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Where have I been? What have I been up to?

Where have I been? Almost to Bathurst.

I left you at the start of August when I joined a friend’s family in the Tour de August. Our goal: to walk across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. I walked more than 170km in August.

Of course I didn’t really cross the mountains. Stay at home orders meant I was walking in my own area. Luckily I live in an area with lots of bush. Everyday we logged our walk and the organiser mapped us on the road across the mountains.

Nearby rock face.

Turns out I’m a tad competitive. I walked and walked. And then walked some more. I found walks that didn’t involve many hills, so my energy would be expended in miles rather than gaining elevation.

Come the awards night, I won the Most Competitive Award. Apt but slightly embarrassing.

When The Tour de August finished, I lost the drive to walk everyday. Probably I’m just over doing the same walks, bush or no bush. Still, I have been stepping out. Somewhat. I do rise to having little challenges.

As well as walking, during lockdown, I’ve continued my never ending decluttering. Mr S calls it my new religion, as I practice it everyday. I call my challenge in this area Creating Space. A new spare room created where the boys’ junk was stacked, higgledy-piggedly. A study from the room where I had loads of paper from decades and Mr S piled up other stuff, including clothes and multiple pedestal fans and nanna shopping trolleys and stuff.

The study has proved very useful. For ten weeks of the term, my eldest moved home; as he was working from home and as we have more space, he would be less claustrophobic. That’s Teacher 1. Mr S was also working from home three days a week. That’s Teacher 2. The Dreamer was also doing his practicum from home, five days a week for six or seven weeks of the term. That’s Teacher 3. (The youngest moved home from his harbourside flat at the start of the term as he knew he’d not be able to earn money while doing his prac.)

I was working from home two days a week, with daily zoom meetings and phone calls. Mr S and oldest son are very loud (and as I’m known for being a loud speaker, that is saying something.) Working onsite was a relief.

Lockdown, originally meant to go for four weeks, went for the whole term. It was lovely having both boys here, but also a relief when the oldest moved back to his flat for the holidays. Not sure if he’ll return when term resumes but this week. Younger boy is not as messy or smelly as older boy.

In Creating Space, I have also been creating space in cupboards. You know that just because there’s space on a shelf, you don’t have to fill it?

By no means am I minimalist. And I still have clutter and hot spots. Still getting at least one thing out a day has kept me on track.

I’ve been following Diane in Denmark on Instagram and YouTube – she’s a FlyLady coach and Hygge & routine coach. And the Netflix show, The Home Edit, has given me ideas.

Seems I have converted Mr S to my religion. Amazed? Shocked? I am too. This week is our council cleanup and Mr S has released a huge quantity of stuff he’s stored under the house, “just in case” and for “maybe I’ll use it” and for “you never know” and “I like this” and “it’s my stuff” and “it’s still good”. Mostly it is “Im not ready to let it go yet”. But he’s letting it go!!!

I’ve also been gardening and reading. (And that thing that gets in the way of my life – work. But let’s not think of that.) Reading is part of my decluttering. I read to declutter. Clever hey? Read a book and then pass it on.

Weekly catch-up: Hobbies

I’ve never been one to have hobbies.

Once, while in my early 20s, when visiting German relatives in Germany, an aunt asked me what my hobbies were. She was adamant that one MUST have hobbies.

That struck me as quite a strange thing to be adamant about and it stuck with me. Because I don’t have hobbies. And for the next 25 years? I still didn’t have hobbies. Oh god. Am I just a wage slave?!?

I’ve never been into sport. Blah! What is the point?

Dance? I have little rhythm, always start with the wrong foot, can’t tell my right from my left without winking, and can’t move my arms and legs with any sense of style.

I’m not at all crafty or creative. I’ve tried sewing. A practice in frustration. Was going to sew my sister a dress for her 21st. Hahaha. Who was I kidding! She never got a 21st present from me. Who knows where the cutout material ended up.

Knitting? Never finished the jumper I started. Let alone a scarf. Luckily my mother finished the jumper. I think. Anyway, I left the wool and wonky-tensioned piece with her.

Twenty-seven years ago, I found a craft for the non-creative. Cross stitch. All you need to do is count. I can do that. Did several. Then mis-counted on one and couldn’t finish it. “Just make it up,” said my mother. “Improvise!” That just won’t work. I’d end up with a very wonky piece and not in a creative way. I still have that UFO (UnFinished Object) and a few other kits in my cupboard.

I tried some scrap booking. More scrap, less booky. Why stick things around your photos? I don’t get it. And not because my pages look like I fought with the glue and other sticky things. I look at “good” ones and think why?

When I was a teen, my mother made me have music lessons. I won’t say it was a waste of money. But it definitely isn’t a hobby I’ve continued with. Much to the relief of anyone who isn’t tone deaf.

I tend to have challenges. Growing sweet peas. Running. (That one went as quickly as it came. See sport above.) Striking cuttings.

I do like words. Reading. Blogging. Learning languages. I think they’re my hobby.

Last year, I read Miranda Hart on hobbies. She struggles with them too. She outlines the ages of hobbies:

  • Teens – you’re only allowed to continue with your hobby if you’re talented in it. Think gymnastics, ballet, sport. Otherwise, with the need to be cool, you abandon hobbies.
  • 20s – you only need hobbies for your CV for job applications.
  • 30s – you look for some meaning. Search for something. Maybe join a book group. Or a masculine pursuit to find a partner, such as boxing or car mechanic classes.
  • 40s – gardening, but only if you’re professional successful or married. Otherwise you have to wait until you’re 50. Phew, this is now my hobby. My sons say it is a chore, not a hobby. So maybe I still don’t have a hobby.

Miranda says the only acceptable hobby throughout the ages is cookery. For this too, she gives stages, which are scarily accurate.

  • Child – adorable baked items
  • 20s – spag bol
  • 30s & 40s – lovely stuff with butternut pumpkin and chorizo from magazines
  • 50s & 60s – beef Wellington (possibly other comfort food)
  • 70s & 80s – back to adorable baked items

All well and good but last year I largely gave up cooking. I just can’t be arsed. It’s, I don’t know, like I’ve done enough dinners, baked enough cakes. Someone else can do it. Thank heavens, Mr S stepped up to grocery shopping and cooking.

Do you think people should have hobbies? Do you have a hobby? Or three?

One of my hobbies. (Saying something clever/funny but devastating.) When I realised it wasn’t everyone’s normal state. So it must be my hobby.

Last year, I took up “finding” cuttings for plants. I call it helping plants propagate. My friend calls it stealing. But look what it has given me:

What I’ve just read: this week’s read was fantastic. An antidote to decluttering, to simplifying. Miss Savidge Moves Her House by Christine Adams. Google it and watch the videos that were made in the 80s and earlier. What an unusual and independent and tough woman.

What I’ve been watching: it’s been one of those weeks at work when mindless shite on TV is needed to switch off the brain and when you can’t remember what you actually watched anyway.

Steps to my goals:

  • Sleep: bad – sooooo tired.
  • Water: bad – signs not drinking enough = headaches.
  • Exercise: blargh. Getting off the couch after a 10 hour day is hard.
  • Decluttering: holy t shirt cut up for rags.
  • Main thing I’m too embarrassed to tell you about: nix
  • FIRE: lots of talking and dreaming, little action. Though I did cook dinner on Thursday instead of spending $100 at a restaurant.

Weekly catchup: not my adult gap year

I was not meant to be working right now. This was meant to be my year off. Mr S’s too. Thirteen months of owning our own time.

We postponed it due to COVID. Can’t travel over seas. With state borders repeatedly closing, there were times we couldn’t even have travelled interstate, with no guarantee that state borders won’t close again.

Now, while I’m not sad we are not having this year off, I made it quite clear to Mr S, who wanted to postpone for two years, that I am definitely having 2022 off. I didn’t only want to go to the UK. I wanted to potter and garden and learn German and exercise and read and bake and explore and … and … and. So much more.

But mostly I wanted to not go to work.

Our forced savings for the year off have stopped being deducted from our income, which meant our pay as gone up to 100%. Having got used to living on 80% of our income, I didn’t want to waste the 20%, so I’ve upped our mortgage repayments.

With 20% of our income being taken out post tax and saved for us for four years, we have a nice lump sum waiting for us. We momentarily thought about cashing it in and paying off our mortgage.

But no! I WANT that year off.

I say to myself repeatedly, “Only three and a half terms left.” It’s a pretty liberating feeling. (Yes, I will be back after the year off but more than a year off – 13 whole months!!!)

I can see why FIRE is attractive.

It’s not that I haven’t got satisfaction snd identity and fun and fulfilment from work. But I’m ready to get more of that from other things.

What I’ve just read: Laura Tingle’s essay on NZ in the Quarterly Essay: The High Road: what Australia can learn from New Zealand. Sharp and incisive and comprehensive. Australians need to know more about NZ and this is a good start.

Also read Snakes and Ladders by Angela Williams, a memoir about a woman who was sent to prison for breach of weekend detention, a decade after her original drug-fuelled crime and after having turned her life around, getting uni degrees. I got to this book via a FB group which started in protest about the current sexual mistreatment of women working in Australian parliament but the FB group wiped the word women from the title as it was deemed exclusionary. At which point I left the group. The women are being raped, sexually assaulted, harassed because they are women. The protest is being co-opted by a group with a different agenda.

What I’ve been watching: I finished season 1 and started on season 2 of Our Yorkshire Farm. Mr S got into it too. What a fabulous family! But while I’d love to live there, farming is not for me.

Continuing with Season 1 of Vera – episode 2, which I have seen before, probably more than once but it was still so scary – the sounds, background music, faces popping up at windows. I had to mute bits. I can’t cope with really scary bits. I know it’s imaginary. I know they catch the killer but still. Why so scary? Why oh why do people always turn their back on the crazy murderer? And why are English coppers always on their own when there’s someone with a hammer about?

I also watched some rubbish – James Corden interview Prince Harry. (I will be watching Oprah’s interview next week.) Flicked between Gogglebox and Wife Swap. My two rubbish addictions!

Steps to my goals:

  • Sleep: crap week
  • Water: not enough.
  • Exercise: ditto.
  • Decluttering: said goodbye to the dress that I thought would last for a few more wears. But happy to release it while it is okay for someone else. With quite a few other items from my wardrobe, I will either take to a clothes swap meet or to the op shop.
  • Main thing too embarrassed to tell you about: did nothing.
  • FIRE: our first increased mortgage repayment went in, dropping our mortgage by over $7,000. If we keep this up, the mortgage will be gone in three years. My super is nearly double our mortgage, so worse case if work really shit me and I couldn’t continue is we could pay off our mortgage and fix up the house and live off Mr S’s super which is more than double mine.

Weekly catchup: a new phone!

Did I tell you how old my smartphone was?

I bought it in March 2015.

Six years is not bad going for something I use every day – to blog, email, search, buy stuff, text, borrow and read books, phone, track all manner of things, access social media platforms, take photos, listen to music.

I’ve been umming and ahhing whether to go android or get another iPhone. You know Apples are over priced! And Samsung give super discounts to teachers. But do I really want to learn a new system?

After playing around with Mr S’s Googlephone for the past few months and checking out friends’ androids, I decided to stick with the iPhone.

Losing all my message threads and the apps was too much to handle. So looks like I’m hooked for life!

One of The Dreamer’s close friends works for Apple. He gave me a discount. Yay!

People have suggested I get work to buy me one – after all, I do a lot for work on my phone. But then work owns it. And all it contains. No way. With any luck my phone will last another five to six years!

I am so in love with my new phone. I thought I’d hate it, or at least find it pointless to have upgraded and paid so much. No, I love it.

It is so smooth, and crisp, and responsive. It’s nicer in the hand. Smaller than my iPhone 6 but with a larger screen. Its squarer edges make it easier to hold.

Oh, I shouldn’t have waited so long.

And the Apple guy advised me to go for a lower plan as I am wasting data and thus wasting money. So I’ve also phoned my provider and dropped to a much lower plan, saving over $10 a month.

Aren’t Apple so clever with their packaging? Even pulling off the outer wrapper is a joy.

Photo copied from Apple website. This is the colour I picked.

I’m off to listen to some music.

What I’ve just read: a book with four journal articles on an early convict- built road, The Great North Road. Yes, strange choice but I will soon visit part of the road that still exists – it’s been turned into a bush walk. Listened to Adam Hills’ audiobook of his autobiography, Best Foot Forword. It had moments of brilliance, surprise and humour. Hate his similes: too many, too frequent, too forced. Not a really laugh out loud or riveting read/listen.

What I’ve been watching: I didn’t watch Wife Swap this week but I did watch Botched. I love Botched. I think I want to go to LA and have those two do some cosmetic surgery on my face and boobs. And I watched yet another Michael Portillo train show but this one was in Australia – the Ghan, which I want to do with Laura and Brett. Probably can’t do for another 20 years. Not cause of COVID but because no one looked under 80 on the train – except the workers.

I’ve borrowed DVD of Season 1 of Vera from my public library. Hadn’t seen episode 1 so watched that. Will skip episode 2 as I’ve seen that. I’m also watching Our Yorkshire Farm on a catchup free to air channel. I loved Amanda Owen’s books and would so love to spend a year in some part of Yorkshire, experiencing the change of seasons. Not so much on a farm where I had to work but somewhere sort of remote.

Steps to my goals:

  • Sleep: I’ve slept deeply but most nights have only been 6 hours. I need to get to bed earlier.
  • Water: I’ve not put in steps to ensure I drink more. I need to do something here.
  • Exercise: walked for four afternoons. Will return to gym soon.
  • Decluttering: nothing this week, but I am wearing out some clothes that will go at the end of this term, or this year. Next year I won’t need work clothes – yee ha.
  • Main thing too embarrassed to tell you about: solid work on it on Sunday and had some parts fixed up so I can do more this weekend.
  • FIRE: my super is at $410,000. Not bad.

Weekly catch-up: You need a new phone

Christmas Eve 2019, I dropped my phone and cracked the screen. I can be certain of the date because my son was stuck in LA airport as his connections (with the same airline!!) didn’t match. I was worrying and texting and talking and drinking.

My Darling spent the night in LA airport and didn’t make it home for Christmas. And my phone was seriously cracked.

All of a sudden, people started expressing an interest in my phone. And felt the need to give me advice. “You should get your screen fixed.” “You should get a new phone.” And the corker: “Are you an adult? You shouldn’t have a cracked screen.”

Then, around April, my photo lens started playing up. It did lead to some interesting effects that people thought I did intentionally, such as when a Shinkansen, the high speed train, sped by.

The lens is totally dead now. Well, doesn’t that invite all manner of advice! Especially as I can’t use a QR code to sign into venues for COVID safety. (It also added to my absence from blogging – I couldn’t add any of my own photos.)

Add in the idiosyncratic charging issue that grew more and more annoying …

And recently, calls failing mid call. Repeatedly.

So I’ve set myself a challenge. (You know how I like challenges!)

Prepare my phone for replacement

Things to do:

  • Sort through my saved passwords. Delete ones not needed. Change ones used too frequently. And write them into my diary
  • Sort and declutter photos. Make photo books, deleting most photos that are used in photo books
  • Save videos to Google Photos
  • Delete unnecessary apps
  • Extract notes I want to keep

I hope/plan/aim to have this all done by the end of February and the new phone purchased.

Watch this space!

What I’ve just read: Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Really enjoyed this. Escapist murder mystery. Not your Nordic dark, graphically violent, scarily suspenseful murder. More Miss Marple. There’ll be s book two and, I’m sure, a TV miniseries.

What I’ve been watching: I watched the cutest documentary on quolls in Tassie – Quoll Farm. If you get a chance, watch it. Same night I watched a documentary on Princess Anne’s 70th. Although I’m a republican, it was interesting. And I could do some household jobs, coming in and out of the lounge room, and not lose the gist. Gogglebox allows me to catchup on a week’s worth of rubbish TV. I’ve been tired this week, so I started a couple of shows but never made it to the end – Vera and Hard Quiz.

Steps to my goals

  • Sleep: Saturday – slept poorly as I had eaten too much and was also worried I’d sleep in and miss my flight so kept waking up. Sunday in bed by 10.40pm Woken by alarm, which is Mr S turning on the radio for me, at 6am. Monday – slept poorly. Tuesday – 11.30 to 6 and deeply. Wednesday – didn’t record it so can’t remember. Thursday – at least 8 hours. Friday – naughtily fell asleep on the lounge but in bed before midnight and then read a bit, all up about 8 hours. I think instead of recording here, I will record my sleep in my diary.
  • Water: I have a beautiful glass and work, given as a gift. It reminds me to drink. But not enough. I have to find my bottle and fill that up every day.
  • Exercise: walk on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. I’ll be going back to he gym soon – booking in classes helps me keep in track and make boundaries around work demands.
  • Main thing for the year: I’ve been doing some work towards this. Stepping in the right direction.
  • Decluttering: to the local recycling centre with a worn pair of sandals, worn out handbag, two pairs of worn out shoes, single mattress protector and sheets.
  • Main thing too embarrassed to tell you about: a daily task undertaken to make progress towards it.
  • FIRE: doubled my mortgage repayments – now paying $8,000 a month. Plan to have the mortgage gone in three years. Bought four dresses!!! I know. But they are so beautiful. I am in love.

Weekly Catch-up: Dutiful Daughter

Last year, we all learnt that plans have to change and do change quickly. My goals for February quickly were tossed aside when Queensland opened their borders to NSW residents from February 1.

For readers outside Australia, I live in the capital city of NSW. Sydney was hit first with COVID. One of the first things the other states did was shut the borders. So we couldn’t cross into other states!

The first time the borders opened between Qld and NSW, I planned my trip north to visit my mother in the upcoming term break.

Then another wave hit in the southern part of Sydney and Qld closed its borders to people from that part. I thought I was safe – I’m at the very north of Sydney.

Then Qld blocked one more local government area (LGA).

Everyone was asking me if I was going north. I said I’d wait until they did one more LGA.

Ha! They went: one, two, all.

Borders reopened just before Christmas so I had everything booked to go up in January. Perfect timing as my mother was going through a sticky patch and I could help her with decisions and selling and getting rid of stuff in preparation for downsizing.

And then Sydney got another outbreak. I ummed and ahhed whether I should jump on a plane, miss Christmas with my family or or risk waiting a fortnight.

Waited and yep, borders closed.

Unexpectedly, the second day that school resumed, Queensland announced it was allowing people from Sydney in. So, even though school had not been back a full week, I took carer’s leave and hightailed it to Qld. I couldn’t risk the borders slamming shut again.

Anyway, perfect timing, except for missing Mr S’s 60th birthday. Mum’s house had sold in record time – it was on the market for less than a week. The removalists were coming the week the borders reopened.

I spent the first five days packing, helping my mum get rid of more stuff, taking that stuff to the op shop, directing removalists, dealing with electricity and phone/internet suppliers, connecting the internet, buying the needed connection to get the phone working. Exhausting. But what a dutiful daughter! Really, they would have struggled without my help.

Then I set up the mobile my sister had bought our mother. Now my patience started wearing thin. Possibly not quite errant, but not the most dutiful of daughters.

Now to explain the need of internet access for banking! They don’t have an active credit/debit card so couldn’t pay the removalists. I paid it and they needed to repay. Like the removalists, I don’t want cash. “What if we get a debit card? Can you use that to take money?” No, I’m not a business. I don’t have a card reader.

How will they pay the rent of the house they are in while waiting to buy a new, smaller property? “We don’t want this internet banking thing. Can’t we just get the bank to send the owners money?” You can try but I don’t think they will. You need to transfer yourself via online banking.

OK, I did become a bit sharp. Still, internet access established (by me) and once money is in the bank it will be my job to pay the rent regularly. DD, again.

But we are still not finished with dutiful daughter jobs. Signing my parts of enduring power of attorney. A visit to my mother’s doctor with her to get him to sign his section on the enduring power of attorney form and discuss my concerns about my mother’s health.

Add in a visit to my aunt who lives nearby and who had a stroke last year. All round it’s been a fortnight of adult offspring care tasks.

I did get to do several rainforest walks. I wish I could share some photos but the camera on iPhone is dead.

Here’s one from an earlier visit:

If I was closer, and the borders didn’t keep closing, I’d be able to spread these tasks out. But then, possibly if there wasn’t a sense of urgency with the move, my parents wouldn’t have accepted my help?

Copying Laura from The Occasional Nomads, I am going to add a regular bit below.

What I’ve just read: The Blue Zones: lessons for living longer by Dan Beuttner. This has invigorated my health goals. Adding drinking water and working on better sleep (again) to my goals. Worth a read. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan. Interesting style but too too depressing story about adult offspring who won’t let them mother die and forced on her painful, invasive medical interventions. Strange choice for my week with my elderly parents. Lol!

What I’ve been watching: too much shit on tele. I need to be more selective. Turning the Tv off will help me with my goals of sleep and home routines. I watch too many American home makeover shows. My favourite is the husband and wife couple on The Fixer-Upper. I also watched the first episode of the new series of Wife Swap. The Australian version. And Hughsies, We have a problem. And repeats of Would I lie to you and QI. Think I should go cold turkey and not turn the TV on after dinner.

Steps to my goal

  • Sleep – I’ve been sleeping well here. No stress of work to keep my mind rolling over.
  • Water – will start tallying my water consumption again.
  • Exercise – four days of rainforest walks in a row.
  • Decluttering – leaving a pair of sandals in Qld. Old and worn. Goal was to wear them out this summer. ✔️
  • Main thing for the year – I have a major goal I am too embarrassed to share until it is finished. But for now, know I haven’t done anything for it this week as my focus was helping mum move.
  • FIRE: I’m starting to think about the FIRE movement – Financially independent, retire early. Thinking but not doing much. Actually becoming more aware my purchases are working against it. $55 for lace bunting? Why? Jeans with beading for $250. I don’t really need them. Anyway, thinking and awareness are the first steps.

Decluttering

Shhh! Don’t bother me. I’m reading.

It’s my latest challenge to declutter my house and rid myself of things.

I know! How good is this? I am actually tidying up and ridding myself of stuff by reading, by sitting here and reading.

I rarely hold onto books anymore. I know with all the new books being published and referrals to, or discovery of, old jems, there’s just too many books to read to spend time reading ones I’ve already read. So if a book isn’t one I would re-read, I donate, give away or exchange it. I only keep “keepers”. Oh and I keep reference books. And there’s my box sets of Little House and Famous Five. And all of Mr S’s books; he never parts with books.

My problem is: I buy more books than I read. And I borrow books. And friends lend me books, saying they think I’ll like it. And I’m in a book club. And I like keeping books.

I have several books on the go at once.

So, I have piles of books everywhere.

The two sides of the book shelf behind “Mum’s spot”. Where I sit and read and watch tele and muck around on the ‘net. Of course, I have more books than this. All around the house.

Now before you comment, “Hey Lucinda, books aren’t clutter,” or, “Hi, you might want go start with all the other paper clutter around your house before you start reading,” know that I really enjoy reading and decluttering by reading strikes me as an enjoyable task.

A few years ago Dar inspired me to Read Down the House. I picked twelve books that had hung around my house for too long and aimed to read them. I didn’t get through them all. Pout! One is still on my shelf. A worthy book. A book I searched for for years. A book I craved. And now I’ve owned a copy for years. And haven’t read it! (And when I tried, found it a little boring.)

So to this year’s reading challenge:

Read from my house.

1. If I get to page 100 and am not enjoying it, out with the book.

Do you know how hard it is for me me give in and not read a book once I start? Let alone one that I have bought and have had sitting on a shelf for months and years!? A little frizzon of anxiety, like I am breaking a core rule of being, hits my stomach. I can’t let a book defeat me. I have to win by finishing it.

But as a fellow bookclubber says, “I just need to learn to let it go. Life is too short to read things you are not enjoying.”

I will persevere!

2. If I find I am just not in the mood, I can put the book down but I must try again within the month. Or Out With The Book.

I thought about adding a rule to not buy more books until I have freed space on my shelves but that is just silly. Who can NOT buy books? I realised that wouldn’t work anyway when I read a recommendation by Jennifer. The book wasn’t at my local library so I had to buy it. The online seller upsold me another book by recommending one by the same author. I just had to accept the offer. What if the book wasn’t available in the future? Or I forgot it’s title or author?

I was going to also add a rule that I can’t take books from friends who want me to borrow the book. But that’s just mean and anti-social.

I’m not going to set a number or a theme or a topic. I’m not stop borrowing from the library. I am just going to try to dive into some of the book I have at home.

Anyway, shhh, I have to finish this chapter.

Wardrobe diet

After all the unnecessary, but very happy to have and still admired, clothes I bought in January, I said I would go on a wardrobe diet until winter; a mini-challenge I forgot about and really should have included on the post about mini-challenges. (As an aside, I really love long sentences, and semicolons; it’s how I talk, with lots of asides and internal footnotes.)

So, with February over, how have I gone thus far?

Well, it was not an absolute zero purchase month. I bought one item: a jacket.

When I say I bought it, I am not being totally accurate. A friend sent me a text; she’d found me a beautiful jacket, one that was just me, and on special! “Should I get it and bring it to you tomorrow?” (We were travelling to a meeting the next day.)

As chance would have it, the jacket was the style I had recently admired on a newsreader. Split sleeves, so it is part jacket, part cape.

Wanted, heavily reduced, my size. Yes, yes, yes. Get it.

“What about this skirt?”

No, I don’t really want it. And I am not meant to be buying any clothes.

“But it’s you. And reduced. I’ll bring it too. We can return it.”

No, be strong, Lucinda. No, don’t bring it. Anyway, I’m doing a wear dresses to work challenge. When would I wear it?

So one item at $120. Worn twice. Earned lots of admiring glances and comments. [OK, I did twirl around and if the response wasn’t immediate or enough, I fished deeper for compliments.]

Frock it

I love dresses.

They’re so much easier to wear than skirts and tops. No worrying about what matches. Easier to get dressed. Often more comfortable – no waist band to cinch an expanding tummy or induce sweat in the heat and humidity of Sydney summers. Dresses drape more elegantly.

I’m a sucker for a dress.

Several years ago, I started writing posts on my dresses. I aimed to catalogue all my dresses. I only got around to posting two. Others sat in draft mode, waiting for photos that never came. Well, the posts are all outdated now. In the intervening five years, my wardrobe and my shape have changed.

My current fav designer is Jacob Ribkoff, a Canadian designer. His designs are wonderful for middle-aged women with curves. And curves, well I have a few.

First challenge of the year: wear a different work dress every day and document the dresses.

Dress one; my new favourite Ribkoff dress. A black number.

This is also a Ribkoff and was my favourite, until replaced by the one above. It’s dark navy blue.

Yes, it’s another Ribkoff. Others prefer the one below to the “rising sun” one. While I like it, the rising sun ranks higher for me. Maybe it’s the fabric, or the feel when it’s on, or the ease of washing the rising sun dress. Maybe it’s the memory of wearing the rising sun dress to a wonderful event: my son’s graduation from his double degree.

I got this Ribkoff at a heavily reduced price. Had to do a little repair but so worth it.

My last Ribkoff. OK, not my last, but the last one I wear as work gear. (Forgot to take a photo at work. Hence the different background. Please excuse the towels – that’s what happens when you have a pool and work 10 hour days,) I love the sleeves; they have a double layer trumpet. And I love the silver around the neck; no need to wear jewellery.

Before I stumbled upon the gorgeousness that is a Ribkoff dress, Phase eight dresses were my love. I discovered them when we travelled to London in 2015, only to find they were in my favourite department store in Australia. How could I have missed them? Made out of stretchy fabric and with a cowl neck, so flattering to people no longer in whippersnapper territory. Unfortunately, the design has shifted and the current style doesn’t suit me. But not to fear, I have Ribkoff.

Anyway, here’s a Phase eight, bought in 2015 and worn in 2019.

Did I tell you I don’t like waist bands? Here’s another without one. Phase eight again.

When one or two is never enough. Same design, same material, different pattern.

Just to vary the mix, a Phase eight dress that isn’t from the same stretchy fabric. This is thinner fabric and has a mock wrap look. The pattern is cute little white cherries on navy.

Nine beautiful dresses. Which one do you like the most?

But wait. There’s more. But they’ll be for another post.

Mini challenges; big goals

I like setting myself mini-challenges. Some are just for fun; some are to see if I can do the particular challenge; some are part of the plan to achieve my big goals.

Last year I did 100 day alcohol free. (Not for me some wussy 30 day challenge!) It was easy and I actually went longer than the hundred days.

Then I challenged myself to go without cling wrap. Which means the whole house has to go cling wrap free. They’re not as enthusiastic as me about it. But tough.

As to BIG plans, I have a six step plan to retirement which may take 11 years:

  1. Travel to Germany in 2019
  2. Have a year off in 2021 and spend 3 months of that year in the UK
  3. Pay off my mortgage
  4. Do renos on the house – new kitchen, new bathroom, new back wall and verandah, paint the house inside and out
  5. Do up front and back yard
  6. Save $200,000 outside of super

Which leads me to 2019 mini-challenges!

Mini-challenge 1: In working toward the year off and having work done on the house, I want to empty and sort the garage. So over the next 18 months I will slowly be decluttering and organising in there.

Mini-challenge 2: this is apropos of nothing. Just a spur of the moment thing that seemed like fun. I am going to wear a different dress every day to work and document it here. (I won’t actually be wearing a different dress every day, as when I am working at other sites, I will wear some of my favourite dresses again that I have already worn. But when I’m at the main workplace, I’ll have a different dress until I run out.)

Mini-challenge 3: I am going to plant out the little garden in front of my front fence and tame the jungle around my pool.

Of course, I’m keeping myself busy with other things. I will do all the plans and bookings for Germany myself. That’ll keep me busy this year alone.

I’m also keeping up my French lessons. And, of course, I work full-time. (The dress mini-challenge gives a fun twist to the daily grind.)

Do you have any mini-challenges? Or a retirement plan?