Thursday, May 13, 2021

Around here - good news story

One of my favourite shows is Landline which usually airs on a Sunday and I think it's also replayed on another day on the ABC.  There was a lovely story about a chef, Martin Duncan who found a random pop-up article on his Facebook page that caught his attention.

A 96 year old woman in Scotland had come up with a remarkable solution to the isolation she had been feeling since her partner's death 15 years earlier.  With no friends or family, she decided to hold morning teas to, as Martin puts it, "escape her cage".  The concept was a big success and Martin was sold and "Scone Time" was born 18 months before Covid-19 hit.

Scone Time quickly became a community connector where seniors could come together with family, friends and local business owners over fresh hot scones loaded with home made jam and whipped cream.

The simple concept involves Martin setting up at a venue, usually a local hall or meeting room.  These often hold memories for guests who may have attended dances or supper clubs there in the past.

Along with volunteers, he sets up tables with vintage tea sets, gets the coffee and tea brewing, and warms up his freshly made scones along with lashings of jam and cream sourced from local farmers.

"One guy hadn't been out for two years after his wife passed away, and Martin told him "you've got to come".

He wasn't on the internet so Martin said "just come, come with me" and he put him on a table with a lot of girls - the youngest was 82 and they brought him into the fold.

One 92 year old lady had missed only one event because she had to go to the doctor.

This story was so lovely and solves a big problem of isolation of the elderly.  Even if people have family they may not be living in the same town or city as them and therefore can still be alone.  I love that the good china gets used and is such a ritual.

Here's the link to an article on Scone Time.

Here's a link to the original recipe which I have written out below.

This lady donated her Royal Albert tea set so it could be put to good use for Scone Time.

Scone Time's Winning Scone Recipe

Prep Time : 15 minutes

Cook Time : 15 minutes

Makes : 24 scones [approximately]



  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk (plus extra if required)
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence


  • 125g chilled salted butter
  • 1 kg self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Plain flour for dusting benchtop


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Grate the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, without overmixing them. Add more milk if required for a moist dough.
  5. Gently pat scone mix out onto a floured benchtop and cut into squares.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with jam and cream.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Around here

I love reading articles on finance, savings in the household budget and all things to do with money.  Many years ago Anita Bell wrote a book on how they paid off their mortgage in 3 years on $50,000 income.  The thing with every generation is, house prices get higher and you wonder how your kids will ever be able to purchase a home.

I bought my first home in 1991 for $105,000 and it was 5kms from the CBD.  It was a 2 bedroom post war home which I renovated and over time built a big back covered deck which over looks a park.  I had $2,000 deposit and borrowed $3,000 off my family and borrowed $100,000 from the Queensland Housing Commission.  In 1999 I sold that home for $153,000 which sold 8 hours after I put it on the market.

I then bought my second house about one km away for $117,000.  I also renovated this house by knocking out the back section of the house putting a big covered deck, new kitchen etc and landscaping.  I had a builder to do the building works however I did all the painting.  This house was the same style as my first house, a 2 bedroom post war house with a little sunroom entrance which the main bedroom opens onto.  I also put in the driveway and paths, garden beds and landscaping. I loved both of these houses and as I was single had plenty of time to renovate on the weekends.  I sold this house for $254,000 in late 2002 and basically doubled my money in 4 years.  18 years later It was on the market last year and sold for $680,000 in October, 2020.  It's still a post war house, 2 bedroom with a car port out the front so crazy prices.

I'm so proud of myself for doing this on my own and also knowing that your first house is never your dream house.  I now live in a brick 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 family room home and I love it.  Even though I love post war homes and the traditional Queenslander homes were too expensive for me to buy, they require a lot of maintenance and external painting which costs a lot of money.  I love living in a low set brick home.

Back to money and finances.  Often when people get pay rises it means they can then splurge on things they want because now they are earning more money.  Then the next pay rise comes and the same thing happens and what you can find is lifestyle creep.  People earning less income can often make their money go further because they have to, whereas large income earners aren't so worried about spending the money because there is more of it.

Years ago Wendy from My Abundant Life blog was featured on "A Current Affair" back in 2014 and her story was amazing.  One income family, two kids and they paid off their $100,000 mortgage in a few years. This was a post that Wendy wrote one year after it had aired.

There was also some talk in the media about the family being poor and Wendy wrote this blog post about her thoughts on it.

Over the years I have cut my family's food budget to a lower amount however even I wonder how on earth Wendy does it.  Here's a few links that might be useful on Wendy's blog:-

Posts on cleaning and home made cleaning products thereby savings hundreds of dollars a year and Miracle Spray recipe.

Thrifty living link blog posts.

Is the frugal life worth it.

Soap making recipe.

Every family has a different perception of what is normal.  I grew up in a 3 bedroom house with 7 family members and we all shared bedrooms.  We had one small bathroom and a separate toilet.  In our bedrooms we had two single beds and a stand alone wardrobe and that was it.  These days most kids have their own bedrooms so family homes are larger and often there are two living rooms vs one lounge room when I was growing up.  There are media rooms, study/home offices and generally our homes are double the size of what they were back then.  These days homes are getting bigger and the land size is getting smaller whereas I think it should be the other way round...smaller homes and more outdoor space.

Saving money certainly begins in the home from food shopping, cleaning supplies, not wasting food, getting the best deals on mortgages, insurances, phone plans, electricity etc.  On the home front there is a lot that can be done towards the household budget.  You will certainly be inspired by any of Wendy's posts.  If you have any special tips or tricks you would like to share I would love to hear them.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Around Here - The Royal Funeral

Last week I watched Prince Phillip's Funeral on TV and it was beautiful.  It was very sad seeing the Queen wearing a black face mask sitting all by herself in the church.  That was a pretty heartbreaking scene and it certainly shows that life is different in a pandemic. 

What an incredible life he lived and how he was admired by many.  I think one of the nice things about the pandemic [if you can say that about a pandemic] is that during his last year he and the Queen would have spent the most amount of time together at home than they had in years.  Even though he retired a few years ago, the Queen was at home on Zoom instead of her many engagements that would normally take her outside the Palace.

I think it's so comforting for them that they got to spend all that time together and that he got the funeral that he had personally planned, small and intimate with his family all due to the pandemic.  As for the 4 singers in the cathedral, wow, having their voices echo as if they were a whole choir was amazing.  It was very moving and just the way he wanted it.  It's such a significant moment in history and to make it to nearly 100 is a milestone in itself.

It was very moving that during his whole life he walked two steps behind the Queen and for his final farewell she followed him which gave me goosebumps.   He has been around her since she was 13 years old and it will be a big loss and adjustment for her and the Royals.

This was a great photo, Prince Phillip had secretly dressed up as one of the Guards
and then the Queen realized it was him and they were both smiling.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Around here

I had a rare weekend away to visit my friend down at Rainbow Bay and we just chilled and talked and laughed which was great.  I normally drive along the highway into NSW and head back over the QLD border as Rainbow Bay is a Street away from the border so I have stayed away for the past year given Covid-19 and border closures and didn't want to go into NSW.  I could stay in QLD and still go to Rainbow Bay however it was just as easy to wait until things settled down.  It was nice and relaxing and here's a few pics.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Around here

Not much has been happening around here with my teenagers pretty well having their own social lives and working part time.  It's been a big transition of letting go and one that I am learning to adjust to every day.  I do miss the days of being in charge of our outings and spending time with them however I have raised them to be independent confident young people and that's what they are now.  My son finishes high school at the end of this year and my daughter will have another 2 years after that.  It seems like only yesterday I was walking them into their prep classrooms.  Bittersweet is a word that comes to mind.

Not having them around to be in my photos and not wanting to be in any photos anymore is also a big adjustment for me because my photography is my happy place.  I'm starting a 2 week online lighting course which I've been trying to get into for 4 years as it sells out in 2 minutes and the registration time is 2.00 am Australian time.  I'm more than prepared to stay up or wake up at that time if I thought I had a chance of actually getting in, however within 1-2 minutes the seats are sold so out.  This last round you could put your name down on a list and 10 people would be randomly selected to get into the course before the registrations.   I had nothing to lose so I put my name down and I was so excited to be picked to secure a seat so I didn't have to wake up in the middle of the night and miss out again.  Not sure how I'm going to go with no one to photograph in beautiful light, so I'll just have to see how I go.  I am very pleased to be able to do this online course after wanting to do it for 4 years and I like to do one photography related course a year.

Here's a few things around on the internet at the moment.

I came across Sustainable Holly's website and here is a great post on being sustainable.  Here is another post on Natural Pest Management.

How "Burning Desire for Fire" started her "no spend days" and gave herself a coloured box if she didn't spend any money for 3-4 days of the week.

Home Grown Happiness Sourdough Recipe and timing of her process.

Emma from A Simple Living Journey answers all the questions about importing a Yurt into Australia and her family living in it on their 265 acre farm in NSW.

One of my favourite blogs Tales from a Happy House and her new yearly embroidery and this beautiful collection from January.

My new "Lunch Box Edition" of Additive Free Lifestyle Cook Book has been posted to me and I can't wait to get it.  The girls recipes are so simple and all the family favourites without nasty additives or preservatives. 

My friend grew this little pumpkin and gifted it to me.  I've never grown pumpkins myself so I was excited to receive this and I can't wait to roast some for dinner this week.

I ordered the beautiful hardcopy of Susan's Big Patch Quilt.  I purchased the PDF pattern last year and started my quilt and had to put it aside to attend to family health issues.  I need to get back to quilting this and putting a binding on.  If you have never done any patchwork this is a great starter quilt and if you can sew a straight line you can make this quilt.  Susan has the most impeccable taste and talent mixing her fabrics together which makes these quilts.  Here's my post from August when I put together my quilt.

Home made sausage rolls and salad for dinner.

Sold an item on Facebook Market Place so this is going straight into savings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Around here - Finance

It's time to get a coffee and have a good read as it's the beginning of the year it's always a good idea to revisit your budget.  I wish I knew all of this stuff when I was 20 or 25 however I still love all things finance.  I have tracked my spending for the past 20 years, firstly in a paper based system and then for many years in an excel spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet tabs are all linked and I balance them back to my bank accounts.  For years I have spoken to the kids about finance and explaining about buying a pair of jeans for $50 cash or $50 on a credit card and explaining the difference and the fact that the credit card purchase costs more than $50. 

A few years ago I got the Barefoot Investor for Families and the kids, in their teens then put on a family dinner party for 7 for a budget of $50. They had to look up online prices of the groceries, check the pantry and then work out how to have a 3 course dinner for $50, buy it themselves, cook it and serve it.  They absolutely loved the whole event and we loved being waited on all evening.

This was my post in January 2020 about budgeting and cutting back on my food budget.

This is my finance post for January 2018 [posted on the last day of 2017]

This was my post from January 2016 which has the big explanation of my excel budget spreadsheet and how I run it.

The simplistic version of a budget it to spend less than you earn, and when put like that it seems like a simple thing to master so why do so many people are scared of the word budget as they think deprivation.  Burying your head in the sand is not the answer and knowing where you are spending your money gives you control.  Even if you are in credit card debt, it's not going to go away by itself.  You need to start paying it off, sell unused items in your home on buy, sell groups and put the money straight onto the credit card debt.  The debt is money you have spent however not earned yet and the pain comes from having to start paying it off.

These days with the "after pay" popularity it encourages people to buy things they don't have the money for yet.  ie spending next weeks pay before you earn it.  If used wisely, I'm sure it is a great thing however it does encourage the "I want it now even though I don't have the money and then that form of spending can very easily get out of control".

Have you heard of the FIRE Community?  It stands for Financially Independent Retire Early.

Going back to spend less than you earn, the Fire Community try and save as much as they can by being frugal and having goals and being committed to a better financial future.  Some save as much as 50% of their earnings or even more.  So with a two person income family they might budget to spend one of them and the other one they would invest all the money.   In the Barefoot Investor he talks about saving firstly your MOJO account or in other words an emergency fund.  That can be as little as $2,000 for emergencies, the car breaks down, the fridge breaks etc.  Having an emergency fund with at least 3 months expenses and preferably 6 months.  So if you need $4,000 per month for your mortgage, food, petrol, bills, entertainment etc. firstly save up $12,000 and leave it in a savings account not to be touched unless for an emergency.  This doesn't include deciding to go away for the weekend or a holiday it is purely to get you through 3 months of expenditure should something happen.  Having six months ie $24,000 would be better however depending on your income and expenditure this is a lot for the average family.

No one thinks an emergency that would require $24,000 would happen, until a pandemic came along and people lost their jobs.  Worrying about paying the mortgage or rent and putting food on the table is stressful however imagine that money was sitting there and while everyone else was worried sick and not sleeping at night, you knew you could get by for 3, 6 or 12 months.  You can't buy that peace of mind.  A lot of people lost their jobs, and just about everybody you know, knows someone that lost their job.  Who would have thought that no planes would be flying, shopped closed, people working from home.  Australia has been so lucky in terms of the cases we have had compared to the rest of the world however many many Australians lost their jobs and businesses have closed.

Going back to the Fire Community, working hard to get ahead financially using investing and compound interest and being frugal.  Keeping up with the Jones is not part of the Fire Community they have a mission to be financially secure well before retirement age.  It doesn't mean that they sit on a beach for the rest of their lives and don't work, it means they do not have to worry about money and they can enjoy part time work, pursue a hobby, do community work or travel.  

This is Burning Desire for Fire who has just retired as a teacher 10 years early.

Family on Fire on the way to financial freedom.

A post on wealth and it's not all about money.

Even thought it's the 2nd of February, 2021 it looks like most January's I do a post on finance.

This is a post from February, 2020 that also might be of interest to you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Around here - Carrot Cake

In my last post I mentioned I was making this Carrot Cake today as I had a few extra carrots in the fridge.  We ate half of the cake and I gave my very good neighbours the other half along with a dozen eggs.  My neighbour mows my footpath when he does his every week and also trims all my hedges at the front as well.  They are such a lovely family and always keep an eye out for us.  Having good neighbours is worth their weight in gold.  This cake was easy to make and would freeze well for later on if you didn't want to eat it on the one day and/or could be put in the fridge in a container too.

CARROT CAKE [Recipe link here]
  • 1/2 cup Canola or Olive Oil [I used Olive Oil]
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 3 cups Carrot (grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Mixed Spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped Walnuts (optional)

CREAM CHEESE ICING [I used the Thermomix Carrot Cake icing recipe]

  • 100gms Cream Cheese
  • 50gms unsalted butter
  • 230gms Icing Sugar
  • Chopped Walnuts to decorate (optional)

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Place the oil and eggs into a large bowl and whisk.

Then add grated carrot and mix through.

Sift the following into the wet mixture, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.  Add chopped up walnuts now if using them.  Stir until evenly combined.

Line a 23cm tin, pour in the batter and bake 25-35 mins. [I cooked mine for 35 minutes]

Once it’s cooled beat your cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar with a hand mixer until it’s smooth.  I made my icing in the Thermomix - place cream cheese, unsalted butter and icing sugar into the Thermomix on Speed 9 for 20 seconds.

Ice your cake and decorate with the chopped walnuts. Place it into the fridge in a sealed container and you will have something lovely to enjoy for the next few days or weeks.