Brrr, me and my big mouth! There was Noel and I at the weekend, stacking firewood in the shed in the glorious sunshine and I merrily said 'At least we haven't had to light the fire so early this year, isn't it lovely?!' and BANG - someone upstairs goes and flicks off the fine weather switch. Instant winter. The fire gets lit, the dehumidifiers go on and we're all overcome with an overwhelming desire for comfort food. I'm a soup fanatic from way back and have made and frozen enough tomato soup to last me through the winter. I have even found a recipe for Zucchini Soup - oh joy, another way to use the darn things up!
2 tsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
500g zucchini, unpeeled
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken stock
Third of a cup of cream
Seasoning to taste
Melt butter in a saucepan, add onion and cook a few minutes, then add sliced zucchini. Add potato, stock and seasoning and simmer until soft. Puree in blender and reheat. When ready to serve, stir in cream. This makes a nice, thick and creamy soup and best of all, it's FAST!
Yesterday's weather was particularly revolting and all I could think about for dinner was a nice hot curry. I knew the Forum would come up trumps with a suitable recipe and sure enough a quick search for 'curry' brought up some mouthwatering ones. I ended up making Beef Rogan Josh and it was absolutely DIVINE, thanks Phil D for sharing it! I don't eat meat but I LOVE casseroles and all the other winter warmers so I simply ladle some of the sauce over my vegetables, yum! Another good thing about the weather turning to rubbish is that Noel can't go outside to have a smoke so often, teehee! Although I must say since he is back on the ciggies again Liam is doing a stirling job of trying to thwart his Dad's stinky habit. Every time he is in the car with Noel, he throws his cigarettes out of the window when he's not looking and if the boys catch Noel smoking at home, they threaten to throw water bombs at him! Ingenious plans indeed, unfortunately it's proving rather expensive because Noel just stops at the next available service station to replace the cigarettes now adorning the highway. You'd think the bloke would just admit defeat...
*Touch wood* we all seem to be fighting fit again now and have been continuing with our ABC holiday programme. As mentioned, a few days ago I took the boys to Waikato Stadium to see the Chiefs train. It was supposed to be an open training, meaning the public could come and watch and get autographs and so on. We arrived and were amazed to find we were the only ones there - cool! The players were all on the field training - all except my hero, Byron Kelleher. Typical! Nevertheless, we were here now but before we could settle down to watch, we all HAD to find the toilets and were dismayed to find them all locked. We eventually found a helpful lady who unlocked them for us and as we gratefully emerged a few minutes later, two of the players walked off the field and asked if we would like them to sign anything. 'Wow, that's service, thanks!' we smiled. 'Yeah - well we noticed you had disappeared and thought we had better come and tell you that training has been cancelled, too many of the guys are sore so the bosses are going easy on us today. The rest of the players have all gone, sorry'. They had all run off while we were in the loo? Oh nooo! We had driven for over an hour for nothing - but I wasn't about to let the boys stay disappointed, I had a cunning plan! We wended our way through fences and parks until we eventually arrived at the back of the stadium, in the car park. It took us a while to get there but with a bit of luck, I hoped we might just catch some of the players on their way out. My plan worked! The boys were delighted and because we were the only ones there, the players had plenty of time to stop and chat.
And then, who should appear out of the steamy changing rooms but my halfback Adonis, Byron Kelleher - keep calm girl! Here was my chance to rewrite history. You see, last time I met the great man I did not make the impression I had hoped for. I had watched the team train for three hours in the pouring rain with the kids and by the time we got to meet the players, I was soaked to the skin and peeking out lamely from under a bright orange umbrella in the shape of a duck. Not so this time! The weather was perfect and so was my hair and as he walked across smiling I seized my chance. 'Hi Byron, please may we have your autograph?' I asked sweetly. He agreed and as he chatted to the kids about their school holidays I thanked him profusely for his time, finishing with 'Sorry to bother you - it's just that we missed you before because I was in the loo.' Oh Penny - you're all class. Of all the things to say! At least he had the good grace to laugh. The boys on the other hand were just beside themselves. 'I can't believe you told your ultimate hero that you were in the TOILET!' Liam doubled up in hysterics. 'He'll remember you alright - for all the wrong reasons!'
So it was down to earth with a bump again and back to my wonderful husband who had been industriously working on a holiday project of his own. For ages we had been wanting to get Liam some rugby goalposts, to keep him outside and active and doing one of his favourite things, practising to be the next Daniel Carter. Unfortunately although I had been keeping an eye out for months, they're not the kind of item that pops up frequently on eBay and the cheapest price I could find them on sale was for $165 - not an option! By the time Liam's birthday came around to warrant a big enough present, the rugby season would be over. Luckily while we were out, Noel had come up with another idea. He took the trailer round to a farming friend's house and asked if he had any scrap metal lying around - in particular any metal poles. Bingo! He found three which his mate was more than happy for Noel to take away - in fact he was doing him a favour. Just an hour or so later, Liam's brand new goal posts were standing up in the field next to our house and he was practising his kicks to his heart's content. They looked just as professional as the bought ones - they were even painted white! Best of all, they cost less than $10 to make - all that was needed to buy were some bolts and screws and an angle grinding disc. Noel was very proud of his Simple Savings project and I was pretty proud of Liam's caring dad, too.
The following day was 'D Day' in our holiday programme and the start of the bad weather, so we mainly watched DVD's but it did fine up long enough for us to go swimming in the afternoon and practise doing Dolphin Dives - that was about the best we could come up with! Yesterday was 'E Day' and the weather really had turned to crap by then, so we were resigned to being inside. The morning was spent doing Exercise. The playroom was transformed into a gym, with my exercise bike in the corner and another recent acquisition, a Swiss ball. This was my SS alternative for buying a new chair for the playroom. The kids needed another seat in there but I couldn't believe the prices of even the smallest chairs and even a beanbag was too expensive. Then as we were walking out of the local pools the other day, Ali saw a pile of Swiss balls in the neighbouring fitness centre and asked what they were. 'Cool!' he commented when I explained. I remembered a chiropractor once telling me that Swiss balls are one of the best things to sit on, because you have to have perfect posture in order to balance. I made a mental note to look out for one next time I was in the Warehouse and gleefully picked up a bright purple one for just $12 - a pretty cheap chair in my opinion! It doesn't look out of place at all in the kids' playroom - in fact it looks perfect and the boys love it for sitting on, playing with - and of course exercising! Being an 'E' day the Eye Toy was also allowed to come out, which gave us plenty more exercise. By mid-afternoon we were all puffed out and had run out of things to do, so I suggested the Rainy Day Box. This was a large plastic box in which I had surreptitiously placed some of the boys' presents from Christmas Day and stashed them away. A smart move I had learned from SS members of course! The kids had forgotten all about it and when I brought it up, Ali said - 'but that's a Rainy Day box, it doesn't start with 'E'!' Until they looked inside and found a Slime Making Kit. 'We can make some Experiments!' said the boys - so that's what we did and it was so much fun. Believe it or not, it wasn't TOO messy either! As for today, I don't know what the plans are at this stage - other than that today is definitely Freezing Friday and on Saturday we are going to try out the Golden Syrup Dumplings recipe from the Forum for 'G' day!
Time to let you in on a wee secret before I go! Ever since I wrote my last blog about wanting to join in the Mortgage Reduction Challenge, I have been seriously bugged by the amount of debt we are still paying off. I don't want it - I want to get rid of it so I can concentrate on the mortgage. I am SO determined to save in order to get rid of it faster! The real cost of spending thread has really made me think. I don't want to pay any more interest than I have to! The only thing is, the budget's a bit tighter than usual at the moment, so I can't afford a lump sum but instead I have vowed to pay more off than our usual monthly payments. Here are the ones I want to get rid of. At the moment we owe $5,627 on my car - a debt I really hate with a vengeance because if someone else hadn't gone and crashed a bus into my previous car, I would never have had this expense. $456.23 of this figure is interest and the monthly payment of $400 ends in June 2008. Then there's Noel's boat, which as of today we still have $9,341.68 still owing on. We have been paying boats off in one shape or form for the last 10 years now and I swear if he ever does it to me again I shall wring his neck. However, for now I need to get rid of the payments on this one. $990 of that figure is also interest and we pay $294.74 each month on the blessed thing until November 2009. Not if I can help it - Simple Savings has taught me to HATE debt! Unfortunately I've already coughed up thousands in interest on both items before coming to this revelation. Still, better late than never. I couldn't decide on a feasible figure to pay off each one, but then I found the answer. I would take the amount of money that Noel usually spends on cigarettes and put away that amount each week. I calculated that he currently spends $70 on smoking each week, so I have split that amount in half and set up an automatic payment into each finance company for $35 extra to go in every week. That's $140 extra minimum to add on to each debt every month, or $1680 extra a year paid off on BOTH! If I can continue to shop smart, I don't think we'll even notice the extra money coming out but you know what? I'm not even going to tell Noel! If he gives up smoking in the meantime, fine but I'll still keep putting that extra amount of money away so he can see what a difference it makes. If all goes to plan, my car will now be paid off in half the time! I'm so excited! Now, don't you breathe a word to him, it's our little secret!