Days 11 – 13, Antarctica trip: Whales and the World Cup semi-final in Argentina.

The crew arranged all sorts of mini-lectures to help fill the next two days. An astonishing number of them are birders, so we heard all about what that entails. As you can see, sometimes they went into a little too much detail, as this action-shot of Liga shows.

We also had a lecture about the environmental impact of our trip, which was surprisingly interesting, along with the technology the Hondius has to help mitigate any damage we might cause.

Now that we were firmly in the Drake Passage, whale sightings were getting more common. Up until now, the only whale sightings I’d seen were of blows, fins and flukes from miles away, which make for some very unimpressive photos.

Imagine how fantastic it was when the announcement went out:

“ A pod of at least twenty humpback whales are around the ship, primarily on the starboard side. We’re slowing the ship down to make the most of this opportunity.“ 

Talk about being galvanised into activity! 

I had my phone with me, but no coat, so I ran to get a spot at the lounge windows.

The whales were so close. They were feeding, so they were surfacing and diving, but only in shallow dives so they were repeatedly coming up to the surface.

I had my phone positioned just below my eyes and I was pressing the photo button every time I saw something… which meant that I had a LOT of photos to go through after this was over. It was the only way I could think of getting a balance between actually experiencing it all with my eyes as well as trying to get a record of it.

The whales stayed near us for around 20 minutes, I guess, which was ample time to get that “whale watching “ box well and truly ticked off.

Afterwards, Eneko came by as we were all talking and he showed me some videos that he took of the whales from the deck outside. They were fantastic- so much better than my crappy photos. 


We spent the rest of the day in the lounge, where I may or may not have taken a nap. People were flicking through their photos to choose which ones they were going to submit for the photo competition, sometimes asking for opinions from others.

It was a funny day. I think we were all coming down from the high that was Antarctica.

Eneko was persuaded by Corrina and Liga to play a game of poker with them, to teach them how to play better. Poor guy, he was really reluctant to do it, because he’s used to playing 10 games at a time behind his computer screen. I got the distinct impression that face-to-face poker games don’t have much appeal for him.

They were sitting near me and I tuned out as I was reading a novel, but I surfaced at one point to hear him, looking at Corrina’s cards, saying, “No, no, you shouldn’t play this hand of cards,” and Corrina, totally bewildered, saying, “But why not??” 

He was trying to explain and I could see his brain trying desperately to translate from Spanish to English something that, to him seemed so obvious, but to the girls was a mystery. It must have been a long night for poor Eneko!

All of us had bought seasickness patches the night before, but I think we could probably have done without them. The Drake Lake was living up to its name as we glided on through. 

Only one full day to go…


This is where Frogdancer Jones gets a prize in the photo competition that she didn’t even enter. Even I’m astonished at the amount of good luck that this trip has let me experience.

The Drake Passage was even calmer today than it was yesterday, which seemed a little unbelievable, but there it was. The morning was spent packing our bags, giving back our muck boots and generally coming back down to earth.

Corrina set up a WhatsApp group so we could share photos. We’ve been talking on it ever since. 🙂

After lunch we were all called to the lounge and Ross went through the photo competition entries. There were 126 spread out over the 3 categories and everyone had one vote in each category.

Earlier in the day, we made Michael, a guy we’d met on the cruise, submit a photo of polar bears he took in the Arctic a couple of years before, in the “Fun” section. It got a huge laugh, but sadly, didn’t make the final cut.

At around 5PM we all got a hell of a surprise. There, ahead of the ship, were lights. We were already approaching Ushuaia… 12 hours ahead of schedule. That shows just how flat the Drake Passage was over our two days.

Over our last dinner, the boys and I sat near SamFrank. Someone asked him what he did for a living, (he was back to being a colonel again) and then I asked him what he did for fun when he wasn’t working.

“Oh, I teach ballroom dancing. I do a lot of dancing. I also play the guitar – I play a lot of guitar so that I can train my fingers to have lots of sex with my wife.”

I glanced across at Baptiste to see if he was hearing this. His eyes danced back at me. We were both hanging off every word.

“I’m also learning to play the harmonica. I also like to throw dinner parties.  Or just any kind of dinner party… I like it when people dress up. I think people behave differently when they are elegantly dressed. Before I met my wife, I always organised every used to take me the whole day to set the table, decide who was sitting next to who, and to cook the food. Once, a man turned up in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. I made him go home and change.”

After the conversation moved on, I asked the guys to give me a playlist of the band that they both like – a German band called Rammstein. Morgan’s seen them play 47 times. It’s great music to listen to if you want to concentrate on something that you’re doing, because I can’t understand a word of the lyrics. I’m listening to them now as I type – a lovely song called ‘Pussy.’ It’s nice to see that German headbangers are fond of cats.

After dinner, we all gathered in the lounge for the photo competition. Morgan had 2 shots in the final and Eneko had one. Not bad representation for our little group!

After the prizes were awarded, Emma, the ship’s doctor, beckoned me over. 

“I accidentally submitted a photo in the Wildlife folder instead of the guides’ folder and it won the competition. I don’t feel right about accepting the prize, so I thought you should have it.”

She handed me a penguin soft toy. Maybe I was being rewarded for my bravery during the blood nose episode on Petermann Island?

Liga bought a bottle of Prosecco and shared it with our group as we all toasted our friendship. I really hope we run into each other again.

There was a bit more talk about Eneko’s nicknames for us. He let slip a day or two ago that his nickname for Liga was ‘The Black Panther’, which really suits her. He said that he had a nickname for both Corinna and me, but he was too scared to tell us. Corinna, who was absolutely dying to know what hers could be, finally got a promise from him that he’d tell her on the last day. That would be tomorrow…

I set off to bed at midnight, but a couple of hours after that, some of the crew came up and took some people out into Ushuaia to the Irish pub. Corinna didn’t get back until 4 AM. That 7:30 AM wake-up call must’ve been hard…

I took this photo on the last night because I couldn’t believe that Ming was STILL wearing her polar layers 24/7, even when we were back in port. When was she going to shed the yellow gortex?


The mood was subdued at breakfast. No one wanted to leave. 

Baptiste said at breakfast, looking sadly out of the window, “I just want to wreck the boat. Demolish it. If I can’t go back, then no one else should!” Trust me, it sounds better when it’s said in a mournful French accent.

As soon as we were off the ship and on the dock, the sky turned grey and the wind picked up. It was a bit creepy, as if our good luck with the weather only worked if we were on the ship.

Corrina asked Eniko for her nickname. 

No, not yet,” he said, gesturing back towards the sea. “There’s nowhere for me to run away here.”

“Oh my God, what IS it?” she shrieked. “It can’t be that bad, surely?”

Little did she know, but Eneko told the boys and me the nickname over breakfast. It was the ‘British Bear’, like Winnie the Pooh. I was ‘ The Australian Penguin.’ Now that I come to think about it, Eneko was always there when I’d fall down, get up and cheerfully waddle off again, so fair enough.

When we wheeled our luggage to the street, Eniko finally told Corrina her name. Unfortunately, he forgot to mention Winnie the Pooh and instead said it was like a grizzly bear. She was half laughing, half confused. I don’t blame her!

Today was the day when I realised truly how beautiful these people are. Some of them were due to leave Ushuaia that day, while some were like me and staying an extra night. They all decided to walk with me back to my hotel. 

Corrina took my carry-on bag and Morgan took my suitcase. We trundled through the streets of Ushuaia, passing a very hungover Garret and Timo, who were part of the late-night Irish pub visit with Corinna. I was chatting to Garret outside a shop and I mentioned that I could still feel the ground moving under my feet as if I was still on the ship. “Really?’ he said. “I thought it was just my hangover.

Then we split up. Morgan and Baptiste decided to go to the nearby national park and do a 10 km hike. Liga wanted to climb a mountain track, while Eneko wanted to go to his B and B. 

Corrina and I stayed in the hotel foyer, using the wifi to contact friends and family.

Scott from the UK let me know that after I’d left Australia, a woman was killed in a freak accident when crossing the Drake Passage. It wasn’t the Drake Lake, clearly. A freak wave hit the side of the ship and broke a window. 

“I quickly googled the name of the ship but I knew it wouldn’t be you. You’re Fortunate Frogdancer!”

When the boys were about to return, we went to a restaurant and grabbed lunch. The four of us ordered, then sat on the wifi. On a whim, I decided to check my emails.

This was my first indication that the luck of Fortunate Frogdancer was starting to sputter and conk out.

There were 2 emails from my travel agent. The first one said that I was leaving Ushuaia THAT DAY. What?!?

I fished out my printed itinerary. I leave tomorrow, according to this. So which one was correct? We tried calling the 24-hour help number ( not helpful… it was all recorded messages) and we tried checking in. Nothing was definite.

Then Morgan remembered that there was a shop on the waterfront for Argentinian Airlines and offered to take me there to sort it out. We said goodbye to Corrina and after the boys collected their bags, we walked to the shop.

I was feeling bad. This was their last couple of hours here, where they could be doing anywho there than chasing up my flight. We took our place in the queue and waited. After a while, I said to them, “Look, why don’t you go and find something more fun to do? I can see it through from here.”

Morgan looked seriously at me.

“ You are not my responsibility as tour leader anymore. That finished at the docks. This is a matter of friendship. “Baptiste nodded.

Omg. Could they be any more wonderful? Morgan and Baptiste are just the best people in the world.

A couple of minutes later everything was sorted out. My printed itinerary was correct, and as a bonus, the nice man behind the counter also allocated me aisle seats for my first two flights.

After a coffee in a café, it was time for them to leave for the airport. They headed for the taxi rank and I headed back to my hotel.

That afternoon, Argentina was due to play in the World Cup semifinal against Croatia. Garret, Timo and a few other people decided that we should all meet at The Hard Rock Cafe to watch the game. I’d counted my Argentinian pesos and discovered I was running really low, so I decided I wasn’t going to go. I lay down on the bed with a book…

… and woke to a message on WhatsApp asking where I was. I replied that I was running out od cash. No World Cup shenanigans for me

Timo replied, “We have enough pesos between us to buy you a drink. Get yourself down here!”

As I walked out of my room, I saw the first Argentinian goal on the tv in the dining room. When I was halfway to the Hard Rock Café, I heard screaming from all over the place, so I ducked into a café to watch the replay of the second goal. 

By the time I reached the group, I was really hoping that they’d kick a third. I wanted to see the crowd’s reaction.

Turns out that they go mental whenever a goal is scored. It was so much fun. There’s a video on the other blog.

Afterwards, we stayed back for another drink and just as that finished, I turned and looked out the window. The street was jam-packed full of people. I raced to the door.

All the way up the main street of Ushuaia, people were walking, cheering and singing. It was wall to wall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier crowd. 

As you can see IN THE VIDEO ON THE OTHER BLOG, the whole town was out. You can hear me at some stage saying to someone, “It’s bloody beautiful!”

After the people came the cars. I think everyone who lives in Ushuaia was there, celebrating that their team was now in the final. I said goodbye to everyone and made my way back home.

As I ate the leftover of the massive half a tart that I ordered for lunch ( frugality for the win) I could still hear the celebrations. They went on for hours. Clearly, this is a country that loves soccer. There was lots of noise for a while, but it was happy noise. It made me smile.

(Only one more post to go. The trip isn’t over just yet…)

Day 7, Antarctica trip – Cuverville Island.

Scenic enough for you?

I was hot by the time it was our turn to go on land. This was definitely not what I was expecting Antarctica. As you can see by the photo, I’d unzipped my jackets and pulled up one of my merino tops, just to let some cool air in.

The wrap around sunnies that I’m wearing turned out to be a good buy. They’re polarising, so any glare from the sun on the snow was mitigated. Some of the people in our little group weren’t so lucky…

The crew had prepared the landing site for us, with one path going up the hill, while the other stayed down near sea level, near 3 Gentoo penguin rookeries.

Being unfit, I stayed down on the lower level, which I regretted afterwards. I didn’t let my perceived level of fitness hold me back again. I was surprised by how much I could do. (aka EVERYTHING.)


At this stage of the year, the penguins are mating, building nests and starting to lay their eggs. There have been some really heavy snowfalls this winter, so their mating season has been delayed.

It didn’t seem to put a dampener on their ardour. We saw lots of baby pengions being made.

I saw many penguins making their way up from the sea, carrying stones in their beaks to make their nests.

They were so intent on their task. They’d walk up along their penguin highways – and occasionally on ours – carefully carrying a stone. If they tumbled and fell, which happens surprisingly often, they’d be unflappable. They’d pick themselves up and carry on. Sometimes they’d stay lying down and take a sip of snow, as if they’d been planning to do this all along.

Each year a pair of penguins will lay two precious eggs.

We saw a Skua fly away with a stolen egg, then land a few feet away and start to eat it.

I know that the skuas need to feed their babies too, but it was still sad to watch.

One of the guides said, “ It’s worse later in the season once the chicks are born. The Skua scavenge on dead birds and live chicks.”

I’m really glad I didn’t get to see a live chick being torn apart, or dangling helplessly from a skua’s beak as it dragged it away…


One of the most important rules when on land is that you don’t interfere with the penguins. If one crosses your path, you have to stop and let it pass. They have brains the size of a walnut, so sometimes they get confused and forget where they were going, so they just stand and stare at you. 

We always try and keep a 5m gap between us and them.

When we first reached land, I headed off down the path on my own and had a good 10 minutes of alone time, just watching the penguins in the rookery and looking at the scene around me. I could still hear voices, but the noise of the penguins was far louder. 

I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. Here I was, standing a scant few metres away from these wild things, while the backdrop of huge chunks of ice glittering in the sun was all around me. 

Not many people get to experience this. 

Especially with weather like this. I crossed my fingers and hoped that it’d continue.


I saw penguin courtship behaviour, where they bow to each other very solemnly. I didn’t get a video, unfortunately, but it was very formal and medieval courtly love, like an ancient dance.

I saw a couple of clumsy penguins losing their balance and tipping over.

Then I saw a few hundred more. Honestly, for such pretty birds, their design is far more suited to the sea than on land.

But that just makes them all the more endearing.

Words cannot do justice to the absolute beauty and majesty of this place. It’s incomparable.

All too soon it was time to go back to the ship. 

We got back into the zodiacs, feeling so privileged to have been able to experience this perfect morning. Bad weather can blow up here in a matter of minutes, so come what may, we’ve experienced this absolute pearl of a time.

The plan is that while we’re having lunch, the ship will take us to a new location, where we’ll go out and explore.

On the way back to the ship, I had a ‘Venice’ moment. I was sitting in the front of the zodiac and we were whipping along. Wind was buffeting my face and I closed my eyes, just as I did in Venice as we were about to enter the main canal. When I opened my eyes, there was the beauty of Venice laid out before me.

Today, I closed my eyes and let the wind buffet my face, just as I did then. When I opened them, there was the blue ship framed by white icebergs. It was stunning, in a totally different way to Venice. 

How lucky I am to be able to experience both.

Day 7, Antarctica trip: Cuverville Island – the zodiac cruise.

At around 4:30 AM I woke with a start. It was pitch black in the cabin. The ‘swish swish’ noise was back.

It … it was getting closer.

It was coming down the ladder towards me…

It was Ming! Her bright yellow Gortex parka and waterproof pants were swishing together as she moved. She swish-swished to the bathroom and then swish! swish! as she grabbed some things in the cabin. Then she swished out the door. I rolled my eyes, then closed them and went back to sleep.

When the morning announcement woke us, I leapt out of bed and opened the blinds. Right outside our porthole was a chunk of ice floating merrily by. I leaped like a gazelle into the shower, threw on some clothes and bolted for the deck.

There were surprisingly few people up there.

The air was crisp and cool. I didn’t wear gloves and after a few minutes, my hands started to feel it. Everyone who was on deck were grinning delightedly at each other and taking photos. No one was speaking. It was a time when we just stood and tried to take it all in.

There were a few gasps as a small group of penguins broke the water’s surface as they swam to find food.

We learned in one of the lectures we’d had that it takes less energy for a penguin to continually leap out of the water when it swims, rather than swim in a straight line with its body always in the water.

My hands began to feel too cold, so I went back inside to grab breakfast. We were all sitting together, very excited for the morning that was about to unfold.

The passengers had been divided into two groups. There are strict rules about how many people are allowed to go ashore at any one time. No more than 100 people at a time, and if you are on a ship that has more than 500 passengers on board, you cannot go ashore at all.

In Antarctica, less is definitely more. We had 150 passengers. Half would go ashore while the other half would cruise around for an hour and a half in the zodiacs. Then we’d swap.

We were in all the same group, except for Ming. She was in the group that was going to go onto Cuverville Island first, while our group was going on a zodiac tour around the bay.

Over breakfast, we heard the story about a guy who was on the ship a couple of years ago, who smuggled a penguin under his coat and hid it in his shower recess for two days. It was discovered by a cleaner. When the ship docked back in Ushuaia, he was taken away and arrested.

Was it true? I hope not. I felt just awful for the poor, bewildered penguin.

After breakfast all four of us piled into our cabin. Unsurprisingly, Ming was the first to be ready, seeing as all she had to put on was the lifejacket and muck boots. She’d been in her 5 layers of clothing for 2 days now! She swished out to join her group. The rest of us struggled into our layers and helped each other to shrug on our life jackets. We were talking nervously, waiting for the call to go out for our group to report to the zodiac boarding deck for the first time.

Before we knew it, we were off!

A zodiac is like an inflatable boat that seats up to 10 – 12 people. You plant yourself on the sides of the boat with your feet on the floor. It’s possible to stand up, though the driver asks that you ask for permission first. Obviously, if the sea is rough you’d be crazy to try. It’s very fast and manoeuvrable and is (almost) impossible to capsize.

Luckily for us, the sea was smooth. As we drew closer to the island we could see people walking around, with red poles sticking up from the snow, marking where it was safe to go.

We turned and began putt-putting our way along the side of the island, looking for interesting things to see.

One thing I definitely didn’t expect to see was a sailboat!

The guy driving our boat had heard about it. The people had sailed across the Drake Passage from Ushuaia and had contacted our ship the night before, letting them know that they were there, in case they needed some help if their sailboat was iced in or something. We saw this boat off and on over the next few days. They seemed to be staying in our general neighbourhood.

Look at how thick the snow is! Oh… and if you zoom in, those three smudges lying on the ice are Weddell seals.

In one of the lectures, we learned that the water here is so cold that if the seals kept everything working at full steam when they were swimming, they wouldn’t be able to survive. So a survival mechanism they have is that they can shut bodily functions off – one of them being digestion – until they can reach land. Here they are, enjoying the sunlight and happily digesting penguins, krill and fish.

I could be wrong, but I think this might be a skua. Or a cormorant. Probably a cormorant. Maybe someone from the trip could let us know in the comments.

We could already see that we were going to get up close with some penguin rookeries when it was our turn to get onto the island, but this was our first look at them.

These were Gentoo penguins, which were far and away the most common penguins that we saw on this trip. They are so damned CUTE, so chunky and earnest.

The pinky colour that you can see around them is their poo. They eat a lot of krill and that gives their poo its colour.

Before I got here I read a few comments from people that had come here before me that penguins stink.

That’s not totally true. They do have a whiff of fish paste about them, but it wasn’t overpoweringly horrible, which was what I was afraid of. Of course, I don’t have a great sense of smell – probably from sharing my house with 4 sons for so long – but no one else complained about it, so I rest my case.

Our zodiacs communicated with each other by walkie-talkies. If someone saw some wildlife, they’d let the other ones know.

There was a rule that there were to be no more than 3 or 4 zodiacs near, say, a whale at any one time, so as not to stress the animals out. The guides would all share the time so that the majority of people got to see everything there was to see.

We stayed here for a while, watching these penguins waddle down to the water and then jump in. They looked to be enjoying the sunshine.

We were in water that was perfectly clear, with blue skies above and no wind. Our guides keep saying that we’re so lucky. The cruise before us had bad weather every single day, while Morgan, the YPT team leader who went on the cruise last year, the one that Latestarterfire and I were supposed to go on, said the same thing about that one.

Looks like being trapped in Australia last year with the covid quarantine from the rest of the world turned out to be a good thing after all!

I absolutely fell in love with the aquamarine colour of some of the icebergs. It was startlingly beautiful.

Look. At. This.

Like seriously, how is any landscape able to be so wonderful?

It was quiet. The only sounds we heard were the quiet murmurings of people, the clicking of cameras, the almost braying sound of the penguins floating over to us across the water and the sound of the sea lapping against the boat.

Every now and then a crunch would happen if we slid over the top of some ice.

I began the cruise by rationing the photos I took, because we have another 3 days after this. Someone mentioned a similar thing to the guide and he said, “No, don’t do that. This weather is extremely rare for Antarctica so make the most of it. You’ll see all the guides on land will be taking pictures as well. This sunshine is unbelievable!”

After what seemed like 15 minutes but was actually an hour and a half, we made our way to where the other half of the passengers were queuing to get into the zodiacs.

We were about to set foot on land at last!

A couple of housekeeping things:

  • Now that we’ve finally reached Antarctica, I’m going to split the days up. I literally took 984 photos, (thanks Charlie for showing me how to count them!), and it’s taking an enormous amount of time to trawl through them all to find the best ones to share with you.
  • After reading yesterday’s post, Morgan reminded me of an even STUPIDER question that was asked on the trip:

It was when we were doing the mandatory briefing on the lifeboats. We were up on the deck, looking at these orange-coloured pods that are able to hold over 100 people for 3 days.

“There will be enough food stored on board to feed 100 people for the time that we’d be waiting for rescue,” said Pippa. “If the call goes out to evacuate to the lifeboats, all we ask is that you bring the water bottle that we gave you on the welcome pack left on your bed. We ask that as soon as you go back to your cabin, you fill it up and have it always ready in case we need to abandon ship.”

Then a woman from Vietnam raised her hand.

“What are the water bottles for?”

Skinflint Sunday: 4 sleeps to go!

Look! I’ve started packing!

This is my handbag and carry-on. Yesterday I lay in bed after a little nap after lunch and wrote lists on my phone. Carry-on. Handbag. Suitcase.

I would’ve ideally liked to totally just have carry-on luggage, but having to pack for freezing weather AND summer weather is proving to be difficult to do under 7 KGs. So I’m putting the absolute necessities for the cruise in the carry-on, planning on wearing my thick fleecy things on the plane to save weight, and then putting everything else on my suitcase.

The suitcase will definitely be nearly empty, but it gives me more flexibility, plus if it goes missing it won’t be devastating for Antarctica. Those icebergs and penguins are the main reasons I’m going, after all!

I’ve packed my bathers in the carry-on. I’ve decided that I’ll be doing the Polar Plunge. It’s the only chance I’ll ever have to do it. After all, how bad could it actually be?????

The handbag I’ll be taking is the one I bought at a little market in Marylebone on one of the first days I was in London. Here I am, a couple of days later, taking it to Hampton Court Palace. I’m a huge Tudor buff o this day was one of the highlights of my life. I blogged about it here.

And here is the bag, along with Blogless Helen, Rick and Matt, arriving in Pyongyang, North Korea in 2018.

Clearly, I can’t leave it at home. It’s a tradition to bring it with me whenever I leave the country.

I’ve been staying away from crowds – I didn’t even have a farewell dinner with my boys – but I’ve also raced around and got a few things done. Poppy and Jeff are pictured here, on their way to my sister’s place to get clippered. They’re now as sleek as seals. My veggie garden is planted… maybe not as extensively as in past years, but as long as Ryan27 keeps the water up to them, the plants should be thriving by the time I get back.

Can you believe Poppy and Jeff are 9 1/2??? Time certainly flies.

I may not post here again before I go. There’s no internet on the ship – and if you CAN get it it’s very expensive – so this will be like another North Korean holiday. I’ll be out of touch for a couple of weeks. I’ve bought a sim for my phone and Ryan27 is on Whatsapp, so I’ll be communicating with the family through him.

See you on the other side!

Dad joke of the day:

Alice’s Baby Quilt.

You wouldn’t think that the tips of crayons would cause so much angst, but here is my first foray into FPP (foundation paper piecing) all done and dusted!

Alice is one of two young women at work who are starting a family, and both have decided not to find out the gender of their baby. I was so rapt! I did this with 3/4 of my pregnancies and the surprise reveal at the end makes it SO worthwhile.

So when I was making this quilt it had to be gender-neutral.

There are quite a few floral prints, but if you zoom in on the blue crayon you’ll see a square with cars and trucks. I used this fabric for the binding as well.

So many favourite pieces of fabric! I’ll be sad when the crocodiles finally go… I’ve had this fabric for years and it’s so jolly and cute.

The third quilt I ever made was for David15 back in 2008 and part of the quilt was this crayon print. I must have bought METRES of the stuff! Anyway, I had almost enough for the backing of this crayon quilt, so I think it’s fitting that I’m using it here.

I always knew that when Alice decided to start a family that she was definitely “quilt-worthy.”

When I heard the news I went looking on Pinterest for crayon quilts and took my inspiration from there.

Quilt measures: 36″ X 40″.

Made from the stash, though I had to race out to Palm Beach Quilting, the closest quilt shop to me, to get some more red and purple.

Dad joke of the day:

Manly Day 3: Brunch with Fifi La Stupenda.

Tuesday was a chillier day. But I was excited.

Remember how I said that 13 years ago when I was last in Sydney, I attended a blog meet? Well, Fifi La Stupenda (not her real name) saw on FB that I was coming to Manly and we agreed to meet at the Shelly Beach boathouse for brunch.

Fifi used to write the most beautiful blog, where her love of swimming in the ocean was front and centre. So different from the blogs the rest of us wrote, where it was all, “Look at this hat I knitted!” or “I planted a lemon tree!”

She lives a few beaches away from Manly but swims here every day. She said she knew exactly where I was staying when she saw the photo I took from my balcony. Clearly, there are no secrets on social media!

I didn’t realise when I took the first photo that she was in the ocean as I was walking up to the Boathouse.

Blogging has been very kind to me. Over the years I’ve met some fabulous, talented people – some of whom have even opened their homes to me when I’ve been travelling. (Thanks Deana, Pam and Loretta! Love you all. ) The thing about meeting up with someone whose blog you’ve read for ages is that, when you meet in person, there’s none of the awkward ‘getting to know you’ vibe that is the normal thing when you meet someone for the first time.

You already know each other – there’s an instant familiarity that kicks off the conversation instantly.

I wasn’t sure if that would happen with Fifi. She hasn’t blogged for years and I’d only met her once, 13 years ago. Maybe we’d meet for an hour, have a stilted conversation and then make our excuses and race away???

I should have had more faith in the bond that blogging makes.

We had the BEST time. We sat and talked each other’s ears off, only leaving after 1 PM when the lunch crowd was coming in. We caught up on each other’s lives and what was going on with other bloggers from that golden era of blogging; we talked about our kids, life, art and everything. It was great.

On our way back down the path to Manly, the funniest thing happened. We were walking along, minding our own business, when I hear, “Is that Frogdancer Jones????”

There, going up the path, was a woman who also teaches at the same school I do! Talk about a small world. Two minutes later we wouldn’t have seen each other.

After I grabbed a little bite to eat in my room, I walked over to the Manly Art Gallery, near Manly wharf. It had a couple of what I’d call ‘worthy’ exhibitions about refugees… to be honest it was a bit dull.

Though these huge portraits of refugee women, spaced out around a big room, looked really effective.

On the way out, I saw this tree.

Loved it.

Then on the way home, I spied this little shop come gallery packed with indigenous art. I spent a lovely twenty minutes or so looking at the canvases, with the woman running the shop talking to me about each piece. She had the loveliest little dog with her, too.

Some of the pieces were extraordinary. I wasn’t going to buy though… because when I got back to the room I spent $4,000 on flights, accommodation and insurance to Antarctica. Ouch.

Sadly, I’m not going to be able to go to Easter Island as well, but I suppose I can always do that another time.

Dad joke of the day:

Skinflint Sunday: The pelvis edition.

Cavalier boy on the beach. There's not much going on behind his eyes.
Jeffrey. Just because.

Well, when you think that you can take your eyes off your parents and relax, THINK AGAIN!

Mum broke her pelvis last week in a fall. She’s in a rehab hospital for the next 3 weeks. Dad’s at home with his new hip – he’s unable to look after her so he’s Home Alone. I popped in yesterday to see him and arrived at the same time as my brother and sister-in-law, so we had a nice visit until I had to race off to go wedding dress shopping with Izzy and her Mum and sister.

Add to that, a morning spent driving with Tom30 to see units and flats for sale and it was a busy day.

As an aside – it’s frightening how little half a million dollars buys nowadays. We’ve probably been through 20 properties over the last few weeks and yikes. Most of them are dark, tiny little dog boxes. For $500,000!!

I don’t know about you, but half a mill seems like a lot of money to me. I’d certainly bend down and pick it up if I saw it lying on the footpath. To see these gloomy, postage-stamp sized dwellings going for this amount of money is awful.

Anyway, Tom30 almost has his deposit together so we’ll keep looking. After all, we only need to find one.

Of course, now that he’s decided to buy this expensive thing, someone knocked the driver’s side mirror off his car when it was parked in the street, and this morning he realised he has an extremely flat tyre, so that’ll have to be replaced too. It’s always the way – life sneaks in and sinks the boot in when you’re wanting to get something done.

I feel a bit the same way. I finally heard back from the tour company that I had a deposit with for Antarctica and it’s going ahead. I’m still keen to do Easter Island as well, but that’s really exxy. Just the flights from Santiago to Easter Island and back are usually around the 1K mark. Expenses are steep on the island – every single thing has to be imported from the mainland, so naturally that pushes prices up.

But I’ve agreed to help Jack out with some money – some is a gift and the rest (the larger portion) is a loan. Oof. Suddenly, doing CRT work sounds like an excellent idea!

I’ve always thought that I’d give the boys 5K each towards a wedding. I decided to offer Tom30 a choice of putting that 5K towards a property or a wedding. He, being single, has unsurprisingly chosen the property.

I said, “Well, in the future, you’ll have to explain to your beloved why I’m not kicking in towards the wedding. I already have!”

I’ve had a week and a half off after working full-time for 3 weeks. The school had exams so there were enough teachers free to cover most of the classes that needed covering. I have to admit – I enjoyed the break. It was a reminder of why I enjoyed last year so much! Honestly, it was a little scary just how quickly I fell back into the whole routine of working every day.

I’m hoping I pick up more days. Apart from the money, the school is also in the same general area as Mum’s rehab hospital and their house, so it’ll be easy to visit either of them after the school day finishes. I like killing two birds with one stone.

Dad joke of the day:

Things are happening in the garden…

This has no filter – the light is this bright around here.

My hanging baskets are starting to puff up with flowers; I’m hoping that soon they’ll start billowing over the sides. Here’s how some of them look when you see the pathway:

Speaking of the pathway/s, I accidentally ordered grow bags from Diggers that I thought were potato grow bags, but they weren’t as tall. I’ve decided to put Butternut pumpkin seeds in them and grow them along the paths.

I have 3 bags, so I’ve put 2 along the northern/sunny path and one poor bag on the southern path. So far all 3 bags have sprouted, so now it’s a little experiment to see how each bag grows. I decided that, even though we had such success with pumpkins last year, I really didn’t want to swamp my orchard with pumpkin plants again! This way, hopefully, I’ll still get to grow pumpkins and they’ll be REAL ones, (not like last year’s pumpkin/zucchini crosses that – tbh – were a bit tasteless).

If they work, I’ll be able to save seeds that will produce tasty pumpkins.

Much more satisfying.

Strawberries flowering! At the back there are 5 or 6 ‘Sex Without Strings’ bush beans growing. I had no luck with peas growing from the pea straw mulch this year, so 2021/22 will be The Summer of Beans.

In another bed I’ve planted some berlotti beans.

Here are my Lazy Housewife beans springing up. I bought these beans YEARS ago from Diggers. I had no luck with them, but Blogless Sandy grew heaps from the beans I shared with her, so she kindly dried some beans and gave them back to me. Since moving here, I’ve never looked back.

I gave heaps away to people at work last year – I hope they’re growing them.

When I renewed my Diggers membership I was sent a pack of Pioneer beans. They’re another bush bean. Here they are with my extremely high-tech method of keeping the F’ing blackbirds away from the worms in the mulch.

I want to protect my wormies!!

Here are a couple of potato grow bags that I ordered earlier. If I’d known the growth would be so spectacular out of the top, I wouldn’t have put them on a pathway! Oops. These are Nicola potatoes. Yum.

Remember how I said my friend Deana from England sent me a bare-rooted rose out of the blue? It seems to be quite happy in its sunny spot in the orchard. This is the first of lots of flowers it’s got on the go.

I’m also really enjoying my kangaroo paws out by the front fence. I’m hoping they decide to survive and spread themselves around. Time will tell.

After all this, I made Ryan26 and I a chicken soup for lunch. It was made by boiling a chicken carcass to make stock, then stripping the meat from the bones and adding it back to the chicken stock. When cooking it, I always add a dash of vinegar. I read somewhere that it helps to release the calcium from the bones. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but hey. I figure it can’t hurt and it might help.

I added frozen zucchini from the garden, chopped silver beet from the garden, I fried onion and carrot and then, once they were caramelised, added them to the brew. I used olive and chilli oil to fry them, so the soup had a little extra kick.

Frozen corn kernels, some homemade chicken stock paste to boost the flavour, and I was done. Usually, I add whatever’s in the crisper that needs using up, but today this was all I needed.

It was delicious. All made from scraps but so good! You can FEEEEL it doing you good with every mouthful.

Usually my constant shadow, once Poppy realised that I wasn’t making a dog-friendly snack in the kitchen, she decided that supervising from the comfort of the couch was good enough.

By the way, on the other blog I wrote a post that shows the quilts I’ve made during our 6 lockdowns, all with fabric I have at home. It’s called Entertain yourself with what you have at home. It’s amazing what you can make, even with a not particularly big stash.

Dad joke of the day:

The spade was a ground-breaking invention. 

Day 2 and half of Day 3 – Mt Gambier, a silo and an art gallery.

Kangaroos on the golf course.

Today is the day where I learned a really big lesson about the difference in mind-set between being retired and being on holidays from a job.

Two days ago, I planned to stop at Port Campbell to see all the sights. I’d drive in the morning, then have all afternoon to scurry around. The next day – (Wednesday)- I had to be tucked up in bed in my timeshare, because I’d booked my stay to start that night.

8 hours of driving…

What was I thinking?

Well, I know now what I was thinking. It was the usual “don’t waste precious time on the journey!!! You have to go!go!go! to get there asap! There’s no time to waste!!!”

But of course, that’s simply not trie anymore.

It only dawned on me when I was at The Blue Lake in Mt Gambier.

This was one of the “must-sees” for me on this trip. I have a vague memory of coming here when I was a kid and I thought Mt Gambier would be a good place to stop for lunch. I’d see the lake, the Ulpherstone Sinkhole, maybe take the walk around the lake and then head off on my merry way.

But when I got there at midday, it was raining.

I sat in my car on the other side of the road and read a book while I waited to see if the rain would stop. There was a break in the clouds. I dashed out and stepped up to the lookout and snapped the photo above as the rain clouds swept in again.

Odd to think that this was once a volcano.

Then, after a little while, the sun came out. I drove around to the other side of the lake and finally – it was blue.

Same lake, same day, with the sun out.

The nice woman at the Tourist Centre told me that if I was lucky enough to see it when the sun was out, I should look at the edges. There’ll be turquoise colouring there. She was right. I tried to capture it but the camera couldn’t pick it up. It was beautiful though.

Here’s where the learning happened. I wanted to take the walk around the entire lake. The sun was out – it’d be nice. Then it dawned on my that if I was going to get to Normanville at a reasonable hour, I simply didn’t have the time. I also didn’t have the time to visit the Sinkhole or anything else.

The penny dropped. Why was I racing to travel there? For the first time ever, I have enough time at my disposal that the journey can now become PART of the destination.

As I drove out of town the rain clouds came back and it started to bucket down. At least I wasn’t walking around the lake and getting saturated.

Coonalpyn silo.

If I’d done my research properly I’d have been expecting to drive past this, but as it was, it came as a wonderful surprise.

One day I’m going to do the Silo Trail.

I arrived at Normanville after dark, a bit relieved that I hadn’t hit any kangaroos or wallabies. There were a few sad bodies on the side of the road every now and then. I lugged everything into my room, has a tin of baked beans for dinner and went to bed.

In the morning I looked at a brochure my FB friend Lara sent me. On Saturday I’d be meeting her for lunch. The Fleurieu Peninsula was in the middle of an arts festival, so I spent much of the day driving around to little galleries and enjoying the creativity and the scenery.

I couldn’t leave this little man behind.

The artist makes sculptures out of old nails, screws, metal and wood. He was sitting outside on a table next to another dinosaur. The other one was pretty, but this one spoke to me.

I already had my souvenir for this trip!

Rapid Bay.

When it started raining again I packed it in and went to a bakery for lunch, then bought cheese and dips for dinners. Because I’m travelling alone, I prefer to be out and about during the day, then in my room at night. Safety first!

Rundle Mall, Adelaide.

Friday was the beginning of the SOCIAL part of the trip. I call myself an extroverted introvert, so this trip was bookended by lots of alone time, while the middle 3 days had actual people that I’d be seeing.

I drove up to Adelaide to see some FIRE bloggers for lunch. To while away the time before we were ue to meet, I walked over to the Adelaide Art Museum. My son Tom29 visits there whenever he goes to Adelaide to see his football team play.

Talk about Fortunate Frogdancer!

I get there and ask the nice guard what there is to see.

“In the first gallery we have an exhibition on Antarctica,” he says.

Can you believe it???

They even had a film from the early 1900’s showing an expedition there. The universe is clearly telling me that I’ll get there.

David27 has synesthesia, which in his case means that he sees colour whenever he hears things. This painting is all about that. I sent it to him and he loved it.

I’ve just realised I have to check out in 20 minutes and I’m not ready. I’ll pick this up later.

Port Campbell (part 2).

London Bridge.
London Bridge.

At the moment I’m pointing the car towards home and I’m in Naracoorte, but this morning I woke to rain hammering down outside. A perfect morning to do a little ‘catching up’ with you all.

I still have some shots to show you of the first day, when I was in Port Campbell looking at the sights on the coast. When I put up this photo, I wondered if I could find a youtube thingy to show you how London Bridge used to look when it was attached to the mainland. I hit the jackpot.

Imagine being the tourists stuck on the wrong end of London Bridge! I’ll bet they were glad they weren’t walking across 5 minutes later…

It would’ve been a very scary dive down to the sea.

Rock formation and pool below.
View of ‘The Arch’ from above.

The Arch is much smaller.

As I said in the post before this one, the tourist board here has made these spectacular features very accessible to view. I was on the boardwalk looking down at The Arch on my way down to the viewing platform to see it properly. As I leaned over the edge, the wind blew up from this little bowl of seawater and the smell…!

It was beautiful. So salty and fresh. I walked down behind a family with 3 little girls all chattering away to see this:

Picture-postcard view of The arch.
The Arch from the viewing platform.

You can see the bowl of seawater below it. I’ll never forget the fresh, salty tang of that lungful of air.

Even though it was school holidays, there weren’t that many people there. When I was doing my research the day before, lots of articles and posts were warning people to get to the 12 Apostles etc at sunrise or sunset, when all of the big tourist buses weren’t there. But here was I, in the middle of the afternoon, wandering around without too many other people around. I was never alone – which for a single woman travelling alone would have probably creeped me out anyway! – but there was plenty of space for everyone.

It couldn’t have been just the weather – covid is still definitely having an effect.

Waves hitting the beach.
The sea.

As I was walking back to the car park, I tried taking a shot of the waves below, hoping I’d get an accurate picture of the colours. I’m just using my iPhone.

Isn’t it lovely?

The grotto from above.
The Grotto.

And now we come to a place I’d never heard of before I came here – but I LOVED it.

The Grotto.

It was a fair walk from the car park but it was all pretty level until the steps descending steeply to the actual grotto. The chatty family with the 3 little grls was with me again and I overtook them on the path as we walked to the top viewing platform.

Then I went down the steps to The Grotto.

The grotto
The Grotto.

The chatty family and I shared this space for about 10 minutes – 10 LONG minutes. I just wanted them to take their pictures and go away, because I knew that this space would be so serene and peaceful if I could stand there in silence. Eventually the family left and I could let it all soak in.

It’s incredibly beautiful. The rocks lined up at the bottom of the photo are at the top of the fence which protects the pool from yahoos who want to wade in it.

To the left is a little cave, but to the right is the arch looking out towards the horizon. It was quiet, with only the sound of the waves washing in and the cry of an occasional seagull. The tide was coming in.

Even on such a dull day, the light was constantly changing.

More grotto.
Still more grotto.
The Grotto and me.

I stayed there for quite a while, then it started raining, so I decided that I’d seen enough.

There were another 2 sights to see, but I decided to leave them for the way home. I’m planning to drive along the Great Ocean Road all the way to the ferry at Queenscliff.

I hadn’t bothered to have lunch so I was starving. I was parked outside the pizza shop in Port Cambell, waiting for it to open when my phone rang with an unfamiliar number.

**** Here’s the story that I was never going to tell anyone, but it’s too funny not to.

Yesterday, when I was researching the trip, a blog had mentioned a particular motel in Port Campbell as being quite good. I pulled up one of those booking sites, booked a night’s stay in Port Campbell, but when I drove down and went to check in at the good motel, there was no one at Reception and no key had been left for me.

A little miffed , I rang the phone number on the door and the woman who answered told me to take room 7 and to flick my booking confirmation across to her when I had a chance.

I dumped my bags in the room, emailed her and then took off.

The phone call was from her. “Frogdancer, I’ve looked at your booking and you’re actually meant to be staying at a different motel.”

I felt like such an idiot. Thank God I hadn’t used anything in the room. So I left the pizza place, grabbed all my bags and loaded up the car again and drove to the other place. I told the girl in Reception about it and we had a good laugh at my expense.

WHAT a fool.

I went back to the pizza place and bought what might be possibly the worst and most expensive pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Served me right.

Day 1 cost of the trip:

*Food I bought from Aldi for meals and snacks: $60

*Fuel $55

*Accomodation at the second motel: $138

*Unenjoyable pizza – $20

Running total: $273

Can you believe that I saw all of these amazing things for NOTHING? I really want to keep the costs down on this trip – I have Antarctica to pay for, after all.

EXTRA THING – Remember when I wrote an imaginary Money magazine article a little while ago? The Joyful Frugalista sent it to the actual magazine and they published ‘How I retired early as a single mother with four kids‘ a couple of days ago.