I went food shopping today.

Anyone who thinks children become less expensive when they’re adults is fooling themselves.

I went to Costco, Coles and Aldi today. (It was a spend day.)

I spent almost $500 on food, cleaning supplies and pet food.

I’ll pour myself a glass of shiraz and I’ll try to forget about this total…

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Skinflint Sunday: it’s the little things.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

When we moved to The Best House in Melbourne, I brought a lime verbena plant with me that I’d owned for a couple of years. I have 3 lemon verbena plants, but the lime verbena was the only one I’d ever seen, and I prefer the herbal tea from the leaves. When I moved in, I intelligently put the big lime verbena pot in a section of the back yard where I couldn’t see it from the house. Unsurprisingly, it died. I’ve been looking for another one to replace it ever since, but not even Diggers has it.

Until… a search on eBay found a nursery up in Queensland called Mudbrick. I’m now the proud owner of 2 lime verbena and 2 lemongrass plants. What with all the clothes and shoes I’ve been buying and now the plants, I’m becoming quite fond of internet shopping. If I didn’t have to work, I might choose to never leave this house again!

Now, THIS is a shed. Ok, it’s more utilitarian rather than beautiful, but David25 assembled it himself for me. Now that the landscaping has been done in the backyard, the only grass we have is in the front, so I bought a bike shed from Aldi and David25 has been working over the past few days to put it together.

He’s made me promise to never buy anything like this from Aldi again. The diagrams made him go all sweary at certain points. However, it’s now up and the lawn mower is no longer taking pride of place in the Man Cave, otherwise known as the second living room. It’s such a relief to have it out of here.

Considering David25 has only lived with me as a parenting role model, the fact that he’s able to put something like this together is a huge source of pride to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it in a pink fit!

Yesterday’s harvest for dinner. Before you go thinking this is very impressive, this colandar fits into a thermomix, so these potatoes range from the size of a golf ball to the sizes of marbles. But even though the soil is so poor, there’s definitely more ptoatoes in the garden bed now than when I planted them, so that’s encouraging.

The Purple King beans were originally given to me by Bev from foodnstuff in 2012. They are one of the few crops which is starting to grow well. Every year I keep back a few bean seeds to plant the following year. 

This last shot makes me so happy. My tromboncino zucchini plants are doing well. For the first time since moving here, I’ll be going back to work with lots of 200g bags of chopped zucchini in the fridge, ready to be added to lots and lots of meals.

The first one I picked made 2 zucchini slices and these 5 bags. Not bad.

R.I.P…

I’m reading ‘Lethal White’ by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K Rowling.) I can’t put the bloody thing down! I started it this morning and I’m up to page 460 already. Every time I put it aside to do something, like feed myself, I race back, pick it up and keep galloping through. If you haven’t come across the Cormoran Strike books yet, do yourself a favour and hunt them down. I bought the first one in an op shop in England.

Happy times.

Posted in books, gardening, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 2 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Part of my new year is that I want to be a bit more accountable for various things around the place this year. I’ve blogged about my “No Spend Days” chart which works really well for tracking my spending and making any spending I do a lot more intentional. I thought I’d try expanding this idea and seeing if I’ll be motivated to Get More Things Done throughout the week.

I decided to colour green when I hit the mark for every day of the week. A yellow if I only miss one day. I decided to have the yellow after I realised that it might be a bit de-motivating if something unexpected happened, (like yesterday, a friend dropped in so the dogs missed their walk and I didn’t write), so I can at least jump back on the horse and have a chance of colouring a square in at the end of the week.

Though… it’s hard enough during the holidays. Lord knows how I’ll go once I’m back at work!

It’ll be interesting to see how many green squares I get as time goes on.

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Simple things.

On the 29th December Ryan23 became Ryan24. I made him pancakes for breakfast and he ate 5.

Christmas was lovely. I now have 2 more books to add to the pile of books beside my bed. 25 at last count! I’ve decided to graciously accept defeat with my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year. I was going for 80 books but I fell short by 7. I’m reading the Jordan Peterson book and the novel that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize (thanks Tom26!), but I’ll slow down on them until 2019. I might as well give myself a little head start on the 80 book challenge for next year. I’ll keep aiming for it until I hit it.

My veggie garden is trying its best to produce things to eat. The garden bed where I put all of the coffee grounds and crushed eggshells is producing Tromboncino zucchini like there’s no tomorrow, but the pumpkins and Black Jack zucchinis up in the wicking beds have withered.

After a slow start, the beans have decided to come on. You can see that the Lazy Housewife beans have burst through the netting. I’m pretty pleased about that. I thought the blackbirds had dug up all the seeds, but they have lived to fight another day.

The soil in the wicking beds is clearly impoverished. When the wicking beds were first put in, I planted these celery plants. They are still tiny and struggling, poor things.

Black Jack zucchini plant, up in the wicking beds. It was planted about 3 weeks before the tromboncino zucchini that has gone nuts in the other bed. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be getting too many zucchini slices out of this one!

Some of the tomatoes have produced fruit, though not nearly as much as back in the old garden.

This is the ‘Rapunzel’ that David25 gave me for my birthday. I’ll save some seed from it, build up the soil over winter and give it another go next year.

The spring onions that he gave me are trying their best to grow.

Not everything is hopeless. We’ve had 3 meals’ worth of butter beans.

The Bellotti beans are growing and providing shade for the worm farms.

The seed for next year’s snow peas.

I’ve decided to let these plants do their thing over summer and then I’ll let them lie fallow over winter. I’ll keep adding coffee grounds, eggshells and compost, while the worms in the feeding stations will still be adding their stuff to the beds. I might even plant some green manure crops to add more nutrients to the soil. Blogless Adrian, at work, did that last winter at his place. He waited 6 weeks after dogging it all in and he said that it’s worked wonders for his soil.

Miss Scout is our absolute joy and delight. She’s a ‘big’ girl now – 2 and a half years old – and she has so much personality stuffed into that tiny body of hers. Every dachshund forum I’ve seen says how disobedient and stubborn they are, but she’s nothing like that. She certainly loves her pack and her people, even the boys who don’t live here. You should have seen her practically turn herself inside out when Tom26 turned up to stay for a few days at Christmas! We can’t imagine life without her.

Poppy is still my spirit animal. Wherever I go, she goes, unless someone else is in the kitchen. The minute my feet hit the ground, even if she’s dead asleep, she’s suddenly up and ready to go for the next ‘adventure’.

Jeffrey just likes to guard the perimeter of the property and to sleep. The dog next door has moved in and there’s been a couple of barking matches at the side fence, but our dogs are constantly indoors with us so it hasn’t been too much of a drama. I hope that next year when we’re all at uni or work, they don’t drive the neighbourhood nuts.

***

A couple of days ago I went to Doyles in Mordialloc for a high school reunion. My school doesn’t exist any more, so this was an unofficial one that people in my year level have been doing for a while. They weren’t really in my circle of friends back in the day – too popular and sporty – (that’s them, not me!!) – but it’s amazing what the passage of time will do.

“So, Frogdancer, what have you been doing for the last 40 years?” said one guy. Geeze… that’s a bit scary. It was a lovely afternoon. I ended up staying for 5 hours, just chatting away with people. It’s amazing how similar some of our stories are, and how different others are.

Over the next few days, I’ll be sorting through my spending for the year and seeing how everything went. It’s been an expensive year at The Best House in Melbourne, what with the landscaping work costing 50K – and it’s still not finished… but Old Lady Frogdancer will be very glad all of the work has been done. She’s going to love pottering around here.

 

 

Posted in books, Children., Quality of life | 10 Comments

In defence of Santa and my epic Christmas tree.

It’s Christmas Eve!! Look at this naughty girl up on the couch like a cat. On the coffee table behind her you can see the book I’m on at the moment. I set myself a Goodreads challenge of reading 80 books this year. I’m on number 73. Can I make it???

There’s also a purple ball of cotton yarn there. I’ve been making washcloths to go with the soap I made for people for Christmas.

In true Frogdancer form, I only got the idea to do this three weeks ago. I’ve been knitting like a maniac since then.

People have been really appreciative of them. God, I love Christmas!

Long-term readers will remember that when I had my huge trip to the UK and Europe, Scott put me onto buying Christmas tree decorations as low-weight, small souvenirs. It didn’t stop me buying enough to have to ship a large box of things home, but it does mean that I have a highly individual tree every year.

 

This year I bought things from North Korea and China. This little doll was bought at the cultural exchange centre in the middle of Pyongyang. I was getting a bit worried that I wouldn’t find anything appropriate from the DPRK to put on the tree, so I was so happy when I saw these!

She’s next to the Santa I bought in the Black Forest in Germany.

Hamlet holding Yorick’s head. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.” I bought this on the epic challenge day in Stratford-on-Avon. We wanted to see the 5 Shakespeare sites in an afternoon. We made it.

Obviously, when I went to China I needed something to go on the Christmas tree. I bought this at Mao’s tomb. He joins Napoleon’s hat, Richard III’s signature on a key-ring and Henry VIII and his six wives.

And Mary Queen of Scots. This year we put her next to the English telephone booth with robins on it that I bought in Bath. It’s the closest she’s ever likely to get to England.

Here’s my happy Scottish Santa that I bought with my friend Pam in the Georgian house’s gift shop in Edinburgh, next to the grumpy German puppet thing I bought in the Black Forest.

Another China decoration. This time it’s a wooden bookmark from the Forbidden City.

This was going to be a quick post that I put together on Christmas Eve, but it’s taken ages. When I was reading through the posts that I’ve linked to, I was amazed at how much I’d forgotten. Best Decision Ever to blog as I was travelling. I hope you enjoy seeing some of these places with me.

Before I wrote this post, I was on twitter and I saw a tweet from a blogging friend of mine about how they don’t ‘do’ Santa with their little boy. It got me thinking and remembering, so I put a post together on the other blog called “In Defence of Santa – from a Value-ist.”

Please take the time to read it, especially those of you who have watched the boys growing up. 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone! May your days be jolly!

Posted in balance, Children., holidays, memories, Quality of life | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Probably the most educational part of my classes.

Today I spent a happy couple of hours trawling the internet looking for fresh Dad jokes for my classes. About 6 months ago I had the brilliant idea of putting a Dad joke up on the board at the beginning of every lesson.

The kids were bewildered at first, but it didn’t take them long to get into it and really look forward to them. If I ever forget to write one up, they’ll ask where the Dad joke is. It’s a bit of fun.

It’s also a good teaching tool. Sometimes these jokes rely on twisting old sayings around, or changing the spelling of a word, or playing with a well-known fact. If some kids don’t get the joke of the day, their friends (or myself) will explain it to them. Teaches them a few bits and bobs that up until now had escaped them.

I needed a couple of hundred new ones for my new classes. I decided this was clearly the best use of my professional time that was earmarked as preparation time for next year.

Here are 10 of the best jokes I found today.

  1. Someone keeps sending me flowers with the heads cut off. I think I’ve got a stalker.
  2. What do you call a priest who sleepwalks? A roaming Catholic.
  3. Why did the hipster burn his mouth drinking coffee? Because he drank it before it was cool.
  4. I was asked to help design the first Monopoly board. I thought, ‘I’ll give it a go…’
  5. You gotta hand it to short people. Because we can’t reach it on our own.
  6. What do you call a herd of sheep tumbling down a hill? A lambslide.
  7. A bloke told me that he was going to attack me with the neck of a guitar. I said, “Is that a fret?”
  8. I just got hit by a rental car. It Hertz.
  9. What do you call a nervous javelin thrower? Shakespeare.
  10. I hate spelling errors. You mix up two letters and your whole sentence is urined.

I have many more – I needed to find 200. It was a lovely way to spend the third-last day of the school year. Only 2 days to go!!!

Posted in Just for fun., work | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Water crisis!

When the landscaper attached the watering system to the tank at the side of the house, I was rapt. Until I turned the tap and no water came out. It’s been raining all through winter, so I knew the tank was full. We started to talk about repriming the pump, until David25 rapped the side of the tank and said, “I think it’s empty.”

He grabbed a chair and jumped up to take a look at the top.

“Hey, Mum, have you noticed all these plants growing here?” he asked.

“No, how can I? I’m too short,” I replied.

What with all the dust and dirt being thrown up by the house next door being built, the tank was totally blocked and wasn’t being filled. Of course, we find this out just as we’re entering summer.

We still had to check if the pump was working, so we filled the tank about a quarter-full from the mains water.

The only tap nearby is at the other end of the house, so you get to see the new fence and paving.

After a while, I tested it out. Success!

This all happened 5 days ago. This morning I walked into my ensuite and I could hear water gurgling into the tank. Melbourne is forecast to have a month’s worth of rain today, so the tank should be filled very quickly.

I’ve never been so glad to be caught in a deluge.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

Posted in gardening | 3 Comments

Boring comes before fun. Sad but true.

Proof that my son can use an Allen key! I asked him to send a photo when he put the bed together. 🙂

Work at The Best House in Melbourne has ramped up a notch. The wicking garden beds are trying their best to produce crops, but the soil is so poor that most of the plants are turning yellow, or they’re desperately producing fruit – capsicums, chillies and tomatoes are the main culprits – trying to reproduce before they die.

I’m still bringing home compost materials every workday from school and last weekend I had my first compost bin’s worth of compost ready to spread onto the garden. It was a gardening nerd’s dream! I spread out the compost over a couple of sections that weren’t being used yet, dug them in and covered them with mulch. They’ll percolate away over summer and by next autumn, the soil in those sections should be SO much better.

So I had to decide whether to make my next project a fun one – (ie: build the roof over the lower backyard and thus have my outdoor room) or to finish off the boring part of the paving – (ie: the pebbly sections along each side of the house that weeds grow through.)

Then I had a chat with my new neighbour.

He and his wife have had a nightmare experience with building a house. It was supposed to take a year, but it was 3 years before they were able to move in. They’re taking the builders to court because there are so many issues. The poor things have 4 kids under 4 – they went for baby number 3 and ended up with twins.

They also have 2 staffies who hate small dogs. As you all know, you can’t get much smaller than Scout. She’s about 4 inches tall. Poppy and Jeff have just had a massive amount of tooth extractions, so they’d be useless at defending anybody if it came to a fight. The crumbling, 40-year-old side fence was clearly not up to the task of keeping these animals apart.

Fortunately, we’re all on the same page. I said that I didn’t want to find his dogs coming through the doggie door after my pets, and Dave-Next-Door said, “Yeah. And I don’t want to have my dogs put down.” So this fence will look a bit like Fort Knox.

My landscaper said that it’d be easier to do the side paving once the fence was up, so my decision was made for me. The boring yet practical jobs had to come before the fun one.

This more than brings the money I saved from selling the house to an end, so any further jobs will be cash-flowed from my wage. At least that gives me a reason to go to work with a spring in my step, if I’m working towards projects. 🙂

The paving has started and should be finished by the end of this week. I also got him to install a watering system for the non-wicking beds. He did that in a day, which amazed me until he said that when he installed the paving in the yard he ran a pipe underneath for the watering and another in case I ever wanted to install outdoor lighting.

The fence is a work in progress. It’s nearly finished, so maybe by the weekend everything will be done and I can let the dogs out without having them race over to next door’s place to play with their kids.

Only two weeks to go until the school year is finished. My reports and marking are done, so it’s a smooth ride down to the end of the year.

Can’t WAIT for the holidays!

 

Posted in gardening, pets, Quality of life, renovating, vegetables, wicking beds | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Evan22 moves into a REAL student household.

Hooray! I’m back! And this is a picture of The Playboy Mansion. (More of that shortly.)

The last of the marking for the school year has been done, we’re swinging into the last week of formal classes and our glorious 5 weeks of summer holidays are galloping towards us faster than you can say lickety-split. So much has been happening, but I thought I’d catch you all up on Evan22’s latest.

He has been an integral part of this blog right from the beginning, back in September 2007 on my very first blog post. He was so interested in what I was writing about and he’s grown up with the blog being part of his life from then on. Earlier this year you saw how he moved out of home to go and live in Ballarat in the Halls of Residence at Fed Uni when he started his acting course. He had to move out of there in November and he and 3 girls have decided to rent a house together. Hence ‘The Playboy Mansion’.

Last weekend we drove up there with a carload of stuff. We went to IKEA first to buy him another bed. When he left the old house and moved into The Best House in Melbourne with David25, Ryan23 and me, I bought him a double bed from IKEA as a ‘welcome home.’ He was going to take the bed apart and take it up to Ballarat with him, but then I realised that if he did that, I’d just have to get another bed to fill that room. I may as well keep the double bed and buy him a new one. Same/Same.

He looked at me and asked…”Could it please be a Queen-sized bed???” How can I resist those twinkling little eyes? Besides, I have a queen-sized bed and he’s FAR taller than I am. So we swung by IKEA, grabbed a mattress, bed base, mattress protector, some fitted sheets and a few other bits and bobs that he needed, and then we hit the road for Ballarat. It was a beautiful day and I was pleased that I was going to spend some time with my boy, trapped in the car beside me as he was.

Here he is, unpacking the car. I was really pleased to be able to see where he was going to be living so I can picture him in my mind. The girls have the main house, while he has a self-contained sleepout out the back. When he told me about it I was picturing some povvo enclosed verandah with louvres for windows which, given Ballarat’s awful winter climate – it actually SNOWS there sometimes!! – would be awful. However, he’s found himself a pretty sweet pad.

He was telling me that the landlord bought the place when his child was going to Uni there about 10 years ago and he’s rented it out to students ever since. There’s a rolling stock of third years leaving Ballarat and first and second years like Evan22 needing places to rent. Sound like the perfect set-up for a landlord to me!

This couch was one that the previous tenant left behind. It’s comfy enough to sleep on, and given Evan22’s hospitable nature, I’m sure some of his friends will be testing this out after a few parties.

He’s paying the most for his room at $150/week. He’s eligible for Centrelink benefits of being a full-time mature-aged student who is living out of home, but this rent will still stretch his budget. He plans on either working full-time during the long Uni holidays or picking up part-time work through the year.

Evan22 didn’t have a smooth ride to university. During his year 12 studies, he was adamant that he wasn’t going to be funnelled into attending uni – he even made a Media Studies film about how the ATAR turned students into zombies.

Of course, you can imagine how delighted this made me feel – a teacher firmly embedded in the education system! But if there’s one thing being a mother of 4 and a teacher of 4,000 has taught me – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So my little pony took a Gap Year, then another one and another one.

For the first 2 years, he worked in a fruit shop around the corner. Then he got a job in an office with a couple of his school friends and worked full-time. I didn’t know this at the time, but he’d already decided that he wanted to do an acting or writing course somewhere and he knew he’d need to have cash stashed to bankroll it.

Then, last year he auditioned, got into Ballarat and was on his way.

After we finished unpacking, I whisked him off to lunch at the Pancake Kitchen. My little vegetarian needed a full stomach before taking that Allen key and putting his bed together!

The 3 years he spent getting his head together have really paid off. When he left school he was a bit directionless. He knew he wanted to do something creative with his life but he wasn’t sure what. Working in the fruit shop gave him great skills dealing with the General Public – (hate those guys!)- while working in the office confirmed to him that, though he loved his co-workers, this wasn’t the environment for him.

He’s pouring his heart and soul into his course. I’ve never seen him work harder at anything before. Even he’s a bit surprised about how organised and ordered he is about his studies. He has a whiteboard that I used to use for my Thermomix team meetings when I had my business and he uses it to draw up a weekly schedule. He’s reading aloud 20 minutes a day to improve his pitch and timbre. He isn’t carrying on with his ballet classes but he loves tap and has elected to keep tippety-tapping away next year. I asked if he wanted to go to the supermarket with me after lunch so I could stock up his kitchen for him.

“No thanks,” he said cheerily. “I’ve got plenty of food already.”

It’s almost as if an adult has stolen the body of my child…

 

Posted in Children., Quality of life | 3 Comments

More random musings as kids write. Or do grammar. Or read.

  • A couple of days ago I went to the auction of one of the townhouses that were built on my old property. It was a real ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. I was able to see if I’d made the right decision to sell the block with fully approved plans instead of going ahead with the build. Turns out I did. The auction had only one bid – a vendor bid of 1.525 Million, so it was passed in without selling. As I drove away I was so thankful that I’d sold when I did. Imagine the stress if I’d had to pay another 15 months of bridging finance at 3K/month, only to fail to sell at the last minute? Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again! Here’s the link to the post I wrote about it on the other blog, complete with photos of the townhouse. The builders did a really good job and I’m sure it’ll sell soon. I’m just not sure that they’ll get the price they clearly want for it.
  • I’ve let my year 8’s listen to music as they do their grammar. It’s amazing how quieter they are with headphones stuffed into their ears.
  • I received a text from the landscaper yesterday as I was having lunch at a wnery on the Mornington Peninsula. He’s starting work back at the house today, paving with reclaimed bricks around each side of the house, digging drainage underneath so that there’ll be no flooding problems later on. The garden beds in the back that are not wicking beds will have a watering system attached. This will mean that the rest of the money that I saved from the sale of the house will be finished, so the roof over the lower level in the backyard will have to wait until I can cash-flow it.
  • To add to the expenses, the new next-door neighbours want to put in a new side fence. After I heard about their Staffy that hates small dogs, I wanted a sturdy fence put in, too! It’s going to be the tallest we can have, running the entire length of the property. $1,200. The thing that I like about having both jobs done at the same time is that the landscaper will pave directly up to the new fence, meaning that no one will be able to dig in or out. My dogs wouldn’t stand a chance against a staffy.
  • Every now and then I look up from my keyboard and I see a kid grooving to the funky beat in total silence. It’s pretty funny.
  • Two minutes till the bell. Better get ready for the next lesson in the double period – Letters to the Editor.
Posted in work | 2 Comments