Gathering the straws of life together

Recent Posts

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 […]

Backyard chickens

Backyard chickens

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know we have backyard chickens. When we moved a couple of years ago to our home in Toowoomba I did not think this would be possible. However, we reorganised one side of our 1008 […]

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

How often have you heard the phrase – home is where the heart?  A home is much more than a house. It is a place where we either live with those we love or those we love, visit us in our home. A home is where we feel comfortable, where we feel we belong – a place where we become emotionally attached.

Downsizing your home

If you happen to be downsizing, you may not be able to fit all your furniture into your new home. I heard of a woman who moved into a 2-bedroom villa, in a retirement village who took everything with her from a 4-bedroom home. It was overwhelming. Downsizing can be traumatic as there are things, such as furniture and other belongings we may need to part with – all the things that made the place where you live, a home. There are also decades of memories. Therefore, a disconnection to “home” can happen.

Moving to a new house

When we moved to Toowoomba and bought a new home early 2016 it took a while for me to see the house as home. Yes, I was comfortable, and yes, I was with the person I love, but the emotional connections were missing. My One & Only (O&O) and I had strong connections to our life in Maleny and our home there. Yes, so much to love, the space, the green hills, the countryside, interesting people and shops, cafés and my Princess Chickens. However, we decided to move to a smaller house and block of land and closer to facilities (without the trip down the mountain). Now, we have all the shops, facilities, an entire city on top of the mountain where we live. It was not until the removalist truck drove down our long driveway in Maleny that I felt the pangs of sadness and disconnection. Very soon all our possessions were in the back of a truck. We had a journey ahead to find a new home.

How do we become emotionally attached to our home?

Establishing emotional connections in a new house can take time. We had lived in another house in Toowoomba when I worked in the City on two separate occasions, but we always had our home in Maleny to return to at weekends. I grew up and went to school in Toowoomba, so the familiarity of places and faces were welcoming. My O&O had connections to Toowoomba through friends. Yet, it took a while for us to adjust to the change and settle into our home.

The first year we were busy with renovations. Little by little I felt more emotionally connected to our home. The emotional attachment then intensified due to a holiday. On our return, I realised how good it was to be home! Yes, it took time for us to feel at home, in the place we now call home, a place where our heart is – Toowoomba.

Tabletop Mountain taken from Toowoomba looking down the valley and to the hills beyond.

The City of Toowoomba

If you do not live in Toowoomba it is a great place to visit. As you drive up the range to Toowoomba (700 metres above sea level) take notice of the colour and mood of the mountains. These are forever changing. My O&O wrote a book about George Essex Evans, His Life and Family. He then wrote another book that collated all of GEE’s poetry. GEE wrote a poem about Toowoomba titled The Mountain Queen. If you visit Webb Park, east of the CBD, on the escarpment you will find a monument to GEE inscribed with verses of his poetry. On one side you can read the first stanza of his poem about Toowoomba, it reads:

Dark purple, chased with sudden gloom and glory,
Like waves in wild unrest,
Low-wooded billows and steep summits hoary,
Ridge, slope, and mountain crest,
Cease at her feet with faces turned to meet her,
Enthroned, apart, serene
Above her vassal hills whose voices greet her – The Mountain Queen.

Making a house a home

I have all the things I love around me, paintings and pictures on the walls, memorabilia and furniture from decades of my life and my O&O’s. We do not use all the rooms in our home, all the time, however I get much joy from looking around and inhaling the aroma of the room and the memories, mostly when I am dusting! I am sure to do more of this as I get older, that is, walking around and enjoying the memories I bought with me into the place we now call home.

Music is also another important feature of feeling “at home”. There is a connection between music and memory. Music takes us back in time, back to our stored memories. Listening to our favourite music can draw out the memories and connect the past to our present environment.

Other ways you can make a house a home is to buy a few new artefacts, things that you love. It is time to create new memories, to join the old with the new. A home is where we feel comfortable and secure. Once we create a home, that is is where the heart is.

Life in the grey zone

Life in the grey zone

What does life in the grey zone mean? Does it mean we are flexible, compromise, see others sides of the story or are we more black or white? Where are you on the continuum of extremes? Do you find yourself in the grey zone or […]

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon

What does “bringing home the bacon” mean? Does it mean going out buying and bringing home the bacon? It can mean that, but it is also an adage that been said over the centuries with an entirely different meaning. It means to earn a living […]

Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro is now one of my favourite things to do! But what is cilantro I hear you saying?

Last week when making a curry I hurriedly went into the garden and picked what I thought was flat leaf parsley. We did have flat leaf parsley in the veggie garden however it disappeared under the boots of the workmen when we had the garden enclosed with wire (to keep out the birds and the brush turkeys). After a while it made its way through the soil, as did the cilantro. I really enjoy the smell and flavour that cilantro gives to a dish. I was admiring the aroma of the so-called flat leaf parsley, which turned out to be cilantro!

Cilantro growing in our garden

Cilantro (sih-LAHN-troh) is the Spanish word for coriander leaves. It is sometimes called Chinese or Mexican parsley. My mistaking cilantro for flat leaf parsley was not such a bad culinary move! The cilantro added so much flavour to the curry dish. Then I came across a recipe “Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry” with cilantro. I had to try it. My “One & Only” (O&O) is not a big fan of lentils. I told him what was for dinner and he said, “does it have meat”? I say “no, but it is good for your health”. We both enjoyed the meal, but maybe me a little more than he! And yes, there was some over which we had for lunch the next day.

Cilantro is very popular in Asian and South America cooking. The leaves and seeds are taken from the same plant, cilantro are the leaves and the dried seeds are called coriander. The flavours are quite different. In the part of the world where I live we mostly refer to the leaves of the plant and the seeds as coriander. It is common for it to be used interchangeably. If you come across a recipe with cilantro in it, if you did not know before, then you know now that cilantro are the leaves of the coriander plant – or is it a cilantro plant? The botanical name is coriandrum sativum.

Try this Coriander and Lime Salad Dressing – delicious!

For my birthday dinner this month I am going back to one of my favourite recipes for quail – Marinated Herbed Quail. The combination of cilantro, fresh ginger, garlic, lime juice, grated lime rind and a few other ingredients – delectable! It is a meal we like to have at home, as it is finger licking good!

If you do not have cilantro growing at your place just yet, then think about buying a plant or buy a bunch from the supermarket. There are plenty of recipes you can try. The best way to store cilantro is to place it in a jar of water (just like a bunch of flowers) and cover loosely with a plastic bag. Change the water every couple of days. Cilantro, like many other herbs, are good for our health. It has vitamin C and other minerals. It is low in saturated fat and has no cholesterol. Another reason to find a recipe this weekend with cilantro. Buon appetito!

Heritage hens can go broody

Heritage hens can go broody

It seems that more and more people these days have backyard chickens and if they are heritage hens they can go broody. It you, like me, have the space and are prepared to do a little work then you can have the joy of eating […]


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