Jeffrey.

Cavalier on the back of the couch with his head resting on a pile of towels.

When I’m moving around the house doing various things, the dogs behave differently. Poppy stays beside me every step of the way, (unless someone else goes into the kitchen), because she’s my ‘halper.’ Scout picks a mid-point in the house and keeps an eye.

Jeffrey likes to lie along the back of the couch.

Yesterday I was folding laundry and I put some towels on the back of the couch while I put some clothes away in my room.

When I came back I found this.

Anyone want some zucchini?

Before Christmas, I filled 3 large pots with ordinary potting mix and planted what I thought were pumpkin seeds that I’d saved from last year. I put the pots in my orchard out in the front yard.

I figured that the pumpkin vines could gently ramble under the new fruit trees, using the space productively. Pumpkins keep very well, so any pumpkins that eventuated wouldn’t be wasted.

It almost worked as planned.

I really should label my seeds. It turns out that the seeds I planted were a hybrid of the Black Jack zucchini and Tromboccino zucchini that I grew close together last year. The vines have exploded, burying my avocado trees and swamping everything else. I have over 12 kgs of shredded zucchini in my freezer, packed up in ziplock bags to use throughout the year in soups, stews and pasta sauces.

We’re eating zucchini slice like it’s going out of fashion. Anyone who sets foot inside the gate gets a massive zucchini to take away with them. I’ve gone door to door down the street, giving away football-sized ones. I’m thinking that once this 3rd lockdown ends, I might drive down to school and leave a pile in the staff room.

Last year hardly any zucchini grew, while we were swamped with tomatoes. This year the reverse has happened.

Gardening’s a funny thing.

Coming up for air…

I finished two quilts for Christmas. This is Ryan26’s quilt. He unwrapped it during our Christmas Day celebrations, then literally 3 seconds later he knocked over a glass of red wine ALL OVER IT.

I don’t think I’ve moved so fast in all my life. Less than a minute after that happened, it was in the washing machine. Fortunately, it emerged unscathed. But omg.

I’m calling it “The Only Way He’ll Ever Leave Home” quilt because it has Scout in the middle of it. You can see it, just behind the real dog. Ryan26 loves that little dog so much, and he’s certainly not going to be allowed to take the real version with him when he decides to go! The quilt is the perfect compromise.

Each block took around two hours to assemble. The quilting was full of drama. I was finishing it in secret for Christmas/his birthday, so I was getting up at 5AM and quilting like a maniac while he was asleep. I sewed my quilting glove to the top not once, but twice, and there were all sorts of dramas with thread tension, etc. I may have sworn once or twice. But I got there in the end.

He’s started making a quilt of his own. He designed it himself and has started cutting out the diamonds.

This one is Jenna’s quilt. She and Evan24 have been going out for over 2 years now, so it was definitely time for her to be brought into the fold with a quilt. This one was made totally from scraps – some dating back to the days before I started writing this blog and I was trying to make some extra money by making doll quilts.

I decided that every block should have some pink in it. The squres are 2.5″ X 2.5″ and the sashing is 2.5″ wide.

If I had my time over, I’d have made it with one more block wide and a block LESS on the length. (It’s really tall!)

Unlike the “The Only Way He’ll Ever Leave Home’ quilt, this one was quilted without any bother and I spent the last week of my working life quietly hand-stitching the binding, while listening to the work that was being done to plan for next year.

I’ve cut out the squares for a quilt I’m making for my principal. If it wasn’t for her continually renewing my contracts at the school, we would never have been able to become financially free. It’s the least I can do…

Even though in my head I know I’ve retired, I still feel as if I’m on summer school holidays.

Except for the depth and quantity of my naps. Dear God – nearly every day I plunge into a nap like a deep-sea diver and emerge two or three hours later, with memories of dreams and with creases all over my face from the pillow. I’ve read from other retirees that they’ve found that they also did the same thing, almost as if the body is catching up on missed sleep, or maybe de-stressing from the demands of work.

I don’t know whether this is true and at the moment I don’t really mind. After all, I’m still on school holidays…

Still, on January 27 when the teachers go back to work, I think that THAT’S when I’ll suddenly realise that I’m retired. That’s the day of my last pay packet – yikes! I also have to go to the beach to send a photo of myself to the staff at 9AM, because I said I would in my retirement speech. I think that’s when it’ll really sink in.

In between naps I’ve been doing heaps around the garden. I’ve decided that while travel is off the books for the next year or two I’ll be running OPERATION BEAUTIFY on the house and garden. On Monday some lovely young men are going to be ripping my ensuite out. I only have 2 more days of having to step into a bath to take a shower. Oh how happy I’ll be when I have a walk-in shower in my ensuite!

I hope to post here more regularly now that my time is my own. 🙂

So now I’m retired!!!!

All alone in the staffroom on my last day.

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing a post on the other blog about my speech and I’m hosting Christmas on Friday. I have to get up from the couch and start cleaning, rearranging things and making The Best House in Melbourne look as beautiful as I can. Then I’ve got to finalise all the dishes I’ll be cooking for the big day.

I hope you don’t mind if I post the links from the other blog about. my last week of work here. I’ll put them in reverse order, with my speech at the tp of the list.

I really want you, particularly if you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, to read about how the end of the job played out. 🙂

Why do I make so many quilts just before Christmas?!?

Remember earlier this year when I said I was going to make this quilt for Ryan25? When I was making a quilt for Evan23, Ryan25 said, “The other boys all have at least 2 or 3 quilts. I only have 1. Honestly Mum, I think a quilt a decade isn’t too much to ask…!”

I rashly promised to put Scout in there. She’s the one in the middle – the only one not wearing a jumper. For months I agonised over how to put her beard and eyebrows in. If I knew how to do applique it’d be easy but alas – I don’t. So the quilt got pushed to the side while I made The Outlander quilt, The Bees Knees quilt, The Sausage dog baby quilt, and The Canterbury quilt.

I started to feel bad, so I said to him, “I promise I’ll make it before Christmas. Once I get it straight in my head about how to make Scout, then I’ll be ok to get it done.”

Then I decided to make a quilt for Jenna, Evan24’s girlfriend. She’s a fabulous young woman who is going through a rough patch right now. If anyone needs a quilt to snuggle up under, it’s her! So I said to Ryan25, “Is it ok if I make your quilt after Christmas, when I’ve got time in January? I really want to get Jenna’s quilt done.”

He nodded, little realising that I’d already started work on his quilt again. I’d worked out how to do Scout’s face – zero in on it if you haven’t already. David27, Evan24 and I all call her “angry Scout” but that can’t be helped!

So I’ve been working on Jenna’s quilt, all girly pinks and greens, whenever Ryan25 is around, then frantically sewing away on his quilt whenever he wasn’t. It turns out that uni students in the midst of a pandemic are around a lot. What makes it even harder is that he’s decided he wants to make a quilt next year so he’s interested in the process, so he pokes his head around the door while I’m sewing quite a few times, just to have a chat.

What saved me from having to come clean is that he got a week’s work house-sitting for a friend’s Mum, so in that time I was able to make all the rest of the blocks and sandwich the backing, batting and quilt top together. It’s HUGE.

Then came the drama of having to quilt it. He’s only out of the house on Mondays to attend uni. Unfortunately, that’s one of my work days. I’m a fairly early riser most days, thanks to the dogs, so I’ve been getting up at around 5AM and quietly quilting away in the wee hours, stopping at around 8AM.

Everything that could go wrong with the quilting has gone wrong. I sewed my quilting glove to the top not once but twice, the thread kept breaking and once the machine simply decided to turn itself off in the middle of a row. Many swear words have been hissed as I plugged away at it.

As of yesterday, Ryan25’s quilt has been quilted and the binding is attached. I’m taking it to school to hand-sew the binding on the back. All the meetings are going to be about next year, so I may as well be productive, seeing as I’m retiring in 2 weeks. I don’t care what they decide they’re teaching next year!

While I’ve been doing this, Jenna’s quilt is pieced and sandwiched together, ready for quilting. She’s having a 21st birthday party on New Year’s Eve in Ballarat, so I’ll give it to her then.

I need to get her quilt finished quickly, too. I’m hosting Christmas this year, so there’s lots to be done around the place to make it spick and span and beautiful for the big day. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: little tasks and The Next Big Goal.

Well, the verdict is in on the coir pellets. They’re useless. I think only 4 tomato seeds sprouted, so needless to say I won’t be buying them again.

The coir pellets are a bust. Only 4 plants have sprouted, so I won’t be buying them again.

However, another tomato experiment that I don’t think I wrote about has succeeded brilliantly. When I was clearing the wicking beds at the beginning of winter, I noticed that two baby tomato plants had sprouted. I decided to see if they’d survive the winter, so I mounded pea straw all around them and left them to it.

WOW. They are huge now and are already sprouting tomatoes. Unreal. I still have 4 bags of chopped-up tomatoes left in the freezer, so the tomato glut of 2019/2020 has seen us through the whole year. Who says food gardens aren’t worth it?

Though it’s not all fun and games. This is the second year I’ve had the asparagus patch and only 5 plants have come up. (I planted more than twice that.) I don’t know whether to just leave them and hope that, over time, they’ll multiply, or buy more crowns and dig up everything and start again.

On Thursday I planted out 20 Lazy Housewife beans that I harvested last year and around 15 seedlings that I grew from seeds. The garden is starting to come back to life!

In the interests of getting things done around here before I retire, I hired a nice man to put in a brick path to the letterbox and install a curved garden bed against the front fence. Now all I need is to get the side fence replaced and then the bones of the front yard will be complete.

I’m hosting Christmas here again this year – how great that our covid case numbers have been at zero for the last two weeks so Christmas will be a normal one! – so I’m thinking I’ll just buy some cosmos and shove them in. The dark colour of the fence will make the flowers stand out and they’ll look pretty when people come through the gate. I’ll work out a more permanent planting layer, but it’ll have flowers to bring the pollinators to the orchard.

I’ve also been making soap for Christmas presents. I bought some cornflower and calendula petals so they’ll look noice and fancy. Thanks again to the people who helped me last year when the recipe I loved was removed from the internet. You guys are great!

I wanted to make 3 batches, which will be enough for work friends and family, but the third batch seized. I’ve only ever had this happen once before and I saved it by melting it in the crockpot and basically cooking it again.

I tried it this time but it went a weird brown colour, so I philosophically cut it into chunks, thinking that I’ll just use them up here. I made a fourth batch yesterday, which I haven’t unwrapped yet, but when I went into the sewing room I saw that the weird brown colour has morphed into a delicious caramel colour. It’s a Christmas miracle!

I’ve only got 5 weeks to go until I retire, so the release of this new book was very timely. I finished it yesterday and it’s very informative. I won’t lie – it has a lot of numerals in it (ugh) but it sets out everything you need to know about investing long term, Centrelink, pensions, health, wealth and happiness. It’s available from his website if you’re interested.

OMG!!! I just checked and I haven’t updated you on my Next Big Goal. I wrote about it on the other blog HERE.

I’m very excited about it.

Skinflint Sunday: Grown-up Kids are great!

Here’s what Evan24 sent me for my birthday. HOW I laughed when I opened it! If you’ve never heard this podcast, you’re missing out. It’s hilarious. I started listening to it soon after it first came out, then Evan 24 (who would have been Evan20 or 21 back then) asked me why I was laughing so much one day. I pulled off my headphones and told him what I was listening to. He pulled up the first episode, started listening and it’s been our ‘thing’ ever since.

When a new ep is released, one or the other of us will text the other with, “A new one’s out!!” or “What did you think?” Monday, when a season is being released, is ‘porno day.” When you say that in the staff room while downloading a new episode so you can listen to it while driving home, it can earn you some strange looks.

The premise of the poddie is that “Rocky Flintstone”, Jamie Morton’s Dad, handed him a manuscript of a pornographic novel he’d written one day and asked him for feedback. The writing, the knowledge of female anatomy and the overall situations were so spectacularly bad that Jamie and his friends turned it into the podcast.

Jamie reads a chapter a week. His friends, like us, are hearing it for the first time so we hear their reactions as Jamie reads. When I first started listening, I was taking the rain to work and sometimes I’d be giggling so much that I’d have to fixedly stare out of the window because people were glancing at me.

I guess it’s a perk of having grown-up children. There’s no way I would have steered any of them onto this when they were kids!

If you’re curious, you really have to start at the beginning. Each season is another in the series of books, so you have to start from the first chapter – ‘The Job Interview.’ The first 4 books were written before the podcast came out, where Rocky had no idea how deliciously awful his writing was.

Just be warned, it’s definitely not safe for work.

Evan24 had a parcel posted to my place. When I texted him asking about it, he replied with, “Oooo, it might just be your birthday present!!!” When I called him, laughing, after I’d opened it, he said, “I thought it’d be something that you’d like but you wouldn’t buy for yourself.”

That’s another perk of having grown-up kids. They’re VERY good at buying presents for me now. David26 bought me a ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ coffee mug. Makes me smile every morning.

Skinflint Sunday: The last day of freedom!

Bright red knitting.
Cowl for a generous friend.

As Australian readers would probably know, most school kids go back to on-site learning tomorrow. This of course means that their teachers have to go back too. I’ve loved being at home with 2 of my boys and the dogs, pottering around while teaching my classes, but these days are now over. (At least while the numbers remain low...) Tomorrow an alarm will go off on my phone and I’ll be driving off to work.

Meanwhile, I’ve been frantically knitting. Evan24’s girlfriend’s Mum sent me a parcel from Adelaide last month for my birthday, packed with nibbles, snacks and wine from South Australia. How nice was that? Especially after they’d been housing my son with them for a couple of months during our second lockdown.

I quickly checked FaceBook to see when her birthday was. November. I rang Jenna and asked if her Mum would appreciate something handmade. (I’ve learned that there’s no point giving hand made items if the person doesn’t appreciate the time and effort that goes into them.) When Jenna enthusiastically replied in the affirmative, I asked what her Mum’s colours were.

“RED. Just red.”

So I’m knitting a Just Red cowl. I made two of these for myself – one went all around the UK and Europe with me in 2015 – but I forgot just how long it takes to knit. Thin yarn, small needles… there’s be around 16 hours of work in this baby before it’s done. Still, it’s looking fabulous and I hope she’ll like it.

The smooshy looking ball of yarn in the top red corner is wool I bought to make Izzy a cowl for her birthday, also in November. That one will knot up far quicker, thank God!

Stewed fruit cubes with oats.

I’m coming to the end of the stewed fruit cubes that I made during the summer. They’ve been terrific. I bought up big while plums and apricots were cheap and stewed them on the stovetop with a little water. I like the tart taste of stone fruits, so I didn’t add any sugar.

Spooned them into ice cube trays and when frozen, popped them into zip-lock bags in the freezer. I made 3 big bags’ worth of these, plus apple and rhubarb with our own rhubarb. When I make my breakfast porridge, I only add some water – no milk or sugar. The taste is wonderful, like a party in my mouth, especially if I mix up the flavours.

Cooked porridge and fruit.
Mmm mmmm!

The breakfast of champions! This one sticks to the ribs.

I’m hearing quite a few ducks flying overhead this morning. Strange. We don’t often hear them, but for some reason they’re criss-crossing us.

Coir pellets.

Remember the coir pellets that I put my tomato seeds in?

It’s been around 3 weeks now and so far only one strong seedling has germinated, with a few other weak, sickly-looking ones. It’s fair to say that I’m not that impressed with them. I’ll keep an eye on the seedlings, but I doubt I’ll be buying them again.

Bev from foodnstuff has sent me some extra tomato seeds, so we should still be right for our tomato crop. I also have a couple of plants in the wicking beds that were tiny seedlings that sprouted at the end of autumn. As an experiment I piled mulch all around them and let them overwinter. They’re already producing flowers – it’ll be interesting to see which sort of tomato they are!

Poppy the Cavalier looking sad.
Poppy.

Tomorrow when I go back to school, there are going to be 3 very unhappy dogs left behind. After being in lockdown pretty much since April, these dogs have become MORE attached to me. I didn’t think it was possible but they have. Clearly, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ doesn’t hold true for these three!

David27 is going back to work too, but fortunately Ryan25 will still be here during the day. His uni is still doing remote lectures. We’ll have a rapturous reunion when I come home at the end of the day!

Snippets.

Oops.

If you look at the bottom of this photo, you can see what happens when you are casting on in the round and you twist the join. I’ve never done this before and I didn’t notice until I was well into it – far too late to ull it off the needles and start again.

I like it though. I’m making identical cowls for my sister-in-law and niece for Christmas – I’m going to call them the “Mother/daughter dog walking cowls.” At least now one of them will be slightly different from the other.

In the interests of trying to use up the yarn I have in my stash rather than keep buying new stuff, this yarn is baby wool from WAAAAY back in the day when I had an Etsy shop and was knitting baby hats to try and bring in a little more money. I have 10 balls of this, all in the same dye lot, so I’ve knitted a different cowl in this yarn for Mum as well. She’s turning 80 on Monday.

Jeff.

I’ve received word that the portraits from England have been posted. Mary asked me, “Do you want the quickest or the cheapest?”

Naturally I said the cheapest, so I’m hoping that the parcel arrives before Christmas.

Apricots!

The garden is slowly waking up for Spring. My cauliflowers have bolted, so instead of plump cauliflowers we’re eating a weird blend of caulie and broccolini. Tastes the same, so it’s all good.

This little tree is a special one. In 2015 I taught my first year 12 Theatre Studies class and we bonded like glue. They bought me this tree to put in my food forest at the old house. By the time I moved, it was still in a pot so I brought it with me. There it sat sulking for years…

Poor Scout.

Just under a week ago I was throwing the ball for Scout in the front yard when it went behind my car. When she came out, carrying the ball in her mouth, she was also sporting a limp. Turns out she broke a nail and the whole nail bed had to be amputated.

It only took about 20 minutes.

“Brave Girl” bandana.

She was a very brave girl.

Woozy from the sedative.

She felt a bit sorry for herself that night, but now, a week later, she’s bouncing around as if nothing ever happened. There’s always the worry of infection when it’s a wound on the foot but *knockonwood* we seem to have dodged that bullet.

Honestly, these girls are so prone to trouble. Jeffrey, on the other hand, rarely does anything so he stays incident-free.

Oops. The timer on the microwave has gone off. Time to give my sourdough another kneading!