I’m a genius!

There’s a little trick I’ve started using with classes that are a bit too chatty and are finding it hard to settle down. *cough 9L cough*

I’m pulling up a stopwatch site that I normally use for silent reading in English, but instead I’m insisting on 20 minutes of absolute silence to really push their work along. After the time finishes, they’re free to chat as they keep working.

It works so well. The best thing is that after the time finishes, they normally keep on working quietly. It seems to break a circuit of behaviour for them.

For anyone who wants to try this, HERE’S THE SITE. I’ve been using it for years for speedy creative writing, silent reading and other things, but this is the best use yet!

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call an angsty teenage robot?

A sigh borg.

Bits and pieces.

Well, life is never dull.

Yesterday I intelligently included my iPhone into the load of washing that I put on before I went to work. It’s now absolutely cactus. It’s frustrating because I usually hang onto a phone for at least 5 years before upgrading so that I get my money’s worth, but this one is only a year old.

I’ll be going to the Apple Shop in an hour, so if you hear a shriek coming from the direction of Southland you’ll know that it’s me seeing how much a single second’s inattention has cost.

I’m trying to console myself by saying that I’ll be able to take REALLY GOOD photos at Antarctica, but really… they would’ve been just fine with the old camera.

Last weekend I went away with David28 and Evan25’s girlfriends and my two nieces. It dawned on me a while ago that Izzy and Gemma have never had a conversation without the boys being around. That simply can’t be allowed to continue. So I whisked them all away – it was FANTASTIC! Blog post about it HERE.

I’ve picked up 7 week’s of fulltime work at school. It’ll be interesting to see if I like having a regular teacher’s workload (with some periods off but with marking) or a CRT’s workload (working every single period + a yard duty each day but no marking or meetings.) Every now and then contracts come up when people go on Long Service Leave or holidays and it might be a fun thing to do. OR I’ll get to the September holidays and gasp, “Never again!!!”

Preparations for Antarctica in December are coming along. Aldi had a sale of merino tops and some gloves that have different tips on the fingers so you can use a mobile while wearing them. I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a lot of complaints all over Twitter and Facebook about airlines losing people’s luggage. It seems to be a lot more than usiual.

I’m heavily leaning towards just taking carry-on baggage so that my clothes stay with me. Can you imagine how awful my Antarctic cruise would be without warm clothes? It’s going to be hard enough finding my way around South America with no Spanish, without being half-naked at the same time! Well, that might be overstating it a bit, but you know what I mean.

I still have to buy things like waterproof trousers. The cruise ship supplies a parka and boots for when we go on the ice. I experimented with packing light when I went on the girls’ weekend and it worked out fine, thouggh to be fair that was only for 4 nights, not 15.

I’m also REALLY hoping that I avoid covid, which will be a feat on a long-haul flight. However, if I must get it, fingers crossed that I get it on the way home. Anyway, I’ll be masking up exactly as I do every time I go to work, avoiding taking the mask off when at all possible and hoping for the best. After all, I’m Fortunate Frogdancer!

Dad joke of the day:

Did you hear about the guy who evaporated?

He will be mist.

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.

From the trenches.

Hello!

I’m sitting here in front of a year 10 Creative Writing class. Yes, I’m still doing CRT work at my old school. Last week the Daily Organiser texted and asked if I wanted a full week’s work.

‘Hmmm,’ I thought. ‘Do I?’

The obvious answer is, ‘No, not really.” But since I worked out that every day I work, my after-tax wage pays for TWO places at David28 and Izzy’s wedding reception next year, then the answer I gave was ‘Okey Dokey.”

But let’s back up to the previous paragraph. It’s slightly crazy that a full day’s work only pays for two meals and drinks. Wow, weddings are expensive.

I’ve decided to make it more fun by nominating two people for every day I work. So, yesterday it was my brother and sister-in-law. Today, it’s Tom30 and his date.

I tell you, considering how much of my time is being spent on these meals, I’ll probably be circling the tables at the reception, demanding that people eat every bite on their plates!

Most of the days I’ve worked so far have been at the new campus that only has years 8 and 9. That’s a high-energy place, with brand-new facilities. Yesterday and today I’ve been back at the main campus, where I taught for 17 years.

It’s strange being back. In some ways it’s so familiar. I know a lot of the kids, who are really pleased to see me. Some of my old year 7 kids are now in this creative writing class, which makes me smile. I know where all the rooms are and what all of the rules are. It’s like slipping on a comfy pair of slippers.

In other ways it’s very different.

I still enjoy the classroom but there’s not the same interest in the kids. I’m not invested in how they do on the work they’ve been set. I’ll keep them quiet and give them every chance to keep on-task, but ultimately, it doesn’t affect my life if they goof off. So there’s a definite shift in the relationships between myself and the kids.

CRTs normally work all 6 periods and have a yard duty as well. There’s minimal downtime, so comfy shoes are a must. So basically, when you’re at work you’re at work. But once the day is done, that’s it. No marking, no preparation, no meetings. That difference right there cuts out most of the things that are no fun about this job.

For instance, I’m going to LOVE it when the final bell rings today. Once I hand in my laptop and keys, I can head home. The others have to stay back for an hour-long meeting. I remember those days. By the time I’d get into my car I’d be hitting peak hour, which adds an extra 20- 30 minutes to the drive home. If you think that adds to your overall quality of life, then I’ve got news for you!

I’ll probably duck into the hairdresser on the way home and beautify myself. I feel like I have the bonus of an extra hour+ so I may as well make the most of it.

Dad joke of the day:

To the person who stole my place in the queue…

I’m after you now.

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!

So now I’m retired!!!!

All alone in the staffroom on my last day.

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing a post on the other blog about my speech and I’m hosting Christmas on Friday. I have to get up from the couch and start cleaning, rearranging things and making The Best House in Melbourne look as beautiful as I can. Then I’ve got to finalise all the dishes I’ll be cooking for the big day.

I hope you don’t mind if I post the links from the other blog about. my last week of work here. I’ll put them in reverse order, with my speech at the tp of the list.

I really want you, particularly if you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, to read about how the end of the job played out. 🙂

Skinflint Sunday – make those food supplies stretch!

Scout before we trimmed her beard.

Sitting here on the couch, listening to the rain drumming on the tin roof of the verandah, looking at the slick brick paving of the driveway, it’s fair to say that I’m still enjoying lockdown.

Maybe I’m enjoying it a little too much? After mentioning to a mathematically-minded friend that I’ve signed on for another year of part-time teaching, he queried why. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m really worried about Covid, especially working in a school. No one can force those kids to socially distance. You’d need to point a gun at them, and even then they’d forget.

After selling my sweet little urban farm and moving 16kms away to The Best House in Melbourne, I released enough equity so that financially, I’m pretty well set up. I haven’t quite hit “the number” that I’m aiming for to feel safe enough to retire, but honestly, if I pulled the pin now I’m pretty sure I’d be ok.

But… I’m a little leery about what is going to happen to the economy once all of the government payments like Job Keeper and Job Seeker start getting wound down. I really don’t want to retire and then have the bottom fall out of my nest egg.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for years will know just how hard the struggle was when the boys were little. I think that once someone goes through poverty like that, it’s very hard to let go of the safety rope that is an ongoing wage. I know that mentally, I won’t want to let it go until I feel VERY financially safe.

At the same time, I don’t want to go to work and catch the virus, either.

I’ve nearly finished all of the retirement-proofing that I want to get done on The Best House in Melbourne. I just have the ensuite and the side fence to go and I already have the money set aside to do them, once lockdown eases and people can go back to work.

For the moment, I’m going to let my decision to go back to work stand. We don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months. Maybe these harsh lockdown weeks will do the trick and the virus will simmer down and it’ll be safe to go back to work. I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from pulling the pin if I feel unsafe once I’m back. My fear of slipping back into poverty will mean that it’s a decision I won’t make lightly!

Balancing this, of course, is that I don’t want to leave the school in the lurch if I DO decide to leave. I’d definitely want to allow enough time for my 2 heads of department to find a decent replacement. They’re good people – I don’t want to create drama for them. Ugh. Bloody pandemic! I had it all sorted out until covid came along!

Decisions, decisions. Still, the really good thing about all of this is that all those years of frugality, making the hard money decisions and sticking with them, and finding pleasure in the simple things around me means that I have given myself options.

In the middle of a pandemic, that’s probably a good place to be.

Now, speaking of frugality – it’s Skinflint Sunday! What have I been doing to stretch our dollars?

* I’m aiming for serving a vegetarian dinner every second or third night, to make the meat in the freezer last. News stories have been saying that the border closures are going to make the prices of goods rise, particularly meat, so I figure that eating more lentils and veggies will have the economic benefit of eking out the meat we have, plus it’s better for us.

Also, Past Frogdancer bought heaps of dry beans, barley, nuts, rice and lentils. It makes good sense to use them up. I have lots of thermomix cookbooks from Thermobexta and Skinnymixers which have DELICIOUS vegetarian curries, soups and, well, everything else you could think of. We’ve been dining like KINGS! Vegetarian kings. Every second night.

Bread rolls made the old-fashioned way – with added yeast.

* Years ago, when we were driving to the bread shop and getting their leftover bread for free every Tuesday night, I used to use the baguettes as garlic bread. I’d make them and freeze then in foil, then pop them in the oven whenever we had pasta. It’s a good way to fill up teenage boys and make them think they’re having a treat.

It occurred to me that I could use the yeast I bought in a mad panic as the first lockdown hit – the yeast I haven’t touched because I’ve been making sourdough bread – could be used to make thermomix bread rolls. Once cool, slather them with garlic butter, wrap in foil and freeze. Voila! Garlic bread!

Home-made garlic butter with parsley.

We tried them out last night, served on the side with our macaroni bolognaise. Smelled so good, cooking in the airfryer. The boys loved it. The best thing is, I made 2 batches of the rolls so I still have 10 rolls in the freezer, ready to go.

*I’m still working on the garden. I have brussels sprouts (YUM), caulies and cabbages growing, although I’m not too sure if they’ll be successful. They seem to be growing a lot of big outside leaves but nothing much is happening in the middle, which is the business end for these vegetables. I have a MASSIVE silver beet plant which has gone to seed but is still producing viable leaves, so that has been my go-to for leaves to include in just about everything. I loves me some fresh green leaves to keep the Covid away!!

I have a rule that, if at all possible, something from the garden has to be used in our lunches and dinners. Even in these lean wintry days, there’s still the green leaves from the silver beet and warrigal greens, chives, parsley and other herbs, as well as things like the bay leaves from my little potted tree. Surprisingly, even the rhubarb is still going strong. I expected it to die down.

Soon I’ll be dragging out my seeds and starting to plant for the spring and summer gardens. With today being so gloomy and rainy, though, summer seems an eternity away.

*Reading. Boy, have I been doing a lot of this! I set a stretch target on Goodreads of reading 80 books this year. So far I’m 10 ahead of schedule. I’ve been listening to audiobooks from the library as I do things like painting fences and quilting, while also borrowing kindle books as well. I read so quickly that spending $40 on a book that would only take me a day or two to finish isn’t a good use of my $$$.

Around 30 years ago I read a book called Ringworld, by Larry Niven. It wasn’t especially well-written, but on the other hand, I never forgot it either, so it had to have had something going for it! He wrote 3 sequels to it, (of which I read 2). A few weeks ago I found out that he also wrote 4 prequels, plus a final sequel.

Hmmm… I checked the library but they only had hard copies of some of the books. I wouldn’t be able to access them until the libraries open up again after lockdown, and who knows when that’ll be?

I ferreted around and found where I could download these books for free. Since then I’ve been in a deep dive in the worlds of Known Space. I’m up to the stage of re-reading ‘Ringworld’ now, before I tackle the rest of the series. It’s been HOURS of fun. Some of these books are definitely more entertaining than others, but I’ve set my hand to the plough and I’ll finish this job.

Then I’ll tackle the pile of physical books beside my bed. As long as there’s books in this world, there’s no need for anyone to be bored.

Anyway, that’s probably enough Skinflint Sunday for one week. I’d be interested to know what you think about my job dilemma – and also if you have any hints and tips for things that you’re doing to stretch your resources a little futher. There’s always more to learn!

First day of remote learning – mark 2.

Scout ready to learn. Or to chase a ball.

So today starts Remote Learning 2.0 in Melbourne. For those not in the know, Australia has been doing pretty well with the whole coronavirus thing, with deaths around the 100 mark for the whole continent. Things were starting to loosen up, but then here in Melbourne the quarantining of overseas travellers was badly botched and the virus escaped. We’re back in stage 3 lockdown, with the wearing of facemarks being compulsory from Thursday onwards.

Fortunately, I’ve been making facemarks for the family for a while now.

Here’s a nearly-finished one that I made for Ryan25. He’s got 6 masks now – 3 are sensible, ‘manly’ ones and 3 are more whimsical. When the directive from the premier came through on Saturday I was inundated by requests from friends and colleagues about whether I’d make masks for them.

“I’ll pay you…”

It’s amazing how things have changed! Fifteen years ago – hell, five years ago I would’ve been up till 3 AM every morning sewing masks to make a bit of extra money. Now, I’m able to knock them back and say that I’m only sewing masks for my family. It’s honestly not the sort of sewing I enjoy, so if I don’t need the money I’m not going to do it. Past Frogdancer wouldn’t be able to believe it!

Bored Poppy, waiting for me to stop teaching those darned kids and get off the computer..

In Victoria all VCE students are back at school, but every other year level from prep to year 10 are back to remote learning. Teachers of junior classes, such as my good self, are allowed to stay at home to teach at their principal’s discretion. Thankfully, my principal gave the go-ahead for this, as long as we all came into work last week and set up 6 week’s worth of lessons, resources and Google Meets.

It was a very productive week. Last time we were thrown into remote learning, teachers were pretty much doing things on the fly and making things work. It was an intense time.

Now, we had a week to meet and to talk. We found out what things worked well and what didn’t. We were able to refine our lessons and give the kids far more face-to-face time with their teachers this time around, because all of our prep has been done. It was really good.

Sleepy Jeff.

This time around, our lessons run as follows:

Every class has a Google Meet. The kids and I log on, I mark the roll and then we begin the lesson. I might play a quick game with them or just launch straight in – it depends how ‘meaty’ the lesson is.

I talk for maybe 10 minutes, setting up the expectations of the lesson and what it is that they’re expected to do. Then the kids log out of the Meet and go and do their work. I stay on the meet, mic and camera muted, in case any kid has a question or a problem. If a kid jumps back into the Meet, I switch my mic and camera back on and I’m able to fix whatever the kid needs help with.

So basically I stay available for them for the whole lesson. So far, it’s worked really well.

Last time, some kids avoided doing work. But now I’m able to see what they’re doing in real time and shoot them a quick message if they seem to have gone AWOL. A boy in one of my year 7 classes who barely did any work last time was so surprised by my email that he jumped into the Meet to talk to me.

Turns out he couldn’t find the document that had the questions he was supposed to answer, so he was on the verge of giving up. Two quick chats later, he completed the work, I made him laugh when he thanked me by saying to him, “That’s why I earn the big bucks!” and we now have a kid who has finished the school day with a success, instead of feeling like a failure.

A VERY satisfying interaction was with a kid from my other year 7 class, earlier in the day. The kids were expected to do some research on the Holocaust and WWII – we’re studying the novel ‘Once’ this term – and put whatever they’d learned onto a slideshow in our Google Classroom online. This kid just wrote “I’m a lizard” and another kid wrote underneath this, “Just answer the questions, Liam.”

I shot an email across to him with nothing in the body of the email, just a subject line which read, “Liam, you lizard!! Do the work, please.”

Within 5 minutes I could see him working on the slideshow. Heh heh.

I felt a bit like Orwell’s Big Brother.

Loving lockdown!

A rounded pic for my rounded sourdough!

It’s been a while since I wrote here but the truth is I’ve been so busy. You know how retirees always say with a smirk, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to go to work!” Well, I think I’m getting a taste for how that feels.

Not that it’s really the same. For the last 4 weeks I’ve been remote teaching. For anyone interested in what teaching from home is like, I wrote a post on the other blog about it.

Two weeks after writing that post, I’ve learned to keep out of my work emails during my days off. I have a quick look at breakfast, just in case a kid submitted something late on the day before, then I sneak a very quick look in the late afternoon, but that’s IT! Otherwise, I was working right through the week, working 6 or 7 days but only getting paid for 3. Frogdancer Jones is not a charity!

I thought I’d be reading heaps of books, but I haven’t been. I mean, I’m still reading but not every day. I think that because I’m reading so much on the screen when I’m working that when I have free time, my eyes want a rest from print.

First coat almost done!

One of the jobs I wanted to have done by the end of iso was to get my fences painted, particularly the front fence. One of my ‘panic buys’ at Bunnings was a 10L tin of ‘Monument’ coloured fence paint, along with a redgum stain for the uprights.

Monument is a very ‘Melbourne’ colour. Melbournians tend to wear a lot of black, and I think there must be an unwritten rule that says that every house in Melbourne has to have a touch of this colour somewhere. I don’t care if it’s popular – I love it.

At first I wasn’t all that fussed about getting it done, as we were told that school would be out for the whole term. But now, just in case, I’ve decided that every sunny day that I’m not working, I’ll be out there waving a paintbrush around. If we go back earlier, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t have the fence done.

I decided to use a brush and not a spray gun for a couple of reasons. One was that I think you get a better coverage with a brush. The second was when the woman over the road told me about when she hired a guy to spray paint her fence in her previous home and the wind took it and covered the neighbour’s cars with droplets of paint. The guy had to pay to get the cars completely resprayed!

Dammit!

So yesterday, I finished the 10L tin of paint. The street side would have been completely finished except for this last little scrap. I was scraping that tin, trying to find just a little more paint…

The fence palings are really thirsty, so what I thought would be enough paint to finish the job hasn’t even finished the first coat on the front fence I still have to paint behind the gate, which will be a bugger of a job because of all the metal posts there. I can see a trip to Bunnings in my future on Thursday. I can’t go after teaching today because I have an English meeting after school hours. *sigh*

Even in a pandemic, there’s no escape.

A couple of days ago I found this handwritten, posted-with-a-stamp letter in the mail. It’s from our local Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even having a padlock on the front gate can’t keep them out!

It needs some pleats at the side.

Who says face masks have to be boring? I made a couple of masks for when I go shopping. I think the chickens add a jaunty air to my appearance, don’t you? The good thing about these is that they’re reusable – I just threw it into a bleach solution when I got home and put it through the wash.

Obviously it’s not going to totally save me from the virus, but for a quick shopping trip to the supermarket, it reminds me not to touch my face and it’s a barrier to breathing in any germs. Plus it was a novelty for me to make something that wasn’t a quilt.

Evan23’s quilt… and mine.

So speaking about quilts, I finally began Evan23’s yellow and grey quilt. We bought the fabric way back in January, so it was past time for me to get onto it. I guesstimated the number of squares I’d need and spent a few days cutting and sewing them together.

He wants a queen-sized quilt, which is a sizeable project. When I laid them out on my bed (also queen-sized) to work out the layout – I discovered that I’d made DOUBLE what I needed. What an idiot! So now Evan23 and I will have mother-son matching quilts. Not exactly what I intended to have happen…

Another quilt.

I’ve also pieced together a lap-quilt for a friend. I had some fabric left over from the ‘Outlander’ quilt, so waste not, want not!

I love my Golf. 8 chairs fitted inside!

At the end of January I ordered 8 teak chairs from Schotts in Moorabbin to go with my teak outdoor table. My verandah out the back is finished and the chairs were one of the final things I needed to make it all ready.

The woman who served me said that they’d have to order them in from China. At that stage China had shut down lots of things because of the virus. She said that they were due in at the end of April, but with the virus, who knew?

I shrugged, thinking that it would be getting colder by then, so if the chairs didn’t arrive for months it wouldn’t make that much difference anyway.

Well knock me down with a feather if the chairs didn’t arrive on time! I had a week to collect them. I hadn’t left the house (except to walk the dogs) for a couple of weeks and it felt strange getting into the car and driving to get them.

I also took the chance to visit Mum and Dad. We sat on their back verandah, appropriately socially distanced of course! I hadn’t seen them in around 5 weeks. Tom28 brings them their groceries every Saturday and they talk to him in the front garden, but apart from that they don’t see too many people.

The chairs in their new home.

To my shame, the veggie garden has been left it its own devices. Once I get the fence finished I’ll be very busy cutting and dropping the old tomato and celery plants and dragging away the old zucchini, squash and pumpkin vines. It looks like a squalid dump at the moment.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. I’ve already picked 2 pumpkins and there are another 3 or 4 still out there. I’ve never been able to grow pumpkins before, so it’s a little bit exciting.

Tiny butternut pumpkin.

This wee little pumpkin grew, like all of the others, out of the compost materials that I was bringing home from work. It only had 300g worth of pumpkin, which was perfect for adding to the mashed potato on the top of a shepherd’s pie. It’s so satisfying to eat things that you’ve grown yourself.

Doll quilts for the next-door neighbours.

After I made the lap quilt for my friend, I had a few leftover blocks so I made these for the kids next door. They have 4 kids under 5 and honestly… lockdown is a struggle for them. I hear lots of tantrums and arguments from the kids so I figured that if they had something new, it would at least distract them for a while. (And hopefully won’t give them something else to argue about!!)

Plain flour loaf of sourdough.

A blogging friend put me onto a terrific website for sourdough bread. The guy who runs it is a whizz at putting up recipes that are simple to understand and which actually work. He’s also incredibly attentive to the comments, where people ask questions and offer suggestions, which makes his blog an absolute treasure-trove for sourdough baking! The loves at the top of this post are from the simple weekday sourdough recipe, which I’m excited about because it means I can keep the sourdough loaves going even when I’m back at school.

This loaf is from a new recipe he just posted, which is a sourdough bread made with 100% plain flour/all-purpose flour. When David26 and I went to Costco on that crazy day, we bought 2 big bags of plain four. I was actually wanting baker’s flour but there was none to be had. I’ve been eking out my last remaining bakers flour in the Simple Weekday recipe by using plain flour for most of it, and substituting bakers flour when the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour.

This new recipe is a really good way to use the abundant plain flour I’ve got. I put some pepita seeds on top, just for fun. I was rapt at how high it rose. It doesn’t taste like sourdough but it’s a beautiful loaf of bread just the same. I had the first slice – the crust – just now for breakfast. Bloody beautiful!

Jeffrey.

So yeah – lockdown is going really well. I really hope they keep the schools closed for the whole term because I really don’t want to get sick. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to do to keep occupied!