Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

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Wednesday W’s #93.

What’s top of my mind: the ironing.

Argh!

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

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

Where I’m going: Kangaroo Island.

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

🙂

Where I’ve been: the library.

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

Too many people are recommending Thumping Good Reads.

Such a first world problem…

What I’m reading: Such terrific books!

How To Get Fired by Evana Belich.

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

Kill Your Husbands – Jack Heath.

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

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

What I’m watching: Boy Swallows Universe.

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

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

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

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

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

Haha!

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

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

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

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

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

The frugal cook works with what they have.

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

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

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

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

I’d better get my arse into gear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

So how does it feel to switch gears on your superannuation account?

September last year I turned 60. I celebrated by taking a 5 week holiday to England and Ireland, staying with friends nearly every step of the way. It was a fantastic holiday that will live on in my memories for the rest of my life. But it was significant for another reason. In Australia, when you turn 60 you can access your superannuation tax-free.

I really don’t want to work again, not even as a highly-paid relief teacher, so it was definitely time to get moving on switching gears from Accumulation to Pension modes on my super.

It was a strange experience, and one that I thought might be interesting for others to read. Most of my readers here are still working and so are still in the Accumulation mode of building up superannuation and investment portfolios. What’s it like to stop doing that and start pulling money out of these accounts instead? And not little dribbles of dollars.

THOUSANDS.

It was a strange feeling, but not as weird as I thought it might be for a naturally frugal person like me. I thought I might have to have a cup of tea and a nice lie down after setting it all up, but that wasn’t the case.

For the last 3 years, ever since I retired at the end of 2020, I’ve lived off a mixture of dividends, sales of shares and CRT wages. I retired at 57, so I had to live off a financial bridge to cover myself to the age of 60 when I could access my super tax-free.

A couple of months after I arrived home from my trip, I sat at my laptop, trying to access an online tool from Hostplus to see what my options were. It seems that they’ve deactivated it, so there was no alternative but to speak to someone on the phone.

Before I did this, I re-read Noel Whitaker’s book on Super, just to make sure that I didn’t sound like a goose on the phone. This was actually a good idea, as it enabled the conversation to flow far faster than if the Hostplus consultant had to explain Every Little Thing to me.

Talking with the consultant was fantastic, as you have to fill in a form inline and there were a couple of times when I wouldn’t have known which alternative to choose, but she walked me through it. Clearly, she knew which questions were the problematic ones and so knew how to guide me. Phew!

I was amazed at how flexible it was. Bottom line, I know that it’s my money, but I suppose that a lifetime of being told how much I’m going to earn, how much tax I’m going to pay etc has made me used to having restrictions.

Switching from an Accumulation fund to a Pension fund is pretty much total freedom. If I wanted, I could withdraw every last cent and spend it however I choose. Yikes! I’m not going to do this, obviously.

But I have the freedom to do it, which is fair enough. It is my money, after all. And truly, if I’ve reached the age of 60 and I haven’t yet learned fiscal responsibility, then I probably deserve the consequences of every disastrous mistake I’d go on to make.

I had to nominate the percentage payment that I’d be taking out of the fund. Basically, every year after you switch to a pension fund, you HAVE to take money out of it. The lowest percentage is 4%, with the choice of the actual percentage that you take out being up to you. I chose to take the minimum out, which still nets me a healthy 50% of the amount I want to live off (including expensive travel.)

I have other investments that will spit out what I need to make up the shortfall. And if they don’t? Then a simple phone call means that I can change the payment details. Or I could live more frugally, which, knowing me, would probably be the way I’d go.

I can change this percentage at any time. I can also take lump sums out, which will be nice when I want to upgrade my car, for example. Not that I’m in a hurry to do this. I love my little Golf.

Once all of that was chosen, I then had to choose how I wanted that money to come to me. Annually? Quarterly? Monthly? Fortnightly? Weekly?

This for me was a no-brainer. I’ve been paid fortnightly for my whole career, so this is how I’m used to organising my finances. So fortnightly it is!

The ONLY thing that has made me miss work is when their online form wouldn’t accept my driver’s licence information, so I had to post them a certified photocopy. Instead of just grabbing a photocopy from work, I had to go to my local library and PAY for one. Outrageous!

In the last week of December, my first “pay” went into my account. I kept watch on my account all day and it raised a smile when, just like my teaching wage, my super landed in there between 3 PM and 3:30 PM.

Nothing like familiarity!

But how does this actually feel?

I’m pulling money from an account that I’ve spent my whole career building up! It almost feels irresponsible… except it’s actually warming the cockles of my heart.

I was reading the Simple Savings forum this morning when I saw a comment from V on one of the threads: “My super pension went into the bank today. Even after years of getting it I still feel a thrill when I see it.”

That’s how it felt for me when I saw the first one go in. Like dividend payments, it felt a bit like money for nothing. Everyone likes that feeling!

I divvied it up and sent some to my credit card and some to my online bank account, which has a spreadsheet attached so I can save up for various things. It’s divided up into columns for Emergency, Travel, Car. Rates, Pets (this is mainly in case Scout ever comes down with IVDD), and every now and then I’ll add an extra column for Wedding, or Tom30’s house etc.

I’d rather run my life this way with only 2 savings accounts, instead of having about 10 of them. Much easier to keep track of.

Then it was a 2 week wait for the next payment to come along. This one wasn’t nearly as exciting, because it was almost exactly the same amount as my yearly timeshare fee. All I had to do was transfer it to my credit card and then pay the bill.

But still, it’s nice to see a chunk of money turn up like clockwork with no effort from me and no fanfare. And to think this will go on for decades!

What I’m really looking forward to is doing my annual figures at the end of the year, seeing what effect, if any, my drawing a wage will have on my Super balance. I’ve heard from other retirees that their balances keep going up, even with the regular withdrawals, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll experience the same thing.

Imagine? It would be like the story of the goose who lays the golden eggs, except this is no fairy tale. I honestly thought I’d be more concerned about taking money OUT of this pot. I’m a saver: I absolutely love seeing my balances go up. But instead, I’m strangely at peace with it.

Maybe I’ve finally got my emotions around the concept that this is what all those years of patiently plugging away at building up Super were for.

One thing that I’ve done with my Super is that I’ve hedged my bets a little with regard to work. I’ve paid my VIT fees for this year, just in case I decide to work a few days, but if I worked, that would mean that I’d have to have a valid accumulation fund in place. I asked the consultant about that and she said that most people in my situation leave 6K (the minimum amount) in their Accumulation fund to keep it open, just in case they pick up a little work.

So that’s what I’ve done. When I’m totally, 100%, absolutely positively SURE that I’ll never darken the door of a classroom again, I’ll just close down that account and walk off into the sunset. It’s worth paying the tiny annual fee just for the peace of mind.

As I’m typing this, it’s the summer school holidays, so I can’t help but still feel in holiday mode. My payment popping into my account just feels like holiday pay. When term starts and it still keeps coming… I have the feeling that it’ll be pretty sweet.

Remember the photo at the start of this post? These are the apples that I picked a couple of days ago from the garden. Some of these trees are 6 years old and some are 3 years old.

It’s very much the same as Superannuation… you put the hard work in at the beginning and then later on you (hopefully) reap the benefits.

(The bananas are picked from Aldi, in case anyone was wondering.)

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #92.

What’s top of my mind: My parents.

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

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

Where I’m going: to lunch with Izzy.

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

I texted her that lunch would be on me.

She texted back that no it wasn’t.

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

Where I’ve been: in the back yard.

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

There goes the pizza idea!

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

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

What I’m reading: Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

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

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

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

The Drowning by Bryan Brown

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

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

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

What I’m listening to: Jeff panting.

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

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

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

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

What I’m planning: Nothing.

I’m loose like a goose.

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

Who deserves a thumbs-up: Ryan29.

Anyone who cooks for me deserves a thumbs up.

Love it.

What has made me smile: Tom31.

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

I enjoy having adult children.

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #91.

What’s top of my mind: my ankle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was interesting to see inside my own leg.

Where I’m going: nowhere.

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

Where I’ve been: out for New Year’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m watching: The Last of Us.

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

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

What I’m listening to: birds.

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

It’s a lovely little nostalgia thing.

What I’m eating: pizza.

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

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

What I’m planning: holidays.

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

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

Irrational but there you go.

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

Who deserves a thumbs-up: You do.

Yes, you absolutely do!

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

No Wed W’s this week –

Here’s the set up for Christmas Day inside. Ugh. Inside. How strange.

I spent so much time, effort and money and making the gardens look beautiful for the Big Day, and in the end no one saw it.

I wrote about our day HERE on the other blog. Pop across and have a look. It has a different Dad joke… it’s better than this one, to be honest.

I’ve suddenly got my quilting mojo back so I’m going to be going into my sewing room and actually using it for the first time in a year…

Have a happy few days between Christmas and New Year! Always a strange time of year.

Dad joke of the day:

Wed… Thursday W’s: Happy.

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

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

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

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

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

Where I’m going: Nowhere, I hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had a ball.

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

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

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

I’m loving this series.

What I’m listening to: Assorted podcasts.

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

What I’m eating: porridge with stewed fruit.

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

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

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

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

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

Who needs a thumbs-up: The shutter company.

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

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

See how they collapse against each other at the side?

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

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

What has made me smile: Looking around me.

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

What more could any reasonable person want?

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #89.

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

Some unkind people might say that this is nothing unusual.

Where I’m going: Nowhere.

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

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

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

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

What I’m reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m eating: A roast dinner.

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

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

What I’m planning: Christmas Day.

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

Who needs a thumbs-up: My parents.

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

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

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

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

What has made me smile: the dogs.

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #88.

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

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

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

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

Where I’m going: Specsavers.

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

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

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

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

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

(I’m a delicate flower…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m listening to: RATS.

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

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

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

What I’m eating: Salad from the garden.

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

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

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

What I’m planning: Christmas Day.

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

Who needs a thumbs-up: Ryan28.

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

What has made me smile: Scout.

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

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

Wednesday W’s #87.

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

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

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

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

Where I’m going: The Ghost Walk.

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

Where I’ve been: A Christmas Carol.

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

What I’m reading: Lots!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m eating: it was almost takeaway…

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

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

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

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

Who needs a thumbs-up: Izzy and Dvid30.

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

What has made me smile: Lazy Housewife beans.

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

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

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

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #18: June 2023 – Royal Botanical Gardens.

The next excursion on my “use up the voucher I got for Christmas 3 years ago” was a half-hour drive around the Botanical Gardens. Now obviously I wasn’t expecting this to be the most wildly exciting 30 minutes of my life, but it was actually a nice way to spend a beautiful sunny day in the city.

If you squint, you might be able to make out “Merry Christmas” on the walking bridge.

Festive bollards.

Living so close to the station as I do, it’s so easy for me to get to the city. Jump on the train and glide right in. Take a book from my bag, get immersed in it – this time it was Stephen King’s ‘Holly’ – and before I know it, we’re coming into Flinders St station.

I decided I’d walk to where the tour begins. The Tourist Centre for the Gardens is tucked around behind the Shrine, right next to the Observatory, so it’s not a long walk. I set off, deciding that I was going to treat Melbourne like a tourist.

But a few metres down the road, something didn’t feel right. I had my big leather handbag with me, so I could fit my book, my lunch and all the other things that we carry with us, which is the very same bag I travelled with on my last trip for 5 weeks.

I was walking with it slung over my right shoulder. Casually, with no regard for pick-pockets and thieves. That’s not how a tourist wears their bag!!!! At the next traffic light, I slung my shoulder strap across my body, making sure the bag opening was against my hip. I fished out my phone, holding it so that if a photo op presented itself, I’d be ready. My Antarctica Pee Bottle was dangling from my other hand, filled with peppermint water to minimise my cough.

Ahhh. NOW I felt like a tourist! I set off with renewed vigour. Let’s see the sights!

As I walked past the Arts Centre and along St Kilda Road, I was reminded of the morning that I walked along the streets of Santiago in Chile, looking for the Sculpture Park. As I got to the Victorian College of the Arts, I stopped at a bench outside and ate lunch, reading a little more from my book as I did. Then I kept walking.

Looking at the open expanse of green and huge trees on the other side of the road, I thought, ‘If I was a tourist here, I’d think this city was beautiful.’

Trams rattled past and when I saw the Shrine, I crossed the road and walked up the steps to see it.

I remember Mum bringing us kids here. I’ve been back to the Gardens since then, of course, but never back here. I didn’t have time to go in and explore, but I walked around the outside. I still remember seeing the Tomn]b of the Unknown Soldier, but he’ll have to wait for another time for another visit.

Here is the Eternal Flame. The idea behind it is eternal life: if the flame never dies, then so will the memory of those who have fallen.

This statue has two parts. There’s another WWI soldier on the other side.

He’s staring resolutely ahead, standing on a German helmet. He means business.

This is representing the people left behind when a soldier is killed.

This was my favourite one. I remember learning about Simpson and his donkey when I was in primary school. Here’s his story from Wikipedia:

Simpson landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 with the 3rd Field Ambulance as part of the 1st Australian Division. In the early hours of the following day, as he was bearing a wounded comrade on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey and quickly began making use of it to carry his fellow soldiers. Simpson would sing and whistle, seeming to ignore the bullets flying through the air, while he tended to his comrades.

He used at least five different donkeys, known as “Duffy No. 1”, “Duffy No. 2”, “Murphy”, “Queen Elizabeth” and “Abdul” at Gallipoli; some of the donkeys were killed and/or wounded in action. He and the donkeys soon became a familiar sight to the Anzacs, many of whom knew Simpson by nicknames such as “Scotty” (in reference to his ancestry) and “Simmy”. Simpson himself was also sometimes referred to as “Murphy”. Other Anzac stretcher bearers began to emulate Simpson’s use of the donkeys.

Colonel (later General) John Monash wrote: “Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

Other contemporary accounts of Simpson at Gallipoli speak of his bravery and invaluable service in bringing wounded down from the heights above Anzac Cove through Shrapnel and Monash gullies. However, his donkey service spared him the even more dangerous and arduous work of hauling seriously wounded men back from the front lines on a stretcher.

On 19 May 1915, during the Third attack on Anzac Cove, Simpson was killed by machine gun fire.

Private Victor Laidlaw, with the 2nd Field Ambulance, wrote in his diary of Simpson’s death:

Another fatality I found out today – was a private in the 1st Field Ambulance, he had been working between the base and the firing line bringing down wounded on a donkey, he had done invaluable service to our cause. One day he was bringing down a man from the trenches and coming down an incline he was shot right through the heart, it is regretted on all sides as this chap was noticed by all, and everybody got to know him, one couldn’t miss him as he used to always work with his donkey, cheerful and willing, this man goes to his death as a soldier.[18][19]

After I crossed the road to the Botanical Gardens and found the minibus, we all tootled around the gardens for half an hour. I had a fat German tourist sitting next to me on the left, which turned out to be the side with all the best photo ops… just for anyone who might do the same tour one day, so here are some shots that I was able to snap.

This is in the Oak Grove. A massive tree fell, so they left the stump and put lengths of the rest of the tree around as a gathering place.

FINALLY! Something on my side of the bus. I liked the texture of this one.

Part of the Fern Gully. I remember when Scott came out to Australia in 2019??? we walked here, then sat in a gazebo overlooking the gully and had a fine old natter.

Another nice tree trunk.

This arid garden is called ‘The Volcano.’ Can’t say I really see it, myself.

Peaceful.

Look at that tree!

First view of the lake. The driver said that it used to be part of the Yarra, but 100 years ago it was separated.

And then back into the hustle and bustle. I thought I’d post of shot of one of Melbourne’s iconic trams.

I jumped on one and was back to Flinders st in a trice. Had a dream run… only had to wait 5 minutes for a train and was back home by 4:30.

All in all, this was a nice little afternoon, making memories. I have a much clearer idea of where things are in the Gardens now, which I’ll be taking advantage of in the future.

Dad joke of the day:

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