Gathering the straws of life together

Recent Posts

Cutting your own hair at home

Cutting your own hair at home

Have you ever thought about cutting your own hair at home? One of my aversion’s is going to the hairdresser. I have had some experiences that I don’t want to repeat. There are some great hairdressers but then they charge a great price! I know […]

Learn Plan Live

Learn Plan Live

Life is full of lessons as we LEARN, PLAN AND LIVE. Some lessons I have learnt quickly, others I have taken a while to learn. It has been a busy week at our small castle – our home, this week. Every home should be a […]

Feeding the chooks

Feeding the chooks

Do you know the politician who referred to news conferences as “feeding the chooks”? Yes, it was Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former Premier of Queensland (1968-1987), and the longest-serving. Sir Joh had a simple view of the world as a farmer and he took his observations of living life on the land into the Premier’s office. Another saying was “you don’t tell the frogs anything before you drain the swamp” – the element of surprise!

Right now, after the Liberal-National Coalition handed down the 2018 budget there are news conferences happening all over Australia. In not finding the budget news conferences too thought-provoking, I went outside to feed the chooks. It is a good opportunity to deliberate life!

In the 2018 budget there are winners and losers. Older Australians are one of the “so called” winners. When I look at the $1.6b going towards older Australians it will help the most vulnerable, and that must be good. Helping 14,000 people to stay in their homes, a tick here! Then another 74,000 people, if they live another four years, can gain access to a home care package in mid-2022, another tick! More funds into mental health services is a step in the right direction as one of the most vulnerable groups is men over 85 years old, a big tick! Money to improve quality standards in nursing homes is comforting for many, but too late for others, another big tick! Oakden nursing home in Adelaide is one “stand out” example, of the government going to sleep at the wheel.

I was pleased to hear that $60 million will go towards improving the MyAged Care website. I consider myself a savvy website navigator, but when I was using it to gain services for my mother it was clumsy, with little clarity. Finally, I made a phone call!

Feeding the chooks, one of the simple pleasures of life.
My chooks out and about enjoying the sunshine on a cooler day in Toowoomba, 15 degrees celsius.

I am not so pleased to hear about the government loan scheme for older Australians to borrow against the equity in the home. There are hidden dangers in such a scheme – read the fine print! Some older people may not be aware of the pitfalls. Good independent, fee-for-service financial advice, is necessary before going down that path! Older people should not be enticed into using their home equity for that “round the world trip” or to renovate the house just because their neighbour did! If older people live a long life, which is now happening, the government may end up owning their home! Then older people will have to pay rent to the government! Could this happen? Yes, it could. The ageing person will then get a rent subsidy to help or worse be forced to sell their home to pay their debt and get shuffled off to an aged care facility – one small room!

The  2018 budget merry-go-round, is keeping the journalists busy. The politicians, when they can, continue to “feed the chooks”. I find that life is better when I am outside, living a simple life and “feeding the chooks”. Time to put the political promises aside and take control of my small municipality, my backyard garden and chooks!

Lucy is moulting. She looks a little bedraggled.
But her new feathers are growing – just in time for winter! Don’t you worry about that! 
Royal commission into the financial services industry

Royal commission into the financial services industry

The Royal Commission into the financial services industry has uncovered serious dishonest behaviour by the banks, financial planners and other financial institutions. The fraudulent behaviour in the financial services industry is very disturbing. Charging people a few years after they have died; poor advice from […]

Caring for backyard chickens

Caring for backyard chickens

More and more people these days have backyard chickens. I believe there are at least two reasons for this. Firstly, chickens give a valuable food source – eggs; and secondly, they are entertaining. Caring for backyard chickens is a great way to teach children about […]

Do it yourself (DIY) Projects

Do it yourself (DIY) Projects

There are so many Do It Yourself (DIY) projects we can do around the home. This time of the year, heading for winter (in Australia), many of us are looking at our garden and planning a few DIY projects. My One&Only (O&O) however is doing more than looking and planning he has begun the autumn/winter pruning. We also reinvigorated a corner of our lawn and bought in some palmetto buffalo grass that does well in the shade. I even helped with shovelling the soil! Maybe you are like others I know and are now working out where to place that outdoor fire pit – a cosy way to enjoy the outdoors even when the weather is cooler.

A rejuvenated part of our lawn taking shape!

DIY projects can range from home improvements to DIY gifts. The benefit of a DIY project is that you do not have to rely on others and it is less costly. If we had employed a person to lay our turf we would be looking at hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Now we can use those extra dollars for a few days get-a-way. A DIY project also gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

I have thought about making my laundry liquid and this past week I took the plunge! I know exactly what is in the detergent and it cleans the clothes well. If you like to see the suds in your washing machine you may not like the DIY laundry liquid. The recipe I used has one cup of soap (grated) or you can use Lux Flakes. I used the flakes. Half cup of washing soda and half cup of borax. It is easy to make and makes around 10 litres – low-cost!

A few simple ingredients and I had home-made DIY laundry liquid.

I was not sure my ingredients had properly dissolved, however, I had a solution! I got out my electric hand blender and blended the 10 litres in the 12 litre container. My laundry liquid recipe came from Rhonda’s blog at Down-to-Earth. If you are worried about the use of borax read more here. You can always leave out the borax. If your use the grey water for your plants you will have to leave it out! Not good for the plants. My DIY laundry liquid project is saving on packaging – no recycling and it has less chemicals than the bought product.

I invested in a few new containers for my laundry liquid. They can be reused time and time again!

This past week I planted five tomato plants. I hope they do better than the last lot. To help them along I took soil along with the chicken manure out of the chicken run and forked it into the soil before planting. Then I gave them a dose of seasol. Our last lot of french beans did well so I planted more. In about 8 weeks we will be picking fresh french beans from the garden. Also, the kale I planted a few weeks ago is doing well – food for the chickens, their favourite greens! However, the five plants will not go far, as my chickens like to enjoy a few leaves of kale every day. Note to self: buy more kale seedlings this week.

Now I am planning my next DIY project….stay tuned!

By the way – don’t just stop and smell the roses, plant a rose bush!

What I like about getting older

What I like about getting older

What I like about getting older is that I can set my own priorities. I can manage my time. However, at any time of the day I can change these. It is very liberating deciding what to do and when to do it and when […]

Ethical Shopping

Ethical Shopping

Yes, my topic is ethical shopping not about Ethel shopping. When I was a teenager I had a nick name for my mother. I called her “economical Ethel” – she was a savvy shopper and always looking for bargains. Just like me! There is more […]

Increase in Health Insurance Premiums

Increase in Health Insurance Premiums

Health insurance premiums will increase in Australia as of tomorrow, the 1st April 2018, by 3.95% on average. The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced that some insurance premiums could increase as much as 8.9%.

With the continual increases in health insurance premiums there are people cancelling their cover every day and taking their chances with the public health system. If people are not cancelling their health insurance, then they are either down-grading their cover or increasing their excess.

The public’s dissatisfaction with premium increases in private health insurance was clear when we went to visit our health insurer Bupa just over a week ago. There were people lined up waiting for a consultant. I don’t think they were lined up waiting to take out health insurance more likely to make changes.

We have always had private health insurance cover to be ready for the unexpected health event. If we had not had cover and no health issues we could have invested in the property market and more than likely would have been better off financially. However, we always liked the option of paying for private cover that gave us choices when it comes to our health. This happened back in 2010 when my O&O was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was a case of serendipity that he was diagnosed early and that saved his life. Given our private health cover we were able to act quickly and choose the surgeon and the hospital where he would have surgery and chemotherapy. Therefore, there are advantages and disadvantages of having private health cover. The main advantage is you have choices the disadvantage is that there is a financial cost.

We took time out to check our health insurance cover and it was well worth the effort!

In evaluating our private health insurance premiums this month, we realised we had to make a change. Our premium was due to go up by $11.00 per fortnight, tomorrow. We already had a $500 excess on our hospital cover to reduce the overall premium, therefore no changes there. When we looked at our “premium” extras cover (no longer available to new customers) we realised we were paying for services that we had never used.

We adjusted our “extras” cover to 4 services that we would use including dental and optical. This would be a saving of over $1000 in premium costs per year. We had two trips into a BUPA office to discuss our options before deciding. Then when we went in to make the changes we were offered a better deal on our hospital cover. If we got the “no pregnancy” cover our premium would reduce even more! I had to double-check that there was no catch. Take off the pregnancy cover (no longer required) and add-on the complimentary access to Best Doctors, a network of 53,000 world leading specialists, to get a confidential second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan (some exclusions apply). We opted for this and in the process of the changes have saved ourselves $1,424 per year.

It takes a little time to check the circumstances if you have health cover, but it is well worth the time. Like us, talk to your health insurance provider or go on-line and find a website that will do health insurance cover comparisons. I did try this once, but they want too much information. But it might work for you! Talking the time to assess our health insurance cover was worthwhile. It can save you money, so it is well worth the time and effort.

If you have time to read a little more about the upsides and downsides of health care in Australia read my earlier post by clicking here.

Please note: After I wrote this article I checked our online BUPA account. I discovered that the what we thought was the fortnightly premium was only for the next fortnight, not thereafter! There was an adjustment which we expected however the consultant was not clear, even after we asked what the fortnightly ongoing cost was, which we then wrote down on our paperwork (what we had taken with us). We are saving closer to $1000 per year, not $1,424 as we both thought! Is there a lesson here? If you are making changes to your private health insurance ask for the ongoing fortnightly cost!! Unfortunately at BUPA when you make the changes you walk away with no paperwork! Changes happen on the system overnight and customers are notified by email the next day. This is not good enought! BTW BUPA is a foreign owned company whereas Medibank Private is Australian owned. Maybe time for a complete change!!

KJ’s Pizzeria

KJ’s Pizzeria

Every Sunday night you will find me in KJ’s pizzeria, also known as KJ’s kitchen. My O&O and I enjoy relaxing on a Sunday evening with home-made pizza and a glass of red wine. A home-made pizza is easy to make. If you are willing […]

My Diary

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Every Sunday night you will find me in KJ’s pizzeria, also known as KJ’s kitchen. My O&O and I enjoy relaxing on a Sunday evening with home-made pizza and a glass of red wine.

A home-made pizza is easy to make. If you are willing to spend a little time preparing your ingredients and putting it all together, it will take about 15-20 minutes.  If you make your own pizza base the preparation time is longer. You can buy pizza bases from the supermarket, but I like to make mine at home.

My sister Christine and brother-in-law John (an Italian) who live in Far North Queensland also have a tradition of pizza on a Sunday evening. Christine and John each have their own pizza dough recipe and make this from scratch, the home-made, hand-made method. I have done this at times however I always return to making my home-made pizza base in the bread maker. It is easy so easy! The recipe makes two pizza bases. If there is just the “two of us” I freeze the second lot of dough for the following Sunday.

There are a few secrets to making great pizza dough and one of these is the type of flour. Tipo 00 is a good flour to use. The “00” refer to how fine the flour is milled. But these days I use Baker’s Flour. I buy it in a 5kg bag. Getting the type of pizza dough base, one that you like, just takes practice. I read last weekend about Tocco Italiano, a restaurant in Teneriffe, Brisbane. The article mentioned that Italians travel a distance to enjoy the pizza made at Tocco Italiano. They like the pizza crust.

When we holidayed in Tasmania a few years ago I bought a French rolling-pin at Strahan, made from Huon Pine. I use it all the time for rolling out the pizza dough. I have not mastered the tossing and twirling of the dough – yet! Although this Sunday I am going to give it a go. I had a lesson through the week via YouTube. Tossing the dough helps the dough keep its moisture. Therefore, you get the crispy crust outside and nice moist texture inside. Making a great pizza has a little science behind it!

My French rolling-pin made from Huon Pine.

I have been busy working out the science of my oven to perfect the pizza crust. My oven has 11 functions – this was very exciting when I first got it and saw all the lights and features. Since then I often wonder what ever happened to an oven that had just one heating function! With all the different functions comes different temperatures and different position levels in the oven. It took me a while to work out the importance of position level. In my oven there are 6 levels. It was only weeks ago when I realised I should be cooking the pizza on level one. What a difference it made. The pizza crust is nice and crispy!

Last Sunday nights pizza! I am sure with practice my pizza making skills will get better and better!

When you make a pizza at home you can decide what toppings to use. The pizza experts tell us not to overdo the toppings. Probably because you lose the flavour of your key ingredients. My favourite toppings after the tomato base and mozzarella cheese are pepperoni, mushrooms, black Kalamata olives, marinated feta cheese, red capsicum, and a sprinkle of dried oregano. I also like to give the topping a light spray with olive oil – bellissimo!

Leave the “fast food” behind and join the “slow food” movement. A good place to start is to make your own pizza at home. Do you have any pizza cooking secrets you would like to share with me and others? Buon appetito!

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