Skinflint Sunday: The week that was.

Evan24 and Jenna on the steps of the Opera House.

Life in lockdown has continued on its sedate path. Here in Melbourne we know the rules and everyone – except the nutters – follows them. The reality of the Delta variant came home to us when Evan24 and Jenna, (pictured above a couple of months ago in happier times before NSW bungled its Covid response), were notified that they had to go into isolation. Their housemate is from NSW and went to a rugby match (ugh) in the city, where a super spreader was. So far they’ve all tested negative but it’s a warning as to how easily we can be exposed to it.

To ease the pain of iso I sent them a half a dozen bottles of shiraz. Tey may as well eat, drink and make merry while they’re stuck there!

I asked about Lentil, the golden retriever, who lives with them. Apparently dog lovers from up and down their street are waiting at the front gate to pick her up and take her for a walk. Dog people are the best people.

2 apple trees

My project for Lockdown #5 was to plant a row of columnar apples along the strip of garden in the driveway next to my car. I bought 4 trees last year just before Lockdown #3 (I think) and they’ve been sitting in pots waiting for winter. I looked at the space and on the day before this current lockdown I went and bought another one. Turns out I should’ve bought 2.

I have 5 of these trees out in the back yard and last year we had a pretty decent crop from such small trees. Only one didn’t fruit and a couple of them went wild. These ones in the front will have slightly less sunlight but hopefully they’ll do the right thing in a year or two and give me plenty of apples. They’re a mix of red and yellow, which will keep things interesting.

Stumps in the ground.

The only problem is that there was an orange tree that wasn’t removed properly when I had the garden bed cleared last year, so of course its roots are precisely where we want 2 of the apples to go. When lockdown finishes I’m going to get Blogless Sandy to bring her husband, Even More Blogless Andrew, to bring his mini chainsaw to gently break it up. Hopefully we can buy another tree and have the whole lot in the ground before Spring.

Red against dark grey.

Look at how pretty the new growth looks against my newly-painted fence!

Next Saturday I get my second shot. I’ll be so glad when that happens. I saw online that over 18s can get the AZ shot, so Ryan26 booked an appointment and 2 hours later his first shot was done. When he’s out of quarantine Evan24 will be rolling up his sleeve as well, with the other boys not far behind.

Dogs on the couch.

The little woofs are all doing well and are still the light of my life. I really believed that after I retired, they’d get used to me being around and would be more chill about me not being in their direct line of vision at all times.

Not so. I didn’t think it was possible for them to be even more attached than they were, but it’s happened. I mean, it’s flattering and all, but it’s still a bit embarrassing when I get an hysterical welcome back after stepping outside the gate to put the bins out.

Fabric hexagons

I’ve begun cutting out hexagons to make a quilt for the lounge room. When I went on last months Little Adventure to Kellie’s fabric shop in Faulkner I picked up fabric that goes with the painting that I bought when I went to Hahndorf.

Fabric next to a painting.

I’ll be machine piecing this quilt, but I’m cutting the hexies out by hand by tracing around a template with a water soluble pen. Life would be easier if the ink in the pen wasn’t so blue… I really should’ve started from the other end of the bag!

My quest to ‘earn’ back my council rates by reading $1,800 worth of books from the local library is coming along well, with only $305 to go. I’ve discovered the most fantastic series by an Australian author called Joy Dettman – The ‘Woody Creek’ novels. I’ve finished the first 2 and – can you believe it? – my library doesn’t have 3, 4 5, and 6. I’ll be putting in a request sometime today for them to buy them. What’s the point in having the first and last books in a series without having the middle ones?

Argh!

Still, if this is the worst thing that has happened to me this week, then life must be pretty darned good. 🙂

Simple pleasures.

Home made pesto in iceblock trays, ready for the freezer.

Life has been gently sliding by in a very relaxed rhythm. This early retirement thing has so far been very good to me. I’m reading lots of books, taking cheeky naps whenever I feel like it and generally living a very (quietly) hedonistic life.

I’ve been making many batches of pesto and putting them in the freezer. I bought a punnet of basil seedlings from Bunnings last year and wouldn’t you know it? Nearly every seedling I scattered around the garden has grown. I just love the smell of basil so harvesting the leaves and producing pesto isn’t exactly a chore. Instead of pine nuts I’m using almonds. The last couple of times I went to Costco I forgot that I already had a huge bag of almonds at home and so I bought one more. Now, making this pesto is helping me to use them up.

Also, did you know that keeping almonds in the freezer means that they always taste beautifully fresh? I love my freezers.

Path down to our backyard beach.

This is the view we get most mornings when we go down to our Backyard Beach. It’s a lovely way to start the day and the dogs can’t believe their luck that we’re doing this so often.

I thought for sure that I’d have all of the outside painting done by now but my body seems to have decided that it wants a slower pace, so I haven’t been ‘in the zone’ to get major jobs done around here. I’ve finished my 25th book for 2021 and puddled around the garden doing bits and pieces and I guess that’s ok. After all, I have all the time in the world to get things done. I wrote a post on the other blog about my first month of real retirement called ‘Retirement seems so natural‘ and I included a list of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I’ll include that list at the bottom of this post. Thank goodness for copy and paste!

Remember how I planted what I thought were pumpkin seeds in 3 large pots and placed them under the baby trees in my orchard to let the vines ramble? They’ve run amok, turning into zucchinis and a cross between pumpkins and zucchinis. I guess I planted them too close together last year! I gave a zucchini the size of a 3 month old baby to my neighbours and then a couple of days later I found a plastic bag full of home-grown potatoes hanging over the side fence.

They went nicely with a roast and our home-grown red cabbage.

I think I first read about wicking boxes on foodnstuff’s blog. These strawberries have been in this box for years and they still happily produce each year. I was resigned to the fact that they were for Jeffrey, because he keeps stealing them, but look at these beauties!

Well, it’s 1:30 pm on a Sunday. I need to go and do a few things around the place, but as promised, I’ll leave you with these Thumping Good Reads.

Some of the books I’ve read so far this year:

  • ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ – Tevis. This one was so beautifully written – I kept putting it down after each chapter just to savour the writing. Jack29 gave me this for Christmas so I read it before I watched the tv show. Both were excellent.
  • Wife After Wife’ – Hayfield. This one was quite clever – a re-telling of Henry VIII and his wives – but set in the present day. I’m a huge Tudor history fan, so this was right up my alley.
  • Find You First‘ – Barclay. Stephen King tweeted that this book “Blew my mind” so I was curious to read it. Couldn’t put it down.
  • The Thursday Murder Club‘ – Osman. This was another gift from Jack29 and so far, he’s nailing it with the book choices! This is a gently funny, very original and very English murder mystery tale. I’m already hanging out for the next in the series.
  • ‘Olive, Mabel and Me; Life and Adventures with 2 very good dogs’ – Cotter. Those of you who have seen the videos that Andrew Cotter, a Scottish sports commentator, made with his dogs during the lockdowns will know Olive and Mabel. This is one book I had to have – it was one of the books I bought with the book voucher my friends at work gave me. I’ll include a clip at the end.

No financial books? That’s right. These books are the best of the ones I’ve tackled so far this year and let’s face it – life isn’t all about money. Nothing’s better than curling up with a good novel.

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: take an unnecessary nap.

Jeff.
Jeff, with Scout in the background.

I was doing a few things in the kitchen this morning, when I looked up to see Jeffrey looking at me. I walked over to take his photo.

However, Scout, in the background, doesnt ever like Jeff to get any attention…

Jeff and Scout
Poor Jeff.

The second she saw him get his picture taken, she was over there. She’s the annoying little sister…

Jeff and Scout.
An angel.

… who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

Today is a rainy day, so I played around in the kitchen with a few frugal things – perfect for a Skinflint Sunday.

Sourdough loaf.
Sourdough loaf with oats on top.

It’s been 4 months and I’m still baking sourdough bread. The boys and I love it and I’ve also found out that a loaf of sourdough bread makes a good present. David26 takes a loaf with him whenever he goes to stay at Izzy’s place and her whole family celebrates. Before this latest lockdown my sister took a loaf and she loved it. She sliced it, froze it and had a slice of toast for breakfast each morning.

I was making a loaf for Dad each week and when the 5km rule came in he was really missing his bread. Yesterday Tom28 rang me at 8AM – his car wouldn’t start and he couldn’t get Mum and Dad’s groceries for them. Imagine Dad’s delight when I turned up with not only their groceries?

Big ceramic mixing bowl.
Old mixing bowl.

Mum bought me this mixing bowl DECADES ago, probably when I got married. It’s the same as hers. I never used it very much, but I hung onto it for sentimental reasons. Now it gets used all the time – it’s my sourdough mixing and initial proofing bowl.

Ground linseed.
Ground linseeds for our bread.

Years ago I read the magnificent ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver. I always remembered a sentence from it, so I grabbed the book to find it for you. It took me AGES of skimming each page, but I found it. Now I’ve decided to re-read it.

Anyway, she was talking about how in the olden days, winter foods tended to include a lot of fatty acids and omega-3s. Things like salmon and tuna are chock full of the stuff, which tends to guard against depression. Our diets nowadays have far fewer of the things like this.

She wrote that they were going to include grass-fed beef and egg yolks to get them through winter, and “Steven threw extra flax seeds (also rich in omega-3s) into his loaves of bread, to keep the troops happy.”

Ever since then I’ve done the same thing. One of my boys had a really tough time with depression back in his teens, so I’m happy to do something like this to help keep us all on an even keel. I figure that it’s better to grind the flax seeds, since the body has no choice but to absorb it, instead of just letting the flax seeds pass right through.

In the midst of a lockdown and a pandemic, I suppose we could all use the help!

Roasted pumpkin seeds.
Roasted pumpkin seeds.

I also read something else years ago that I never forgot. Spo talked on his blog about saving the pumpkin seeds from his Halloween pumpkin and roasting them as a snack.

I’d never heard of this before and it seemed like sheer madness, but seeing as, back then, I was a struggling single mother with 4 boys desperate for food at any hour of the day, I thought it couldn’t do any harm to check this out. I was only throwing the seeds away, anyhow.

Turns out they’re not too bad. Lightly sprayed with olive oil, salt ground over them, then in the oven for about 5 minutes. Ryan25 absolutely LOVES them, so he had a nice little snack. What made this even more satisfying was that the seeds came from one of the pumpkins I grew myself.

Details of Evan23's podcast episode.
Hilarious episode.

A girl I went to school with is currently working in aged care. Yep. She’s front-line in the pandemic.

I called her a coupe of nights ago for a chat and she was really down and exhausted. We were talking about what our kids were doing and I remembered Evan23’s podcast – specifically the ‘Love Shack’ episode.

Once I made sure she knew the lyrics, I told her about the podcast ep. She said she’d listen to it but we all know what that usually means.

Anyway, an hour later I got a text.

‘Bloody hilarious, thanks so much! It was just what I needed. Love Shack will never be the same!’

I highly recommend this. Bonus points if you can work out which of the boys is Evan23. 🙂

Bay tree in a pot.
Bay tree.

Probably 25 years ago, when the boys were small, I bought a very expensive little plant. I paid $7 for what can only be described as a mere twig of a bay tree, but I had visions of never needing to buy bay leaves ever again.

I planted it in the biggest terracotta pot I owned. I then pretty much ignored it from then on, apart from watering it and clipping a bay leaf from it every time I needed one.

When my verandah rails needed fixing, the carpenter moved most of the pots down to the lawn. They’re still there, my bay tree being out n the open instead of tucked into a corner. It looked like a mess.

So on Friday, in between classes I was teaching, I took the secateurs and gave it a good pruning. Been meaning to do it for years!

It looks so much better.

Half painted fence
Pandemic painting underway.

You may remember that during the last lockdown I painted my front fence. Two coats, front and back. I’ve decided that my front yard will have a backdrop of all the fences being painted, so lockdown #2 is the side fence’s turn.

Yu can see that I can’t quite reach the top and I haven’t yet cut in at the bottom, but the big job of doing the middle is all but finished.

My plan is to get the other side fence replaced after lockdown #2 finishes, then if we’re unlucky enough to have a third lockdown I’ll have a ready-made project just waiting for me.

But why did I call this post ” Take an unnecessary nap’?

Because I wrote this post after waking up from a totally self-indulgent 2 hour nap after lunch. I woke with Scout’s nose wedged into the back of my neck, the sound of rain falling on the tin roof outside and I was snug and warm under the doona and quilt.

Heaven!

Loving lockdown!

A rounded pic for my rounded sourdough!

It’s been a while since I wrote here but the truth is I’ve been so busy. You know how retirees always say with a smirk, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to go to work!” Well, I think I’m getting a taste for how that feels.

Not that it’s really the same. For the last 4 weeks I’ve been remote teaching. For anyone interested in what teaching from home is like, I wrote a post on the other blog about it.

Two weeks after writing that post, I’ve learned to keep out of my work emails during my days off. I have a quick look at breakfast, just in case a kid submitted something late on the day before, then I sneak a very quick look in the late afternoon, but that’s IT! Otherwise, I was working right through the week, working 6 or 7 days but only getting paid for 3. Frogdancer Jones is not a charity!

I thought I’d be reading heaps of books, but I haven’t been. I mean, I’m still reading but not every day. I think that because I’m reading so much on the screen when I’m working that when I have free time, my eyes want a rest from print.

First coat almost done!

One of the jobs I wanted to have done by the end of iso was to get my fences painted, particularly the front fence. One of my ‘panic buys’ at Bunnings was a 10L tin of ‘Monument’ coloured fence paint, along with a redgum stain for the uprights.

Monument is a very ‘Melbourne’ colour. Melbournians tend to wear a lot of black, and I think there must be an unwritten rule that says that every house in Melbourne has to have a touch of this colour somewhere. I don’t care if it’s popular – I love it.

At first I wasn’t all that fussed about getting it done, as we were told that school would be out for the whole term. But now, just in case, I’ve decided that every sunny day that I’m not working, I’ll be out there waving a paintbrush around. If we go back earlier, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t have the fence done.

I decided to use a brush and not a spray gun for a couple of reasons. One was that I think you get a better coverage with a brush. The second was when the woman over the road told me about when she hired a guy to spray paint her fence in her previous home and the wind took it and covered the neighbour’s cars with droplets of paint. The guy had to pay to get the cars completely resprayed!

Dammit!

So yesterday, I finished the 10L tin of paint. The street side would have been completely finished except for this last little scrap. I was scraping that tin, trying to find just a little more paint…

The fence palings are really thirsty, so what I thought would be enough paint to finish the job hasn’t even finished the first coat on the front fence I still have to paint behind the gate, which will be a bugger of a job because of all the metal posts there. I can see a trip to Bunnings in my future on Thursday. I can’t go after teaching today because I have an English meeting after school hours. *sigh*

Even in a pandemic, there’s no escape.

A couple of days ago I found this handwritten, posted-with-a-stamp letter in the mail. It’s from our local Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even having a padlock on the front gate can’t keep them out!

It needs some pleats at the side.

Who says face masks have to be boring? I made a couple of masks for when I go shopping. I think the chickens add a jaunty air to my appearance, don’t you? The good thing about these is that they’re reusable – I just threw it into a bleach solution when I got home and put it through the wash.

Obviously it’s not going to totally save me from the virus, but for a quick shopping trip to the supermarket, it reminds me not to touch my face and it’s a barrier to breathing in any germs. Plus it was a novelty for me to make something that wasn’t a quilt.

Evan23’s quilt… and mine.

So speaking about quilts, I finally began Evan23’s yellow and grey quilt. We bought the fabric way back in January, so it was past time for me to get onto it. I guesstimated the number of squares I’d need and spent a few days cutting and sewing them together.

He wants a queen-sized quilt, which is a sizeable project. When I laid them out on my bed (also queen-sized) to work out the layout – I discovered that I’d made DOUBLE what I needed. What an idiot! So now Evan23 and I will have mother-son matching quilts. Not exactly what I intended to have happen…

Another quilt.

I’ve also pieced together a lap-quilt for a friend. I had some fabric left over from the ‘Outlander’ quilt, so waste not, want not!

I love my Golf. 8 chairs fitted inside!

At the end of January I ordered 8 teak chairs from Schotts in Moorabbin to go with my teak outdoor table. My verandah out the back is finished and the chairs were one of the final things I needed to make it all ready.

The woman who served me said that they’d have to order them in from China. At that stage China had shut down lots of things because of the virus. She said that they were due in at the end of April, but with the virus, who knew?

I shrugged, thinking that it would be getting colder by then, so if the chairs didn’t arrive for months it wouldn’t make that much difference anyway.

Well knock me down with a feather if the chairs didn’t arrive on time! I had a week to collect them. I hadn’t left the house (except to walk the dogs) for a couple of weeks and it felt strange getting into the car and driving to get them.

I also took the chance to visit Mum and Dad. We sat on their back verandah, appropriately socially distanced of course! I hadn’t seen them in around 5 weeks. Tom28 brings them their groceries every Saturday and they talk to him in the front garden, but apart from that they don’t see too many people.

The chairs in their new home.

To my shame, the veggie garden has been left it its own devices. Once I get the fence finished I’ll be very busy cutting and dropping the old tomato and celery plants and dragging away the old zucchini, squash and pumpkin vines. It looks like a squalid dump at the moment.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. I’ve already picked 2 pumpkins and there are another 3 or 4 still out there. I’ve never been able to grow pumpkins before, so it’s a little bit exciting.

Tiny butternut pumpkin.

This wee little pumpkin grew, like all of the others, out of the compost materials that I was bringing home from work. It only had 300g worth of pumpkin, which was perfect for adding to the mashed potato on the top of a shepherd’s pie. It’s so satisfying to eat things that you’ve grown yourself.

Doll quilts for the next-door neighbours.

After I made the lap quilt for my friend, I had a few leftover blocks so I made these for the kids next door. They have 4 kids under 5 and honestly… lockdown is a struggle for them. I hear lots of tantrums and arguments from the kids so I figured that if they had something new, it would at least distract them for a while. (And hopefully won’t give them something else to argue about!!)

Plain flour loaf of sourdough.

A blogging friend put me onto a terrific website for sourdough bread. The guy who runs it is a whizz at putting up recipes that are simple to understand and which actually work. He’s also incredibly attentive to the comments, where people ask questions and offer suggestions, which makes his blog an absolute treasure-trove for sourdough baking! The loves at the top of this post are from the simple weekday sourdough recipe, which I’m excited about because it means I can keep the sourdough loaves going even when I’m back at school.

This loaf is from a new recipe he just posted, which is a sourdough bread made with 100% plain flour/all-purpose flour. When David26 and I went to Costco on that crazy day, we bought 2 big bags of plain four. I was actually wanting baker’s flour but there was none to be had. I’ve been eking out my last remaining bakers flour in the Simple Weekday recipe by using plain flour for most of it, and substituting bakers flour when the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour.

This new recipe is a really good way to use the abundant plain flour I’ve got. I put some pepita seeds on top, just for fun. I was rapt at how high it rose. It doesn’t taste like sourdough but it’s a beautiful loaf of bread just the same. I had the first slice – the crust – just now for breakfast. Bloody beautiful!

Jeffrey.

So yeah – lockdown is going really well. I really hope they keep the schools closed for the whole term because I really don’t want to get sick. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to do to keep occupied!

Skinflint Sunday: how the day slipped away.

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged here about the new chart I’m doing to try and instil some more productive habits, but a month-and-a-bit in, it’s working like a charm. I had the whole Sunday ahead of me, free of commitments, glittering with possibilities. I made sure to read from this book to tick off one of the squares for today. I’ve only just started it but it seems like a good read.

Then I had to make sure that my iPad was fully charged for the commuting week ahead. If I have to spend 2 hours of my life travelling, I want there to be something interesting coming through my ears.

I just counted. I subscribe to 34 podcasts at the moment. They’re a mix of Financial Independence, stories, comedy, real-life stories and true crime. Isn’t it wonderful that we are so spoiled for choice for absolutely no money out of pocket?

I had over a week’s worth of tea leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells to pulverise and put in the veggie garden. The green leaves you can see are lemon verbena leaves. Bev from foodnstuff gave me a few plants years ago and I found some leaves that I dried 3 years ago, back when we were still in the old place.

They still work. Lemon verbena and mint leaves make a lovely herbal tea. I’ve still got the foodnstuff plants, but I want to use the dried leaves that Past Frogdancer put away.

Garden time. I didn’t have to water because it poured with rain yesterday, but I picked this zucchini for Izzy’s mum. David25 is going to Izzy’s today so I thought it’d be nice for him to give her something.

Nothing says, “Thanks for having me for lunch” more than a vaguely heart-shaped trombocchino zucchini.

It’s getting to the stage when I’m starting to save seeds. These dried beans are Lazy Housewife beans for next year. The peas are dried peas from the plants I grew from a packet of whole dried peas I bought in the supermarket. Most of them went into pea soup, but some were planted and we ate fresh peas.

Snow pea seeds are in the back bowl, along with some heirloom bean seeds that Blogless Sandy gave me.

While I was fluffing around taking photos, Scout and Jeff were keeping an eye on me. One of the squares on the chart is “Walk the Dogs.”

I made myself a herbal tea, (you know which sort) and began ripping up the empty wine cask packaging to go in the compost.

Evan23 came into the kitchen, laughed and said, “Which dog do you think is most interested in what you’re doing?”

She has such a distinctive outline.

I was on the phone to Mum when a text arrived from Evan22. He and some uni mates are down in Melbourne for the weekend on their way back to Ballarat from Phillip Island. They hired out an air bnb a couple of suburbs away because they were going to a party on the Saturday night and he and a couple of friends popped in yesterday and spent a few hours here.

“Hi, we’re leaving the air bnb now and heading to (insert my suburb name here) for chips and beach and maybe people will come around to see the dogs if that’s alright.”

“Ok”

“Up to like 13 people.”

So for 3 hours today, I had 13 kids lolling on the front verandah. They were lovely. They wandered around the veggie garden, they played with the dogs and we all just chilled. They were certainly in no hurry to go – I thought they’d come here, pat the dogs, then disappear down to the beach but that didn’t happen.

Evan22 and I came inside at one point and had a long chat about what’s going on in our lives. It was lovely seeing him 2 days in a row.

He left with another zucchini and a bag of assorted groceries that I had doubles of; things like chilli oil, peanut butter, salt, olives and a big bag of spinach.

It’s nearly 6 PM now and I can hear the man next door playing in their front yard with his little kids. He’s rigged up a toddler-sized bike track and they’re riding around on it. Ryan23 has just finished cleaning the kitchen and he’s heading out to put the bins out.

I’ll finally take the dogs for a walk and then I’ll have to do some ironing for work. I have meetings 4 nights this week – ugh!

 

Skinflint Sunday: it’s the little things.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.I.P…

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

Happy times.

Simple things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seed for next year’s snow peas.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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