A Parcel

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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.

A New Recipe

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I spent most of yesterday cooking and one of the things I made was a frittata.I was spurred into action when I noticed that we had 26 eggs. They can accumulate quite quickly when the chickens are laying.

There was half a pumpkin in the fridge which I was keen to use up and after checking Google I found this recipe – Pumpkin and Spinach Frittata.

I adapted the recipe to suit the quantities of ingredients I had available and my own requirements. The following ingredients will make 6 generous serves.

3 cups pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic syrup (link to easy recipe)
1 potato, diced
80 gram baby spinach leaves, chopped coarsely
120 gram feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

Place diced pumpkin on baking trays and toss with the combined oil and balsamic syrup. Roast until tender, approximately 30 minutes at 160C.

The pumpkin came from our neighbours and the spinach from our own garden.

Cook the potato until tender. Combine all of the ingredients. Pour into shallow dish and bake for 45 minutes at 190C.

Ready to go in the oven.

This was delicious served with a tossed green salad.

Shopping and Sad

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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.

Welcome to 2021

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I know that I am a few days late but this is my first post for the New Year.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2021-01-04-01.jpg

I posted a similar image at the beginning of 2016 at which time I wrote:

I was searching for a photo that really portrayed my feelings for the end of one year and beginning of the next.  I did not want images of alcohol or fireworks. As 2015 is washed away by the incoming tide it is time to write a fresh new date in the sand and move on.

I cannot remember a year that was so universally wished to end as the most recently completed one.

Well, 2020 is now over and in some respects 2021 may not be a great deal different in terms of what is dealt up to us, particularly as COVID19 is definitely still part of our lives and seems likely to be for some time yet.

However, we can decide on how we respond to outside factors which we cannot necessarily control.

For me, it is going to be more of the same. I will continue to simplify my life and focus on what is truly important to me and my family while doing whatever I can to care for our planet and all life on earth.

May you find peace and authenticity in 2021.

Saving the Summer Harvest

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When growing your own produce you do need to be prepared to spend some time processing the excess. Today was one of those days.

Yesterday I picked 5kg of cherry tomatoes. I washed, de-stalked and sorted them.

I roasted the ripest 3kg of them in the oven at 120C for about an hour.

This is the 2 trays as I put them into the oven.

Once the tomatoes were roasted I transferred them to the high-speed blender and blitzed them thoroughly. Whilst not completely smooth, I had created a rich tomato puree.

I filled ice cube trays with the puree.

Ready to go in the freezer.

Once they are frozen I will transfer the cubes into a bag for easy storage. It will be a simple matter of adding a cube or two when preparing various meals.

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.

Indoor Pursuits

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We have experienced some wild weather (strong winds and heavy rain) over the past 48 hours but I have been happily ensconced indoors.

Our granddaughters have finished school for the year and are spending this week with us. I decided that it was a perfect opportunity do do some sewing for them. I had promised it some weeks ago but it is definitely easier when they are here and I am able to try garments on and fit as I go.

The first project was a pair of summer pyjamas for Miss13. I had previously begun the boxer shorts so it was a relatively simple matter of measuring and attaching the elastic. The elastic was salvaged from worn-out underwear when the elastic is as good as new. It is great to be able to re-use this resource.

I did not have a suitable pattern for the shirt so I turned to my collection of Enid Gilchrist pattern books which belonged to my mother. She used various patterns to make outfits for me and my siblings when we were young and in turn I used them for my daughters and granddaughters. Most of the patterns are for birth to 6 years, however, there is one book of outfits for girls which goes up to 12 year olds. I decided that a pattern for a blouse/shirt with numerous variations would be suitable and set about drafting a copy onto some salvaged heavy brown paper.

My piece of gifted fabric proved to be just enough for the pyjamas. Here is the shirt with mauve buttons which I found in my collection.

The recipient was happy to model them once they were finished.

I am now working on another top using the same basic pattern but with a different neckline and sleeve. I am using one of her existing tops as the template for the sleeve.

Stay tuned for more sewing projects.

Concrete – Covered and Cleaned

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Today I want to show you a couple of small but significant home maintenance jobs.

Since we live in a rural area we do not have sewerage. Instead there are 2 tanks – a septic and a greywater one. They would have been installed when the property was initially developed so they are probably close to 30 years old. Unfortunately, both of the lids had become cracked and chipped so we decided to replace them

I thought this would be a relatively simple task but after much research via Google, I was still unsure as to what they were actually called, whether they came in different sizes and whether it was possible to replace the concrete lids with fabricated steel ones.

I rang our local Council who were of minimal assistance except to say that they had to be restored to the original state – so that ruled out steel covers. Next, I tried a local plumber who said that he didn’t keep them on hand but to ring Everhard Industries. I had perused their website extensively in my research and been unable to find a reference to anything like what I wanted but I rang anyway.

Everything took an immediate turn for the better as the young lady on the phone knew exactly what I wanted and was able to give me the part number and description but said I would need to order it from a plumbing supplier as they did not sell directly to the public. She also gave me the names of several suppliers in our area. I rang one of them, ordered the covers and we were able to collect them 2 days later.

GMan replaced the old covers with new ones and here they are looking bright and shiny.

Speaking of bright and shiny, the other concrete project has been cleaning some of the back path.

Here is the section that I did yesterday.

Then I moved some of the potplants to the space under the stairs.

There is still more to be done but that may have to wait as there is rain forecast for the next week.

Bits and Pieces

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Many of my meals are really not recipes but simply creations which utilise whatever happens to need using up.

Tonight is a perfect example. This is the selection of ‘ingredients’ I decided to include.

At the back of the photo is some leftover mashed potato to which I added a small amount of tuna that I had not used when making tuna mornay. In addition to the 2 main ingredients there is some flaxseed meal which helps to bind the mixture together as well as nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. This mixture became 4 tuna patties.

The sliced vegetables at the front are small quantities of 2 different varieties of zucchini and a button squash. I sauteed these in a little olive oil. The mushrooms were cooked with the garlic cloves (chopped) along with some parsley (not shown) and finished with a spoonful of sour cream.

Served with fresh cherry tomatoes and strips of capsicum.

The cherry tomatoes, garlic and parsley are from our garden while the zucchini and button squash were gifted to us from a friend’s garden.

Growing Green

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A few weeks ago I wrote this post about our plans to develop and use the space under our house.

We have made some progress by planting out the Devil’s Ivy in the hanging baskets.

Here is a closer view of one of the pots.

We hope that it grows as rampantly as it does in the shaded area in the garden from where we collected these cuttings. They all appear to be healthy and sending out new growth already.

I can already envisage our green wall.

In other news, we cleaned most of the exterior walls of the house the other day. Naturally, this entailed moving various items from the verandah and encouraged me to rethink why some of them were in their current locations.

The BBQ and terracotta chimney were both on the western verandah near the clostheline, yet in reality, this is not the spot where they are likely to be used.

They are now both downstairs and in a much better position to be utilised.

We have had a bit of hot weather with more predicted over the coming days and out hanging chairs are definitely a winner in the cool area under the house.