A week into lockdown at Frogdancer’s place.

Scout brought home a tummy bug. She was very sick for a couple of days, but she’s bounced back now!

(This post is a cut and paste of the one just published on the FI/RE blog. If you’ve already read it, you’ll get deja vu if you read this one.)

So it’s been a week since schools shut down when the school holidays were brought forward by 4 days and we’re now in official ‘school holiday’ time. Lockdown was officially brought in on Saturday night (I think), so what has been going on here while the country grinds slowly to a halt?

David26 packing his bags to move over to his girlfriend’s place. She lives at home with her parents…

We had the uncomfortable chat with adult kids that a lot of families are having, especially since the new laws came in forbidding meetings of more than 2 people. David26 was over at Izzy’s place when all of this came into effect. For newer readers, Izzy is immunocompromised as she’s fighting leukaemia. After checking with Izzy’s family, David26 has elected to stay there for the duration.

He came back, masked and gloved, to pack some clothes, food and musical equipment. He’s spending his days helping Izzy’s Dad with major renovations on their house, (aka learning some manly skillz) and writing lots of music with Izzy. He’s happy.

Evan23, facetiming from Ballarat. Strike a pose!

Evan23 is up in Ballarat with the other people from his acting course. This photo was what he sent after I said that his hair looked lustrous. It made me laugh! Apple doesn’t fall far, as they say. He’s moved into the share house that his girlfriend lives in, along with one of the other podcast guys. Lots of board games, lots of drinking, lots of painting. He bought canvases and paint as part of his panic buying before the lockdown.

Tom28 is an accountant and so far he’s been able to hang onto his job. We have long phone calls nearly every day.

Fortunately, I’m sharing lockdown with the quietest and most introverted son. Our house is blissfully quiet. The only sounds I hear, apart from his lectures from his uni course, are music or ‘Animal Crossing’ drifting from his room. We have little chats, then part to do our own things, then we meet up again to share things we’ve seen online etc. It’s chilled.

I posted this shot below, after a wonderful moment on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been back since, because on Sunday little Scout came down with a tummy bug and was really quite sick for a couple of days. Then, just as she was getting better, Jeffrey came down with it.

Jeff this morning.

Jeffrey was VERY sick. So sick that I took him to the vet at 8 AM yesterday. She couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so directed me to feed him boiled chicken and rice. This morning he ate some, the first food he’s had for over 2 days. He then wagged his tail. I’d say he’s turning the corner. Phew!

Correction still goes on…

I had to bring home some correction and I was getting kids who had self-isolated earlier to send me work via email, so I was still keeping busy in the last few weeks of term. One poor little boy, who only scored 4/30 on his grammar test, sent me what sounded like a chirpy little email after I released his mark to him.

Something along the lines of “Hi Ms Jones! Could you please send me my grammar test so my Mum and tutor can go over it with me? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!”

Poor kid. That’s the LAST thing anyone would want. His Mum was almost certainly standing by his shoulder, dictating what to type. I’d already given him 15 extra minutes to complete the test, as I knew he struggles with English. Fortunately – or UNfortunately, depending on whether you’re the student or his Mum – his was a test I’d brought home. So I photo-ed the pages and emailed them across.

Another chirpy email thanked me. Poor kid…

The new fence – naked.

One of the projects I want to get done is to paint the front fence. Over the fullness of time, the lawn will be mostly replaced by garden beds. It’ll be an oasis. The following photo is the colour scheme I’ve chosen.

Soon…

My parents have been gallivanting around, so I had a stern talking-to with them. They’re over 80, for God’s sake. Anyway, after this, they’ll either heed what I say or they just won’t tell me. After all we’ve been through with them, health-wise, over the past year, you’d think they’d be more sensible.

My first pumpkin.

Look at this fine pumpkin! I’ve never been able to grow them before, but the compost materials I’ve been bringing home from work, coupled with the wicking beds, have brought forth a bonanza of pumpkins. I’m so happy. This one was so heavy it fell off the vine, so Ryan25 brought it in. It’s sitting next to the tromboncino zucchini seeds I’m drying for next year.

Ryan25 just came in to tell me that it looks like Australia is starting to flatten out the curve, which is good news. Meanwhile in the US, this is happening:

It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. It’s a time to quietly enjoy our nearest and dearests and live life at a slower pace. It’s Wednesday morning at 10:30 and I’m still sitting on the couch in my pjs. On a normal Wednesday I would have taught 2 classes by now! Jeff is snoring beside me, Ryan25 is playing some 80’s music and the sun is shining. I’ll have brunch and get out into the garden today, I think.

Stay safe! Stay home!

Posted in backyard beach, balance, Children., family., gardening, pets, Quality of life, vegetables, wicking beds | 2 Comments

Reusable toilet "paper."

1 metre of flannelette makes 16 wee wipes.

I first heard about wee wipes on the Simple Savings website, back when the kids were little. I was desperately looking for ways to trim money from my grocery budget, but at first sight I wasn’t a fan.

“Eewww!” Wiping yourself with cloth after you do a pee and then washing the cloth? How disgusting!”

But then a few hours later, the logic kicked in. Toilet paper is a recent invention in the course of human history. Using cloth to wipe after urinating, putting the wipes in a bleach solution and then regularly washing them – seems like it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to do. After all, we do the same for babies with nappies!

Back then, I grabbed a worn-out towel and hemmed all the edges. I used those suckers for around 2 years. I had a lidded bucket that I kept in the laundry trough, away from small boys and it was easy to keep the routine going. No one knew… not even the boys.

I don’t think I saved a huge amount of money, but it was more getting into that whole survival mindset of making every dollar last as far as it could. When things eased up financially, the wee wipes gradually disappeared.

Who cares about precision with these things? Near enough is good enough, baby!

When I was in Spotlight buying quilting supplies a couple of weeks ago, while everyone else was in the supermarkets panic-buying everything they could lay their hands on, I saw that they were selling flannelette for $6/metre. On an impulse I bought a metre. Considering the way toilet paper is still really hard to find, I figured that this was pretty cheap insurance. (And far softer than those scratchy old towel wipes that I used to have!!)

Later that week I grabbed a face washer, used it as a template and cut out 16 wipes. I cut them with pinking shears, but then had my doubts as to whether this would effectively stop them fraying. In the end I grabbed them and ran a line of stitching around the edges before I started using them. I know what I’m like – if I waited until I washed them and saw them fraying, I’d probably never get around to doing the sewing. Best to do it while it was still a New Project.

Easiest sewing EVER!!!!! Quilting is such a finicky thing to do… always matching seams and sewing straight and making sure everything is perfect. But this? My lady bits won’t care if corners are ragged and sewing lines are crooked. I just whacked those babies under that needle one by one and raced around them to get the job done as quickly as possible.

A few cautionary things, should you decide to try this.

1. Force of habit is strong. The first time I decided to test this out, before I realised it I’d reached for the toilet paper and torn off a length – even though I’d literally carried the pile of wee wipes into the ensuite not a minute before. I felt like an idiot.

2. Force of habit is strong. The third time I went to use one, I almost dropped it into the toilet after using it!!!!! Imagine if I had’ve done it???? Erk! It then dawned on my mighty intellect that I don’t have to keep a bucket with bleach in the laundry anymore – the boys are grown, the dogs won’t go near it and no-one uses my ensuite except me. so now I have a bucket right beside the loo.

Having used them for a few days and washed them a couple of times, I have to report back that yes, they have frayed a bit but who cares? and amazingly, they are really nice to use. They feel almost luxurious, which is a weird thing to experience when using something like this. You expect the opposite. Or maybe that was just me remembering those scratchy old wipes made from towels, back in the day!

I’ll keep using these while the toilet paper situation is still running rampant. It keeps our stores going for quite a bit longer, so we’re not out competing with the rest of Melbourne for loo paper. I still use toilet paper for um… toileting situations other than just a simple pee. Just thought I’d better make that clear!

Also, environmentally, using reusable wipes is a better thing for the planet. It’s odd how so many frugal things are also environmentally friendly.

But the most important reason for me having these wipes on hand is below. Today I went out to buy some yeast and when I got home I saw this:

Poppy’s handiwork.

If Poppy keeps trying to unroll the toilet paper to get to the toilet roll so she can play with it, these reusable toilet wipes might become an absolute necessity!!!

And finally, a meme that seems to fit the situation we’re finding ourselves in:

Posted in cleaning, sewing | 3 Comments

Stockpiling. Is it a sin or sensible?

This is a copy of a post I wrote for my FI/RE blog yesterday. I thought it was really relevant to the readers of this blog as well. I’d be interested to hear how you handle this.

My panic buying this week at Bunnings – fence paint and potting mix.

With all that’s been going on around the place with people panic-buying toilet paper and the like, I thought I’d share my views on having a stockpile of food and non-perishables around the house. I’ve had a stockpile for the last 2 decades and I find it a really useful and economical way to run my household.

Going back 20 or so years, (in the time before Aldi), I started building a supply of food and other things when things were on special. I was living on a single parents pension of around 18K/year with 4 small boys to feed, so money was incredibly tight. Over the course of a year or so, I gradually built up the supplies in my pantry so that in the end, I was pretty much buying as much as I could when something was on special.

In other words, we were eating most of our food at a discount. When baked beans, for example, were half price, I’d buy 10 or 20 of them, depending on how much leeway was in that week’s budget. Then we’d gradually eat them down until the next time when they were on sale, when I’d buy the same amount again.

Short-term, this was a more expensive way to run the household, but I’ve rarely been a short-term thinker. Over the course of a year, I’d easily save a few hundred dollars on meat, groceries, pet food and cleaning products. I was so poor that a few hundred dollars made a HUGE difference to our quality of life. The stockpile was worth doing.

When Aldi came to our neighbourhood, it was different. They had no ‘specials’ as such, but their prices were so much lower that I gladly started shopping with them.

And I still kept a stockpile. Why?

I realised that liked having reserves of food and other staples around. I liked not having to run to the shops every time I ran out of an ingredient, because I almost always had a replacement in the back cupboard. It gave me a sense of security and comfort in the fact that if something unexpected happened, I knew I could look after my boys and that we wouldn’t have to go shopping if people were out there acting crazy.

When ‘The Walking Dead’ came along, I christened my stockpile ‘The Zombie Apocalypse Cupboard’ and that’s its name today. Hearing the supermarkets run on a “just in time” policy of stocking their shelves cemented the idea that having a small stash of necessities wasn’t a bad idea.

So, seeing as I’m a bit of a prepper, how has the Jones household been acting in this time of Coronavirus?

I’ve so far been ahead of the wave. I’m a teacher and sooner or later it appears that Australia will have to close the schools down. The only question is when. I fully expect to have to self-isolate at some stage, given that I work in a school with nearly 2,500 kids and 200 teachers. That’s a lot of bodies that the virus would love to inhabit! Given all of that, it made sense to me to get ahead of the game and make sure that we had everything we’d need if we couldn’t leave our house for a while.

Years ago I read an article about the people of Sarajevo when they were caught in the middle of a war zone. It included a list of all the things they most prized. The number one item? Toilet paper, closely followed by matches and perfume. I’ve never forgotten that, so the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard has a dedicated shelf to the old bog rolls. Back in early February, when stories started to surface about this new virus but it was long before any panic-buying, I quietly stocked up on loo paper.

Then, in the next week or two, I bought a few extra tinned and packaged goods. Things like tuna, chickpeas, pineapple chunks (for pizza) and paracetamol. Grain-free dry dog food and the raw meat patties I feed Poppy, Jeff and Scout were also on the list. Dishwasher tablets, aluminium foil and baking paper came soon after that.

By the time I noticed toilet paper shelves were starting to empty pretty rapidly, I was feeling like our food situation was ok. But what would I do with my time if I had to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks? Remote -teaching my students would take up a bit of time. But there’d still be extra hours to fill…

Reading is my #1 passion. I have at least 15 books piled up beside my bed and a huge number waiting to be read on my kindle app. I have Netflix and Foxtel, so the tv viewing and book reading situations will be fine. But what about other things?

While everyone in the last week has been going crazy in the supermarkets, I’ve been at Spotlight quietly buying quilting supplies and at Bunnings buying fence paint for my new front fence, along with decking oil and potting mix.

Stockpiling doesn’t have to be just about the food. I’ve brought the paint buying forward a month or so, but now it’s done.

Though it hasn’t been all fun and games.

Two days ago, David26 and I went to Costco. It was a Tuesday morning, 10 minutes before opening time. David26 was worried about his girlfriend Izzy’s family and wanted to buy a few staples for them. Against my better judgement I agreed to take him.

The premier of Victoria had issued a state of emergency the day before. S**t was starting to get REAL.

It was incredible. When we arrived, there were easily 1,000 people ahead of us in the queue. It snaked around the carpark. David26 and I looked at each other.

“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We probably won’t be able to get toilet paper for them, but we can get other things. And while we’re here, we need a 3L bottle of milk and I could always top up the dogs’ grain-free food. Then, if we’re isolating ourselves at home, the dogs’ll definitely be ok.”

It took us 25 minutes to even get to the front door. By the time we got there the signs were up saying ‘NO MORE TOILET PAPER.” By the time we reached the front of the queue, it was almost twice as long as when we got there.

Mini road-rage spats, with honking horns, were happening in the car park. Just as we reached the front, a police van quietly drove through and parked on the corner, clearly to keep an eye on things. Anyone trying to push into the queue was quickly told where to go… and by that I mean down to the end of the queue, not to go straight to hell!!!

Once we were inside, those massive Costco trolleys were racing around in all directions. People with a wild look in their eyes were grabbing everything they could lay their hands on. There was a limit rule of 2 cans of Glen-20 per membership, but at the cash registers I saw quite a few people who, like David26 and I, had come in a pair, trying to argue that they should be able to take 4 cans. No one got away with it though. The Costco staff were standing firm.

As we were waiting to pay, I whispered to David26, “If this is what it’s like on a Tuesday, imagine what the end of the week will be like if the news doesn’t get better? Not sure I’d want to be here then.”

So, what with my normal preparedness and yesterday’s Costco run, I guess I’ve seen both sides. So which is best?

If you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes to pit yourself against the odds, then yes! Leave everything till the last minute and go out and take your chances.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a sin to be prepared. You don’t want to be THAT guy who has 4,000 rolls of toilet paper lining his garage, but I think it makes sense to have a place set aside for things that you regularly eat/use as a back-up. When things are going wrong, the fewer people who are out on the streets competing for things, the better.

If any (or all of us) gets the virus and feels sick, it’s a comfort to know that we have everything we need to look after ourselves well within reach. By having the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard, we’ve eliminated that anxiety from our lives. If Tom28 has to come home if he has no work and can’t pay his rent, there’s food enough to cover him.

Having a stockpile of the basics eliminates that awful fear of not being able to provide for my family. Twenty-two years ago when I left my husband, I had $60 in cash, 4 small boys and no job. I did a Scarlet O’Hara and vowed that, as God is my witness, these boys will not suffer for what I’ve done. I would provide for them, no matter what.

Having a stockpile is, for me, an essential cushion against misfortune. Or a pandemic. So if you don’t have one at the moment, how do you build one up?

DON’T do what all the frenzied shoppers at Costco are doing. Going by the overloaded trolleys we saw, there are going to be lots of people with a massive credit card bill to pay in the next month. Obviously in this time of Coronavirus, buy what you need to get you through, but as for a stockpile for the future?

Do what I did when I was young and poor. Do it gradually.

Buy extra of the things that you’ll eat when they’re on special. If money is tight, buy an extra one. If you have a few more dollars free, buy multiples. Store them in a line in your pantry/zombie apocalypse cupboard. This is so you can keep track of use-by dates.

If you happen to buy more of a particular item before you’ve used up everything in that particular item in your stockpile, PUT THE NEW CANS/PACKETS AT THE BACK AND MOVE THE OLDER THINGS TO THE FRONT.

This is called rotating your stock. It may not be a sin to have a stockpile but it’s certainly a very bad thing to waste time, money and shelf space on food that you have to throw out because you didn’t use it in a timely fashion.

I’ve read that some people mark their stockpile items with a permanent marker of the date they bought them. Me? Nah. But if that idea floats your boat, go for it.

Over time, as various items come on sale or you have a few extra dollars and can buy a few extra things, your stockpile will build up. It’s a beautiful thing.

Only buy what you and your family like to eat and make sure you rotate your stock. This way, there’s no waste and you always have stores available in case something unexpected happens. It’s the most immediate way to provide a safety net for the ones you love. Having a paid-off house comes second.

Anyway, these are my thoughts on stockpiling. I’m proud to say that my two boys who are living on their own also saw which way the wind was blowing and stocked up on a few non-perishables before the supermarkets got crazy.

I normally don’t ask for comments, but I’m curious as to what you all think. I’ve laid out my history and why I’ve always had a store of food and such in the cupboards. Are you like me? Or do you have another way of navigating the world?

Posted in balance, Independence Days challenge, Quality of life | 16 Comments

Frogdancer Jones turns over a new leaf.

The baby quilt has been finished, showed off at work and then passed across to my nephew and his wife. The baby hasn’t made an appearance yet so the timing has been perfect.

(The border is dog bones, in keeping with the other side of the quilt.)

Here’s the back side, being held by my sister-in-law Jen at the rehab hospital where my brother in now living. Physically, he’s recovering from his stroke pretty well. Cognitively? He still has his good and bad days.

The centre panel of this side of the quilt is a piece of fabric someone gave me AGES ago. I held onto it, thinking, ‘One day this’ll be great for a baby quilt.” Sometimes you just have to wait for the right project to come along.

Jeff, living his best life.

Skyrail has disrupted our access to the dog beach for almost a year. Now, the for the first time, we were back! I took them over earlyish on Thursday morning, which is one of my “off” days now that I’m working part-time. The dogs couldn’t believe their luck.

Scout, making sure that I really didn’t bring a ball, much to her chagrin.

When Scout realised which way we were heading she pulled against the lead so hard she was almost levitating. My plan is to bring them down here for a leisurely walk on my 2 days off, when we’ll have the beach pretty much to ourselves. Jeff is a bit leery of bigger dogs, so it’s more enjoyable when there are fewer dogs to keep an eye on.

10,000 steps! I slept well that night.

Since half my family and friends appear to be falling ill or suffering from deathly diseases, I’ve realised that perhaps I should start to move a little more. I ordered a Fitbit and I’ve set the goal level for 10,000 steps a day. I need to be fitter, so I’m turning over a new leaf and I’m going to be toned and terrific before you know it.

Man! 10,000 steps is hard!!! When I first got it I lived my life as usual, to see what the base-line was. Turns out I’m a lazy person – if I cracked more than 4,000 steps a day it was a miracle.

What I’ve decided to do now is to beat my weekly average each week. Gradually I’ll get used to walking more and my steps will naturally increase. I’ve just come in from half an hour’s yard duty and I’m on 6,205 steps. I still have to walk the dogs when I get home, so maybe today I’ll crack the 10,000…

I’ve had this device since early January and so far I’ve only gone past the 10,000 twice.

Finally, I picked this tomato from my garden last week.

Um… it it just me or does it remind you of… something…?

Posted in backyard beach, balance, gardening, pets, Quality of life, quilting | 1 Comment

Fruitful.

A very small sample of what the garden has produced this summer.

My year 7s are sitting doing a reading test on their computers in total silence, so I thought it’d be a good time to get this neglected blog up-to-date.

Remember how last year – the first year of my new expensive wicking vegetable garden – the soil was awful and hardly anything grew? Well, after bringing home vegetable scraps and coffee grounds all year from work and turning them into compost, things have certainly changed! We have had LITERALLY hundreds of tomatoes spring up, which is insane because I didn’t plant any! Some were from last year’s sickly crop, but most were seeds from the compost I made from the school’s waste.

Free food!!! This makes me happy on so many levels. Beans have gone crazy too and so have the squash.

Each bag will be a bolognaise one day. So far I have 50 of them in the freezer.

I’ve been weighing the tomatoes out in lots of 400g, like a tin, and pairing them with around 200g of squash or zucchini and some herbs and popping them in the freezer in the laundry. By the time this harvest has finished I should have well over 70 bags put away. There’ll be no excuse for getting take-aways when I’m tired now!

Speaking of fast food, I did my annual spend for last year and I spent $1,175 on restaurants and fast food last year. Yikes! Some of these meals would be for when I took people out to see a theatre show and I’d pay for dinner (that’d be the boys!) or going out to lunch with the girls in the holidays etc, but the vast majority of that money was spent at the charcoal chicken or fish and chip shops. This has to stop.

However, some spending is more fun and will last far longer.

Dogs? What dogs?

We now have a new front fence and electric gate that actually works. I can’t tell you how great this is. The dogs are far quieter now that they can no longer see other dogs walking past and I love that I can now sit out on my front verandah with a sneaky G&T on a warm afternoon and not be on display to the whole street.

We’re letting the wood cure for a month or so and then we’ll be painting it. It’s going to look fabulous. If I’d had my ‘druthers, I would have gone for a clinker brick fence, but I’m wary about tagging. If someone spray paints on a brick fence it’s ruined, but with a fence like this I can always paint over it. Tagging doesn’t seem to be all that much of an issue here, but back in the old place every front fence in our street was tagged – except mine. I must’ve taught someone who liked me!!

Scout’s like a velociraptor when it comes to food.

My apple trees went nuts earlier on this year but I decided that 15 apples on a tree that’d been newly transplanted was probably a bit much to ask. So I thinned it out. There are 3 apples still growing – it was more than fesh and blood could stand to pull them all off!

The dogs are used to getting little snacks from the garden. Poppy and Scout clearly wanted to sample.

The view from the back door.

Here’s how the garden looks.

But wait – what is this roof that you see?!?

Can it be – is there a verandah here now?

Oh yeah baby!! This entire backyard is now user-friendly. The top level is for the veggie garden, while the bottom level is shielded from the elements. We can sit out here and enjoy the outdoors without getting burned to a crisp.

Those of you who have met me IRL know that I’m like a vampire. My skin is really pale and I start burning within about 5 seconds of getting out in the sun. After nearly 4 years of living here, I can finally sit out in my own backyard and read a book without risking melanomas. This area is designed for being a family celebration place. The verandah covers half the whole backyard, so when we have Christmases, birthdays and Mothers Days I’ll be able to have everyone out here.

It’s going to be epic.

Posted in balance, gardening, pets, Quality of life, vegetables, wicking beds | 7 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Use up what you have at home.

For my nephew’s third baby.

So I made this quilt – a mash-up of the 2 quilt designs I showed you last week. So far it’s just pinned together, with the actual quilting starting later today, with a bit of luck.

Every single piece is made with fabric from my stash. Imagine my horror when I thought I didn’t have any black fabric for the dachshund’s eyes and nose and I’d have to go to Spotlight to buy 4″ of fabric?!?

Fortunately, it turns out I have plenty of plain black fabric in one of my fabric boxes. Past Frogdancer has looked after me again!

I even pieced together several scraps of batting. I sewed them with zig-zag stitch. It took FOREVER, especially when I accidentally sewed the pieces together in the wrong way, adding at least an hour to the process.

But I like that a scrap quilt is totally made up of scraps. But I wouldn’t have pieced together the batting if I wasn’t in school holidays! Time is the one thing I have a lot of at the moment.

Anyway, we’re getting a new front fence tomorrow so I have to get David26 up and at ’em to trim the shrubs near where the guy will be working.

Another little project!

Posted in quilting, Skinflint | Leave a comment

Skinflint Sunday: Have fun with what you have around you.

I loved this song when it came out. The 80’s at their best!

Ryan25, (yes, he’s had a birthday), called me into the Man Cave just now, saying, “Mum, have you seen this?”

It’s hilarious. Look out for the cheeky side-glance Paul Rudd gives Pete Burns.

My nephew and his wife are expecting their third child later this year. They already have identical twin girls. I said I’d make a quilt for the new one. A third child needs something special, just for them…

There’s a pattern for this design, which I nearly bought because the head and feet of the dog are a little tricky. But when the postage was nearly double than what the actual quilt was, I decided that a piece of graph paper and a pencil was a far more sensible option.

Then, with the magic of the interwebs, I found this shot on Instagram.

All of the maths will now be a little bit easier! See how you can see where the blocks start and finish?

I’ve mentioned before how I bring veggie scraps home from school every day. Towards the end of the year, the food tech room included lots of shooting ginger in one of their bags. Not being one to waste anything, I youtubed how to plant ginger and guess what? Yesterday I saw that a shoot had popped up! At least one of the chunks is growing, which makes me happy.

OMG!!!!!!!!

Then, just to show that Frogdancer Jones isn’t a slave to frugality… I saw this pattern. I showed Ryan25. He said in his laconic way, “Well… if you make a quilt like this for me I wouldn’t say no.”

Scout is the apple of his eye. How could I refuse? So I lashed out and spent 10USD on the pattern. It’s a pdf so it arrived straight away. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw just how many pieces are in each block, (around30 or so), but it’s SO CUTE!!!

Scout.

Scout has a lot to answer for.

Posted in gardening, pets, Quality of life, quilting | 2 Comments

No, I’m not dead. It’s just that a lot’s been happening.

The dogs and I on the front steps.

Happy New Year to you all!

Such a lot has happened since the last time I posted here, almost a month ago. The year pretty much crashed and burned for my family, health-wise, with 8 people falling prey to illness or accidents.

I blogged about Mum falling and breaking her shoulder in May. It took nearly 4 months for her shoulder to heal and her vertigo kept getting worse. A couple of weeks before Christmas she had an operation to put a shunt in her head to release excess fluid around her brain. She’s looking much better for it.

My aunt has inoperable pancreatic cancer. David26’s girlfriend Izzy was diagnosed with leukaemia, but she’s progressing well. Dad nearly died from loss of blood from a small tear in his bowel, but thankfully it was caught in the nick of time. My nephew, a young family man, has cancer, though it looks to be responding well to treatment.

Ryan25 was making coffee a couple of weeks before Christmas and the cup spilled, sending boiling hot coffee all over him. By the time he went to remove his left sock, he pulled the skin off with it. Fast forward through his leg becoming infected and the lengthy hospital stay, he’s now the proud owner of a skin graft. When he was in the hospital, I’ve never seen anyone go through that much agony and I hope I never do again. It was awful. Now, he basically has to keep his foot elevated 24/7, which is practically gamer heaven.We’re lucky that I’m on holidays, because he needs constant looking after. He’s a very chilled, non-demanding patient though, which is great for my sanity.

The worst thing happened on Christmas morning when my brother suffered a stroke. He’s 54. I blogged about it here on the FI/RE blog. He’s got a long road ahead of him.

I can’t even remember what the 8th thing was, but I know the number was 8. Now that 2020 is here, we’re hoping that the family curse has gone and we can all get back to business as usual.

Remember the pile of pink fabric I blogged about a while ago? Here is the finished result. I was sewing right up until 4PM on Christmas Eve to get it done in time. Izzy loves it. I did a twin-sized quilt, thinking that she and David26 could cuddle up on the couch together and watch movies under it, but it was slightly bigger than I anticipated. 7 hours of quilting alone went into it. They’d better not break up any time soon, that’s all I can say!

I just remembered the 8th thing that went wrong, health-wise. It was ME. I wrenched my right shoulder incredibly badly and couldn’t use it properly for about a month. That’s why Izzy’s quilt went so close to the line because I couldn’t sew for ages. I hurt it because the automatic gate is broken, so we have to manually haul it open. That will all change in January because a lot of things are going to be done around the house.

Halfway through grinding the stumps out. Hopefully, they won’t grow back.

A while ago I noticed that the front guttering was leaking, but they couldn’t be fixed until I did something about the enormous yuccas that some idiot planted at the front of the house. Every time anyone walked to put something in the bins or around to the side gate they risked getting an eye put out by the spiky leaves. So enough was enough. I hired a wonderful company of tree loppers, recommended by Blogless Sandy, to come in and get rid of them once and for all.

I’ve already bought a couple of avocado trees from Diggers to put in their place. I like the thought of growing my own avos, especially since they don’t start to ripen until you pick them. I’m hoping this means I’ll never get a glut of fruit.

It looks a little bare now, but just wait a year or so!

While the tree people were there, I got them to take out every tree in the yard. It’s a blank canvas. As you can see, we’re open to the street now, with every casual marauder being able to see in. So in a few days, we’re getting a solid paling fence put up, with a new automatic gate!! I’m hoping this will dramatically cut down on the dogs barking every time another dog walks past.

At the end of January, I’ll be getting a HUGE verandah roof put onto the back of the house. It’ll cover literally half the backyard. Those who’ve met me IRL know that I have the sort of skin that starts to sizzle after 5 minutes of being in the sun, so I’m hoping that I’ll use the backyard much more when I’m not being fried in it. The veggie garden is at the back half of the yard with steps leading up to it. The new roof won’t be cutting off any sunlight to it, thank goodness.

I decided to harvest some profits from my shares so that I can get some projects done around here to get my beautiful house ready for my retirement. I’d prefer to pay for permanent changes now, while I still have a wage coming in, rather than pay for things out of my retirement savings.

Stay tuned for various projects throughout next year – at least until that pot of money runs out!

From left: Scout, Jeff and Poppy.

Speaking of the dogs, they’re all fine. They have their elderly cousin Gus, a miniature Schnauzer, staying with us for a few days while my sister is in the country for new years. He keeps snuggling up beside me on the couch, much to these three’s indignation.

I also more than fulfilled my Goodreads reading target for the year. I decided to aim for 60 books in 2019… I actually read 68.

Oops.

We’ve had a couple of days of heat into the mid 40’s and the wicking beds have really proved their worth. The Lazy Housewife beans started producing their first little beans on one of those days, which is amazing. My idea of bringing compost home from the school has turned out to be a good one. I’ve barely had to plant anything, as millions of tomatoes and pumpkins have sprouted all by themselves. I’ve never had much luck with pumpkins, so we’ll see how we go this year.

2019 was the last year I’ll teach year 12 Theatre Studies because I’m dropping down to 3 days a week this year. (Yay!) This was the card that one of my class, Michelle, made for me at the end of the year. ‘Joe Lunchbucket’ is the name I use whenever I need to use somebody as an example in class, so everyone I teach is very familiar with him. This is the first time someone has thought to bring him to life, though!

She also gave me a book that I actually want to keep, so I’ve pasted it in there. She’s a sweet, quirky kid. We’re now Facebook friends, so I’ll be able to see what she ends up doing. It’s always interesting to see what our ex-students get up to once they’re out in the Big Wide World.

Our school has a policy that no teachers are allowed to be friends with current students, so every year I tend to get an influx of friend request from ex year 12’s, some of whom I haven’t taught in years. It’s lovely. 🙂

I’ll be aiming for a result a little like this.

Seeing Izzy’s quilt made a couple of the boys remember how nice it is to have a new quilt. Evan23, who is in his last year of his acting course in chilly Ballarat, requested a new quilt in greys and yellows. Of course, I had neither colour in my stash so off we went to Spotlight for a bit of mother/son bonding time. This is the design he’s chosen, which is basically just a series of half-square triangles. Too easy! (she said optimistically…)

My only real new year’s resolution is to post a little more frequently on this blog. I’ve been focussing more on the financial independence blog last year, but this space is where all of the day-to-day things get recorded. It’s a nice place to hang out, with lovely people who comment, so I’ll be here a little more often in 2020.

Happy new year!

Posted in Children., family., Fruit trees, gardening, pets, Quality of life, quilting, reading, renovating | 7 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Being productive is fun.

I have a couple of rosemary plants in wicking boxes. I like to use fresh rosemary a lot of the time but sometimes it’s handy to have some dried rosemary on hand, especially if you want to make rosemary salt or something like that. I was getting low on the dried stuff, so rather than take the easy way out and buy some, I picked some branches and left them for a couple of weeks to dry out.

Then I stripped the leaves from the branches and whizzed them up in the thermomix. Too easy!

Here’s my magnificent spice rack that I bought when I moved into the Best House in Melbourne 3.5 years ago. Hellishly expensive at the time but I’ve never regretted the purchase.

If you look closely you can see the difference between the old and the new rosemary.

Last year when I had the new landscaping put in in the backyard, I bought a few little succulents to put in terracotta pots to place on the steps. This one went nuts and threw off lots of babies.

This now lives on the front steps. I like the round plants in the shallow round dish.

One of my transplanted apple trees started growing 16 apples! It almost killed me to have to pull them off but for the long-term strength of the tree, I had to.  (I left a couple on though; it was more than flesh and blood could stand.)

I dropped one and Poppy was onto it like a flash. She ate it.

To finish, here are (from top to bottom), Jeff, Poppy and Scout, all trying to convince me that it’s dinner time and they’re starving.

Posted in balance, Fruit trees, gardening, pets, Quality of life, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 4 Comments

Things I’ve been making.

Green peas in red bowl.

Free food!

We’ve been eating well from the pea straw that I bought in Bunnings and put down on the wicking beds to let them sleep over winter.

We’ve had hundreds of peas pop up. Poppy and Scout love eating the pea pods. Jeff will accept one or two but he eats them only because he’s suffering from FOMO.

I’m so happy about the peas. Apart from potatoes, peas are my favourite vegetable. Most of the pea plants now are at the stage of being ready to be cut down to make way for other plants, but there are still a couple that are going strong.

Home-made soap.

Ready for Christmas!

Last year I made soap for the first time in years. I used a ‘tried and true’ recipe and the bars were a big success. This year, when I logged on to the blog that had the recipe, the author had taken it off-line. I PMed her on Facebook but I haven’t heard back. Time was slipping by… ‘real’ soap needs at least 6 weeks to cure before it’s ready to use.

Then I saw a recipe for soap that uses Lux flakes on this blog. These bars only need around 3 weeks hardening time, so it fits the timeline for work Christmas gifts.

Close-up of the soap.

Very ‘rustic’ with the oats.

They have a perfume from the Lux flakes, but I don’t think people will mind.

Bean seeds saved from last year.

Bean seeds saved from last year.

We grew so many beans last year that I have plenty saved for planting and cooking for this year. I’ve given quite a few packets away to people at work, particularly the women in the Food Tech room and the canteen who save the veggie scraps for me to take for my compost.

Free bean plants for what would normally be thrown out is a pretty good deal, I think!

David26 at his last recital.

David26’s last recital. He’s a Bachelor of Music now!

I’ve included this shot because yes – I did make him!

David26 has finally finished his music degree. He had his final recital last Friday and I chucked a sickie and went to see him. Fortunately, David26’s girlfriend Izzy also came along. I would never have found the recital room without her!

It was definitely a proud Mum moment. As he was playing all of these complicated songs, I kept thinking of that little 4-year-old with big blue eyes who asked me, “Mum, can I learn to play the piano?”

Double choc cookies for Mum and Dad.

Double-choc cookies for Mum and Dad.

Finally, here are some cookies I baked for Mum and Dad. Every week, I try and deliver things they can have for morning and afternoon teas. I swing by on my way to work, usually on a Monday morning, and leave them on the doorstep.

Posted in Children., cooking, gardening, Quality of life, soap making, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments