Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Wednesday W’s (Page 1 of 10)

Wednesday W’s #96.

What’s top of my mind: How lucky I am.

Yesterday in the morning I had to plug my phone in because it had run flat without me noticing. When I had some juice in it, I realised I’d missed two phone calls from my doctor about my recent submission of the bowel cancer test that our government sends out FOR FREE for people over 50 to try and pick up this disease before it goes too far.

I’m glad I live in Australia.

I had a sister-in-law, when I was married, who died of this when she was 36. I remember visiting her in hospital 2 weesk before she died. I was pregnant with Ryan then and she was the only person I told the gender to. I initially said, “I’m not telling anyone” and she replied, “I’ll probably be dead when the baby’s born. I’d love to know if it’s a boy or a girl.” She was correct. I’m keen not to go down the same path.

After my phone was charged, the receptionist from the medical clinic rang, ascertained my details and said that the doctor was “working from home today but he’ll be ringing you in a few minutes.”

Now I’m no hypochondriac, but in my book, no doctor calls unless they have bad news. So many calls in the space of 30 minutes? Yikes.

I’ve got trips I’ve booked. I’ve paid upfront for my Ghan trip to save $1,500. I’m bloody going on that trip, even if I have to drag a colostomy bag with me.

Anyway, the doctor rang and said that everything was fine. The results came back as normal.

oof. Couldn’t he have told me that in a text or email?

Anyway, good to know that my body’s still behaving itself. Still, it was a useful lesson on how everything turns on a dime. My plans could be upended at any time. Still, it hasn’t happened yet, so I’m happy.

Where I’m going: To the US consulate.

Yes, because I’ve been to a Naughty Country I have to apply for a visa and have an interview. I was going to not say anything, but then the thought of being turned back at Anchorage, of all places, and being sent home while Megan merrily goes on with the cruise was too much.

The absolute dog’s breakfast of a website meant that it took me HOURS to finally fill in all the paperwork, pay for my visa and book an appointment. It (almost) made me regret my trip to North Korea.

Almost.

Where I’ve been: to Spotlight.

Ryan29 gave me a $50 voucher for Spotlight and today I saw that they have 50% off for precut fabric bundles for quilters.

Ok, so I may have spent a bit over $50… well, quite a bit more. But I’m not looking at this as a failure to stay within a budget. It’s more like a canny action to take advantage of a really good bargain.

Now all I have to do is get into the sewing room to start using it.

What I’m reading: The Last Man in Europe – Glover.

Wow. This is about George Orwell’s fight to complete ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ before he dies. I know ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ very well, as I taught it for years and also had 3 of my children study it and ask me for help. (The youngest one got to read ‘Animal Farm’ instead.)

Glover has done an extraordinary job of bringing Orwell’s life… well… to life. He shows the experiences and influences that Orwell then used in the novel.

It’s bleak, but then his life was pretty much that way. But if you know ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ then it’s very much worth the read.

What I’m watching: Junk TV.

Australian Survivor – such a GREAT season so far! – and Love is Blind, with a little bit of Ru Paul’s Drag Race thrown in.

Loving every second of it.

What I’m listening to: the purr of the aircon.

It’s finally time to put the air con on. It’s been such a strange summer so far. It’s been great for me, because I hate the heat and actively look for ways to stay out of the sun, but the heat was never going to stay away forever.

Poppy and Jeff were feeling it right from the start of the day, so when Ryan29 and I went out the door to see my parents, we turned it on for them.

I’m typing at the kitchen bench, with two happily sleeping cavaliers at my feet.

I’m noticing changes in them as they’re getting older. They’re now 10 years old. If I was showing them, they’d be in the Veterans class!

What I’m eating: Ugh. I have no idea.

It’s 5 PM and I have to decide what we’re having for dinner.

The eternal question.

What I’m planning: my travels.

I bought a vacuum bag kit to use for Canada if I decide to only take carry-on again. When I go on the Ghan I won’t have any choice. My room is too small for anything other than a carry-on, apparently.

I also bought a set of folding clothes hangers and pegs to use on all my travels. Remember when I was hanging my washing next to an open window on Kangaroo Island and I was scared things might blow away? The pegs will solve that problem.

I’m learning.

Who deserves a thumbs-up: My parents.

Something lovely happened today.

My trans girl has chosen her new name and it’s a throwback to their middle name, which was George. This was after their great-grandfather, (Mum’s Dad), who they remember.

They’ve decided to be called Georgia and to take my surname.

We went to my parents today so that they could take a drive in the car they’re going to use for their driving test in a couple of months. They told my grandparents the name they’d chosen, then when Dad was walking out with us to wave us off, he called out, “See you later, Georgia!”

My parents are in their 80’s. They’ve certainly come a long way since the days of the Marriage Equality referendum, when they were going to vote no.

With my youngest son’s permission, I told them that Evan was bisexual, so they might be blocking him from being able to get married someday to the person he loves. They voted yes.

Since then they’ve had another granddaughter move in with a woman, and now a trans granddaughter. They love the people who are theirs and that’s that.

I’m actually very proud of them.

What has made me smile: How Fortunate Frogdancer always gets what she wants.

It may not be for years, and it’s sometimes in an unexpected way, but when I look back over my life, I always seem to get what I’ve wanted.

A grey cat? Sure! Along comes Maris. (This is one in a long line of tiny things.)

Financial Independence? Thought I’d have to work until pension age but no. Fantastic.

Contentment and happiness? Back in the day, I couldn’t see how that could happen but bingo! Here we are.

One thing I always thought would not be a possibility is to have a daughter. When I was having babies I REALLY wanted a daughter. Why else would I have had 4 kids in 5 years? Instead – boys.

It occurred to me over breakfast this morning that again, Fortunate Frogdancer has got what she wanted. Getting a daughter this way is certainly very unexpected but there you go.

Ha ha. Life’s funny.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #95.

What’s top of my mind: TRAVEL!

Yesterday I booked a trip to Vietnam for Feb 2025. It was totally spur-of-the-moment… you know, these travel companies really make it far too easy to book things online.

When I was telling my sister about it later in the day, she told me about the travel company Trip-a-Deal. I spent lots of time down that rabbit hole! The company specialises in ‘2 for 1’ deals, but there are ways around it if you’re a solo traveller. I rang their hotline to ask.

Anyway, it’s slowly dawning on my mighty intellect that I don’t have to go away for months each time. Maybe several smaller holidays could be fun, too?

Where I’m going: to take Dad to the dentist.

I wouldn’t mind except he booked an 8:45 appointment on a weekday in Armadale.

Lovely.

Where I’ve been: vacuum packing my veggies.

Rhonda from Down To Earth, a blog I’ve been reading for nearly 20 years, recently bought a Zwilling vacuum sealing kit and she absolutely loves it. She says that it has increased the storage of food, especially fresh veggies, by up to 5 weeks.

I caved and bought a beginners set for my Christmas present to myself. They’re not cheap, but so far I’m loving it. We have many cucumbers safely zwillered away.

🙂

What I’m reading: Nothing.

I finished a book this morning but it wasn’t much chop so I won’t bore you with the details.

What I’m watching: Mr In-Between.

And Australian Survivor, of course!

I’m late to the party with ‘Mr In-Between’, but now that I’ve got Binge I started watching it last night. I’m loving it!

What I’m listening to: Jeffery snoring.

It’s lovely to go away on holidays but hey, it’s great to be back with the Little Woofs. His snores are so peaceful.

What I’m eating: Cucumbers.

It’s The Year of Cucumbers in the veggie garden. We’re knee-deep on the things. Ryan29 and I are eating them with almost every meal but we still can’t seem to make a dent in them.

What I’m planning: Whether or not to take a massive Central Australia holiday next year.

I’m tempted… but it’s expensive. But then, I suppose it’s never going to get any cheaper, is it?

Who deserves a thumbs-up: Ryan29.

Ryan29 looked after the dogs, garden and house beautifully again while I was gone.

What has made me smile: Ryan29 asked me which of the dogs I thought missed me most when I was gone.

I guessed Jeffrey.

Turns out it was Scout. The Cavaliers adjusted very quickly to me being absent, moving in to spend their days in the bedroom with Ryan29.

Scout, on the other hand, took days to join them, preferring to spend her time looking out of the front window. She got really excited when Ryan29 mentioned the word “Mum.”

The picture is Scout when she was a puppy.

She really is a very good girl.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #94

What’s top of my mind: Packing for my trip away.

I’m leaving very early in the morning tomorrow and the only preparation I’m doing is to buy some groceries for breakfasts while I’m gone.

I have to say though; it’s a big difference from packing for 5 weeks’ carry-on luggage as opposed to having a whole car that I can fill up with stuff if I want to!

Where I’m going: Kangaroo Island.

Have I researched? Do I know what I’m going to do when I get there?

Haha NO.

It’s weird how I’ll plan my overseas holidays so that I know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing every single day, yet I’ll blithely jump in the car and head off without a single thought when it’s a domestic trip.

Where I’ve been: Southland with Mum and Kate.

I put my car in for a service yesterday, seeing as I was driving to another state, and spent a few hours hanging out with my family. Kate sees Mum and Dad every Tuesday, so I tagged along. It was nice.

What I’m reading: Nothing special.

I only read one book last week and it was a ho-hum “thriller” that I guessed the ending to when I was less than half-way in. This is the second time this has happened with this author so I won’t be wasting my time with her again.

What I’m watching: White Lotus.

I finished this last night and I really enjoyed it. Practically everyone in it is unlikeable but seeing as it was a limited series (unlike Succession!) I kept with it to see what ended up happening.

What I’m listening to: Dogs snoring and the dishwasher going.

Morning sounds.

What I’m eating: Breakfast.

Well, I haven’t had any yet, but I will be as soon as I finish this post.

What I’m planning:

I think I’ve made it plain that I SHOULD be planning a lot more than I’m doing! Though I have done one thing today – I rang the place I’m going to because it occurred to me that it isn’t actually one of the rooms that belongs to my timeshare – it’s like a partnership deal.

I’m used to taking a box of groceries with me whenever I stay at a timeshare place because they always have kitchens. This time? No.

Thank goodness I found that out before I lugged a whole heap of food across from Adelaide!

Who deserves a thumbs-up: Me.

I’ve agreed to look after Kate’s new dog for 5 nights in March when they go to Sri Lanka. He’s a very big dog…

What has made me smile: picking the first tomatoes of the season.

Also the first strawberries, warm from the sun.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #93.

What’s top of my mind: the ironing.

Argh!

I love wearing linen, but the creasing! I ignore it once the shirt/dress/trousers are actually on my body, but I simply cannot pull something on that’s made of linen and is unironed. It’s just too much.

I don’t mind ironing, but I have to be in the zone. Unfortunately, the zone has gone somewhere else since Christmas. It’s going to quickly come to a choice between knuckling down and doing the ironing, or buying new clothes…

Where I’m going: Kangaroo Island.

I really love that the date I’m starting this break is the day that the kids go back to school. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s a clear sign that I’ve actually retired.

🙂

Where I’ve been: the library.

My local branch was closed over Christmas until the 15th January. I walked in with 6 books to return and left with another 7.

Too many people are recommending Thumping Good Reads.

Such a first world problem…

What I’m reading: Such terrific books!

How To Get Fired by Evana Belich.

This a collection of short stories set in New Zealand. They’re wonderful on their own, but what I really liked is that they’re all linked… a minor character – even someone the protagonist passes in the street – turns up as the protagonist in another story. Beautifully written. It was a real treat to read.

Kill Your Husbands – Jack Heath.

This is an excellent ‘locked room’ murder mystery. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t know it was the second novel in a series — Kill Your Boyfriend is first. Luckily, the first one is waiting for me at the library!

This is an Aussie novel and it kept me guessing the whole way through. Excellent holiday reading.

What I’m watching: Boy Swallows Universe.

I’m sure most of my Aussie readers will have at least heard of this book, if not actually read it, but my overseas readers may not be familiar with it.

Boy Swallows Universe is the debut novel from Trant Dalton, who is turning into quite the interesting author. His first and third novels , Lola in the Mirror being his third, are particularly good.

Netflix has just released a limited series of Boy Swallows Universe, with an all-star cast, ( even Bryan Brown, the author of one of last week’s Wednesday W’s books – he plays Slim Halliday), and of course everyone was anxious that they’d fuck it up.

But no. It’s brilliant. I can HIGHLY recommend it.

And no, I don’t spend my whole retirement sitting on the couch watching Netflix. I do a lot of reading on that couch too.

Haha!

What I’m listening to: Mum’s Boppin’ Bangas.

January is when the garden starts to produce food for me to harvest. So far it’s been plums, apples and rhubarb, but now other things are starting to ripen.

We still have a rat problem, so I’m picking things before they’re quite ripe and bringing them indoors. When I’m chopping up things to cook or to freeze, I pop on Mum’s Boppin’ Bangas and have a really good time!

That family deal on Spotify is working out really well for Ryan29 and me.

What I’m eating: A zucchini slice with no zucchini.

The frugal cook works with what they have.

I’m having a friend over for lunch, so I’ve baked bread rolls and made a zucchini slice with spinach instead of zucchini, and with big chunks of chopped-up Christmas ham that I froze in 250g lots.

I also picked 2 cherry tomatoes, so after a few days of sitting on my dining room table getting ripe, they’re now part of my incredibly artistic design on the top of the slice. They’re the yellow ones in the middle.

What I’m planning: or at least, I SHOULD be.

What I’m going to do on Kangaroo Island. I only have a week or so to go before I start driving to Adelaide to stay a few days with Jenna’s parents.

I’d better get my arse into gear.

Anyone been to Kangaroo Island and have any tips on what to do? Or maybe more importantly, what NOT to do?

Who deserves a thumbs-up: my friend who’s coming for lunch.

She wants me to walk her through buying her first shares.

I’m proud of her. It’s a bit scary taking that first step.

What has made me smile: beginning to use my vacuum sealing kit.

Last year Ronda from the Down to Earth blog said that she bought a Zwiller kit and she was loving it. Her fruit and veggies are lasting for weeks and she never has to throw anything out anymore.

Of course, this sounded intriguing. We have little food waste here between the dogs, the compost and freezing veggie scraps to use when I make veggie stock paste, but there are still things that turn quickly, like mushrooms.

All you do is pop the food, whether it be fresh veggies; meat you want to freeze in the marinade; well, pretty much anything really… then you close up the bag or the glass container, grab the vacuum-suckery-outerer thing and put it on the valve. Once the air is all sucked out, the food is in a vacuum. It stays fresh for AGES longer than if it was in a traditional container.

As a Christmas present to myself, I went to Amazon and bought the beginners set and extra bags. Today my friend and I opened the boxes and we had a play with them. It’s strangely exciting to see the bags scrunch up around the carrots and cabbage as the air was sucked out.

I’ll let you know how I go with them. Ronda is delighted with hers, so I’m sure I’ll be feeling the same way.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #92.

What’s top of my mind: My parents.

This photo is what I saw in my parents’ loungeroom when I visited them a few days ago. David30 and Izzy’s Christmas gift to them both was this wedding photo of the whole family.

It looks like the time has come when we’re going to have to step up a little more in looking after them. Dad is turning 85 soon and Mum is 83. We’ve been noticing little changes and my sister and I have been deciding on a few changes of our own. Ah well. I think we’ve had a pretty good run up till now.

Where I’m going: to lunch with Izzy.

Today’s the day I pick up my new reading glasses from Specsavers. I’m meeting Izzy for lunch so we can have a nice little visit at the same time.

I texted her that lunch would be on me.

She texted back that no it wasn’t.

I texted that there was going to be a brawl in the food court!

Where I’ve been: in the back yard.

I invited Izzy’s mum and her best friend to lunch yesterday. I was going to make pizzas in the pizza oven, so I was having a cruisy morning when all of a sudden it hit me – Izzy’s mum posted on FB recently about going gluten-free.

There goes the pizza idea!

I madly put together home-made hummus, GF rice crackers, curried pumpkin and coconut soup with some home-made bread rolls. They brought a bottle bubbly and we sat outside under the verandah, with the beautiful garden all around us.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours. They’re both teachers so it was a perfect time to catch up.

What I’m reading: Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

It’s always a good day when you see a new Sally Hepworth has been released! She’s such a good writer and as a bonus, her books are now all set in Melbourne. I enjoyed this one.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is a slow burn with the romance, but I loved the first section where we see what it’s like to work behind the scenes on a show like Saturday Night Live. I found it fascinating.

The Drowning by Bryan Brown

This is a cracker of a book. I wasn’t intending to spend all morning on Monday reading it but guess what happened? I’ve always liked Bryan Brown as an actor, but as a novelist I think he’s even better…

What I’m watching: The Real Housewives of Melbourne.

Binge sent me an email offering me a free month, so I’m watching these spoiled, entitled babies. Sheesh!

What I’m listening to: Jeff panting.

I’m writing this while I’m sitting on the couch on the front verandah. My sister’s dog Huxley is here with us and we’re all in patches of shade.

What I’m eating: Dinner that I haven’t made.

I’m having the night off. Ryan29 is making dinner.

I bought a couple of half-priced Christmas hams and chopped one and a half of them into chunks to use for quick and easy meals. I left some ham to be used ‘as is’ because who doesn’t like slices of ham?

What I’m planning: Nothing.

I’m loose like a goose.

I’ll have to start researching Kangaroo Island soon, but I’m not in the zone yet.

Who deserves a thumbs-up: Ryan29.

Anyone who cooks for me deserves a thumbs up.

Love it.

What has made me smile: Tom31.

He’s getting more and more comfortable in his new relationship. He dropped in after work yesterday to pick up a parcel and we caught up.

I enjoy having adult children.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #91.

What’s top of my mind: my ankle.

Just before Christmas I went and had my first mole mapping. As a fair-skinned person living in Australia, this is something that you absolutely should do every year once you reach a certain age, so it was my turn to start.

“How are the moles on your back?” asked the doctor.

“I have no idea – I’m single!” I replied.

He examined me all over and pronounced me to be absolutely fine… until I moved to get off the table.

“Hang on, there’s a mole on your ankle that I didn’t notice,” he said.

“Oh, don’t chop that one off – I like it!” I said.

Yep. Turns out that I had a suspicious-looking mole on my body after all. Yesterday I went back and had it removed.

It was interesting to see inside my own leg.

Where I’m going: nowhere.

This mole removal is the perfect opportunity to loll around all day and get lots of reading done. There isn’t a lot of spare flesh and skin on the ankle, so my poor foot is having to do a fair bit of healing. I’ve stocked up with some excellent books from the library so I should be happy as a pig in muck for the next few days.

Where I’ve been: out for New Year’s.

A couple of days after Christmas I went to Specsavers to get some new reading glasses. Izzy, my daughter-in-law, works there so I got the family discount. 🙂

After I chose the frames, the shop was dead so we had about 20 minutes to sit and chat. We were talking about something or other when she sat up straight and said, “Oh! What are you doing for New Years?”

“Nothing,” I said. I’ve never been a big new years person. My ex-husband used to have the boys between Christmas and New Year’s so the boys were always deposited back with me at 5 PM on New Year’s Eve every year. I got used to staying in.

“Do you want to come over to Mum’s?” she said. “We’re having a little get-together to bring in the new year.”

Well, how could I say no? I must be doing something right if she’s willing to spend time with her mother-in-law!!

What I’m reading: Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson.

This collection of short stories is AMAZING. I really enjoy how Kate Atkinson can put a sentence together. I only had a day to read this as I had to get it back to the library and I couldn’t renew the loan because someone else had a hold on it, so I was committed to a day of reading.

I found myself enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end. I started getting up and doing things like hanging out washing or watering the garden just to eke out the experience of reading it just a little bit longer.

Truly, it was a great way to usher in 2024.

What I’m watching: The Last of Us.

It’s Ryan29 and my latest mother/child bonding show that we’re watching together. People have been telling me for ages to watch it and yes… it’s good.

We just finished episode 3. What a beautiful story. Tom31 said this episode is in line to win an Emmy and it absolutely should.

What I’m listening to: birds.

I love my leisurely mornings. The nice thing about where I live is that the birds that sing here in the mornings are the same types of birds that used to call in the mornings at Inverloch, where we used to go and stay for holidays with my grandparents when I was a child.

It’s a lovely little nostalgia thing.

What I’m eating: pizza.

We haven’t used the pizza oven for months, so I decided it was time to have another go. The last couple of pizzas we had were underwhelming, with undercooked dough, so this time I made Ryan29 wait until the pizza oven hit 400 degrees before they launched the first pizza, then we waited for it to hit that temperature again before the next one.

Bloody delicious! It definitely needs the pizza stone to be piping hot for each pizza.

What I’m planning: holidays.

I always said that I wanted an overseas holiday every year when I retired and nothing’s changed. However, I’m looking at possible other breaks during the year.

I’m friends on FB with a guy who was in my year level at school. One of the “popular” guys back in the day. He’s battling cancer and is in and out of hospital and isn’t having a great time. Every time he posts from a hospital bed, it makes me want to rush out and book ALL THE TRAVEL while I can still do it.

Irrational but there you go.

I’ve got Adelaide/Kangaroo Island at the end of this month and Canada/Alaska in the winter, but who knows? I may whisk myself off somewhere later in the year…

Who deserves a thumbs-up: You do.

Yes, you absolutely do!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I appreciate it.

What has made me smile: having two really long chats with David30 on New Year’s Eve.

I don’t get to see a lot of my Virgo boys, so it was lovely to sit out on the back verandah of Izzy’s parents’ house and have a lovely long catch-up with David30 while the rest of them were massacring songs on the karaoke machine.

Evan27, the other Virgo, is coming for dinner with Jenna on Friday night. This makes me happy.

Dad joke of the day:

Wed… Thursday W’s: Happy.

What’s top of my mind: Getting the house valued.

A couple of days ago I received a random text from a real estate agent asking if I would like her to pop in and give an estimate on the house, as she was going to be in my street doing the same thing for a neighbour.

This is something that I always said I’d organise once I got the house and garden looking good. But you know how it’s never something you think to get organised? Here it was, falling into my lap.

I replied that as I’m hosting Christmas this year, the house will probably never look as good as right now, so she was very welcome! She’s coming just before lunch today.

I’ll be interested to see if all the work I’ve done around here, particularly in the gardens, has been worth it financially. I don’t much care if it hasn’t – the aim was to make the property fit like a glove for ME, not for the overall property market. But still, I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks.

Where I’m going: Nowhere, I hope.

I’ve spent the last few days racing around to shops and Gardenworld, hoping to finish most of the Christmas shopping before the screaming hordes descend just before Christmas.

I’m crossing my fingers that a quick trip to Aldi will be all I need to do.

But maybe not. I thought I’d finished, then remembered that we ran out of champagne glasses at the big family birthday party I threw back in October, so I made a ‘quick’ dash to IKEA. While I was there I saw some bedside tables that would be perfect for the guest room, plus a few other bits and bobs.

It’s like going to Bunnings. You never walk out with just one thing.

Where I’ve been: Gardenworld. (See the photo above.)

My god, I had a good time there on Monday! If the weather is good on Christmas Day, we’ll be sitting out under the verandah in the backyard. Naturally, the garden has to be inviting.

I went to Gardenworld on Springvale Road to make that happen.

I wandered around getting pots of marigolds for the hanging baskets out the front, lilies, cosmos and pink flowers for the pots out the back, Troforte fertiliser (OMG the best stuff I’ve ever found!), petunias to go under the maples at the front of the house… generally I just filled up the whole trolley.

As I was wheeling it carefully to the register, I realised that I completely forgot about the 2 pots on the front verandah that I had to fill. There was no way I was going to fit anything else onto that trolley, so I decided to load up the car, then bring the trolley back in for round two.

I bought some plants to fill the pots. I also bought a crazy fern and pot for my ensuite, an Asia Bell Tree for the front verandah that is taller than I am, a huge terracotta pot to fit it, and something else that I can’t even remember right now.

I got to Gardenworld at just before 11 AM. I left at 2 PM.

I had a ball.

I spent all yesterday planting things. That wasn’t quite as much fun, but the place looks amazing.

What I’m reading: 110 books this year!!!!

For the second year in a row, I’ve hit my target on Goodreads of reading 110 books. I wasn’t sure I’d make it this year, as I spent 5 weeks barely reading anything because I was so busy blogging about my England/Ireland trip.

After Christmas I might do a recap of the best books I read in 2023. I’ve read some absolute crackers that have absolutely made my year.

If you’d like to have a list of the best of 2023, let me know in the comments.

🙂

What I’m watching: Only Murders in the Building.

I’m still working my way through this one and I’ve nearly finished the third season. I’m loving it. The guest stars alone are enough to keep me watching. There are some Big Names.

I’m loving this series.

What I’m listening to: Assorted podcasts.

Now that I’m spending so much time working in the garden, I’m chopping through the pods!

What I’m eating: porridge with stewed fruit.

I’m just about to have breakfast. When stone fruits come into season, I stew big pots full of plums, apricots and apple/rhubarb and freeze them in ice cube trays. For the rest of the year, I just add 3 or 4 cubes of fruit to a bowl of plain porridge.

YUM. Especially when the fruit and rhubarb come from my own trees. So satisfying.

What I’m planning: what to do on Christmas Day if it rains.

I’m already glad that we decided to redecorate the Man Cave earlier this year, but if Christmas Day is going to be too cool to sit outside, then I’ll be extraordinarily glad that I have options.

This room is large enough to fit two tables. We’re expecting 15 people this year. Our family is slowly getting bigger.

Who needs a thumbs-up: The shutter company.

On Tuesday the shutter people came and installed the plantation shutters for the rest of the house. This is the Man Cave, with the shutters on the big sliding door.

I didn’t realise that you could get plantation shutters in front of doors, so I was one happy person when I found out that you can. Here’s a picture of the shutters in the guest bedroom:

See how they collapse against each other at the side?

Anyway, I ordered the shutters to be installed before Christmas, which was all good until the shipments were held up at the ports. Thankfully, one shipment was released and I got my pretty windows in time for the big day.

The rooms where they really make the difference are the bathrooms. I nearly didn’t install some for my ensuite, but I’m very glad I did. They look fantastic.

What has made me smile: Looking around me.

I feel like a very lucky woman. My house and garden are getting very close to how I want them to look; as usual my entourage… the Little Woofs… are all asleep beside me, snoring and content; my kids are all happy, healthy and will all be with me for Christmas; after so many years of financial struggle I’m now in a comfortable place…

What more could any reasonable person want?

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #89.

What’s top of my mind: Not a great deal.

Some unkind people might say that this is nothing unusual.

Where I’m going: Nowhere.

I’m going to enjoy a few days of absolute nothingness before Christmas preparations start to get crazy. I have a few things to get done, but this is basically a quiet, gentle time for me to just “be.”

Where I’ve been: looking after myself… finally.

I went and had my first mole map on Monday. I was expecting the worst – this vampire skin of mine so definitely not made for this climate.

But I only have one mole that needs to be removed. I’m pretty happy with that. All the decades of hiding from the sun are paying dividends now!

What I’m reading:

Lola in the Mirror – Dalton This was terrific. I wasn’t really a fan of his second novel, but loved his first (Boy Swallows Universe.) This, his third, is back to his best. I especially liked his depiction of what it’s like to live on the streets. Dalton’s years of journalism clearly shine through here.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Jackson I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t realise that it was written by the author of the brilliant short story ‘The Lottery.” (If you’ve ever read it, you’ll remember it. If you haven’t google it and read it.) This novel is short but there is something left-of-centre about how the story is told. Merricat is a very memorable protagonist.

What I’m watching: Only Murders in the Building.

I’ve wanted to watch this one for a while – there are 3 seasons’ worth so I’ve obviously been waiting for longer than I thought! I’m enjoying it. Every now and then there’s a quirky element that tickles me, and of course, anything with Steve Martin is obviously starting off ahead.

What I’m listening to: I’m still catching up on podcasts.

Not having a commute anymore really makes a difference in how quickly I can catch up on pods. I still have hours of them to get through, so maybe this means that audiobooks are now a thing of the past?

What I’m eating: A roast dinner.

Last night Tom31 brought a girl over to meet us. She’s coming to spend Christmas Day with us so I suggested that it might be nice if she knew a couple of extra people before she lands slap bang in the middle of us all.

I went to Costco yesterday so I grabbed a chook and we had a simple roast dinner. Emily was a very quiet girl, particularly at first, but by the time dinner was over and we were sitting out on the front verandah to catch the breeze, she’d relaxed. I think she’ll fit in well on Christmas Day with us all.

What I’m planning: Christmas Day.

I have to get the garden, particularly the veggie garden in the back, looking good for the big day. I’ve let a lot of things go to seed and they look scraggly. Today is a nicely overcast day so it’s a good day for standing and chopping things without getting burned.

Who needs a thumbs-up: My parents.

I went to see them on Sunday to let them know that I have 3 boys and a girl… obviously with my girl’s permission. It wouldn’t have been fair to spring it on them over Christmas Dinner, after all.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how it would go, seeing as they’re both in their mid-eighties. But they didn’t bat an eye. Mum mentioned how the indigenous American and Thai people always acknowledged ‘the third gender’ and how it actually answered a few questions she had over the years!

Ultimately, it comes down to family being the most important thing for them. “We love our people and that’s all that matters.”

Honestly, if people this age can accept it and move on, then I fail to see why everyone else can’t do so as well.

What has made me smile: the dogs.

My sister Kate brought around her new puppy to meet his cousins. You can see how much bigger Huxley is – he’s 14 weeks old and is already towering over all of mine, particularly Scout.

Poppy wasn’t having a bar of his youthful shenanigans – he got put in his place VERY promptly. This photo here is about half an hour after he arrived. All four of them are in the shot. It’s EXHAUSTING getting to know new members of the family!

All in all, the introduction went as well as it could have gone. Hux will be here for Christmas, so I’m expecting that Scout will be in her pram for much of the day.

ALSO – a friend was inspired to go to Antarctica after she saw my photos on Facebook. She’s there right now, so I’m enjoying all of her shots. Her ship chased after the world’s biggest iceberg and found it. Her video is incredible. That’s one scarily big berg.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #88.

What’s top of my mind: Credit card fraud.

I’m so angry. Remember how I had the voucher from the kids to use, and I had to pay the company $1 to get every last cent from the voucher?

I’ve just got off the phone with the bank to dispute not one, but FOUR transactions from this company totalling just over 1K. I’ve had to cancel my card and now I’ll have to change all of my direct debits when I get the new card in a week.

Talk about greedy! Surely anyone would notice an extra thousand dollars coming out of their account?

Where I’m going: Specsavers.

Izzy works for them and I’ve decided that I need new lenses for my reading glasses. I’m coming down to the end of my Goodreads Challenge, (I’ve read 105/110 books so far this year), so I’ve been having a few massive reading days. Getting 11 books that I put on hold at the library all at once hasn’t helped!

I’m getting headaches at the end of the day. I think my 3-year-old lenses might need replacing. Plus I get a family discount!

Where I’ve been: Taking Scout for walks in her new pram.

I know, I know. I’ve turned into one of THOSE dog parents.

But as she’s getting older, Scout is becoming more anxious about walking around when there are lots of people/dogs. She’s so tiny, so I can see how it would be intimidating. She just puts the brakes on and refuses to move, which means I have to drag her along, looking like an absolute monster, or i pick her up. She’s only 6.5kgs, but that gets really heavy over time.

(I’m a delicate flower…)

So I bought her a pram. At first she screamed the street down, but after Ryan28 kept giving her treats and she realised that she was up high and not missing out on anything, she decided that she loves it.

I’m not intending to use it for every walk. Just those places where I now she’ll be scared.

What I’m reading: I’m up to 105/110 on my Goodreads Challenge!

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman is the fourth in the Thursday Murder Club series. I absolutely LOVE these books.

Sweet Jimmy by Bryan Brown. Yes, THAT Bryan Brown… the actor. He’s released a novel that I’m in the queue for at the library, but I thought I’d have a look at this collection of short stories. I really enjoyed them. Gritty stuff.

Treasure and Dirt by Chris Hammer. I’ve read all the Chris Hammer books now and I’ve enjoyed the ride. He’s an excellent writer and his stories are engrossing.

What I’m watching: The Walking Dead spinoffs on Stan.

Oh, how I’ve missed the distinctive sound of the zombies!

What I’m listening to: RATS.

Yes, the rats are back and we think they’re even worse than before I had the house treated. I had to wait 48 days from when we had the house done to ring the pest control company to get them to come out and do a (free) second treatment.

It’s annoying. We’re doing all the right things, but our next-door neighbours are not. They don’t seem to mind too much if they see a rat or two in their yard…

Ryan28 is going to attach some sturdy steel mesh to the fences around our boundary, starting with the fence between the druggies’ house and ours.

What I’m eating: Salad from the garden.

I was late getting things in the ground this year as I was off on my trip, but the plants in the veggie garden have clearly decided that now is the time to go nuts and grow.

I’m using a new fertiliser called Troforte that another Aussie blogger raved about, and honestly, things almost seem to be leaping out of the ground, begging me to cut them loose!

I have other fertilisers I’ve bought that are sitting here, but I don’t know if I want to use them any more…

What I’m planning: Christmas Day.

It’s at my place this year – just how I like it.

Who needs a thumbs-up: Ryan28.

Being a mature-age student suits them. You’ve never seen anyone work so hard to get excellent grades.

What has made me smile: Scout.

In the ‘Little House on the Prarie’ books, Ma Ingalls always used to say in times of misfortune, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

Basically what it means is that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, so you can look for the advantage, however small, in what’s befallen you. (One example of this was when their entire corn crop was eaten by blackbirds. The corn was supposed to set them up financially, so now they were absolutely broke. However, they started baking the blackbirds in pies and eating them, so at least they had free protein for the family.)

The rats are bad news for the humans, but Scout has discovered her life’s calling.

Dachshunds were originally bred to be ratters. She hasn’t been in contact with any, but she can hear them skittering around under the house. She’s been on guard for two days, barking and grumbling. She’s on high alert – no rats will make it inside as long as she’s on patrol!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #87.

What’s top of my mind: The Zombie Apocalypse cupboard is full.

I did a big Aldi shop yesterday to stock up on the essentials that we use. I don’t know why, but my spidey-senses are tingling again, so we now have plenty of wine, coffee, pasta, rolled oats, tinned stuff, cheese, non-perishables and everything else.

The freezer is full of meat, both for humans and the little woofs, as well as veggies. When I went to Costco a little while ago I bought lots of dry food for the dogs as well as a slab of toilet paper. Naturally.

If nothing else, it’ll mean that I won’t have to brave the shops very much at Christmas. I just felt that now was the time to ensure that the cupboard was stocked.

Where I’m going: The Ghost Walk.

Yes, the voucher excursions finish on Friday! I think I’ve made pretty good use of that $136. Not a penny was wasted.

Where I’ve been: A Christmas Carol.

Jenna had some free tickets to see this show at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. I took my girl to see it. It was a fun show, with Owen Teale from Game of Thrones as Scrooge. We had a lovely night, meeting under the clocks at Flinders st and walking to the theatre, grabbing some sushi along the way.

What I’m reading: Lots!

I have a few of the 11 library books I brought home with me still sitting beside my bed, and I’ve had notice that the 4th Thursday Murder Club book is waiting for me, so I’m reading these other ones as fast as I can. Below are the two that I really enjoyed.

Holly by Stephen King. I enjoyed this one because I love Holly Gibney’s character. But even I – a MASSIVE mask-wearer until I got home from the UK – found the constant covid references annoying. But the bad characters? LOVED this idea.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn. OMG – What an amazing novel. I absolutely loved it. It’s beautifully written, breathtakingly sad and realistically gritty, especially when the protagonists are in the trenches of WWI. I HIGHLY recommend this one.

Children and Wives by Tony Birch. This is a short read, but my god it packs a punch! It deals with really important issues such as domestic violence, education in the Catholic system, women’s rights etc. It’s simply told. The relationship between the protagonist and his grandfather is beautiful.

I read another chapter of ‘Shakespeare’s Wife’ by Germaine Greer. Perfect insomnia reading. I’ll finish it eventually, but ugh. Dreadfully dull.

What I’m Watching: ‘Bodies’ on Netflix.

I finished this on Monday. It’s an 8 part series that starts off with 4 timelines, but by the end, they’re all tied up together. I enjoyed this one.

What I’m listening to: Traffic outside as people go off to work.

Yeah, I’m not missing that commute at all.

What I’m eating: it was almost takeaway…

Have you ever invited people over for dinner and a few hours before they arrive, the power goes out? David30 and Izzy arrived and just as we were about to jump into the car and look for a takeaway shop with the power on, the lights came back.

Thank goodness for a Skinnymixers quick chicken curry that only takes 20 minutes to cook. We were hungry!

What I’m planning: Christmas Lunch. Or dinner. But it’s at lunchtime.

Every time I go to the supermarket I’m trying to get something for the Big Day. Yesterday I bought a fine triple-smoked ham.

Who needs a thumbs-up: Izzy and Dvid30.

I asked Izzy how married life was going after 7 months. She said, “It’s just the same as it was before we got married. We still like each other, so I guess that’s good.”

What has made me smile: Lazy Housewife beans.

I thought I had heaps of Lazy Housewife beans to plant this year. Turns out I only had 8 saved from two years ago. So I planted them and crossed my fingers that they’d all come up.

Turns out 6 of them have. I’ll be planting more bush beans, but 6 Lazy Housewife plants will give two people more than enough beans to eat over summer.

And you can bet that I’ll be saving more beans to plant! I alternate each year between planting Purple King and Lazy Housewife beans.

Dad joke of the day:

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