Blogging Friends

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Although I have maintained a reasonable but sometimes intermittent schedule of blog posts of a period of 10 years, I have neglected the Blog Roll. You can find this by scrolling a short way down on the right-hand side. It is a list of blogs that I enjoy reading and think you may do, too.

Some blogs have not been updated in a while but there is still lots of older content that is still interesting and relevant. Others are quite active with regular updates.

I have have been very slack in following/reading them so am planning to make time to reacquaint myself with them.

I will add others as I find them.

Do you have a blog that you would like me to add? Do have any blogs that you particularly enjoy? Please share in the comments.

A Step Ahead

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Before I begin on the actual content of today’s post, I have a bit of general news about the blog.

I have been absent for 3 weeks. Part of this was due to us being on holidays for a portion of the time but the remainder of my inactivity has been while I reassessed my general online presence. There are limited hours in the day and it is not all devoted to online activity. Therefore, I have decided to alter some of my priorities and this blog will be the main spot where you will be able to engage with me. The content will generally be shorter and more frequent – possibly daily. I look forward to your comments and interacting more fully with my readers. If you are not already following the blog, please consider doing so so that you don’t miss anything.

So, dear readers it is back to the real stuff that happens here every day.

This morning I whipped these 2 takeaway food containers from the freezer. One is vegetable curry and the other is rice. Therefore, dinner tonight is all ready to heat and eat.

My cooking style is pretty much a constant cycle of stocking up the freezer while using from it at the same time.

In that vein I have done a spot of cooking this afternoon. I always do more than one thing if I am turning the oven on.

6 gluten free pizza bases partly cooked and ready to freeze for later use.

Zucchini quiche which used the last of the packs of frozen zucchini from last summer’s harvest. I have about 3 different dishes I can use for making the quiche but this one that belonged to my mother is a new favourite.

The recipes for the pizza bases and zucchini quiche can be found checking the recipe index – click on the tab ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the front page of the blog.

Please share your prepared meals or glut of produce stored for future use. 🙂

Returned – Finally

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In my post on 24th March I mentioned that my mother was quite ill.

Unfortunately, her diagnosis was terminal and the decline was rapid. Mum died at the end of April and we are grateful that she did not suffer a long, drawn-out death.

The void which has been left is indescribable and some days I feel completely lost.

However, life does go on and I will continue to share my thoughts, ideas, tips and suggestions with you all.

I was extraordinarily lucky to have a close and loving relationship with my mother for many years. I know that not everyone has this opportunity for a variety of reasons.

Much of my knowledge and ideas have come to me by being handed down through the generations from my mother and grandmothers.

So, this blog honours those women in my family who have come before me.

Farewell, Mum. Thank you for everything. I will love you always.

UFO No More

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It is less than 2 months since I wrote this post in which I committed to completing some unfinished projects in 2021. The first was a patchwork quilt for our queen-size bed.

I am pleased to report that the entire project is finished. I did not do the quilting as I have neither the skill nor the equipment to quilt such a large piece. My primary aim was to make a piece of patchwork which used all of the blue-toned fabrics and to declutter some of the bits of fabric that I had be hanging onto for far too long. All have been salvaged from one source or another, with many of them being scraps of homemade garments from various family members. What wonderful memories!

After completing the patchwork, I purchased a piece of suitable backing fabric and placed my handiwork and faith in Tanya who had been recommended to me. I was not disappointed. Tanya quilted the piece using a fairly simple design as I had requested.

Once the quilting was done, the final touch was to bind the edges. I cut bias strips from the remainder of the backing fabric. The handstitching of the binding was a bit tedious but it is now finished and I am thrilled with the final result.

Here are a selection of views of the quilt which is now an integral part of our bed linen.

I hope you have enjoyed following the story of the quilt as much as I have enjoyed creating it.

There has been a significant hiatus in blog posts and I do apologise. Real life events have been first and foremost as my mother is quite ill. Please keep her in your thoughts. My blog presence may be a bit hit and miss but I will certainly be here when I have something of interest to share.

Ready for a New Year

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The 2 weeks since my last blog post have slipped by quickly. Our 2 granddaughters came to visit for a week and then we spent a week at the beach with them and our daughter. Christmas was a fairly low-key affair as we, like many others, simply needed to relax at the end of what has been a challenging year.

Anyway, this post is about looking forward. I know that COVID19 will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. Much of what we have endured in 2020 will remain with us as we enter 2021.

Six years ago, at the end of 2014 I decided to record all of our spending for the year. Since then, I have continued to do it each year and have refined the methods I use in the process. I use an Excel spreadsheet, however, you could use a notebook if you prefer.

When I was setting up the spreadsheets for 2021 I noticed that I now have 6 years of records of our spending. During that time we have both retired from full-time work and had major home renovations done as well as travelling overseas on 5 different occasions. There won’t be anymore of that in the foreseeable future, though.

It is interesting to see how some categories of spending have altered dramatically in the wake of our retirement. The most significant is the category ‘Transport’. During the first 4 years of recording our spending, we were both working fulltime and our total transport costs were about $6000 per annum. We had a long rail commute from our home to offices in the city. In 2020 our transport costs were less than $300. Not everyone will have the same costs but if you are considering retirement it is wise to take changes in circumstances and spending into account.

Grocery spending was interesting for a different reason. In 2015 my average weekly spending for 2 adults was $93.88. Unsurprisingly, by 2020 this had increased. However, the margin was very modest with the weekly average being $97.11. In five years my grocery bill for 2 adults increased by a mere $3.23 per week on average. We eat good quality but relatively simple meals with an increasing number of vegetarian meals and are working on growing more of our own food. Minimising food waste is also important from both an environmental and financial perspective.

Clothing was another category where there was a substantial change in our spending during the six years of recording data. Our total spending on this category in 2020 was less than 30% of what we had spent in both 2015 and 2016. Since our retirements were planned, we made a conscious decision to limit our expenditure on work attire over the final couple of years. Additionally, I now have time to source some excellent pre-loved items.

For anyone who is interested I have provided a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. I use a new sheet in the workbook for each month.

Date Amount CategoryDescription
1/01/2021$24.76GroceriesAldi
$10.00SelfGym fees
2/01/2021NIL

These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.

Transport(public transport, taxis and Uber)
Groceries(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
Clothing(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
Haircuts 
Cars(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
House/Garden (all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
Pets(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
Health(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
Entertainment(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
Subscriptions(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
Gifts(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
Holidays (flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
Husband(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
Self(gym fees, individual socialising, cosmetics, hobbies and books)

I have only addressed our variable spending in this post but I also have a spreadsheet set up for our fixed expenses each month. This helps us to easily see what bills are coming up and predict when we are going to need extra funds. Some months are less than $200 in fixed expenses, whereas, there are other months which are much more than that. This is because we choose to pay some of our bills on an annual basis.

Do you have a plan for keeping track of your finances for the new year?

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding tracking your spending.

Saturday Stall

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Even though I haven’t written a blog post for a couple of weeks it doesn’t mean that I have been slothful. Far from it. It is just that most of the day-to-day happenings have not been worthy of a blog post.

I have also been occupied in creating as many Boomerang Bags as possible for our very first market stall at the Witta Market on Saturday. This market in our district is dedicated to local makers and growers so it seemed to be the perfect fit for our bags.

We kept it very simple and used the bags as the decorations to attract potential customers.

Here is a close-up of some of the bags.

The market was a clear success with bags being sold as well as some potential volunteers identified and raising our public profile.

Next month’s market is barely a week before Christmas so will be a great opportunity for some last-minute gifts.

Reaping the Rewards

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I was away from home for a couple of days early in the week and did not think I had anything particular to share with you at the moment.

However, when I went down to the garden this morning I discovered that the sweet peas were flowering. I had planted them about 6 months ago along part of the fence in the vegetable garden area and barely taken any notice of them since. An occasional bit of supplementary watering but they really did not seem to be doing much and all of a sudden I have flowers.

Sweet peas, along with Iceland poppies, are two of my favourite old-fashioned flowers that I remember fondly from my childhood. The scent evokes strong memories and I cut some and brought them inside where I am enjoying them. I hope you do too.

One Small Cupboard

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I started thinking about how to begin this post and went trawling through the archives of the blog.  What an eye-opener!

This photo is from a blog post in January 2015.  It is one half of the the cupboard in the office/study – the other half is my linen cupboard.  You can read the whole post here if you are interested.

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These are before and after photos from a follow-up blog post in June 2015.  We had down-sized from the 4 drawer filing cabinet to a 2 drawer one.  This also meant that we were able to create an extra shelf using an offcut of melamine shelving.

Fast forward 5 years and after gradually reducing the contents of the filing cabinet, we were able to get rid of it completely and relocate the last few remaining files to the filing drawer of the desk which had remained unused up to that point.

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We decided to add another shelf but also removed the previous extra shelf as the cut edges had never been painted.  There is plenty of space.

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Two shelves in place.

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The contents rearranged and easy to locate.

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The plastic crate on the floor of the cupboard is going to be our evacuation/emergency box.  There will be a few things stored in it but the primary thing is a checklist of what to add (eg: medications) and what to do in specific situations.  The contents and list may have slight seasonal variations and will be reviewed at regular intervals.  My camera is sitting on top of the box.

It is interesting to see the evolution of the organisation of various spaces in our home.  We have lived in this house for almost 15 years which is considerably longer than we have ever resided anywhere else.  There has not been the impetus of an impending house move but we have actually decluttered quite a bit by doing it slowly and consistently.  The blog is quite an amazing record of what we have achieved in the last 9.5 years.

Eggplant Pizza

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I make my own gluten free pizza bases and often have slices of roasted eggplant as one of the toppings.

Last night I took a different path and used the eggplant as the bases.   2 separate events led me to try this option.  In fact, this blog post could easily have been titled, ‘A Tale of 2 Julias’.  In 2014 we were privileged to meet a fellow blogger, Julia Davis-Coombs from Creative Economy in the Kitchen.  Julia lives on the other side of the world so it was a delight to meet her when we were on our travels.  Our shared lunch included mini pizzas made with slices of a very large zucchini as the base.  Although I have not re-created this dish, it is a meal I have not forgotten.  The second Julia was a recent online encounter with Julia B. in a group when I was canvassing ideas for a vegetarian meal and I mentioned that one of the vegetables I had on hand was eggplant.  While I did not use her suggestion that night, it seemed ideal when I came to make dinner last night.

EGGPLANT PIZZA

1 large eggplant
Sea salt
Olive oil
Pizza toppings as desired

Cut the eggplant into slices about 1 – 1.5cm in thickness.  Place on a baking tray, lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 10 minutes at 160C.

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Remove eggplant from the oven and add toppings.  I used homemade tomato pizza sauce and mixed herbs then chopped mushroom and capsicum (bell pepper) and finally, sliced olives and cheddar cheese.

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Return pizzas to the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes.

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Serve immediately.

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This was a light and tasty alternative to a traditional pizza and perfect for lunch.

NOTE:  You do need a knife and fork when eating these.