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!

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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.


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 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.Ā 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.


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. šŸ™‚

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.Ā  (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’reĀ 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 hadĀ 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 – IĀ 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

Could this quilt be any more PINK???

David26 is in love. He’s been afflicted by this emotion for nearly 2 years now. A few weeks ago he asked if I’d make Izzy a quilt for Christmas. She loves hot pink, which isn’t a colour that the boys have particularly wanted in their quilts before, so on Friday I chucked a sickie and went to Spotlight to pinkify my stash.I’m making this pattern in a double bed size, which requires 12 different fabrics, not counting the backing and the neutral colour on the front. It took meĀ forever to narrow it all down.

It took a whole afternoon to cut all the pieces ready for sewing. It’s a public holiday today, but I’m not in the zone for quilting today. I’ll chip away at it over the next few weeks and it’ll be ready for Christmas.

The pattern is called ‘The Libby Quilt” and I tested it out by making a baby quilt for my best friend’s daughter, who is expecting her third baby next year. It came together quickly and easily, so I’m assuming this much bigger version will too.

Still, I think when I finish it, it could have the capacity to burn your retinas out…!

Posted in quilting | 4 Comments

Sometimes my job makes me laugh.

I was marking some year 8 ‘Letters to the Editor’ and one of the kids wrote this following gem in a letter protesting about animal testing:

“A government report showed that New South Wales used erotic zoo animals in these tests.”

Spelling matters, people!

Posted in work, writing | 1 Comment

Sometimes it’s the little things…

A friend at work has an ‘atsy’ daughter who was opening a stall at the Dingley Makers Market. I popped along, bought some cards that she made and then browsed the rest of the stalls. I couldn’t resist this amazing indoor plant.

It’s an air plant, suspended upside down from a shell. It looks like an alien. I was going to place it on the table in front of the left-hand-side North Korea poster that you can see in the background, so that it’d look as if the missiles are pointing at it, but for the moment it’s sitting as the centrepiece on the dining table.

I haven’t owned an air plant before. The women on the stall said that I only need to lightly spray it with water every 3 weeks or so, as it gets its nutrition from the air. Hence the name, I guess. I’m interested to see how it goes.

Remember how I’ve started bringing home the veggie scraps from the school canteen and food tech rooms to put in my compost? Sometimes I get an unexpected bonus. Look at what came home with me yesterday from the food tech room! Twenty-nine sauce tomatoes that were perfectly fine.

You can bet that I wasn’t going to waste them. They all got a good wash – because children have probably touched them – then I made 2 vegetarian pasta sauces in my two thermomixes. One to eat tonight and one to freeze. Then I chopped up the rest of the tomatoes into chunks and froze in 400g lots. By the time I finished, I had the equivalent of a slab of tinned tomatoes from Costco, saving me around $15 or so.

It’s a small win but I’ll take it!

Last year I spent a fortune on 4 clematis plants from Diggers, which I brought home and then they promptly dropped all their flowers. I planted then along the sideway above my herb wicking boxes and hoped they’d come back. And now they have. Every time I see them it makes me happy.

The really good thing is that this will happen every year from now on.

I decided to reclaim Evan23’s room and turn it into a guest room/sewing room. These Bali ladies have been in my room since I brought them home from our first overseas holiday in 2006.

How cool that they suit this space so perfectly.

Posted in decorating, Flowers, gardening, Quality of life | 2 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Road trip.

Today the boys and I, along with my parents and my sister, brother-in-law and one of my nieces, are all driving to Ballarat to see Evan23 in his end-of-year play, ‘Twelve Angry Men.” Well, they’re doing ‘Twelve Angry Jurors”, but it’s pretty much the same play.

He’s Juror number 5. He said that mastering the New York accent was really hard… their vowels are worse than ours, which is saying something.

I learned from the flap to get to the theatre last semester, when we nearly missed the beginning of the play, that it’s best to meet BEFOREHAND and then take people where you want to go. So I booked a restaurant for lunch, then it’s a short stroll across the road to get to to the play.

Mum is still very shaky and can’t walk for long distances, so hopefully this plan will suit her and her wheelchair.

Woo hoo!! Going to see my boy doing something he loves!

*Strictly speaking, this day won’t be Skinflint. David26 is driving (there goes $50 petriol money) plus I’ll be paying for the boys’ lunches. Still… worth it.

Posted in Children., Skinflint | 4 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Getting Things Done before school starts again.

The day before school goes back is always a day torn between mourning my lost freedom and racing around getting little jobs finished before I go back. Today was no exception. I swore that I’d have the garden ready to go by the end of the holidays – seeds planted, beds prepped, pruning done, everything immaculate.

Instead, I spent most of my time either sleeping or quilting. Oops.

I showed you the queen-sized quilt I made for Tom27. No sooner was that done and dusted than I realised that I’d promised David26 that I’d make a quilt for his girlfriend Izzy for Christmas. Of course I did…

I bought a pattern online and thought I’d see how it looked by making a baby quilt for Blogless Sandy’s daughter, who’s expecting her third child. I just used stash materials and, as she doesn’t know the gender, I went with a mix of yellow, orange, pink and blues.

If she doesn’t like the colours she can always flip it over and use the back.

Yesterday I was up cooking like a maniac, because I promised Evan23 that I’d host lunch for HIS girlfriend’s family, who were over here from Adelaide. I was cooking for 8 and 4 are vegetarian, so I made 3 vego Indian curries and got David26 to whip up an “Indian Salad”.

“You know this is just a salsa, don’t you Mum?” he said after looking at the recipe. I had no idea – never made one.

The lunch was a great success. Jenna’s family are absolutely lovely and we all got along like a house on fire. It was worth all of the cooking! (Plus it made me clean the house, which at this stage of the holidays was looking a little dicey as to whether or not I’d get around to it.)


After they left I hand-watered all of the wicking beds down the side verandah, then pruned all of the dead-looking bits. That was one job ticked off the list! It looks a thousand times better now.

Last year I went to Diggers and spent an absolute FORTUNE on 4 clematis vines. They were in full flower when I bought them and after I planted them they dropped all their flowers within about 5 minutes, or so it seemed. This year there are heaps of buds appearing, so I’m hoping that the view from the side door will be full of flowers.

A couple of little ones have already opened.

Remember how I told you how Ryan24 helped me move the Ballerina apple trees from a place that will soon be in the shade when my verandah roof is built, over to a sunny patch over the other side of the yard? They’re so happy, even the couple that I was a bit worried about whether they’d take. 3 have put blossoms out and all have sprouted leaves.

I was looking at them at the beginning of the holidays and realised that their labels were starting to get uncomfortably tight. Any more trunk growth and the plastic ties would be ring-barking them. Today, while I was doing other things in the garden, I grabbed some secateurs and cut the labels off, just in the nick of time. It was really hard to cut the plastic without nicking the trees, so I’m glad I didn’t let this little job slip to the back of my mind!

Just so I know, here is the order that the trees are planted in:

Lime tree; Polka apple; Charlotte apple; Flamenco apple; Bolero apple; Waltz apple and a Pomegranate.

I’m a bit worried about this pomegranate tree. The branches are still flexible but it’s already October and it’s still bare. I hope it takes off soon – I remember the pomegranates we grew at the old house and they were amazing.

So far 5 purple asparagus plants have come up. Considering I planted 13 last year, the others had better get a wriggle on. I was diluting and using the compost juice from the compost tumblers, so I gave them a nice juicy drink, so maybe that’ll encourage them.

One of the jobs I really wanted to get done was to empty at least one of the four compost tumblers I have so that when I start bringing home scraps from school, there’d be a place to put them. That job is now done.

It took us a year, but we finally managed to eat all of the 2 punnets worth of spring onion seedlings that David26 gave me for my birthday last year. I plantedĀ hundredsĀ of the damned things, and because they were from David26 I didn’t want to waste any. So in the end, I placed a ban on myself and I didn’t buy any brown onions, substituting them for spring onions instead. I thought we’d never get through them, but the bed is finally free, so this afternoon I emptied a full tumbler’s worth of compost onto the bed, sprinkled some sheep’s poo and aged autumn leaves over the top, then covered it all with pea straw.

I haven’t started any seeds, though I did put together about 12 packets of Lazy Housewife beans to give to the canteen and Food Tech workers who save the veggie scraps for me. If they plant them, they could have a lifetime supply of beans. šŸ™‚

Speaking of compost, look what’s sprung up in one of the garden beds that I bedded down for the winter with a hearty supply of home-made compost! I have heaps of either pumpkin or zucchini plants and masses of self-sown tomatoes. I’m tempted to leave that bed to its own devices and see what ends up growing.

The trouble is, I planted tomatoes in this bed last year, so until they fruit I won’t know if they’re self-seeded purebred heirloom plants or just common as muck tomatoes.

I guess food is food…

But we’ve been eating many many peas from the plants that sprung up from the pea straw. Gotta be happy with that!




Posted in Fruit trees, gardening, Quality of life, quilting, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments