Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Wednesday W’s #60.

What’s top of my mind: Clown College in France.

As a parent, I want to encourage my boys to follow their dreams and have a darned good crack at everything they want to do. Evan26 and his mate Will heard about a school for clowns in France, run by a 94-year-old man. This school is way famous in entertainment circles, with many big names in acting having been through its doors.

The boys are going for a short course for a month over our winter. They’ve been scrimping and saving for a year and everything was going well for Evan26 until he came back from a month working at the Adelaide Fringe and found that he’d lost his day job.

“I’ve become a full-time comedian, without meaning to!” he said.

I’ve decided that I’ll be picking up some CRT work next term to fling some cash to him. Clown College doesn’t come cheap and he’s already committed to going. There’s no point letting him do it with not enough money – it’d ruin the whole experience.

Where I’ve been: Parent/Teacher Interviews.

Two very long days – I’m doing the second one today but Monday’s one was loooong.

Five-minute interviews, all on Google Meets (like Zoom), running from 10am – 6pm. Each interview has time in between the next one to set up the next interviews and send the link to the kids and parents. By the time the last one was finished, my eyes were spinning like catherine wheels.

Today’s interviews aren’t as long. They finish at 4:30.

Luckily, we can do them from home, so that makes a huge difference in the quality of our days. Poppy and Scout appreciated the ball-throwing between interviews.

Where I’m going: To see ‘Long Play’ at the Comedy Festival.

If you’re anywhere near Melbourne over the next couple of weeks, please go and see Evan26 in his first solo show Long Play.

It’s a show all about music. He’s a very clever, funny guy who has a beautifully quick wit – you’ll definitely enjoy yourself. I’m heading over on Easter Sunday with Ryan28 and some friends and I’ll be popping in on some other nights as well.

Always happy to have a good laugh!

What I’m reading: ‘I Am, I Am, I Am’ by Maggie O’Farrell.

This is a memoir with a difference. O’Farrell, in 17 short stories, tells of 17 times she dodged death. I read the first one and I was hooked. I’m about 4 stories in and I’m enjoying it very much.

What I’m watching: the last 3 days of my term 1 contract zip by.

I’ve nearly made it!

(This holiday in September had better be worth it!)

What I’m listening to: The same audiobook I was listening to last week.

I’m loving it.

What I’m eating: Uncle Toby’s Oat bars with chocolate chips.

I was running late for work after a HUGE day of Parent/Teacher interviews the day before. Not the best breakfast I could have chosen, but it kept body and soul together until lunchtime.

What I’m planning: David29’s wedding day morning.

Suddenly, all the boys are meeting at mine for the photos to be taken of them getting ready. We’re the first stop for the photographer, because boys are much quicker to organise and set up shots with than the girls.

Then – get this! – I get to ride in the limousine with the boys to the church! I’m the luckiest Mother of the Groom ever!

Who needs a good slap: Whoever put me on bus duty at the end of the day.

Ugh. The one duty where good kids turn feral!

What has made me smile: Kids.

I was sitting in a classroom yesterday, observing a student teacher, when he asked a kid giving a presentation on coastlines, “What have you learned from doing this project?”

“That Indonesia has a coastline!” he said.

I broke the news to my classes that they’ll be having a different teacher for the rest of the year. The number of requests I’ve had to come out of retirement and continue to take their classes was phenomenal.

I wasn’t tempted, though!

Dad joke of the day:

Police have arrested the world tongue-twister champion.

They say he’ll be given a tough sentence.

One small decision.

White roses as a background

Saturday was a day of extremes.

A few days before, the principals of both campuses gathered the staff together for briefings and told us that a year 12 student had died. When he said the name, I gasped. I knew him. I taught him and his older brother, both in year 8 English.

English teachers get to know our kids pretty well. We teach them for 5 periods a week and we often talk about things that happen in their lives and well… just life in general. When we’re reading and discussing texts that talk about issues and themes, it’s inevitable.

So yeah… that day was a hard one. I teach 3 classes of year 8s, and that day I looked at them all, so funny and full of life, happy to be sitting and being with their friends, exactly as he used to be when I knew him. When you’re taught for as many years as I have, after a while you forget a lot of the names of kids you’ve taught. Not surprising – every year I’d teach 5 X 28 kids. That’s = 140 kids. I taught for 24 years as a full-time teacher all up, which = 3,360 kids. That isn’t counting the work I’m doing now.

But there are always some that stay with you. These brothers, (let’s call them Jacob and Braden), were like that.

When I saw that the funeral was going to be literally 10 minutes drive from me, I decided that I wanted to go. Well, maybe “wanted” is the wrong word, but you know what I mean.

On the morning of the funeral, I discovered that I wear hardly any black – and I live in Melbourne! I put together an outfit that, while only having a black top, was sombre enough for a funeral. There would have been at least 60 kids from year 12 there, the boys all in suits that they would have light-heartedly bought for their Formal, only a few weeks past. The chapel was packed, with most of the kids having to stand at the sides.

There were teachers too, most of them year 12 teachers, with our past and present principals there as well. They kept an eye on the kids, offering support and tissues where needed.

Then there was the family. His mother, as you can imagine, was brokenhearted. There didn’t appear to be a father in the picture and she had lost half of her family. His older brother, Jacob, now at uni, was composed and strong. He was looking after his Mum, greeting friends and family and looking after the last-minute things that always crop up. Once we were all seated, he stepped to the front and delivered his brother’s eulogy.

It was the best eulogy I’ve ever heard. I’ve never been prouder of anyone. He shared his love for his little brother, some stories about their relationship and his shock and grief that this has happened out of the blue. Then he said something that I’m sure he’d want me to share.

He’d gone through the plans they’d made to travel together after their exams were finished at the end of this year, and how his brother wanted to live in Japan for a year next year.

“These were not the plans of a man who didn’t want to live. My brother wanted to live. He died from doing the “Choke Challenge” from Tiktok. This was a mistake. My brother wanted to live.”

I gasped in horror, as did many around me. I didn’t even know what the Choke Challenge was, though the name is self-explanatory. I saw a few clips yesterday of kids standing up, choking themselves, and then falling down unconscious to the floor, sometimes hitting walls or furniture as they fall. Kids all over the world are doing it, some are taken to hospital with head injuries and a few are actually dying from it.

What a horribly tragic thing to happen.

We were then invited up to the front to light a candle for Braden. His friends went first, with Jacob standing there next to a couple of photos of his brother, greeting everyone who came up. When I walked up to the front, I discovered that I was attending my first open-coffin funeral. I looked at Braden and sighed. He looked beautiful, as if he was sleeping. His long, thin fingers were covered with rings. It was heartbreaking.

When I reached the head of the line, face to face with Jacob, I pulled my mask down and said, “It’s me!” then gave him a hug and said, “You absolutely did him proud.” I hope he remembers that, because it’s true. I’ll never forget how stong and brave Jacob was. He is a truly impressive young man.

Afterwards, according to their custom, the pallbearers shouldered the coffin and walked all the way to the crematorium, with the mourners all walking behind, escorting Braden on his way. As I walked, I could see the coffin up ahead of me, visible over the heads of those who walked in front of me. I think this will be an image that will stay with me.

After the funeral, I kept driving to Mum and Dad’s. I was taking them to the Comedy Festival to see Jenna’s show, Underwire. They haven’t seen the kids on stage before, so this was their chance to see them in an easily-accessible space.

Talk about the Circle of Life.

Anyone who has young people in your life, don’t be complacent about what they’re viewing on social media. Braden made one decision – one that didn’t seem all that important at the time, I’m sure. Just a harmless bit of fun.

That one small decision is already reverberating across the lives of all who knew him. He was a sweet, funny, beautiful boy.

I’ll leave this post with a passage I read the next day from Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘I Am, I Am, I Am.’ It resonated with me.

“We are, all of us, wandering around in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, unaware of when the axe may fall. As Thomas Hardy writes of Tess Durbeyfield, ‘There was another date… that of her own death; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. When was it?’ “


Wednesday W’s #57.

What’s top of my mind: Getting all my correction done.

This is so much ‘top of mind’ that it wasn’t until I was getting into bed last night that I realised what day it was and that I’d forgotten to put out a Wednesday W’s post on time. Poppy woke me at 5:30 AM so I’m tapping away on my laptop now. Better late than never!

Where I’ve been: Mooroopna.

After 7 weeks, my little doggie visitors are back with their Mum. I drove them down on Saturday – a round trip that takes 7 hours – and they were all so happy to be together again. Silver danced through the house like a puppy.

Where I’m going: to look for a wedding dress.

I ordered a lovely silk dress online at the beginning of January to wear to David29 and Izzy’s wedding. Unfortunately, it’s in China and all the covid lockdowns have clearly affected the company, because 10 weeks later, I still don’t have the dress.

Mum said she saw some dresses at a shop in Southland that she said “looked like me”, so I’m going to go after work one day soon to have a look for myself. The wedding is only 4 weeks away.

What I’m reading:The Family Inheritance’ by Stringer

I’m listening to this as an audiobook and it’s quite good. Interesting enough that it makes the commute seem to go faster, to the point where I look forward to hearing the next installment as I approach my car.

In another note, DON’T read the latest John Irving novel, The Last Chairlift. Dear God in heaven, it was dull. It’s a 900 page book that should have been edited down to about 600 pages. It has interesting moments, but it was an incredibly hard slog to finish. Be warned!

What I’m watching: The latest season of ‘Outlander.’

I was so happy when season 6 unexpectedly dropped on Netflix. I adore the books – apparently there’s one more to come – but they’ve also done a good job with the tv show. I love some Jamie and Claire!

What I’m listening to: Jeffrey snoring.

The dogs have all gone back to sleep.

What I’m eating: Not beans.

I was watering the veggie garden on the weekend and I got to the bean vines on the wicking bed at the back. I was idly looking at it, looking to see how many beans were left, when I saw a tiny whiskery face at eye level with me within the tangle of vines.

I yelped and threw the cucumber I was holding at it. It disappeared.

Now I know who ate all my apples in the backyard. Still, as you can see from the photo above, my pumpkins all survived in the front yard. 🙂

What I’m planning: the rodent’s demise.

Deep Green Permaculture has a couple of really good posts about trapping and baiting rodents.

“Rather than risk pets and wildlife, a better option is to bait rats and mice using an environmentally safe, home-made bait that uses bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). This exploits a unique feature of rat and mouse biology, their inability to burp or vomit, to create an effective rodent control.”

This might be the go, as I don’t want the dogs to get hold of a poisoned rodent.

Who needs a good slap: Me, for being an English teacher.

Remember all of that marking I mentioned earlier? Half of my classes are English; half History. Guess which set of marking is FAR quicker?

What has made me smile: Payday.

I’ve now earned the money for my 2-week tour of Ireland. Next payday will be taking care of accommodation in the last week and some spending money. Yay!

Today is day 35/50 of the term. I’m on the downhill slide now!

Dad joke of the day:

Pretty boozy at last night’s Middle Earth masquerade.

I wasn’t the only one who was Legolas.

Antarctica, days 14 – 16: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and one last stroke of good luck.

From the moment the taxi pulled up at the hotel to take me to Ushuaia airport, my luck ran out. I was running low on Argentine pesos, so I asked the receptionist to confirm that a taxi would take a card instead of cash. I already tried Uber, but none were available.

I got to the airport, then had an argument with the taxi driver when he wouldn’t accept my card, OR all my Argentine plus Chilean pesos for the fare. There was a lot of “I don’t speak Spanish; this is all the money I have” and lots of Argentinian head shaking and muttering.

Finally, he relented and took the two types of pesos – I grossly overpaid him but I didn’t care – and I grabbed my suitcases and went into the terminal. It didn’t matter that I had no cash for Chile – in a few hours’ time I was going to be in and out of Santiago airport in an hour. I’d filled my (once pee bottle, now water) bottle with water before I left the hotel and eaten a hearty breakfast, so I could exist on plane food until New Zealand.

I strolled in, walked past a café and there, with his side to me, was SamFrank. Ugh. After the taxi driver thing, I was in no mood for more bullshit, so I turned my head and pretended to be very interested in a shop as I walked around the corner and found a seat. There was NO WAY he didn’t see me, but he clearly didn’t want to talk to me either. Phew!

I whatsapped the group. “SamFrank is here at the airport. We both pretended not to see each other.”

Corinna messaged back: “He’s probably right behind you.”

Turns out Ming was on Corinna’s flight into Buenos Aires, both in the same row. Ming was still in her yellow jacket. It was nearly 27C.

Everything on my itinerary was going to plan. I was in and out of Buenos Aires airport like a dream. It was when I hit Santiago that it all went to shit.

If I’d just had carry-on luggage, everything would have been fine. But my plane landed at the same time as around 47 other planes and I had to queue for over an hour to get my suitcase. When I got to the check-in counter to get to Aukland, they wouldn’t let me board, even though I was there an hour and a half earlier than the plane was scheduled to leave.

It was one in the morning. I was ropeable. They put me on a flight that was leaving 24 hours later. They told me I had to go to Air Argentina to get them to book a hotel room because my previous flight was late. (It wasn’t late, so I knew they wouldn’t help. It was all the fault of the airport itself.)

It was the middle of the night. My eyes welled with tears… and then I remembered my Australian travel agent’s stuff-up.

In a previous version of this trip, I was supposed to stay in Santiago for another night and day. That had changed. But she forgot to cancel the booking at the Pullman.

Fortunate Frogdancer made a brief comeback, right in the nick of time. WHO JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A ROOM BOOKED IN A CITY WHERE THEY’RE UNEXPECTEDLY DETAINED?????

Me, that’s who. My tears dried instantly. I walked downstairs, haggled with a driver who would accept a card payment, and then I was whisked to a luxurious bed for the night. Check-out was at midday, too, which was a bonus.

Next morning I had a huge breakfast, then secreted three bread rolls in my pockets. I was going to get to the airport (after I had a nap in my room until midday) and I was going to do a Tom Hanks in the terminal. Goddammit – I wasn’t going to miss that plane again!

I had 3 bread rolls, 2 packets of peanuts from previous flights, 3 packets of chocolates from the ship’s welcome package, and my huge wee bottle was full of water. I had my iPad with plenty of books. All of this was more than enough to sustain me while I waited 12 hours for the plane!

By 2 PM I had my precious boarding pass. I found a seat, put my suitcases in front of me, pulled out my iPad and began to read. Two and a half books later, my flight was called. I made it up to the boarding gate… where my flight was delayed for 3 hours.

I got to Aukland with 40 minutes to board. When our carry-ons were being checked, mine was pulled out.

“Stand over there, I’ll check it shortly,” the guy said.

Five looong minutes later, he pulls out my tube of sunscreen. “Oh, it’s 100g. It looked bigger on the x-ray,” he said.

Bloody hell.

I make it onto the plane and fly to beautiful Melbourne. I also picked up a mighty fine deal on the duty-free as I went through. 2L of gin for $60. Not bad.

At the airport, I sat myself down on the Skybus and asked if it went to Frankston. No. I had to get off at Southern Cross station and get a train home. But it was ok; this was my plan B. I had my Myki with me in case this happened.

When I got to Southern Cross, I couldn’t see a Frankston line train scheduled on any platform. Weird, but oh well. I’ll just take a train to Richmond and swap from there. No problem. I love dragging these cases around.

Richmond. Every other train line in Melbourne was running through, but not Frankston. FINE. I’ll just take a Dandenong line train to Caulfield nd jump onto the Frankston line there. Sheesh!

To pass the time, I sent penguin videos to people, letting them know I was back.

I roll into Caulfield station. I hear a garbled announcement, “Buses garble arble Mordialloc.” Bloody hell, was I ever going to get back home?

They were doing works on the Frankston line. Buses instead of trains between Caulfield and Mordialloc. Lovely! I needed an automobile to make up the whole ‘Planes, Trains’ set. I wheeled my suitcases to the back of the bus and sat there as we made the long trip down Nepean Highway to Mordy station.

Then, after a long wait, I rode the train to my station. I wheeled my suitcases the short way back to my gate. I was home – only 27 hours late.

I clicked the gate latch. Poppy and Scout went NUTS. Ryan27 let them out and the three of us had a rapturous reunion at the front gate.

I went inside. Tom30 had come over to see me and he was sitting on the couch with Jeff sleeping on his lap. I let Jeff smell my hand. Three deep breaths, then he sat up, blinking and looking around. Then he saw me. Another rapturous reunion.

The boys said they were pleased to see me, too, though they didn’t follow me around like the dogs did, not letting me out of their sight for days.


This, my first trip overseas in 4 years, has tested me physically and mentally. This is the first time that I’ve travelled by myself, without a friend waiting for me at the other end. 

I don’t speak or read Spanish, and both Chile and Argentina are Spanish-speaking nations. I knew I’d be fine on the cruise, as English is the language used there, but getting there and back had its challenges that I had to solve by myself, or with the help of new friends or kind strangers.

How fortunate I was to meet such lovely people in my YPT travel group. I was the oldest person in our little group by far, yet they embraced me into their lives and we experienced this whole amazing thing together. 

I was definitely not expecting this. When I saw, from our Facebook group, that everyone was in their 20’s and 30’s, I downloaded 22 books so that I’d have something to occupy myself with when we were onboard. 

Turns out I didn’t need them. I’m only up to book 7. We had wonderful conversations, in-jokes and so much fun. These travellers are definitely able to look past the exterior of someone and deal happily with the person within. That’s pretty special, I think.

Everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t have a love for exercise. To me, going for a walk only makes sense if you have a definite purpose in mind, while as for going to a gym? Forget it.

There was only one walk that I didn’t do on the landings, and that was on the first day when I was still paranoid about my level of fitness. After that, I did everything that was put in front of me and I’m proud – and slightly surprised – that I accomplished every single one. 

Of course, the Polar Plunge is the pinnacle of this. Even disgustingly healthy people opted out of that one! 

A trip to Antarctica was always going to be special. It’s such a wild, desolate and relatively untouched part of the world. But when I add these other, far more intangible things, this is a trip that is vastly different from anything I’ve done before.

This is the reason why I focused so hard on retirement. There are so many amazing places to see and different things to do. I want to be able to see and do as many as I can before my time runs out.

I hope you enjoyed seeing Antarctica through my eyes. Let’s hope that it won’t be another 4 years before the next trip!

To end this series about Antarctica, please enjoy this fun video that Charlie from America made about our trip. Everything in here (except the orcas) I saw as well, but he’s much better at putting everything together.

Thank you for coming on this trip with me.

Antarctica trip Day 10: Jougla Island and Port Lockroy.

Straight after breakfast this morning, we were called into the lounge for a briefing. There were two women from Port Lockroy.

This port used to be a whaling station back in the day and there are still chains near the entry, along with whale bones left lying in the water.

The port is open for 6 months and every year over 4,000 people apply for the 4 available positions. This year 4 women are there, performing a mix of scientific, postal and public relations jobs. 

Every day they are visited by 2 cruise ships, so their only quiet times are early in the mornings and after dinner, where they sit and stamp that day’s amount of the 70,000 postcards that they receive over the course of the season. 

I only sent two. Didn’t want to overwork them. I would’ve sent one to James from Ireland, seeing as we sent each other postcards from Pyongyang, but I didn’t have his address.

This time, instead of being split into two groups, we passengers were split into three. Over the course of the morning, we’d have a landing neat gentoo penguins, a zodiac cruise around the bay for around 45 minutes, and a trip to the actual base at Port Lockroy. Which order anyone got to do all of this was completely luck of the draw.

Naturally, this worked in my favour. Again.

In the early parts of the morning, the guides were very conscious of time. I jumped on a zodiac which happened to be doing the landing on Jougla Island first. When we made our way up the dug out snow staircase, Rose grabbed me, made me sit on a barrel and she put my snowshoes on. They were hustling people along – no mucking around!

I didn’t realise it at the time, but they had to ensure that all of us had seen Port Lockroy and were all back on the ship before the next cruise arrived.

You can see in the photo how the landing teams put everything on a tarp, which is sterilised after we get back on board. They are really very worried about avian flu coming down here from the northern hemisphere. It could decimate the bird populations here.

Then we were off, trudging our way along the path laid out by the red poles the guides had planted earlier.

It was a cracking morning. The sun was so bright that I had to keep reminding myself to wear my sunglasses. I didn’t want to experience snow blindness like Baptiste did a couple of days ago.

It wasn’t a particularly long walk, just across a flat patch and then up a small hill where there were a couple of penguin colonies, along with a wonderful view of the bay. I took it slowly though, conscious that this was my last day.

The Gentoos were making the “hee-haw” sound that had already become so familiar. The air was cool and the sky was brilliantly blue. The penguins, the sound of snowshoes on snow and the murmuring of people talking were the only sounds I could hear.

I stayed up here for what seemed like ages. It was unutterably beautiful. The penguins were busily doing their own thing, with the occasional bird swooping around. 

At one point, down the hill near a penguin colony, a stupid group of Vietnamese people strayed off the path, just to get a photo opportunity holding up their flag. The guides were quickly onto it. 

“It’s not the flag I object to,” said one of the guides when I mentioned it later. “It’s the crevasses that are in the area.”

With conditions so perfect, I guess it’s hard for some people to keep in mind that we’re not in a tame place. But seriously, if you want to come to one of the most untouched and isolated places on Earth, do your research! Stepping into a crevasse could kill you.

After a while, I snowshoed my way back down the hill and got into a zodiac. Turned out, this one was on a cruise. Our last one…

We were lucky enough to see two seals out sunning themselves. Zoom in on the second photo – the seal’s on the rocks.

I was sitting in the front of the zodiac again, and I was so glad the sea was calm. I could have my iPhone out all the time without being concerned about waves splashing.

We passed by colonies of Antarctic/Blue-Eyed Shags building their nests from seaweed. Every year they come back to the same place and build on top of the nest they had before. Right in the middle, you can see one nest getting precariously tall.

None of us wanted the cruise to end. We went further afar, looking at the amazingly sculpted icebergs and gazing at the glaciers spilling into the bay.

Eventually the call came for our group to go to the steps carved into the snow to reach the base at Port Lockroy.

I didn’t know it then, but this was to be extra special, especially for all of us who were on the last zodiacs to arrive.

Port Lockroy is home to thriving colonies of Gentoo penguins, who make robust use of the buildings on the base. This means that when the people who live on the base each October arrive, the penguins are already well established. 

They live under the old post office, all around the storage shed and there’s even a colony that has parked itself directly under the flag pole.

This means that for the first time on this trip, the 5 metre rule couldn’t be adhered to. I took this video as I was queuing up to go into the post office. I couldn’t believe how close the penguins were coming to us.

When we first arrived, I was charmed to see the penguins nesting under the old building, but I was more focused on getting inside and looking around.

The museum is set up as if it was the 1950s. 

It was very utilitarian. 

There was a stamp that we could get for our passports with ‘ Port Lockroy’ on it. I’d already got the ‘Ushuaia’ and ‘Antarctica’ stamps from the tourist office in Ushuaia, which may or may not make some countries’ immigration people dislike me, so I thought I may as well get the whole set while I was at it.

I had a quick look at the museum, but it was outside where the real magic lay.

Remember how I said that the guides were really conscious of time with this landing? 

Now that we were on the last round, that urgency melted away. We were there for well over an hour and a half. 

Ninety minutes in a place where the penguins were literally all around us. What a way to finish the landings!

And, as I said, they were so close.

It was crazy. I’d be standing, looking at penguins coming back to the base along their penguin highways, when I’d hear a quiet little “shuffle, shuffle “ noise coming up behind me.

I’d turn, and there would be a penguin literally 1 foot behind me, making his way back to the bay. 

It was incredible. 

They were totally focused on building their nests, with many birds waddling along clutching a pebble with their beaks. 

They were all around us, walking, ( and tripping and falling), while we were marvelling at our incredible luck to be here at this place and time. What an absolutely precious hour and a half that was.

As the guides with the other groups dropped their zodiac groups back on the ship, they’d come across to the base.

Every time someone asked if it was time to go back to the zodiacs, they’d say, “There’s no rush…”

Liga and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to be told twice!

I took more videos here than I did on the rest of the trip combined. By now, the sound of the Gentoos was utterly familiar, as well as their waddling gait and optimism in the face of everything. 

But this was the last time I’ll be here with them. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Just before we finally left, a bird stole an egg. I was at the wrong angle to take a shot of the actual theft, but as we were walking back to the zodiacs I snapped THIS SHOT.

The sheathbills sneak in, peck a hole in the egg and come back later to eat the insides. If you zoom in you can see the hole in the egg. It’s sad. The penguins only lay two eggs. 

But of course, the skuas and sheathbills also have families to raise. Plus the egg would taste a lot better than the sheathbills’ normal food – penguin poo.

As we were enjoying lunch that was definitely tastier than penguin poo or penguin eggs, the ship began to move out of the bay. We were on our way home. Two days at sea, crossing the Drake Passage, and then we’d be back at Ushuaia.

At the briefing that night before dinner, Pippa asked if we wanted to get the weather forecast for the Drake. Would it be a shake or a lake?

She put up a picture of the weather chart.

“Of course, seeing as it’s you guys, the weather forecast for our entire crossing is blue,” she said, and started to laugh as we all cheered. 

She pointed to the lower left-hand corner of the chart

“You can see here that there’s a purple monster blizzard heading this way, but this will affect the group that’s coming after you. Your group has been truly blessed with unprecedented good weather.”

She went on to say, “ The one landing we had where it was grey and snowing, I had a few of you asking if it was safe to go out.” She laughed. “ It was safe. That’s considered great weather for landings in Antarctica. 

“ The last group we had was a 21-day cruise including the Falkland and South Georgia Islands. The weather was so bad that they only had ONE landing for the entire trip. You guys have been incredibly lucky.”

Wow. I already knew from Morgan that the trip I was originally meant to go on last year had pretty bad weather, but this was on another plane of terrible. I sat there thanking all of the gods that my tour company picked this out of all possible weeks to go.

Ross, the guide from Cornwall, then announced the photo competition. There were 3 categories: Landscape, Wildlife and Fun.  People had a few hours to enter, then the whole ship would vote, with the 3 favourites from each category ending up in the finals to be announced on the last night of the cruise.

There was no way I was entering. I was actually pretty pleased with how well my iPhone 6 performed, but it’s no match for the latest iPhones and wildly expensive cameras and lenses that lots of people were using. I was definitely sitting this one out.

We stayed up late in the lounge, talking, reading and the card players doing their thing. SamFrank joined us as we were talking to an American guy who was in the military. He, (SamFrank), mentioned that he was a colonel in the special forces.

From memory, SamFrank is a captain, a colonel and a general in the FBI and Special Forces who is also a dance instructor, presumably in his spare time. 

The plot thickens.

Antarctica Day 9 – The Icebergs’ Graveyard and the Polar Plunge.

During lunch the ship repositioned itself in the middle of Port Charcot Bay. This area is known as the Icebergs’ Graveyard because the prevailing currents sweep the bergs here and then they can’t get out, so they slowly melt. because there are so many of them, it’s a spectacular place to go for a zodiac cruise.

We were there for 3 hours and it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye.

When we were here, I finally got to take a video of penguins swimming to show you!

Away in the distance, we saw an ice floe with a rock on it…

Best rock I’ve ever seen.

Isn’t this the most perfect Antarctic nap you could imagine?

I had to snap a shot of these mountains. Just look at how pointy they are? In Ushuaia they were like icecream scoops; here they’re like Madonna’s bra in the 90’s.


… and Baptiste being sun smart… the French way! (They could’ve asked me for some sunscreen.)

Then, we sped back to the ship and had 15 minutes to prepare for the Polar Plunge. The next part was written a couple of hours after I did it:

When we were talking about it beforehand, someone asked me how I was feeling about it. 

“Resigned… and angry with myself for saying I’ll be doing it, “ I said. “ I told my boys I’d do it, so now I have to… I hate my children…”

The afternoon was a sparkling one, full of sunshine and with hardly any wind. We were told that the water temperature was 2C, which was a FAR better day to do a Polar Plunge than yesterday. Thank God they cancelled it!

I’d already changed into my bathers at lunchtime, so I was all ready to go. I sat in our room watching Liga get ready, while Corinna was rapidly talking herself out of it.

Out on the zodiac, we sped towards the beach. Underneath the water, the ground was covered with rocks, so people were ungracefully lurching from side to side, trying to find a firm footing. 

A girl was thigh high, then she launched herself sideways and disappeared under the water. Not a bad idea, I thought.

The Irish guy we were friendly with went under the water, then stood up, turned around and did a couple of backstrokes. A chubby German guy picked up a little chunk of ice and threw it, while a middle aged German couple made us laugh. She went under, he didn’t, so she pushed him under.

The shore was a hive of activity. People getting undressed, people getting dressed, towels being thrown.

All too soon, it was our turn.

“Walk along the rocks, put all your belongings on the tarpaulin, not on the rocks. Once you’re ready, walk into the water here. Grab a towel on the way out.”

That tarp was a hive of activity. There were people in all stages of undress, people stripping off, people frantically drying themselves and people throwing their clothes back on. 

Liga was ready before me, so she made her way to the water while I was still struggling to get out of my boots and waterproof trousers. I saw her calmly walking into the water as I finally got rid of my clothing and stood up.

I had my iPhone in my hand. I knew that there was a staff photographer taking pictures but I really wanted a video. I know that no one would ever believe that I’d voluntarily dunk myself in freezing cold water unless they could see the actual evidence.

Once I’d handed my phone to a guide, I waded in.

Yes, the water was utterly freezing, but I was more concerned with finding my footing on the rocks. When I reached around knee height, Liga passed me on her way back in.

“Keep on going Frogdancer, you’re doing well,” she said.

A step or two further and I was at thigh height. Deep enough to dunk. 

So I did. I dropped like a stone directly into the water. 

The cold gripped me around the ribs. I stood up, gasping like a fish until I got my bearings. As I hobbled gracefully back to shore, I was elated.

I did it!

Before this trip I would never have believed I could do it.

Once back on the tarp, everyone was drying themselves and throwing on clothes at record speed. As I sat there, inching my waterproof trousers over my muck boots, I watched the next batch of Plungers moving into the water.

The main thing I was scared about the plunge was being icy cold on the zodiac on the way back to the ship and a hot shower. I should’ve remembered the advice I often give other people. 

“Don’t borrow trouble.”

I wasted so much time being scared of being cold. I didn’t feel cold at all. I felt fantastic, as if I could conquer the world. Ok, so maybe I couldn’t feel my toes, but that was a minor thing. My body and mind felt like I could do anything I set my mind to.

My Polar Plunge moment even made it to the official slideshow of the cruise. I prefer to believe that it was because I looked like a goddess rising from the sea, not because I looked like a gasping guppy.

The people who were on the first zodiac really struck it lucky. As they were on their way back to the ship, their guide spotted a pod of orcas nearby, so they went after them. They got to see them really close and got some amazing pictures. 

Meanwhile, oblivious to this, we sped back to the ship and into the showers. 

At the daily briefing, Pippa said, “The program for tomorrow is that in the morning we’ll be visiting the southernmost post office in the world, on the British base of Port Lockroy. Of course, the weather tomorrow, being you guys, will be clear and sunny. 

“Bring your postcards, already written,  to be posted. When we’re inside the museum and the gift shop we’re going to be wearing masks, as the 4 people on the base have no access to outside medical care, so we don’t want to pass any bugs onto them.

“This will be the last landing of the cruise before we turn and start to head north.”

It was odd to think that tomorrow would be the last time we’d be pulling on our muck boots and waterproofs and heading outside. 

I’m so glad I didn’t back out of doing the Polar Plunge. It would’ve been easy to, but I’m pleased that I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to weasel out. This trip has tested me in physical ways and this was a challenge both physical and mental. 

I can do more than I thought I could. That’s good to know.

Then, as if this perfect day wasn’t enough, we had a barbeque thrown for us out on deck, with mulled wine thrown in. Here’s most of our group enjoying the meal, with SamFrank turning away from the camera at the last minute. Remember how he’s a spy (or a dance instructor, who knows?) and he isn’t supposed to be in photos?

He was nice enough to take the other photos of us all, though.

Pippa, the tour leader, said, “Every other tour, we have to force the guests outside. We bribe them with the mulled wine. We’re cooking outside, all rugged up, often it’s snowing. But of course, with you guys, the weather is perfect for a barbeque.”

Liga, Corinna and Morgan.

Yep, this bitter Antarctic weather was really getting hard to take!

Antarctica Trip Day 9: Petermann Island.

Today began with real Antarctic weather. We were told to dress warmly as it was snowing. This was not good news, as the Polar Plunge could only be done today.

Ming was already dressed – because she sleeps in her polar layers. The ‘swish swish’ had by now become a familiar sound in the cabin in the night as she tossed and turned. Her group was the first group to do the landing on Petermann Island, while we were set for a good two and a half hours of zodiac cruising.

As you’ll see, Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again. Our timing was impeccable.

We were in the zodiac with a French guide, who was absolutely mad keen on krill and plankton. Imagine having an esoteric thirst for knowledge about – let’s face it – something that isn’t exactly a mainstream thing … like tiny little sea creatures, and then being able to be paid to come to the one place on Earth that has heaps of it? She’s a lucky girl.

She brought a plankton bag thing that she trailed behind the zodiac to see if she could pick up anything interesting. Unfortunately, today wasn’t a great day for plankton, but it was interesting to see how she did it.

After a little while our guide took us away from the other zodiacs and said, “I’m going to stop the motor and we’ll have a minute’s silence on the ice.”

At first this minute’s silence, which is meant to enable us to hear the sounds of the ice, was being ruined by 2 gortex-clad swishers who wouldn’t stop moving. FFS! Don’t we have enough of this with Ming? After I politely (but firmly) asked them to stop moving, we got the full effect.

Sometimes, being paid for telling teenagers off turns into a useful life skill in other situations. No one else was going to say anything…

It’s a very liquid world. We could hear the sounds of the sea, ice dripping and the far-off calls of penguins. The wind was blowing lightly, but the main thing I noticed was that the sounds of water were everywhere. We shut our eyes and really concentrated.

Once everyone was on the same page and was totally silent, it’s amazing how much we could hear from so far away. I really enjoyed this experience.

We tootled around looking for penguins, seals and whales and as we did, slowly the day brightened up. Right at the time we turned the zodiac towards the landing site, the day turned bright and sparkling again, just as it had been on our first day.

And this was an absolute gift. This was the most gloriously beautiful of all of our landings.

This video shows it best, but seriously, with the other penguin vids that are coming, watch the funny penguins once and then rewatch to look at the background. This place is hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I can’t see how anything could top it.

There are a lot of photos coming. I couldn’t NOT show you the beauty.

When we landed the sun was shining, the snow was sparkling and all was well with the world. I took a cursory look at the bay behind me, but my real impetus was to get to see the penguins. I grabbed my snowshoes, put them on and off I shuffled.

I was halfway to the first fork in the path when I decided to blow my nose. I had a tissue. It was all ok.

Until my nose started to bleed. And bleed.

This was bad. I have one tissue and we’re expected to leave nothing behind us when we leave. How can I allow myself to leave this pristine snow looking like a murder was committed? I had to move fast.

I turned and started back to the landing site, holding my tissue to my nose and pushing past people with a wild look in my eye. The doctor was there – she might have some tissues or something. I had to hurry… this tissue was heroically performing miracles but it was soon going to become sodden and useless.

When I got back, (without having left a drop of blood on the snow, I might add), the doctor made me sit on a plastic barrel and pinch the bridge of my nose for 10 minutes. She was timing me.

I sat, inwardly raging at the waste of time this was taking. This is ridiculous! If I had’ve left my nose alone I’d be at the hilltop rookery where people have seen Adelie penguins by now! Instead, I’m stuck here looking at… at … this.

And then I grew still. And I looked at the vista of the bay and the mountains laid out before me. And I couldn’t believe my luck. I had to stay here and gaze at this view of complete and utter perfection for ten whole minutes???

Best blood nose ever!

Once I was able to set off again, I was snowshoeing along like a champion. The paths the guides had set out were well away from the rookeries, but as you can see, sometimes the penguins crossed over our paths on their ways to the sea and back.

I wonder what they make of us? We must look very similar to them. We all walk in designated paths in a row, just like them.

I spent a lot of time on this landing by myself, just like this little fellow. I wanted to drink it all in and never forget it.

I was pretty happy that day.

There is nothing better than a penguin video. Look at the backdrop… it’s divine.

These were all penguin highways. Our guides would kill us if we left this many pathways behind us!

How am I lucky enough to get to see this in person?

Petermann Island was, for me, a truly epic moment. Antarctica is a spellbindingly beautiful place, but my time simply gazing out over the bay is something that will stay for me forever.

I hope that these photos from my little iPhone have given you an idea of just how special this place is.

As we were torn away from the landing and were on our way back to the ship, a new topic of conversation arose. Seems like the weather has taken a turn for the better. Looks like it might be a great day for a Polar Plunge…

Decisions will have to be made.

Morgan took this shot of Baptiste and ‘improved’ it. I’d definitely go to see this movie!

Antarctica Trip Day 5- The Drake Passage.

The next morning at 7:45 we were woken by a cheery announcement.

“Goood morning everyone! We’re currently making our way along the Drake Passage. The waves are slight, only about 3m or so. Weather is fine and breakfast will be served in 15 minutes. We have a series of lectures for you in the lounge throughout the day, which are all on your daily log. The lectures on bio-security in Antarctica are mandatory and you will not be allowed on the ice unless you have attended. In the afternoon we’ll issue your Muck Boots and you’ll be called up deck by deck.”

I felt fine. No seasickness at all! Apparently, we went through rough seas during the night, but by morning the seas were just rolling gently. You couldn’t get much closer to a Drake Lake! We all crossed our fingers that this would continue, except for Liga. Although during the previous day she was terrified of being sick, now all of a sudden she was saying, “I want a storm. I think that if we come here we should expect to see bad weather.”

I know; crazy, right?

Some of the lectures were as you might expect: about snow and birds and seals. But others were a little more unexpected, as you can see.

Morgan and Baptiste are clearly riveted by a lecture, while some random guy over Morgan’s shoulder is deeply suspicious as to why I’m taking the photo.

The mandatory lectures about biosecurity were really interesting. I had no idea as to the lengths the company (Oceanwide) goes to, to ensure that Antarctica stays as uncontaminated by invasive species as possible.

In one of the lectures and briefings we had today, we were told that before we’re allowed on the ice, everything we intend to wear will be cleaned to within an inch of their lives. We have to sign a declaration saying that we’ll do everything in our power to keep Antarctica pristine.

We were told that we were not allowed to lie down, kneel or sit on the ice. We must remain standing at all times. Even our backpacks are not allowed to touch the snow. The crew brings a large tarp to each landing that they lay out and this is where people can put their bags, overcoats etc. Each time the tarp is brought back to the ship it’s sanitised.

The clothes that we were planning to wear when ashore were also carefully inspected, with pockets being vacuumed out and anything velcro had a person brandishing tweezers lifting anything caught in it.

We were also taught how to put on our life jackets. These were long red tubes that had gas bottles in them that are designed to inflate if you hit the water, so it was important to make sure that each jacket we wore was fitted tightly enough. We were warned that they could kill you if they were too loose. We kept swapping life jackets every time we left the ship, so they had to be adjusted each time.

This day was a funny one. Going through the Drakes Passage takes 2 days if the weather’s good. So today was spent looking out on endless seas. It’s astonishing how many birds are out here, 500 miles from any land. They follow the ship, so there are always photographers out on deck trying to get the perfect shot.

This photo is typical of my attempts to capture the birds. I’m thinking that I’ll use my photos today, then show you proper photos of the seabirds from people who actually know what they’re doing on tomorrow’s post.

Best of both worlds!

Nearly got it!

We were issued with our Muck Boots after lunch. These are the most comfortable Wellington/gum boots ever. They’re hard to get on but will definitely protect our feet from getting wet. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a pair after I get home. They’re so warm and comfy.

I don’t know if it was the patch, the antihistamines that Blogless Sandy recommended to combat seasickness or the relaxation of tension after I realised that I haven’t missed the boat, but I spent most of the day taking naps. The ship has a definite roll, which is noticeable enough to be very soothing when you want to sleep. 

Liga, Corinna and I discovered that the couches on deck 5 were extremely comfortable for napping. We may or may not have nodded off during a couple of the lectures. The ship’s movement was just soooo seductive.

Over dinner, Liga was saying how she has to eat meat every day or she’s just not happy. She made me laugh when she gestured to her plate, which admittedly had a fair bit of pork on it, and declared in her rolling accent, “Look at me. I’m eating meat like domestic animal!”

We’re certainly not going to starve here. It seems like every time we turn around, we’re being fed.

We went out on deck after dinner to see if we could snap some shots of birds. It only took a few minutes before my hands got so cold that I had to go inside. Those icebergs are definitely getting closer…

I spent some time talking with an American couple and their adult son. It soon became obvious that Mum wasn’t all there. She has early-onset dementia and her husband is her caregiver. They are at the stage of balancing between living their lives as they want and keeping her safe. Their son said to me that they probably have 2 years more travel to go before they have to stay close to home.

It was lovely to see the care they were taking of her and how cherished she was, but it really brought home to me how important it is to get out there and see and do things as soon as you can. We don’t know what lies in store.

Corinna, Liga, Morgan, Baptiste and I spent most of the day hanging around together. At this moment as I’m typing this on my iPad after dinner, the girls are at a table playing a card game while the boys and I are on some couches, reading. (I’m onto my 5th book…)

Corinna’s here in the photo looking pretty confident in the hand of cards she has, while Liga is beside her, mulling over her choices. Corinna was very intent on finding a pack of cards to buy when we were having lunch in Ushuaia, so I’m glad she was able to make use of them.

Unfortunately for her, the boys and I are allergic to card games, but she’s already finding the cards very useful to make friends with other people on the ship.

Later, it was past midnight and the shy was growing dark. A few of us were sitting around on the couches in the lounge, idly chatting, when Liga suddenly sat upright and pointed.

“Look! There are lights ahead!”

It was another ship.

Corinna said, “We are not alone…”

Wednesday W’s #14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m watching: The front window.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who needs a good slap: The fridge repair company.

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

What I’m planning: to make bagels.

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

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

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

I’m enjoying these school holidays.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Frugality is a lens through which to view your choices.

Frugal. Such a funny word. It seems to have a slightly different connotation to everyone. To me, it’s primarily a disinclination to waste things that I’ve put my hard-earned time, energy and money into. Frugality, to me, isn’t just a money thing. It’s also a refusal to squander my time and focus on things that won’t bring me pleasure and satisfaction.

As I was taking this shot, it occurred to me that this photo is full of frugal elements.

First off: look at those plump Bellotti beans! Whoever grew and harvested them certainly knew what she was doing! But why grow them at all? I’ll go into that in a minute.

Then there’s the red bowl. I bought around six of them when the boys were small, from Ikea. I’ve lost a couple of them along the way, but the rest of them are still going strong. They’d be well over 20 years old by now. There are plenty of shiny new bowls in the world, both in Ikea and elsewhere, but why ditch them when they still do the job? Plus they’re a small part of the history of our family.

The library book. Yes, I’m still reading this novel, though I’ll finish it by the end of the day. When I heard that it was being released I was so excited and I could’ve easily just bought a copy and downloaded it to my iPad via the (free) Kindle app, but instead I waited in line for it from the library. Delayed gratification makes you stronger.

The table with the Queen Anne legs in the background used to belong to my dear friend Scott. When he and his partner moved to England over a decade ago, we took a few things off their hands for a bargain-basement price. (Thanks Scott and Mark!) I have absolutely no plans to upgrade – I love that table and so why would I get rid of it?

But getting back to the question of why I’d choose to devote time, energy and space in the garden to grow a few handfuls of dried beans…

See this garden? It has 5 wicking beds in it, metres upon metres of brick paving and a massive verandah roof on the lower half. If I grew veggies covering every square inch of this space from now until I was 87, I wouldn’t make back the money I’ve spent on this space.

Now this wasn’t a surprise. I knew that this would be the case going in. So why did I – the woman called a tightarse by her co-workers (and, to be fair, herself) – choose to do this?

Because to me, frugality isn’t simply being cheap and niggardly with money.

Frugality to me is a choice to recognise the fact that money is a finite resource; so it’s smart for us to utilise that resource in the most effective ways we can to enhance our lives.

With regard to the garden, this meant that I front-loaded the expenses so that for the next 30 years I can reap enjoyment and fulfilment from it. To my mind, that’s a helluva deal.

Because yes – I LOVE getting something for nothing. Those beans? They’re harvested from beans that I grew last year. Free food – my favourite flavour. I get a kick out of growing things from seed, then saving seeds or cuttings from next year’s crops. There’s a sense of continuity that I really enjoy.

Am I saving money by doing this? The short answer is yes, of course. But not very much. The next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at what a pack of dried beans cost. Less than a dollar.

But there’s something so darned satisfying when you have a bowlful of beans that you’ve sowed, watered, let dry and then harvested. The sound they make as they fall back into the bowl and the feel of them as they run through your fingers. I have more of them still growing, but once they’re all dried I’ll probably cook them up in the slow cooker and freeze them into 250g lots. That’s how many cooked beans are actually in a 400g tin.

Every time I reach into the freezer to grab a bag of these babies, I’ll be smiling. It makes me happy to grow some of our food. It makes me happy not to have to race off to the supermarket if I need a tin of beans. It also makes me happy to utilise some of the land on my block for growing food.

Frugality is gaining joy from the tiniest things in life, such as a handful of beans. Or a pile of spuds.

This sinkful of spuds came from potatoes I planted over 3 or 4 years ago. Every year they keep producing food for us. I didn’t intend for this to happen – I just happened to be in Aldi, saw some seed potatoes and threw them at the bottom of one of the new wicking beds.

Yet here they are – the gift that keeps on giving. In the beginning, I visualised that we’d get a few meals’ worth of spuds from those seed potatoes, but there have been many more than that. Free food. Bargain. I can put the money that I would’ve used to buy a bag of potatoes towards something else.

Like Antarctica. Fingers crossed, I’ll be going in December. Definitely not a frugal destination… but wow. Icebergs. Penguins. That’s definitely adding value to my life!

Frugality is also probably why I like quilting.

Quilting can be a frugal(ish) way to pass the time, or it can be hellishly expensive. When you shop for fabric at a ‘proper’ quilting shop, the prices START at $20+ a metre for cotton. Batting (the warm stuff in the middle) isn’t exactly cheap either. If a quilter chooses to buy new fabric for every quilt they make, the costs mount up considerably.

I know – one of the last quilts I finished was made from designer fabrics. It was queen-sized and it was just a tad exxy. But aside from the fact that my son Ryan27 designed it and then I made it – HUGE satisfaction, creativity and engagement right there! – I have lots of green, yellow and mustard scraps that I’ll be using in quilts for years to come.

How do I know this? Because at heart, I’m a scrap quilter. No hardly any scrap is too small for me to throw away.

I’m currently working on a quilt for a friend of mine who recently lost her Mum. Now, this quilt is the ultimate in frugality! It’s a ‘quilt as you go’, which means that instead of using a huge piece of batting, I’m using remnants left over from previous quilts. You sew directly onto the remnants, then join them all together to make the quilt. Zero waste. This makes me happy. Some of the batting I’m using is from quilts I made over a decade ago.

The money that Past Frogdancer spent is not being wasted. That’s important to me. For many years, Past Frogdancer had very little money to throw around. To be able to respect that and to use what she bought is pleasing to me.

And look at the fabric that will be in the centre of each square. It’s golfball fabric that I bought nearly 15 years ago to make Tom30’s first quilt. I also included it in the quilt I made for Mum and Dad this year – another scrappy quilt. Fabric doesn’t go off if it sits there for a while. The trick is to remember to keep using the material I’ve got, instead of buying All The Colours whenever I go shopping.

It’s funny, but when I’ve been using fabric for a long time, I get a kick out of using it again. I remember the quilt/s I’ve used it in before and it’s like seeing an old friend. It takes many, many hours to make a quilt. When I make a quilt from scraps, I’m getting extremely low-cost entertainment, while extending my creativity and productivity as well. This makes the frugal part of my brain almost purr with satisfaction.

With quilting, like the back garden, I front-loaded the costs and now, at my leisure, I can kick back and savour the things I’ve put in place.

Sounds a bit like someone working towards FI/RE, doesn’t it? Frugality and FI/RE have a lot in common, which is why so many naturally frugal people seem to quickly see the possibilities of the FI/RE concept. 

Working steadily with an over-arching goal in mind, such as the goal of financial freedom, requires frugality with both money and focus, as well as a big dollop of delayed gratification.

Frugality is a keen weapon when used intelligently. When we bring it together with other tactics such as harnessing the power of compounding; making the most from our jobs; maybe working a part-time job on the side; educating ourselves about finances and things like geoarbitrage… then we are unstoppable.

Use frugality as a lens through which to view your choices. Pour yourself into the things that will propel you further and add value and joy to your life. After all, we only have so much time, energy and money to give.

Save the bulk of your resources for the good stuff!

Dad joke of the day:


Safety in numbers.  

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