The Garden

I really like the garden at this time of the year – Winter. We live 691 metres above sea level and with this comes cooler weather in the winter. Also, we are able to enjoy the changing of the seasons – the deciduous trees lose their leaves creating a carpet of colour. There is also the opportunity to walk through Queen’s Park or Queen’s Park Botanic Garden and shuffle through the pile of leaves covering the pathways. Yes, I really like the garden at this time of the year.

We have this beautiful tree in our front garden. It is a Maidenhair Tree – Ginkgo Biloba. It comes from China. The foliage is very distinctive, yellow in autumn/winter and lime in spring. There are a number of great specimens of Ginkgo Biloba in Australia. There is a 100 year old tree in Kingston Terrace and another in Medole Court at the University of Adelaide.  I don’t know of any notable specimens in Queensland. Though in the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, probably due to the colder weather have street and park Ginkgo specimens. In Weston Park, Canberra there is a beautiful male Ginkgo in the grounds of Hobday’s Cottage (Yarralumla Gallery and The Oaks Brasserie) where you can sit under it and enjoy lunch. We can also do this at our place. Maybe we should!

The Ginkgo Biloba is our front garden

Even though our climate is colder than places closer to the coast we can still grow tomatoes all year around. Our enclosed veggie garden is proving very successful. All the wild life, including birds, possums, brush turkeys, cats and bandicoots are no longer able to venture into our veggie patch. Recently through one of our windows I saw a cat get a surprise when it wandered up to our privacy screen (inside our boundary) to find a barrier. It wandered around for a while and then put its nose up to the timber boards and peered through. That was as much as it could do and then take a new path back to where it came from.

The Veggie garden is thriving now that the wildlife are prohibited from entering

My “One & Only” (O&O) tending the plants. Once we had the veggie garden enclosed he got very enthusiastic. We have heaps of tomatoes growing, capsicum, chilli, peas, beans, garlic, carrots and lettuce. Even in a small space we can grow some of our own food. We moved most of the herbs to an open area of our garden. The wildlife are not as interested in herbs. This created more space for the veggie’s.

It is very satisfying growing your own veggies and herbs. It does not take too much effort. If you mulch it cuts down on having to deal with the weeds. Then there is the watering. My O&O installed a watering system above the garden. See this black tube in both photos. After that all we have to do is watch out for the random bug, that manages to get in and munch on our veggies, before we do! Happy gardening everyone.

The case of the disappearing pen

I am on the case of the disappearing pen. We can buy a pack of twenty and before long we have trouble finding one. Then there is the matter of the 750 wheelie bins that went missing from the town of Lismore because of the rain event from Cyclone Debbie. Only 50 bins were found. Where did the other 700 wheelie bins end up? What about all the socks that disappear? Where do all the missing items go?

Then the other day my “One & Only” (O&O) could not find his keys on our return home (via the remote control into the garage). All was well, we found them in a door with the door wide open. Nothing in the house had disappeared, thankfully. A few days before my O&O could not find his car key. We searched high and low. I thought we should have a break and think on it for a while – it just can’t disappear! Finally, I found the key, safely tucked away in one of my jacket pockets. I wonder who put it there? Sometimes, it is not so easy for things to disappear in our house. But there still is the matter of the disappearing pens. Is it worth thinking about? The missing pen cost less than twenty cents from the supermarket but that gold-plated pen that was a gift must be hiding somewhere! It was the same when I worked in an office. We would buy 50 pens and before long everyone was looking for that elusive pen!

Hold on to your pen or it may disappear!

Do pens disappear to the bottom of a handbag or a briefcase? Certainly, not to the bottom of my handbag. I always have difficulty finding one there! My O&O usually comes to the rescue with a pen from his pocket. Should I ask how many he has hidden in his pockets? Is that where all the pens go? No, not there either!

The missing pen phenomenon also happen with teaspoons. A research team at the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health in Melbourne placed 70 numbered teaspoons in various tea-rooms across the Institute and tracked these for 5 months. Eighty percent of them disappeared for good! Read more about their research here. It is a fact that pens, spoons, socks, ribbons, hair pins, combs, brushes and now wheelie bins, all disappear after a while and there is nothing we can do about it. Replace and forget that is my motto! What about you? What goes missing at your place?

Making money

Most of us are out and about making money. If we are not working or unable to work then we need to work out how we can make the most of the money we have. It is easy enough to spend money. It is wise though if we do not spend more than we make! Once June (the month) arrived my thoughts turned to our yearly budget.

Earlier in the week I prepared our 2017-18 budget. It did not take long as it is a habit that happens every year. All I need to do is examine our expenditure from the previous financial year and see where adjustments are to be made. For example, our electricity went down this past year when mostly I hear that people are paying more for electricity. Our electricity costs went down because we replaced a 250-litre hot water system with an instantaneous gas system.

I also adjusted my behaviour to get the most out of our solar system. Every evening our dishwasher would go on. I changed this to the early afternoon to use our solar and minimise the use of electricity. As we are retired and at home we can do this. If you are out of the home working and have solar it is best to put the dishwasher on just before you leave for work, not in the evening, unless you have battery storage. Our electricity bill is now half of what it used to be. Our gas bill is not high as we have natural gas and only heat our water.

There are other ways we can be kept busy making money, but it all starts and ends with a budget.

Making money at the supermarket

When grocery shopping we can all make money by:

  • Planning our meals
  • Writing a shopping list
  • Not shopping when we are hungry

Some people think that you should leave the kids at home when you shop. This might be okay on some occasions and when they are younger. Once they are older it is good to involve children in helping write the shopping list. They can also get involved in comparing the cost of items on the supermarket shelf. Supermarket shopping is also a great opportunity to teach children/grandchildren about money and budgeting.

Do you use cash or card when supermarket shopping? Earlier this year I experimented with shopping with a card. To keep within our budget, I kept the receipts to keep a record. Most fortnights we were spending more than our allocated amount for groceries. We went back to paying by cash and now at the end of each fortnight we have unspent money. What is the psychology behind looking in your “grocery” wallet to see how much cash you have left for the fortnight? When you use a card, it is as though your spending power has no limits. Therefore, you spend more. Paying with cash though gives the check-out operator a surprise as most people today shop with a card. Will we move to a completely cashless society? I don’t think so. Even though technology has taken over with e-books, computers and kindles, many of us still like the feel of a book in our hands. Books, like cash will remain popular. Yet I hear that some businesses are considering a “no cash” policy. Is this to reduce the risk of theft? The only problem with a “no cash” policy is when there are technical issues and/or the power goes off. Everything comes to a halt and no card transactions can take place. In this case, it looks like all the diners who are leaving to go home will have to leave an IOU.

Writing down ideas for this year’s budget

Making money by giving gifts

When we give a gift, we do not have to go shopping. It is possible to make gifts at home. We can do this through cooking, sewing, knitting, art and crafts. I am not good at doing this and it is an area I could improve on. On the odd occasion, I have been creative and given a gift that I made myself, it is very rewarding.

Buy a crock-pot

Crock-pots reduce cooking costs. You can also buy cheaper cuts of meat to make a delicious home-made meal. If you are out making money put the crock-pot on before you leave for work and when at home relax – dinner is ready!

Having a budget means I am on target with managing my money

Gaining momentum for making money

When you are saving money, you are making money. I like to make my money work and I do this by knowing where my money ends up. Hopefully, not always in someone else’s pocket! Making money matters and it matters more the less you have.

It is not easy to make money when we leave it in the custody of the bank. Interest is low and money grows slow. Making money with money is difficult these days. Many families and retiree’s find that they are dipping into their savings. Making money by reducing expenditure is the common-sense approach.

Making money does not happen if you earn less than you spend. When you are doing your budget for 2017-18 think about, as I do, what makes you happy? Are people happier without debt? I know that I am happier if I have no debt and no money worries. What about you?

There are things that money cannot buy, like love or friendship. If we have these, and a little bit of cash to go with it and the right attitude to “making money” then we will have a good life!

Make your dreams happen

How do we make our dreams happen? Is there a formula if we follow the rules? Will this cause us to find success in life?

My last post was titled “rules rule” and it was about rules and what rules do we keep and what rules can we break? Then this week I read an article by Gail Forrer, Editor, Seniors Newspaper, Toowoomba & Darling Downs. It was titled “Disrupt the rules and do it your way”. At once, she had my interest. She went on to write about Sir Richard Branson of Virgin fame. He is a very clever man, not only through his business success but also that his Australian home is in Queensland, Noosa (Makepeace Island).

I begin to think about Richard and his achievements and that he, like the rest of us, is getting older. Richard will be 67 years old this July. He does not look like slowing down. Then what causes others, like me, to slow down? The answers could be as many as the hairs on our head. So, for now, I will leave you, as the reader, to contemplate that for yourself.

Richard is an inspirational and innovative leader. He likes to see people not only accept the status quo, but to challenge and rethink why the rules exist. Only in that environment can change be created. I went and had a look at his website and ended up taking the quiz about what type of leader I am? A traditional or modern leader? My result is that I am a modern leader. But then, I may have the attributes to be a modern leader, but then I have no one to lead. The next question, is do I want to be a leader or just quietly retire on my terms? My choices in retirement, my rules, my way! You can take the leadership quiz here.

Is ageing a good enough excuse for retirement? All my working life I looked forward to retirement. Being the CEO of my life, making my own rules and doing it my way. But then, what do we, as older people, with all the knowledge and skills we accumulated throughout life? If we do not continue in the workplace or volunteer where we may influence others, our talents and experience can disappear into the ether.

Once we reach a certain age we don’t stop dreaming or having goals for our life. Reaching 60 years is not an occasion to put up the STOP sign. Old age is making us younger. Once we reach 70 years old this is now the new middle age. We still have 30 years or more, all going well with our health. What then do we do in those 30 years or more?

I can’t spend all my time watching the bird life – I have to make my dreams happen!

Pale headed rosellas enjoying a drink in our garden

To find inspiration for my life I went to Sir Richard Branson. He said that he never was one to follow the rules or listen to naysayers. He went about turning his dreams into reality. His advice to others is – make it happen!

Here are his 10 top quotes for what sets change-makers apart from dreamers. Note: he does not start from 1 but starts at 10. He goes backwards, or is that forwards? I could not put the numbers in starting with 10 and ending at 1. The formatting is set and it kept replacing 9 with 11 and so on. The rule can’t be broken. Therefore, I left out the numbers.

“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope.”  – Bradley Whitford

“Immerse yourself in the energy of what you desire.” – Hiro Boga

“Three components make an entrepreneur: the person, the idea and the resources to make it happen.” – Anita Roddick

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” – Wayne Huizenga

“Good things come to those who initiate.” – Susan RoAne

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” – Diana Ross

“In a start-up, absolutely nothing happens unless you make it happen.” – Marc Andreessen

“I follow my own head. And if I’m determined to do something, then I’ll make sure that I make it happen.” – Laura Dekker

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield

What is your favourite quote from the 10 listed here? My favourite is number 2 (second last) – von Goethe. It fits nicely with the message below by Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut. My sister Christine sent me this gem. It is titled “Have you worked toward your dream today”?

The most important quality I have noticed in successful people is that they have a dream. They want to be someone or something. They want to have something. They want to go somewhere. They think and work toward that dream every day.

I often ask people who tell me their dream, “What did you do today to move closer to your dream?” Eighty-five percent didn’t do anything. They are planning to do something next week; they’re just too busy today. These 85% will probably never see their dream come true.

Ask yourself the same question: “What have I done today to make my dream come true?” If the answer is nothing specific, then you will never make it unless you change your ways.’

It is time to change my ways and make my dreams come true – it is solely up to me and time for me to wake and make my dreams happen, begin it now. What about you?

Rules rule

Why do we have to have rules? We have rules to guide and shape our beliefs and behaviour. As a rule, rules come from laws, but some rules standalone, such as the ones we make for ourselves or our household.

The “rule of law” is a concept that the government and citizens know the law and follow it. Laws and rules establish standards, they protect people, they enforce rights and resolve conflicts. Without rules, we would have anarchy in society. Yet again, are there some rules that can be broken? Is it okay to break rules? I believe it is okay to break rules, if you make them yourself, for yourself. But what about rules that other people make and expect you to follow? Are some rules unnecessary? In fact, rules can cause people to disobey the very rules that were meant to make them behave in a certain way. Think about it for a minute.

In the 1800s in many states in the USA there were laws that prevented African-Americans (then called Blacks) from learning to read or write. This ruling was because of fears that, if educated, the slave system would be undermined. Such laws were punitive and unjust, yet citizens were expected to follow the rule of law. Those that thought these rules were wrong and educated “slaves” were severely punished, if found out! Rules such as preventing people from an education is not right. But back then, people thought it was right. We now look back in history and know that such treatment was wrong, it was discriminatory.

Subservience or denying people equal rights and equal opportunities is prejudicial. As it happens, there were social reformers, known as abolitionists, who recognised the injustices of the slave system and protested it. Eventually, after an Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on 1st January 1831, slavery was official abolished in the USA by the Thirteenth Amendment, which took effect of 18th December 1865.

Why am I writing about rules? Because when we went away recently for a mid-week break (a retiree’s weekend) the cottage we stayed at had rules. The hosts (female & male) walked through the cottage with us on our arrival. The woman pointed out the rules “what we should do” and “what we shouldn’t do”. It was overwhelming and we had not encountered anything like it before. We have travelled the world several times and stayed in hotels, motels, apartments, cabins, houses and cottages. Never have our hosts felt they needed to point out the rules, so poignantly. Usually, when you book into a hotel or self-contained apartment you will find your way around. There is usually information that will guide your stay, such as how to use a television or DVD player. Perhaps also a request about respecting the property, cleaning any dishes, emptying rubbish and paying for any damages.

We just arrived in time to enjoy the wood-fire. Once when away in December for a one-night getaway we lit the fire! I am pleased they did not have a time-frame restriction. It was a cool night and created a wonderful ambience.

A fireplace rules!

The focus on rules at our cottage stay was so formidable it took us almost 24 hours to recover! There were signs in different places telling us how to behave. I understand the need for a “few” rules as people are different and not everyone cares for another’s property the way they should. But when it is someone else’s property, even if paying for its use for a short while, we are careful and respect our hosts wishes. This is when you worry about spilling a glass of red wine on a beige rug! Too many rules can cause anxiety and when you are apprehensive the thing you did not want to happen, can happen! Fortunately for us on this occasion we had no mishaps!

One thing I found unusual, given that the cottage and the property relied on rainwater tanks, there were no rules about water conservation. That is one rule I would have expected. While most people today are conscious of being water wise, some still need a reminder. Therefore, I would have welcomed a rule about water conservation. Following are more signs we were greeted with!

We always enjoy cooking on our BBQ. When we go away on holidays this is something we like to do. The rules for using the BBQ at the Cottage were that we had to leave it in the very exact state it was. This was not only cleaning the BBQ plates, but the space below. Not put off, we decided to use the BBQ to cook our eye fillets for dinner the first evening and bacon and egg breakfast the following morning. What we did not understand is that the BBQ, an older model, got very messy under the grill. Oh my, oh my….my O&O (One & Only) started cleaning the BBQ after our relaxing breakfast and then I took over to finish the cleaning chore. And a chore it was! It took several hours between the both of us to clean!

We worked for several hours to clean the BBQ as we had to clean it properly, being an extra special item!

I wanted to suggest to our hosts that they upgrade their BBQ, maybe a Weber Q, one that is easier to clean or at least leave some BBQ wipes to make cleaning easier. My O&O preferred not to say anything, just to leave “sleeping dogs lie”. I agreed and we went away without giving any feedback.

Rules rule, but the “cottage rules” did not rule us for long. We left after a couple of days and emphasised the positive: the views, the reading material, the comfortable bed and the wood fire (enjoyed with our wood allocation).

There are Queensland Government and Local Council rules for those who provide rental accommodation. Did our hosts follow all these rules? By law, to receive protection under the law, operators of such establishment must display a notice their accommodation is licensed. I must have missed that one, when I was busily taking photos of all the other cottage household rules!!

Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) said “right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” We went away after our cottage stay, not fully comfortable with all the rules, but knowing we did the right thing. We were respectful of our hosts rules and grateful for the comfort they provided for us on our mid-week getaway. Should we return? Nah!

P.S. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos!

Driving Deviations

Driving deviations not only happen when we are in the car driving. They can also happen as we walk along the track of life. We get taken to places where we never thought we would go or even end up. Does this sound cryptic? It will become clearer as I go on.

My life lately seems to be very busy, busy all the time. I need to reflect more on what I am doing with my time! Yes, it is time to take account, take some down-time and reassess what I am doing day by day.

Just before the Mother’s Day weekend I headed off to the Gold Coast to spend several days with my mother. It was great once I was there, but the getting there caused me to experience several driving deviations. I have a late-model car with a GPS but that does not always work. You cannot trust that voice that speaks to you from the dashboard, at unexpected moments, causing you to jump in your seat. This is not so good as I am driving on the M2 and then the M1. I suspect that the “M” stands for motorway but my experiences tell me that “M” stands for marathon. Once on the M2 and then the M1 there is no time to be complacent. Cars shifting lanes, cars moving on the highway faster than “a speeding bullet”. These drivers must think they are superhuman. They move in and out of lanes and cars with the tiniest of spaces and above the speed limit.

Is it because I am getting older that I do not like the driving marathon on four, five or six lane motorways? What I do like these days is that all the exits are numbered. No longer do we have to look for a street or suburb exit; a number is all it takes. It simplifies the driving marathon when many drivers, including myself, need guidance.

The guidance from the GPS on the other hand is not entirely reliable. Traffic lights have taken the place of roundabouts and taking the “second on the left” suddenly is a lottery draw. I have taken the path to my mother’s new residence several times but all the road work on the Gold Coast changes the landscape into a confusing mass of choices. I did get to my mother’s place eventually, but only after a few driving deviations and a quick look at the new Gold Coast University Hospital.

Once in the basement car space of my mother’s place I did not want to venture out. But then, there was the Mother’s Day High Tea where I was meeting my sister, about 30 minutes away. I faithfully followed the directions of the GPS. Would we get to our destination? I had no clue where I was going but eventually we got there thanks to the GPS. Although, that was not the end of it. After the High Tea, we decided to pay a visit to my other sister who recently moved into her new home at Springbrook.

This is when “driving deviations” came to the fore. I could not take the Mudgeeraba exit as the road was closed, due to the weather event following Cyclone Debbie. I thought I had driven far enough before I took the other Springbrook exit. My mother as passenger and I spent the next 30 minutes driving off the M1 and back around and onto the M1 again. Even though I phoned my sister she was not able to guide me through the driving deviations that was heightening my inner stress levels. I appeared calm, for my mother’s sake and we drove back to her place where we were, along with the car, ensconced and safe in the basement car park. The next time to venture out was to travel the motorway marathon of the M1 and M2 back home (a 2-hour drive away).

Queensland has some amazing scenery. It takes my breath away and causes me to relax.

The country life is great and even better when we find ourselves on a country road and off the busy motorways.

But that was not the end of my driving marathons. One day later my “One & Only” (O&O) went away for a mid-week break – a country cottage. We meandered our way, I was driving, my O&O and the GPS provided the guidance. Another 2-hour drive and we arrived at the gates of the cottage property. The driveway was gravel and it was long and parts of it were steep. Yet, we made it to discover that the covered car space at the cottage was about 300 metres away and the car access to the cottage was across an undulating grassed area. Now, this was all okay and we enjoyed our time, the solitude and scenery of the place, until we heard about the rain event that was to hit the south-east Thursday night until Friday evening. Would the car slip and slide across the grass and would we get out of the place safely without a four-wheel drive! The morning of our departure we both awoke at 4.30am and it was raining. Our anxiety levels were raised, the two earlier days of our relaxing adventure thwarted by the weather. What should we do? We could not sleep so we got up, packed our bags and tidied the cottage (more about this another time). My O&O walked in the dark to the car-port and carefully drove the car to the cottage. Slowly we drove down the gravel hill as though we were stealthily leaving without paying our account. This is the advantage of paying when you arrive, you can leave anytime you like.

Then we still had to face the 2-hour drive home. We had the choice of a few different ways home and our driving deviations took us the shortest and safest way home – no unsealed roads. It was an eerie drive as we travelled country roads in the dark with no street lights and rain falling. We also had to watch out for kangaroos or a koala taking a slow early morning walk – on the highway.

Is it just me, as I get older, who dislikes travelling on busy roads and motorways? I am convinced that more government foresight and a better road network infrastructure decades ago, would have lessened my driving deviations and stress.

Whiling away the time and enjoying nature is a great past-time.

In Australia there is an over reliance on road transport to shift goods and vehicles to take us from “A” to “B” – mostly one person in a vehicle. The traffic is clogging our roads and causing road rage and stress. The second range crossing is underway and will take heavy vehicles around Toowoomba, and not through it. Then there is the inland rail project. It will provide a high-capacity freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane. The project will give jobs and reduce the number of B-doubles on our roads and motorways. Dare I say, about time!

I like the idea of going on a train journey. Sitting on a train, enjoying the scenery and on a track that does not take deviations. Finally, after several relaxing hours or days, we arrive on time at our destination. Anyone for a trip on The Ghan?

Board Games

Are board games what happens when children or adults are board? Since the digital age there has been a decline in children playing board games. When I was younger playing board games was very popular during the school holidays, rainy days and when entertaining friends.

As I had sisters close to my age I always had someone to play a board game with. We would play Monopoly, Ludo or Chinese checkers. These were our favourites. Apart from playing board games we would also play cards, such as snap. Not too much sophistication! It was all about fun and not winning. But for some children they thought winning was better than fun. How did this happen? There are adults who like to win as well and some will cheat to make this happen. This is when the game is no longer a game. It is a strategic battle of wills to see who can deceive another! Cheating is not in the rule book. My rule book tells me that board games and card games are about having fun and just chilling out.

Playing board games is not something we do at our place. My “One & Only” (O&O) gets board at the first mention of playing a board game or cards! I asked him why this was so? His response was that he played so many board games as a child – he has had enough! Therefore, I can’t have any fun with him by playing board games. Our fun is found in small projects around the house, doing these together. Another past-time is walking. When we walk we usually talk? But is it as fun as board games?

When my son was growing up I got to play board games and cards. Trivial Pursuit became popular at the time. But this was more a game of knowledge than of chance. When you play a game of chance, the outcome is more unknown and this is where the fun comes in. The unexpected shift in the game or when someone shouts, “check mate”. The person who shouted out is having the most fun here!

Chess is one of the longest running games in the world. It originated in Northern India before the 6th Century A.D. It then spread throughout Persia, Spain, Southern Europe and eventually the rest of the globe. Chess is a strategy board game and to win you need a high level of skill and memory. Of all the chess playing championships I have seen I have never seen anyone laughing. It is not so much a game of fun, unless you are a winner at the end! The current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen from Norway. He has held the title since 2013.

I am not a good chess player but should I become one? I am reasonable at playing cards. Should I play solitaire? I have a set of round Mr Men cards that belong to my son. They are a vintage set of playing cards. That word vintage is featuring more and more in my life these days! I have the vintage crock pot and now the vintage playing cards.


The set of Vintage Mr Men Playing Cards. There are 2 single cards for sale on ebay at $1.00 each.

My maternal grandmother played the card game patience. When my father died, she told my mother to play patience. My grandmother died in her late 80’s and never had dementia. My mother is 90 years old and does not have dementia. Is there something in playing games and cards? Is sitting watching television stimulating our mind?

A winner is a grinner!

A French study published in 2013 showed that playing board games can improve cognitive performance in healthy, elderly participants. They found that board game players have a 15% lower risk to develop dementia. There was also less cognitive decline and less depression for those participants who played board games. There are benefits in playing board games!

There are other ways we can keep up our cognitive function if we do play board games. If we are curious about life, what is happening around us and we look for ways to be creative, this will help our cognition. Playing or learning a musical instrument, learning a new language are all ways we can improve out cognitive function. Then there are those who do crosswords or solve puzzles. If we engage in lifelong learning we are keeping our mind active and stimulated. Now, what will I do today to stimulate my cognitive ability? I am going to the piano and play a piece of music I have never read before. That is always very challenging and stimulating for my mind. Now, what about you?

Older people, who cares?

We are all getting older, whatever age we are! One day, those not so old will join the older people brigade. Therefore, it would be wise to make sure we care for older people.

You may have read or heard about the care of older people at the Oakden Nursing Home in Adelaide. It was closed last month after years of complaints. In the meantime, older people had been abused and neglected. Senator Nick Xenophon has called for an inquiry. Is this though, just the tip of the iceberg? What is happening for older people who are unable to speak for themselves, unable to care for themselves? Who cares?

Bringing the matter closer to home my mother is an older person. In July, she will be 91 years old. Older people are now living longer. Are people living longer due to genetics or because of medical intervention and diet? As people are living longer is it time to redefine what is “old”.

My mother had a myagedcare assessment a few months ago. Myagedcare is an Australian Government service for older people. The myagedcare website is where older people can find out about and access a range of services. My mother, who is vision impaired, received a letter telling her about an assignment of a package for services. The letter given to me for further assessment! It is up to my mother to find an approved provider for the services she requires. She was given information about the website and the tool whereby she could compare services in her area. Alternatively, she could call an 1800 number for help to find an appropriate service provider. Then there was the paragraph about costs and the contribution she may be asked to make.  I read the letter several times to understand it and went on the website to find out more information about the process, service providers and costs. It was perplexing and I consider myself internet savvy! What would happen if my mother did not have “older” children who cared about her? Who would be her advocate?

Eventually, I gave up finding information on the website and made a phone call. Following this I became an authorised representative for my mother. My mother is already receiving services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) for transport assistance. The letter from myagedcare advised that she had been assigned a “level two home care” package. The cost of this would be a minimum of $141.40 a day. The only advantage of this is that she would have approval to engage a provider for domestic support.

My question to myagedcare was why not add-on the service to her CHSP? Was this possible? The person I was speaking to could not transfer me through to the CHSP area at that time – possibly something to do with all the enquiries after the flooding in Queensland! Could I call back in a week if I did not hear back by then? Eight days later I spoke to another person at myagedcare. She was very helpful and said that yes, my mother could be assigned “domestic support” as part of her CHSP. This was assigned to her and I was told that an assessor would phone in a few weeks saying it was approved. It is three weeks gone now and neither my mother or I have heard back. In the meantime, my mother receives a phone call asking her if she is taking up her “home care” package? She referred them to me. I never received the call!

The point is, as far as I can understand it, that my mother would be paying out a considerable amount of money just to have her unit cleaned every fortnight via the “home care package”. On the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) adding domestic support would only cost her as much as the provider charged. My mother also has the option of engaging a private cleaner and paying their fee without being bound to a costly “home care agreement”. Currently, her home support needs are low.

Navigating the aged care system is very complex and time-consuming. It can also be very costly for the person receiving the service. If an older person lives solely on an aged care pension then they may need to rely on a State run facility for their care needs. This is risky business for older people. Their dignity, security and peace of mind cannot be assured.

With all the “shifting sand” of government legislation and policy older people are in deep water! Many have no one reliable or trustworthy to help. If you are not disturbed by the Oakden situation and the rights of older people read more here. Older people and their family have good reason for concern.

Yesterday, my sister Christine visited with her husband John. We took them to the State Rose Garden, Newtown Park. This was near the house my sister and I spent most of our growing up years. We wandered by the house. It had recently been sold. It had sat unattended for some time, it was abandoned and neglected. This is something we must not let happen to older people today or tomorrow. We took a few photos for old times’ sake. We remembered the happy times. My sister reminded me of our hand prints in the outdoor patio. How amazing we got to take the photo. Anytime soon, the house will be demolished.

The hand prints of my family in 1958. These are in the edge of the concrete of the back patio and five years after my parents built the house. My hand print is third from the left. I am the eldest of 7 children. In 1958 there were 4 girls. My brother Kenneth, the third child died soon after birth.

My sister Susan passed away when she was 30 years old, my brother Kenneth as an infant. They will never be an “older person” – were they handed a gift, few of us can understand? The gift of a short life? They never had to worry about being an “older person” and relying on others so that their basic needs could be met, valued and respected. Taking this perspective, at least for me, is comforting.

Seed to Feed

Last weekend my “One & Only” (O&O) and I went to a “Seed to Feed” Workshop. The workshop is part of the Toowoomba Regional Council Healthy Living, Change Project. The aim, through a series of free and low-cost activities, is to get people active and healthy. The “Seed to Feed” workshops have been very popular. We were on a waiting list and only attended due to a cancellation. We have been gardening for decades. My O&O is a great gardener. He has the happy knack of getting things to grow. Therefore, why would we go to a workshop that was mostly about plant propagation for the home garden. We went because there is always something new we can learn. And learn we did. The workshop presenter was Brian Sams, a horticulturist. Brian was full of knowledge and entertained the crowd of around 30 people.

The workshop was not just about soaking up information, it was also hands on. Time to get our hands dirty by making our own propagation potting mix. One woman in our group was enthusiastic and quickly got into making up the potting mix, looking around for the elusive gloves! That was when I pulled out a pair of disposable gloves for her, the second pair was for me! Others were asking me where I got the gloves? I was the only one who thought of this! I like to garden but I don’t like to get my hands dirty – no dirt under fingernails for me!

Once we got our potting mix ready we were preparing our soft cuttings for potting. Then out came the seeds. Everyone got involved in potting soft and semi-hardwood cuttings to take home. We ended up with daisy, lavender, mint, rosemary, salvias cuttings, as well as Zucchini Lebanese seeds. We are carefully keeping an eye on the cuttings and seeds to make sure they don’t dry out. I hope we are successful with our cuttings as we have not tried growing these varieties from cuttings in the past.

Some of our soft cuttings. I am looking forward to propagating the daisy. We don’t have any of these in our garden.

Zucchini Lebanese seeds growing under the vermiculite.

Our Mediterranean Garden is coming along. My O&O has transplanted our herbs and moved these closer to a side door, not far from the kitchen. We have a great choice of tomatoes growing, chilli, capsicum, peas and more! We don’t get frosts where we are, so the peas should do well. In our small way, we are making an effort to shorten the distance from the paddock to the plate. Soon we will have so many tomatoes we will be able to share these with our neighbours.

I notice that these days horticulturists have a new name for “potting mix” – they call it “propagation media”! A good mix, according to Brian, is 3 x part perlite; 2 x part peat moss; 1 x part coarse sand. Media’s can be organic such as peat or bark or inorganic such as sand, perlite and vermiculite. I discovered that the perlite in the propagation mix (media) traps moisture and aerates the soil. I spread vermiculite all over the top of my Zucchini seeds to help their growth and trap the moisture. How long will it be before I start to see life peeking out from the vermiculite?

There are a few reasons why a seed may not germinate including the seed not viable, drying out, media is too wet, the temperature is incorrect, pre-germination treatment not used, root rot disease. There is a lot that can go wrong with gardening. But when it goes right, it is very rewarding. The pre-germination treatment we used for our soft cuttings was a green gel called Clonex. I came away from the workshop encouraged to work more in our small Mediterranean garden; not to be afraid of failure; to keep on learning new gardening tricks as I get older and make light of weeding by mulching. And, by the way I saw a worm farm in action on the day and I now know where I can get my worms for free! Before I go down that track though I will have to look more into the subject area. More about that another day. Let me know if you are growing your vegetable and herbs from seeds and cuttings or have a viable worm farm.

Lavender has a lovely aromatic flower. Is it possible that one day I will have healthy lavender just like this? I took this photo at a Lavender Farm in Tasmania. Lavender is a great companion plant in or near the vegetable garden. It attracts the right type of insects.


The Hot Sandwich is really HOT

A day ago I thought the Hot Sandwich was in the distant past, a treasured memory of days gone by. Last night I found out this was not the case. If you have experienced the Hot Sandwich this is not something you can readily let go, out of your hands. It may be HOT, but it is not too HOT to handle.

My son, who lives in Western Australia, now in his 40’s enlightened me last night about the Hot Sandwich. It still lives on in his life! He told me it tastes rather good with Mortadella (an Italian sausage) and tomato sauce. Yes, the Hot Sandwich is not just a thing of the past. This sandwich is really HOT! Will I try it? Will you try it? Get a couple of slices of bread, something you really like. You could even try the Hot Sandwich with Panini. However, I think the Hot Sandwich works best with a soft bread, butter, slices of Devon or Mortadella between two slices of bread, tomato or BBQ Sauce – your choice here. Place on a plate and then in the microwave oven for 15-30 seconds, depending on the type of bread. Hey presto – a one minute meal!

If we had to make our own bread from cereal grain, it would take a while. Thankfully, is my part of the world we have our flour milled for us.

My son has great memories of visiting his maternal Grandma and the Hot Sandwich. After a cool swim in the pool, there was Grandma with his Hot Sandwich for lunch. Memories are made through moments, just like this.But no longer is the Hot Sandwich just a memory in our family. In my son’s life it has become a tradition, taking the past into the present and the future. These days, while Matt also enjoys the Hot Sandwich he has broadened his cooking boundaries. He is a great cook. He loves to cook. The Hot Sandwich, at least Grandma’s Hot Sandwich, was just the beginning of Matt’s life’s journey with food. I will have more to say about food and making memories from the kitchen in a later post. In the meantime, tell me about your favourite sandwich.