Skinflint Sunday: Operation Beautify continues.

(This is a post I wrote for the other blog. If you’ve already read it over there… this is the same, right down to the Dad jokes at the end. For everyone else… welcome! )

The last few weeks have gone by in a hurry. Time is odd, isn’t it? The individual days slip past in no particular rush, but then you look up and it’s the middle of October. How did that happen? Even in the middle of the longest lockdown in the whole world, time still flies. Meanwhile, Operation Beautify is continuing along.

A while ago, before I retired last year, I thought that it might be fun to call in some real estate agents to value The Best House in Melbourne. I paid 750K at the end of 2015 for this place, with an extra 68K (or so) for bridging finance payments.

Self!‘ I thought to myself. ‘Why don’t I give myself a year to smarten the place up, then call in people to see how much this place is worth? It might be fun.

Since moving here 5 years ago, I’ve done a lot to the property, particularly in the gardens. I have no intention of selling. For the first time in my life I have total freedom over how I want my house and garden to look and I have the time to spend on making it all happen. This is the place where I’m happy to spend a lot of time in retirement.

My idea for this place is to make it practical and capable of supporting my interests. It needs to be a warm and nurturing place for my children, family and friends. I want the decorations and little touches around the place to be built around memories, so that more and more over time my house will be a reflection of who I am and where I’ve been.

Still, having said all that, I’m curious to see how much it’s worth now. I’m only human.

I gutted the entire backyard and built a wicking bed vegetable garden and mini orchard on the top level, with a huge verandah and entertainment area against the house. The entire backyard is paved with bricks, so Future Frogdancer doesn’t have to drag a lawnmower around up here. David28 just finished putting up these wooden frames on the top of the beds. Much neater and I can either throw netting over them or grow plants over them instead.

This is a photo taken at the beginning of spring. Give it a month or so and the wicking beds will be brimming over with veggies and flowers. I’ve left some lettuce and rainbow chard to go to seed – gotta love free food! – but the rest of the beds will be a mass of green and spots of orange, yellow and white from the flowers I’ve planted among the veggies. They’ll look pretty and bring the pollinators.

Now that there’s only two of us living here, not counting the little woofs, I can leave some space in this food growing space for prettiness.

The side yards are also paved with bricks, with hanging baskets along the more public pathway. These were put up last week and I’m hoping that the masses of petunias I’ve planted in them will billow out over the edges of the baskets and look lush and wonderful.

All of the fences have been replaced, with the front fence being totally changed by replacing a rusting metal picket fence with a tall paling fence and electric gate. All of the front yard fences are painted, but I’ve left the back yard fences to age naturally.

I transformed half of the front yard into a mini orchard and last week I underplanted the trees with masses of petunias and daisies. Again, there should be a mass of colour in a few weeks.

I’ve slowly been working on the front of the house too. I had a chippie come around and replace some rotting rails on the verandah. While he was there, he asked if I wanted to lower the height of the rails. I didn’t realise, but they were way higher than they needed to be. When he lowered them, it opened up the whole space.

They were white, but I painted them to match the fences and installed new guttering in the same colour. (It’s ‘Monument’, for those interested. I think there’s an unwritten law that every house in Melbourne has to use this colour somewhere.)

I’ve planted a maple on either side of the entrance, underplanted with white flowery groundcovers. One maple is always red, the other is green with pinkish new growth, so it’s the same look but not being absolutely ‘matchy-matchy.

Two more hanging baskets will hopefully fill the space with a huge pop of colour. Because of lockdowns I couldn’t go and select the plants in the hanging baskets in person. I had to select from the colours and plants that a local nursery had left in their online shop. This year the plants are petunias and the colours are red, purple and white. I figure every year I can have a different colour scheme. It’ll be fun.

The bay tree in the terracotta pot on the left of the steps is a plant I bought in K-Mart about 20 years ago when the boys were little. It cost me $6 – I still remember because I was horrified at the price they were asking for a mere twig – and I brought it home and planted it in the biggest pot I had. There it is, still there. I haven’t ever had to buy bay leaves again.

Frugality and forward-thinking for the win!

I have 2 couches on the front verandah. The green one on the right is Jeffrey’s favourite, while I prefer the old white one on the left. I’ve created a little conversation nook here. The pink painted pot plant was a gift from a friend years ago, while the succulent in it is a cutting I took from the backyard last week. The sunburnt palm is part of an indoor palm that I divided and got 4 new plants from and will be repotted into a terracotta pot when lockdown ends and I can go and see what’s available.

The front verandah will have mainly terracotta pots. I like the look of orange against the grey, with some being planted with permanent plants while the rest will be flowers and colour.

I also want to have a little bit of whimsy in the garden. I like the idea of the eye finding something beautiful or quirky in odd little spots. On the back steps leading up to the wicking beds, I have a combi van planter I found for $17 in Mitre 10 and I filled it with more free succulent cuttings from a plant in a pot on the other side of the steps.

I also have the sculpture of the dinosaur that I brought back from my last holiday in South Australia, up the top of the steps near the kaffir lime tree in a pot. It’s not the right place for him, but I’ll find it. I have nothing but time…

I found this little guy in the ‘marked down’ section of a garden supplies shop. He was part of a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” set, but I didn’t like the other two so only he came home. He’s under the apricot tree among some bluebells I saved when we were digging up the side pathways for the paving.

This is right at the side entrance to the verandah at the back. My rusty bird in a cage. I bought the bird when I went for a little mini break to Bowral a couple of years ago, then months later I saw this birdcage at Gardenworld. The daisy draws the eye, then you see my sweet, sad little rusty bird. My son David28 walked by this the last time he was here and said, “You know, I really like that bird.” Made me smile.

How great is this guy? My brother-in-law gave this to me as part of our family’s Kris Kringle thing two years ago. My sister said that they were at a local market, took one look at this guy and said, “Frogdancer would LOVE this!” He’s secured to the stump of the old grevilia that used to be here and he watches over the entertaining area. Who doesn’t want Grievous coming to Christmas dinner?

Before I call the real estate agents in to have a look, I still need to paint the ensuite, buy terracotta pots for both the front and back verandahs, fill them with flowers, and do a few other little bits and pieces.

If I’d placed a tighter time frame upon myself this all would’ve been done much more quickly, but tight time frames are what I retired to escape from. So far in the 10 months of retirement, I’ve read 110 books, made 6 quilts (with 2 more on the go), had many nanna naps and transformed my guest bedroom into a sewing room/office. (More on that in a later post.) quickly, but tight time frames are what I retired to escape from. So far in the 10 months of retirement, I’ve read 110 books, made 6 quilts (with 2 more on the go), had many nanna naps and transformed my guest bedroom into a sewing room/office. (More on that in a later post.)

The thing I like about Operation Beautify is that most of the expensive project like the landscaping and the huge verandah roof were done while I was still at work. My ensuite and the half-reno of the boys’ bathroom was paid for by my Long Service Leave payout, so basically this year I’ve been able to puddle along spending smaller wads of cash on plants, potting mix and mulch, but nothing like the amounts of money I spent on the big things. The landscaping of the back and side yards alone was over 50K. Oof…

By putting these jobs at the front of the queue, I was essentially able to cash flow a lot of it while I still had a wage. Next year, now that I have all of the trees and other plants in, should be even cheaper.

Just as well. I have Antarctica 2022 to pay for, after all.


This was the view I woke up to from my nanna nap yesterday.

Just to show that it isn’t all ‘Instagram perfect’ around here!

(For my Dancing With Frogs readers, I put a Dad joke or two at the end of my posts on the FI/RE blog. Just because. You may as well get the glory of the Dad jokes on this post as well. Let me know if you’d like me to do it here as well.

Dad jokes of the day:

And one for the Maths people:

Scrappy baby quilt.

Number 6 quilt completed during lockdowns! It’s handy having a stash – though as I’ve discovered with making another quilt for a Christmas present, I’m running out of purple and red.

This quilt came about when I saw a star block on Pinterest and thought I’d like to play with it. I had a few 3″ blocks left from the Vintage-look baby quilt I made a couple of months ago – also a lockdown/totally from stash project – so I did some Maths and then got started. It helped that I was sorting through my stash and discovered a couple of tubs full of scraps that ‘d totally forgotten about. Some of them were from vintage sheets, so they made their way into this quilt.

It turns out that I’m running low on suitable dusty pinks, so there was A LOT of colour matching and swearing, but I was determined not to order anything online for it unless I absolutely had to. Turns out I didn’t.

I joined together biggish pieces of bamboo batting to make up the filling. This is definitely a quilt made from the tradition of the pioneer women – USE UP EVERY LAST SCRAP.

The backing was from a doona cover and pillow slip that I bought the last time I was at Savers. Doona covers are a lot wider than normal fabric so they make excellent quilt backings and they’re already nice and snuggly. The binding was from another pillow case that came with the set. I really love the spottiness of it.

I decided to hand sew the binding, but started to regret it. I still have 3 quilts to make before Christmas and 2 of them are Queen-sized. It takes a loooong time to hand sew binding, and this is a project that has no clear owner. I’d rather spend hand-sewing time on quilts for people I care about and have designed the quilt for.

I now have 2 baby quilts here, waiting for when the boys or myself have a friend who announces that they’re expecting. The boys are all in the mid to late 20’s and so they’re getting into the age group where these announcements will definitely start to happen. I want to have a selection of little quilts that they can give to their friends as a special gift.

Plus, of course, I get the fun of making them!

Skinflint Sunday: Life’s full of surprises.

Look at this! I bought 2 packs of iris bulbs from Aldi. When they started to sprout, I hurriedy threw them into a pot.

Two of them are WHITE!! This makes me happy because I left a clump of white iris behind in the old house when we moved. Now I have them back again.

This will be a very short post because…

… I FINALLY have my own sewing room!! I bought a massive dining table from my sister and it was delivered yesterday.

Today I’m moving back in. What used to be Evan25’s room is now mine. I didn’t expect this to happen for another year or two but suddenly, here we are.

I can’t quite believe it. I’ve wanted my own space for so long.

Woo hoo! Dreams do come true. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: No rest for the wicked.

Woo hoo!! Yesterday two different plant orders came in, so I had a very busy couple of hours pottering in both the front garden and the veggie garden, planting veggies and lots of flowers.

I’ve decided that with only two people living here now, I can start devoting more space in the veggie garden to flowers. Of course it’s good for the food crop as flowers bring bees, but it’s also pretty. I’m assuming I’ll be hosting Christmas again this year, (Ha! I’m assuming we’ll be ABLE to host Christmases at all!) , and we’ll be sitting under the back verandah, so it’ll be nice to have a colourful and productive space for the fambam to look at while we eat.

I’ve started the under-plantings in the orchard. To recap; last year the boys and I covered the right half of the front yard with fertiliser, newspapers and sugarcane mulch. This merrily kills the grass underneath – works like a charm. After a little while, we poked holes in the newspaper and planted the fruit trees. We have a lemon, mandarine, 2 avocados, 2 plums and a blood orange. Then we left the mulch undisturbed and waited for the grass to die.

Every time a flash of green would appear, I’d yank it out and get a flattened cardboard wine cask (I buy the shiraz from Aldi in the brown cardboard cask) and put it underneath the mulch where the offending weed was. Take that! It probably helps that I drink a lot of wine but honestly, considering my lawn is kikuyu, there were far fewer weeds coming up than you’d think.

This was the space that we let the pumpkins run riot last year. The seeds were in pots but the vines rambled all over the place under the trees and we ended up with eleventy billion pumpkins.

Now, after a year of letting the grass die, it’s time to plant COLOUR.

Deana from England kicked it off by sending me a rose. It’ll have apricot coloured flowers.

Now, it’s joined by a waxflower plant, 2 daisies and some tiny speedings of red and yellow flowers. I have a pot of Dutch isises that I’ll probably plant beside the letter box and a pot of red lillies that my Mum dug up from the house at Inverloch before they sold it. Assuming they all survive, the orchard will look very different.

(This photo is of the other maple I have beside the steps to the house. The one at the top of this post is bright red all the time; this one is green but is pink when the new growth comes in.)

After taking this picture, I decided to move the pot over to where they’ll eventually be planed in the ground. Couldn’t move it – the roots have gone out of the pot and into the ground beneath. Doesn’t matter; it can stay there until the flowers have finished.

This shot was taken back in 2013 when I went to Macau. This was when I saw huge hanging baskets like this on the streets. Later, of course, when I went to London I saw them again. Now, as part of Operation Beautify, I bought some hanging baskets that Aldi had on sale and I’m going to put some on the front verandah and down the side of the house.

I have what seems to be hundreds of petunia seedlings here, as well as some other plants for variety. The colour combo I’ve chosen for this year is red, white and purple. This was dictated by being the only colours the Diacos nursery had left in their online catalogue. If they look good and I’m able to keep the water up to them in the middle of summer, I figure I can change the colours every year.

It’ll be fun.

In other news I have the most expensive asparagus crop in Melbourne. I’ve spent probably $150 on two sets of plants (one purple, then one green) and only 8 spears have popped up. Bev from Foodnstuff says that they’ll spread, but so far most of them are sulking underground, refusing to do anything. When I start harvesting them next year, I’ll be savouring each spear… I was about to say as if it was made of gold, but that doesn’t sound very appetising.

On another note, asparagus always looks as if someone was having a prank by just putting asparagus spears in the ground like that, doesn’t it?

Two of my wicking beds have spuds growing, one by choice, one by accident, and I started these grow beds a few weeks ago with Nicola potatoes in them. They seem to be happy here.

Here’s how the ‘speedings’ from Diggers were packaged. Clever, hey? They are designed for you to just pop them in the ground. I bought 6 tomatoes, 3 Jalepeño chilies, 5 basil, 3 cucumbers and lots of flower starters. Due to the big backlog in parcel deliveries they were a couple of days longer in transit than usual. A couple of the basil speedings won’t make it, but that’s ok. I have seed I saved from last year that I can sprinkle around. We still have heaps of pesto in the freezer from last summer, too.

I’ve also planted some ‘Sex without strings’ beans with seed I saved from 2 years ago. They’re a yellow bush bean and I got heaps from them when I last planted them, so fingers crossed.

Well, I’d better go and start quilting. I’m making 3 quilts for Christmas presents and the largest one is going to be made of fabric that’s still in the post. I’d better go and work on the ones that can be worked on and get them out of the way. They’re the last Christmas presents I have to get for this year. Hearing about upcoming shortages and huge parcel delivery delays sure makes a person get things organised early!

Skinflint Sunday: There’s a lot to be said for harmonious living.

I was chatting on the phone with Mum and I told her a story to make her laugh. Ryan26 and I were talking about life after lockdowns and I said, “You know, it’s going to be really weird when things get back to normal and we won’t be seeing each other 24/7.”

He looked at me, raised an eyebrow and in his dry fashion replied, “The word is bliss, Mum. Pure bliss.”

Mum laughed as I told her and then she said, “How many arguments have you two had during lockdowns?”

That question stopped me in my tracks. I literally blinked a couple of times while I thought.

“Um…. none. I can’t think of a single argument.”

“Oh, come off it!” she said. “Not even one???”

I walked into the Man Cave where Ryan26 was playing a game. I had the phone on speaker so Mum could hear what he said.
“Hey Rhino, in the last 18 months can you remember if we’ve ever had an argument?”

He looked puzzled. “No,” he said.

“So who backs down first then?” Mum asked.

Ryan26 and I looked at each other in disbelief. Was it so hard to believe that two people can share a space and get along with each other?

After we fnished the call, I walked back into the Man Cave and said, Well, that was some phone call!”

Ryan26 said, “Yeah, of course we don’t fight. We’re not in an abusive relationship!”

That made me laugh so much.

Of course we have issues. For example, why is it that he can never seem to shut a drawer or cupboard door after he opens them? Why does he always assume that the dishwasher is full and leave his dishes in the sink instead of opening the dishwasher door and checking? (Though, to be fair, he’s getting a bit better at this.) Apparently when he cooks, I micromanage how he does things. David28 has said this too. (I think I’m being helpful, but I’ve taken it on board. I now sit over in the lounge room when he cooks so I can’t see what he’s doing.) I also talk to myself and the dogs a lot. (I think I do it because I’m such damned good company!)

Still, if they’re the biggest issues we have with each other, then I think we’re doing pretty well.

I’m sure that having the two living areas really helps. We can each do our own thing for much of the day and we’re not in each other’s space all the time. It also helps that we’re both pretty self-contained creatures. He’s such an agreeable person. Whatever I suggest we’ll have for dinner, or who’ll be cooking it – it’s always ok with him. We have our lockdown traditions of Saturday night movies, alternating between us as to which movie we’ll see; and pancake breakfasts on Sundays. Love that maple syrup from Costco.

What with him and the dogs, lockdowns are pretty cruisy at our place.

Yesterday I spent the whole day reading a book. Zero regrets. This morning I was looking at my Facebook memories and I did the same thing 3 years ago. No regrets then too!

Today I have 5 strawberry plants from Diggers that I should plant. I have no idea where I’m going to put them but I’ll work something out. A few days ago I started some seeds – cucumber, tromboncino zucchini and jeune et vert squash – but so far only the cucumbers have sprouted. Lots of them. We’ll be knee-deep in cukes! Most are from the apple cucumbers I grew last year. I saved some of the seeds.

I’m waiting on a Diggers order with tomato plants and other bits and bobs. Now that the sun is out, I’m starting to feel the need to get out into the garden and be productive. I have heaps of bean seeds from last year to plant. The Purple King beans are from seeds that my friend Bev gave me over 10 years ago, while the Lazy Housewife beans are from seeds I originally bought from Diggers years ago.

Jeffrey has been on his heart meds for a couple of months now and he’s doing well. We have to wait for half an hour after he takes his half pill morning and night before they can eat. At first they all behaved as if I was torturing them, especially Poppy. That girl really loves her food. But in a surprisingly short period of time, they’ve adjusted to the new regime.

Ah well. I’d better get moving. All I’ve done so far today is post 5 Dad jokes onto Facebook – I do this every day during lockdown – and write this post. After my sinfully indulgent reading day yesterday I’d better get things done. There’s some plants to be looked after, some old cabbage plants to be chopped up and used for mulch and a baby quilt that needs quilting.

Then I might go and pick and argument wth Ryan26, just for the novelty value.


Here’s some Dad jokes that were popular with my FB friends:

The quilt that Ryan26 designed.

A month ago I told you all that Ryan26 was designing a quilt pattern. I want to make a quilt for David28 and after he picked out a design from Pinterest, Ryan26 tweaked the design. Being a bit bored with lockdowns and with no further study to do, he wrote up the entire pattern with 4 different sizes. He’s thinking about maybe starting an Etsy shop with quilting patterns for guys.

I made this baby quilt to test the pattern.

It’s a fun one to make, with the squares intertwining. I pulled fabric from my stash to make it, so it was a real lockdown project. It measures 32″ square, which is a nice size for a play mat or a pram blankie.

I decided that this would look better with the binding being the same colour as the red backing fabric, though of course if you wanted to do a different colour it’d frame the whole design. I hand sewed the binding – I had a few podcasts to catch up on and it was a drizzly morning.

The backing is from a flannelette sheet that I’ve had sitting in my stash for over a decade. It’s warm and snuggly for a little baby. The first few quilts I made were all backed with flannelette

Now that I’ve determined that the pattern works, we chose the colours for David28’s queen-sized quilt. I ordered the fabric yesterday. This next one will be in solid colours

Skinflint Sunday: I may never need a hairdresser again.

We’ve been in lockdown for a while and I didn’t get my hair cut and coloured in the 9 days between lockdown #5 and #6. This meant that I was walking around with what appeared to be a haystack on my head with a chic racing stripe of grey running through it.

On Friday night I said to Ryan26, “Do you think I should shave my head?”

He leapt to his feet and said, “Mum, I’m sick of hearing about this. Come on, we’re going to do it right now!”

Upon reflection, I may have brought up the topic eleventy times over the past couple of weeks. Long-term readers of this blog would know that 15 years ago I shaved my head in front of the whole school for The World’s Greatest Shave, then I kept that style for a year because I loved it so much. But in those youthful days I didn’t have grey hair…

My hair is nearly white around my face, with it getting steadily darker brown as it grows further back on my head. I was worried that it’d look weird if I shaved it. WHAT an idiot I was! It looks natural because… well, it IS natural.

Ryan26 chose a number 6 and off he went, waving that shaver around like a man possessed. I must have been driving him mad with my ‘will I or won’t I?’ conversations about my hair.

By 9:08 PM it was all finished. I know it was that time because I went straight to FB and said what I’d done. Apparently a lot of people still access FB at that time. I got lots of demands for photos. I said I’d post some tomorrow – on a lockdown it’s good to have something to look forward to.

In the morning, after a little bit of neatening up, I posted a couple of photos. I’m pretty sure Mum hasn’t been on FB yet because I know, when she does, I’ll get a phone call. Dad’s not a fan of the buzz cut look for girlies…

Things I remember from last time:

  1. Eyebrow maintenance is a MUST. There’s no fringe for them to hide behind.
  2. Hats are very important in summer. A sunburned scalp is never fun. And it makes you look like a tomato.
  3. Hats are very important in winter. Hmmm… maybe I should get a few beanies on the needles?
  4. A thinner face looks better with this hairdo. I need to take the dogs on longer walks.

As this is a Skinflint Sunday post, let’s talk savings. Assuming that I continue with this snazzy style forever, how much money will I save?

Already, I get a pretty good deal on my cut and colours. It costs $80 at my local hairdresser, the only drawback being that they don’t take appointments, so you never know how long you’ll be waiting before you get a seat.

I get a cut every 6 weeks, so that works out to roughly 9 times a year. I’ll be saving $720/year if I keep getting Ryan26 to shave my noggin. Hmmm… that’d pay for a few bevvies on the boat to Antarctica…

I used to buy my ground coffee from Aldi but then I tried the columbian coffee from Costco. I really like it so, of course, I make sure that the zombie apocalypse cupboard is always well-stocked. This house can do without many things but a morning coffee and an evenings wine(s) are not among them!

A while ago I did an experiment where I priced out what a cup of coffee costs me to make at home. Since writing that post, I’ve caved and we buy the big tins of Kirkland coffee from Costco, but we still decant them into the little, sexier coffee tin.

At first all 3 of us were drinking the real coffee, but a year or so ago Ryan26 decided that it doesn’t agree with him, so he’s gone back to instant. That left David27 and I. He likes a strong brew, so he was using 2 scoops for every cup.

Then he moved out…

… and I began to wonder how long each sexy container of coffee would last with only 1 person having a morning coffee. If I was going to measure it, now would be the time. No visitors are able to come during lockdown to screw up the results by asking for a coffee!

See? There’s always a silver lining.

But how would I remember when the sexy coffee tin was full and the experiment began?

I tell you – Frogdancer Jones comes up with some genius ideas at times!

Yesterday the jar was emptied. It takes 3 weeks for me to work my way through one sexy coffee jar’s worth of coffee. This means that I probably have about a year’s supply tucked away here. Considering that people are murmuring about a world-wide coffee shortage looming, this makes me feel pretty good.

I wrote about how I “darn” socks HERE.

Works a treat, especially if you don’t care about the aesthetics.

Skinflint Sunday: Spring’s coming.

It may still be winter on the calendar, but the garden is definitely thinking that it’s spring.

Blossoms are popping up on the fruit trees and the rhubarb has finished its hibernation and is throwing new leaves up above the mulch.

Deana’s rose is producing leaves, so it must be happy with the spot I chose.

I made 6 bars of soap because I only had 1/4 of the copha I needed to make a full batch. This will tide us over until I get to Coles or Woolies again to stock up on more.

I have to wait at least 6 weeks for the soap to cure. Just as well that I still have tiny soaps from motels to use in the meantime!

The covid case numbers today are a little disheartening. 92 cases … looks like our lockdown #6 will probably be extended. but then, there are things like this that people are doing.

You know, most people are pretty darned nice.

Earlier in the year I made the decision to let the garden rest over the winter. The only crops, apart from herbs, that are still producing are rainbow chard and a second-gen red cabbage that has thrown lots of little cabbages. Most of the cabbages aren’t worth a damn, but there are a couple of meal-sized heads for Ryan26 and I.

Speaking of heads:

Yesterday was a glorious winter’s day – I spent it getting rid of a whole bed of self-seeded strawberries. They popped up late last year from scraps I brought back from school and I was so delighted.

But alas – they tasted awful. Now, I like free food as much as anyone and better than most, but I had to draw the line. Disappointing strawbs aren’t worth the space.

So now I have another garden bed ready and waiting for spring. It’s been raining off and on last night and this morning so it’ll all be watered in.

I placed a big order with Diggers yesterday, with lots of veggies and 5 strawberry plants as well. I’ll grow a few things from seed, but I’m not in the zone to go full-tilt into seed planting frenzy. I’ve ordered a few seedlings to make my life easier.

And hey – they’re heirloom plants so I can always save seed from them for next year.

The washcloths are all done and all of the leftover bamboo has been chopped and added to the big worm farm.

And finally, look at this pumpkin and feta tart I made yesterday.

It has our own chard and rosemary fresh from the garden, our own roasted pumpkin from the freezer and some feta that needed to be used up asap. It’s delicious and will be finished up for our lunch today. In days gone by, the eggs would’ve been produced from the garden too.

Sometimes I miss my chooks…

Skinflint Sunday: The end of an era – No more students.

In 1997 I dressed little Tom5 in a school uniform and off he went to school, starting off a huge 24 year streak of the boys being students. On Thursday that finally finished, with Ryan26 being sent a pass by RMIT to travel into the city. He performed the last Industry Standards test and is now a fully qualified Myotherapist. This adds to his Remedial Massage qualification he earned the year before last.

Phew! Once he gets a job then they’ll ALL be off my hands!

For those who don’t know, Tom29 is an accountant; David27 is a Bachelor of Music but is working in retail while recording songs with Izzy; and Evan24 has an acting degree and is also working in retail while writing a Fringe Festival show with a mate. This show is set to go on at the end of September – surely we’ll be out of lockdowns by then???

A friend I used to work with lives a couple of suburbs away from me and our 5km bubbles merge. We met at the Backyard Beach and we walked and talked for an hour. It was a beautiful winter’s day and although I was scared there’d be hordes of people at the beach, there weren’t too many and it was really pleasant.

Scout was so excited to see another of “her” people – I think lockdowns are starting to affect her.

We were walking along and I saw a little girl watching the dogs and smiling. I brought them over to her and said, “You can pat them if you like.”

Her mother smiled and said, “Thank you. It’s the little things that really matter at the moment.”

I’ve been keeping myself entertained over the last few days by unpicking a bamboo top that I knitted back in 2010 and REknitting as washcloths to give away as gifts with my homemade soap. I loved the bamboo fibre – it has a sheen that’s just beautiful – but the actual top I made was too hot for summer and looked awful if I wore a long sleeved t-shirt under it in cooler weather. I think I only wore it a couple of times. It’s lived in a drawer in my dresser ever since.

It was one of those things that was too expensive to throw away but impossible to wear. I knew I’d unpick it “one day”, and I was correct. Eleven years and 6 lockdowns later, its time had come.

I’m really enjoying sitting at the table, knitting away. So far I have 6 washcloths done, with probably another 4 or 5 to go, along with a couple of dark green cotton ones that I found in my knitting bag that only needed the threads sewn into them. I listen to an audiobook from Joy Dettman’s ‘Woody Creek’ series (SO VERY GOOD!!), a cup of tea by my side and the little woofs usually lined up asleep on the back of the couch nearest me. So peaceful.

I love having little gifts like this put aside. I prefer to give people things that I’ve grown or made myself so seeing the pile of completed cloths gives me the same feeling I get when I unpack a load of groceries into the zombie apocalypse cupboard or when I harvest a huge crop of veggies into the freezer to be used over the rest of the year.

One thing I’ve discovered since retiring is that I much prefer to cook in the mornings. I’m so happy if I can either throw a meal in the slow cooker or get a meal substantially ready and just put it together at dinnertime. Decades of coming home from work and opening the fridge at 5 and wondering what to cook… ugh.

Now that I’m actually at home in the mornings, I happily potter about the kitchen, cooking up a storm. I love it – especially when I’m doing something in the afternoon that i particularly enjoy and I know I don’t have to stop to get dinner organised.


Skinflint Sunday: Stealth quilting during a lockdown.

Back when Ryan26 was a little Ryan10 -or-11, he asked if I could make him a skull quilt. I replied that when I could work out how to do one, then of course I would.

Fast forward to 2 years ago, when I remembered that conversation and asked him if he still wanted one.

“Hell yeah!” he said, which surprised me a bit.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Pinterest served up this beauty.

In between lockdowns, Ryan26 had a driving lesson and we went to a local quilt shop. His favourite colour is yellow and while we were there, I got him to pick out some fabric he liked.

“Don’t expect I’ll use it anytime soon,” I said. “After making that dachshund quilt for you last year, you’re WAY down the list!”

So my version of this quilt is going to be all in yellows, with a dark grey background. When I was making Evan24’s quilt last year I bought about 4,000 metres of the grey fabric, so I’m happy to chip away at it.

So how do you make a surprise Christmas present for a person who, due to lockdowns, is ALWAYS around?

Very quietly and carefully, it turns out, with frequent heart attacks when he suddenly walks past the room and you didn’t hear him coming. I haven’t quilted that baby quilt I showed you last week – it’s ‘casually’ lying on the bed in the sewing room with all of the skull quilt strips hidden beneath it.

One good thing is that Ryan26 likes to take a walk almost every day. Trouble is, they differ in length anywhere from 30 minutes to (once) 4 hours. I ‘ll be lolling on the couch reading a book as he steps through the gate, then BAM! I’m in the sewing room, frantically cutting, pinning, sewing… until I hear the latch on the front gate. Then I’m covering everything up and walking out to the lounge room to ask how his walk was.

So far I’ve just about finished piecing the top together. When he FINALLY gets to go in to RMIT to finish the last assessment with his myotherapy course, I’ll be spending those hours sandwiching the quilt together with pins and starting the quilting.

I’ll have it done before Christmas, unless he DOES give me heart failure by poking his head around the door unexpectedly.

One good thing has come from all of this enforced downtime, especially with the lockdown being extended. Ryan26 has designed a quilt pattern!

It came about because I told David27 that he should pick out a quilt design. It was his turn. At first he was like, “Ok, but I’m still using the quilt you made for me when I was a kid.” I then broke it to him that while he only had one quilt, Evan24 had FOUR.

“What?!?” he said. “I call shenanigans!”

“He’s the baby,” I said. “You have to keep the baby warm.”

David27 hit Pinterest and came back with a picture of a quilt he liked. Ryan26 graphed it up for me and in the process of doing that, he changed the design to something that looks even better. He started fooling around with the design software and voila! A quilt pattern was born.

After I test it out by making a couple of quilts from it, we’re thinking that he might open an Etsy store. It could be a dribble of passive income for him, especially because he’s moving into a ‘hands-on’ field of work in the middle of a pandemic. Quilt patterns are pdfs, so once it’s all set up, the process will be automatic.

It’s also been really good for his state of mind too, giving him something else to think about and problem-solve. It turns out that he really enjoys designing. He was starting to get a bit glum with the constant pushing back of the end of his course with all of the lockdowns. This has been very good for him.

For something a little bit fun and frugal, I’ve been using up all of my travel-sized shampoos etc. Every morning I feel like I’m on holiday. Just the thing during a lockdown!

Now that there are only two of us living here, I’m finding that our food is lasting far longer than it did before. When I make something like a casserole, curry or pasta sauce, it’s now lasting two nights + lunches instead of being eaten up all in one night.

These aren’t sausage rolls. (Sorry, Scott!)

We had lemon and coconut dahl one night and I didn’t feel like dishing it up on rice again the following night. I decided to drag out a few sheets of puff pastry from the freezer and use the dahl in them. We had them for dinner that night and it was ok… but there was one left over. Next day for lunch I cut it in half and reheated it in the airfryer and YUM.

As a dinner it was meh… but as a lunch it was terrific. I’m going to make up a few of these and freeze them for those days when we feel like a savoury snack for lunch. It was tasty and not too heavy. Perfect!

I’ve been using Evan24’s old room as a sewing room. I have the machine on this folding table which vibrates if you sew at any speed faster than a gentle trot. It’s a tight fit in this room. Behind me is a double bed which takes up a lot of the space.

My Grand Plan is that when one of the remaining boys moves out, I’ll take his room to use as an office/craft room. I’ve never had one of these and I think I’ll love it. I’ll have a proper, sturdy table for the sewing machine, a design wall and a desk for keeping all of my stationery together. It’ll be heaven.

Yesterday my sister Kate mentioned that she was having trouble moving her 8 seater dining table on Marketplace. It’s a beautiful beech table that looks sensational but it’s simply too big for the space most people have.

‘Hang on a minute!’ I thought. ‘That’d make a perfect sewing table!’

I offered her $300 OR a quilt. She chose the cash. I still don’t have a spare room for it, but fortunately the Man Cave is big enough that we can park the table in there until either Ryan26 moves out or David27 and Izzy move out from her parents’ house and into their own place and David27 takes all his stuff with him. This will be a Pantene thing – it won’t happen overnight but it will happen.

It’s funny how all of the jigsaw puzzle pieces keep falling into place to make The Best House in Melbourne the perfect retirement dwelling!