I am a yellow rubber duck

Posted January 5th, 2009 by Penny Wise

No, I haven't gone completely bonkers, it's one of my new mantras for 2009! Actually Noel and I pinched it from an Adidas campaign to keep us motivated when running but I think it's a pretty good one to keep in mind when striving to be a better Simple Saver too. Like a little yellow rubber duck, you cannot be crushed or broken. You bounce back and always rise to the surface. For me it's the same for me when saving money too - sometimes you flounder a little but you never quite sink. You just keep bobbing along until you find your way back to the SS track and before you know it, everything is going swimmingly again. Wow, what a philosophical way to start the New Year, Penny! Yes indeed, but that's where I'm at right about now - Christmas had me floating about helplessly but now this yellow rubber duck is motoring ahead in the right direction and I'm loving it!

Better still, the rest of the family is going full steam ahead with me too. Everyone is making a huge concerted effort to spend as little as possible. Once we sat the kids down and explained to them that every time they nagged us for drinks, lollies and other expensive extras they were actually depriving themselves of big things like another holiday to Australia, they really woke up and started to knuckle down to saving. Now they know that they have to buy ALL their fizzy drinks and lollies themselves, they are making much smarter decisions; either opting for something cheaper or often choosing to have nothing at all. Just goes to show how something like that becomes nothing more than a habit, it's not needed at all. Ali has the added incentive in that he wants to sponsor a World Vision child. He knows if he wants to be able to choose one of the 61 boys and girls currently on the World Vision site to sponsor, we have to keep up the effort, otherwise there won't be enough to go around for our family, let alone someone else! I think it's a great idea and am very proud of him for wanting to do it.

I'm embarrassed to admit we've been having too much SS style fun to have sat down and gone through all our bills for Better Deal Month yet! However, Noel and I are very keen to shop around for a better deal on our insurance, banking and so on. The weather has been absolutely beautiful so we have been packing up picnics and going to the beach, the lake or fishing. Yesterday was a real day to remember. The fishing forecast was perfect so the Fab Five headed out for a cracker day on the ocean. The aim was to catch a marlin at best, or dinner at worst. As it turned out, we managed neither but still had a magical day! The boys and I encountered our very first Sunfish reclining in the deep. What amazing, bizarre looking creatures these gentle giants are! Soon after we also came across a family of Minke whales, another first for the boys and me. In fact we did actually catch a marlin, for an adrenaline-filled few minutes, until it managed to thrash it's way free and disappear, never to return. The excitement was enough to last us for quite some time though!

The water was as blue as blue could be and we spent many happy hours pottering around the rugged Alderman Islands, spotting technicolour jellyfish, penguins and cape petrels, or Jesus birds; so-called for their uncanny ability to walk on water. The time had finally come to make our way home however and while we now had no idea what we were going to have for dinner, Mother Nature had saved the best spectacle for last. As we whizzed our way along, the boat was suddenly surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of dolphins. They were absolutely everywhere, we didn't know where to look first! These hugely sociable creatures had chosen us to come and play and we couldn't have been more honoured. It's always on their terms though - they love to play all the time the boat is moving. Stop the boat and they quickly become bored and swim away! So play with them we did. Their smiling faces appeared in the boat's wake as they sped along behind us. They revelled in the spray as they roly-polied alongside us. Proud mums showed off their adorable, fat babies to us. They dived, flipped and splashed for us again and again, in all directions, as far as the eye could see. Absolutely incredible - and all it cost us was the petrol for such a priceless day.

Today we have spent a leisurely free afternoon at Weavers Lake. I watched Noel and the boys swim and dive and do 'boy stuff' while I soaked up the sun from my cosy little jetty. I spotted carp in all colours and sizes and marvelled at the many beautiful dragonflies and thought again, as I have done so often lately, how lucky we are to appreciate such simple pleasures. The thing was, as Noel pointed out upon leaving, where was everyone else? A scorching hot afternoon in a busy town with a crystal clear freshwater lake and we were the only ones there. Twenty years ago a place like this would have been crawling with families swimming and picnicking. So where are they now? We could only surmise they were out shopping or inside playing video games! A sad sign of the times I guess.

While we are yet to work out our better deals for January, I am still being very mindful of using my ten minutes SS time wisely. I can't believe how much more I am learning than usual in just ten minutes a day! Even if you think you have nothing to do with your SS time, make the effort to do something with it. There are great new hints being added to the Vault all the time and sometimes things move so fast I don't always get the chance to check out the ten most recently added hints or the ten most popular before they disappear into the great abyss of the Vault, so your ten SS minutes is a great opportunity to do that. I also stumbled across the 'Fig and Panna Cotta' threads in the Forum quite by accident while looking for BBQ recipes and now I can't stop reading! I had seen the threads in the Forum for ages but didn't think they were for me. However, I have discovered to my delight that they are! These clever ladies have got me madly copying down recipes, many of which will cost us nothing as they use up so much of what we grow in the garden. The only thing is, I have to limit myself to reading just one thread a day in my ten minutes, otherwise I would be on there all day trying to catch up!

I know those recipes are going to come in really handy as Noel's garden has really come into its own lately. I bought him a garden diary for Christmas - for Kiwis, it's made by NZ Gardener and it's brilliant, really well done. Already we can see it's something we can continue to use and get value from well beyond 2009. Hubby has been recording his vege harvesting religiously and already his garden has produced 10.5kg of food for our family in the first six days of January alone! I can't stress enough how easy cooking is when you grow your own food! When you grow your own yummy fresh food, it makes you really reluctant to buy anything else. For example, today we realised we had run out of bread, before our planned supermarket trip tomorrow. We really didn't want to make a special trip into town just for a loaf of bread but I couldn't make any myself as I had tossed out the expired yeast just two days before. Or could I? I happily remembered a recipe for Beer Bread I had spotted in a cookbook recently. I hadn't made it in longer than I can remember but on digging it out again I was chuffed (and relieved) to find it didn't need yeast! This recipe comes from the lovely Kiwi cook Jo Seagar and hopefully she won't mind sharing it with other yeastless households too. If you have beer, you can make bread!

Beer Bread

3 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 can beer (approx 400ml, make up the rest with water if needed). NB - don't use low alcohol beer

Half a cup grated cheese

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and beer in a large bowl until well combined. Tip into one large or two small well-greased loaf tins. Sprinkle grated cheese on the top. Bake the large loaf for 50-60 minutes, or the two small ones for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Tip out and cool on a wire rack before slicing. YUM! So quick, easy and cheap to make!

Dinner is on its way and I'm looking forward to trying out the gourmet coleslaw recipe from the Fig and Panna Cotta threads today. Most of it comes from the garden, which just goes to show that gourmet food doesn't have to cost a fortune - although we do have to cheat with the pine nuts!

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