Day 1: Manly Beach.

Last month I booked a girls weekend in July for my nieces, Izzy, Jenna and I, using the timeshare that I’ve owned for ages and have hardly ever used. I also booked a week in New Zealand for David28 and Izzy’s honeymoon, also using the timeshare.

While I was on the website, I noticed that I had 1,500 points to use up before June 30. Yikes! With all of the lockdowns going on last year, I’d completely forgotten about unused points. I decided that I’d do my best to get rid of them.

As it happens, New South Wales school holidays start a week later than Victoria, so I was able to snag 5 days in Manly Beach during our first week of the holidays. I decided to break the journey on the way up with 2 additional nights in Bowral, which brought the unused points down to 150. That, I can live with.

On the last day of the school term I got up early and drove 800 km to Bowral. There, I visited the Woolworths supermarket, buying butter, a couple of frozen meals for dinner and some snacks. Naturally, I brought staples like wine, coffee, vegemite and a few other bits and pieces to save money on breakfasts and dinners.

Because I’m travelling on my own, I adopt a ‘safety first’ routine whereby I go out and about during the day and then spend dinner and the evenings in my rooms. I read or watch Netflix or Stan shows on my laptop – basically just having a self-indulgent time. The normal routine during the day is that I see what I want to see, grab a nice lunch and then make it back to the room by twilight.

Too easy!

Driving 800 km in one day is tiring. I spent the whole of the next day in my room, reading and sewing a couple more rows of the 5,000+ piece quilt I’m making. I ‘did’ Bowral on the last time I spent a holiday here, so I didn’t feel bad. It was just so nice to have a day where no one was asking me for something, you know what I mean?

Oh! When I say I ‘did’ Bowral, that’s all except the Bradman Cricket Museum. I’d rather die.

At 6 PM that night there came a knock at the door.

Turns out it was the manager, bringing a bottla sparkling wine, to say thank-you for using both Bowral and Manly Beach for my holiday. Wow. I was blown away. What a lovely gesture!

I hadn’t put any preparation into this holiday, so I was surprised to realise that Bowrl was so close to Sydney. I left at 10 AM and was pulling up outside the Sebel in Manly Beach by 11:30.

Of course my room wasn’t ready, so I parked my car in their underground car park, grabbed some lunch at a café – (you’d think a halloumi wrap would be tasty but it had absolutely no taste at all), and then I headed down to the foreshore.

It was a beautiful day and the place was packed. I, of course, was wearing my mask but I only saw 4 other people all day with one on. I was amazed – but I guess it shows that when you have “mockdowns” instead of lockdowns, you take things a little less seriously. Personally, with all of the evidence now coming to light about Long Covid, I want to keep any covid I end up getting to a minimum.

I had a few hours to kill before I could check in, so I walked, then sat and read for a while, then I’d walk a bit more, then sit and read, etc. There were heaps of tourists and lots of locals walking their dogs and toddlers.

The place was pumping. All of the cafés were bursting at the seams and everyone was in a great mood.

I took this shot from a seat where I was reading for a while. It doesn’t do justice to the shades of blue.

Such a quintessential Aussie scene! This was a ‘Nippers’ class, where the local surf lifesaving club is teaching the kids to surf.

A little further away, some surfers were clumped together, chatting and waiting for waves. They seemed a bit optimistic to me, but then again, even these piddly waves are bigger than we normally get down in Melbourne in Port Phillip Bay!

Can you imagine being able to live in these houses? The views that they must have?

Lucky ducks!

For the next few days, this is the view from my balcony. I’m sitting out here now on Monday morning. I watched the sunsise and now I can hear birdsong from the pines over the road, while sounds of laughter float up from the street below. The sun is sparkling on the waves.

I live very close to the beach at home and when I was a kid, we used to spend school holidays at Inverloch, where my grandparents lived. They had a house which was just over the road from the beach.

But I’ve never lived in a place where you can hear the sea all the time.

In the twilight, I was out on the balcony with a glass of wine. I called Mum in the hospital and chatted away.

Then, as I was talking I was visited by a couple of lorikeets. My foot is in the shot to show how close they were.

They ended up coming really close before they flew off. Being five floors up seems to have its perks!

Is this room perfect?

Well… there’s no coffee plunger, and only enough NON-decaf instant coffee for 2 more mornings.

You know how you always forget something when packing? (Or maybe that’s just me.) I forgot my Aeropress, so I have proper coffee but no way to make it.

I might see if the staff can chase up a coffee plunger for me. I had a cup of instant coffee this morning and this may surprise some of you… but it’s just not the same.

Meanwhile, look at this sad, sad photo. Tom30 took this at 4 PM on the day that I was driving to Bowral.

They’re all at the window, thinking, “Any minute now, Mum will be home…”

I felt bad when I saw it…

Dad joke of the day:

Food safety and getaway plans.

Today I’m sitting in a Food Safety Course that the year 9s are doing. The instructor has worked in hospo for years and some of the stories he’s telling would make your hair curl! I said, just before recess, that we’ll all walk out of here with our hands held, high, avoiding contact with anyone, with the intention to never eat out again.

The year 9s are doing a two-week course, where for 3 days they’re away at camp in the country, but for the rest of the time they’re doing courses in CPR, food safety, barista, study skills and other things. It’s a goldmine for CRT teachers, with lots of smaller groups needing to be covered.

So I’ve been driving in every day for the last two weeks, with a full week’s work ahead of me. Today I was talking with a guy who retired a year or two ahead of me, who has just started doing CRT work because the school is desperate for teachers. We agreed that the absolute worst thing about coming back to work is the alarm going off when it’s still dark.

On Thursday and Friday last week, kids doing the barista course made me a cup of coffee to drink after lunch. They’re learning to make lattes and cappuccinos with all the froth etc, but I hate milk in my coffee, so I just asked for a long black without sugar. The kids on Friday were boys I’d taught in year 7 and we’re good mates. I’m pretty sure they gave me a triple shot of coffee. There was no chance of me needing a little nap when I got home!

In other news, I’m very excited about a trip I have planned.

I’ve decided to take the young women in my family away for a girls’ weekend. My two nieces, Izzy and Jenna. Izzy is going to be an official family member when she gets married to David28 next year, and even though Evan25 and Jenna have no plans to get married, they also have no plans to split up any time soon.

Women tend to be the ones who keep families together. We’re the glue. Seeing as how I have sons, the next-best thing I can do to keep my family flourishing is to provide times for the girls to get to know each other.

Whenever they see each other, they all chatter away like magpies, but these events are usually only a few hours long. You know, birthday parties, Christmas, etc. What we’re going to do in July is to go away for a Friday and Saturday night, with people peeling away to return home on Sunday. That’s a decent chunk of time for them to relax, sit back and get to know each other in a little more depth.

Of course, my nieces already have that last part sorted! I’m visualising a couple of days where the four of them chill, chat and go out to see various things. We’ll be close to Daylesford and Ballarat, so we’ll probably do some wandering around to see whatever’s on offer. Bushwalks, art galleries, markets.. who knows?

I’m even thinking that I might work an extra couple of days to pay for a hot air balloon ride for everyone. That’d be something memorable! Not sure if they run in the middle of winter, but it’ll be easy enough to find out.

We’ll be staying in one of the time-share properties I have. I was only able to book it for the particular weekend we wanted if I booked for 4 nights, so I’m giving myself a little getaway for two nights before they arrive. When Friday comes, I’ll have the fire burning, wine, and a piping hot vegetarian curry ready, for when they come through the door after the drive down from Melbourne. Ballarat is FREEZING at the best of times, so it works out pretty well that I’ll be there to make the place as warm and welcoming as possible.

I’m hoping that this will be a weekend that they’ll all enjoy. I’d like the bonds between these lovely young women to be slightly more than just, “Nice talking to you; see you next Christmas!”

Dad joke of the day:

I bought a dog from a blacksmith.

As soon as I got him home, he made a bolt for the door.

Skinflint Sunday: Grand Prix.

Apparently, the Melbourne Grand Prix is on today. Tom30 has his iPad in the kitchen while making an early dinner for himself and he has it on. If this hadn’t happened, I’d never have known. Sometimes, at the old house when the wind was blowing a certain way, we’d be able to hear the cars, but now we’re at The Best House in Melbourne we’re too far away.

I’ve spent the afternoon sewing on the crazy 5,000+ piece quilt. The quilt-a-long has the first row finishing on the 10th (phew!) and the second row finished on the 11th… which is tomorrow. I’m channelling ‘The Castle’ here when I say:

But I will admit that it spurred me on to make an extra block. I’ll get as much done over the Easter break as I can. It’s finicky work – especially ironing all of those tiny seams – but I can already tell that it will look so sweet. Those little blocks are to die for.

I’m harvesting lots of dried beans. I have more than enough for next year’s crops, so I’m gathering up the beans to use in cooking. Thermobexta has an enchilada recipe in one of her books that Ryan27 and I just love, and I see no reason why some homegrown beans can’t replace some tinned beans. I also plan to throw a few into soups and casseroles. I cook and freeze them in 250g lots, which is roughly what is left in a tin of beans once the liquid is drained. I think they’ll come in very handy over winter.

About the only thing I have planned for the Easter holidays is a night at the Comedy Festival to see Evan25. He and his friend are bringing back “The Annual Chumsville South North Tavern Inn Open Mic Night” which was such a roaring success last year.

They’ve tinkered with the line-up to make the show even stronger, which is great for people like me who are coming back to see it again. There’ll be some different characters! I’m going on Saturday night, which is the night that they’re taping. Very exciting! I’m really looking forward to seeing those silly boys on stage again. HOW I laughed last time!

If you’re at a loose end next week, come along and see it. I absolutely guarantee you’ll have a great time. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

Monday!

I usually write a ‘Skinflint Sunday’ post but yesterday I simply wasn’t in the zone. But today I’m back doing CRT work, sitting in front of a robotically good year 8 class. I’ve marked the roll, the Dad joke is up on the board and I’ve set them off on the lesson their teacher has set, so everything is right with the world.

I’ve chosen to come back to the school when they’ve had a real shortage of fill-in teachers, so I’ve been here almost every day.Last week I worked 4 days, the first week I worked 3 and so far this week, (the last week of term 1), I’m booked for 2 days.

I quit work a year earlier than I planned due to Covid, but I feel safer coming back now that I’m triple-vaxxed, fully masked up all day, (the only time my mask comes off is when I’m eating lunch), and the kids are all vaccinated too. I’ve made a list of things I want to pay for with my earnings and it’s very motivating to be able to work my way down the list and cross them off.

The first thing on the list was my annual teacher registration. Ugh. Then it was large things I’ve bought, such as the washing machine for Evan25 and Jenna, Tom30’s brthday gift and the pizza oven.

NOW – I’m chipping away at the dollar contribution I’ve promised to put towards David28 and Izzy’s wedding next year. Obviously I could stick to the original plan and pay for it myself, but I have to admit that being able to pay for it outside of my investments and savings is a challenge I’m enjoying.

After that? It’s my airfare to South America to get to Antarctica.

I definitely wouldn’t be doing this if every day was a battle with the students. I’m only back here because the kids at this school are really lovely and are motivated to work. My biggest struggle about being here is the boredom. Unlike being at home, I can’t chop and change activities whenever I feel like it. So if a class is doing the right thing, as they usually do, and I have nothing much to do but gallop around the room to make sure that the’re not playing games etc on their laptops, I can’t leave them to go for a walk, read a book or take a nap. All that’s left is to look out of the window, count the minutes down until the bell or write a blog post.

So yes, boredom is an occupational hazard. I’m ok with it though. I certainly don’t want to start working at a school where the kids are throwing furniture and having knife fights. I wouldn’t be bored, but I’d definitely be stressed out of my mind! No thanks. I did that kind of teaching when I was teaching before kids, out on the other side of town when I was married. I’ve earned my gentle boring days…

I’m in two minds about starting a winter garden. I wasn’t intending to, but all the reports of fresh food prices going through the roof have given me pause. I have an abundance of seeds and I really should use them. The portable greenhouse is a little rickety nowadays but I’m sure it’ll do the job.

The summer crops are nearing the end of their glory days. I’m letting the beans dry on the vines, while there’s only a couple of zucchini left to pick. For the first time ever, we have huge capsicums and apple cucumbers, while the gourmet lettuce has self-seeded again and a couple of garden beds are covered with it. I use them in my home-made bread roll every lunchtime when I’m at work.

I have a lot of ‘chop and dropping’ to do, which will probably take up the first week of the holidays. I’m guessing what will probably happen is that I’ll put most beds to sleep over winter, but keep a couple productive with things like cabbage and caulies.

Anyway, we’ll see.

I’ve begun putting together the 5,000+ squares quilt. It’s a slow process, as I have to sew slowly and carefully to ensure that all of the thousands of seams are perfectly aligned. I’ve done the first row of 9 blocks and I can already see that it’s going to look beautiful. It’s just a matter of chipping away at it until it’s done. This is a long-term project, probably lasting 6 months. The photo above is what it’ll look like when it’s finished.

Dad joke of the Day:

If thieves wear Sneakers and artists wear Sketchers, then linguists must wear Converse.

I’m a productive member of society again!

Well, I’ve done it! This week I went back to work for 3 days as a CRT (Casual/Relief teacher.)

Apparently people are dropping like flies, not only from covid but from bacterial infections, so there’s lots of work available. I’ve donned my mask – I’m one of the few people here teaching in one all day – made sure I have sanitiser in the car, I’m triple vaxxed and so I put my name down for the work.

Why have I done this when I’ve been so very happy in retirement?

Half jokingly, I’ve been telling people that it’s Tom30 listening to wrestling shws when he’s working from home that has tipped me over the edge. “It’s quieter here than at home!” I’ve been saying. As I said, I’m only half joking about that. I love having him back at home but the vibe at home is a little louder and more testosterone-y that it has been.

Partially it’s to help the school. Being triple vaxxed, in a mask and not having to do much teaching – pretty much as a CRT you mark the roll, put a Dad joke on the board, (ok, that’s just me), introduce the lesson and then keep them on task. Obviously some classes have more crowd control than others, but there’s really not that much talking compared to regular teaching, so I’m not finding the wearing of a mask a burden at all. Plus, secondary students are pretty much all vaccinated at this point, so I feel it’s safer than working in a primary school.

I also like the money. The pay is pretty darned good, ($380+/day before tax) and I don’t have to do any marking or attend any meetings. I get to exchange banter with the kids and staff, so it’s pretty much everything I liked about teaching with very little of the bad stuff.

I wrote about my first two days at school here.

A pivotal reason that I chose to come back here is that the kids are really good. I’m not saying they’re angels, but they’re great kids who can be nudged into good behaviour by simply using humour around 99/100. I’m sitting here in front of a year 7 Maths (ugh) class and they’re all working silently. Every 5 minutes or so I’ll gallop around the room just to check on things (and to get my steps up, naturally), but it’s a pretty strong testament that 28 X 13-year-olds are being so good for a sub they’ve never met before. This sort of thing is like gold to a CRT and makes the commute totally worth it.

A little while ago I posted a photo of the Cavaliers, sleeping on the floorboards at the front door, waiting for me to get back home from a day of errands. I left at around 10 and got back 5 hours later and they didn’t stop waiting. I was worried that they’d pull these shenanigans when I was working, but no.

Ryan27 said that as soon as I left at the regular ‘work’ time, the three of them trotted up to his door, scratched to be let in and then stayed with him until around 4 PM. They went back to the front door and waited for me to come home.

How amazing that they remembered! It was right from the first day, too. What funny things they are.

This is the Dad joke that I’m writing on the board for my classes today:

Dad joke of the day:

My wife wants me to get fit by doing lunges.

That’ll be a big step forward!

Skinflint Sunday: The pizza oven edition!

A few weeks ago I saw a post on FB about a new pizza oven that Thermomix was selling. I was curious, so I called my sister Kate, who is still a consultant, to ask her about it. As it turned out, she’s earned one as a consultant reward and had been playing around with it for a couple of weeks. I was expecting her to be politely enthusiastic about it, but her reply blew me away.

“OMG Frogdancer, this thing is FANTASTIC! We’ve been making pizza every few days and they’re so delicious. Last night we had Indian and I made naan bread… I’ve never had better. I LOVE it!”

Or something like that.

Anyway, I thought that if Kate was THAT enthusiastic about it, it must be pretty darned good. So I ordered one as soon as they were released. We eat home-made pizza pretty regularly. Trouble is, our oven makes pizzas with slightly soggy dough. It never cooks properly underneath the pizzas. They’re still tasty, but yeah.

I already have a pretty large family, what with the 4 boys and 3 girlfriends, and chances are it’s only going to get bigger. How much fun would it be to be able to get people to put their own toppings on their own pizzas and be able to cook each pizza in a little over a minute, instead of having to wait to cook 2 pizzas in 12 minutes like we’ve been doing with our oven?

Talk about easy catering! As long as I have enough pizza dough made beforehand, all I’ll have to do is provide a variety of toppings and a birthday/Mothers Day/whatever cake and my work here is done.

It arrived last week. One big box and a couple of smaller boxes with the added extras I ordered. In for a penny, in for a pound.

As luck would have it, Kate’s car was being serviced near me so she spent the day with me on Wednesday. I took her on a Little Adventure up to Digger’s nursery in Dromana and then, after lunch, she helped Ryan27 assemble the pizza oven. We didn’t have a suitable table to put it on so she scouted around, found the pile of bricks that Blogless Sandy gave me a while ago and we made a makeshift table from the bricks and a couple of concrete pavers.

That night we fired her up and made 2 pizzas.

This was the first one. The oven has to run for a while to get up to 400C. It comes with a big paddle to push the pizza into the oven, and a smaller paddle to turn it every 20 seconds or so, because the gas flame runs along one side.

It’s a learning curve. It’s not difficult to do, but we’ve never worked with implements like this before. Luckily thermomix have short videos showing what to do so, armed with this knowledge, we produced two very delicious pizzas.

Unfortunately, mine folded a bit when Ryan27 was launching it into the oven, so it looks a bit like Tasmania. The dough was a little soggy in the middle because of the fold, but it was still SO much better than the kitchen oven-cooked pizzas we’ve been eating up till now.

The dough was – I’d say “to die for’ but that’s just wrong when you’re talking about food. The underneath has a beautiful char quality that’s so damned tasty. We use home-made pesto on our pizzas and I could taste it so clearly. Maybe it loses its fragrance with the longer oven cook in the kitchen?

The number of toppings we had on them was too much. A couple of olives rolled off and the stone had a lot of cheese left on it that had to be cleaned off. We decided the next time we made pizzas, we’d pare the toppings right back and then slowly increase each time until we hit the sweet spot.

Friday lunchtime. Tom30 was here working from home and so there were 3 for lunch.

We made ultra-simple pizzas with just tomato paste, a scrape of pesto for Ryan27 and me, some salami, basil leaves from the garden and (of course) cheese.

I didn’t think to take photos, (sorry). The pizzas were still delicious and so much easier to manoeuvre. We agreed that they were a tad dough-heavy, so next time we’ll add a little more on top. The longest part of the cook was waiting for the balls of pizza dough to defrost, once we’d decided what we were having for lunch.

I’m really happy with this purchase. We’ll use it a fair bit just on our own, but it’ll really shine when we entertain.

For anyone wanting to check it out, HERE’S THE LINK. If you decide down the track that you’d like one and you don’t have a thermomix consultant, please shoot me an email and I’ll put you in touch with my sister. You see, if people buy online and they don’t have a consultant, Thermomix keeps the commission that they would otherwise pay to a consultant and I don’t think that’s fair. (For those who don’t know, I was a consultant for a few years. We work really hard to provide a great service and the current crop should be rewarded for that, in my opinion.)

In other news, Tom30 has moved all this stuff in and as of yesterday, it’s all either put away or packed up in boxes. I have my dining room table back – hooray! The house is back to its uncluttered self and Tom30 is learning the rhythms of the new place. Seven years is a long time to be gone. When he left home it was still very much a household of parent and kids. Now it’s far more a household of adults sharing the space.

Hmmm, after writing this post I feel a strange hankering for pizza. Is it ok to have pizza for breakfast? LOL.

Dad joke of the day:

What would a pirate say on his 80th birthday?

“Aye matey!”

The Engagement Party.

After 8 months, David28 and Izzy were finally able to throw their engagement party. He published these photos on FB, so I screenshot them to share with you all here. Some of you have been reading this blog for years – if not decades – and have ‘seen’ these boys grow up. You’re practically family!

Seems weird to have a girl-child n the mix, doesn’t it? But Izzy assures me she’s happy to be one of ‘the boys’.

From left to right: Jack30, David28, Izzy, Ryan27 and Evan25. The youngest is the tallest.

It was a stinking hot day, so Izzy’s parents had a couple of marquees in the backyard that she borrowed from school. She’s a primary teacher. We all ended up sitting out under a red one, which turned our faces a funny colour, because My brother and sister-in-law turned up. He’s been in poor health since his stroke a couple of years ago and he was worried about catching Covid. (To be fair – a LOT of Izzy’s family have had it, so it was a warranted fear on his part.)

So when you see the reddish tint in the later photos, you know why. It’s the sunlight shining through the tent roof.

It’s nice when our little family gets bigger.

Izzy comes from a very large and exuberant Italian family, so even with my sister’s family there, my brother and his wife, Evan25’s girlfriend Jenna and my parents all in the mix – we were swamped. They’re planning to get married in a church, because Izzy’s family is religious, so I’m guessing the bride’s side will be overflowing and our side will only have a couple of pews filled.

Mum and Dad were so happy to be there.

I swear Mum’s shrinking as she gets older! She was always tiny – “Four for ten and a half inches”, she’d say, clinging to that half inch.

They also included a cake for Tom30. He didn’t get a family party to celebrate his birthday, so they sprang a surprise on him.

David28 said he thought he was ok to get up in front of everyone and make a speech, but when he saw how many eyes were on him he froze.

I didn’t have that problem!

So the engagement is now official. A wedding date has been set for April next year and I made sure to put it straight in my calendar. Imagine my dilemma if I double-booked myself on that day…

oh, the embarrassment.

I’m including this one because I love this shot of Izzy. It captures her beautifully.

It was a bit of a crazy day because the night before, Tom30’s housemate of 7 years broke the Bro Code in one of the most fundamental of ways. In the photo below, I’m pretty sure the photographer snapped my sister’s reaction as he was telling her what happened.

David28 left his own engagement party early to come back and help us move as much stuff out from the flat as we could. As Tom30 said, living with this guy is now “untenable.” It’s a shame. They’ve known each other for 15 years, but I agree with Tom30. When someone betrays you, it requires a surgical break.

It’s been a week and now Tom30 has moved into The Best House in Melbourne. After David28 finally packed up his things and moved out after Christmas, I had a guest bedroom for about a month! He’ll stay here for a few months and save some money while he decides where he wants to live next.

I knew when I saw the houseplan online, before I even set foot in this place, that this house would be a perfect home for Boomerang kids. The only shared rooms are the kitchen and laundry, so I have my personal space at the front of the house while any housemates have their living space towards the back.

I’m sure this is a fundamental reason why Ryan27 and I have been so harmonious through all 6 lockdowns.

Our house is not so calm and peaceful anymore though. Tom30 is LOUD.

The good side of all of this is that it’ll give us a chance to recomnnect again. I haven’t lived in the same house as Tom30 for 7 years. It’ll be nice to share the little interactions that day to day life holds.

Dad joke of the day:

Skinflint Sunday: It’s bean a nice week.

It’s been a big week for a couple of the boys.

Ryan27 started his first job this week as a myotherapist. Currently, it’s a part-time position but as he builds his clients up, I’m sure that will change. For the present, it’s not a bad thing that he’s working part-time. I don’t know if was the same for you, but I remember how exhausted I was when I started full-time work. The body really has to adjust.

He’s enjoying it. The people he’s working with seem nice and it’s only a few train stations away, with a 30-minute walk. Fortunately, he likes walking. When he gets sick of it, then maybe he’ll finally get his license???

Here he is on his 27th birthday. He’s such a great person to share a house with. Our place is probably the most chilled, serene house on the planet. Though having said that, I don’t know why he can’t seem to shut a cupboard door or put dishes in the dishwasher. Still, if they’re the worst things to complain about, then I think I’m one lucky house-mate!

Look at these two lovebirds! This shot was taken last year when they went to Sydney to see ‘Hamilton’, but I love it. A couple of days ago Evan25 and Jenna moved into their own place. Just the two of them. They’ve found a flat above a pizza shop (convenient!) and the last time I spoke to them they were living on a mattress on the floor surrounded by boxes, waiting for their furniture to be delivered.

Blissfully happy. Oh, to be young and foolish again!

Evan25 has been the child who has asked for the least amount of financial help from me – not that any of them have asked for much – so when he said that they were having trouble finding a washing machine on Marketplace, I thought, ‘Bugger it’ and jumped on Appliances Online and ordered them a brand new Bosch washing machine. The company will deliver it, which is good. Apparently they live at the top of a very long set of stairs, so I’d rather the delivery guy get it up there rather than the kids.

You should have heard him when I rang him yesterday morning to find out which day someone would be home so I could order it. He’s such a nice young man. I’m glad I made him.

Look at this fine sinkful of potatoes! When I first had the wicking beds put in, around 3 years ago, I bought some seed potatoes from Aldi and chucked them into one of the beds. Since then, every so often I get a new batch of spuds. They just keep on reproducing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – free food is definitely my favourite flavour!

The garden is also awash with beans. Luckily Ryan27 and I love love love them.

We’re eating the green Lazy Housewife and Pioneer beans, while this is a mix of Belotti and Lazy Housewife beans that I’m soaking before chucking them in the slow cooker. When that’s done I’ll freeze them in 250g batches to use in soups and stews.

The flowers have gone crazy in the front yard orchard. If I’d known how big those orange daisies would get, I definitely wouldn’t have planted all 5 of them together on that corner! I like them though, so I’m planning to dig a few up and transplant them when the weather gets cooler.

The lemon tree is the only one with any fruit to speak of. The mandarin has only 1 left. It better taste good!

Here’s how the back yard is looking at the moment. The veggie garden is the least productive it’s been for ages, but it’s still fun to go out there and cut things for dinner. I’m so glad I put the brick paving in. The thought of having to drag the lawnmower up there is awful.

And just to finish, here’s the arum lillies that I planted a couple of days before Christmas. They’ve grown this much in the space of 6 weeks. If only my tomatoes were this prolific…

Dad joke of the day:

What do cows dance to?

Moosic.

Skinflint Sunday: Just chillin’.

Look! Here is a mix of home-grown zucchini and squash to make a zucchini slice for Ryan27’s work lunches for the next few days. Yes! He’s finally starting work as a myotherapist. (Or as I prefer to call it – turning people into pincushions.)

He’s very fond of zucchini slice so he asked if I could whip one up and he’ll take it with him to work. How could I say no? Though with this El Ninâ weather, this has just about cleared out all of the zucchinis. If he wants more, he’ll have to go and buy them himself.

Speaking of El Ninâ, two years ago the garden was awash with tomatoes. I bagged up 50kgs worth of chopped tomatoes and froze them. That crop fed us for nearly 18 months! Last year – the first El Ninâ – my tomatoes and zucchinis were terrible. This year is more of the same.

I’m finding that I have to pick what few tomatoes there are while they’re still mainly green and bring them inside to ripen. Otherwise, they’re all getting eaten by caterpillars. This was today’s mighty haul.

However, it’s been a fabulous year for beans! This is the Lazy Housewife patch. We had a huge flush of beans – some of which we ate but most of which I’ve chopped and frozen – and now the second wave are coming in.

This is a terrific variety of bean to grow. Funnily enough, they were useless at our old house, but they’ve been amazing here.

I’m also growing Bellotti beans to dry. They’re growing great guns too, though they’re low enough that Poppy can steal the ones growing too close to the edge.

For the last couple of days, I’ve been engrossed in the latest ‘Outlander‘ book. How I love this series! When book 9 was released last year I raced online and put a hold on it at the library. I was 39th in line.

I wondered if I could hold out without buying it, but somewhat to my surprise, I did. It helped that I heard not one spoiler. Also, being in a reading challenge to ‘earn’ back my council rates helps as well.

Yesterday I was happily reading away and there was a part when Claire was asked if she wanted to take a trip into town. She knew she shouldn’t… winter was coming and she had all of the produce in the garden to preserve and harvest…

… and I thought of my rhubarb. I’d bought some apples. All I needed to do was pick some of the rhubarb to stew with them. But I’d been putting it off. I was ashamed. What sort of homesteader would I have made in the olden days?

Half an hour later I had apples and rhubarb bubbling away on the stove and I could go back to reading my book with a clear conscience.

Just before Christmas Ryan27 and I went to a friend’s house to dig up some calla lilies. We also came away with a couple of elephant garlic that I quickly shoved in the ground when we got home. I pulled up the garlic today.

The plan is to let them dry and I’ll plant the individual cloves at the winter solstice. Gradually, we’ll build up to have a good supply of our own garlic.

Here are my potato grow bags. The plants pretty much died off at Christmas time and I really should harvest the potatoes. I just can’t face all of the dirt that’ll spill. I really should’ve put more thought into where I put these bags. Next year, they’ll be tucked away in the orchard somewhere.

And finally, here are our lillies. At Christmas, there was nothing there. Now look at them!

Dad joke of the day:

My grandfather was a baker in the army. He went in all buns glazing.