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. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: The ‘No Spend Days’ chart.

Vet bill for Jeffrey.

I just did a search to see if I’ve ever written about my ‘No Spend Days’ chart here and it seems like I haven’t.

I’m aghast! This is such a great tool for our little group to know about. I’ve been doing it for at least 4 years and it works beautifully in making my spending intentional instead of mindless.

I’m so sorry!

If you’re interested in learning how to make a game out of learning how to wave the credit card/wallet with intent, instead of simply out of habit, then grab a cuppa. I’m going to link you to 3 posts on the FIRE blog where I’ve written about this in detail. No sense doing the same job twice, hey?

The initial post in 2018 – where I detail how it works and what the ‘rules’ are.

Another post in 2020 – describing how lockdowns affected my spending – in a good way.

And the latest post, where I talk about how my massive 61 week silver streak came to an end. Hint – look at the photo at the top of the page.

I hope you take the time to see how the chart works. It’s been a massively successful tool for me, especially when I was paying out 73% of my take-home wage on the bridging finance when I was doing the property development on the old house and I’d bought The Best House In Melbourne.

Anyway – what else has been going on?

The baby quilt that I talked about last week has finally been unpicked and new colours substituted for the yellow. I sewed up the rows so today, after I go out and sweep up some leaves that have fallen from the neighbour’s ornamental pear trees (free mulch – yay!) I’m hoping to finish sewing the top together and (maybe) sandwich it all together again ready for quilting.

Ryan26 has a 2 week break until he can go back and finish his Myotherapy course, so we’ve decided that every day, I’ll take him out driving so he can get his licence. We had our first lesson yesterday. I took him to a car park that the local pub, hardware store and Dan Murphy’s share. We tootled around the back part for a while and he was doing so well that I allowed him to get on the roads and drive us home. For someone who suffers from anxiety when he thought about driving, he’s knocked it out of the park. I didn’t have to grab the Jesus strap once!

Remember when we harvested all of these beauties from the front yard? This would only have been half the haul – I’d already taken a shopping trolley’s-worth up to work to give away and I’d also waked up and down the street giving away some as well.

We’re down to the very last one. I’ve been putting pumpkin into pretty much anything I could so nothing would go to waste. They’ve lasted beautifully and I’ll be sorry to see them go. Still, to console me, I still have about 150 meal-sized bags of chopped zucchini to see me through…

Last year we had lots of peas spring up from the pea straw mulch. I let some dry on the vine and we had a delectable pea soup with a ham hock for a couple of dinners last week. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to create a meal from something you’ve produced from the garden. (That’s the peas, not the ham hock. Had to buy that part of the dish.)

Skinflint Sunday: Souvenirs don’t have to cost anything.

I’m sitting out on the front verandah writing this, surrounded by the precious souvenirs I brought back from my teeny little getaway up the the High Country. My timeshare had a few points that were due to expire at the end of June, so I thought I’d take a couple of nights and use them up. I decided not to cross any borders this time and not to wait too long, because my spidey senses were starting to tingle again about Covid.

How right I was! Two days after I got back, we were in our 4th lockdown.

But what’s in the bags???

AUTUMN LEAVES!!!!!!!!

A few weeks ago I went to visit a friend in Malvern and there were huge leaves all over the place on every street. I wished I’d thought to bring some garbage bags, so when I got home I threw a roll of them in the car. I hadn’t seen any leaves at all since then. That it, until I turned into the driveway of the timeshare in Merrijig and leaves were strewn all over the place. I stopped the car and started to work.

I’m so happy! Obviously, I don’t get the food scraps and coffee grounds from work any more – about the only thing I regret about early retirement – so this makes me feel so much better. I’ve already stuffed the compost tumblers with leaves and I have 5 bags left to put on the wicking beds when I make myself stop reading books and start doing some proper work out there.

Gardening can be so rewarding. When I was back at the old house I had this lemon tree in a pot. In 5 years, it only ever gave me 1 lemon. It was great – not too many pips. Now that it’s in the actual ground in my front yard orchard, it’s very appreciative.

In other news, I had a very expensive day at the vet. Poppy and Jeffrey both had to have teeth out, while Jeff needed an x-ray for a suspected enlarged heart… (he clearly loves me too much) and an ultrasound and bloodwork for some gall stones and sludge that they found while doing the heart xray.

*sigh*

He’s now on heart medication for the rest of his life. The trouble is, it has to be given to him twice a day, 30 minutes before meals.

These dogs are used to getting fed first thing in the morning, as soon as I’ve put the coffee grounds in the Aeropress.

This is them the first morning:

I’ve given him his pill, poured the water into the Aeropress and then walked towards the front door and told them to come outside.

They’re trying to tell me that I’ve forgotten something VERY IMPORTANT.

Same thing the next morning. Poppy isn’t even appearing – she’s waiting around the corner.

I wonder how long it’ll take them to realise that the routine has changed forever? Scout even ran up to Ryan26’s room to wake him up to try and get him to come down and feed them.

She’s a clever little thing.

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 café 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. 🙂

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!!

Skinflint Sunday: Use ALL the walks!

I know over the last 5 years that I’ve shared lots of beach shots with you, but there’s another walk literally at the end of my street that I’ve been ignoring. It’s the walk along the river.

A week ago I put down the deposit on a trip to Antarctica run by the same people who ran the tour to North Korea that I went on in 2018. Originally, my friend Latestarterfire and I were planning to go to Antarctica via New Zealand, but the trip was an eye-watering 30K, excluding airfares. It would also take a month to get there and back.

This trip leaves from Ushuaia in Argentina and costs just under 10K for a twin-share room and it only takes a couple of weeks. Even with airfares tacked on (plus a side-trip to Easter Island if we’re lucky) it’ll be MUCH more affordable.

It leaves in December this year. What could possibly go wrong?

So Operation Get Fit has swung into gear.

I’ve never been one who seeks out exercise for its own sake. For me, a walk for the “fun” of it just isn’t a thing. I have to be walking TO somewhere, or taking the dogs out or, in this case, walking TO the library to return some books while walking the dogs to get fit(ter) for my trip to Antarctica.

All of this is very motivating. I’ll be clambering in and out of inflatable boats to walk to penguin and seal colonies on the ice. I don’t want to be floundering helplessly in the bottom of the boat, unable to get in or out. I don’t want to be THAT person – you know, the PIA that everyone sees coming and starts sending up prayers… “Please don’t let her get on this boat…”

There are two sides to the river walk – not surprising really as rivers tend to have two banks. So far I’ve only done the circuit around the two bridges once. It took 10K steps which was great, but I had to carry Scout for about 20 minutes which was not! Her little legs sometimes need to have a rest.

The other side of the river is so pretty. People have planted gardens between their property boundaries and the path and it’s beautiful. Our side is ok, but far less imaginative. I forgot to take my phone when I walked there, but I promise to share some pics when we go there again.

However, we DO have the posh houses and townhouses who, in lieu of a backyard, have their own private jetties where they park their boats. There are lots of little canals where people can gently putt-putt in their boats to get to the river, then the bay to do a spot of fishing. Noice.

I’ve almost completely ignored the river walk for ages, but Scout isn’t enjoying the beach walks if there are a lot of other dogs there. She refuses to walk if there is a big dog nearby and it’s been making the beach walks short and annoying. However, she’ll walk a lot better on a lead, only stopping if she needs a little rest. So until the Easter break is over, we’re sticking to the river. The restrictions for off-leash walking on the beach have ceased until November, so now we can go down anytime and hopefully have the beach pretty much to ourselves.

At the moment we’re still experimenting with different walks and different streets. There’s so many ways to access the river, so we’re taking different pathways and exploring the neighbourhood.

This has been an unexpected benefit of retirement. When I was working, I would never have ‘wasted’ an hour and a half each morning on going for a walk!! What a huge chunk out of my day! Ridiculous.

But now? I have all the time in the world, so off we go.

If you look into the distance, you’ll see a bridge crossing the river. That’s where it meets the sea. Or, as we like to call it, our Backyard Beach.

It’s a pretty nice spot that we’ve ended up in. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday: Dreams cost nothing.

Blenheim Cavalier.
Poppy trying to look soulful.

Look at what I found on another blog! There’s a cruise ship that travels the world, the itinerary decided each year by the passengers and the captain. The passengers live on the ship in apartments ranging from studio to 3 bedders. Every year they go to different places, never having to unpack. Imagine…

Here’s the link. Have a little dream of what it might be like. If I had the wherewithall, I’d go for a year. Any more than that, I’d miss the dogs too much. Oh! And the boys, of course. A simple one bedder would suffice. I’m a woman of simple needs.

But now let’s come crashing down to earth. Here’s what it costs:

You need at least 5M net worth to set foot on this ship.

Ah well.

On the other blog I wrote about a fantastic frugal challenge I’ve set myself. Since I retired, I’ve lost access to my school’s library. Early in January, I wandered up to my local library to have a look around. It’s a tiny space – so small that it’s only open in the afternoons during the week, which shocked me. I’ve never heard of a library branch with such restricted hours.

But it’s part of a long list of our local council’s libraries and this means that you can jump on their website, search for books and reserve them (or request that they buy them). As it turns out, my local library may be small in physical size but, like the Tardis, it’s far bigger than it appears. So far, every single book except one that I’ve looked for has been there. It’s fantastic!

I’m a very quick reader, so I’m reluctant to pay over $30 for a book that I’ll read for a day or two and then it sits gathering dust. It’s not a great return on my dollar. If a book gave me, say, a week or two’s entertainment, then that’d be a different matter. So for me, using a library makes a lot of sense.

Our local libraries are paid for as part of our rates. Things like rubbish collections, footpaths, maintenance of local parks etc are also part of that. My challenge is to take the amount I paid this year for my rates ($1,800) and deduct the purchase price of every book I borrow from the library this year to see if I can equal or surpass it. In effect, I’d be getting my rates for free. Sort of.

No one likes paying rates. But this way, if I’m able to use my library to pay for books that I don’t have to buy, then I’ll feel slightly smug about myself and my own cleverness in using the system to my advantage.

Anyway, I’ve put a running total on the sidebar of the FIRE blog. Like my chart where I track my spending – only 2 more weeks until I hit 52 straight weeks of only spending money on 3 days or less a week! – I seem to do better at things when I track how I’m going.

Anyway, I think it’ll be a little bit of fun this year to see if I can do it.

Half-pruned row of lavender plants.

Last year I put another lavender hedge along the edge of the outdoor room. I already had some lavender bushes planted on the other side of the steps leading up to the veggie patch, so I thought I’d continue it along. The bees likes the flowers and I love the smell.

However, after Christmas I decided to pull the older lavenders out. The underneaths were all dead-looking and woody and because they were elevated, all of that ugly growth was pretty much at eye level. So out they came. In the 3 years they’d been there, we’d only ever trimmed the tops of them, so decided to do an experiment with the new lavender plants.

I was going to butcher them.

Google said that they can be pruned back to 1/3 of their size. I decided to see what would happen if I cleared away all of the dead leaves, branches that turned inward and basically made them start again from scratch.

I’m hoping that if I do this every year, the ugly woody/dead growth won’t happen and I’ll have a pretty, fresh lavender edging to enjoy every spring and summer.

The sticks that remain after pruning.

Or else I’ve killed them. Hope not.

Oh! Before I go, I have a quick question to ask any asparagus gardeners out there.

A couple of years ago, I planted 10 purple asparagus crowns. Last year only 7 spears came up. Should I just leave them be and trust that, over time, they’ll get stronger and multiply, or should I wait until the crowns are dormant and then quietly plant a few more in the patch? I really want to eat more than 7 spears of asparagus a year!

Would I kill the crowns I already have if I disturb the bed to give them more friends? I’d really appreciate some advice on this. 🙂

My retirement gift to myself.

Portraits of the 3 dogs.

There’s a woman in England who breeds the most beautiful Cavaliers. One day last year, during lockdown, she got bored and decided to pick up some acrylic paints that were lying around. She’d never painted before. As she wrote to me – “It’s like waking up one morning and discovering that I can speak a whole new language.”

BAM! She discovered a talent that she never knew she had. We’re friends on Facebook and I watched as she started putting up portraits of her dogs. As a joke more than anything, I messaged her and asked if she’d like to try a picture of Scout. After a bit of to and fro, I commissioned portraits of all 3 of my little pack.

Poppy is on the top, Jeffrey in the middle and Scout is on the bottom.

They hang in the lounge room, opposite the front door. I think it’s a wonderful way to reward myself for getting to the finish line.

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.

Jeffrey.

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

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

Jeffrey likes to lie along the back of the couch.

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

When I came back I found this.

Coming up for air…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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