Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

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:


  1. Belinda

    Your house is beautiful! Love those shutters. I have them on my windows but also didn’t realise you can get them for doors – they look great. They are easy to clean as well. Hard work eventually pays off doesn’t it? In all aspects of life. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and here’s hoping 2024 is a good one. I retired in November and I’m so enjoying not getting up to an alarm and having the whole week ahead of me free from work commitments. It’s the best!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I agree with you about retirement. I just wish that the dogs would let me sleep in more.

  2. Cedar

    Lovely shutters and a wonderfully full car boot.

    Can we see the plants now they’re in the ground please? I’d like to get a good look at how beautiful the garden is.

    Enjoy the festive break with your family Frogdancer (and comments section)

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I saw this reply and didn’t comment, thinking I’d take the photos on Christmas Day.
      Well, it was teeming down with rain and so we had Christmas indoors.
      I’ll wander around when it gets sunnier. 🙂

  3. Josie

    Your place looks so restful – a wonderful place to enjoy retirement!
    I would love a list of your top reads of the year. Thanks to you, I’ve enjoyed the Thursday Murder Club series, the Murderbot Diaries, Jane Harper, and many others! Your recommendations are much more reliable that all those famous book clubs! Have a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Ok, I’ll give you a book that I recommend you DON’T read. ‘Black Sheep’ by Judy Nunn. Here’s my review: read a lot of books each year – this one is my 106th for 2023 – and I can confidently say that rarely have I read such complete twaddle.
      Stupid plot, shallowly drawn characters… I would have thrown it aside but I’d already put it on my ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads and I want to reach my goal of 110 by the end of the year, so I gritted my teeth and ploughed through.
      I feel sad for every other author whose writing actually DESERVED the massive publicity that this novel received. There are far more competent writers who should have had multiple copies of their books at every cash register in Target and Big W etc. It’s a shame that this godawful book will earn its author money.

  4. Maureen Carreau

    I’m also taking your recommendation on Thursday Murder Club series, thank you very much. Your activities in the garden are keeping me motivated through the long, cold, dark up here in the north.

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