in.

The smell of the air was utterly different down there. It’s hard to describe. It was a clean, ancient smell of vegetation. Of things rotting down to provide new plants with the nourishment to grow. That may sound unpleasant but it really wasn’t. It’s a place of lush growth and renewal.

Boardwalk through tree terns.

I was glad we came. It’s an easy drive from Melbourne and we were home for lunch.

After a revivifying nap on the sunny spot on the couch, I went out to the garden and planted 7 more asparagus crowns. I can’t touch them for around 3 years but after that, I’ll have asparagus for the next 20 years or so!

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