Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Wednesday W’s (Page 2 of 7)

Wednesday W’s #56.

What’s top of my mind: My doggie visitors.

The photo above shows Jeffrey sleeping on the couch next to his Mum, with Silver at the back.

Where I’ve been: On yard duty.

I have yard duty twice a week. Wednesday’s is in a section of the school called ‘South’, a thin strip of concrete totally in shadow all the time from the 4-story building that is the actual school. It’s cold and a breeze is usually blowing through it, though the garden along the back boundary cheers it up a bit.

Last year it wasn’t a very popular place for the kids to go – only the loners and weird kids would hang there, which actually made it quite a good place to do the slow-paced ‘yard duty walk’ up and down. These sorts of kids are the quirky and interesting ones. This year it’s far more popular.

Where I’m going: Phillip Island.

My friend Blogless Helen, who I went to North Korea with back in 2018, reads my blogs. When I said that I was planning nothing last week, she was outraged. So a few of us are going down to her holiday house on Phillip Island at the end of April.

When I was a kid, we used to go to Inverloch, a little further up the road, every school holidays to visit my grandparents, who retired up there. So it’s a little like revisiting the past.


What I’m reading: ‘Die With Zero’ by Bill Perkins

Last year, I was driving to work, listening to Aussie Firebugs pod with the author of ‘Die With Zero. I’d vaguely heard of the book before, but never really taken much notice. However, I really enjoyed the interview and it was very lucky for Tom30 that I listened to it – Perkins advocates giving $$ to adult kids when they need it; not simply leaving it all to them when you die. Tom30 was in the throes of house-hunting and I ended up giving him 15K towards his deposit. (5K of that was the amount I’ve earmarked towards helping each boy with a wedding, while 10K was my emergency fund at the time. Of course, I’ll be doing this for the other kids too.)

I finally got around to ordering this book from the library after it came up in conversations with Charlie from Antarctica and another guy from work.

I’m about a third of the way in and I’m thinking that there’s nothing new here – I got it all from the podcast. Still, I’m pushing on. There may be a pearl of wisdom or two still to be discovered.

What I’m watching: OUTLANDER season 6!!!!!!!!!!

It’s finally on Netflix. I’m so happy.

What I’m listening to: ‘The Party Crasher’ by Sophie Kinsella.

I’m listening to this on 1.5 speed just to get through it.

The protagonist is the most immature 26-year-old I’ve ever read and she’s very annoying. It’s a chick-lit ‘madcap’ light read, but just when I start getting sucked in to what’s going on, something unbelievable is done or said and I’m annoyed again.

What I’m eating: Hard-boiled eggs and a salad for lunch.

Quickly thrown together this morning. I prefer a light lunch, especially with my home-grown cucumber and tomatoes.

What I’m planning: Nothing.

Haha! That was just for Blogless Helen’s benefit.

Who needs a good slap: Kids who are away during a Learning Task.

Argh! So annoying!

Yesterday I gave a history learning task (a piece of work that is marked and goes on the kids’ reports) to my year 9 class. SIX of them were absent. That’s a lot of kids to chase up. I really want to have all of these marked before Friday, when my other 3 classes submit their first learning tasks. The correcting has begun in earnest.

What has made me smile: The Mother/Son song at the wedding.

David29 popped in on Sunday and stayed for over an hour, so we had a lovely chat up and chinwag. He brought up the topic of an appropriate song for a mother/son dancer at the wedding.

I said, “What about The Angels, “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?” and he instantly replied with, “No way, get fucked, fuck off!!” and we both laughed.

“Imagine Izzy’s family’s faces if we did?” I said.

(For overseas readers, this is a fantastic song, but it’s an Aussie tradition to yell the “get fucked’ thing every time the question is asked in the song. It’s asked a lot, so it’s kind of fun.)

This morning I woke up with the PERFECT song in my head. Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock.” I used to use this as a lullaby for the boys when they were babies.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a man who gets botox in his face?


Wednesday W’s #55.

What’s top of my mind: It’s day 24 today.

One more day to go before I’m officially at the halfway mark of workdays!!!!

I’m at the point in this contract where I’m at the boring middle point, where getting up and going to work has stopped being a novelty and has begun to be a chore.

I just have to push through… the last week is only 4 days long and two of those are parent/teacher interviews. Too easy!

Where I’ve been: Nowhere.

Remember how I was going for a drive in the country to return my friend’s dogs to her? That didn’t end up happening. I came home from work Friday, bathed all the dogs, then called her to check that it was still all good to take them back.

Turns out that as I was leaving a voicemail on her phone, she was listening to it as she was crawling along the floor to get to the front door to let the emergency services people in. She’d fallen in the kitchen and couldn’t get herself back up.

There are a couple of good things to this story.

The first is that she had the brains to have her emergency alarm actually on her person. How often do you hear of elderly people living on their own who don’t bother?

The second one is that she’s clearly not ready to have the dogs back yet. Imagine how awful it’d be if I drove up, left the dogs with her and then she tripped over them and ruined her knee? All three of them want to be back together again, but as the bard said, “Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”

At least they’ve learned to sleep through the night.

Where I’m going: Nowhere.

Nothing planned for the foreseeable future.

What I’m reading: Strong Money Australia by Dave Gow.

I’m really enjoying this book. It’s written by the guy who writes the blog with the same name, When I first started becoming aware of how much I needed to learn about investing, I learned a lot from US blogs. However, at the time, Dave’s blog was one of the few Aussie blogs out there. It was so helpful to get the duck’s guts about how to move within OUR financial system – there are a lot of similarities with the US system but there are also some very important differences.

It’s rare to have a numbers guy who has the gift of being able to explain things so that even someone scared of numerals (that’s me) can understand. Anyway, I highly recommend this book.

What I’m watching: The Physical 100 on Netflix.

Because I’m working at the moment, I’m concentrating on Australian Survivor – George is playing the best game I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched every episode of both Australian and US Survivor – so I’m watching reality shows that require no mental bandwidth. This particular show is made in Korea and has some of the toughest challenges I think I’ve ever seen.

It’s perfect for pouring a glass of wine, settling on the couch with the dogs and mindlessly watching at the end of a long week.

What I’m listening to: a crazy French teacher talking with a not-so-crazy one.

Ahhh, staff room conversations! Later on in the term when the marking starts to flood in, these conversations slow right down. I can hear them from two desk rows away.

Time to pop on some headphones.

What I’m eating: a frozen apple pie from Aldi.

I don’t usually eat dessert, but last night while watching Survivor, I had the urge for a snack. I remembered that I bought a packet of 4 apple pies a few weeks ago and they were somewhere in the back freezer.

A few minutes in the air fryer and YUM. Hit the spot. I can go ages without using the air fryer but every once in a while, it’s the perfect appliance to use.

What I’m planning: nothing.

Nothing to see here…. move right along…

Who needs a good slap: the people who sold me my ‘mother of the groom’ dress.

It still hasn’t arrived. I’m not exactly panicking yet, but in another few weeks, I’ll have to swing into action and get a backup dress.

What has made me smile: Jeffrey.

Poppy and Scout are definitely the smartest dogs, particularly Scout. They run rings around Jeff. But Jeffrey is my ever-faithful, loving doofus. All he wants is to be next to me, or at the very least to have me in his line of sight.

This, and two meals a day is pretty much all he wants. He’s a beautiful boy.

Dad joke of the day:

So many people these days are too judgemental.

I can tell just by looking at them.

Wednesday W’s #54.

What’s top of my mind: The things we do for those we love.

Look what I brought home a few days ago! This ramp is for Scout. We have 2 couches in the lounge room and one already has a little footstool in front of it so she can get up and down without putting strain on her long dachshund back.

The other couch was left ‘as is’. I think that she must’ve tried to jump up on it one day and pulled the quilt down with her and had a fall, because suddenly she was filled with anxiety every time she wanted to jump up to sit in her spot by the window in the sun.

Clearly something had to be done. So now we have the ramp adding a practical air to the decor.

Look at this little face. How could I not do everything I can to make her happy?

Mournful Scout.

Where I’ve been: at a tarot reading.

Guess what everyone?

Love is in the air! (Apparently.)

There was a tarot reader at Izzy’s kitchen tea and she didn’t get around to giving readings to most of the guests. She offered to give 15-minute readings via zoom to anyone who missed out, and you all know how much I love a bargain.

As expected, once she heard that I was single, she kept pulling cards full of bare-chested romantic guys out from the packs left, right and centre, no matter how many times she shuffled them.

According to her, there’s a man who is looking to come into my life…

Poor guy. One can only feel pity for him.

Where I’m going: To Mum and Dad’s place after work.

It’s handy working where I am, as it’s close to where my parents live. I can drop in after work and have a quick chat before heading home.

What I’m reading: The Foundling by Stacey Halls.

I’ve just started this one and I’m quite liking it so far. I’ve brought it to work to read during the 10 minutes wide reading time we have at the beginning of each English class. It’s an easy read.

What I’m watching: Australian Survivor.

This season is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The gameplay is shi**ing all over the American version – the tribal councils have been amazing. Well worth watching.

What I’m listening to: The House by the Cerulean Sea.

Hmmm. I’m listening to this on audiobook. It’s very popular with many readers, but I have to admit that I’m a third of the way through and I really want to punch the protagonist. He’s so BORING.

If I was reading it I’d probably be at the end by now, so the boring beginning would have slipped by quickly. Listening to every word of Linus Baker’s wafflings and self-doubt and general wishy-washiness is becoming excruciating.

By all accounts it gets better, so I’ll keep on listening as I drive. With the long drive on Saturday to drop off the dogs, I should be done by the end of the week.

What I’m eating: Tuna mornay.

Someone from the Simple Savings forum posted this recipe. I looks as if it would hit the spot, so I’m making it tonight. Sometimes it’s the simple things that give you what you need…

What I’m planning: a road trip.

On Saturday I’ll be loading Silver and Elizabeth into the car and I’ll be driving to Mooroopna to drop them back with their Mum. They’ll have been with us for 5 and a half weeks by then. I know all three of them will be ecstatic to see each other again.

Who needs a good slap: Whoever moved the new kid into my quiet year 9 history class.

The dynamic has totally changed. Ugh.

What has made me smile: David29 and Izzy have found an apartment to rent!

Boy, it’s tough out there if you want to move out of home. David29 and Izzy have been looking for a place to move into for months and they keep on missing out. Until her cousin needed to move out of his apartment in a fabulous location in Chadstone. The great thing is that when he decides to move back in, he’ll be able to give them a reference and they’ll have a rental history.

It’s well past time for them to move out from her parents’ place and become independent. They can’t wait!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #53

What’s top of my mind: It’s day 13.

I’m writing this on my 13th workday. This is the time when coming to work every day begins to seem less of a novelty and more like a chore. I’m not at the stage when I’m dragging myself to work – give it another week LOL – but I’m groaning at the sound of the 6:30 alarm and starting to get back into the habit of doing the ironing on Sundays and thinking about which easy meal to make at the end of the week so I don’t just get takeaway because I’m tired.

The pictures on my desk are turning into a really good spirit lifter. I’m pretty sure that when I’m in the middle weeks they mightn’t work as well, but for now they’re a happy reminder of why I’m doing this.

My classes are still lovely and are making me laugh. I’m enjoying teaching medieval history to the year 8s – the class I have is 8T… imagine how many kids we have here? – and although they’re right at the end of the letters, they’re a beautiful group of kids. Traditionally, that’s not the case.

Where I’ve been: In an endless round of home to work to home to work to home…

Et cetera.

Where I’m going: In an endless round of home to work to home to work to home…

Et cetera.

But I got paid last week. It was a little more than I was expecting. That was good – my flights to Heathrow and Dublin are all earned!

What I’m reading: I Know why the Caged Bird Sings- Angelou

I’ve seen Maya Angelou on Oprah, way back in the day when I was at home with 4 small boys, so I know who she is. I know she’s way famous in America, but she’s not so much of a thing here. It occurred to me that I should maybe read her memoirs about her life, because why not?

On the link I just posted on her book, I see that she has 7 memoirs. Yikes…

What I’m watching: The beautiful summer day through my classroom window.

It looks nice out there.

What I’m listening to: Last week’s audiobook.

I’m still ploughing through the audiobook I mentioned last week. I’m not loving it, but I’ve only got 3.5 hours left, so I’ll get it done. It’ll contribute to my “Earn your rates back by reading” total.

What I’m eating: The last of the plums from my tree.

I was taking them to work, 3 at a time, to eat at recess, but they were starting to get too ripe. On Sunday I stewed them and now they’re part of my breakfasts instead.

I’m not wasting them – mainly because my tree went to all the trouble of producing them, but also because they were my Gran’s favourite fruit, so I think of her every time I eat them.

What I’m planning: what to do if my wedding dress doesn’t get here.

No, I’m not getting married! I mean my outfit for David29 and Izzy’s wedding in April. It’s been 5 weeks since I ordered a silk dress from China. I’m getting slightly restive about how long it’s taking…

Who needs a good slap: The Australia Post delivery driver in my area.

I ordered some heart medication for Silver, Jenny’s dog, from an online company because it works out cheaper than getting it from the vet. While we were waiting for it to get here, I simply gave him some of Jeff’s heart pills, as they’re on the same one and the same dosage.

On Friday, we got a leaflet in the letterbox saying that it would be dropped off at the post office on Monday because no one was home.

Except Ryan28 WAS home. None of the dogs barked, which meant that the person didn’t even try to deliver it. So annoying. The last thing I want to do when I get home is to go to the post office.

What has made me smile: Watching Izzy watch David29’s video.

We had Izzy’s kitchen tea last Sunday. I’ve never been to one of these – I didn’t even know that they were still a thing – and it was a pleasant surprise. We ate, drank and played some games. One of the things they did was to give David29 a list of questions about their relationship and he had to answer them on a video. Any time Izzy got an answer wrong, she had to take a drink.

They were expecting a simple question and answer, but David29 went above and beyond. He drove out to locations and filmed his answers. he had costume changes and props. It was very funny.

Even with the lamest of jokes, Izzy was sitting on the floor in front of the screen laughing herself silly. They’re definitely on the same wavelength.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #52

What’s top of my mind: How much money I spent last year.

For some reason, I didn’t keep up with my annual expenses chart last year. The end of August was the last time I’d looked at it, and then of course, once I realised this, I couldn’t face the arduous task of totting up months of figures.

Until I had a couple of periods off at work. I had no marking and I’d prepared all my classes, so I grabbed my iPad, pulled up the calculator app, and got to work.

In the end, it only took a little over an hour. My ‘no-spend’ chart made short work of it – everything was there. I already knew it’d be a spendy total… Antarctica, even with the absolute bargain I got with the cruise, isn’t a cheap destination, while giving 15K away to help a son get into the housing market is always going to hurt the bottom line.

So yeah, I was prepared for the total. Let’s hope that no other children want to buy a house this year! I’ve already paid for much of my England/Ireland trip, but all of that will be covered by the work I’m doing now, so with a bit of luck, my number crunching in January 2024 will leave me with a smile on my face.

We can only hope…

Where I’ve been: to my pumpkin vines.

I had no success for years at the old house when I tried to grow pumpkins. It was infuriating because everyone who grows veggies crow about how easy they are to grow. However, once I started putting pumpkin seedlings underneath the fruit trees in my front yard orchard, it was a game-changer.

This year I’ve planted Bunnings butternut pumpkin seedlings and they’ve taken off. I can’t see beneath the leaves on the seedlings that are towards the back, but I’ve spied 5 or 6 plump pumpkins happily growing.

I love pumpkins. I’m looking forward to the harvest.

Where I’m going: a kitchen tea.

Izzy is having a kitchen tea before the wedding. I’ll be picking up Mum and driving to Izzy’s place on Sunday, presumably to drink tea and eat dainty foodstuffs like a lady.

What I’m reading: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor.

Normally I search for books from the library and put them on hold, but this was one I selected when I was quickly browsing the shelves. She’s described as “Britain’s Stephen King’ so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like. So far, I’ve just read the introduction.

What I’m watching: Anh’s Brush with Fame.

I’ve caught the odd episode of this over the years, but when I was looking for a feel-good show to watch, I saw this on Stan and decided to give it a go. I’m absolutely loving it.

My Mum is an artist and I have inherited none of her talent. To see the way Anh is able to produce such incredibly lifelike portraits in such a small amount of time, while he interviews his subjects is incredible.

Stan has series 2 and 3. Imagine my joy when I pulled up this link for you when I saw that ABC iView has 6 series of it! Writing this blog just keeps on giving.

What I’m listening to: The Familiars by Stacey Halls.

I finished the audiobook I was listening to last week, ‘Mrs England’, and thought I’d listen to another novel by the same author. This one is about the Lancashire witch trials. I know nothing about them, so I thought I’d give it a go.

What I’m eating: Plums from my tree.

I’m still bringing satsuma/blood plums into work to eat at morning recess. 3/day. Yum!

What I’m planning: Nothing.

There’s nothing much on the horizon at the moment. That’s ok.

Who needs a good slap: Netflix.

Ever since I moved to The Best House in Melbourne, I’ve been paying the top tier for Netflix subscriptions. It’s now $23/month for 5 screens. This allows myself and my 4 sons to all have access to it.

Now that Netflix is rumoured to be cutting off memberships who don’t log into their account from their home screen address once a month, this may change.

There’s no way the boys will pay for Netflix memberships of their own. And there’s no way, if this comes in, that I’ll continue to keep paying for screens I won’t use. I think Netflix will find out that they’ll lose a great deal of money with this decision. I’m sure there are many families and groups of friends just like us.

What has made me smile: The kids’ reactions to today’s Dad joke.

They love it. See below:

Dad joke of the day:

If I have twin girls, I’m going to call the first one Kate.

I’ll call the other one DupliKate.

Wednesday W’s #51.

What’s top of my mind: How UNretired people don’t have a clue.

I was sitting at my desk today and a couple of people were talking about a colleague who is apparently going to retire soon and is very unhappy about it. She said to one of my friends that “I don’t know what I’ll do all day.”

They were nodding away, saying, “Yes, what will she do all day? She’ll have no clue.”

And, “I don’t want to retire. In my scenarios of when I win Tattslotto, I always think of my husband retiring but not me.”

“Well, exactlly. What would I do all day? I know how she feels.”

Ugh. I was all, “I know I’m here now, and some people might say that I’ve obviously got bored and come back to work, (which is BS), but honestly, retirement is GREAT! There’s so much to do… the days are always filled and you have total freedom to be yourself and do whatever you want to do. Tell her she’s going to love it.”

Where I’ve been: Chopping up pictures for my desk.

I’m a woman of my word. I said I’d cover my desk with pictures of where I’m going to be going and so I have. In the interests of accuracy, I stuck a piece of paper over the ‘Britain’ part of the title, because I’m only going to England and Ireland. Scotland and Wales will have to wait for another trip.

It’s already working. Some people have come up with a smirk, saying, “Thought you retired?” I walk them around to my desk, point at it and say, “Yeah, I retired. But you know me… I can’t ignore the lure of a “free” trip overseas! Five weeks in England and Ireland in September.”

That shuts them up.

Where I’m going: Costco.

We’re running out of the raw meat patties that I feed the dogs, so it’s to Costco I’ll go! I’ll also grab a slab of eggs while I’m there. They may be slightly more expensive than Aldi but it’s more convenient to have a tonne of eggs in the fridge.

There used to be years when I’d ignore the convenience factor and I’d go for what was cheapest. Nowadays, I usually still go the frugal route, but I’m loosening up the rules a tad.

What I’m reading: The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Ness.

I’m really enjoying this one. You know how when there’s a plucky band of teenagers fighting the forces of evil – think ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, for example – and they go to school and mingle with all of the ordinary kids? This novel explores the situation from the point of view of the normal kids – the ones who aren’t in the thick of the action but who still live where all of the drama takes place.

Each chapter begins with a paragraph summarising what’s happening from the core of the plucky kids’ experiences, sort of like a plot summary of a tv show. Then the rest of the chapter follows what the ordinary kids are doing.

It’s great. I have 2 English classes tomorrow, so 2 x 10 minutes wide reading will just about finish it off.

What I’m watching: Australian Survivor.

They really have to be careful about the level of danger in the challenges they get the contestants to do. In the first episode two people were injured… one with a broken collar bone. She had to leave the game.

Unfortunately, the person that had only minor injuries was a contestant I hate with a pure volcanic passion – he’s such an absolute wanker – so he’ll be coming back into the game. The producers were probably lucky that no one snapped their neck. The Australian version is a lot more gritty than the US one.

I love Survivor.

What I’m listening to: Mrs England.

I’m about halfway through this Edwardian gothic audiobook and I’m loving it. If I have to have a commute, this is a very pleasant way of dealing with it.

What I’m eating: Carmen’s Protein bars from Aldi.

I bought a packet of these to keep in my desk in case I needed something to eat at recess.

They’re awful. So SWEET.

This will motivate me to eat a hearty breakfast each morning so I don’t have to eat one.

What I’m planning: I can’t say this week.

Tom31 told my ex-husband about this blog a while ago. Apparently, A is interested in FI/RE as well. I have no idea if he pulls up this blog to read.

But just in case he IS reading… A…Don’t freak out, because no one who reads this blog has a clue as to who you are IRL. I’d like to say to you: please let the boys’ half-sister come to David30’s wedding. She was so looking forward to it and so were the boys. If she comes, it’s something they’ll all remember with gratitude and love.

Who needs a good slap: Whoever put the class lists together at the campus I’m at.

A small part of me was hoping that the classes I’ll be teaching this term would be awful, so that I’d never do this again. However, I’ve met three out of the four classes I’ll have. They all seem really nice.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. This is good news. But it’s not making my obvious need to learn to say “no” to the school any easier!!

What has made me smile: The elderly dogs I’m looking after.

It’s now been a week and a half, and after a very traumatised few days at the start, Silver and Elizabeth have slowly settled in. Silver follows me around all the time, whereas Elizabeth will keep her distace but settle at my feet whenever I sit down.

Yes, I’m glad I have hardwood floors. You can imagine why…

Yes, I wish that they didn’t bark so much. (They’re learning to chill though, which the neighbours would be pleased about.)

But all in all, for two old dogs who have never been away from their Mum in their lives, they’re doing extremely well.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #50.

What’s top of my mind: Country hospitals.

Remember last week I was saying that I was looking after 2 dogs for my friend Jenny while she was off getting a knee reconstruction?

I’ve tried several times to call the hospital to talk to her to see how she’s getting on, but I either can’t get through to the ward, or when I do, they say there are no individual phones for the patients and they can’t give out any info over the phone “for privacy reasons.” I left a message on the only time I was able to get through to a nurse on the ward, asking her to pass along to Jenny that her dogs are missing her but are doing fine and are now part of the pack. I hope she got it.

But yeah. It’s been a week. No one can talk to her, short of me driving another 7 hours in a day to go up and visit, which I really don’t want to do…

It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, if a hospital patient doesn’t have a mobile, then they’re effectively cut off from the outside world. I’ll be trying again today. I might ask if a nurse could send me her own mobile number via text, and then I could call at a prearranged time so Jenny can actually talk to someone other than hospital staff. I can’t think of how else to find out how she’s doing.

Where I’ve been: To the tyre place.

Argh. After replacing all four tyres last year, on Tuesday night on the way to see Evan26 in a play, I got a flat. Thank goodness it was opening night, so I was able to see him last night instead.

That’s why this Wednesday W is being sent out on Thursday. I was busy.

Where I’m going: School.

Yep – term 1 starts tomorrow with a student-free day… then the onslaught starts on Monday. Today I’ll be cutting out pictures of England and Ireland from the brochure I got from the travel agency, so my desk will be COVERED in them to remind me of why I’m doing this to myself.

What I’m reading: The Leisure Seeker.

Now that I’ve wrapped up my ‘Earn your rates back by reading’ challenge for 2022 – 2023, (which had a finish date of September 2023) I’m feeling way ahead, so instead of reading a library book I’ve picked up a book Dad passed to me that he liked. It’s about an elderly couple, one with dementia and one riddled with cancer, who decide to drive off in their camper van for one last vacation.

There’s a movie with Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland which I think is streaming on Stan, so I’ll probably watch that on the weekend after I finish the book.

What I’m watching: Thrive.

I’m watching MY SON IN A PLAY!

Evan26 is currently acting in a play called ‘Thrive’, which is of course on the other side of the city in Footscray. I had a ticket for Tuesday night, but halfway there I got a flat tire. The RACV obviously had a busy night… they didn’t get to me for nearly three hours! Thank God I had an iPad with podcasts with me.

So tonight I made another attempt, this time navigating a part of the city that’s almost totally unfamiliar to me, with a phone on 10% battery. Thankfully, Fortunate Frogdancer made it to the venue 3 minutes before the phone died.

‘Thrive’ is a verbatim play, which basically means that real people have been interviewed and then the actors have to use every word/pause/umm/’you know’ etc exactly how the person said. The play itself is looking at queer people’s experiences in Australia, with the people ranging in age from 24 – 72.

The actors were directed not to play an old character as ‘old’… you know, not hobbling around with a walking stick and having wrinkly make up etc. They had to speak the exact words but also bring themselves to the portrayal.

They also had snippets of the original interviews, so we could see how the original interviewees actually looked and spoke. I was sitting next to a couple and we started talking. Turns out one of them was one of the characters being portrayed on stage. She loved it.

It’s no secret that I love seeing my son up on stage, living his best life and doing the thing he loves best. I’m also lucky that he’s good at it! I’d recommend going to see this play if you’re within reach of Footscray. You’d better hurry though – there’s only 3 more nights.

What I’m listening to: Mrs England.

I’m listening to an audiobook called Mrs England, which I downloaded when I was waiting for the RACV van to come. I’m around a quarter of the way in and I’m loving it. The woman reading it has the best English accent!

What I’m eating:

I’m entertaining at home a lot over the last week of the holidays, so I’m eating lots of salads, homemade pizza, bread and zucchini slice. I’m so glad I put that huge verandah roof out the back- it’s been lovely sitting out there on these beautiful summer days, eating food that has come ten feet away from the garden.

What I’m planning: Nothing much.

My trip to England and Ireland is pretty much at the stage I wanted it to be, with all of the broad brush strokes put in place. Apart from that, I have nothing much on the horizon just yet.

Who needs a good slap: Umm…?

I’ve been sitting here wracking my brain and I can’t think of anyone specific.

What has made me smile:

Look at the photo at the top of this post! Timo and Garrett from the Antarctica trip popped in to see me. After Antarctica, they saw a bit more of South America before coming to Melbourne. Timo is from Germany and Garrett is from Ireland, so I pulled up the itinerary of the Irish leg of my trip to see what Garrett thought. He comes from a small town near Dublin, so he had heaps of suggestions for things I could do and see. Turns out Tim used to have an Irish girlfriend so he had some good ideas too.

After a leisurely lunch under the back verandah, we wandered down to the Backyard Beach. It was an absolutely sparkling day. These guys are an absolute delight. They’re such great company- so funny and easy-going. That trip to Antarctica is the gift that keeps on giving.

Just before they left, they ate sun-ripened plums straight from the tree. Can’t get much more ‘Frogdancer Jones’ than that!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #49

What’s top of my mind: My trip is coming together!!!

I was hoping that all of the broad brush strokes of the holiday would be settled by the time I started work next week and it appears that it’s all going to plan. In the past week, I’ve been able to sort out who I’m going to see and when and where. Plane tickets are done and the tour to Ireland is sorted.

Scott was terrific in booking the plane tickets to Dublin and back for me. Flight Centre doesn’t use budget airlines in the UK so I needed someone from there to do that bit. On Tuesday I was woken by my Whatsapp pinging at 7 AM precisely, with a message, “Aisle, window, or middle?”

He was obviously waiting for a reasonable time for me to be awake!

Now that the important bits are settled, we all have plenty of time to decide what we’re going to do day by day. It’s all very exciting.

Where I’ve been: to the travel agents.

On Monday I went down the street and popped into Flight Centre to book my plane tickets. I’m fine with booking tours etc, but I’m more comfortable relying on someone else’s expertise when it comes to the Tetris game of juggling airline schedules.

Me oh my – when they say that plane fares have increased they’re not kidding. It is costing me nearly double what it cost for the same airfare 7 years ago.

Where I’m going: Mooroopna.

Forty years ago, I decided to buy a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. I contacted a breeder called Jenny. She put me through the third degree about what sort of home I was going to provide for a pup before she put me in touch with someone who had a litter of pups from one of her stud dogs. I appreciated the interview – I would’ve been deeply suspicious if all she asked me was about payment.

When I fell in love with Sarah, my first Cavalier, and decided I wanted to breed and show her, Jenny became my mentor. I was in the show ring for about 5 years and had my own breeding kennels, then when I started having human babies it all became too hard, so I disbanded my kennels.

Jenny and I stayed in touch. She very generously allowed the boys and me to adopt many dogs over the years. My boys were able to grow up with quality, purebred dogs with wonderful natures at a time when I could never have afforded to actually buy them a pet.

Well, time marches on. Jenny is now living up in the country with 2 dogs left. One of them is Poppy and Jeff’s mother, while another is a boy called Silver. While Jen is in the hospital for a few days, Elizabeth and Silver will be coming down to The Best House in Melbourne for a family reunion of sorts.

So today is ROAD TRIP DAY!

What I’m reading: A Slow Fire Burning – Paula Hawkins.

This is from the same author who wrote ‘The Girl on the Train’, which about half the world has read. I’ve only just started this one, but it’s off to a good start.

Oh! By the way – I’ve already ‘earned’ back my rates for this year ( September 2022 – September 2023) – have a look at the sidebar on the right. My next rates bill doesn’t arrive until August sometime, so now I’m just salting away the numbers to attack that one. I only thought I’d do this for one year but I’m still enjoying it.

And another thing – if anyone has a good book about Ireland – either fiction or non-fiction – please pop it in a comment. I have a lot of research to do about Ireland before I get there. I want to know exactly what it is I’m seeing!

What I’m watching: Junk.

Somehow, I got sucked into watching ‘Love is Blind’ on Netflix. I only have myself to blame. Don’t follow my lead, I beg of you. Save yourself!

What I’m listening to: PODCASTS!

I’ll be on the road for at least 6 hours today, so I’ll be able to rip through a lot of poddies that have been slowly accumulating. Finally, I’ll know what ends up happening to Belinda Blumenthal!

What I’m eating: lots of salads.

Ryan28 and I are on a bit of a health kick and we’re chowing down on salads. I make a couple of salads every two days and then we pick away at them until they’re gone. Then I make another couple and the cycle continues. I’m mainly cooking from the two salad books from Thermobexta , (she also has lots of free recipes on her site), and I’m loving my day off from cooking in between.

What I’m planning: How to decorate my desk when I’m at work.

When I was at the travel agents, I asked for a brochure on England and Ireland. I’m going to cover my desk with pictures so that when I’m unhappy at not being free, I’ll be reminded of why I’m doing this.

Who needs a good slap: …

Meh. I’m in holiday mode. No one.

What has made me smile: My notifications going crazy in the middle of the night.

Two nights in a row!

The first night was when Liga whatsapped the Antarctica group, saying that she was going to get a tattoo about the trip on her arm. The group went OFF, with suggestions ranging from a penguin, Ming’s yellow coat, a black panther, plankton or krill coming through. As you can see, she went with the map of Antarctica on her arm.

Then the following night, Scott sent through 11 messages and links about Essex. It was as if there was a fireworks display in my room! I was tired after being up the previous night with Liga’s conversation, so I left them until the next day.

I had such a lovely few hours, sitting on the couch the next morning going through all the links. We’re going to have a wonderful time.


Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #48.

What’s top of my mind: I accidentally agreed to work full time in term 1.

I didn’t say yes and I STILL got the job.

When I was in Ushuaia I was asked to work term 1 at a different school, teaching English and Drama full-time. I was so proud of myself when I said no. I was determined to never work full time again. My plan was that I was going to work 1 or 2 days a week, only accepting short-term contracts of 3 weeks or so.

Two days after I got back, I received a panicked message from the Daily Organisers at my school. They were all sitting in the staff Christmas lunch on the 2nd last day of the year when it dawned on them that they hadn’t covered a guy who was going on Long Service Leave for term 1.

They were beside themselves. It’s very difficult to find someone at this late stage of the year and unless I agreed, it was going to be a huge problem for the school. They thought that I was still in Antarctica, so they were googling what the time was there, and saying, “It’s 11:30. You never know, she might be looking at her phone…”

When I answered back straight away from my couch in Melbourne they were very impressed with the internet in Antarctica! But as I read the message I was torn. I was serious when I told everyone I wouldn’t do another long contract. I found the loss of freedom for weeks on end to be hard. But I could also feel for the Daily Orgs… And also, I was just back from an amazing and expensive holiday. Working for 10 weeks would give me the cash for another one…

Plus they were offering holiday pay or being paid as a CRT. Holiday pay, eh? Being paid 12 weeks but ‘only’ working 10? Hmmm…

So I typed back a message asking about which option would pay more. (I’m not a charity!) Then I thought that might sound rude, so I sent a smiley face after it. Apparently, they looked at each other, with one saying, “A smiley face? That means YES.”

Their next message was telling me that the holiday pay was the best way and thanking me for accepting. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I didn’t accept! I was just asking for information.

But I knew that I’d want to go somewhere in 2023…

So I let it slide. Friends and family have already told me that I can’t whinge about working. “You’ve done it to yourself!”

But I tell you what – I’m taking term 2 off.

Where I’ve been: Gardenworld.

Ryan28 kept the important things alive while I was gone. Himself, Poppy, Jeff and Scout. But my hanging baskets? Not so much. I’ve spent a month trying to revive them, but yesterday I realised that I was sick of looking at ugly.

Today I’ll be chucking out the old plants and making the place look pretty again.

Where I’m going: England and Ireland.

Woo hoo!!!!!!

An hour after I finished my Antarctica blog posts, I began researching where to go next. England is my soul’s home. It’s where my family comes from, (ranging from my paternal grandfather to 6 generations back on my mother’s side and everything in between), and I absolutely adore English history.

Now that I’m in a position to be able to travel every year, I can revisit England and also see other parts of the UK that I either skimmed through when I was there in 2015, or I missed altogether.

I thought of Ireland. Never been there… people say it’s terrific… it’d be fun to go from an all-white place to one of emerald green…

So anyway, I booked a place on this tour. If I’m going to see the place, I may as well see as much of it as I can. Plus I can catch up with my friend James, who I met on the tour to North Korea.

I’ll be in England before and after the tour, seeing my friends Corinna, Deana and Scott. I also want to sneak off to Windsor Castle to stand on Henry VIII’s grave. I was hoping to do that on my birthday, but Windsor Castle isn’t open then.

So the Ireland part is locked down. The English parts are still a work in progress. Who knows what I’ll end up doing and seeing?

What I’m reading: Really good books.

I ended 2022 with 120 books under my belt and I’ve started off 2023 with some cracking good reads. I can recommend:

The Way It Is Now – Garry Disher. A crime novel set on the Mornington Peninsula, just down the road from me. The author must live there because the descriptions of the place are utterly real in every detail. I’ll be hunting up more of his novels.

The Trivia Night – Lowe. This is an excellent summer holiday read. It’s in the vein of Sally Hepworth. It’s set in Sydney. Don’t read it if you don’t like saucy themes.

The Paris Apartment – Foley. Another murder mystery. I enjoyed the twists and turns in this one.

The Bullet That Missed – Osman. I know I’m late to the party with this one, the 3rd in the wonderful Thursday Murder Club series. This one was equally on a par with the first in the series. (Not that there was much wrong with #2…) I read this in a day and I count it a day well spent.

By the way… have a look at my reading challenge on the right hand side of the blog. My rates are due in February and I’ll be finished with the challenge of ‘earning’ back my rates money for 2023 before I’ve even paid them! Only one more book to go.

What a nice head start I’ve given myself for the challenge in 2024!

What I’m watching: my Netflix queue.

It was getting out of control, so I’m concentrating on whittling it down.

What I’m listening to: not much.

I mainly listen to podcasts and music when I drive and when I quilt. I haven’t been doing much of either since I got home.

One fringe benefit of working is that I’ll be able to catch up on all of my podcasts during the commute.

What I’m eating: Plums from my trees.

I thought the rainbow lorikeets would get them, but I was able to pick some sun-ripened plums for the first time from my little orchard. The Satsuma plum (my favourite) has quite a few, while the Santa Maria plum produced two plums. If I divide the cost of the tree between the plums, the Santa Maria plums are worth $30 each.

What I’m planning: Holidays!

Not just mine. Liga from Latvia/Antarctica is coming to Australia this year and we’re going to catch up. So far, she wants to see the Opera House, do a 10 day hike and see me.

We just have to work out how these things will all fit together.

And as I’m sure you all know, she’ll be doing that hike without me.

Of course.

Who needs a good slap: The Irish tour people.

Guess how much the single supplement is????

Nearly one thousand Aussie dollars. Ouch.

They didn’t even offer the option of sharing a room. After having such a great time with Liga and Corinna, I might have considered it. But I didn’t even have the option. Rude.

What has made me smile: The Best House in Melbourne.

It’s really lovely to be home.

Dad jokes of the day:

Wednesday W’s #47.

Ice Age joke.

What’s top of my mind: Have I forgotten anything?

I think I’m ok, but Monday was spent driving around getting last-minute things like polarising sunglasses and a plug to fit the charging outlet of my new battery charger for my phone. It’s scary when you buy something electrical, bring it home and then realise that you have no way of charging it because you don’t have small enough outlets.

If I wasn’t going grey before, this last minute stuff would have brought it on. I’m looking forward to sitting down on the plane on the first leg to Aukland and thinking, ‘If I haven’t brought anything with me, I can’t do anything about it now…’

I hope there’s some good movies!

Where I’ve been: Chelsea Heights Community Garden

Yesterday I drove over to this community garden. I first spotted it a few days ago and thought it’d be e great Little Adventure for November. Alas! When I arrived there was no one there and a pinpad locked the gate.

I’ve decided that November’s Little Adventure will have to be postponed. I’ll try my luck again in December or January, because looking through the chain-link fence, it looks like a fantastic space. I’m really keen to see what they’re doing with it.

Plus they have chooks. Sometimes I miss my fluffy-bummed gerls.

Where I’m going: Have I mentioned that I’m going to Antarctica tomorrow?

Well, Santiago first. Fingers crossed that my suitcase travels with me all the way there! As Blogless Sandy said, it doesn’t matter so much if the suitcase goes missing for a few days on the way home.

What I’m reading: nothing.

I’ve finished all my library books and I can’t reserve any eBooks until later today – they’ll become due before I get back and the last thing I want to do on my quest to earn back my rates is to have library books actually costing me money!

I have books downloaded on my iPad, which will be my entertainment hub while I’m away. I’m hoping I can read eBooks from the library to keep my challenge going, but if for some reason they won’t work, I have plenty of books on my kindle app.

I tell you what though; The Murder of Mr Wickham was great! If you love Jane Austen, you can’t go wrong with this book.

What I’m watching: ‘Wednesday’ on Netflix.

This is directed by Tim Burton with music by Danny eElfman, so it’s reminding me of ‘Edward Scissorhands’ in many ways. I think I’ve watched ‘Edward’ about 40 times – we taught it as part of the year 7 curriculum for years. Tonight I’ll finish it off, just before I go.

What I’m listening to: Jeff snoring.

They’re not going to be too happy with me when I start wheeling my suitcases out the door…

Picture of the second-best dry biscuit in Australia.

What I’m eating: Vegemite.

I bought some Saladas yesterday at Aldi. All of my breakfasts until I go are going to be 3 Saladas with loads of vegemite. YUM.

What I’m planning: A nanna nap today.

My sleep was disturbed last night and I was pretty angry. See below:

Grab of the list saying that boots AND parkas are supplied for the trip.

Who needs a good slap: The person who wrote the packing list for the Antarctic cruise.

Usually, I find it hard to fill in this ‘who needs a slap’ section. But something happened at midnight on Monday night that made me LIVID. Please read the screenshot above…

On Monday afternoon, I was procrastinating with doing the ironing by sitting on the couch on the front verandah, reading through the entries on an Antarctica travel group on FB. As I was scrolling through the photos and videos of penguins, seals, whales etc. I saw a comment that someone made about how the Hondius (the ship I’m going on) doesn’t supply parkas for its passengers, only boots.

“That’s odd,” I thought. “Maybe they’re only supplying parkas to select groups.” Still, an hour later, the remark was still niggling at me. I decided that it’d be easy enough to ask the question, so I went to our group’s page on FB and asked if parkas were supplied. At midnight the answer came back:

“No, Frogdancer, only boots are supplied. Here is a link to the hire company the ship uses, but they don’t accept hires less than 7 days out from departure. You’ll have to move quickly!”

Bloody hell. Are you kidding me?!? I jumped straight across and THANK GOODNESS was able to reserve a parka. The time difference worked for me in this case – it was 6 days until embarkation from where I live, but in the US it was still 7 days.

I checked the email of the packing list that I was sent in June … yes, as you can see, I remembered correctly. We were told that a parka would be provided. The owner of the company sent the hire link to us all 7 days ago, but didn’t mention that parkas were needed. I glanced at the link at the time, and thought that I’d already bought gloves, hats and everything else and that I wouldn’t need to hire a parka, so I ignored it. I was unimpressed when I realised, to say the least.

Can you imagine how absolutely stuffed this trip could be if I couldn’t go on the ice????? Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again – if I hadn’t read that comment and asked the question, my whole trip would have been ruined. As it is, I’m going to be paranoid about it until I actually get the boots and parka in my hot little hands.

I don’t think I’ve been so angry about anything for a long while. This whole thing was like Macbeth – it certainly murdered my sleep for a while!

What has made me smile: How excited everyone is for me.

I’ve been planning this trip for over two years, so now to me it’s just routine – I’m going to Antarctica. But when other people hear, their eyes light up and they get so animated. I remember when I was like that when I first started planning it. Now, as I have only a day to go, I’m getting those anticipatory butterflies in my stomach. I’d almost forgotten how much fun it is to travel overseas.

Dad joke of the day:

Joke. It's hilarious.

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