A Different Dinner

Leave a comment

Due to Covid 19 our area has been locked down for 8 days. Those restrictions ease from this afternoon so we are very grateful. I know that this nothing compared to what many people have endured and continue to do so. I understand that grocery shopping is one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home but whether we are locked down or not, I try to minimise my exposure by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Yesterday I stocked up on some grocery items and also replenished our very meagre selection of fruit and vegetables. Now the trick is to make sure that everything is used wisely and none of the perishable goods go to waste. I bought 2 bunches of broccolini and decided that 1 of them would be used in our dinner.

After canvassing several options, I decided on a Broccolini and Caramelised Onion Tart. I found a few recipes online but none that exactly matched my idea so I pulled a few different elements together and this is what I came up with. It makes use of what I had available so you can make your own adjustments or substitutions.

Broccolini and Carmelised Onion Tart

Pastry – I was looking for something that was gluten free and tried this recipe for the pastry base. I had never thought of rubbing coconut oil rather than butter into flour when making pastry. I thought it turned out reasonably well but GMan is not a fan and feels than you can taste the coconut. You can make or buy whatever pastry suits you.

This is the pastry when I placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Filling

2 onions
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
2 teaspoons treacle
2 tablespoons red wine
1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt
Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Slice the onions, place in a pan over low heat and cook gently, stirring regularly. Add mixed herbs and treacle. Continue to cook until golden brown and soft. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

Rinse broccolini and spread on baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and slivers of garlic. Roast for about 15 minutes at 150C. Set aside until required.

Ready to go in the oven.

Line a dish or tray with your chosen pastry. Lightly spread with mustard and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place half of the onions in the dish then the broccolini followed by the remainder of the onions.

Add some dollops of sour cream and a little grated cheese.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

I served slices of the tart with freshly-made coleslaw and cherry tomatoes.

Lockdown – Imposition or Opportunity

4 Comments

I have previously written about the importance of mindset. This can apply to many situations.

That drawer in the kitchen that many people refer to as the ‘junk drawer’? By calling it, even silently to myself, as the ‘useful drawer’ has helped me to ensure that it holds only useful items. It is not a place for junk and this aids in keeping it tidy and uncluttered.

I don’t ‘get rid of stuff’ either. To get rid of something implies that it is rubbish and merely describing it as ‘stuff’ does not ascribe any inherent value to the item. That is fine if it is a piece of ripped paper but if you are struggling with great-grandma’s tea set it is much more difficult. Try saying to yourself that you are letting go of a beautiful item so that it can bring joy to someone else. You will immediately feel more positive and confident about it going to a new home.

Where I live we are currently being instructed to stay at home for all but necessary outings due to community transmission of cases of Covid-19. I recognise that this is difficult for many people and we all need to be aware of our mental health and that of those around us.

Once again, a little bit of positive self-talk and mindset can go a long way. I hear many people talking about being stuck at home and locked down. I prefer to appreciate the time I have been given with very few demands on my time. It can be an opportunity to begin, continue or even finish some of those multitude of projects which do not always make the cut in our normally full and demanding days.

Although our lockdown began at 6pm yesterday, my restrictions actually started first thing on Monday morning after I had a Covid test as I had woken with a very sore throat. Fortunately, the result was negative but I do have a heavy head cold and really do not feel like doing much.

I am embracing the time and have chosen to sort and cull some of the thousands of digital photos I have on my device as well as making some more Boomerang bags and updating the budget.

Of course, I am using my skills and imagination to create meals making the most of the ingredients we have without any waste. Even though grocery shopping is an acceptable reason for leaving our home, I figure the more I stay home, the more I reduce my risk of coming in contact with Covid-19. Many people have become programmed to simply go shopping every few days. I try to maintain an acceptable level of supplies to sustain us for an extended period of time regardless of the reason.

How do you make the most of the situation in which you find yourself?

A Lucky Find

Leave a comment

This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.

A Parcel

Leave a comment

We are not planning a ‘no spend’ year but instead, a year of mindful spending. Spending on things that we need or that will add value in some way to our lives.

The New Year was barely 12 hours old when I made my first purchase. It was a follow-up to some research I had done a few months ago and I ordered some silicone chair protectors from Chair Tips Australia.

The parcel arrived 4 days later.

The packaging was plastic but not too much. The outer bag became a rubbish bag for our small amount of kitchen waste and the 2 ziplock bags will be washed and reused once the contents are all used.

The dining room chairs and stools in the kitchen have timber legs and we really needed something to prevent the chair legs scratching the finish on the floors. I had tried using felt pads on these chairs, however, the constant movement ends up dragging the pads off. Both self-adhesive pads as well as glueing them on with specialised glue were not terribly successful.

This is what they had ended up looking like.

So, the first step was to remove the old pads, clean and lightly sand the bottom of the chair legs.

It was then time to position the new protective covers.

The chairs do not slide easily but that is more than offset by the fact that these will not fall off, will be easy to wipe clean and are barely visible.

I am happy with having spent money on this project.

Shopping and Sad

4 Comments


We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Ready for a New Year

Leave a comment

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.

Family Comes First

Leave a comment

I was looking back at the date of my last post which was a little over a week ago. Since then my focus has been firmly on my family. Even though GMan and I are the only ones living here, we are fortunate to have plenty of contact with family. Sometimes it seems to come all at once as has been the case in the past week.

Last Monday I went to Brisbane. I took my mother to a specialist medical appointment then we treated ourselves to lunch at Fuzzy Duck Cafe. I would recommend it. This was en route to visit my aunt who is in an aged care facility. Visiting has not been possible during COVID19 restrictions so it was good to be able to see her.

I stayed in Brisbane overnight and after another appointment the next day I picked GMan up from a dental appointment and we headed home.

It has been school holidays for the last 2 weeks and our daughter and granddaughters arrived on Wednesday evening. The girls stayed until Saturday afternoon while their mother went to work for the remainder of the week and picked them up again on Saturday.

During their stay we prepared meals, sorted through my fabric stash, went to the gym, shopped for shoes, went to the beach and park and checked out the garden.

Miss O making french dressing and learning the principle of adjusting the seasoning to taste.

Cutting broccoli for the soup.

A successful shopping trip to buy new sandals for Izzy.

More cooking – pizza bases ready for toppings.

The beginning of a dress for Miss O from a piece selected from the stash.

Some of the regular housework goes by the wayside when there are visitors and this time was no exception.

The refrigerator looked somewhat chaotic. There were several leftovers that I could incorporate into meals the following day.

I had invited my sister and brother-in-law for lunch on Sunday but had no specific menu planned for the meal. We did a small amount of grocery shopping late on Saturday afternoon.

Our lunch was predominately a selection of small plates and salads which worked perfectly as we sat outside in the very pleasant spring weather.

Photographing the spread was overlooked until I brought the salads out.

Homemade hummus, guacamole and sourdough bread, rice crackers, vegie sticks and brie for starters then kale salad, rice salad, cucumber and onion salad ad tomato wedges to serve with mini meatballs, vegie kofta balls and spiced cauliflower bites. Fresh fruit salad made the perfect finish to the meal.

While it sometimes works out that a particular period of time is mostly taken up by a single facet such as family events, I am trying to create more balance in the spread of activities in my week. More about that tomorrow.

Mending to Save the Planet

Leave a comment

The current television series, ‘Fight for Planet A’, has opened some vigorous debate in some forums.  Some people believe that promoting the use of renewable sources of energy is reckless as this is simply perpetuating the problem that is the ‘growth economy’. Unless we actually participate in degrowth the planet is doomed.

I am not totally of this mind, however, I do believe that much of our future depends on a serious change of mindset and questioning what stuff we actually need.

A really good place to start is to think twice about replacing broken or damaged items. I want to give you an example which confronted me this morning.

We have a laundry hamper in our bedroom and one of the handles snapped when I picked it up to take it to the laundry this morning.

I decided to mend the handle and found some strong navy fabric in my collection. It happened to match nicely, however, I would have used any colour or pattern if required.

I applied a small strip of double-sided interfacing to the wrong side.

The job was a bit tricky with the handle still attached to the hamper. I basted the 2 ends of the handle together and then pressed the interfacing to the handles.

The remainder of the fabric was folded over and around the existing handle. Here it is pinned and ready to stitch.

I stitched all around the patched handle and reinforced the ends and this is the result.

My repair effort is far from perfect but it is functional. I even managed to put a twist in the handle, despite my best efforts not to. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the handle.

There is no right or wrong way to approach a repair so this is simply an example of what can be done.

The repaired hamper will hopefully last for many more years.

This is degrowth in action. Do not buy things that you do not need. Think laterally and repair or reuse what you already have. If you are not able to do you own repairs, check out your local repair cafe or ask a friend, neighbour or relative. We all have skills and we need to support each other in whatever ways we can.

Patience Pays Off

Leave a comment

We often think of being patient and/or persistent when it comes to locating a specific item.  It can be trawling secondhand shops or even looking for a vary particular item brand-new.

However, I have discovered that patience and allowing things to take their course can apply in equal measure when trying to sell or give something away.  Somewhere, sometime there will be somebody for whom your treasure will be just perfect.  It is simply a matter of finding them.

A case in point is this dressing table.  We bought it several years ago with a view to restoring it but plans and needs changed and we needed to find a new home for it.

The mirror attaches to the back of the dressing table and the mirror is absolutely stunning – almost a metre in diameter with a beautiful pie crust edge.

2020-08-14 01

The interior of the cupboards features a central shelf on one side and 4 drawers on the other.

I listed it over 2 months ago on several local Buy, Swap, Sell groups on Facebook.  Despite a few enquiries it failed to be sold.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to try Gumtree and was feeling a bit despondent as there did not seem to be any interest.

Yesterday I received an enquiry about the Gumtree advertisement from people who live in an adjacent locality in our semi-rural area.  They arranged to collect it at 10am this morning.

I held my breath as I cannot remember the countless times that promising sales or giveaways have failed to eventuate.

As arranged the purchasers arrived with a trailer at the appointed time and were absolutely delighted with the dressing table which they plan to put to good use as they fit out their newly-acquired home.

I was really pleased to see this go to a good home and know that it will be appreciated.

Shopping Expedition

Leave a comment

When we went to Brisbane on Friday I made the most of the opportunity and bought a few things that had been on my ‘to buy’ list for a while.

My lipstick – yes, I only own 1 lipstick – was almost depleted.

2020-08-09 01

I bought a lip brush so that I can utilise all of the remaining lipstick.

2020-08-09 02

A new lipstick which will last for several years.  The previous one lasted over 3 years so I expect this will last at least as long, especially as I am no longer going to work every day and sometimes do not wear any make-up.

2020-08-09 03

It is perhaps a little more pink than I have worn previously but I am sure I will get used to it.  Samples to try out are no longer provided so the best I could do was to look at the small colour chart on the display stand.

I also bought a pair of stockings as I had managed to ruin my last remaining pair around the time I finished work – over 12 months ago.  As you can see from the last sentence, I rarely require stockings but they are not something that I can easily buy locally so it is in my best interests to have a pair on hand if needed.