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?

The Naked Retiree…..develops resilience

In my last post, I wrote about the changes to the age pension and retiree’s needing resilience. The world around us is changing and not all for the better particularly with the cost of living.  The Australian Farm Institute tell us that Australian consumers are facing increasing food prices. The article confirms my experience that beef is expensive. Fruit and vegetables will also cost us more due to demand for local supply alongside export demands. Read more about the expected price hike on food here.

The naked retiree needs resilience and resourcefulness to live with a declining income and an increasing grocery bill. We can all show our resourcefulness by starting an herb and vegetable garden. Not everyone has the desire or fitness level to do this but one large pot on the back verandah can grow a tomato plant, lettuce and a few different herbs. Planting citrus trees gives us our own produce and satisfaction that it is “home grown”. The dwarf fruit trees are ideal for small gardens or when you are like us and don’t want the work and pruning that goes with the standard size trees. Later this year we will have oranges, lemons and lime and maybe a mandarin. There was a mix up in buying our mandarin tree and we ended up with two dwarf orange trees!

In the 1840’s the Australian historic site of Port Arthur was home to over 1100 convicts. The main building was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary.  By 1857 it was converted to a penitentiary. Many stories abound about the resilience of convicts and their journey to freedom.

Now we have moved in the direction of being resourceful what about resilience? How do we develop resilience? Once we have it, how do we strengthen it? For me, I know that it is more than having a motto pinned on your wall or framed on your desk. Motto’s help but we must give them life. The motto “walk the talk” is a favourite one that fits perfectly with giving a motto “life”. We can talk and talk about our outlook on life, how we think, how we behave and how we live but if we don’t “walk the talk” we are not going anywhere!

I had a motto on my desk for months to inspire me. It stated “accept, learn, adapt, keep moving forward”. I cleaned up my desk and it disappeared, into the bin! I don’t need it anymore as I have memorised it – is that a good start? Maybe. However, it is a good reminder when life throws me curveballs which are hard to accept. It tests out my resilience and therefore I want to understand resilience more and if I have enough to get me through old age. As resilience is a learned behaviour there is hope for me, hope for everyone!

Looking across the gardens at Port Arthur is very serene. If we are outside walking it helps build our resilience, rather than sitting inside navel-gazing.

Years ago, I became familiar with the work of Virginia Satir, a social worker and family therapist. Satir said the “problems are not the problem; coping is the problem”. If we ruminate on the problem, it is like throwing an accelerant onto a fire – it will only get worse! How then do we “cope” with the problem?

There are many ways of coping with a problem. One of these is solution focused therapy. I used this approach in my work as a social worker. It is about focusing on the present and future instead of the past. The past though has made us what we are today, therefore is the solution focused approach too “glib”? Not if the focus is on strengths and resources. Sometimes the problem will never be solved so it is about living with it and having the resilience to manage the problem. Also, it is vital to develop coping mechanisms that “help” rather than “hinder” our individual growth and mental well-being.

If I concentrate on my strengths and utilise the resources I have, for example putting the knowledge I have into practice or changing my attitude to a person or situation, I will be better off. If I do this I am building my resilience and it is much easier to “bounce back” after disappointment, trauma, health issues, stress, relationship difficulties and loss in all its many forms. The higher our resilience the better we can cope with life, adapt to our circumstances and keep moving forward.

The “experts” tell us there are two ways we can respond to problems in life. There are adaptive coping mechanisms or maladaptive coping mechanisms. Maladaptive coping mechanisms include drinking too much, eating too much, gambling and social withdrawal. On the other hand, to strengthen resilience we must leave the maladaptive coping mechanisms behind and focus on the adaptive coping mechanisms.

Looking across the water from Port Arthur historic site and its serenity gives me hope. Turning my back on the problem and learning a new way of coping.

Adaptive coping mechanisms, is simply about “getting back to basics” – the physical, the mental and social. To begin with the naked retiree who is developing resilience will have a “health check” and if there are any issues these should be monitored by a General Practitioner. Once the “health check” is covered the naked retiree now thinks about exercise, in all its many forms.  I am starting with walking – always a good and easy start. Next is our mental attitude – should I start a “gratitude journal”? Writing down 2-3 things I am thankful for would help, but would I keep it up? That may be something you may want to consider for 2017 but for now I will concentrate on “self-talk” – I enjoy talking to myself! Self-talk is talking out aloud or silently telling ourselves we are okay, we are a great person, a kind person etc. Author Louise L. Hay is known for her motivational quotes and her experience in the power of positive affirmations. One of these is “I do not fix problems. I fix thinking. Then problems fix themselves”. My quote for naked retirees strengthening our resilience is “it is good to be me, I am getting older every day and more fabulous along the way”.

The next step is to eat well – get rid of the “junk” food or “too much” food and increase our intake of fruit and vegetables and drink lots of water! As we get older we also need social contact with others, it is not good to be alone. Social contact can include time with friends, volunteer work, joining a club or a church. Community connections that build relationships with others will at the same time build our resilience. Also, as we get older we need to introduce more fun into the daily routine and not take everything too seriously. Any ideas how this can be achieved apart from watching funny movies?

Overall, building our resilience is not too difficult – I started today with a 20-minute walk and some positive self-talk. How about you?


Retirees down in the dumps

There are many retirees today who are “down in the dumps”. This could be due to financial, health, relational or emotional factors. I read another blog earlier this week about the experiences of a man (let’s call him Dave) who retired from a “high level” government job. His job was his passion and at his own admission his identity was tied up in his job. After a year of retirement he could not cope and found another job. After a while he discovered that was not working for him either. Dave does not want to get involved in retirement activities such as learning to play a new instrument, learning a new language, volunteering or some other community activity. This has led Dave to feeling “down in the dumps”, depressed about what life has to offer in retirement. What makes people happy in retirement and what will make Dave happy? Dave has good health and is financially secure. On those two counts he is ahead of others whose health is in decline and whose finances are not healthy.

The subject of living a quality life, one that Dave is after in retirement, came up just over a week ago when I was at a 40th Birthday Celebration along with 216 new friends! The truth is they were not really my friends although some could become my friends very soon. My “One & Only” (O&O) and I came together with the 216 other people, mostly retirees,  to celebrate the 40th Birthday of National Seniors Australia. 

National Seniors is a group for over 50's. You can join a local branch or just keep up to date with encouragement about what is happening with seniors in Australia. Great information and resources.

National Seniors is a group for over 50’s. You can join a local branch or just keep up to date with what is happening with seniors in Australia. Great information and resources!

My O&O and I sat at a table with six other people we had never met before. However, it did not take long before we were chatting about life and the things that are important to us. I spoke to others at the table about the challenges retirees must have if they do not own their own home. One couple told us that they were all set for their retirement years but after bad investment advice from a financial adviser their retirement savings disappeared overnight. This is not an isolated story and it is therefore beholden on the Australian Government not to weaken legislation that regulates financial advisers. The woman sitting next to me told me that she did not own her own home and the rental costs were a burden on her. She said that the only way she survived was with the support of friends. She is from a small rural community in the Lockyer Valley and is fortunate to find friends she can rely on as she ages.

Before our three course lunch we listened to the guest speaker, Everald Compton (84 years). Everald was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia (NSA).  He served on the NSA Board of Directors for 35 years and was Chairman for 25 years. Everald’s book “The Man on the Twenty Dollar Notes – Flynn of the Inland” was published in 2016. My O&O bought the book and though not an avid reader of books is enjoying this book immensely. Everald retired in 2010 when he took up a new role as Chairman of the Australian Government’s Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing for three years.

Positive Ageing is about maintaining a positive attitude about yourself as you get older, feeling okay about yourself and being engaged in life. This is what Dave needs to work out – how he can feel okay about himself as he ages without his identity being tied to a job or a place in a company. In an earlier post I wrote about preparing for retirement. It is during the preparation phase that we need to work out what we will do with those 40 hours a week we spent in paid employment. If you are in the pre-retirement phase do prepare and have a transition plan, don’t just let it happen!

Retirement is not something that should happen after the farewell work party or waking up the next morning without the alarm clock. Is Dave the type of guy who can’t turn off the alarm clock or is he the type of guy that laughs when it goes off, knowing that he can turn it off and nod off to sleep for another 30 minutes or more. So what does Dave do and what do others do in this type of situation. Feeling “down in the dumps” is not reserved solely for older people it can happen to all age groups. Older men though are more susceptible to depression so it is important that Dave does something about his situation soon. Dave has taken the first positive step in that he is reaching out and searching for ways to be happy as he ages!

One Canadian Study found that for people to be happy in retirement they should give up seeking success and status. If our lives revolve around our identity in a job what happens when we no longer have a job? What is left? What I think Dave should do is work out what he is passionate about (outside of paid employment)? If we do the things we love then we will find we love what we are doing. My O&O and I have been busy settling into our new home this year. We have concentrated on areas of maintenance that after 22 years needed attention. In the last month old plants were removed and replaced with new ones. My O&O has completed installing a reticulation system so that the entire garden can be watered by turning on the timer taps. We had four cubic metres of mulch delivered and used the wheelbarrow to move this around our 1000 square metre block of land.  We are still working on replacing the oven, cooktop and rangehood. I have not spent as much time blogging lately as I have been busy with other activities. What makes me happy in retirement? I like to have goals, write them down and then cross them out with a coloured highlighter when I have achieved the goal. Some goals can be completed in a day, others takes months or years. I gave up the idea years ago that I am only worthwhile if I have status and success in others eyes. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, all that matters is the type of person we became. What characteristics will others remember me for? For a start, I hope others remember me for giving a kind word when it was not deserved, displaying generosity when it was not expected and encouraging and loving those who did not deserve it. Fortunately, I hope to have years ahead of me to practice and strengthen those positive characteristics. So what would I say to Dave – “don’t be too introspective Dave, don’t naval gaze, find out what you love to do and start doing what you love. Along the way practice acts of kindness and love others without expecting anything in return and see how your world can change”! What do you think would make Dave happy and what would you say to Dave?

Under the kitchen sink

What is happening under the kitchen sink? This week on television I saw a short clip of Peter Walsh who was looking under someone’s kitchen sink. You may have heard about Peter; he is an Australian who now lives in USA. He is a declutter guru and has metamorphosed into a motivational speaker. His job is helping others to organise their homes, businesses and life.  He is a great believer in that you can have a better life if it is organised. Did you ever think that the way your home is organised has something to say about YOU! Apparently it does! After seeing Peter peering into someone’s kitchen cupboard (under the sink) I thought it was time I had a good look under my kitchen sink.

What I found was quite pleasing as it looks quite well organised. I expect this in part has to do with the fact that we have moved several times over the past three years and sold two houses. These days when you are selling, it is time to declutter and it can reap benefits.

What I found was quite pleasing as it looks quite well organised. I expect this, in part, had to do with decluttering due to several moves and in the process we got more organised.

These days when you are selling, it is time to declutter and it can reap benefits. My sister and her husband sold their house earlier this year and after putting effort into a declutter regime got more money than they expected. Can you imagine the smile on their face and the celebration, all because they looked under the kitchen sink! It seems this is a good place to start, an area that gets daily use with cleaning bottles and tools.

My “One & Only” (O&O) and I steadily over the past few years became declutter proficient. We were always tidy, but now we are tidier – is that possible? Yes, we improved over the years with our organisational skills. When my O&O tidies the kitchen after a meal, it is spick and span. I feel better when I look at a clean and tidy kitchen. You do not have to have the latest model kitchen with all the fancy appliances to make your kitchen look great.  Just a bit of elbow grease and the reorganisation of what is in your cupboards.

Keeping bottles and brushes in a plastic basket keeps them contained and easier to find.

Keeping bottles and brushes in a plastic basket keeps them contained and easier to find.

Reorganising our cupboards becomes even more important when you have your house on the market. People relate better to a house that is clean and organised. The goal is to have no clutter on the kitchen bench-tops and under the kitchen sink should show no sign of untidiness. Now I am sounding like Martha Stewart. If you are serious about organising your home this Spring, you could check out her Spring organizing tips. It is time also for me to put a spring into my step and look at a few other rooms in our home to see how organised they are! Being organised is not a “once off” activity – that much I know!

In the preparation for selling our house I bought coat hangers that matched and hung all the clothes in order. Shirts, shorts, long clothes etc. It looked so neat and tidy. The pantry was the same and over time when you practice being organised, suddenly you find you ARE organised. People looking at our house may have thought I was verging on being Obsessive Compulsive but I can be untidy at times and I am okay about that. The goal is not perfectionism, the goal is organisation and it is achievable. Not every drawer and every cupboard is neat at our place, but overall I think we have achieved the goal of being reasonably organised.

There are benefits in living an organised life. I have discovered a few secrets and I will share these with you in my next post. In the meantime, don’t forget to have a look under your kitchen sink!

Frugal Frieda and sense savings

I made a decision in January this year to write a “Frugal Frieda” post each month. Life has been busy and I missed the month of May altogether! Now it is June and getting close to the end of the financial year Frugal Frieda has thoughts about saving and spending – sense savings.

Have you heard about ‘sense savings’? It is more than just a new buzz phrase – ‘sense savings’ is a new way of banking. It is a combination of two accounts; an everyday account and a savings account, with one statement. The ‘sense savings’ account does analysis on spending and saving and provides information using tools such as pie charts and graphs. At a glance you can find out how successful you are in reaching your financial goals. This type of account would be great for young people saving for a home or a car. It could also be beneficial for retirees who have an income of $2000 or more per month and like the idea of someone else doing the tracking of spending and saving.

There are now only a few banks that offer this and one of these is St George Bank. Read more here. As Frugal Frieda says “even if it sounds attractive make sure you do your homework and are getting the best interest on your money”.

Watch the change and you will find you are saving

Watch the change!

While Frugal Frieda is not promoting a bank she does emphasise tracking your spending and tracking savings. It makes sense to track what we are doing with our money. If we don’t manage our money than our money will slip through our fingers and where it goes, no one knows!

Frugal Frieda and I are constantly surprised by the number of people waving around that small piece of plastic for a purchase and then waving goodbye to the receipt as the shop attendant places it in the bin. How do these people track their expenses and make sure there are no unauthorised transactions on their bank statements? Even with my ‘squirrel’ type behaviour of keeping every receipt and tracking expenditure there are times when one will go missing and I am trying to work out from the statement what the transaction is all about.

One major issue for Frugal Frieda is to keep a good record of expenses. It makes sense to do this as part of a budget management plan. Without tracking expenses and savings, it is easy to overspend and then wonder where it all went. Perhaps Frugal Frieda should put up her hand to help with the Federal Budget! For Frugal Frieda it is easy peasy to manage your money. On one side of the ledger there are expenses (outgoings), the other side what comes in e.g. salary (income). Frugal Frieda likes the simple approach. It is a simple mathematics formula, that is, subtract expenses from your income and savings balance. What you have left is what you can spend or better still spend some and save some.

If a bank can help with spending and saving that is a bonus and always something to consider without having to work it out ourselves. Frugal Frieda is pleased that a few banks are offering such a service to customers when all the time customers are getting less face-to-face services.

The banks are changing the way they do business with their customers. I found this out a few months ago when I visited a bank where all the tellers had been replaced with machines. The machines are very intelligent and efficient, they can count money quickly and with the press of a few keys your money has gone into either yours or someone else’s account. My first experience of this was quite traumatic as the money disappeared into the black hole of the machine before I knew what was going on. Fortunately, I have moved with the times and are now quite reasonably comfortable with the process apart from the receipt not giving me the details of where the money ends up!

As Frugal Frieda states “the world is in such a flux of change and we have to adapt to change rather than fight against it”. In adapting to the changes all around us we have to ‘wise up’ and start saving. The financial debt of everyday Australians is at an all-time high which tells us people are ‘spending’ rather than ‘saving’ and at times ‘spending’ more money than they have!

Frugal Frieda’s Tip: Keep a track of your income and expenses. Instead of buying something on a credit card and paying it off over months or years “save for it”! If you need a new piece of furniture look for a second-hand item or something on sale – once you have the money! It saves being anxious about debt. As Frugal Frieda says “true happiness is being ‘sense’ able and not overspending”. It is a simple formula and without all the strife a life of overspending brings.

Scams –seniors beware!

The world is changing and while there has always been someone around to swindle someone out of something we now have to “watch out” for the online scam. I am very conscious of suspicious emails and have a habit of warning others and yet it happened to me!

Yesterday I got an email from one of my energy providers. The email looked legitimate and I did not give it a second thought that the email could be a scam. By a scam I mean someone is trying to get access to my computer, gain my personal details and engage in identity fraud.

The email turned up in my junk mail. This in itself should have sent off a warning bell. I moved the email to my inbox and attempted to open the attachments, this is the very thing you should not do with scam emails. As many of you know, your computer can become infected with a virus and your identity stolen.

As I had difficulty opening the attachments I logged on to the website of my energy provider to check the bill and download it from there. The login in would not accept my password. I then got a new password but still no success. Then I entered the world of the online chat with the energy provider staff member. After a few preliminaries he said the email could be a scam and asked me to give him the details of the email address, that is, where the email had come from. Immediately I looked at this I knew I had a scam email. After the password issue was fixed I then went about deleting the scam email.

We always have to be on alert in all situations...something could be hiding in the woodpile

We have to be alert in all situations…something could be hiding in the woodpile

There are a few lessons in this experience for me, including: checking the email address; knowing when my energy bills are due to arrive; making sure the bill is for the right energy source (in this case the energy provider bill was for electricity when it is only my gas provider) and having an up to date anti-virus and spy malware software product.

Fortunately, for me and my “one & only” we have a very good software product to protect our computers. However, it did surprise me when I opened the email that the anti-virus was on alert and had to fix a problem. Today I did a scan of my computer to make sure it was clean! The word I would like to emphasise is if you have a reliable anti-virus and “scan” you can sidestep the “scam”.  A software product will work on our behalf when we are not aware of a problem, even when we are asleep!

All of us, not only seniors, need to be alert about scams and the damage they can do. Last year Australians lost over $229 million to scams. However, many older Australians who are not as savvy with technology can become easy victims of scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a website called “Scam Watch”. Many scams target older Australians so we all need to spread the word. The ACCC’s research has shown that older people are particularly vulnerable with investment and dating and romance scams.

There is some great information to raise awareness of the issue on the ACCC website and about how we can protect ourselves. Go to the site here  for further information.

Frugal Frieda

It seems to me that we live in a disposable society, one that is further away from living a frugal life than in years gone by.  Take my parents for example, both were born in 1926 and grew up in The Great Depression of the 1930’s.  From an early age they learnt to be frugal, as did their parents, extended family and neighbours. This was the only way they could survive the economic hardship of that era. It is difficult for me to comprehend that in 1932 unemployment in Australia was around 30%. There was very little food to put on the table, not to mention all the other necessities for life. Things were just starting to get better and then came along the Second World War and more pain and hardship. My father, who is no longer with us, felt the impact of growing up in a poor Roman Catholic family in hard economic times. He used to walk to school in his bare feet and only put on his shoes once he arrived at school in order to save the wear and tear on the leather. Perhaps that is why he developed such a strong work ethic and worked two jobs at times to ensure his wife and children never went without.

There are individuals and families in our communities today that struggle economically but overall most are doing very well. Just to put things into perspective the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) in their 2004 report on poverty in Australia estimated that 13.9% or 2.5million people were living below the internationally accepted poverty line. And while on the other hand 86.1% are doing okay we can still be like Frugal Frieda and be careful with what we have and not be wasteful. Taking it a step further we can live a life of gratitude by being mindful of our blessings. If you want more information about the ACOSS report on poverty you will find it here.

Even with the majority of people doing well in Australian society I thought it would be a worthwhile task to look at ways we can live more frugal lives, whether we need to or not. Even if we don’t need to be frugal – we can, it is a choice. On the other hand there are others who by necessity need to be frugal. If we are doing well economically and are wise with our money there are a multitude of ways we can use the excess.

Because I like to be wise with my money and the way I live I am going to write a post on my blog every month of 2016 with tips on how we can be more frugal. You may wonder why the name “frugal Frieda”? It has no association with anyone I know but it could be an “alter ego”.  Yes, let’s just say it is my “alter ego”.

Yesterday I made pasta/pizza sauce which produced 4 bottles for use over the next month or more. In this case did I do it to be frugal – no? I did it so we would have a healthy alternative to what I can buy at the supermarket.  But by finding a healthier alternative the spin-off is that I also saved money, albeit unintentionally. As I mentioned in an earlier post by menu planning fortnightly we are saving $50 that can go towards something else, such as a holiday or that extra high electricity bill!

Home made pasta or pizza sauce is a healthy alternative to buying it in the supermarket

Home made pasta or pizza sauce is a healthy alternative to buying it in the supermarket

Frugal Frieda is going to by busy over 2016 looking for ways to demonstrate that being frugal can be interesting and fun, as well as helping the environment.

The tip for January: make your own bread at home either by hand or buy an electric bread maker.  Making your own bread means that there are no preservatives or additives. You will find it is cheaper, healthier and tastier than bought bread. However, like us, there is nothing wrong with buying the occasional loaf of bread such as sourdough or sourdough and kalamata olives – my favourite. Always slice and freeze your bread and take out daily what you need. This may not work if you have a large family however if you have a large freezer than you can buy bread when it is cheap and then you are a step closer to being a “frugal Frieda”. A little left over or stale bread though does have its uses such as making stuffing for a roast chicken or feeding the ducks at a nearby pond. By the way, let Frugal Frieda know what you did this month to be more frugal. “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

Make it a habit

A habit is something that we do habitually; a pattern of behaviour, practice or routine that can be difficult to change. If we do something often enough we can make it a habit. There are “good” habits and “bad” habits. One “bad” habit I have observed in both my working and personal life is certain people who always run late. To break the habit firstly the person has to recognise it as a “bad” habit and then want to do something about it.  In contradistinction to running late a “good” habit is always being on time. The difference is that the “on time” person manages their time rather than let time manage them. Managing time then all comes down to organisation. If you are organised and plan ahead you will be where you want to be at a particular time.

Why is it that parents with eight children can arrive on time to an event and parents with two children are always running late? The family with eight children is not just a figment of my imagination they do exist, but they now have nine children! This family are a perfect example of managing their time successfully. A “good” habit has been developed. They are not like the others who are always running late and making excuses!

My dear mother (89 years young) has always had a habit of running late. When my younger sister and I were at primary school she had to do our hair as she liked to make mine into ringlets and my sister had plaits. We walked to school and I did not like turning up when all the children were on parade, ready to march into our classrooms. Yes, as funny as it may sound to younger people today we used to march! When Greenbottle, a comedy serial, came on the radio I knew we were going to be late for class  and I would say “Mum, it’s getting late when are you going to do our hair”!

In the 1960’s going to church, particularly if you were Roman Catholic, was a Sunday ritual you never missed. As we were always arriving late my father’s mate allowed us to park in his driveway across the road from the church in front of a sign that said “no parking in the driveway”! No one at church seemed to favour the front seats and with our family of seven (and later eight) arriving late we had less choice. Therefore, we usually ended up finding a vacant pew in the front few rows. At least we had a good view of what was going and I could verify that the priest consumed all the communion wine after he earlier mixed only a droplet of it with the water.

Again, one of my paternal Aunt’s was always running late. It must be something to do with adrenalin kicking in – the excitement of the moment! Will I make it or not! In the 1960’s my Aunty would catch the bus to work from Cannon Hill to the Brisbane CBD. The bus stop was at the backdoor of her house. There were times when she would wave out the window to the bus driver to let him know she was on her way and the bus would wait! In today’s world of busyness and commerce this would not happen.

How do we change “bad” habits into “good” habits and will such a change improve our lives? I think it will. Good habits such as exercise and good nutrition are good for us. It is time then for me to think about all my habits, what “bad” habits I have and replace these with “good” habits. I’ll have to make a list!

In 2012 Charles Duhigg wrote a book called “The Power of Habit”. Duhigg identified a “habit loop” that can be broken down into three components. First of all there is the “cue”, then the behaviour, routine or practice and lastly the reward. In order to change “bad” habits into “good” habits we have to learn new routines and keep practicing these so that the behaviour becomes automatic. While Duhigg refers to the habit loop as the Cue / Routine / Reward. I like to replace “routine” with “practice” as the key word. It then stands for CPR and it reminds me this is my emergency process to enable me to reinvent myself through new and better – “good” habits. You may not have time to read Charles Duhigg’s entire book but if you click on the link here this information from the appendix of “The Power of Habit” will help you understand your habits and if you want to, change some.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

For me at present I would like to develop the “good” habit of walking regularly? The “cue” could be planning this for a certain time of the day and certain days of the week. A schedule for the week on the fridge could work. If I do this and walk for 20-30 minutes three days per week the practice becomes a routine and this becomes habitual. The reward is I get fitter, have more energy for other activities and maybe even lose a few kilos. One of the keys I believe in cultivating and retaining a “good” habit is the power of rewards. But sometimes the rewards are not evident early on and this can interfere with consolidating a “good” habit. I will have to contemplate how I can identify early rewards from my walking exercise to keep my motivation high. Maybe a star sticker on my weekly schedule will work as it is another tangible reward I can see. I think I’ll start this week. A new “good” habit, a new “good” ME!

P.S. If any of my siblings are reading this please don’t tell our dear mother that her “bad” habit of running late could go viral -lol! I do think as she has aged there has been a slight improvement.

The Christmas Prawn Feast & Food Safety

It is encouraging to know that Australia has very stringent food safety standards as is the case when it comes to prawns. Prawns will be on many Australian menus for this festive season. When I was thinking about where we would source our prawns for Christmas my attention turned to prawn fishing and food safety in Australia.

In Australia Fisheries operate under State and Territory’s laws and regulations but all must follow the legislative requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There are two methods of prawn production; the wild-caught or the farmed variety. In Australia Queensland leads the way with Aquaculture production. While this is great as it keeps us provided with prawns we can also be misled when we think we are buying prawns freshly caught from the ocean.

The crustaceans that Australians call prawns belong to one decapod family, Penaeidae. In Australia there are about 70 species of prawns but only around 10 of economic significance. The main prawns caught in Australia are the Banana, Schoolies, Kings, Tiger’s and Endeavours. The two foremost species of farmed prawns in the world are the Black Tiger (Penaeus monodon) and Vannamei (Penaeus vanname). The latter is not farmed in Australia. The two major species of farmed prawns in Australia are the Black Tiger and the Banana Prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis). These two species are produced by Seafarm and sold under the name of Crystal Bay Prawns. Seafarm is Australia’s oldest and largest prawn farming business. There are other fisheries that produce Tiger Prawns including the Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture Farm and Hatchery. It is the largest prawn farm in South East Queensland and run by the Herbst Family.

King Prawns and Endeavour Prawns are not farmed. They are caught in the wild. The Endeavour Prawn is caught in the pristine northern oceans of Australia. The Eastern King Prawn (Melicertus Plebejus) was rebranded as the Mooloolaba Prawn in 2008. The question I am asking is will ‘my one and only’ and I travel about 40 minutes to the Mooloolaba Fish Market for the fresh wild-caught Mooloolaba Prawn on Christmas Eve?

Tiger Prawns for Dinner Tonight

Tiger Prawns for Dinner Tonight

To help with the decision making I decided to put prawns on the menu for dinner tonight. You might ask what happened to my ‘menu planning’. With menu planning you have to be flexible so a change is always possible. My first step was to undertake preliminary prawn surveillance at my local IGA in Maleny. I bought what was labelled as Mooloolaba Tiger Prawns. I was excited when I saw the name Mooloolaba and asked the question whether these were fresh or frozen and had confirmation they were fresh. Since my trip to the supermarket I discovered that tiger prawns are mostly raised in aquaculture and rarely caught in the wild. One of the few wild-caught prawn operations are in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Interestingly, through my ‘prawn research’ I found out that there is no Mooloolaba Tiger Prawn! So what we are eating tonight is more likely a farmed prawn not a wild-caught prawn and definitely NOT a Mooloolaba prawn. More questions to ask on my next trip to the supermarket. Therefore I am encouraging all prawn lovers to ask questions about prawn labeling when at the supermarket or buying from your local supplier.

Further another question is “should we consider imported prawns this festive season”? Before you decide read further. In 2013 (16 March) an article reported in the Daily Mail Australia is interesting reading. Jim Wickens, an Environmental Journalist, went undercover on prawn trawlers in Thailand to discover the real story behind the Asian prawn industry. What he found horrified him. From the exploitative slave labour to the putrid factories that produce the food for the prawns. After his investigation he said he would never eat another King Prawn. The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia Inc tell us that all edible fish is “extremely good” for us, regardless of the country of origin. There are International trade regulations and imported prawns are subject to strict standards but is this “good enough”.

The informed prawn consumer in Australia needs to know that prawns infected with cholera and other contaminants have been intercepted on their way to Australia. In Queensland this year B&E Packaging were fined $20,000 after a major food safety breach. This was as a result of them selling 1,500kg of cooked prawns imported from Vietnam without the required food safety tests. Anyone who disregards the Australia’s important requirement and food safety laws can be fined up to $330,000.

Prawns are a high-risk food so it is important you know what you are buying and paying for. Ask the questions when you are buying your prawns this festive season. Buying Australian prawns support the local fishing industry. Use your buying power to create jobs for Australians and support our flagging economy. My decision is made! This festive season we will be enjoying wild-caught prawns even if I have to travel to Mooloolaba. Buon Appetito!

Christmas Food Fiesta

It is that time of the year when many of us are planning our Christmas Food Fiesta. Our minds turn to what we are going to eat and drink during the Christmas Holidays. I have been going through all my old recipes to get inspiration. Often I get an idea and then improvise, but usually not on guests!

So many great cooks and chefs have inspired me over the years. So with all this inspiration what should we have for our 2014 Christmas Food Fiesta? For Christmas in 2000 Beef Wellington was on the menu with ‘2000’ in pastry on top. Christmas in Australia is often celebrated as a cold meal with seafood, smoked leg ham, salads, stone fruit, chocolates, cheeses and drinks of choice. The traditional roast meats and baked vegetables are also on the menu for many. Our Christmas Food Fiesta this year will consist of fresh Queensland prawns, leg ham, salad and tropical fruit. This is as good as it gets and really it can’t get much better than that! So all will be well at my place as long as no one eats my Christmas pudding!

"Somebody has been eating my pudding" (Myer Brisbane - Christmas Window 2014 )

“Somebody has been eating my pudding” (Myer Brisbane – Christmas Window 2014 )

For me the most important part of the Christmas Food Fiesta is the people you share it with. Even if there is just the two of us Christmas day we still celebrate with a bon bon and wear our paper hats. After all what would Christmas be without a paper hat! It is rumoured that Queen Elizabeth II wears her paper hat at Christmas lunch. If it is good enough for the Queen then it is good enough for us.

Christmas can be stressful for some people and families. While many can afford to splurge on gifts, food and holidays there are others who are less advantaged. If money is short it is best to keep the gifts small and simple. Agree as a family to keep gifts to a dollar limit. The Australian Council of Social Service report that over 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. Therefore, for these families to enjoy a Christmas Food Fiesta they need the generosity of others. All the while be generous to yourself. You can do this by not celebrating Christmas via your plastic card, unless of course you can pay it off at the end of the month. Then you can sail into 2015 feeling good about not drowning in unpaid bills.

This Christmas the Salvation Army will help over 300,000 people. St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) each year helps 1.8 million people. At this time of the year major charities and local community’s provide goods, gifts and food parcels donated by community members. Australian Food Companies with the help of Foodbank Australia every year diverts thousands of tonnes of food that would otherwise go into landfill to feed the hungry. Locally, in my community we can ‘adopt a family’ through one of the local charitable organisations. Christmas gives all of us the opportunity to think of others in our community. This year my knitting group donated knitted toys and other hand made items to the Salvation Army. I love the giving spirit of Aussies, always willing to lend a hand and make Australia a better place for all.