26 Dec 2019

Merry Christmas!


We had a lovely Christmas Day. There was a cool change overnight and less smoke which was a welcome relief from the recent heat.

In the morning we opened our presents after breakfast and then travelled to have lunch with family. Christmas dinner for us is always the traditional roast dinner (lamb, turkey, ham) and veggies followed by plum pudding.

After dinner we just sit around and chat with family, catch up with those we haven't seen for a while and exchange presents. It's all very laid back and stress free.

I've been having Christmas dinner with my in laws for over 40 years now and I really love it. Each year I feel so grateful that I married into such a lovely family and that DH's mum and dad are still healthy and active, well into their late 80's.

So its very early morning here on Boxing Day. DD is working today for the boxing day sales, DH & DS are both going to be helping me move some furniture and do some of the heavier jobs around the house. I'm planning on getting some deep cleaning done in the next few days and then I can spend some time sewing.

22 Dec 2019

Food & Fires

I enjoyed pottering about the house yesterday morning.  I spent most of the morning working in the kitchen again, making chicken stock and pumpkin soup.  I'm a home cook so recipes are not precise, but they taste good.

Heres how I make my chicken stock:
  • 6 chicken thighs - brown in a little olive oil
  • 1 large red onion - quarter and add to pan with chicken
  • a few cracks of salt and pepper
Once the chicken is nicely browned add it, the onion and the pan juices to a crockpot. Then add:
  • 2 litres of boiling water
  • 3 large carrots halved
  • the top &leaves from one bunch of celery 
  • teaspoon of Italian herbs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • teaspoon of vinegar ( helps draw the marrow out of the bones)
Cook on high for 6-8 hours, cool, strain and freeze. I love the taste of this stock and often just have a bowl it as broth, particularly if I'm not well. Its great for soothing an upset tummy and getting some collagen.




Once the stock was on I made roasted pumpkin soup that I had started the day before. Heres my pumpkin soup recipe:

Add to an oven tray:
  • Half a kent pumpkin cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • One large red onion cut into eights
  • Tomatos - 2 - 3 regular size cut into quarters or a few handfuls of mini tomatos or a capsicum
Toss in a little olive oil
Roast in the oven till browned
Then use a large non-stick pot and add:
  • A few tbspns olive oil 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tspns curry powder depending on how hot you like it
  • half a small onion chopped
  • a little black pepper
Mix the herbs and oil to a paste. Once the onions have softened add a tin of beans, a litre of stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin/onions/tomatos and a litre of hot water. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Once cooled a little, blend the soup. 



Tastes fantastic and you get veggies, turmeric & beans all in one meal. This made 8 serves for the freezer and a tasty lunch!

In between cooking I cleaned out the pantry, mostly just a good tidy up was needed and it  looks much better now. I was given some lovely big glass jars for free last week so I have filled two with lentils and split peas and will fill the rest after the next shop.



In the afternoon it got quite really hot (40C - 104F) and the smoke was really bad. The fires were so bad yesterday everywhere, but it was awful watching Lithgow, surrounded by fire, seeing streets we know so well and houses right near where we lived on fire, people fighting embers and evacuating - all roads out of town cut off for most of the evening. 

Overnight the heat was bad, too hot to sleep much, but it has cooled down this morning. The smoke is still very thick though - (we are about 30 mins from the fire and in no danger.) so I won't be opening any windows.

My plan for today is start cleaning DS's room as he will be home on Christmas Eve. We gradually started using his room as a bit of storage so I need to sort it out a bit before he gets here.  Then tomorrow I have one present to buy and I'll be ready for Christmas.

20 Dec 2019

Holidays at last!!

Its Day 3 of my holidays today and I've been busy in the kitchen for the last two days cooking for the freezer.

I bought 12 brown bananas for $2 so have made 3 loaves banana bread which I'll slice and freeze.


Yesterday DD cooked two huge pots of bolognaise sauce. Half of it we froze in 12 single serves, 3 x 4 serves containers and then made 4 lasagnes in single serves for the freezer.

I roasted a pumpkin, onions & tomatos which I'll make into pumpkin soup today. I made 12 single serves of split pea soup for the freezer. I used this Ina Garten recipe and seriously - it is absolutely beautiful! looks exactly like the picture and is now a new fave soup recipe.

So the freezers are full to the brim - I need to do some rearranging today to move the older food up to the top and make a bit more room.

The fires eased up for one day since I last posted and we had a beautiful blue sky  till about 2pm when huge smoke clouds started to roll in. I took this photo from our front verandah just slightly to the left of the photo in my previous post.


I've also had time to work through financial progress for the year and to set some goals for 2020. I've added another page for this. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks of holidays so I can catch up with family and get some jobs done around the house.

11 Dec 2019

Smoke gets in my eyes... and lungs... and nose... and mouth..

Australia is currently experiencing unprecedented bushfires. Right now as I write this, there are 117 fires in our state (NSW) and many more in other states.

We are quite safe here and theres no fires in our immediate area, the closest are about 45 minutes away and being controlled, but the air pollution has been the highest ever over the last 48 hours, over 200 at the moment.

Yesterday visibility in town was about two blocks, today its slightly better. We usually have views for miles out to the mountains from our house but I can see about 100 meters the last two days. This is what it looks like outside. I really do miss seeing the blue sky!



Our house smells like smoke, all I can taste is smoke and our clothes smell of smoke. Usually the first thing I do each morning is throw open all the windows and let the fresh air in but we haven't been able to do this the last six weeks. Its also been really hot here (38C yesterday) and we can't sleep with the windows open to cool the house down. There is no going outside at all except to get in the car and go to work.

We all have the 'fires near me' alerts on our phones and the air quality app and I check both frequently during the day.

I have been taking extra ventolin over the last few weeks, but today I had to leave work and go straight to the drs as I just could not get a proper breath in after having to walk outside from the carpark ( less than five minutes). The smoke was quite heavy.

So the doctor has put me back on asthma meds (haven't needed them for years) and I'm off work for several days.  A few hours later DD also ended up at the drs, she has quite bad asthma and had missed two days last week. She got quite tight in the chest at work and went straight down to the doctor. She had her meds increased and is off work also. I did some research online and bought an air cleaner with a HEPA filter to try and filter the smoke in the house ($200).

There would be hundreds of people being similarly affected I'm sure, particularly worrying for the elderly.

It's been an eye opener this last few weeks. And I'm one of the lucky ones! We are not under direct fire threat, we haven't had to evacuate, or lose our home. I have sick leave and medications are subsidised here. I hate to think how the people in high fire danger areas are coping and the stress they must be under.  And our firefighters (many volunteers) are exhausted after six weeks of this and we haven't even started the hottest part of summer yet. We've had firefighters from US and Canada arrive this week for which we are grateful. And our government is just pathetic in dealing with this, having cut funding to the fire service and refusing to use defence forces or declare and emergency!

So at the moment I am just resting at home, taking meds, keeping an eye on DD and feeling grateful I don't live closer the the fires. Its a summer like we have never seen before!

A lot of the smoke we are getting is coming from this 'megafire':






7 Dec 2019

Share the Dignity

This year I put together two teen backpacks for Share the Dignity. Its a charity that was set up to help women that are homeless or leaving domestic violence to have access to pads and tampons. They do two collection drives during the year. At Christmas they have the 'its in the bag' collection where you fill a handbag with products that are given to women & teens at Christmas. I've worked with lots of women and teenagers in these situations so I really enjoyed doing this.



We included pads, tampons, shampoo, conditioner, comb, mirror, lipgloss, shower caps, a new purse, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, a drink bottle, bracelet & necklace, moisturiser, notebook, pens, socks, soap dish, hair towel, makeup bag and makeup. It was stuffed to the brim.




Each teen bag had a yellow ribbon attached and a card with an encouraging note inside. I dropped them off to Bunnings this morning - the last day for collection! Next year I will be more oganised and start earlier. This is one the charities I'd love to volunteer with once I'm retired.

I remember as a kid being receiving a huge washing basket filled with groceries at Christmas, left at our door by someone who knew we were really struggling.  Then as a teenager, when we were in better circumstances, Mum would shop for a family every Christmas and take me with her. She taught me that its important to pay back the kindnesses we had been shown. So every year I do something, and it always makes me feel grateful for the many little acts of kindness I have experienced and a mum who taught me to appreciate them.

"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted"
Aesop.


5 Dec 2019

Getting in the Christmas Spirit!

We have a tradition of waiting till after December 1st to put up our Christmas decorations as November is a month of birthdays and anniversaries for us.

So last night we put on the Christmas carols and got to work! We had a lot of fun decorating the tree. It brings back memories of when the children were young and when Mum was alive to share the Christmas festivities with us.

Christmas was always a big occasion for us. When the kids were little we used to decorate the outside of the house with lights and the pine tree in the front yard was lit up at night. We'd play Christmas music from the front verandah while we'd sit outside trying to keep cool in the summer heat. As the kids got older it changed a bit but it was always a time for fun and family.

For a few years after Mum died we lost our Christmas mojo. But life goes on and while some of our family traditions have to change as we get older, the core value of family, fun and gratitude continues. The tree is done, we're watching corny Christmas movies and planning our family get together foods.

I also decided to take some Christmas spirit to work this week. Everyone had been so down this last few months, we needed some fun. So I set up a Christmas tree, some decorations, some snacks and wore my Christmas gear in to work - and it gave people a lift and a change from talking about office politics.

So I have a few charity sewing projects to finish and send off before Christmas, some donations to make and some food to cook. Theres only 20 days left and I'm planning on enjoying it to the max!

How are your Christmas plans going? What do you do keep the Christmas Spirit alive?

1 Dec 2019

November Progress Report

Mortgage
  • current balance: $104,192
  • down from $107,647
  • total decrease: $2,955
This month we reached the end of year 19 balance. We're close to our end of year goal of $100,000, but might not make it till early next year.

Retirement
  • me: $154,601
  • DH: $336,866
  • Total:$491,467
  • Total increase:$14,268
I am amazed at how fast our retirement savings are growing! Its exciting to see us so close to our goal with three more years to go.

Health

I have lost a couple of kgs and had started exercising. But on Friday I had a flare up of my arthritis so I'm back to resting up at the moment.

Work
 I certainly feel a bit less stressed than last month and it has quietened down a lot so time to catch up and get ready for next year.

Home

I've started working in the garden again, just for 10 -15 minutes a day, weeding and tidying up garden beds. We are on water restrictions here for the first time due to the drought. We can only water the garden for 30 mins x2 per week, 4 minute showers, no car washing or sprinklers on lawns. The whole town is just dry and brown. So I'm not going to plant anything, just clean up the yard which will take quite some time.

I'm looking forward to Christmas and to setting goals for 2020. Overall things are plodding along nicely here.