Skinflint Sunday: Protect your investments.

This will be the last time I dye my hair like this. I have travel plans next year and I don’t want to risk getting denied entry because I look different to my passport photo. The hair dye I use is just a vivid dye from the supermarket. It’s semi-permanent so every time I wash it the colour runs, so it gets progressively lighter as time goes on.

A couple of weeks ago Blogless Sandy, her blogless husband Andrew and I went to see Midnight Oil at the Myer Music Bowl. For those non-Melbournites, it’s an outdoor venue in the Botanic Gardens. Unfortunately, the weather forecast wasn’t good. A week of heat was going to be broken that evening by thunderstorms. A quick look at the rules and regulations of the venue showed that I couldn’t bring an umbrella with me.  So what was I going to do? If it rained, I’d end up with purple, green and blue hair dye running down my face.

Then I had a brilliant idea.

I brought my shower cap. Now I had absolutely no worries if it started to rain. When the first raindrops started to fall and the grey clouds overhead showed that rain was imminent, I whipped it out of my bag and put it on.

However, you can’t wander around at a rock concert with a shower cap on your head, no matter how practical it might be. So I rather brilliantly also packed a beanie to cover it. (See that woman behind me breaking the rules?)

Blogless Andrew had also packed ponchos, so I was set. I paid $130 for this hairdo… damned if I was going to let some rain steal some of the colour from it!

Finance post: How to retire in your 30’s. I really liked how this post lays out a strategy to purposefully plan for retirement. It has Maths in it, but he makes the Maths easy.

Podcast: 36 Questions. This is a 3 part musical about a married couple who have to grapple with honesty, love and their life together. Oddly fascinating – I particularly like her singing voice.

Why I haven’t been writing blog posts.

Lately, especially coming up to the sale of the house and the subsequent settlement, I’ve been diving headlong into educating myself about personal finance. There’s been very little blog writing, but masses of blog reading, along with podcasts. A roughly 2 hour/day commute enables a lot of listening to go on, so at least I feel I’ve been using the time productively.

My Feedly has 40 personal finance blogs that I read, while my podcasts are roughly half personal finance/FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), while the others are a mishmash of comedy and other interesting podcasts about science and other things. I’m a member of the Barefoot Investor’s Blueprint, along with some really valuable Facebook group spinoffs from that which are filled with knowledgable people who discuss and educate those who are Mathematically Challenged, such as my good self.

All of this has been growing since I paid off my first house 4 years ago, but this year I’ve really ramped it up. Some people take to this information like ducks to water, but for people like myself who have almost what amounts to a phobia against numbers and spreadsheets, it’s been a step by step process that takes a lot longer. Still, I’m motivated to learn. I don’t want to work until I’m 69.

Learning about the 4% Rule really changed things for me. It gave me a number to aim for, instead of just an aimless wish to have “enough” money to retire. I first heard about it through Go Curry Cracker’s blog post about it, but I didn’t really grasp it fully until I read Mr Money Moustache’s The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.

Then I started to get excited. Not just for me, but also for my boys. If they could grasp how compounding could work for them and they took steps to utilise it – how much better off would they be? Imagine the choices that could open up for them in their lives?

This is why for the last little while I’ve been putting personal finance posts that I like at the bottom of my posts. If I find this stuff exciting and empowering, I’m hoping that some of you might feel the same way. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve set a retirement target date of 2022 or 2023. I’ll be old enough to access my super by then, but young enough to still be able to nimbly scamper all over the world without needing a zimmer frame.

I’m intending to start posting more regularly again. I still read all of my peeps’ blogs and I want to hold up my end of the bargain by supplying reading material too. 🙂

Finance post: The Core Tenets of ‘Get Rich Slowly.’ There’s a lot to like in this post.

Skinflint Sunday: Look, but don’t buy.

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Last week my friend Megan collected me and we went to an antiques barn in Glen Waverley. It was HUGE. We didn’t end up buying anything but we had an entertaining hour or two wandering around looking at all the stalls. It was like the places Scott and I went to in England, but on a vastly bigger scale.

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Imagine adding these to your vinyl collection?

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There was stuff everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

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Megan even found a ‘Princess Chair.”

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This is the closest thing I found to Staffordshire dogs. In England the antiques places were jam-packed with them; here this is all that you get.

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No comment.

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Nothing like being able to lock your rack.

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Mum had a couple of measuring cups like this when I was a kid. I would’ve bought it, except I don’t use weights like this now. In fact, there’s only 3 countries who still use imperial measurements. Liberia, Myanmar and the USA. Maybe I should have bought it for Spo?

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And lucky last was a fox. Just what every house needs.

I’ve started packing. Yes, I know I still have over 2 months to go, but we’ve lived here 19 years. There’s a lot of things to go through. I never knew books could get so dusty…

So glad I bought souvenirs.

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I walked around the house last night taking happy snaps of some of the things I brought home from Europe. Here are the Staffordshire spaniels that Scott sourced for me, up on the mantlepiece where they belong. There’s also souvenirs from Singapore, South Africa and Bali there too.

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The little Russian dolls I bought when Scott dragged me to the shop in Lincoln that sells them. They’re in the china cabinet with some of my other treasures.

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I’m slowly working my way through this. She may have been an excellent story teller but her letters are hard going. I’m also revisiting Georgette Heyer. I get excited when her characters visit a part of London I’ve been to. Laughed myself into stitches over Freddy’s description of the Elgin marbles in ‘Cotillion’.

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Another china cabinet inhabitant, this time some Delft from Holland. This is what I bought from a little gift shop on the other side of the canal from the Anne Frank house. It seemed to be appropriate.

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Deana gave me this and now it hangs from my laundry door. Makes me feel more positive if I open the door and see Mt Washmore waiting for me.

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loved this painting when I saw it IRL. It was in Paris at the Marmottan museum and I had to buy a copy as a souvenir. It’s sitting on my dressing table at the moment, though at some stage I’ll have it framed.

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Also on my dressing table is this sketch of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. I bought this in an artist’s studio in Venice, just a block away from St Mark’s Square.

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This tv is now gone… out in the hard rubbish collection as we start to clean up the house before we move. The frog is from Canterbury cathedral. I don’t know why they were selling frogs but given the name of the blog and the fact I was there with a blog-reading friend, it seemed appropriate to buy it. He’s filled with beans.

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My Scottish teapot. I was with Pam in Edinburgh when I bought it. I was paranoid that it’d break on the way back to Australia, but the girl in the shop wrapped a bucketful of bibble wrap around it and it arrived unscathed.

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Nicole, my lovely blog reader from Germany, gave me a massive bag worth of food and nick-nacks. This little guy is clipped on to my computer bag at work, along with the leather miniature wire-haired daschund I bought from Florence. My year 9s used the frog as a rehearsal prop every lesson for weeks, pretending it was a pocket watch, which was a central prop for the play they were devising.

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Nicole also gave me these little cough drops. I keep them in the car as a little refresher.

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I met a lovely couple from Queensland on the European leg of our trip. Mal and Heather were terrific and we really hit it off. This bracelet was a gift from them in Nice and I wear it every day. I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve received about it.

Today…. the Christmas tree goes up. I can’t wait to pull out all of those decorations I bought along the way. It’s going to be EPIC!

Thermomix recipe: Mexican Chicken rice.  This also comes with a recipe for taco seasoning. How handy is that?? We’re having this tonight for dinner.

 

Now it’s in the lap of the Gods. (In other words, the real estate agents.)

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Well it’s certainly been a hectic couple of weeks.

The house is on the market, with a view to selling it in a couple of weeks if a developer likes the thought of two housing blocks side-by-side in the McKinnon zone. I’m hoping it goes quickly… it was a difficult decision to make as I’ve invested so much emotional energy into buying the place, paying it off and raising my boys here. I always said that I’d be carried  out of here in a pine box when I was 120. But at the same time, I’m a typical example of what happens to a woman’s superannuation when she takes 10 years out of the workforce to raise children. Mine was made worse by the fact that before kids, my then husband and I used what I’d accumulated in super to pay off a building block we’d bought. In other words… stupid. When I began work again once Evan19 was in prep, I was starting from scratch.

Ever since I paid off my house 2 years ago, I’ve been looking towards retirement with grim foreboding. Much as I love teaching, I REALLY don’t want to still be doing it when I’m 70. Or 75. I want to be travelling and reading and playing with the dogs. But the $$$ weren’t stacking up. I’ve been salary sacrificing like a demon, but that doesn’t leave much money left over for living. Thermomix certainly makes it do-able, but I’m working 7 days a week.

Two weeks ago I went to an auction 2 streets away, with a house on the same sized block as mine, with a house that was comparable. It went for over one million dollars. This sounds like a lot for anyone not living in Melbourne’s overheated property market, but the amount didn’t really surprise me. Living in the zone, our property prices are even more inflated.

It was when I came home and stared at the “For Sale’ board in front of my next-door neighbour’s house that I started thinking. I always said that this little house would look after me in my old age. I’d visualised it housing me until I was too old to look after myself, then selling it to pay for the old ladies home with the Happy Hour and the pets. But maybe I was right about it looking after Old Lady Frogdancer; just maybe it wasn’t in the way that I’d envisaged. After all, no one’s looking after me except me.

So after a very stressful weekend weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to let the house go, with the view that I’d move a bit further out and get a cheaper house and put the money left over into my super. Old Lady Frogdancer is a demanding woman and wants her quality of life to increase in her declining years. I figure that the boys and I will be happy anywhere, but I have to allow enough time for the cash to compound in super to make a difference to how I live my life in the next decade.

So that’s the plan. The neighbour’s house sells soon, so the real estate agents have been hitting the phones and the emails, letting developers know that this opportunity is here.

Fingers crossed that it’ll be worth it…

Thermomix Recipe: Banana, Raspberry and Coconut Loaf. The teachers at work loved it.

Lots of activity; not much blogging.

IMG_7249Morning all!

I bought a Fitbit a week ago and its changed my life. The other Thermomix Group Leaders and I have decided to do a Fitbit challenge to keep ourselves trim, taut and terrific, so while are some are still waiting for theirs to be sent to them, Kimmy is still waiting for her Garmin to sync, (she hasn’t been walking backwards for 51,000 steps), Chonny and I have been walking ourselves silly. In 6 days I’ve walked 104,682 steps.

I blame the Europe trip. I never walked anywhere where I could drive to, but my phone told me that while I was over there I was walking an average of 18,000 steps a day. I was doing that rain, hail or shine. Well, there was no hail but you know what I mean. So I thought that there was no reason I couldn’t get a bit fitter here. After all, I want to be scampering around on my next holiday, so I’d better get prepared.

Chonny is much younger than me and is one of these people who do everything really well. I love her to bits, but I have a faint tinge of a competitive streak in me and when I saw that on the first morning of the challenge she’d already amassed 10,000 steps due to her early morning walking group, I saw the words “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” rise up before me.

I’m at a disadvantage because I work during the day, so I knew I had to be creative.

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No more driving to the leash-free. (That’s a loss of 2,000 steps.) No more only walking twice around the football field. Now it’s 3 or 4 times. (Extra 1,000 or so.)

I’m walking to work. Which isn’t as impressive as it sounds because I’m only a 2-minute drive to work, but still. That’s around 4,000 – 5,000 steps in a day. Yesterday I was at work for 1 period and then ripped my lovely dress I bought in Venice really badly. I mean REALLY badly… my behind was literally on show for the world to see. The dress is ruined. But you know what? Fortunate Frogdancer had period 2 off, so I could walk home, get changed and then walk back. That was an extra 5,000 steps. How good is that?!?

A couple of nights ago I was 6,000 steps behind Chonny. I was on the couch, glass of red wine in hand, when I realised I was missing a golden opportunity. ‘The Walking Dead’ was on the tv and there I was doing nothing. I walked in circles around the rug, keeping my eyes glued to the screen. When the show finished I knew that all that movement had woken me up. I had 1.5 hours till midnight struck. I could DO this….

I started walking around and around my house. I would sometimes go into the boys’ rooms and talk to them while marching on the spot. I kept going, every now and then checking the status on the fitbit. Poppy and Jeff followed me around for a while, then for some inexplicable reason they got bored and wandered off to Ryan20’s room to sleep on his bed. David22 came home from work at 11PM and there I was, marching around the house. He looked at me.

“I know this is insane,” I said. “But I’ve just got 1,500 steps to go.”

My schoolkids are involved too. The texts we’re doing are movies at the moment, so I’ve been showing the movies and moving around the room. They love it. “Drive Chonny into the dust, Miss!” One of my year 9 boys also has a Fitbit, so every class we compare notes. I tend to beat him, except when they’ve been doing PE.

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On Staurday I lifted the lid of the egg-laying part of the coop to see this. For those of you unfamiliar with chickens, this isn’t a good sign. It changed my Saturday morning. Instead of doing other things, I drove to Bunnings to get compost and pea straw. I now have another garden bed with a chook-sized patch of blood and bone buried in it.

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As hot air balloons go, this one wasn’t too bad. Jeff didn’t like it much though.

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Remember my Staffordshire dogs that Scott bought for me in England that cracked when they came over here? My Dad did an incredible job of gluing them back together. I was certain I’d have to throw them out and get Scott to find me another set, but now I think that the cracks around the base will just add to their history. In 200 year’s time, the tale will be told of great-great-great Gran bringing these back in a plane from England and …. blah blah. Naturally I’m intending to still be alive then so maybe I’ll be telling it myself. This Fitbit stuff should be adding decades to my life.

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My year 12s have finished their regular classes for the year. We don’t do a muck-up day; instead we do a dress-up day. Here’s some of my kids in their Mat Hatter, Daphne from Scoobie-Doo, Hippy, Hunger Games, Dorothy and Shrek costumes. Some of the kids go to enormous trouble.

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Look at those eyelashes! It took her over an hour to get them on, plus she made her dress from scratch. All those butterflies meant that it was impossible for her to sit down. But she looked spectacular.

Thermomix is heating up, with 24 months interest-free starting from today for a limited time. It means that for $20/week you can have a thermomix in your kitchen. What with all of the new technology heading our way, I’m looking forward to a busy lead-up to Christmas.

By the way… why did no-one tell me how expensive plantation shutters are? I’m getting quotes and they’re scary. Anyway, I’m off to work now. Have to earn money to pay for the shutters, clearly. I have my heart set on them…

Thermomix recipe: Lots of free recipes from Alyce Alexandra. Go and have a browse… it won’t disappoint.

 

Skinflint Sunday: Go on a road trip to meet an English friend…. in Australia.

 

Woo hoo! Blogmeet today!

I haven’t been to one of these for ages. Trashalou is over from England to visit family and there’s  a gathering happening at a certain quilting shop/café. I’d post a link but I have no idea where it is, which may be problematic as I’m the one driving… PatchAndi and I are car pooling and heading off.

I’m pretty excited. I’m probably going to stay with Trash when I’m over in the UK later this year so this is a terrific opportunity to clap eyes on each other before then. I have the strong impression that everyone else is pretty heavily into quilting, sewing and general craft, which used to be me until I started the thermomix business.

Maybe I’ll start some knitting today and bring it along. I’ve been meaning to drag out some of that gorgeous yarn I bought last year and get stuck into it.

But I’m going to meet up with some terrific women who I’ve met once or twice before, or in some cases I’ve only ‘met’ by lurking on their blogs. It’s going to be a good day. 🙂

Thermomix Recipe: English Muffins

Perspective.

I had an interesting conversation today.

I was talking with a friend over the phone. She was a tad hungover from a Christmas breakup the night before, while I was hiding from the hot day by staying inside, reading Tony Robbins’ Money, Master the Game” on my computer and taking a few nanna naps on the couch as the fancy took me… (hey, it’s the beginning of the summer holidays and I always spend the first week or two enjoying the Nanna Power nap… I’m stuffed!)…

Anyway, she was saying that she had to get up and get ready for another Christmas get-together with two couples that she and her husband have known forever. I asked her, “How long have you all been married?”

She thought, then said, “Well, David and I have been married for 21 years; Harry’s been married for about 25 years and Adam and Marie have been married a year longer than us.”

“Wow!” I said. “Do you realise that if Mr Perfect knocked on my front door today and I fell in his arms, I’d be in my 70’s to have the same length of relationship that you guys have scored? Kind of puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?”

Now, I was thinking that it was impressive. What are the odds of 3 couples still making it after all this time? They’ve done well. She had a different take on it though.

“So this means that I’ve spent the best years of my life with David…”

I laughed. “Surely you don’t think that you’ve already had the best years of your life?”

Her answer took my breath away.

“And you don’t?”

“No!” I said. I was a bit flabbergasted. How could I not look forward to the future?

“Explain to me why you think the future is so bright,” she said.

It was hard to start. It seems so self evident that it took a few seconds to put it into words.

“Well, the kids are almost off my hands,” I said. “It’s been nearly 18 years of struggle to support them and pay our way but now Evan’s finished secondary school and I can start doing the things that I want to do. I’m looking at Europe next year, remodelling the garden and really ramping up my investing. That last one is a bit scary because I’m so far behind the 8 ball when it comes to superannuation, but I’ve set some goals and I’m looking forward to the challenge of seeing if I can make it through.

“I feel really lucky that I’m finding out information at just the right times in my life as I’m ready to move onto the next steps. I paid off my house and then the next week I found out about the Barefoot Investor’s Blueprint club. Now, a year later I’m reading about all these investment products I knew nothing about, along with a breakdown of a plan of attack which is giving me a map for my retirement which’ll mean that I have a sporting chance that I won’t be eating cat food to survive in my twilight years. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be interesting.

(I said some other stuff about what I’m going to do with the boys’ rooms as they move out… things like having my own office instead of running my business from my dining room table… that kind of thing.)

“And how lucky that I’ve got the teaching and the business? I just have to ramp up the business a bit more to get me to where I want to go. Just think about where I can be and where I can travel when I’m older? I think that my 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are going to be amazing. I’m so looking forward to them…”

Her reply?

“Nah…”

I was thinking about it later. Is this the difference between optimism and pessimism? Because I could so easily go down the other way, thinking that I’ll never be able to afford to retire, that my divorce and kids have financially sucked me dry and then they’ll move on and leave me to struggle on my own…. yada yada. I look at couples who clearly chose each other better than my ex husband and I did and they’re obviously better off in a lot of ways…. but I’m still pretty darned happy with my life. I figure that the future is going to roll around whether we’re looking forward to it or not, so I might as well embrace it.

Besides, after I realised in my early 40’s that I needed to slow down and really appreciate all the little joyful things that happen every day rather than constantly live for the future, my life has become awesome. I’m still a long-term thinker who is saving and planning for the future, but gee I enjoy my life in the moment as well! Not saying my life is perfect but I’m enjoying living it regardless.

The prospect of moving forward thinking that the best years are behind me is something that chills me. Where’s the fun in that?

Am I alone here? Or do I sound like a self satisfied prig?

Thermomix Recipes: Smilodairy free, grain free, additive free version.

Tomato sauce.

Smoky Baked Beans.

 

Things are growing everywhere!

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My first pomegranate!
This was discovered by Laura when she popped in with her family for a an impromptu blogmeet and lunch. She’s over from Perth at the moment and I haven’t seen her for ages. She’s not blogging any more, but through Facebook we still keep in touch. We walked around the garden, as her husband also has veggies and fruit trees and Laura was the one who first saw this. I was delighted, as I’ve had the tree for nearly 3 years now and this is the first indication that it really is a fruit tree. I was beginning to wonder if there was such a thing as an ornamental pomegranate.

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Her husband noticed this.
Remember the optimistic parsnips I showed you a couple of days ago? This is a wildly optimistic fig tree, growing under my back steps.

Thermomix recipe: Chocolate Tart

Blogmeets are great!

So yesterday I comboined my two worlds of blogging and thermomixing, when I went to Matching Pegs’s place to do a demo and catch up. The first (and last) time we met was at a blogmeet in a restaurant when Peppermint Patcher came down to Melbourne. That was about 5 years ago… but who’s counting?

The funny thing about a blogmeet and/or visiting a blogger is that you feel you know them. Last night was exactly the same. I’ve seen her children grow up; I’ve seen their dog, though I pictured her in my head as being a little bigger than a little white full stop. My blogging friend (don’t want to use her first name as she doesn’t seem to publicise it on her blog) is preparing to go to a quilt show on the weekend, so I had a sneak peek at her stall. Only a metre wide, but that woman has an eye for colour. She showed me the most gorgeous quilt with intricate quilting that was simply exquisite, but I have to confess that I fell in love with these creatures. If anything would get me back to the machine these holidays, these might just do it. Look at how funny they are!

I didn’t do the demo on my own, as Matching Pegs has friends and family members with food intolerances, especially fructose malabsorption. In the interests of good customer service (yes… good on me) I gave the demo to a team member who also deals with this. It worked out really well, as Jess was able to really get down into detail about how she uses the thermomix to deal with the constraints of living with a food allergy. Seeing as we don’t have to deal with this in the Frogdancer household, all my knowledge about this area is purely theoretical, so I stood at the back, washed dishes and listened. You never know when this information will come in handy. The Matching Pegs family was lovely and it was a very pleasant way to spend an evening.

The wierd thing is that the original blogmeet 5 years ago had another blogger there, who shared a car with me. Only met her in person once, too. However Fairlie and I keep in vague touch on Facebook, where a week or so ago she posted about an old chair she’d bought for her daughter’s dance comp. She was going to redonate it, but it looked nice and I need a chair, so I half-jokingly asked if I could have it. It was delivered to my door by her good self on Saturday. What are the odds of us all reconnecting within 3 days after so long? Bizarre.

The craft blogging community really is a lovely one. Fairlie was talking about how Stomper is giving her tap lessons, (Stomper was also at that original blogmeet); Stomper’s Mum has sent me a tea towel with chooks on it, (I met her in person at a fabulous blogmeet in Sydney when I was up there a few years ago with the boys); while Suse and Mary have started Facebook pages about reading, movies and tv that have brought wonderful stories into my life that I might not have stumbled across. Life’s good!

Thermomix recipes: Super Quick Salads and a podcast  I got very excited about the first recipe. I have all the ingredients and it’s a stinking hot day today. Guess what we’re having for dinner?