Great Ocean Road -last day.

The man in the motel in Portland told me to back-track a little and to go and see the Petrified Forest. After I checked out, I raced down to have a look.

You park your car and walk along the cliffs to see it. On the way, there’s a fork… right to see the Blowhole and left to see the petrified forest. I decided to save the Blowhole for the way back.

I was a bit sad to read the explanation of how these tubes formed. It’s much more romantic to think of trees being slowly buried, rather than being all drippy and watery things making these strange tubes.

It was an eerie sort of place. I was the only one there and it was blustery and cold.

It was definitely the perfect place for a wind farm!

Looking out towards Antarctica again…

I walked around for a fair while, feeling all broody and mysterious, and then I walked back to see the Blowhole. I was so glad I did.

This was taken from the lookout. The waves smash into the cliffs and they rise up. Every now and then I could feel light spray on my face if the wind happened to be blowing in the right direction. The sound was amazing and it felt so wild and free.

I glanced at my phone and saw that it was morning recess time at school, so I texted a few people at work with this photo. The contrast between the crowded staffroom and this isolated place was huge.

I stopped the car to take this photo. The fence was hung with shoes for hundreds of metres.

Then I headed into Port Fairy for lunch. Found a nice little bakery and had a lovely lunch. Then I went out to explore.

I was in two minds about how long I should stay here. I was looking forward to seeing this place. Everyone says how pretty Port Fairy is and I was keen to have a squiz. I was going to book a lace for the night so I could really have a good look around.

But honestly, it was really boring.

Sure, there are plenty of pretty little cottages but most of them are privately owned. The lighthouse walk was closed because they were resurfacing the path, so I drove around for a bit, looking at the picture-postcard cottages, then yawned and headed off to Warrnambool.

I was meeting a blog reader for coffee there!

Loretta has been reading the Frogblog for years and was also a member of Simple Savings, so we knew we’d have a lot in common. We met at a caf√© by the beach and talked our heads off and then went for a walk along the boardwalk.

“Now that we’ve met each other and we know we get along, would you like to come back to our place for dinner?” she asked as I was huffing and puffing along beside her. I’m slowly getting fitter but it’s clear I need to make more of an effort!

So off we drove. On the way, I rang Ryan26 and told him where I was going – safety first! (I could see that Loretta was ok, but what if her husband was an axe murderer??? ) Only joking, but as a single woman travelling alone, I sent Ryan26 texts everywhere I went. He must have loved being in so much contact with his Mum…

I had the loveliest evening with Loretta and her family. When we got there I met the dogs – it was so good to see some waggly tails again. Her husband made dinner for us all and he cooked the most tender steaks I’ve eaten in years. Paired with home-grown potatoes, which, when I got home, made me start harvesting mine. It’s too easy to forget them when they’re under the ground.

When it was time for me to go, she walked me down their driveway to the car parked on the street outside. You forget just how dark it is out in the country. She said that she and a friend take walks in the evening all the time. I’m sure I’d fall down a hole and break my leg in the first 5 minutes if I tried that. It was pitch-black. She’s an intrepid woman.

The next morning I was on the road again, heading back to the Port Campbell area to see the 2 sights I didn’t see on the way up, due to rain. Here’s the Bay of Islands.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The sun was shining over me and in the bay, but the grey clouds were gathering behind me. I stayed savouring the view for quite a long while, then jumped back in the car to go and have a look at the Bay of Martyrs.

By the time I got there, the sun had moved on.

So had the rain. Towards me.

I ran back to the car. I didn’t get too wet.

Then I drove on.

The rest of the day was me basically driving juuuust ahead of the rain. The Great Ocean Road ducked inland for a bit and I suddenly realised that I was getting low on fuel. There was a tiny dot on the map in the middle of nowhere that had this petrol bowser outside a shop. I thought for sure that it wouldn’t be operational but thank goodness it was. Saved my bacon!

They’d just filled the bird feeder out the back before I arrived. We get lorikeets at home but we don’t get rosellas. Pretty, aren’t they?

Lots of twists and turns but I was listening to a shockingly bad audiobook, (Hamish McBeth – don’t even go there) so it helped take my mind off the awfulness.

By the time I reached Apollo Bay I’d pulled ahead of the rainclouds a bit.

WHAT a beautiful place!

I tried to capture the turquoise water but my iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lovely beach so I took the chance to walk along it.

I met the beautiful Heidi. She made me miss my snag, Scout. Heidi was just as tiny as my girl.

By the time I’d finished my walk, the sky was beginning to darken. Time to push on.

The drive along the Great Ocean Road was so weird, because the sea was 2 different colours. I’ve caught it here. Right where I was driving was the line between the rain and the sun. The left is bluer than the right, can you see?

Then I came to Lorne and I as I was driving through, I passed a place that I haven’t seen since I was 18. I did a u-ey and drove back.

There’s a caravan park beside a bridge on the foreshore. It has a creek going through it.

At the end of year 12, back in 1981, we all drove down here and camped for a week in tents by the creek. This is exactly where we were.

Nowadays they’ve got cute little cabins, but back in the day it was just our tents, then caravans further back. We had such a good time!

I took a short walk along the creek bank, being mindful of the rain chasing me. All I could hear was the sound of the water and birdsong. It was beautifully calm and peaceful.

One thing that I found out about when I was doing my all-too-quick research about what to do on this trip was the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. Rather than driving through Geelong and then battling peak hour traffic all the way through Melbourne and then around to the bayside suburb where The Best House in Melbourne is; I could drive to Queenscliff and take a short ferry ride to the Mornington Peninsula, then have a 30 minute drive home.

I was excited to try it. Every ferry ride I’ve had has been fun. What an exciting way to end the holiday!

I was lucky enough to arrive 5 minutes before it was due to leave, so I drove straight on. I went up to the deck to get the full experience of what was sure to be a dashing ride across the bay.

Here’s a photo of the most boring ferry ride ever. Honestly, I think I could’ve swum quicker than the ferry. It slowly chugged chugged chugged its way through the water while I gave up and turned to the book in my bag. It was far more interesting.

And then home I drove. The dogs were ecstatic to see me and so was Ryan26.

“The dogs are SO ANNOYING!” he said. “They’re so clingy. They’ve got to be with you 24/7. I never thought I’d say this, but when I leave home I think I’ll get a cat before I get a dog. At least the cat will come up and want a pat, but then it’ll leave me alone!”

But that’s the best part of being home again. ūüôā

Costs of the Trip:

Running total: $2,096

Costs of Day 9 :

$108 accomodation. (No bowl supplied here either.)

$12 lunch

Total for Day 9: $120

Costs of Day 10:

$88 fuel

$5 lunch

$69 ferry

Total for Day 10: $162

Total for the trip: $2,378

That’s not too bad for a getaway like this. (Though as Dave from Strong Money Australia asked me on Twitter, “What are you getting away from?” LOL.)

If you take away the $1,100 painting I bought, it’s only $1,278, which equates to an average of $127.80/day.

These figures are slightly smudged by the fact I used my timeshare for 5 nights’ accomodation. I pay 1K/year for costs for the timeshare, but because it is calculated by points rather than by weeks it’s been used for a fair few holidays by the kids and now me. The points blend into each other year by year.

In fact, I’ve just booked a 2 night break (from what?!?) up in the mountains to use up 280 points that are due to expire on June 30. In previous years they’d just have to expire, but now I’ve go the time, by God I’m going to use them up!!

Petticoat Lane, a saint and a sinkhole.

I stopped in at Penola for lunch, and while I was walking around I saw this sign. Petticoat Lane. How could I NOT take a look here?

Apparently this street got its name because in the 1890’s so many girls were born here. It has quite a few National Trust houses and one of them was open.

Gammon Cottage’s front gate was ajar so I prowled around the yard. It even has the old well!

Have a read in the next photo of what happened to the builder of this cottage when he went to find gold!

Not everyone who went to the goldfields had a rollicking good time.

This is one of Sharam’s cottages. This couple had so many kids that he had to build another house next door, just to house them all.

This reminded me of Wordworth’s cottage in the Lake District.

The roof was only just above my head and I’m only 5’2″.

And people have the gall to say that I have a large family. Compared to this couple, I was positively restrained! Only 4 boys.

At least the poor woman ended up with one nice room.

This is inside the original cottage which was only divided up into 2 rooms. As you can see, the wall didn’t even go up to the ceiling. Not much privacy going on here…

But look! At some stage she got a pump to get water instead of a well. LUXURY!

The garden out the back is still run by volunteers. There was a woman working there when I walked through and we started chatting. At first she was merely polite but when I showed that I recognised most of the herbs growing here, she warmed up and I walked away with a packet of lovage seeds from the garden. I’ve never grown lovage before. Its like a strong tasting celery.

Growing food means that you can bond with people wherever you go.

Next door was the McAdam slab hut. Anyone who wants to romanticise the lives of the pioneers should have a quick look inside this place.

I would NOT have been happy in this place. Can you imagine the wind whistling through all of those cracks in winter? Plus every neighbourhood Peeping Tom could be glued to your every move and they wouldn’t miss a thing.

Penola also has a museum dedicated to St Mary McKillop. She started off her teaching here and due to her efforts, Penola had the biggest library in South Australia outside of Adelaide. I guess that’s what happens when you raise the literacy level of an entire district by educating every child, not just the rich ones. People need reading materials, once they know how to do it.

I knew very little about Mary McKillop, aside from the facts that she was on the $5 nots and that she’s Australia’s first Catholic saint. I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I decided to invest $5 in an entry fee to the Mary McKillip museum and see what I could find out.

First I went to the church where they have this little ante-room where you can have a chat to her, if you’ve a mind to.

I went to the museum but the only new information I came away with was that she and her fellow nuns were excommunicated for a while. Can’t remember why, but the bishop who did it reconsidered on his deathbed and lifted it.

The $5 fee also allowed entrance to the schoolroom where Mary and her fellow sisters taught school. It was all a bit interesting but for me, once is enough.

I jumped in the car again and made it back to Mt Gambier. I drove around the Blue Lake again, then headed for the Umpherston Sinkhole.

This was originally just a huge hole in the ground but the guy who owned the land back in the 1890’s decided that summer in South Australia was too damned hot. Why not build a pleasure garden down in the big hole where it was so much cooler?

It was about 4PM when I arrived.

You walk along the top of it…

… and then you see this.

Down the steps you go.

View from halfway down the steps.

Imagine being able to punt along in your own lake…

I wandered around here for. little while, then decided I could push on a little bit longer. It was that time of day when it was too early to think about stopping, but too late to think about driving for too much longer.

I saw some cool things as I drove along to Portland for the night.

There were contented cows.

This farm decided to put old bikes at the entrance and up the driveway. I suppose that’s one way of making sure that when they give directions to their place and say, “You can’t miss it,” then they’re correct.

Lots of pine plantations. It worries me to think of bushfires happening here – pine trees go off like rockets.

I got in late-ish to a cheap and cheerful motel. One thing I’ve found about motels for around $100 a night – they don’t include bowls in the crockery they supply. So annoying if you’ve planned on making oats for breakfast and you have a sneaky tin of baked beans to have for a dinner.

But I wasn’t going to let them steal my rights and repress me. If I want a disgustingly cheap dinner in a sad motel room then I’m going to have it, dammit!!

Baked beans in a mug… mmm mmm!

The dinner of champions.

Costs of the Trip:

Running total so far: $1,935

Costs for Day 8:

Entrance fee for Cave tour: $35

$13 lunch

$5 St Mary McKillop musuem

Accomodation: $108

Total for Day 8: $161

Running total: $2,096

Cars and Caves.

Cute car.

When I was a kid we’d go to vintage car rallies ALL THE TIME. Dear God, it was so boring. My Dad was a Riley enthusiast – beautiful British cars. Dad has a 1930 Riley 9, a Drophead and a couple of others. My first car was a Riley Elf, which is basically a mini with a Riley grill on the front.

We’d drive to car parks/wineries/paddocks/whatever. All of the Rileys would line up in a row and the men would crawl all over them, the women would pull up picnic chairs and chat and the kids would be bored. I think this is when my addiction to reading became cemented.

So when Jenna’s parents suggested that we go to a car rally in a town on the peninisula, I inwardly groaned.

But it was actually quite fun.

Red Morgan. LOVE!

I think the difference was that it was a huge mix of different cars and they drove down the main drag of the town in a procession that lasted around an hour.

Black corvette.

Jenna’s parents and I drove to a mid point to meet up, then I hopped in their car and off we went. No, the corvette is not their car!

We found a spot at a table under a verandah and settled in to watch the parade.

Cute cop car.

There was everything from a model T Ford, dune buggies, Morgans, VW combis and beetles, muscle cars, sedans – something for everyone.

Red 3 wheeler.

There was even this 3 wheeled thing!

For a while I stood on the kerb with Andrew and watched the parade, looking for any Rileys, but after a while I got a little bored and thought I’d better go back and sit with Ann-Marie.

We were chatting away when I glanced over at the parade. A car was smoothly driving past with a silhouette that has been ingrained on my psyche since childhood.

“Holy shit, that’s a Riley!” I exclaimed, ever the lady, and I leapt up to join Andrew. I was ridiculously excited.

There were about 5 or 6 of them, one of them a mint-green Riley Elf. I could’ve taken photos but I called Dad instead and described what I was seeing. He was reliving his glory days as I was talking. It was pretty special.

Then we went to a winery for unch. I thought I did pretty well to get to pay for their lunches – I’ve learned from David27’s “in-laws” that you have to be quick to stop them paying for everything. Jenna’s parents are the same.

I sneakily overheard what they were going to order, then made sure I was ahead of Ann-Marie in the queue to order. When I ordered my meal, then went on to list theirs, I heard, “Oh you better not!” behind me. I put my card on the payment thingy, then turned around and said, “OMG, my card just slipped. Oh well…”

I thought I got away with it too, until we went to another winery for a wine tasting and I raved about a shiraz that was priced in the 3 figures and made them taste it. Guess who went home with a bottle of it? I’ve told them that they’re invited to my 60th and we’ll all crack it open then.

It’s so nice to see that my boys are choosing to be with partners with such lovely families. Andrew and Ann-Marie let me stay with them Friday night and they gave up their Sunday to spend time with me. That’s going above and beyond! I’m looking forward to enjoying that bottla wine with them in a few years time.

Pretty house.

Monday. Time to start heading home. I had no fixed plans, other than wanting to see the Ulpherstone Sinkhole in Mt Gambier that I missed on the way up – and I knew I wanted to spend ages in Port Fairy. Everyone says how pretty it is.

I wanted to learn from the mistake of my rushed trip over and take my time on the way back.

As I headed out, I thought I may as well drive up to Murray Bridge and have a look at the river. Why not? I put a generic address into the TomTom, ( 1 Main st / Smith St /First st ; whatever works), and I set off.

Then I started seeing signs to Harndorf.

I’ve been hearing about Harndorf for 17 years. It’s the first German settlement in Australia and every year the German students from our school would go over there for an excursion and report back at the next General Assembly.

I had to see it for myself. I wanted to follow my nose home and this was an ideal place to start.

Pretty restaurant.

I pulled up in the Main st and parked outside an art gallery. Following my nose, I walked in.

And you wouldn’t believe it – I finally found the perfect painting for my dining room. I’ve only been living here and looking for the last 5 YEARS.

It’s absolutely nothing like I thought I’d buy. The subject is SO not me, it’s smaller than I visualised and the colours are different to what I was looking for, but when I saw it I knew it’d fit really well. So $1,100 lighter I walked out of the shop.

What are the odds? I had no plans to go to Harndorf and there just happened to be a spot for my car directly outside the gallery. The painting had been put up less than 24 hours before I arrived. Maybe it was meant to be?

It’s being delivered sometime this week. If it looks awful then I only have myself to blame.

Bust and a row of sketches.
Hans Heysen – bust and sketches.

Look who I found in the museum behind the information centre!!!!

Remember when I showed you the picture of Ruth by Nora Heysen? Here’s her Dad – the way famous one of the two of them. The bust is of him and the sketches are his.

I like how when you travel in an area, the stories loop around. It reminds me of when Scott and I were walking on the battlements of Lincoln Castle, listening to the guided tour through our headphones, when I suddenly heard that Henry VIII and Katharine Howard had walked along the very same stones I was walking on. I’ll never forget the unexpected thrill.

Photo of Prince Philip looking interested.

Speaking of royalty, the museum behind the information centre was tiny, yet Prince Philip had visited it. One huge advantage to being a working royal is the amount of travel you could do. Imagine all the countries he must have seen? But imagine all the hours of tedium he must have gone through as well. No wonder he sometimes said the odd non-PC quip.

Exquisite lace collar.

In its day, the building was a school for boys and also a hospital. Look at the lacework, or is it tatting? This was on a maternity dress. I think I’d go blind, squinting, if I tried to do this, though I have some tatting that my great-grandmother did. Amazingly detailed.

Harnsdorf was a very pretty little place. A few shops had jolly German music spilling out onto the street as thr tourists walked by. It was still school holidays in South Australia so there were a fair few people about.

Scott suggested that I mark all the school holidays in my calendar at the start of every year so I don’t make the mistake of travelling while the kids are free. I’m going to have to mark every state’s holidays, I think.

Murray River.

Then I drove to Murray Bridge.

Here’s the river Murray. It’s long. It’s wet. I had a look, ate lunch and drove on. I was aiming for Mt Gambier but then, as it was getting to late afternoon, the heavens opened up. I drove into Narracoorte.

There was a huge sign on the highway just before you enter the town, spruiking their caves. I vaguely remembered that Narracoorte was way famous for its caves, so I thought I’d get a cheap motel, stay the night and have a bit of a look around underground the next day.

Giant extinct wombat.

When I reached the caves the next day, I saw another instance of stories looping around. See this massive Diprotadon? Otherwise known as a giant wombat. What does he look a bt like?

My sculpture.

Remember my sculpture that I bought from the arts festival, thinking that it was going to be my only souvenir? They look like they might be cousins.

Beautiful cave.

The Narracoorte limestone caves are a world heritage listed site. They offer a few different tours but the lady in the information centre said to go on the fossils tour, because that is why they made it to the heritage list.

Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that the caves would be chilly. I wore my duckdown coat. It’s actually really warm down there.

Stalactites in a row.

See how the stalactites are hanging in a row here? Our guide said that in the early 1900’s guides used to clamber up there and ‘play’ the stalactites like a xylophone for their customers by hitting them. Sometimes one would break. Can you believe it???

Incidentally, I learned how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Stalagmites MIGHT reach the roof one day, while stalactites have to hold on TIGHT to the roof to stop from falling.

Never say that this blog isn’t informative about the issues that matter!

Hole in the roof.

This fascinating photo is of a hole in the roof that leads up to the ground. This one was man-made to get all of the rubble out so that the tours like the one I was now on could be made. These also occur naturally, which is how the fossils have ended up in the caves.

Animals (and people, probably) would be innocently walking along and then fall down these shafts into the caves below. Some died immediately, but others survived until they died of thirst. They know this because they have complete skeletons of animals who look as if they’ve just curled up and gone to sleep, but with bones that have started to heal from their initial fall.

Drop bear skeleton.

This guy is a literal drop bear. Yes, they used to exist! He was some sort of carnivorous koala-type.

Nasty claw.

See the massive claw on his opposable thumb? Imagine that slicing into your soft underbelly?

Kangaroo bones.

This one was a kangaroo, but with only one toe. I took this photo to show you, but I like this next one a lot better.

Shadow on the cave wall.

That shadow is very Star Wars, isn’t it?

The caves that were initially found were just open caverns full of the rock formations, but then a couple of cavers found their way into some massive caverns further in that were jam-packed full of bones and fossils.

Bones scattered on the cave floor.

These are real bones that have been left as they were.

Behind the cave where we were standing is a massive cave where they’ve removed a small section of bones to study. They plan to leave the rest where they are for as long as possible. Our guide, who is a palaeontologist herself, said that they’ve removed enough bones and other material to keep many universities busy for decades. Maybe by the time they need to take another look, they might have technology that can study what’s in the caves but be able to leave everything untouched.

It’s an interesting thought.

Country road.

And then I was off and away. I pointed the car towards Mt Gambier and off I went. It was just before lunch and the day was still young!

Costs of the trip:

Running total so far: $665

Costs for day 6: $85 for lunch.

Costs forDay 7:

$1,100 painting

$10 lunch (Subway – eat fresh.)

$69 fuel

$91 accommodation

Total for Day 7: $1,270

Running total for trip: $1,935 (Yikes! I hope I still love this painting when it arrives!)

This is when the extroverted part of the holiday starts happening.

I’ve had 4 or 5 people contact me to ask whether I’d died in a fiery car crash on my holiday – some asked it more tactfully than others! – so I thought I’d better get back into the zone to write. I’ve been busy finishing off a quilt, reading, having a rapturous reunion with the dogs (and with the boys, of course!)

LOOK at this beautiful painting. After I finished looking at the Antarctica exhibition at the Adelaide Art Gallery I walked into the next room, just in time to join an hour-long tour, looking at 10 Australian works of art. Exactly the amount of time I needed to kill before I walked back to the restaurant to meet up with the FIRE bloggers for lunch.

This painting wasn’t one of the 10, but it was hanging on the wall near the UGLIEST cabinet I’ve ever seen – which was one of the 10. So while the tour guide was waxing lyrically about the ugly 1930’s cabinet, I was gazing at this. If it was in a different art gallery – one where you could actually buy the paintings – I’d buy it in a shot. I’ve been looking for a painting to hang near my dining table for the last 5 years. And here it was – unattainable. Still, I thought, at least now I know the colours I’m looking for. (More on this later…)

Nolan’s ‘Narcissus.’

This next one made me chuckle. It was in the Surrealism room and is Sidney Nolan’s take on the greek legend of Narcissus – the boy who was so good looking that he fell in love with his own reflection and starved to death beside a pool of water, because he couldn’t bear to leave the beautiful face he saw in the water.

This was the most beautiful sculpture. It’s called ‘Kathleen’ and was made by Marjorie Fletcher in the 1930’s. There’s all this talk about women’s art not being appreciated in their lifetimes, but sometimes not even THEY appreciated it. She worked in sculpture for around 10 years, then got married and had a family and shoved all of her artwork into a cupboard under the stairs. Over time, her work was given away, left out in the hard rubbish and generally spread far and wide. This one was found by her son, who’s made it his life’s work to track down his mother’s art and bring her the recognition she should have received. I loved this figure.

Nora Heysen’s ‘Ruth.’

Nora Heysen had a way famous artist father – Hans Heysen – but in the end she won the Archibald prize while he never did. I can’t remember the woman’s name in this picture, but she used to sit for Nora quite a lot and they became good friends. One day Nora asked her if she would let Nora paint her in the nude. The woman got up, left and never came back.

I saw this fine fellow on the walk back towards lunch. There’s something distinctive about a well-defined chin, don’t you think?

A couple of weeks before, I’d let Michelle from Frugality and Freedom know that I was coming to Adelaide. She’s exploring the boundaries of what FIRE really means, by freelancing and travelling the world, basically living life on her own terms. Ahhh, the freedom! Covid clipped her wings, so she’s biding her time in her hometown of Adelaide until things open up again.

She put the word out and three more bloggers joined us for lunch.

Captain FI is a pilot who’s normally in Sydney but he happened to be in Adelaide visiting family, so we got to meet him. He’s MUCH more numbers-based than I am, though I suppose you have to have that sort of brain to understand what all the dials and gadgets on the aircrafts’ dashboards are all about. You definitely wouldn’t want someone like me behind the controls of a jet.

He’s just done a post on payday lenders and I really liked this paragraph – “This is why the grassroots Financial Independence movement is so important, and can be so powerful. If we can spread the message of financial health and wellbeing, then gradually these unethical pay-day-lending companies will go out of business.”

The other two bloggers were Sarah and Laura from Keepin’ it Frugal and the booming food blog Wandercooks – I’ve linked to the recipe that we went shopping for after lunch to buy the essential ingredient that I’d never heard of – nduja.

Blog-meets are always a success. You all have things in common, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading each others’ blogs, and so the conversation flows right from the start, with very little of the whole awkward “getting to know you” stuff. After 3 days on my own, otherwise known as indulging my introvert side, I was ready for a few days of talking and laughing with other humans.

After lunch I drove to Jenna’s parents’ place. She and Evan24 have been going out for 3 years now and I was going to stay at her folks’ place that night, after going out to dinner with Simone, an old school friend that I haven’t seen for FORTY YEARS.

omg.

I can’t be that old, surely?

It was either going to be a great night – we were really close back in the day – or incredibly uncomfortable with lots of pauses and dull questions about our children and how they were going, just to fill in the space of the silence. You know the sort of thing.

Fortunately, it was great! We actually walked past each other on the street. To be fair, 40 years is a long time. But once we turned around at the same time and started laughing, the evening just flew.

She lives in Melbourne, like me, after having spent most of the intervening years living in Japan, South Korea and the US. She just happened to be in Adelaide for work and so we caught up there. It’s lovely when you meet up with someone you haven’t seen for ages and it’s almost as if no time has gone by.

The next day I drove to Victor Harbor to meet up with yet another person I’ve never met in real life. Extrovert Frogdancer was 2 days into a 3-day people-fest. This time I was meeting with Lara and her husband. We both belong to a couple of investment groups on FaceBook.

Again, I didn’t know who I was looking for, as she doesn’t have her real photo online, but I recognised her dog, so all was well. We had a really pleasant lunch at a caf√© on the foreshore and then after lunch we walked back to my car so I could show them the sculpture I bought. I was in a bit of a tizz because my car was refusing to lock itself. The battery in the cha-ching thing that opens the door was dead and my car door handles don’t have keyholes.

Lara suggested calling around to see if any local locksmiths were still open on a Saturday afternoon. Talk about good old fashioned country service! The locksmith I talked to suggested I drive to Repco and get a battery there. Took 5 minutes for them to replace the battery for only $7 – and a spare battery. The place at home that I’ve been going to charges $10 per battery.

I’ve never enjoyed locking and unlocking my car more.

A whopping big tree.

After I sorted out the battery problem – thanks Lara! – I headed to the little beach outside of town to look around. On the way I saw a quilting shop so I popped in and bought some fabric for a quilt I’m going to make for another old school friend. Simone and Cathy and I were all close, back in the day.

It was a cool, quiet afternoon. I walked along this little jetty and watched people fishing. The waves were lapping against the rocks…

… which were clearly popular with the local seagull population.

Then, after wandering around there for a while, I jumped in the car and followed my nose in a vaguely southerly direction.

Anywhere that looked interesting, I’d stop the car and have a look.

Then I decided that I’d go down to the bottom of the peninsula to Cape Jervis, which is where you catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. I wasn’t going to go to the island this time around, but hey! I’ve got all the time in the world now. I’ll come back here sometime.

So I drove through winding roads wth cows, sheep and, once, a herd of goats dotted around the countryside. The area had had a bit of rain so, unusually for Australia, the paddocks were green and lush. I was listening to a really good audiobook ($20 off my challenge!) and all was right with the world.

I got to Cape Jervis just as the sun was going down. There was only one other car at the lookout. The man behind the wheel was looking at the view without getting out of his car, but Frogdancer Jones is made of sterner stuff.

Besides, I wanted to get a shot of these two.

I stayed here for quite a while. It was beautiful. So still and clear.

Then I jumped in the car and drove back to the timeshare in Normanville. Tomorrow I was off to a vintage car rally with Jenna’s parents!

Costs of the trip:

Day 1 cost: $272

Day 2 cost: $67 fuel.

(That’s it. I ate my food I brought from home and basically just drove all day to get to the timeshare.)

Day 3 cost: $70 sculpture. (I’m so happy I bought him. I absolutely love him.)

$9 lunch. (A bagel from the local bakery.)

$33 food for dinners and breakfast in my room.

Total for Day 3 – $112

Day 4 cost- $35 gifts. (For Michelle and for Jenna’s parents.)

$31 parking. (Ouch. Missed the earlybird parking at the market by 15 minutes.)

$12 lunch (Frugal FIRE bloggers lunch.)

$50 dinner (Non-FIRE friend dinner.) ūüôā

Total for Day 4 – $128.

Day 5 cost – $7 car lock batteries.

$79 quilting fabric for Cathy.

Total for Day 5 – $86

Running total for the trip- $665

Some links you may be interested in. (Or not – who am I to judge??)

This garden may be pretty awful, but at least we’re getting heaps of beans and zucchini. I have 35 bags of chopped zucchini in the freezer at last count, with 8 monster zuccs still on the vine. It makes me hopeful for the future when I’ve nourished the soil and plants have a sporting chance of producing.

The weekend is over and a full work week commences. *sigh*

I’ve been blogging on the other blog and there are a few posts that long-term readers might be interested in.¬† I have no idea if there’s any crossover between the two blogs and it seemed almost rude that I’d write about these things somewhere else and not include you guys.¬† So here they are. Grab a cuppa…

Remember when we would drive to the bakery for free bread when the kids were little? Saved us thousands of dollars over the years. Here’s something that happened a couple of weeks ago that made me come full circle.

Here’s one for those who want to see how the backyard veggie garden looks. It’s a fun piece comparing the path to financial independence with gardening, but if you don’t give a tinker’s cuss about that, just look at the photos. ūüôā

Here’s the honest-to-God Secret to Happiness.¬†¬†I’ve learned this week that it’s now called ‘mindfulness’, but I call it ‘noticing the little things.’

For those of you who’ve been following the boys as they grow up, we had some news about David25’s girlfriend.

It’s not all bad news!¬† Evan22 has been living and studying away from home in the country. Here’s an account of how he’s going.

When I went nuts and spent $1500 on clothes. I won’t lie – so much fun.

And this is the post I was scrolling back to find – The Scariest Financial Decision of All. This is a post I’m really proud of and I hope it helps people who are wrestling with the same decision I did – do I leave my marriage or not? I made my decision 21 years ago, but some moments in life stay as vivid as the day they happened.

Anyway, I thought I’d post these links here because these posts might be of interest to my Dancing With Frogs readers. They have to do with my life and they deal with things that I’ve written about previously,¬† so I thought I’d bring those who are interested up to speed.

Back to regular programming next week!

 

In defence of Santa and my epic Christmas tree.

It’s Christmas Eve!! Look at this naughty girl up on the couch like a cat. On the coffee table behind her you can see the book I’m on at the moment. I set myself a Goodreads challenge of reading 80 books this year. I’m on number 73. Can I make it???

There’s also a purple ball of cotton yarn there. I’ve been making washcloths to go with the soap I made for people for Christmas.

In true Frogdancer form, I only got the idea to do this three weeks ago. I’ve been knitting like a maniac since then.

People have been really appreciative of them. God, I love Christmas!

Long-term readers will remember that when I had my huge trip to the UK and Europe, Scott¬†put me onto buying Christmas tree decorations as low-weight, small souvenirs. It didn’t stop me buying enough to have to ship a large box of things home, but it¬†does¬†mean that I have a highly individual tree every year.

 

This year I bought things from North Korea and China. This little doll was bought at the cultural exchange centre in the middle of Pyongyang. I was getting a bit worried that I wouldn’t find anything appropriate from the DPRK to put on the tree, so I was so happy when I saw these!

She’s next to the Santa I bought in the Black Forest in Germany.

Hamlet holding Yorick’s head. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.” I bought this on the epic challenge day in Stratford-on-Avon. We wanted to see the 5 Shakespeare sites in an afternoon. We made it.

Obviously, when I went to China I needed something to go on the Christmas tree. I bought this at Mao’s tomb. He joins¬†Napoleon’s hat,¬†Richard III’s signature on a key-ring and Henry VIII and his six wives.

And Mary Queen of Scots. This year we put her next to the English telephone booth with robins on it that I bought in Bath. It’s the closest she’s ever likely to get to England.

Here’s my happy Scottish Santa that I bought with my friend Pam in the Georgian house’s gift shop in Edinburgh, next to the grumpy German puppet thing I bought in the Black Forest.

Another China decoration. This time it’s a wooden bookmark from the Forbidden City.

This was going to be a quick post that I put together on Christmas Eve, but it’s taken ages. When I was reading through the posts that I’ve linked to, I was amazed at how much I’d forgotten. Best Decision Ever to blog as I was travelling. I hope you enjoy seeing some of these places with me.

Before I wrote this post, I was on twitter and I saw a tweet from a blogging friend of mine about how they don’t ‘do’ Santa with their little boy. It got me thinking and remembering, so I put a post together on the other blog called “In Defence of Santa – from a Value-ist.”

Please take the time to read it, especially those of you who have watched the boys growing up. ūüôā

Merry Christmas everyone! May your days be jolly!

Skinflint Sunday: Where the hell did that year go?

My sister and her husband have rented out their house on Stayz for the next 2 weeks, so they’ve moved in here. The photo is of Gus and Tilly, 12-year-old mini schnauzers who get along really well with my dogs, especially Scout. I think the bearded ones like to stick together.

The Christmas tree is down, the tinsel packed away and Kate and Francis have moved into the Man Cave for the duration. The Man Cave is the second living room at the other end of the house. Normally it doesn’t get much use unless the boys decide to play a game on the tv together, so it’s nice to see it get some love.

New Year’s Eve today. David24 is going to see the stage show ‘Aladdin’ with his girlfriend’s family, my sister Kate and brother-in-law Francis are off to Port Melbourne to spend the night partying with friends, Evan21 is house-sitting in the city and Ryan23 has a night of drinking with mates planned. Me? I’m going to see The Black Sorrows with Vika and Linda with a friend in St Kilda. Should be a good night.

Yesterday Kate and I went to Chadstone to see ‘The Greatest Showman’ at the LUX cinema. Evan21 had free tickets that were due to expire today and he wasn’t going to be able to use them in time so he gave them to us. After the movie, (which I didn’t mind but Kate didn’t like) she dragged me out clothes shopping. I now have my summer and autumn clothes sorted. That’s one holiday job ticked off the list.

What has 2017 been like for the Frogdancer household?

Financially stressful for the first 8 months, while we were paying the bridging finance and inching ever closer to building the units. I absolutely hated being back in debt and I was mentally bracing myself through all of 2016 and most of 2017, waiting for something to go wrong. It all ended up ok, however, it really took a lot out of me. I was exhausted, so getting to the end of the year was a bit of a marathon. This summer holiday is going to be Frogdancer not straying too far from the couch where her books and Netflix are.

Financially rewarding.¬†I knew that when I decided to sell my lovely little cottage with its food forest that it was opportunity knocking. We lived in a highly desirable high school zone in the Bayside area of Melbourne, where property values were inflated a further 15% in an already ridiculously inflated Melbourne property market. I knew that the chances were that it would end up being a good financial move, but of course, these things are never guaranteed.When I decided to sell the block with plans, instead of going through the building process, the weight of the financial burden was lifted… thank God! I was able to catch up with my work colleagues’ superannuations with the amount I could sock away into super… those 10 years spent at home raising kids had cost me dearly. It also brought the possibility of being able to retire a decade earlier than I ever thought I’d be able to. Barring a zombie apocalypse or a deadly meteor hit, doing this has set me up financially to look forward to a reasonable retirement. Long-time readers of the blog who were with me when I was stressing over child support issues and money¬†dramas… who would’ve guessed???

Frugal but social.¬†Having no money to be able to spend on extras means that you learn very quickly to be happy with what you’ve got. I decided when we moved here that I’d subscribe to Netflix. I figured that $18/month was a tiny sum to pay for entertainment. I discovered the joys of borrowing ebooks from the local library and the school library, while I’m LOVING the world of podcasts. I commute just under 2 hours a day and I listen to those free podcasts every single trip. I was reluctant to spend money going out to restaurants and bars with friends, so I started throwing dinner parties. For pretty much what I’d pay for just my meal and drinks, I could feed 6 of us and my guests would bring the wine. During the school holidays I now have the ‘tradition’ of hosting a massive potluck with the women at work. I send out a google doc with a table on it, people put down whether they’re bringing a savoury or sweet dish, while I supply the champagne. It’s a great way to catch up with work friends outside of the pressures of the school term, with as few as 6 or as many as 20 people turning up, depending on their holiday plans. (You also get to hear a lot of gossip… I love a good goss session!)

Early rising.¬†When we lived 2 minute’s drive from school, I’d get up at 7AM, puddle around until 8:36AM and then drive to work, always skating into the classroom bang on 8:50, when period 1 started. I had it down to a fine art. This last term, I’ve been getting up at 5:30AM, leaving the house at 6:20AM and getting to work just before 7:30AM. Why? When my car was damaged and it cost a lot to get it fixed, I decided that going to work by train suddenly became a lot more attractive. Then I remembered that if you travel by train in the morning and touch off with your Myki before 7:15AM, you get the trip for free.¬†That would mean that I’d be paying only $2.80/day to commute to work and back. Each trip also includes a 10-minute walk from the station to the school, which gives me around 3,000 steps on my fitbit. I’ve been keeping a tally of how much I’ve been saving. So far, it’s up to $160. That’s not bad. When I get to work I put the kettles on, have a cuppa and eat my breakfast. Then I read blogs, write posts, look at Facebook and generally ease into my day. By the time everyone else arrives I’ve done any photocopying that I needed to do for the day, any¬†correction has been started and I’m ready for the day. I’ve had some really good talks with the other early arrivers and all in all, it’s a pretty good way to start the day.

My appearance changed. I lost 15KGs in the middle of the year and I dyed my hair 4 different colours when I sold the block and the money came through. I kept it up throughout the rest of the year, despite my principal’s vociferous disapproval. I really enjoyed the compliments, but it started to get a bit tiresome. Every time I had it re-done I’d have to sleep with a towel over my pillow for 2 weeks, while any hair that landed in the bathroom had to be picked up immediately before it dyed the shower or vanity basin. Just after Christmas I went and has my hair dyed back to (almost) normal. I’ve got brown and VERY blonde hair now, with some vestiges of pink that survived the bleaching. I’m going overseas again next year and I need to look normal for the visa photo. I may do the 4 colour thing again later in the year, or maybe not.

No more cats. I bought Daphne and Maris for David24 for Christmas when he was 12 or so. When poor little Daph was hit by a car earlier this year I thought long and hard about getting another couple of kittens. Cornish Rex cats are so deliciously ugly… But in the end I decided that I wanted leather lounge suites, which don’t do terribly well with cats’ claws. The Frogdancer house will have to rely on mouse traps from now on in, should there ever be a need. (I hope not. Hate mice.)

All in all, it was a peaceful kind of year. Evan21, who has been out of school for 3 years and has been working, has successfully applied for Acting at Federation Uni in Ballarat. He’ll be out of home for 3 years while he does that. It’s an excellent course and I’m really proud of him for making it through the auditions, but by gum, I’m going to miss him. He makes me laugh all the time. I won’t miss the mess he leaves in the kitchen, though.

Ryan23 is enjoying his course in remedial massage, while David24 has one more year to go in his Music course. Tom25 finally found an accounting job, so he no longer has to pay the rent by driving for Uber Eats. We’re all pretty happy at the moment. The dogs are a joy and a delight and today is a glorious summer’s day as I sit on the verandah writing this. Who could ask for more?

I hope that everyone has a lovely new year’s eve and that 2018 is a good one for us all. See you next year!

 

 

Skinflint Sunday: I think it’s called ‘Rationalisation’…

This has been a pretty good year. What with the selling of the house, the abolishment of the 3K/month bridging finance, the total debt-free situation… and the shows I’ve treated myself to. First up was k.d lang in July. Dress circle seat, almost in the middle, at Hamer Hall where the acoustics are amazing. She was incredible. Personally, I think she has the best voice on the planet. Next was Midnight Oil a few weeks ago. And then 2 nights ago I saw Paul McCartney. (The photo at the top of the page is Tom25 and me on the train on the way to the show.)

 

Tom25 is a McCartney fan from way back. He decided last year to give up all hope of him ever touring Australia, so he made up his mind that when he released his next tour dates, he’d fly over to the US to see him. I, on the other hand, grew up with ‘Wings’ and discovered the Beatles when I was about 15. Ever since then I’ve been a devoted Beatles fan, (especially John and George) and of course played the music to the boys.

Love Me Do. This is a no-zoom shot from our seats. Not bad, eh?

When the tour was announced Tom25 was ecstatic. He rang me and asked if I wanted to come with him. How can you say no when your child asks that, even if I’d wanted to? I accepted and Tom25 said he’d call back next day to let me know how much the ticket cost.

When he said $400 the next day, I must admit I gulped slightly. I was still paying bridging¬†finance and that’s a lot of money. But I said not a word, and of course, on the night it was Worth. Every. Penny.

Here he is playing ‘Something’ on the ukelele George gave him. Between a lot of the songs he¬†told stories and it was wonderful.

This was the opening to Live and Let Die. It was out of the blue and knocked our socks off.

Live and Let Die.

I took videos, but WordPress won’t let me put them on the blog, which is annoying because I really wanted to share them with you. However, here’s the setlist.

For the Benefit of Mr Kite.

He played 40 songs and was on for 3 hours. It was SUCH a great night. ‘Hey¬†Jude’ is my all-time favourite, and when he started singing it I got a bit teary. I never in a million years would have thought I’d get the chance to see Paul sing it live. Talk about being Fortunate Frogdancer!

Tom25 and I sang and danced the whole night. I was so glad to be able to share it with him. He went back the next night to an even better seat and on Thursday night he flies out to Aukland to see the New Zealand show. He’ll be sitting 4th from the front right in the middle. He figures that he was prepared to spend a couple of grand on an airfare to America, so this way he uses that money to see 3 shows instead of just one. I’m thinking that if he wants to be a fanboy, he’s certainly doing it in style.

Some of you, especially Bev from foodnstuff, are probably scratching your heads and wondering how on earth this can be classed as a Skinflint post. Well… I ate dinner before I left work; I took green tea with¬†me in a thermos so we didn’t buy any food or drink; we took the train in so we didn’t pay for parking AND we didn’t buy any merch. At $10/song I guess you can say that, when viewed in a certain way, it was a cheap night out.

Irreplaceable memories…

Finance post: Get Rich with Feminism

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.