Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Page 2 of 37

The terrific soap recipe.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frugal Friday: Having fun with frugality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then two days later Ryan27 moved back home.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

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

Wednesday W’s #40.

Sky at the backyard beach.

What’s top of my mind: My stint of living by myself appears to be over.

I only had 2 nights!!!!

Ryan27 is moving back in.

Where I’ve been: to see ‘Underwire.’

I saw Jenna’s cabaret show twice and it was GREAT! Lord knows, the kids know that I’m not the type of parent who gushes uncritically over everything they do. When it’s dodgy… I tell them. But when they do a great job, I tell them that too.

‘Underwire’ will be at the Adelaide Fringe and the Melbourne Comedy Festival later this year and next year. Definitely go along and see it. It’s an hour you’ll definitely enjoy.

Where I’m going: Kate’s place for dinner.

It’s Mum’s 82nd birthday today, so a few of us are meeting at my sister’s place for dinner.

What I’m reading: Stephen King’s Fairy Tale.

I’m halfway through and I’m really enjoying it. Like some of his door-stopper novels, it took a little while to get going but we’re definitely away now! An added bonus is that the protagonist loves his dog – definitely right up my alley.

What I’m watching: 1,000 pound Sisters.

Rarely have I seen a more unpleasant and stupid group of people. I do NOT recommend.

What I’m listening to: The Last Library – by Freya Sampson.

I’m up-to-date with all my podcasts so I needed an audiobook to have on the go. This one is a pleasant read about the imminent closing of a small-town library and how the community bands together to try and save it.

It mentions a lot of books, so I’m adding to my ‘To read one day’ list.

What I’m eating: Roast Lamb and Apple Crumble.

That’s what Mum has requested for her birthday dinner.

What I’m planning: Redecorating my lounge/dining/kitchen.

After I get back from Antarctica I’ll need a new project. I’m currently mulling over colours and window treatments.

Who needs a good slap: Those 1,000 pound sisters.

Honestly. Would it kill them to be nice to one another?

What has made me smile: Seeing Tom30 in his own place.

He’s so proud of his house. Ryan27 came over for dinner last night so I took him over to have a look at it. Tom30 absolutely LOVED showing his brother everything about his new house. It was really lovely to see.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #39.

What’s top of my mind: Only 2 more sleeps until Tom30 moves into his first place!

Here’s a little snap of the Man Cave, with all of Tom30’s packing in it. Melbourne had a 4 day weekend recently and he spent that time putting all his belongings into boxes. He’s been here since the end of February and it’ll seem weird to finally get the Man Cave back to the way it was.

When it started, his 90-day settlement seemed so far into the future. Now, it’s here. He gets the keys tomorrow and he’s taking the day off on Friday to move. He’s hired a truck to get all of the big things moved, as well as picking up a fridge a friend has promised him. I’ll be ferrying lots of little boxes over in my car.

Naturally, the weather forecast is for rain all day.

Where I’ve been: meeting my cousin for the third time ever.

Ahhh love! Who can tell where it strikes? Five decades ago, my aunt fell in love with a guy from Indiana and moved over there. A couple of decades later, she moved back. This means I have a couple of cousins in the states – one in LA and one in Brooklyn.

My aunt and her family came out to Australia and stayed with us once when we were kids. Since then, my younger cousin has come out twice to see his Mum.

He’s a really nice guy. It’s a shame that we live so far apart.

Where I’m going: Underwire.

Jenna and Evan26 are performing in this cabaret show that Jenna has written, all about her experiences growing up with enormous jugs from a very young age. They’ve both worked really hard on it and I can’t wait to see it. Tom30, David29 and Izzy went to see it on opening night and they came back raving about it.


I’m going on Friday and Saturday. I’m SO looking forward to it. Jenna is a talented woman. (Evan26 isn’t so bad either.)

What I’m reading: ‘Coronado’ by Dennis Lehane.

Freddy Smidlap recommended this collection of short stories (and a play script) in a comment a week or two ago. I jumped onto my local library and reserved it. So far, I’ve read all the short stories and I’m hoping to finish the play script before the end of today.

These stories are really good, but kind of sad. Life is hard for these characters and the unvarnished writing clearly depicts their situations with absolutely no sentimentality. I’m enjoying this collection.

What I’m watching: The Block.

For those who aren’t from here, The Block is a renovation show where 4 or 5 couples completely renovate properties in 12 weeks. I love it.

Every year the task gets bigger and bigger. I remember the first season was just getting couples to gently renovate 4 tiny apartments in Bondi. Now, 18 seasons later, they’re renovating and landscaping 500 square metre houses on 10 acres of land.

Every season, you wonder if they’re asking too much of the contestants and this year is no exception. THE MUD!!!! That alone would be enough to do my head in.

What I’m listening to: Shandee’s Legacy.

This is season 2 of the podcast ‘Shandee;s Story.’ This season they’re picking apart the court case that has the only forensic lab in Queensland being investigated for massive incompetence and possible corruption.

It’s incredible how badly this lab has performed over at least the last ten years. How many criminals have walked free because the lab didn’t detect their DNA? Also, there are possibly innocent people in jail because of similar DNA bungles. It’s horrifying.

What I’m eating: Roast lamb for dinner.

I promised Tom30 that I’d make a roast dinner for his last dinner home.

What I’m planning: My luggage to Antarctica.

I’m seriously thinking about only taking carry-on luggage to Antarctica. My American cousin showed me the carry-on bag that he’s been using for years and I think that with some super strategic packing (and wearing bulky fleece clothes on the plane) I might be able to do it.

‘Might’ is the operative word. I have essential ‘cold weather’ things that might make it impossible. Mum and Dad have a hand-held lugguge weighing thing that I’ll be borrowing, just to see if it’s possible.

I was at the travel agents yesterday to sort out my visa to Chile and we checked the weight requirements for carry-on. It seems that 10kg is what most airlines have as their limit. The actual bag I’d buy retails for around $600. This is why I’m typing this in front of a year 9 English class. Yes, two days of CRT work and I’ll have paid for it.

Ah well. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon so I may as well be in a classroom.

Who needs a good slap: Me, for buying a petrol lawn mower.

When we moved here to The Best House in Melbourne over 6 years ago, I wanted to buy an electric lawn mower. I’d had one before at the old place and it was so easy to use. But I stupidly had Ryan21 (as he was then) with me at the time and his testosterone made a petrol lawn mower an imperative. He was the one who was going to use it, so I capitulated and bought one.

Now, when Tom30 moves away, I’ll be alone in the house. Being Spring, the lawn is practically leaping out of the ground. The petrol lawn mower is a bugger to start and a PIA to keep supplied with petrol.

I’ve decided to give my mower to Tom30 – he has a big nature strip out the front of his house to mow and he has absolutely no spare money to buy a mower for himself – and I’ll zip off to Bunnings and buy the mower that I should have bought in the first place.

What has made me smile: Seeing Tom30 accomplish his goal.

Sometimes people wonder how second-generation FIRE kids grow up to handle their money. When Tom30 unexpectedly moved back home in February, his goal was to have enough saved for a deposit on a 2 BR unit/townhouse/apartment by the end of next year.

When he realised the opportunity he had to save by living with the delightful Frogdancer Jones, Ryan27 and the little woofs, he knuckled down and got the job done in 10 months.

Along the way, he discussed all his plans with me and we talked over possible strategies and ways to swing things to get to the amount of money he needed. Being an accountant who works with a lot of mortgage brokers, he was very good at the high-end financial stuff. I, on the other hand, am very good at the day-to-day strategies to make money stretch further.

I prefer to believe that the reason he achieved his goal so quickly was by being motivated by the chance to live rent-free and stack his money away, rather than being motivated by wanting to get the hell away from living with his Mum. As I said in the paragraph above…

I’m delightful…

Dad joke of the day:

I swallowed a book about synonyms.

It gave me thesaurus throat I’ve ever had.

Wednesday W’s #38.

What’s top of my mind: Finishing the dishcloths for Tom30.

There’s a week to go before Tom30 gets the keys to his first place. Ages ago he asked if I’d knit him some dishcloths for his kitchen, so all this week I’ve been knitting bamboo squares for him. I haven’t touched knitting needles for 2 years or so and ny hands are feeling it. Still, I want him to have at least 5 to take with him.

When your child actually asks you to make somethuing for them, you deliver! He’s also asked for a couch quilt too, but that’ll have to be a summer job.

Where I’ve been: sitting around waiting for my car to be fixed.

It’s been an expensive month for my little VW Golf. I bought her brand new 8 years ago and this is the first year I’ve had any problems. More on the saga below.

Where I’m going: out to lunch.

I’ve known Gill for as long as I’ve been working at my old school. She is an English teacher like me and so we’ve been friends and colleagues for 20 years or so.

She’s taking a term of long service leave, and unlike Frogdancer Jones, she has no desire to make a big farewell speech at the end-of-year staff function, so she’ll simply never return to her desk.

A group of us are gathering today to have lunch and to celebrate Gill’s magnificence.

What I’m reading: The Cabin at the End of the World.

I saw this one talked about on Twitter. M Night Shayamalan is making a movie based on this, called ‘Knock at the Cabin’, and people were raving about how good this novel is. I’m two chapters in and I’m liking it a lot. The author’s use of tension is very good.

What I’m watching: Spring come to the garden.

My back garden is pretty much all about the veggies, but my front garden is full of fruit trees and flowers. Every year it’s so lovely to see my old friends come back with colour. First thing in the morning, after I put the coffee on, I go outside to pick up after the little woofs. I can always tell when Spring has turned. One morning the air lacks the chill of winter and from then on it’s all happening.

I was planning to do lots with the garden this year but working so much has prevented that. Still, there’s always next year!

What I’m listening to: Jeff’s snoring.

When you choose to shre your life with cavaliers, the snoring is almost inevitable, Poppy’s not too bad, but Jeff’s a snuffly boy. I still remember Laura – she used to snore so loudly that I would wake in the middle of the night and hear her in her kennel al the way from the back yard.

What I’m eating: Potato chips.

I had everyone over for dinner last Saturday to celebrate our 3 September birthdays – mine, David29’s and Evan26’s – and we didn’t eat a couple of bags of potato chips. Well, it’d be a sin to let them go to waste, wouldn’t it?

What I’m planning: Two baby quilts.

Two young women from work are expecting babies next year. I like these girls very much, so they’re both getting a quilt before I leave for Antarctica. I was planning on finishing the Seaglass quilt top by then, but now it might have to wait until I get back.

Who needs a good slap: Whoever designed the cabin pressure valves in the boot of my car.

A while ago I mentioned on one of the blogs that my car boot was flooding. Turns out that the rubber on the cabin pressure valves had completely perished and so there were two holes on either side of my car that was letting water pour straight in. Not a quick job to find and fix – my car was there for 2 days.

A thousand dollars later, she’s back with me. Then, a day later, I bought some new tyres ($500) and found out that the rear brake pads and rotors are rusted. She’s going back to them on Monday to get them replaced… ($600. )

The picture at the top of this post is the rear left rotor thingy and brake pad. Apparently, they’re not meant to look like this.

Naturally September is rego ($900) and insurance ($700) month too. Of course it is!

What has made me smile: My son values my feedback.

Being a drama teacher, having a son who’s a performer is very satisfying. Listening to his podcast and going to see him and his partner perform their shows is joyous. Also, because I’m a drama teacher, I can’t turn off the critic… if something’s good, I say so. If something needs improvement or clarification, I’ll mention it too. It won’t help them in the long run if I try to polish any turds.

Thankfully, both Jenna and Evan26 are good at their craft, so the positive feedback far outweighs the constructive criticism. (I just knocked on wood whe I typed that. Jenna has a caberet show on next week that she wrote herself. I don’t want to jinx her.)

Yesterday, we were talking and he asked if I’d listened to the latest podcast. I said that I saw that one had dropped, but I was listening to a ‘Casefile’ episode that had awful child abuse on it and I had to keep going with it to find out if the police caught the people responsible. (Turns out, they did. Phew.) I said I’d listen to his podcast tomorrow.

He said that he’d be interested to hear what I thought as they were trying an idea he’d had. We briefly talked about what it was and I’ll be calling him tomorrow after I’ve heard it to let him know what I thought of it.

I don’t know… it’s a small thing, but I couldn’t help but smile when I hung up the phone. It feels special when your adult son cares enough about your opinion that he actually asks for feedback.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #37.

Two cavaliers are resting on a patchwork quilt.

What’s top of my mind: How lovely it is to have my days back.

Oof. Term is done.

The first day of the holidays I took the little woofs for a walk, then I sat and binged the last 11 episodes of ‘Better Call Saul.’ I’d already watched the first 2 eps and I THOUGHT that there were 10 episodes in the season. By the time I realised that there were actually 13, it was too late. My hand was set on the plough so I decided to see it through.

The next morning I had an intensely gripping time playing hours of Tetris. My high score is 95,000+.

Do you know what the good thing is? I can waste my time like this and I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty.

Where I’ve been: in bed, napping.

It hasn’t taken me long to rediscover the pleasures of the nanna nap. (In fact, I’m lying in bed right now, writing this.)

Where I’m going: out to the garden.

On Saturday I have the whole fambam coming over to celebrate the three September birthdays we have. I have a washing machine under a tarp and 3 bags of sugar cane mulch cluttering up the front verandah. I can’t do much about the washing machine – Tom30 doesn’t leave here for another 3 weeks – but at least I can spread out the mulch on the orchard and make the place look like someone cares for it.

What I’m reading: Two Nights in Lisbon.

I saw this on Twitter when Stephen King recommended it. I’m only 50 pages in, but I think I’m going to like it.

What I’m watching: The Orville Season 3.

HOW I love this show! I waited until the season finished before starting to watch it, so I can binge it if I want to. For Aussie readers, it’s on SBS catch-up, along with The Handmaid’s Tale. (Now there’s another excellent show!)

What I’m listening to: Argh!

I’m wrestling with the decision of whether to wait until the new book in ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ becomes available to me at the library, or whether to jump in and listen to it on Audiobook instead.

The hard copy is my preference, but I accidentally reserved the audio version, thinking that it was an eBook. I’ve read the first two in regular book format… I don’t know that I want to have someone reading the third one to me.

While you were reading this, I checked the queue on the hold at the library for the book version. I’m 44th in line. I guess my decision’s made!

What I’m eating: Pumpkin Soup.

Remember all of those pumpkin-y things I grew that took over the whole front yard? I discovered that I still have two chopped-up bags of them in the freezer. There’s enough in each bag to make a batch of the Skinnymixers Curried Pumpkin Soup. Seeing as the weather is warming up, I thought I’d better get onto it.

Lunch is served for the next few days!

What I’m planning: to organise my visas.

I need visas for Chile and Argentina, but for some reason I’m dragging my feet to get this done. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow.

Who needs a good slap: Me.

I really need to get those visas done and dusted.

What has made me smile: Seeing the blossoms appearing in the garden.

Spring is definitely here.

I have two maple trees in front of my house. One has bright red leaves all year round, which are just now starting to appear. My plum trees are covered in white blossoms and my iris clump is beginning to flower. The kangaroo paws are sprouting way more flowers than last year.

All’s right with the world.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #36.

What’s top of my mind: Jeffrey waking up earlier than the alarm.

When I retired back in 2020, it took the little woofs around 8 months to stop waking up early. We were all sleeping in until 8… sometimes even 8:30. It was bliss.

Now, he’s waking up at 6:20 on the dot. Every morning. EVERY morning.

Where I’ve been: Carlton North for a dance performance.

One of the guys who does integration is married to the new Theatre Studies teacher. I didn’t realise that he’s also a dancer. A few of us from work went to see his latest performance. It was an interesting idea – a series of 4 shows that are all totally improvised. Basically, you could go to all 4 shows and see a different performance each night.

It was mainly performed in silence, with only minimal music being used.

Where I’m going: To school for two more days.

I have 2 sets of tests to mark and then a couple more days to get through and then I’ll have my life back. The holidays are so close I can almost smell them…

What I’m watching: ‘The Serpent Queen’ on Stan.

When I was a teenager I discovered Jean Plaidy, the author. She was the first writer I found who wrote detailed historical fiction, which is a genre I still hold dear to my heart today. I absolutely LOVE history, and learning about it in novel form is a great way to learn.

She wrote a trilogy about Catherine de Medici, the young Italian girl from a wealthy but lowly family who ended up becoming the Queen of France and the mother of many kings.

Madame Serpent, The Italian Woman, and Queen Jezebel detail the life of one of the most unpleasant women in history. Catherine de Medici wasn’t a woman you’d want to get on the wrong side of – people who opposed her seemed to die in the strangest of ways. These books don’t sugar-coat anything but still make her sympathetic to the reader… we see the people and forces who moulded her to be the woman she became.

I used to own these books but over the years they’ve disappeared. I’d love to read them again. But at least I can watch the tv show in the meantime.

What I’m reading: An Adrian McKinty book.

I’m working my way through his novels, but this current one is an early one. It’s not really grabbing me.

What I’m listening to: Kids whispering to each other.

Next period we’re having a test. The kids are having a period of revision, but they’ve clearly moved on to other things. They’re all very quiet, but the level of whispering has risen in the last 5 minutes. I can’t say I blame them. We’re all just hanging out for the term to end.

What I’m eating: Lentil Bolognese.

I should have halved the recipe. This’ll be the third night I’ll be eating it and I’m sure it won’t all be used up.

What I’m planning: NOTHING.

I’m just going to stay at home and chill for a while. Only 2 days to go…

Who needs a good slap: Tom30.

For some weird reason, Tom30 enjoys eating a tin of mackerel with brown rice. Last night he made some for dinner and then left the tin, filled with water, in the sink instead of taking it out to the recycling. This morning when I went to the kitchen to make my morning coffee, I could smell the faint aroma of fish. He left for work without taking the tin out.

Not happy Jan.

What has made me smile: The prospect of FREEDOM.

Not long to go now!

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a guy who is in debt?


How much is enough?

A small grey, white and orange kitten is outside in the grass alone. In this frame the cat is looking curious and giving lots of effort to get out a big meow. In this frame the kitten is sitting next to a dandelion.

What a time to be alive!

Only 5 more days to go before I walk out the door having finished my contract teaching job. I’ve done most of the marking – only dribs and drabs of late projects and 2 tests to give out and mark – and two more yard duties, (unless Rosie hits me with an extra one like she did on Friday), and by 2:30 PM Friday I’ll be a free woman again. Thank God for early finish times when terms end.

Let me state upfrontthe job I’m finishing up is by any sane person’s definition an absolute DREAM job. The money’s great; the students are respectful and funny; the people I work with are (mostly) lovely; I don’t have to attend meetings; I can leave as soon as the bell rings; the biggest physical labour is walking up and down stairs all day (and if I want I can take the lifts), and tomorrow I get a free lunch provided because it’s Diversity Week. (Lamb Rogan Josh, if anyone’s interested.) To add icing on the cake, the admin at the new campus are on the ball and are a pleasure to work with.

So if that’s the definition of a sane person’s idea of a dream job, why am I feeling insane right now?

It’s simple. After experiencing retirement, even in the midst of lockdown after lockdown, my whole mindset has changed. Now that I’ve achieved financial independence, I’m in the position to start valuing my time more than money. This is a whole new ball game.

And yes, I used a sporting metaphor. Ugh. That’s how new and strange this is.

Unless you’re born into money, everyone has to work to financially establish themselves. It takes many years of work, sacrifices and tenacity to get to a point where you no longer have to trade your time for money. Along the way, some of us get divorced, so we have to start over and do the whole thing again.

That’s fun.

But after years of work, saving, and investing while life swirls around you, you’re then at the point where going into work becomes a choice. You can choose to keep building a career that you love, or you can quietly step back from giving most of your waking hours to a job and begin to use those hours for your own pursuits.

Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I knew that this would happen once I hit my magic number and stepped back from work. But intellectually knowing it and then resisting the siren call of easy money once I dipped my toe back into working again are two very different things.

Taking this 7-week full-time contract has been invaluable.

It’s easy to say that you want to get out of work if the job you have isn’t great. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to leave a job where you’re overworked, underpaid and you’re unhappy being there? It makes perfect sense.

But this job is fantastic! Yet 3 weeks into the 7 weeks I was the most depressed I’ve been in years. Not clinically depressed of course, but by God, I was miserable. But this was an easy gig that I CHOSE to do myself. It had a definite finish date so I wasn’t locked into years of indentured servitude or anything. Yet I felt like I was dragging my feet through mud to get to perform this fantastic job each day.

Now that I’m nearing the end of the contract, I’ve realised that this was actually the perfect way to experience how financial independence has truly changed my life. It’s one thing to hate going to work if the job is blah/awful, but when the job is terrific and yet you feel you’ve boxed yourself in for no real reason, then it’s obvious that certain priorities have changed.

The final nail in the coffin of knowing that I won’t take a contract again was when I had a couple of parents contact me about their sons’ abysmal performance on their geography projects. The second I see that a parent has phoned or emailed me, my stress levels go through the roof. It’s never good news. People rarely contact teachers to tell them they’re doing a great job.

One parent was pretty standard, but the other one wanted me to “give him the third degree” about why he hadn’t handed in his project because they” have tried to speak to Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] to find out what caused the work to be incomplete but he has not given me a straight answer, so I would like you to speak to him and find out.”   They signed off the email with their phone number so I could report back to them after the interrogation.

I read the email, rolled my eyes and was like, “Oh, so you want me to do your parenting for you?”

I wasn’t happy, but I did the right thing and kept the kid after class, had a chat with him about the work, resisted the temptation to use the thumbscrews or the cat o’ 9 tails, and he promised to submit the project in the next 5 minutes. All good. I walked upstairs to my desk and opened my laptop to mark his project during lunch.

There was an email from the front desk, sent 5 minutes before the period had even ended, saying that this parent was asking me to call them back and giving me their number again. Seriously??? Give me a chance to have the chat in the first place and then walk upstairs and sit down.

Oof. Some parents.

The talk with the parent actually went better than I expected. They were worried about their son, “so different after having the girls!”, and I understand where they were coming from. However, I think it was fair to say that their anxiety was a little over the top. Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] is a good kid who is a little lazy at the moment. Sounds like a typical year 9 boy to me.

What I didn’t appreciate was the effect it had on MY anxiety levels. Disgruntled parents can cause a lot of problems for a teacher if they decide to get nasty about something. I don’t need to be here. I don’t have to be feeling this.

I’m definitely over it.

Another little moment was when I was having dinner with a longtime friend a couple of weeks ago. He said to me, “But don’t you have enough money to live on for the rest of your life? Why are you doing this for? How much is enough?”

Hmmm. He got me there!

I’ll more than likely do the odd day of CRT teaching going forward. The job itself is great and it’ll be a nice day of catching up with friends, writing Dad jokes on the board and bantering with the kids.

But feeling miserable in the midst of the perfect job was a definite sign that my life and priorities have moved on. I’ve ticked the “money/security” item off my list of life goals.

Time to get back to living every day on MY timetable again.

Dad joke of the day:

Ok, so not really a Dad joke but it made me chuckle anyway.

Thursday W’s #35.

What’s top of my mind: Only 6 days to go!

Just one more week before the school holidays. I still have a mountain of marking, but it’s the marking of the Antarctica projects, so I’m expecting that I’ll enjoy it. After all, it’s the reason I took this contract to begin with!

Where I’ve been: Anaconda to buy Antarctica clothing.

Some of the kids clubbed together to give me $250 for my birthday to put towards warm clothing for my trip. This prompted me to get organised, so yesterday I drove to Frankston and threw myself on the mercy of the Anaconda salespeople.

Turns out the guy who served me has a nephew and niece who were students of mine back in the day. Small world.

Where I’m going: to the sewing room.

I haven’t touched my Seaglass quilt (aka ‘the 5,000+ piece quilt’) since the girls’ weekend. I think it’s time to start chipping away at it again.

What I’m watching: Better Call Saul.

Still plugging away…

What I’m reading: Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone.

I’m halfway through this book and I’m LOVING it. As soon as I saw the title I had to get stuck into it, and it was a pleasant surprise to find out that it’s set in Australia. It’s very original and I’m enjoying the ride.

What I’m listening to: Birds.

It’s a parent/teacher day so I’m not required at work. On a normal Thursday over the last term, I’d be walking towards class right now, mask firmly attached to my face, surrounded by hordes of teenagers. Instead, I have 3 little woofs snuggled up beside me. Jeff’s slightly snoring.

It’s nice.

What I’m eating: Wildberry Cheesecake for breakfast.

This was the dessert that David28 and Izzy brought around to my birthday dinner. There is so much left over and it’s too good to just throw out. Tomorrow I’ll be taking what’s left to work for everyone to enjoy.

What I’m planning: to send a stern email to my year 8s.

A fair few of them are late submitting their projects. Damned if I’m going to still have marking over the holidays!!!

Who needs a good slap: Me.

I knew yesterday was Wednesday. Did I remember to write a ‘Wednesday W’s’ blog post? It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that it dawned on me.

I also forgot that yesterday was a payday. Oops.

What has made me smile: Being able to use my Dad jokes at school again.

Word has gotten out and now I have kids from other classes crowding the doorways of my classes, wanting to see what the Dad joke of the day is.

Dad joke of the day:

What kind of factory makes ok products?

A Satisfactory.

I went back to work to see what it’s like- so you don’t have to!

I was searching through “school memes” to find an image for this post and then I saw this one. It’s perfect! Retirement means never having to know which day it is unless you choose to, while being a teacher??? That damned timetable changes day by day so you have to keep track of which day it is.

When I retired at the end of 2020 I had no intention of ever setting foot in a schoolroom again. It wasn’t that I hated teaching – I still really enjoyed being in the classroom and mucking around with the kids. Teenagers are hilarious and never a day went by where I didn’t have a huge laugh from something my students said or did.

The school I taught at is a large school in a wealthy middle-class suburb where the parents and kids are pretty aspirational. The kids are polite, well-behaved and anxious to learn. (Of course, there are a few exceptions but they truly are the exceptions.) Being in the classroom here is usually a pretty nice place to work.

What drove me out was the insidious creep of admin work that kept increasing year by year. The reports. Not school reports that kids have always had… other reports. The data collection. Then the reports on the data collected. Meetings that were suddenly mandated by the government, so even when there was no reason to have meetings, we had to have a certain amount of them each month.

The admin stuff was sucking the fun out of the job, so when it was brought to my attention that I could actually afford to retire, I took action. This led to the best year of my life, even though it was a year full of lockdowns for Melbourne. 2021 – the year that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Retirement is magical. The absolute freedom over your time is something that’s so precious. Truly, if you’re working towards gaining financial independence – keep going! It’s definitely worth it.

Then I started teaching again. I wrote about why I decided to trade my time for money HERE, even though I was so happy living the retired life.

So now I’m nearing the second-last week of a seven-week contract teaching Geography full-time. I’m scheduled to come to work every day until the September school holidays, whether I feel like it or not. Sounds brutal, hey?

If you’ve ever idly wondered what it would be like to go back to work after retiring, read on! I’ve lived the experience so you don’t have to:

How does full-time teaching differ from the CRT work you’ve been doing?

Instead of having a grab-bag of different classes, subjects and yard duty every day, along with no free periods, full-time teaching only has 2 yard duties a week, with some free periods scattered through the week for lesson prep and marking. I also have a desk to sit at instead of camping out in the staff common room.

The lesson plans are already done, so I just have to post them on Compass at the end of each week and ensure that any worksheets, projects or tests are accessible for the kids.

I also have to do MARKING. Surprisingly though, I haven’t minded the correction. In Geography, the kids have either got it right or wrong, which makes this subject an easier beast to mark than English or Theatre Studies. I’ve just about finished my 3 X year 9 classes work, just in time for the 2 X year 8 projects and tests to roll in. I’ll make sure I’m finished by the end of term. No way I want to have work hanging over my head when I finish this gig!

CRT is all go!go!go! during the day, but there are no meetings, marking or admin. It’s far better for someone like me who isn’t interested in climbing a career ladder.

What’s it been like going back to work every single day?

Hard. I won’t lie.

Even though I’ve worked almost every single day of term 3, CRT days seem easier because you never know when you’ll get a day off. So each day of working is a separate entity. Working this 7-week contract, knowing that apart from parent/teacher days and a professional development day, I’ll be in classrooms all day for weeks on end was harder than I thought it would be.

Especially in the middle few weeks, when the novelty was starting to wear off and it seemed like it was stretching on forever. Now, with less than 2 weeks to go, it’s easier.

Still… today is my birthday. I’m here at work. *sigh* This is only a 2 day work week for me, so it didn’t seem right to take another day off for my birthday.

I won’t get paid for the parent/teacher and professional development days that I didn’t have to attend, but they happened at the right end of the contract for me, so I don’t mind. After all, if I hadn’t taken the contract and I was just doing CRT, I wouldn’t have been hired for those days anyway.

Is it nicer to have the same classes of kids instead of teaching random classes all day?

In some ways, yes. But it’s a funny thing – even though I’ve had them for weeks, in both my head and theirs, their REAL teacher will be back with them next term. I definitely haven’t bonded with them the same way that I used to when I knew they’d be mine for the whole year.

Have there been any benefits to taking a set contract instead of casual teaching days?

The money. Definitely. Having a guaranteed amount coming in each fortnight has been nice. My super has also been given a boost, which is a sweet little bonus.

Taking this contract has meant that 2 things have happened. The first is that I’ve earned the money to pay for my Antarctica cruise, which is nice. The second is that when Tom30 needed help to get his deposit together for his new place, knowing that I had an income to pay the bills along the way made it far easier for me to give him my Emergency Fund, which was the only large amount of cash I had immediately available. It’s an unexpected perk of taking this job that’s benefited my boy.

I’m also glad that I chose to do it, just to see what it was like. Heaps of teachers do CRT and/or exam invigilation for a bit of pocket money in retirement, but not too many go back to a full teaching load, even if just for a few weeks. Now I know how I feel about it.

Would I do it again?

Yes and no.

This contract has ended up being too long for me. In one way that’s a shame, because Long Service Leave jobs like this come up all the time. It would be a sweet gig to work for a term to earn some spending money, then have the rest of the year off.

I’m normally a very happy and contented person, yet I found that there were weeks, especially in the middle of the contract, when I wasn’t happy. I was whinging to myself so much that I even started to bore myself and I had to keep telling myself off.

“No one made you do this. You said yes to this, so shut up, get a grip and be positive”

“Stop whining! It’s only for ‘x’ more weeks… it’s not forever.”

etc etc.

I think that a 3-week contract would be my limit. It’s long enough to make some nice money but short enough so that I wouldn’t feel boxed in. Sadly, most people take longer holidays than this, so I’m way out of luck on this one.

I’m thinking that next year I’ll definitely do more CRT work, but I seriously doubt that I’ll be doing it at the rate I’ve been doing it this year. 2022 was a year that the school was desperately needing people to work, mainly due to covid, and I felt like I owed the school some help. This job absolutely saved us when the boys were little and now I could return the favour.

But the relentless grind of day after day after day, running on adrenaline and routines is too hard, especially after I said goodbye to it all and had such a long break from it. I’m glad to know that I can still do it, but I’ve learned that I don’t want to.

I’ve worked out that doing one day a week would bring in enough to pay for groceries and basic bills. I’d get to see my friends and still enjoy banter with the kids. Two days a week would pay for holidays.

I have to be careful though. Given all the years of poverty that the boys and I lived through when they were younger, it’s really hard for me to knock back work, especially if I have nothing specifically planned for that day. This year, even though I have the total freedom to say yes or no to work, I haven’t refused a single day’s work offered to me.

Going forward, I’m going to have to be tougher with myself to work far fewer days to guard my happiness.

After all, I didn’t retire so I could be sitting in classrooms every day, no matter how good the money is! I’ve achieved financial independence, so any work I choose to do should be adding to my happiness, not subtracting from it.

I’m really looking forward to getting my freedom back.

Dad joke of the day:

I trapped a couple of vegans in my basement. At least, I think they’re vegan. They keep shouting, “Lettuce leaf!”

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