Monday, 22 May 2017

Retirement - New Emerging Thoughts

Honey, soy and chili silken tofu - delicious



Retirement - such a long way off.....oh wait! I'm 50 this October, so it is time to rethink this topic pretty fast.


I replanted my aloe vera as it had so many 'babies' cramped into
one little pot previously.


Here are some random thoughts and realisations that I have had about retirement that have emerged since I posted about our "plans for the future" recently.


  1.   Retirement would be just hell-on-earth unless we are healthy.
  2.   Superannuation is a minefield of hidden fees, charges and ambiguity.
  3.   I actually might not want to ever stop some type of work outside the home.
  4.   Mrs HM and I need other factors in our life besides just each other.
  5.   'Typical' retirement is obviously now a myth of the past.
  6.   Many of the happiest and healthiest older folk I personally know have not fully retired in the conventional sense.
  7.   I do not want to be a boring, narrow-minded, shallow, annoying, judgmental old git - I feel myself automatically drifting this way ever so slightly and so I urgently need to put the brakes on that drift real fast. (I've scared myself a bit recently on this matter)
  8.   I need to keep up with meaningful technology - as much as I love simple living and frugality, being a Luddite is not a virtue. I see too many older folk allowing legitimate and life-enhancing technology to pass them by.


I still indulge in a latte when I visit my Sydney office once
per week. 


So some conclusions and goals from the above list would be:

1st and foremost - overhaul our health and mindfully plan and take action immediately so as to be active and self reliant for at least another 40 years (I hope I pass away with my boots on actually).  I have been losing weight steadily over the past few months but can now see that this is just a drop in the bucket compared to what I need to do to ensure another 40 years of meaningful life. My relationship with food still needs to be significantly overhauled as does my relationship with exercise. Mental health is also a huge consideration and I need to purposefully and mindfully heal myself in this regard too otherwise the next 40 years is going to be a struggle that ends with a bag full of regrets. 

2ndly - bite the bullet and understand Superannuation thoroughly and only use it for it's proven benefits. Other types of prudent investments need to be secured outside of Superannuation's highly regulated and fee-riddled, government-meddled-with, goal-post-changing, maze-and-mirrors scheme. Whilst the tax benefits inside Superannuation for most Australian folk are excellent, the fees pre AND post retirement are horrendous as is the limited ability to influence the investment outcomes with most Superannuation companies. My current Superannuation company (which I changed to a few years ago based on some positive initial research) is no longer as good as I previously thought.  Now that I am ready to go into using the option to choose my own stocks within my Super scheme, I was deeply shocked at the tiny handful of stocks that I was allowed to trade and the also the horrendous fees attached to doing so.  I am now wading knee-deep through copious amounts of Product Disclosure Statements from various Superannuation schemes to find which one has the lowest fees coupled with the greatest stock trading flexibility and choice so I can at least intelligently invest all that money that is mine but am not allowed to access till I am 60!  (Grrr).  Look, I too used to be a set-and-forget conspiracy-theorist when it came to Superannuation, but now that I am taking the time to educate myself and get the magnifying glass out on the ins-and-outs of Superannuation. I am no longer prepared to set-and-forget because that equates to oodles of my money out the window....I do still hold dark conspiracy theories about Superannuation - especially what it will be like when I am ready (allowed!) to access it. Nevertheless, I am determined to find who moved my cheese and to reclaim it as well as finding other sources of cheese! I intend to have some fun in the process too.


Crispy skin salmon with stir-fried Asian vegetables.
Succulent and nutritious 


3rdly - Work: working outside the home is something I actually enjoy under the right circumstances. True, I would love nothing more than to click the gate closed on my home and not emerge for at least two millennia (!), but it is not good for me and I am noticing this the older I get. External stimuli is the thing that will stop my brain aging and prevent me from willingly falling victim to my all-consuming introversion.  Also, having another small source of income is prudent even if it is a day or two a week or a month or two a year.

4thly and finally:  We still plan to caravan and tour extensively around Australia as well as have a cheaper property as a home base, however, I can see we need to be totally flexible with this general plan.  It is actually a bit of a selfish plan and I need to find a meaningful way to contribute positively to society as well.  I'm on the look-out for what that type of contribution may be and which can happily capture the last 40 years of my life....hmmm, let me see.


View looking down from my office window - so utterly different
 to the view in my mind's eye



Take care folks and stay nice out there.

Mr HM  (Phil)

Friday, 5 May 2017

What Kate Did - Episode 2



Winter and summer men's hats - my nod to a braver yesteryear.


Continued from here

Kate was snapped out of her inner turmoil of thoughts at the distant sound of horses hooves accompanied by the unmistakable crunching of steel wheels against gravel. She looked up and saw four black horses in the far distance pulling an unmistakable black stagecoach with dust billowing out the back. Kate instantly recognised her father’s mail stagecoach. He was returning from the twelve week royal mail run from Gulgong to Sydney and back of which he had won the tender earlier in the year. 

He was a few minutes off yet as he had only just come over the hill that led down to their house and Kate fondly reflected in her own mind about her father. Johannes Peters was the son of a German mother and a Danish father, a grand love affair by all accounts, who ensured he was well educated. Johannes spoke several languages fluently and was educated in accountancy and investment banking. (There was also some talk of him and his parents once being perhaps Anabaptists or Waldensers  …..  but he never mentioned the past anymore). Johannes had not married during his younger years in Europe but was lured out to Australia in his late 30’s in one of the many gold rushes that had occurred over the last 50 years. Johannes quickly established that there was little chance of striking it rich in gold once he saw and experienced the goldfields first hand and instead set up an accountancy practice in Gulgong NSW assisting the increasing numbers of graziers and coal mine owners in the area. He also regularly won the royal mail contract between Gulgong and Sydney which recently was their only source of steady income. It was good pay but a dangerous undertaking.  Johannes was a gentleman in comparison to most Australians at the time and was respected in the area due to his education and fluency in financial matters and also his direct links with Europe. In his early 40’s he married Mary Chandler who was barely 18 years old and they raised six children, five daughters and the youngest a son. Kate was the middle child of this unlikely brood.

Kate suddenly realised as she sat there watching the stage coach grow bigger and bigger as it galloped closer, that her father Johannes would also had certainly known of the family’s scandalous secret, yet clearly he loved her mother regardless and was a hard and diligent provider for Mary and the children. Kate reflected that her upbringing was both strangely typical yet also unique to many in Australia at the time. She loved her father. She loved his quiet courage and his unruffled drive for achievement in all he turned his hand too. Kate’s mother Mary was a hard worker and always busy – maybe that’s what he valued in her.

As the stage coach drew closer, Kate squinted to see her father in the driver’s box.  It was hard to place his normally upright figure. She continued to try and focus and also noticed that the horses were running quite fast, almost unguided and were in a lather as the coach drew closer. Kate stood up, uncertain. She placed her hand across her eyebrows to shade them from the glare of the western sun in an attempt to get a clearer picture.  Then she saw it.  She could now clearly see her father slumped over in the driver’s bench above the stage coach and the horses frightened and driving themselves towards the house.  Kate snatched up her long skirts and started running towards the oncoming stagecoach screaming out at the top of her lungs as she ran “Mother! Nene! Bertie! Pearlie! Willy! Come quickly! It is Papa – something is wrong! HURRY!”

Kate ran as fast as her skirts and stays would allow till she reached the on-coming horses.  The horses slowed up when they recognised her and she snatched up the closest linked bridles and mustered all her strength to stay connected and try and bring them to a stop. “Whoa! Boys Whoooa” she called. The four horses responded to her voice, slowed some more and eventually stopped, confused and exhausted. Her mother and sisters appeared closely behind her and her mother leapt up into the driver’s bench and lent over the slumped body of her husband.  “What is it mother? What’s wrong?” called Kate.  “He’s fair burning up girls” their mother called down. “An evil fever – lawkes!” . Their mother turned and snatched up the reigns and drove deftly toward the house, the girls running on behind the carriage.

Their young brother William (Will) was nowhere to be found to help them carry their father down off the stage coach and bring him inside. Will would no doubt be behind the barn or down hiding in the river bank with his whisky no doubt. So between themselves all the girls managed to struggle their father off the stage coach and into the house by themselves. Kate ran back out to the stage coach and the horses to unhitch them, pull up water from the well for them, rub them down thoroughly with straw and then feed them. As she led the horses into the slab stables she noticed in passing that the stage coach was still full of mail and parcels yet to be delivered to the Gulgong post office.  She just wanted to be inside and seeing how her father was, but as Will was not around she naturally took responsibility of the horses and coach herself – it would draw less attention to Will once things had calmed down and her mother noticed his absence at a time that he was needed most. Kate was always covering for Will even in significant events like this.

Later that evening the Doctor emerged from their parents’ bedroom and looked around over the top of his spectacles at the girls and their mother who were waiting impatiently in the sitting room. “Pleurisy” he stated flatly “Both lungs infected. Very serious case ladies, very serious, hrumph, hmmm. I suggest you prepare for the worst”.  He shuffled and coughed a little. “I’ll speak to your mother alone now” and he waved his hands at the girls as a gesture for them to leave the room.  “No Sir.” Kate spoke up “We all need to hear it Sir” …and her blue eyes held steady at his glare. Kate was like that. She knew a crisis when she saw it and saw no point in beating around the bush and would call it like it was. Kate was always polite, but naturally took control.


After the doctor had left with the instructions that pleurisy would surely end their father’s life, Kate silently took action. The facts were that unless that royal mail contract was honoured they would all become penniless in a very short space of time. Whilst the others were crying, fussing and stunned, Kate on the other hand stood up, smoothed her skirt, lit the kerosene lamp, snatched her shawl off the peg at the back door and strode out to the stables without a word. 

Kate knew exactly what she needed to do.......

to be continued



Hopefully this story is still up to your expectations folks.

Mr HM  
 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

What The Calculations Are Telling Me


Plump hens a-baking. Nothing beats the taste of home-baked chicken.



Hi folks

Most of you know that we have moved house at least 26 times in about 25 years ..... actually it probably is more times than that but we have actually lost count to be truthful.  Most of these moves across the years were for deeply dubious reasons, however in the last couple of years the last two moves have been for very strategic reasons that have honoured the principles of sound budgeting, frugality and self reliance (or at least in part).

So recently, after finishing my two years project in Sydney I am now back in a local role with a different income that required me to completely rejig the budget.....such fun! (Actually it was a very satisfying task this time to be honest). Due to this, my mind has been resharpened to finding obvious waste in our lifestyle and budget.  Also, now that the HM daughters have finished school and are at their various universities, colleges and placement sites, our current suburb which originally was within a very short commute to the HM daughter's school and my Sydney-bound train station is now 100% irrelevant.

We live on the lower west side of Lake Macquarie yet now everything the family does is on the opposite side of the lake.  As much as I now hate moving house and crave to just 'stay-put' I think there may be some compelling reasons to move again.  I have made some conservative calculations on what our commute is costing us. In these following calculations I have been careful only to measure excess distances and times and not total distances and times to be truly conservative.


Hot hens resting before being carved up for dinner and hopefully
some left over for lunches tomorrow.


The Calculations

Daily we travel an unnecessary full hour by car per person as a minimum.
Daily we travel an unnecessary 72 kms (45 miles) as a minimum.
Weekly we travel a minimum of 500 unnecessary kms (311 miles).
Weekly we spend a minimum of 7 hours unnecessarily commuting per person.

Yearly that equates to:

  •   336 hours of unnecessary excessive travel time per person (that's over 2000 hours collectively as a family!)
  •    24000 km (1500 miles) of unnecessary excessive km 
  •    $3120.00 in petrol conservatively.
I have not calculated the wear and tear cost on the car doing an extra 24000 km yearly. I have also assumed us all only using one car to do this extra unnecessary travel - in actual fact it would be probably closed to 1.5 cars doing these kms.  I have not calculated the cost of 336 wasted hours per person (how do you calculate this....in wasted pay rate or perhaps time robbed of available time at a personal level? Dunno.). I also have not calculated the cost of disconnection from the communities that we spend the best part of days in by living so far away from or daily activities.  I'm sure there are other costs both social, physical (sitting in a car) and psychological too, but I do not know how to measure these.


We'll miss our lovely deck
if we move.


The two huge down-sides if we were to move is that we leave the eldest HM daughter behind - that's pretty tough and also a very good family friend that lives in our current neighborhood too (good friends that are family-by-choice are rare as you know).  Less important down-sides are the possibilities of not being able to take the chickens with us and not living in a beautiful, peaceful, semi rural environment.


None of us are in the mood to move house (it is the elephant in the room at the moment) but cognitively know and often comment we probably should. Maybe we are overreacting.

Would you move based on this empirical evidence? Is it enough reason to make the move?



Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM (Phil)





Monday, 1 May 2017

Unused University Degrees


A mini pumpkin pie - warm and ready to eat with double cream

 Hi folks

I work with so many people who are not using or have never used their university degrees and working in totally unrelated fields - was is that?!

After some long contemplation about the 'whys and wherefores' of this phenomenon, the penny dropped. Consumerism.  Over the last ten years there seems to be a massive shift in education, its aims and curriculum. It is pretty easy to see it is now a huge money spinner.


Pumpkin biscuits


I am lucky enough that two of the HM daughters are finishing their nursing degrees which have a specific end result, yet the pathways the other three HM daughters have chosen at university may well become blurred and unclear if due diligence and career determination is not applied. An unused degree is a big waste of $30K plus when our children walk out of university (college) at 22 years of age.

Folk returning to university as matured-aged students usually have a more focused outcome but even then, I have highly qualified friends who earn less than me and struggle to find and keep satisfying careers. Go figure.

Just about everyone has the chance to go to university nowadays and many do, some jumping from course to course and racking up almighty education debts with no outcome at all.  I hear all too often "Oh, don't worry, we don't need to pay for it till we are earning $30k a year" (or whatever the figure is). Hello! It is still a debt that is legally payable, and whilst not charged interest, is certainly CPI adjusted year on year. I shudder at the thought of so many young folk having $30K plus debt before even being employed.


Baked quiche made from fresh eggs
from our hens.


Don't worry - I am a big advocate of being as well educated as we can or need to be, but I am not a big advocate of racking up a debt with some education provider based on scant pre-thought about the tangible return on our education investment dollar. I have heavily encouraged my five HM daughters to get degrees and forge careers for themselves so they can be self-reliant in this new and uncharted society that we all live in. However, I have insisted that they study something that they can use and build on in the future and are passionate about. Nevertheless, they will still need to play hard for a position in their chosen fields post graduation.  University is no longer a ticket to a better pay packet or a better life like it once was....from what I observe.


Pre-baked quiche base ready to pour the egg mixture
over the top and bake in the oven.


I look around and see trades people with better incomes and happier lives than many university educated folk.  I also see people who are courageous enough to put their hand up to take on the unlovely jobs within a corporation doing better than those sticking to their chosen disciplines.  There might be a lesson or two in that.


Pie anyone? Pumpkin pie and Autumn
go hand in hand.
(It is Autumn here in Australia)


I see many educational providers with profit as a huge driver of their institutions rather than the quality of their courses and development of their students. So many courses are offered when universities know there are simply no jobs at the end of these degrees - its is a marked shift in approach. Maybe it has always been like this and I am only noticing it now with five daughters currently in the 'system'.


Moussaka being layered up.....


I know there are many exceptions to what I have written today - but I am just saying what I see.  I guess I directy benefit from 80% of my staff being highly qualified and certainly over-qualified for what I employ them to do. My gain, their loss and disappointment. I could not imagine having a double degree in some discipline and having a job sitting answering phones in a call centre all day long....and yet that reality is rife.


Sweet potato - a new hero in our kitchen these days.


Lots to think about.......anyway -



Take care folks and stay nice


Mr HM

P.S. Oops...lots of food pictures again.




Saturday, 29 April 2017

Simple Frugal Weight Loss April 2017 update






Hi folks

The no-sugar and no bread regime continues here with very little effort (and the occasional falling off the wagon of course!) so  it is time for another weigh in.



Using an iphone now and cannot seem to figure
out how to rotate pictures in blogger. Frustrating.



Start weight: 120.8 kg
Start BMI: 34
Target weight: 79 kg


WEIGH IN 

Weighing in at 112.6 kg
Lost since last weigh-in: 2.9 kg
Total weight lost: 8.2 kg
Current BMI: 32.5 (my first tiny downward shift! Woo hoo!)





Moussaka - utterly delicious way to eat vegetables

Monday, 24 April 2017

Realistic, Thorough and Effective Debt Busting





My, my ..... the topic of debt reduction is just oozing out of me lately. Well, let's juice that orange while it's still there.

If this post quietly and anonymously changes just one person's life, then it was worthwhile writing it down.

I have had quite a while to mull over the best approach to debt busting for recovering consumerists (of which I am one). In all truthfulness, the way to approach debt reduction would begin quite differently if we were on a bare-bones income compare to the both of us working - but I have thought about both scenarios and am ready to 'sprout forth' on the subject some more.


Steamed greens and almonds


This method works for the bulk of scenarios I reckon. So here goes:


Mr & Mrs HM's 20 x Effective Debt Busting Activities

Activity 1 - Be Honest Out Loud
Admit all debts to someone verbally....yep, even the $20 we owe Mum. Everything. The truth. If we are one half of a relationship, then it has to be the other person we tell. (This could be very scary - just do it)

Activity 2 - Check Our Ability to Pay
We must have the income to cover all minimum debt payments. If we are paying out more than we are earning then we are in an urgent crisis situation. Increasing our income immediately by getting a second stream of income is of the highest priority. Get this sorted first.

Activity 3 - Create Surplus Quickly
This means sorting a realistic budget that leaves us something left over after paying all basic living requirements and all minimum debt payments. Don't worry about the size of the surplus at this stage - as long as there is one and it is realistic.

Activity 4 - Automate Our Money
This requires us to set up our banking to automatically assign money out fortnightly (or whatever our pay cycle is) to all billing vendors and to all debts. Only pay minimum payment requirements via automation. All other bills like groceries and petrol (gas) pay cash for, or, use a completely separate non-credit card account.

Activity 5 - Save $500 Emergency Dollars
We do this using our surplus. We stick at it till there is $500 saved. Agree on what this can be spent on - be very strict here about what an emergency is. Do NOT jump this step (I know it is tempting) as it teaches us a multitude of things about ourselves.

Activity 6 - Ramp Up More Surplus
This is were we get creative by either finding other ways to earn a little more or spend a little less - or both. Even if we only squeeze out another few dollars/pounds for the weekly/fortnightly/monthly surplus, then that is OK.

Activity 7 - Document Debt
Document all our debts noting interest rate, debt amount and basic lender details. Using a pencil and envelope is perfectly fine to work this out. Nothing fancy required.

Activity 8 - Pay Off The Smallest Debt First
This will give us a sense of possibility and an early 'win'. Pay this debt off by paying the minimum payment plus our surplus. (This will be the only time we take this approach)

Activity 9 - Save Another $500 Emergency Dollars
This will give us $1000 in our emergency fund. We achieve this step by rolling up the minimum payment of our paid-off debt plus our surplus.

Activity 10 - Pay All Debts to Friends Next
Paying all debts owed to friends next allows us to regain our self respect and rebuild respect among our friend circle again. Let them know we will never hit them up for money ever again. We achieve this step by rolling up the minimum payment of our paid-off debt plus our surplus.

Activity 11 - Save Another $500 Emergency Dollars
This will now give us $1500 in our emergency fund. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 12 - Pay All Debts to Family Next
Paying debts off to family is a psychologically powerful step - don't skip it. This will send a powerful message to our family members that we have got ourselves together and are acting as responsible adults. Equality will be restored once these debts are paid. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus

Activity 13 - Save Another $500 Emergency Dollars
This will now give us $2000 in our emergency fund. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 14 - Pay Highest Interest Rate Debt next
This is the fastest way to now tackle all remaining debt once we have experienced the early win of Activity 8 and regained our self esteem with Activities 10 & 12. This is the business end of our debt busting war. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 15 - Save Another $500 Emergency Dollars
This will now give us $2500 in our emergency fund. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 16 - Pay Second-Highest Interest Rate Debt next
We are on a roll now. We have served our apprenticeship and this is serious stuff. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 17 - Pay All Debts In Descending Interest Rate Order next
...one by one. Bang, bang, bang. Take no prisoners, show no mercy. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 18 - Save Another $500 Emergency Dollars
This will now give us $3000 in our emergency fund. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 19 - Save $5000 Confidence Dollars 
...or more if we like. Whatever amount makes us feel safe and free. $5000 should cover a couple of months of modest expenses if the need arises and saves us from having to be reactionary if we ever loose our job or experience a significant life changing event. It 'stays put' in a high interest bearing account - hopefully we'll never have to touch it. Having this amount 'there' is our own insurance policy and safety net. It is quite separate to our emergency find. We achieve this step by rolling up ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts, plus our surplus.

Activity 20 - Manage Your Surplus Wealth
Now we have ALL the previous minimum payments of our paid-off debts plus our surplus rolling in relentlessly every pay-cycle to build our wealth in whatever way we choose!  In many ways we have only just begun when we reach this vital step.
This activity is the true starting line. We were way behind the starting line previously.


Even a small stockpile is worthwhile


I know it is 20 activities (phew) ..... however I make zero apology for that.
I am confident that every step, in this specific order, is vitally important and necessary to not only pay down debt speedily but also to help cure our consumerist addictions.

Happy to chat in more detail via email or via comments below if you'd like some extra clarification.


Slicing soft soap



Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM





Sunday, 23 April 2017

Debt Reduction Myth-Busters






Paying down debt seems to be the focus of so many twee and cheery posts and pins on the interwebs.

The facts are that there is no easy way to pay down debt, no trick, no magic formula, no secret, no book, no hidden knowledge that will help the basics of paying down debt.  It just needs to be done.  True, there are revelations about how much the debt is actually costing us and how to minimize the impacts of interest and also various tips on how to stay motivated and focused.....but absolutely no magic wand.


Line-dried whites.


The cold hard facts are that the entire principal, remaining interest and any contractual fees absolutely have to be paid.  If such-n-such 'real' couple on Pinterest claim to have paid down their debt of $300,000.00 in only two years, then they are absolutely paying down $5769.24 a fortnight - period. The math does not lie....but the stupid hype makes it all sound like debts just evaporate with the greatest of ease just by thinking about it. It doesn't.

Paying off debt takes courage, determination, plenty of sad days and many sacrifices.

If you know someone who has paid off all their consumer debt without assistance, then know of a surety that these folk have characters that run deep.


Saving pennies helps me be prudent with larger sums.


I have had a change in heart about the best method to pay off debt. Once-upon-a-time I used to be a big believer in the power of the debt snowball method (starting with the smallest debt first) which appeals to the emotional side of the brain. I used to argue strongly that because we often get into debt for emotional reasons then the best way to tackle it is to harness the opposite emotions via the debt snowball method. I no longer believe that. I have personally been very successful using the debt snowball method, however I wasted a lot of money choosing this method when I could have used the debt avalanche method (fully focusing on paying the debt that costed me the most each month first). The math speaks the truth of the matter.


Being frugal does NOT mean
living poorly.


I base this change of approach purely on the fact that once we start tackling our consumer debt, it quickly goes from being exciting to utter drudgery (albeit drudgery with a purpose)...in fact so quickly that the emotional benefits of the snowball method are speedily lost.  That being the case, the quickest way to attack consumer debt is to target the debt with the largest monthly interest/fees first to ensure that the hard slog of debt reduction does not drag on a day longer than necessary. Who wants to still be paying off debt months longer than necessary just because of a spurious long-forgotten notion regarding how we felt about it in the beginning?!


Hot homemade pasties with
delicious flaky pastry


If any of you dear folk are currently using the snowball method, I encourage you to swap across to the avalanche method. You are putting in the hard yards already......so you may as well finish the race sooner using the exact same dollar commitment.

Changing one's mind for a more powerful outcome is always so satisfying.


Kombucha SCOBY anyone?
Plenty to spare!



Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM



A Handful Of Tricks




A winter delight - violets.



Hi folks

Here are some little tips and tricks we use here to help stretch the dollar:


  •   Put an extra container out when serving dinner - freeze this serve.  At the end of the week you'll have seven individual dinners in the freezer, or alternatively,  used them to take to lunch the next day.
  •   Sweep instead of vacuum and only vacuum weekly.  This saves on electricity, vacuum bags and noise.


Chook pellets - adding scraps will reduce this cost even more.

  •   Feeding hens is still cheaper than buying organic eggs (I checked the math last night).
  •   Line the bottom of the oven with aluminium foil - saves a heck of a lot of cleaning product.
  •   Stretch your laundry detergent, hair conditioner and hair shampoo with water - mostly an undetectable difference if you get the ratios right.

Frying up vegetables that are a little past their prime
makes the best hot pot.

  •   Know that anything with a heating element in it is an electricity sucker i.e: Clothes dryers, fan heaters, electric blankets, electric ovens, most electric stove tops, electric kettle, urns, hot-wash on your washing machine, dishwashers, hair dryers to name a few. Obviously we use many of these at our place, but it is a case of how much and when. 
  •   Know your electricity plan - we have different charge rates for 4 different time periods in the day and week. 

......even a little stockpile cupboard is worth aiming for.

  •   Be mindful of your driving techniques - practice surge-and-roll to improve your mileage.
  •   Practice ONLY shopping specials - admittedly this takes some serious levels of organisation.
  •   Cut our sugar (seriously!). Your food bill will certainly drop, your weight will certainly drop, your health will improve and you'll feel much better after the first two weeks of hellish detox symptoms.
  •   Change your mobile phone plan.  I recently defected to OVO and now only spend $9.95 per month for unlimited texts, $200 worth of calls and a 1GB of data - it truly is all I need.

Fans.....our favourite appliance.

  •   Use a fan before you reach for the air conditioner. Also experiment with which setting on your fan actually moves the most air...it isn't always 'high' strangely.
  •   Small frugal changes year on year are more effective than big scary changes.....lean into it.

Saving money is not an aim in itself. Saving money is so we can have it for things that are truly important and meaningful to us. 


We can have anything we want if we stop expecting to have everything.


Take care ....and stay nice folks.


Mr HM

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Weight Loss Trick



Some bunting in one of the HM daughter's rooms that took my eye.



Hi folks

I recently have taken some of Mrs HM's advice in regards to weight loss and I am delighted with the result.

Along with cutting out sugar and breads, this extra little trick has really genuinely helped us both with our cravings. Our cravings are mainly what we call being "head hungry". Being head hungry is our way of identifying that, whilst we are not actually physically hungry, we are urgently wanting to eat based on the thoughts that are seizing our minds and triggering a craving to eat.


My new snack food



Mind Eating

Mrs HM has this trick which she refers to as mind eating. Mind eating is simply going through the motions of eating something completely from beginning to end.....but only in your mind. Take cream buns for example - let's do a mind eating session together right now. Read the following instructions and just do them in your mind.

Reach out and take the plump cream bun. Lick the bit of cream and jam oozing out of the side. Run it around your tongue slowly and swallow. Slowly push the bun part way into your mouth and feel the soft sweet dough against your teeth and tongue. Bite down and feel the cream and jam oozing into your mouth and the sugary glaze sticking to your lips. Chew slowly and feel the texture of the bun, cream and jam moving in your mouth. Notice the difference in taste between the glazed top of the bun and the inner soft dough. Swallow. Take another bite and press that cream up onto the roof of your mouth and roll the dough and jam around in your mouth as you chew. Feel the sensation of it filling your gullet and stomach as you chew and swallow. Put the last piece in your mouth  and gobble this piece quickly swallowing hard. Lick your fingers taking care to ensure there is no glaze, cream or jam left on them. Reach out and take another cream bun.

Keep repeating this in your mind until you have genuinely had enough of thinking about cream buns. Your mind has consumed about 1800 calories if you mind-ate three cream buns, but you actually didn't. If you do the exercise mindfully, you will actually taste and feel all the nuances of eating a cream bun and you will eventually get bored and stop willingly when your mind is satiated. The craving actually abates and stops. When the next desire to eat a cream bun arises, just do it all over again.

You can do this for any of your crave/trigger foods - just eat it slowly and decadently in your mind from beginning to end.  As much as you like.


The canister on the left has been sorely neglected of late.


You have no idea just how many cream buns, peanut butter sandwiches, triple layer caramel cakes, scones, lollies, chocolates, cheese cakes and eclairs I have mind-eaten over the last few weeks.....and lost weight.

Give it a shot - if it works for you, then that's a win. Just think of the savings too!


Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM (Phil)


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

And We're Back.....



Spiralised zucchini with fresh pasta sauce



Well folks...we're back. It is so nice to be back too.

There were oodles of comments waiting to be published on my last mid-holiday post all of which were thoughtful, encouraging and intelligent. Some were out-and-out enthusiastic and some had warnings and concerns - I appreciate every single one of them as they all give Mrs HM and I so much to think about. What a fabulous community!


Cauliflower fried rice - a revelation and
a perfect rice replacement


So, I said I would be back in a couple of weeks but it inevitably took longer to return. After all, I did post about our future plans in the middle of my sabbatical for you all to read - so I feel OK about the longer absence. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it - ha!)


Baked veggies - yummo


So I am back working locally and it is truly amazing sleeping in till 6:00 am everyday. The extra sleep has assisted me to lose some more weight (lower cortisol levels with more sleep apparently) and I am feeling much, much brighter and alert. In fact I just feel much better about life in general.


Romertopf lamb shoulders - oh the decadence.
This literally fell off the bones


I spent my two weeks off doing much less than I planned to do - probably a good thing really. One thing that we have really got a handle on is better eating and diet across the whole family. This change mainly consists of actively eschewing sugar and bread....our two-drugs-of-choice previously. The five HM daughters have been enthusiastic in various ways about the changes and the shopping bill has also benefited big time as we actively now purchase very little in the way of processed foods. We expected a big hike-up in food costs by buying so much fresh produce, but the opposite has been true. Delightful really.


Lightly floured deep-fried chicken


I have been chatting to an old friend who is marketing some essential oils and I am keen to test-drive them in my next batch of soap to see if they hold their scent. I have had significant hit and miss with essential oils losing their top notes during the soap curing process in the past, so am keen to see if this line of essential oils stands up to the rigours of soap making....will keep you all posted if successful.


An evening with the oil lamps and wine,
good food and friends


Two of my ISA brown hens have just stopped laying - nothing - zip - zilch.  The rest of the flock are powering on unabated. Perhaps these two need a grease and oil change....or a sharp axe.  I'll do another full hen house clean out and dust on the weekend and see if this does anything. Poor old Blacky's dementia is getting worse and she does a lot of aimless wandering and worried clucking. I am keeping an eye on her to ensure she is at least eating well.


Sunset over the chimney tops of Newcastle


Anyway...there are quite a few posts on the boil including another episode about what Kate did. So these will materialise soon for your enjoyment. In fact I am brimming with stuff to post about - I'll have to pace myself!  Gosh.


A perfect pasta replacement - spiralised zucchini.


Ah - it is good to be back.



Take care and stay nice folks.

Mr HM






Sunday, 2 April 2017

Our Plans For The Future


Crisp raw beans in home-made humomus 



Mrs HM and I have made a decision about how we wish to live the last trimester of our lives. It simply is this:

  1. Buy a caravan and suitable tow-vehicle for cash and travel for at least 6-9 months of the year around our beautiful country. Maximum spend A$100,000.00
  2. Buy a small property in rural NSW or QLD to be our base and for the five HM daughters to use/come-back-to as needed. Maximum spend A$100,000.00

This will mean a secondhand caravan and tow-vehicle and a humble country property.....both of which are totally fine by us.  The amount of near-new caravans that come up for sale is just astounding and the amount of affordable rural properties that become available is also very achievable - I've been watching both for nearly 4 years now and know that these goals are doable.


Frying up succulent chicken


If Mrs HM had her way it would be just the caravan and the tow vehicle and full time nomadic lifestyle.....I see the need for a basic base-property in the event of either one of us getting seriously unwell or any of our five daughters needing a place to call home for the short or long term.  Also if the economy goes bad or political unrest hits then at least we have a place to call our own and be self sustaining.

So how long away is all of this?  Well - it depends how quickly the following list of events gets ticked off:

  1. Cash saved for caravan and tow vehicle
  2. All five daughters finish their university (college) degrees and gain employment
  3. Cash saved for a rural small holding
  4. Skills and qualifications gained to support earning potential whilst traveling (very important)
  5. Divesting of all our unneeded worldly goods
 
Number 4 above has been the topic of interesting conversations lately with us both coming to an initial agreement that we would both complete a Cert IV or diploma in Nursing to give us national accreditation as AIN's.  This would allow us to pick up shifts through Nursing agencies as we travelled.  We have two daughters who are finishing Nursing degrees as we speak who can assist us with our studies too if needs be.  This may be a little bit of a rose-coloured plan, but the facts are unless we have a usable,transferable and portable skill whilst we travel then the plans will not eventuate - simple as that. (Nurses - your thoughts on this plan would be appreciated too please). Both of us would go 'nuts' not working at all and this profession would allow us to also contribute directly back to the communities that we spend longer periods of time at as we travel.


BIG kitchen cupboard declutter today........

.....Mrs HM's on a roll!!
I guarantee this will be sparkling by tea time.


So how long?....well our guess is probably five and a half years to be realistic. We will be both 56 by then.


Are we dreaming, or do you think this is achievable?


Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM





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